Smart: sensors control garbage disposal


A garbage truck driver is faced with challenges on a daily basis, including illegally parked cars, narrow roads, irritated motorists, heat, cold, and thunderstorms. It does not have to be like this any longer. The new smart garbage collection truck used in Asti, Northern Italy, makes life easier for garbage truck drivers while reducing costs for the operator thanks to a higher throughput and less need for loading personnel. Automation and digitalization are gathering pace in the field of waste management.



Integrating sensors and sensor systems in special and municipal vehicles makes for intelligent solutions suited for daily use that meet expectations both in terms of increased throughput and lower process costs. Asti Servizi Pubblici S.P.A. (ASP), which is responsible for waste management and city cleaning in Asti, uses the so-called 2Side System for the collection of municipal waste as part of a pilot project. 2Side System consists of a garbage truck with a robotic arm and automated gripping-arm technology in addition to the appropriate waste containers with Kingshover hooking-in mechanism. The complete solution is the product of cooperation between the Italian company Ecologia Soluzione Ambiente (ESA) and the Spanish manufacturer of waste containers CONTENUR, S.L. Sensors from SICK ensure the perfect automated positioning of the gripping arm.

“We have developed a vehicle which can pick up waste containers from both sides of the road automatically and empty them into the collection truck. The driver does not have to exit the vehicle to do this, so there is no need for additional personnel to do the job,” explains Giovanni Bertozzi, project manager at Ecologia Soluzione Ambiente (ESA).


Smart garbage disposal and how it works

The driver approaches a container on his service route. A distance sensor alerts the driver to the distance of the vehicle from the container. The driver then uses a joystick to start the emptying process. The rotating gripping arm moves toward the side of the road with the containers, swivels automatically to the correct container gripping position, lifts the container above the vehicle, and opens the flaps in the base of the container. The gripping arm then returns the empty container to its original position, after which the garbage truck continues on its way, leaving the road clear. The entire process takes no longer than 80 seconds.

All operating functions, including the sensor data, are processed in a central controller. The software optimized further in the pilot phase ensures quick and precise control of complex functions. Sensors with CANopen interface are used for reliable data provision. 


Precise sensor technology in a compact design

One special feature of our system is its speed, which necessitates precise measurement data from the sensors,” adds Giovanni Bertozzi, explaining the prevailing requirements. “In the 2Side System, we use distance sensors which detect the exact distance between vehicle and container.”

The distance sensor DT50-2 delivers necessary information for inclination sensors, wire draw encoders, and absolute encoders, which provide the corresponding sensor data for the inclination of the telescopically extendable boom and the extension of the gripper.


distance sensor DT50-2


The TMS61 one-dimensional inclination sensor from SICK provides information regarding the specified or required inclination of the telescopically extendable boom with gripping arm. The CANopen interface enables a whole host of device parameters to be adapted, allowing the sensor to be perfectly tailored to the application.

For the automated emptying of waste containers, the exact position of the gripping arm must be determined. In the 2Side System, the AHS/AHM36 CANopen absolute encoder pinpoints the rotational movement of the gripping arm. The EcoLine wire draw encoder determines the extension of the gripping arm. The sensor data captured is used to position the gripping arm with high accuracy.


EcoLine wire draw encoder


Convenience in the driver’s cab

A monitor in the driver’s cab displays the process via an external camera and a process data indicator. The display shows the operational status of the system and where any corrections might need to be made by the driver. If a pedestrian comes too close to the movement area of the gripper, for example, the driver can intervene and stop the process in its tracks. 



What’s more, the driver does not need to leave the vehicle in order to carry out container emptying. Asti Servizi Pubblici S.P.A. has deployed its most experienced driver for the pilot project involving the 2Side System, achieving cycle times of 80 seconds and less.

The 2Side System complete system is an example of state-of-the-art waste disposal. It offers an economical and time-saving alternative to conventional garbage removal in the field of waste management. Because the vehicles are operated by a single person, technology must provide optimum support for the work of the driver. This is where sensors from SICK help.