Artificial Intelligence and robots make laundries smarter and safer

The sophisticated picker of Inwatec’s Robot Separator calculates the best picking-point of the garments.

Many routines and procedures in the industrial laundries are both heavy, filthy and potentially dangerous, and on top of that, employees risk making mistakes when executing repetitive tasks.

That is why the now mature solutions combining robots, artificial intelligence and automation come into the picture.

Among the tasks which are most obvious to get rid of is the sorting and handling of soiled side garments. With modern technology it is entirely possible to obtain a setup where an absolute minimum of human interaction is needed:

The soiled garments can be dumped on conveyors where robots pick the items one by one to feed an X-ray scanner that detects unwanted items hidden in the pockets. At the same time, an RFID chip reader is registering the individual garment to decide how it should be sorted for proper handling further on in the system.

All those tasks can be achieved with employees only needed to empty the pockets on the garments that are rejected by the x-ray – and to ensure that the system is running as it is supposed to.

The X-ray system’s Artificial Intelligence automatically detects foreign items (e.g. pens)  and rejects the respective laundry article.

Endless opportunities

The challenge recently has been to make those robots smart enough to replace all these the human functions, but with artificial intelligence, it is now possible to let the computer analyze massive amounts of data and then find patterns that open new possibilities for the laundry business.

An example could be systems based on vision sorting alone. This is very useful in laundry businesses where the garments aren’t tagged because the items represent such a low value that the tagging doesn’t make sense as a business case.

Read more: The future is getting closer to Whangarei in New Zealand

The potential business cases in the laundry world that can be done with the help from automation, robots and AI today are practically endless.

As a rule of thumb, you can say, that if a typical person can perform a mental task with less than one second of thought, we can probably automate it using AI either now or shortly.

There is no doubt that the human employees at the industrial laundries will perform jobs that are not as hard or fatiguing as today, and more focused on servicing the end users or creating value to the company in another way.

Fully automatic sorting of Soiled Workwear

Inwatec's sorting lines are build to fulfill each customers' needs. Thanks to modular design, the single machines can be added to a whole system according to specific wishes. In this case, the requested line consists of a Robot Separator, an X-ray machine and a vision based sorting system. 

The robot is fed by a conveyor and performs a separation of the garments. These separated garments are directly transferred to the X-ray machine, which detects foreign items like pens and scissors in the garment and automatically rejects these clothing items.

Accepted garments are forwarded to a vision based sorting, which, in this special case, sorts into either bright or dark.


Watch the full setup here:

The system's main components:

The Robot Separator has a high efficiency in separating textiles. It works fully automatic and therefore reduces the risk of cuts and needle injuries for your staff. We use modern 3D cameras and advanced software to find the best gripping points on the garments. 

All details about the Robot Separator. 

Inwatec's X-ray machine automatically detects foreign items such as pens, needles, lipsticks and more. It can handle up to 2,200 items per hour and rejects garments which contain foreign items. These rejected garments are forwarded to a special bin, where the detected foreign items can be removed from the garment's pockets.

Find more information on the X-ray Machine here.


You would like to automate soiled side sorting processes in your laundry as well? Contact us!

Separates more than 1,500 garments per hour: Inwatec’s Robot Separator

Inwatec’s Robot Separator has been under development since mid of 2015. In June 2015, we started with the idea of creating a robot that automatically separates garment to load it into our X-ray and sorting systems individually. While developing the robot over the past years, we especially had to overcome issues such as the relatively low speed of traditional robot arms and determining the best gripping points of modifiable objects like garments.

End of March 2017, we finally delivered the first Robot Separator to a Norwegian laundry. This first project was a development project, which we performed together. The robot can handle all kinds of garments such as white wear, linen, mops, rags, and more.


Find out more about the past development and watch videos of the different stages on our small Progress Blog of our Robot Separator.


Even though we already presented a fully functioning machine, we did not stop working and improving on the speed, accuracy, and therefore efficiency of our Robot Separator. Over the past months, we have made several additional tests, adjustments, and changes to be now presenting a smooth working, fast, and precise Robot Separator for laundries. Our own delta robot system, together with 3D-cameras detecting the garment and determine the best picking-points for the textiles, now make it possible to deliver about 1500 separated pieces an hour. This throughput is comparable to most human operators and fits nicely into the flow of many setups.

We recently installed our second robot in Switzerland and are currently building number three and four.


Check out the product details of the Robot Separator.


“I think we’ve made a good progress but we are still aiming for a higher throughput. It’s a long process to develop such a system from scratch but we are confident that now we have a system that really does the job,” explains Martin, one of the responsible software engineers for the development of the Robot Separator.


What does Inwatec’s Robot Separator do, which challenges did we overcome in the developing process and how can the robot contribute to your business? Martin answers these questions and more in this video: