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  1. Abstract

    Product disassembly plays a crucial role in the recycling, remanufacturing, and reuse of end-of-use (EoU) products. However, the current manual disassembly process is inefficient due to the complexity and variation of EoU products. While fully automating disassembly is not economically viable given the intricate nature of the task, there is potential in using human–robot collaboration (HRC) to enhance disassembly operations. HRC combines the flexibility and problem-solving abilities of humans with the precise repetition and handling of unsafe tasks by robots. Nevertheless, numerous challenges persist in technology, human workers, and remanufacturing work, which require comprehensive multidisciplinary research to address critical gaps. These challenges have motivated the authors to provide a detailed discussion on the opportunities and obstacles associated with introducing HRC to disassembly. In this regard, the authors have conducted a review of the recent progress in HRC disassembly and present the insights gained from this analysis from three distinct perspectives: technology, workers, and work.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2025
  2. This paper presents a comprehensive disassembly sequence planning (DSP) algorithm in the human–robot collaboration (HRC) setting with consideration of several important factors including limited resources and human workers’ safety. The proposed DSP algorithm is capable of planning and distributing disassembly tasks among the human operator, the robot, and HRC, aiming to minimize the total disassembly time without violating resources and safety constraints. Regarding the resource constraints, we consider one human operator and one robot, and a limited quantity of disassembly tools. Regarding the safety constraints, we consider avoiding potential human injuries from to-be-disassembled components and possible collisions between the human operator and the robot due to the short distance between disassembly tasks. In addition, the transitions for tool changing, the moving between disassembly modules, and the precedence constraint of components to be disassembled are also considered and formulated as constraints in the problem formulation. Both numerical and experimental studies on the disassembly of a used hard disk drive (HDD) have been conducted to validate the proposed algorithm. 
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  3. Disassembly currently is a labor-intensive process with limited automation. The main reason lies in the fact that disassembly usually has to address model variations from different brands, physical uncertainties resulting from component defects or damage during usage, and incomplete product information. To overcome these challenges and to automate the disassembly process through human-robot collaboration, this paper develops a disassembly sequence planner which distributes the disassembly task between human and robot in a human-robot collaborative setting. This sequence planner targets to address potential issues including distinctive products, variant orientations, and safety constraints of human operators. The proposed disassembly sequence planner identifies the locations and orientations of the to-be-disassembled items, determines the starting point, and generates the optimal dis-assembly sequence while complying with the disassembly rules and considering the safe constraints for human operators. This algorithm is validated by numerical and experimental tests: the robot can successfully locate and disassemble the pieces following the obtained optimal sequence, and complete the task via collaboration with the human operator without violating the constraints. 
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  4. Product disassembly is a labor-intensive process and is far from being automated. Typically, disassembly is not robust enough to handle product varieties from different shapes, models, and physical uncertainties due to component imperfections, damage throughout component usage, or insufficient product information. To overcome these difficulties and to automate the disassembly procedure through human-robot collaboration without excessive computational cost, this paper proposes a real-time receding horizon sequence planner that distributes tasks between robot and human operator while taking real-time human motion into consideration. The sequence planner aims to address several issues in the disassembly line, such as varying orientations, safety constraints of human operators, uncertainty of human operation, and the computational cost of large number of disassembly tasks. The proposed disassembly sequence planner identifies both the positions and orientations of the to-be-disassembled items, as well as the locations of human operator, and obtains an optimal disassembly sequence that follows disassembly rules and safety constraints for human operation. Experimental tests have been conducted to validate the proposed planner: the robot can locate and disassemble the components following the optimal sequence, and consider explicitly human operator’s real-time motion, and collaborate with the human operator without violating safety constraints. 
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