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US researchers develop robot to debone chicken

FBR Staff Writer Published 08 June 2012

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

The new Intelligent Cutting and Deboning System automatically identifies where to cut a particular bird and performs precision cuts, optimizing product yield and reducing the risk of bone fragments in the meat product.

According to researchers, the system is capable of adapting to the size and the shape of the individual bird. It features a fixed two-degree-of-freedom cutting robot for deboning the bird, and six-degree-of-freedom robot arm on which the bird is mounted, and a 3-D vision system that identifies where to cut the bird.

The robot arm places the bird below the vision system, and it moves the position of the bird with respect to the cutting robot.

The vision system collects the 3-D measurements of various points on the bird, and based on this data, custom algorithms in the system determine the positions of internal structures such as bones and ligaments, and define a proper cut.

In addition, the system uses a force-feedback algorithm which can differentiate meat and the bone, and this capability enables the knife to move along the surface of the bone, efficiently separating meat from the bone.

GTRI's Food Processing Technology Division chief Gary McMurray said automated deboning technology can improve food safety, as bone chips are a hazard in boneless breast fillets.

"But it can also increase yield, which is significant, because every one percent loss of breast meat represents about $2.5m to each of Georgia's 20 poultry processing plants," McMurray added.

The Intelligent Cutting and Deboning System research has been funded by the state of Georgia through the Agricultural Technology Research Program at GTRI. GTRI is the nonprofit applied research unit of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, US.