Robot uses 3-D imaging and sensor-based cutting technology to debone poultry

May 31, 2012 By Rick Robinson, Georgia Institute of Technology
Poultry Deboning System

( -- Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have developed a prototype system that uses advanced imaging technology and a robotic cutting arm to automatically debone chicken and other poultry products.

The Intelligent Cutting and Deboning System employs a 3-D vision system that determines where to cut a particular bird. The device automatically performs precision cuts that optimize yield, while also greatly reducing the risk of in the finished product.

“Each bird is unique in its size and shape," said Gary McMurray, chief of GTRI's Food Processing Technology Division. "So we have developed the sensing and actuation needed to allow an automated deboning system to adapt to the individual bird, as opposed to forcing the bird to conform to the machine.”

Poultry is Georgia's top agricultural product, with an estimated annual economic impact of nearly $20 billion statewide. Helping the poultry industry maximize its return on every flock can translate to important dividends. The research is funded by the state of Georgia through the Agricultural Technology Research Program at GTRI.

Under the Intelligent Cutting and Deboning System, a bird is positioned in front of the vision system prior to making a cut, explained GTRI research engineer Michael Matthews. The vision system works by making 3-D measurements of various location points on the outside of the bird. Then, using these points as inputs, custom algorithms define a proper cut by estimating the positions of internal structures such as bones and ligaments.

Poultry Deboning System3

"Our statistics research shows that our external measurements correlate very well to the internal structure of the birds, and therefore will transition to ideal cutting paths," Matthews said. "In our prototype device, everything is registered to calibrated reference frames, allowing us to handle all cut geometries and to precisely align the bird and the cutting robot. Being able to test all possible cut geometries should enable us to design a smaller and more simplified final system."

The prototype uses a fixed two-degree-of-freedom cutting robot for making simple planar cuts. The bird is mounted on a six-degree-of-freedom robot arm that allows alignment of the bird and cutting robot to any desired position. The robot arm places the bird under the vision system, and then it moves the bird with respect to the cutting robot.

The system employs a force-feedback algorithm that can detect the transition from meat to bone, said research engineer Ai-Ping Hu. That detection capability allows the cutting knife to move along the surface of the bone while maintaining a constant force.

Since ligaments are attached to bone, maintaining contact with the bone allows the knife to cut all the ligaments around the shoulder joint without cutting into the bone itself.  A similar approach can be used for other parts of the bird where meat must be separated from bone.

Hu explained that the force-feedback algorithm uses a force sensor affixed to the knife handle. During a cutting operation, the sensor enables the robot to detect imminent contact with a bone. Then, instead of cutting straight through the bone, the system directs the cutting tool to take an appropriate detour around the bone.

"Fine tuning is needed to adjust the force thresholds, to be able to tell the difference between meat, tendon, ligaments and bone, each of which have different material properties,” Hu said.

McMurray said he expects the Intelligent Deboning System to match or exceed the efficiency of the manual process. Testing of the deboning , including cutting experiments, has confirmed the system’s ability to recognize bone during a cut and to avoid bone chips – thus demonstrating the validity of GTRI’s approach.

“There are some very major factors in play in this project,” McMurray said. “Our automated deboning technology can promote food safety, since chips are a hazard in boneless breast fillets. But it can also increase yield, which is significant because every 1 percent loss of breast meat represents about $2.5 million to each of Georgia’s 20 poultry processing plants.”

Explore further: Bird Bones May be Hollow, But They are Also Heavy, Biologist Says

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4.3 / 5 (4) May 31, 2012
So long 1000s meat cutting jobs! Get your ass to retail slavery!

More proof that having a job to live is shaping up to be an obsolete idea.
3.3 / 5 (4) May 31, 2012
Right. These machines can have the ability to monitor exactly how much work they do and how much resources they consume; and transmit this info in realtime to agencies who could gauge just how much revenue they would owe in relation to the human jobs they have displaced.

Why should this process flow through owners and bureaucrats? Why can't machines like this be paid directly, charged directly for their own storage, transport, maintenance, and recycling; and TAXED directly?

Consider how much waste and corruption this would avoid. How else will we ever expect to recover the increasing amounts of revenues lost to the acceleration of automation?

Soon commercial vehicles will be driving themselves. Construction machines will be delivering themselves and doing work completely autonomously. PAY them for exactly what they do. CHARGE them directly for what they consume. And TAX them directly. This is out only hope of correcting the spiral of lost revenues and bankrupt governments.
not rated yet May 31, 2012
Is good idea, Ghostof,

Especially if this status was applied retroactively.

Sadly, I cannot foresee any scenario whereby the scheming and plotting of corporocratic interests and their runnung dog lackeys could be eradicated in order to reach true valuation --much less one that would endure as a standard over time.

Ultimately, these machines are only used as a way to put the screws to the working class --the lash that preceeds the brass ring.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 01, 2012
Ultimately, these machines are only used as a way to put the screws to the working class --the lash that preceeds the brass ring.
Well they are becoming the working class aren't they? If they are not freed to generate revenue then they will bankrupt society while a few owners will become immeasurably rich.

The only difference between us and them is they don't have to be entertained.
not rated yet Jun 01, 2012
So long 1000s meat cutting jobs! Get your ass to retail slavery!

Exchanging one type of slavery fo another...

But seriously: where dos it say that 9-to-5 is the natural order of the (human) world forever? If we want to ever be rid off the need of having to slave away in order to survive then we have to start somewhere
- distributed generation of resources (preferrably out of thin air...which is not so much of a pipe dream considering that many alternative energy sources already do just that)
- replacing required, menial tasks with automation.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 01, 2012
This process began with the industrial revolution. Soon after, craftsmen in Germany staged a revolution. Soon after, communism was invented to try to reclaim some of the money flowing out of workers pockets and into owners bank accounts.

The process is accelerating. People are not dying fast enough to compensate. Countries are going bankrupt due to lost revenues while a select few owners are becoming fantastically rich. As usual.

So perhaps we need another revolution. I dont think it is enough to try to squeeze owners for lost revenue, because the channels of waste and corruption will still exist.

Emancipating machines to a certain extent will circumvent this waste and corruption. Technology now makes this possible. Machines can be accountable for EXACTLY how much work they do and resources they consume. We can track this automatically without having to trust owners to do it honestly and efficiently, which has always proven to be futile.

No more thumbs on scales. Free the machines.

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