US 20050120848 A1
A trim table for use by trimming and/or cutting of food products, such as chicken or fish, has conveyors (2, 12) for feeding products to a number of operator stands (O1 . . . O8), each of which receivers (14, 24R, 28R) for receiving products (10), a cutting table (16, 24C, 28C) for trimming and/or cutting the products (10) into product pieces (10 a , 10 b) and sorters (6, 20), and further, transport of the cut or trimmed products (10 a , 10 b). One or more of the operator stands (O1 . . . O8) are provided with mechanisms (18, 24, 28) for automatic transferal of the products (10) from the receivers (14, 24R, 28R) onto the cutting table (16, 24C, 28C). By a trim table, the products are brought to the operator, so that the operator is spared from having to repeatedly lift products as has necessary in the past. As a result, the operator's working position is significantly improved, just as the work place at the trim table according to the invention is also improved ergonomically.
1. A trim table for use in at least one of trimming and cutting of food products, comprising:
conveying means for feeding products to a number of operator stands, each of which has a product receiving area,
a cutting table for at least one of trimming and cutting the products into product pieces,
sorting means for sorting the cut or trimmed products and
transport means for transporting the cut or trimmed products,
wherein at least one of the operator stands is provided with an automatic transfer device that is adapted for transferring products in the receiving areas to the cutting table.
This application is a continuation of commonly owned, co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/466,493.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to a trim table for use by trimming and/or cutting of food products, such as chicken or fish, comprising conveying means for feeding products to a number of operator stands, each of which comprising means for receiving products, a cutting table for trimming and/or cutting the products into product pieces and means for sorting and further transport of the cut or trimmed products.
2. Description of Related Art
Within the food processing industry, it is common to arrange a trim table of the above-mentioned kind after a filleting machine or other process equipment for preliminary partition of meat products. After this, the meat products, in particular fish or chicken products are trimmed and cut into product pieces at the trim table.
The trim table comprises a first conveyor with a number of operator stands at each side of the conveyor, and a second conveyor for onward transport of the cut product pieces. An operator can order a portion of products for trimming, which is supplied on the above conveyor. In front of the operator, an arm is swung out across the conveyor and directs a product portion to the magazine of the operator stand. From this magazine, the operator takes one or more products at the time down to the cutting table for trimming and product cutting. After the trimming and cutting, the operator sorts the individual products after the product quality, size and/or type, just as the cut-away waste remains are disposed of. Each of the cut product pieces are led out through one of the arranged sorting chutes, which are arranged in connection with the cutting table and the outlet conveyor(s).
In connection with the inlet of the first conveyor of the trim table means may be arranged for automatic in-weighing of the product portions, just as a weighing out of the cut product pieces may be performed in connection with the second conveyor. Finally, a quality control operation may be arranged in connection with the out-weighing. With these weighing data a surveillance of the quantity and the quality of the trimming operations at the trim table may be carried out.
This type of trim table is known for the production of fish and chicken products. The process may be adapted to potentially particular demands to the handling of a given type of products, e.g., a particularly careful handling in connection with the conveying of the product portions to the operators magazine.
3. Description of Related Art
From published French Patent Application FR-A-2 689 374, a device with an operator stand is known in relation to a trim table, where the incoming products arrive in a transport container which is emptied into a magazine container, which is placed between an upper conveyor for onward transport of finished cut products and a lower conveyor for removal of waste. From the container, the operator must lift the products down to the cutting plate for trimming or cutting out the products. This lifting operation involves an extraordinary inconvenient, unergonomic working position, since the operator has to bend across the cutting plate in order to get to the products in the magazine.
By the magazine, the operator must repeatedly lift the products from the magazine down to the cutting table, which results in a bad ergonomic working position with repetitive movement. This is unhealthy for the operator and this working operation may contribute to a reduction in the working tempo.
It is therefore the object of the present invention to provide an improvement of this relation and provide an improved working position for the operators at a trim table within the food processing industry.
This object is achieved by a trim table of the initially mentioned kind, where one or more of the operator stands are provided with means for automatic transferral of the products from the receiving means to handling on the cutting table.
By a trim table according to the invention, the products are brought to the operator, so that the operator is spared from the repeated lifts that are characteristic for the hitherto known solutions. This means that the operator's working position is significantly improved, just as the work place at the trim table according to the invention is also improved ergonomically.
In a first embodiment of the invention, the receiving means are constituted by a tray for receiving and storing a portion of products and the means for transferral of the products comprise a sliding surface, which connects the tray with the cutting table. Hereby, a product in the portion may easily be guided from the storage tray onto the cutting table. The tray may be arranged in a level above the cutting table and wherein the sliding surface is provided with an inclination towards the cutting table. As a result, the product may easily slide down onto the cutting table, whereby the operator does not have to help by guiding the product transferral and without the product getting stuck, e.g., sticking to the tray due to the presence of mucus or another adhesive substance.
In a particular embodiment, the tray and/or the sliding surface may be provided with vibration means, a push device, and/or a conveyor. As a result, the products will automatically be aided down towards the cutting table without the risk of being retained. The vibration means may either be individually arranged and controlled at each operator stand or arranged as a common vibration device for a number of trays at more operator stands.
In the first embodiment, the sorting means include a number of sorting openings between the tray and the cutting table for categorization of the trimmed product pieces and preferably for dispatch of product remains, said openings being connected with means for further transport of the product pieces for further handling and/or dispatch of the product remains.
In a second embodiment, the tray is funnel shaped and provided with two inclined sliding surfaces, which guide the products down to the bottom of the funnel-shaped tray, the bottom being substantially level with the cutting table. Furthermore, means for collecting and delivery of the products from the sorting openings to a conveyor are preferably arranged in association with the sorting openings; the means for delivery are controlled according to the achievement of a predetermined sorting pattern on the conveyor. Thus, a well-organized trim table is provided, which provides for an appropriate workflow at the manual trimming/carving process. By arranging discharge means in connection with the dispatch of the sorted, cut-out products, the products may intermittently be laid out on a common conveyor in a known order, whereby the further handling of the products, e.g. in connection with weighing and packaging, by be carried out automatically and with a high quality.
Preferably, sorting openings are arranged at least at one side of the cutting table for receiving litter and with chutes for the removal of the product remains or the like. Furthermore, an underlying conveyor is provided with a sectioning in longitudinal sections and where the chutes in association with an operator stand are arranged for delivery of product remains and the like in two different sections. As a result, the product remains, such as waste or other product types, which are not handled on the present trim table, are sorted with respect to their further destination.
In a third embodiment, the receiving means are constituted by a tray for the receipt and storage of a product portion and the means for transfer of products comprise means for lowering the tray to the level of the cutting table. In particular, the means for lowering the tray are made up of a pivotable side hinging of the tray and a telescopic actuator, such as a pneumatically actuatable cylinder for pivoting the tray, whereby its surface constitutes a sliding surface. This embodiment is particularly suited to relative large and heavy products where the products may be received and transferred to the trimming on the cutting table without the operator having to handle the products and thereby exposing himself to risking to distortions or otherwise straining lifting operations.
In a fourth embodiment, the receiving means and the cutting table is a rotatable receiving and cutting plate, which has a receiving position, a cutting position and a sorting position for the products, and wherein the means for transfer comprises rotation means for rotating the plate. According to this embodiment, a portion of products may be delivered to the receiving position of the plate. The plate may then be rotated so that the portion is brought to the operator at the cutting position. After the trimming and sectioning at the cutting position, the cutting table is turned again so that the cut-out product pieces are moved to the sorting position for sorting and onwards transport. In this embodiment of the invention, a relative large cutting table is achieved as parts of the receiving and sorting sections may be used, e.g., by large products and/or if the operator for other reasons find it necessary.
In this embodiment, the cutting plate may be a substantially circular cutting plate, which is rotatably arranged for rotation in the direction from the receiving position towards the sorting position. Moreover, the sorting means are provided with one or more stationary, essentially tangentially orientated sorting ribs for sorting and further transport of the cut/trimmed product pieces for further handling by rotation of the plate. Hereby, the cut-out product pieces must only be placed in a given radial position on the table and then the sorting and the discharge of the product pieces for further transport takes place automatically, since the sorting ribs “scrape” the products off the plate.
In a further variant of this fourth embodiment, the sorting means comprise a number of sorting openings between the conveying means and the cutting plate for sorting the cut/trimmed product pieces, said openings being connected to means for further transport of the product pieces for further handling and/or removal of the product remains. Thus, the operator may sort the product pieces in the different product categories by discharging the product pieces into a relevant sorting opening from which the products automatically are transported onwards.
In a fifth embodiment of a trim table according to the invention, the receiving means and the cutting table is a shiftable receiving and cutting plate, which is provided with one or more categorization markings for sorting the cut/trimmed products and which cooperates with means for further transport of the product pieces for further handling. Hereby, an operator stand is achieved which only takes up a limited amount of space along the conveyor which in turn means that more operator stands along the trim table may be established, whereby the capacity of the trim table may be increased without increasing the overall length of the trim table.
In a particularly preferred variant of this embodiment, the shiftable cutting plate is substantially horizontally orientated in the receiving, storage and cutting positions and pivoted for dispatching the cut products from the plate in the sorting and emptying position. This results in that an automatic discharge of the cutting plate is achieved, since the cutting plate in the sorting and emptying position functions as a discharge chute from which the cut-out products slide down to the underlying outlet conveyor for further transport.
In this embodiment, two adjacent, shiftable cutting plates are preferably arranged at each operator stand. This means that a quick trimming and cutting process may be achieved since a new portion of products may be ordered on one plate, which is then waiting for processing while the products on the other plate are being processed.
The displacement of the cutting plate or plates is preferably controlled by operator operated control means, preferably in a predetermined pattern of movement. This means that the operator does not have to move anything else but the products around on the cutting table, as a control signal is given, e.g., by the operator moving his knife passed a sensor for shifting the position of the table.
In the following, the invention is described in more detail with reference to the accompanying drawings.
The trim table functions so that an operator, e.g., by O7, as shown in
In a first embodiment of the invention, the portion of products 10 then falls down in a tray 14 (see
As shown in
At each side of the cutting plate 16 further sorting openings 20 e are arranged, e.g., for the cut-away material, such as waste. The material which is put into these sorting openings 20 e are guided via a chute 20 f down a conveyor 40 for discharge. The conveyor 40 is preferably divided into sections by separation walls 41, 42 being arranged in the longitudinal direction of the conveyor. Moreover, sidewalls 43 are preferably arranged on each side of the conveyor 40. The chutes 20 f are arranged in pairs at each operator stands and they are preferably designed in such a way that the material from each cutting plate 16 are guided down into different sections on the conveyor 40.
Each of the operator stands O1 to O8 are preferably provided with a platform, which may be adjusted in height relative to the cutting plate 16. Moreover, a preferably height adjustable chair 46 may be arranged on the platform 44 (see
In a variation of this embodiment, the sorting means comprise a number of sorting openings 20 a, 20 b which are positioned in a concentric hole 30 in the cutting plate 24, as shown in
The cutting plate 24 is preferably shaped as a circular plate, which is provided with rotary drive means so that the operator simply has to give a signal in order to turn the products 10 on the plate 24 for transferring the products 10 to the next operation at the trim table. Alternatively or as a supplement, means may preferably be arranged for an automatic stop by a pressure on the cutting plate 24, so that the cutting plate 24 does not move when work is being done on the plate.
By the invention, it is realized that the arrangement of the operator stand according to the fourth embodiment of the invention may be mirrored in its design with respect to the design shown in
In connection with the rotary cutting table 24, stationary knives or saws may potentially be arranged, e.g., in connection with the sorting ribs 26, so that the operator simply must orientate the products 10 on the cutting plate 24, so that the products automatically are cut out when they are rotated against such cutting ribs (not shown).
A fifth embodiment of the invention is shown in
Each cutting plate 28 is shiftably arranged for being displaceable between a receiving position 28R immediately adjacent the arm 12 by the conveyor 2. When the operator is ready to process a waiting portion for trimming, the cutting plate 28 may possibly be moved forward to a forward cutting position 28C or the products may be processed with the cutting plate in the position 28R. When the products 10 are processed, i.e., trimmed and cut out into product pieces 10 a, 10 b, these pieces are sorted on the plate, whereafter the cutting plate 28 is moved back to an emptying position 28S, where the plate 28 is pivoted or swept, so that the product pieces slide off the cutting plate 28 and down on a conveyor 6 for transport to further processing, potentially via an intermediate storage, so that the product pieces 10 a, 10 b are put on the outlet conveyor 6 in a predetermined manner. Between each of the cutting plates, collection magazines 20 c are preferably arranged for product remains, such as cut-away remains.
On the outlet conveyor 6, the production of product types from each of the operators is gathered, such as shown in
By the invention, it is realized that a trim table with means for automatic transfer of product portions to the cutting table may be arranged in other variant than the above described preferred embodiments without departing from the scope of the invention, which is described in the accompanying claims.