ATLANTA — 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 bone fragments 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."
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.
"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."