Sensor-based Sorting (SBS)

- Ongoing


Sensor-based sorting machines for dry separation of coarse particles: The automatization of manual sorting (hand-picking) using sensor technology allows mineral separation at higher capacities. The innovation is an example for technology transfer from one application (recycling) to another (mineral beneficiation)


The innovation is the replication of the human hand-picking process by automatisation of the individual steps (i) detection, (ii) classification and (iii) ejection of particles. Initially developed for mainly sorting secondary materials from recycling, the sorting technology has nowadays been adapted to mineral processing applications: pre-concentration, final product upgrade, separation of feed into high/low grade.

The innovation has proven its efficiency in the field of secondary materials. For primary resources, new sensor types have been developed and adapted. The number of installations in the minerals industry has been continuously growing.

First mechanisation of hand-picking already was established in the 1920s.
This was then further developed to “automated hand-picking” (in size ranges of ca 10-300 mm) during the 1990s when fast computing power and high resolution cameras became available.
From the early 2000s, applications in the mineral industry connected to the development of new sensor systems.

Several equipment manufacturers and companies specialized in developing sensor systems. Areas of application comprise:

• Secondary raw materials (recycling)
• Industrial minerals
• Precious minerals
• Base metals
• Diamonds
• Coal


Impact on the mining value chain

  • mineral and metallurgical PROCESSING (incl. Permitting)

Linked policies


Technical solution: Given, technology has been transferred to different countries and different application areas. Innovation process: Innovation fell in a period where European societies started striving for waste treatment and recycling. This was reflected by launching policies and legislation on European and national level.

Impact area(s): 

Economic, Competitiveness
Impact on listed area: 

Job creation (manufacturers)

Reduced production costs (mineral industry)

Leading role of European manufacturers worldwide

Environment, Quantity of natural resources
Impact on listed area: 

Increased resource efficiency
Reduced energy demands for down-stream grinding (case: pre-concentration)

Innovation drivers and barriers
Demand for automated picking of coarser particles/objects Reduction of throughput in downstream units due to efficient removal of waste at particle coarser sizes (also causing reduced water and energy consumption)
Demand for dry processing
Technical barriers as availability of sensors for certain mineral systems, limitations with respect particle range (effect on capacity), rough environment

Good practice areas

Environmental sustainability
Waste reduction, recycling, reduced energy for grinding and reduced water amount for wet processing when applied within pre-concentration
Resource security
Related to recovery of secondary raw materials

Innovation category