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Automated disassembly

In principle automated disassembly seems to provide a cost-effective means of recovering and recycling components and materials on a large scale. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to this approach.


  • very good for high metal content
  • often the cheapest option (once established)


  • it is incredibly difficult to totally disassemble most electronic products with automation, common problems include:
    • fasteners that require force to detach – i.e. glue
    • access to parts situated close together
  • works on a production line - therefore similar products, preferably of the same make, must be used
  • requires large quantities of similar products to be effective 
  • typically produces cruder fractions than manual disassembly
  • hazardous materials must be removed before automated disassembly
  • products use a huge variety of materials which the system must recognise and sort accordingly
  • can be costly to set-up the system
  • the robots used must be configured to process different product types

Design considerations:

  • design sub-assemblies which can be taken apart quickly and easily
  • avoid time-consuming disassembly paths
  • enable multiple detachment of parts/components in one operation
  • ensure components or parts are not co-located
  • avoid creating unnecessary crevices