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Publication numberUS3777886 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateDec 11, 1973
Filing dateAug 7, 1972
Priority dateAug 7, 1972
Also published asCA973384A1
Publication numberUS 3777886 A, US 3777886A, US-A-3777886, US3777886 A, US3777886A
InventorsHarris E, Smith R
Original AssigneeHeinz Co H J
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Apparatus for inspecting bodies for the presence of hard particles
US 3777886 A
Abstract
Apparatus for presenting soft bodies for inspection and detection of the presence of hard particles such as bones or cartilage, within a softer meat body. The apparatus includes automatic handling systems and control means for the handling systems whereby individual soft bodies are sequentially presented at a detection station and thereafter rejected for manual reinspection or advanced to the next food processing station. The control means provide sequence control for the various movable apparatus.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

United States Patent 1 Smith et al.

[ 5] Dec. 11, 1973 APPARATUS FOR INSPECTING BODIES FOR THE PRESENCE OF HARD PARTICLES [75] Inventors: Richard A. Smith, Gibsonia; Elmer E. Harris, Glenshaw, both of Pa.

[73] Assignee: H. J. Heinz Company, Pittsburgh,

[22] Filed: Aug. 7, 1972 [21] Appl. No.: 278,543

[52] US. Cl. 209/109 [51] Int. Cl B07c [58] Field of Search 209/109, 88, 82;

[56] References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,578,573 12/1951 Mills ..209/88R 12/1967 Tailleur 209/82 X 3,282,314 11/1966 Cantoni et al. 209/109 X Primary Examiner-Allen N. Knowles Attorney-Walter G. Sutcliff [57] ABSTRACT Apparatus for presenting soft bodies for inspection and detection of the presence of hard particles such as bones or cartilage, within a softer meat body. The apparatus includes automatic handling systems and control means for the handling systems whereby individual soft bodies are sequentially presented at a detection station and thereafter rejected for manual reinspection or advanced to the next food processing station. The control means provide sequence control for the various movable apparatus.

17 Claims, 8 Drawing Figures PATENTEU DEC 1 1 I975 SHEET 2 0F 6 CONTROL PANEL minimum 1 1 1915 SHEET 0F 6 35 SOFT BODY FIG. 4,

Ill/l/I/I/II/Il/I/I/II/l/ I/I/l/I/I/II/l/ APPARATUS FOR INSPECTING BODIES FOR THE PRESENCE OF HARD PARTICLES BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to an apparatus for inspecting bodies for the presence of foreign objects such as hard particles in soft bodies, as for example the presence of bone, gristle, or cartilage fragments in chicken flesh.

In many processes there is a need for removing small hard particles from a body of softer material. In the food processing industry, for example, one such need is the removal of small bone fragments and other hard matter such as gristle and cartilage from chicken. The usual procedure followed in removing the hard matter is to first have sorters or inspectors positioned at long tables to inspect chicken pieces by feeling with their fingers and then to remove any detected particles. This method has proven to be inadequate, especially in detecting and removing very small (viz. one-eighth inch) particles. Oftentimes many small bone fragments remain in the chicken and end up in the final product. We have invented a particular penetration apparatus for detecting small particles in a body, which apparatus overcomes the problems of ineffective detection inherent in using human hands. Our penetration apparatus is fully disclosed in our copending U.S. Pat. application, Ser. No. 106,043 filed Jan. 13, 1971 issued May 29, 1973 as U.S. Pat. No. 3,736,583, and assigned to the assignee of the present invention and application.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The present invention relates to an apparatus which provides for the automatic transporting and inspecting of bodies for the presence of particles, whereby a detection apparatus such as the penetration apparatus described in said Patent Application, is used for timed automatic inspection of bodies transported into position beneath the penetration apparatus. In addition, the present invention provides means whereby bodies having detected particles are automatically positioned in one area so that such bodies may be further handled for removal of the particles, and further where bodies not containing any detected particles are automatically positioned in another area where they may be removed for further processing. More particularly the inspecting apparatus of the present invention preferably comprises: a main support member such as a table having a generally flat upper surface; detection means, such as our apparatus described in said Patent Application but not limited thereto, for detecting the presence of hard solid particles in bodies of softer substance, the detection means being supported by the support member such that a spaced relationship exists between the upper surface of the support members and the underside of the detection means; product transporting means for transporting bodies to and from a position beneath the detection means; means for effecting relative movement between the detection means and at least that portion of the support member beneath the detection means such that bodies to be inspected will be positioned to be tested by the detection means; and control means operative with the detection means and the product transporting means for effecting the operation of the transporting means to move bodies sequentially to and from beneath the detection means. The preferred embodiment of this invention includes a pair of pocket wheel assemblies arranged in spaced relation to each other, one on each side of the detection means, and wherein each assembly comprises a plurality of arcuately spaced arms which having a product carrying pocket at the outer end thereof. The arms of each pocket wheel assembly are mounted on a shaft, with the shaft of each assembly being driven by a common drive unit such that the assemblies are rotated in timed sequence for moving a pocket of one assembly beneath the detection means followed by a pocket of the other assembly. The preferred embodiment of this invention further provides that the control means is operative with the pocket wheel assemblies to move bodies having detected particles therein to a first area on the support table where those bodies will be automatically discharged to another station, and to move bodies which have no detectable particles therein to another area on the support table where those bodies will likewise be automatically discharged to another station.

Other details and advantages of this invention will become apparent as the following description of a present preferred embodiment thereof proceeds.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS In the accompanying drawings we have shown a present preferred embodiment of this invention in which:

FIG. I is a perspective view of an apparatus for inspecting soft bodies for the presence of hard particles embodying the present invention and with certain parts removed and cut away to show details of construction;

FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of the portion of the apparatus mounted above the support table.

FIG. 3 is an exploded perspective view of the apparatus which is below the support table and is aligned with and connected to the apparatus of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is an enlarged elevation view of the penetration apparatus used as the detecting means with the present invention, and showing the probing unit in its upper position;

FIG. 5 is a plan view of the ratchet drive assembly which rotates the pocket assemblies;

FIG. 6 is an enlarged view of the intermeshing ring gears;

FIG. 7 is an enlarged side elevation view of the ring gears shown in FIG. 6 and the stop pin assembly;

FIG. 8 is a schematic representation of a control circuitry for use in the automatic operation of the inspecting apparatus of this invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS Referring now to the drawings wherein like reference numerals refer to like parts throughout the various views, FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of an apparatus, generally represented by the numeral 10, for inspecting soft bodies for the presence of hard particles, such as bones, gristle and cartilage in chicken flesh. The apparatus 10 is not, however, limited to use for inspecting just chicken flesh, which has been and will be referred to only by way of example, but may be used in inspecting any other soft bodies where the need exists for finding and removing particles of hard material. The inspection apparatus 10 includes a main support member or table 12 having an elongated top plate 14 with an 23, 24, and 25 connected at their respective ends to form abox or rectangular shape with another structural member 26 extending longitudinally of the frame and having its respective ends fixed to mid portions of the members 23 and 25. The frame functions to support a drive mechanism and other equipment which will be described in more detail hereinafter. Frame 20 also supports a platform 28 formed of three sections each of which is selectively removable from the frame for access to the members and equipment disposed beneath the platform.

An upright support assembly 30 is arranged to extend transversely of top plate 14, and includes two vertical upwardly extending legs 32 one each arranged on and fixed to opposite sides of the top plate 14. Crossmembers 33 are fixed at their respective outer ends to the upper section of the legs 32, whereby an open space is defined between the cross-members. The support assembly 30 functions to support a detection apparatus 34 and other equipment to be described later. The detection apparatus 34 is used for actually inspecting the chicken pieces to detect the presence of hard particles therein. The detection apparatus 34 may be of any construction such as a probing device, ultrasonic tester, or x-ray machine for performing the intended purpose and does not per se form part of the present application. A typical detection apparatus 34, as stated earlier, which is a penetration detection device, is disclosed and claimed in our copending U.S. Pat. application Ser. No. 106,043 filed Jan. 13, 1971, now U.S. Pat. No. 3736583, and assigned to the assignee of this application. Penetration apparatus 34 will be briefly described to the extent necessary to relate the elements thereof to the control circuitry forming part of this application. A more detailed description of the penetration apparatus 34 may be had by referring to said copending U.S. Patent Application.

Penetration apparatus 34 as shown in greater'detail in FIG. 4 includes a disc-shaped stripper plate 35 to which is secured four vertically extending support rods 36 arranged in a generally square pattern. The upper ends of the support rods 36 are secured to a generally square-shaped plate 37. A probing unit 38 is arranged for reciprocal vertical movement with respect to the support rods 36. The probing unit 38 includes an upper cover plate 40, a housing 42 disposed in abuttment with the lower surface of plate 40, and a probe assembly 44 arranged in abuttment with the lower surface of housing 42. Plate 40, housing 42, and probe assembly 44 are all provided with communicating similarly spaced and sized openings to be registered with bushings 46 which are slidably arranged on support rods 36. 7

Probe assembly 44 includes three electrically conductive abutting plates 47, 48, 49 secured to each other and provided with closely-spaced axial holes therethrough, the three plates 47, 48, 49 provide a housing or matrix for receiving penetrating rod-shaped probes 50. Each probe 50 includes an upper terminal portion 50a having an outer diameter slightly smaller than the diameter of the holes through plates 47, 48, 49, whereby the probes are slidable with respect to the plates. The lower portions of the probe 50 are slender needles 50b, the lengths of the needles being generally uniform whereby their free lower ends are in substantially the same horizontal plane. The needles 50b extend in a slidable relationship through openings provided through stripper plate 35. The stripper plate 35 insures that the soft body being inspected is not carried upwardly with the probes 50.

Each probe 50 is provided with a sleeve 52 fixed around an upper section of the terminal portion 50a and disposedto have its lower end abut the upper surface of a sealing gasket 54 secured to the top plate 47. The sleeve 52 serves as a stop to limit the relative downward movement of the probe 50 with respect to the plates 47, 48, 49.

Housing 42 formed of a non-conductive material has an upper portion 56 and a reduced diameter lower portion 57 whereby an annular shoulder 58 is defined between the upper and lower portions. A solid electrically conductive plate 60 connected by an electrical lead 61 to the control circuitry of this invention rests freely on shoulder 58 and serves as the sensing element for the upward movement of the probes 50, as will be more fully explained hereinafter. The interior of housing 42, the lower surface of cover plate 40, and the upper surface of plate 47 and gasket 54 define a pressure chamber 62 into which regulated pressurized fluid such as filtered air, is supplied from a suitable source, not shown, through tubing 64 which includes a length of flexible tubing connected with opening 65 in cover plate 40. When chamber 62 is pressurized a constant pressure is maintained on probes 50 forcing them downward, with the force on the probes 50 being sufficient to cause them to penetrate the soft body of meat, yet not sufficient to cause penetration of any hard solid particles in the meat.

As clearly shown in FIGS. 1 thru 4, the penetration apparatus 34 is supported by the support assembly 30 by removably securing the plate 37 as with nuts and bolts to a generally central position of both crossmembers 33. The penetration apparatus 34 is so arranged on support assembly 30 that the horizontal plane including the lower ends of the needles 50b of the probes 50 when the probes are fully retracted is spaced above a base plate 66 fixed'to the upper surface 16 of top plate 14. The spacing between the base plate 66 and the plane of the ends of the retracted needles 50b is of such magnitude that cut up pieces of chickeii flesh may be placed on the base plate in anticipation of being probed by the needles. When the probes 50 arb fully extended as when the probing unit 38 is lowered the ends of the needles 50b will extend to a position siightly above the base plate 66 thus insuring that the body to be inspected will be virtually completely penetrated.

A double acting hydraulic cylinder 68 is provided for effecting the downward and upward movement of the probing unit 38. A bracket 70 fixed to the lower outer portion of cylinder 68 is removably secured as b bolts to the upper surface of plate 37. The rod 71 of cylinder 68 is threaded into mounting fixture 72 which is bolted to the upper surface of cover plate 40. By extending rod 71 the probing unit 38 will be urged toward base plate 66 where the needle portions 50b of probes 50 will pass through stripper plate 35 to encounter and penetrate a piece of chicken flesh disposed on the base plate. Pressurized fluid is provided to the cylinder 68 by tubing 73 and 74 connected to openings in the cylinder located at the rod and cylinder sides, respectively, of the piston. The tubing 73 and 74 are connected through a solenoid valve 75 to a source of pressurized hydraulic fluid, not shown. The solenoid 75 in turn is connected with circuitry which controls the overall operation of the inspecting apparatus 10, details of the control circuitry to be described later.

Transporting means for moving chicken pieces across the upper surface of top plate 14 are provided in the form of pocket wheel assemblies 80. There are two pocket wheel assemblies 80 both of which are essentially the same in structure. The pocket wheel assemblies 80 include generally vertical drive shafts 82 which are parallel to each other and are disposed to intersect the longitudinal centerline of top plate 14 at points equidistant from the centerpoint of base plate 66. The lower ends of the drive shafts 82 are supported for rotation in bearings 84 secured to one side of structural member 26. Bearing plates 86 are disposed at an upper region of the drive shafts 82, the plates being bolted to the underside of the top plate 14 to provide additional support for the drive shafts. The upper ends of the drive shafts 82 extend through the top plate 14 to engage and support product pocket wheel assembly 80. Each product pocket wheel assembly 80 includes a hub 89 which is removably secured to a drive shaft 82, and four radially extending arms 90 spaced 90 apart. A product carrying pocket 92 in the form of a ring is fixed to the free end of each arm 90. Each pocket 92 is sized to receive a piece of chicken of a size specified or determined by the user of the apparatus. The drive shafts 82 are so spaced and the product pocket wheel assemblies 80 so sized that when the pocket wheel assemblies are rotated, a product carrying. pocket 92 passes centrally of base plate 66, thus enabling a chicken piece to be positioned on the base plate for eventual probing by the penetration apparatus 34. The product carrying pockets 92 mesh together at the base plate 66 as each pocket wheel assembly 80 is rotated. Ring gears 92 having four radial spokes 91 spaced 90 apart are fixed to an intermediate position of the drive shafts 82 at a location above structural member 26. The ring gears 94 are identical and are sized to mesh with each other. Thus, when the drive shafts 82 are driven one will rotate clockwise and the other counterclockwise. Since the drive shafts 82 are coupled through the ring gears 94, only one drive shaft need be rotated. As shown in FIGS. 3 and 5 power means 96 is arranged to provide motive force to the drive shaft 82 located on the left of the drawing of the Figures. Power means 96 includes a double acting air cylinder 98 having the rear end thereof pivotally mounted between ears 99 fixed to a bracket 100 which in turn is detachably secured as by bolts to the underside of top plate 14. As clearly shown in FIG. 5, a block 102 is screwed onto the end of the piston rod 104 with a rotatable discshaped cam follower 105 arranged on the lower side of the block. The cylinder 98 is arranged such that'the cam follower 105 is disposed to engage the outer cam surfaces of cam ratchet wheel 106 secured to left drive shaft 82. Thus, when piston rod 104 is extended the follower 105 will engage the extensions of the cam ratchet wheel 106 to rotate the wheel in turn rotating left drive shaft 82 which causes right shaft 82 to rotate by virtue of the intermeshing of ring gears 94. When the piston rod 104 is retracted the follower 105 will roll along the cam surfaces of the cam ratchet wheel 106 without causing ratchet wheel 106 to rotate, thus to be repositioned again for engaging the cam surface to rotate the ratchet wheel. The pivotal connection of the cylinder 98 permits the follower 105 to track in the ratchet wheel 106 upon extension and retraction of rod 104 with limit switch 188 being actuated upon extension and limit switch 180 being actuated upon retraction of rod 104. A biasing spring 980 is shown attached to the cylinder 98 to further ensure that follower tracks in the ratchet wheel 106 particularly upon retraction when the follower 105 rolls to clear the next succeeding ratchet projection and then is urged into engagement with the ratchet projection. There are eight ratchet projections on ratchet wheel 106 to provide for 45 incremental movements for the ratchet wheel 106 and connected drive shafts 82. Pressurized air is supplied to the respective rod and cylinder ends of cylinder 98 from a source of air, not shown, through double acting solenoid valve 108 which is caused to be actuated in response to control signals to be more fully elaborated upon later.

Referring again to FIGS. 2 thru 4 top plate 14 is provided with four longitudinally spaced openings 110, 111, 112 adn 113 arranged along one side of the top plate, and having a diameter approximately the same as that of the product carrying pockets 92. The openings 110-113 are also located along the rotary path traversed by the product carrying pockets 92 such that the pockets and openings will be coaxial at certain times during rotation of the pocket wheel assemblies 80. The center points of openings 111 and 112 are approximately 45 from the longitudinal centerline of base plate 66 which passes through drive shafts 82, and the center points of openings 110 and 113 are approximately 135 from the longitudinal centerline of the base plate. The openings 110 and 113 define zones for receiving chicken pieces which have no detectable hard particles found therein while openings 111 and 112 define zones for receiving those chicken pieces which have hard particles detected therein. Thus, when penetration apparatus 34 senses that a chicken piece is without a hard particle, the pocket wheel assemblies 80 move that piece in three 45 incremental movements over opening 110 or 113 where the chicken piece will discharge through the opening to be received by a bucket or a moving conveyor belt arranged on platform 28. On the other hand, if penetration apparatus 34 senses a hard particle in a chicken piece it will cause a signal to activate and open the normally closed closure or reject plates 114 or 1 15 which are hingedly mounted to the underside of top plate 14, and the pocket wheel assemblies 80 will move that piece onto opening 111 or 112 to discharge the piece to a bucket or conveyor arranged on platform 28. As is clearly shown in FIG. 3 with respect to reject plate 114, both reject plates 114 and 115 are swung towards and away from openings 111 and 112 be means of double acting cylinders 116 and 117, the piston rods 118 and 119 of which are pivotally secured between the furcations of clevises 120 and 121 fixed to the underside of the closure plates 1 14 and 11S. Pressurized air is supplied to the rod and cylinder ends of each cylinder 1 16 and 1 17 from a source of air, not shown, through double acting solenoid valves 122 and 123 and are coupled to the control circuitry for the entire inspection apparatus 10. The ends of cylinders 1 16 and 117 proximate the solenoid valves 122 and 123 are pivotally mounted from the underside of top plate 14.

While the ratchet wheel 106 is designed to rotate the pocket wheel assemblies 80 in 45 degree incremental steps, additional means are provided for positively stopping the pocket wheel assemblies 80 every 45 during the rotation thereof by the power means 96. As clearly shown in FIGS. 6 and 7 four symmetrically spaced downwardly extending lugs 125 are fixed as by bolting to the bottom of each ring gear 94. Each lug 125 is arranged to engage the upwardly extending pin 126 fixed to a block 127 attached to the end of the piston rod 128 of double acting air cylinder 130 when the air cylinder 130 has been actuated to retract rod 128 and position pin 126 in position to engage the lugs. The air cylinder 130 is secured by a bracket 132 to a mounting plate 124 which in turn is removable secured as by bolts to the side of structural member 26. The upwardly extending pin 126 is positioned so that with rod 128 retracted pin 126 intersects lugs 125 along a line through the intersection of ring gears 94. The actuation of air cylinder 130 moves the rod 128 and pin 126 out of line so as to permit the lugs 125 to freely pass as the ring gears 94 are rotated. Pressurized air from a source, not shown, is provided to the rod and cylinder ends of air cylinder 130 through solenoid valve 136 which is coupled with the control circuitry for operating the overall inspection apparatus 10. When the piston of cylinder 130 is caused to be retracted the pocket wheel assemblies 80 will be locked in position ready for downward movement of the probing unit 38 of penetration apparatus 34. With the lugs 125 being spaced 90 apart on each ring gear 94 the limit of rotation of the pocket wheel assemblies 80 will be controlled to 45 incremental movements due to the lugs on the ring gear being spaced 45 from the lugs on the other .ring gear.

A typical control circuit for use in the operation of the inspection apparatus is shown schematically in FIG. 8. When it is desired to operate inspection apparams 10 the air supplies for the penetration apparatus 34, air cylinder 98 used for driving the pocket wheel assemblies 80, cylinders 116 and 117 used for operating the reject plates 114 and l 15, and cylinder 130 for actuating the stop pin 126 are turned on as is the hydraulic pump, not shown, for supplying hydraulic fluid to cylinder 68 for powering the probing unit 38 of the penetration apparatus. The power switch 150 is turned on and selector switch 152 is turned from off to automatic which sends power to all points of the control system provided there is at least 85 psi of air in the high pressure supply tank, not shown, to close the contacts in pressure switch 154. A latching relay 156 is provided having latch in coil 190 and latch release coil 172. Also associated with latching relay 156 are normally open contact 155, normally closed contact 157, and nor mally open contacts 162 and 163. A latching relay has two coils, so that when the latch in coil is energized the normally open contacts close and the normally closed contacts open. The armature is mechanically latched in this position even though the latch in coil is deenergized. When the latch release coil is energized the contacts return to their normal positions. The latch in coil 190 of relay 156 is pulled in by pushing a start button 160 to close contact 155 with the coil 158 associated with solenoid valve 75 being energized to open solenoid valve 75 for directing hydraulic fluid to the cylinder side of hydraulic cylinder 68 to move the probing unit 38 downwardly towards base plate 66, whereby the probes 50 penetrate a piece of chicken flesh. Contacts 157 are opened to de-energize coil 170 of solenoid valve 75 permitting the valve to divert hydraulic fluid to the cylinder side of hydraulic cylinder 68. Pulling in the latch in coil 190 also results in contacts 162,

163 closing to energize coils 164 and 166 to actuate solenoid valves 122 and 123 to permit pressurized air to flow to the cylinder side of cylinders 116 and 117 to urge reject plates 114 and 115 into closed relationships with openings 111 and 112 in top plate 14. A time delay switch 168 is mounted from cross member 33 of support assemply 30 and is disposed to be engaged and actuated by the movement of tubing 64 which moves as unit 38 is reciprocated to the full downward extent. When probing unit 38 is fully down tubing 64 engages time delay switch 168 at the bottom of its stroke, closing switch 168 after a delay which ensures that probing unit 38 does reach the full down position. and thereby actuating latch release coil 172 through normally closed cleanup switch 205. The contact 157 of relay 156 is thus returned to closed which actuates coil 170 associated with solenoid valve for directing hydraulic fluid to the rod side of cylinder 68 whereby probing unit 38 will be raised upwardly. When probing unit 38 reaches its upper limit the tubing 64 is again used to contact and actuate one-way momentary switch 174 whereby stop pin air cylinder solenoid coil 176 is energized to open the solenoid valve 136 to direct pressurized air to the rod side of air cylinder 130 to extend the piston so that the pocket wheel assemblies are free to be rotated. At the same time coil 178 is energized to open solenoid valve 108 to direct pressurized air to the rod side of air cylinder 98 which causes the piston therein to be retracted. As the piston of air cylinder 98 retracts it engages switch 180 which closes to thereby energize coil 182 which opens solenoid valve 108 to direct pressurized air to the cylinder side of air cylinder 98, which causes the piston therein to be extended whereby the cam follower engages ratchet wheel 106 to rotate the left drive shaft 82 which in turn causes right drive shaft 82 to rotate simultaneously through the intermeshing gears 94. The pocket wheel assemblies 80 are thus caused to move 45 degrees to thereby position a product carrying pocket 92 on base plate 66 where a piece of chicken flesh is ready to be inspected by penetration apparatus 34. During rotation of the pocket wheel assemblies 80 lugs on the ring gears 94 engage limit switch 184 which is positioned proximate the stop pin position so as to be contacted and actuated by the lug which is rotated from the stop pin position. The closing of switch 184 energizes coil 186 to actuate solenoid valve 136 which causes pressurized air to be directed to the rod side of air cylinder whereby the piston thereof is retracted to position stop pin 126 to be engaged by the succeeding lug 125 on the other ring gear which is rotated to be stopped by pin 126. When the piston of the ratchet air cylinder 98 is fully extended it momentarily engages one way momentary contact switch 188 which energizes latch in coil 190 of latching relay 156 to close contact energizing coil 158 to open solenoid valve 75 to direct hydraulic fluid into the cylinder side of cylinder 68 to move probing unit 38 downwardly towards base plate 66 to engage a piece of chicken flesh. At the same time contacts 157 are opened to de-energize coil of solenoid 75 to permit the valve to divert hydraulic fluid to the cylinder side of hydraulic cylinder 68. Actuation of latching relay 156 also results in contacts 162 and 163 closing to energize coils 164 and 166 to actuate solenoid valves 122 and 123 to permit pressurized air to flow into cylinders 116 and 117 to urge reject plates 114 and 115 into their closed position. So long as no hard particles are detected in the pieces of chicken the pieces will be transported on the upper surface 16 of top plate 14 with the closure plates 1 14 and 115 in their closed positions and thence through openings 110 and l 13.

When the penetration apparatus 34senses a hard particle in a piece of chicken the control circuitry will react to cause that piece of chicken to be discharged through either opening 111 or 112. When a probe 50 is caused to be urged upwardly due to engaginga hard particle, conductor plate 60 is contacted which is represented in FIG. 8 by the closing of switch 208 which causes relay coil 192 to be energized closing contacts 193 and 195 and actuating latch release coil 172 thereby closing contacts 157 to energize coil 170 which opens solenoid valve 75 to direct hydraulic fluid to the rod side of cylinder 68 causing the probing unit 38 of penetration apparatus 34 to be raised. Switch 194 contains one normally closed contact 202 and one normally open contact 204. When any one of the four gear lugs 125 on right ring gear 94 are in contact with switch 194, this lug position indicates that chicken is being tested in a pocket of the right pocket wheel 80. The lug 125 when in contact with switch 194 causes normally closed contact 202 to open and normally open contact 204 to close. When ring gears 94 move 45 for the next test cycle, a pocket of the left pocket wheel assembly 80 will be in position for testing, and switch 194 will be deactivated, contact 202 will return to normally closed. The energizing of relay 192 as a result of a probe striking a hard particle results in contact 195 being closed and thereby completing a circuit through either contact 202 or 204 of switch 194. The circuit is completed through whichever of the contacts 202 or 204 are closed, which depends upon whether the left or right pocket wheel has presented material beneath the detection device as just explained. Thus, either coil 198 or coil 200 are energized, whereby solenoid valves 122 or 123 will be opened to direct air to the rod side of cylinder 116 or 117 to retract the piston therein and thus open the proper reject closure, plate 114 or 115.

The ratchet cylinder 98 is then actuated as already explained, and the pocket wheels rotated 45 degrees permitting the examined soft body to be dropped through opening 111 or 112 if a hard particle has been detected, or to be supported by closure plates 114 or 115 if no hard particle has been detected while the next pocket wheel is beneath the detection device. Successive actuation of the probing unit 38 is achieved as follows. The pocket wheels are rotated in 45 degree increments. When the limit switch 188 is engaged upon extension of the piston of ratchet air cylinder 98 latch in coil 190 is energized to close contacts 155 energizing coil 158 to open solenoid valve 75 to direct hydraulic fluid into cylinder 68 to thereby move probing unit 38 downwardly as already explained. Energizing latch in coil 190 causes contacts 162 and 163 to close to energize coils 164 or 166 to open either solenoid valve 122 or 123 to direct air to cylinder 116 and 117 to close either reject plate 114 or 1 15, whichever the case may be if either be open.

In stopping the operation of the inspection apparatus 10, the selector switch 152 is turned to the off position when the probing unit 38 is moving upwardly. When cleaning the apparatus the clean up switch 205 is turned off and the selector switch 152 is put into the manual position. The manual probe unit operating switch 206 is then moved to the downor up position as needed to permit spraying cleaning liquid on the probes 50, stripper plate 35, etc. If it is desired to cause the pocket wheel assemblies to rotate for purposes of cleaning, switch 206 should be moved to the up position then to the off position, turn on switch 205, the selector switch 152 should be moved to automatic, and switch pushed to the start operation position. After cleaningis completed the selector switch 152 should be turned to the off position as the probing unit 38 is just starting its upward movement.

While we have shown and described a present preferred embodiment of this invention it is to be distinctly understood that the invention is not limited thereto but may also be otherwise variously embodied within the scope of the following claims.

We claim:

1. Apparatus for inspecting soft bodies for the presence of hard particles, comprising:

a main support member having a generally flat upper surface;

detection means for detecting the presence of hard particles in bodies of softer substance, and supported by said support member such that a spaced relationship exists between the upper surface of the support member and the underside of the detection means;

product transporting means supported by said support member for transporting bodies on said support member to and from a position beneath said detection means;

means for effecting relative movement between said detection means and at least that portion of said support member beneath said detection means such that bodies to be inspected will be positioned to be tested by said detection means; and

control means electrically operative with said detection means and said product transporting means for effecting the operation of said transporting means to move bodies sequentially to and from beneath said detection means.

2. Apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein said detection means is a penetration means which includes a probing unit having a matrix of spaced probes slidably arranged for reciprocal movement with respect to each other, pressure means for maintaining pressure on each of said probes such that a force sufficient to penetrate the body to be inspected is exerted on each probe but not enough to penetrate the hard solid particles sought to be detected, and sensing means for sensing the movement of the probes when such probes are moved when a hard solid particle is engaged.

3. Apparatus as set forth in claim 2 wherein said penetration means is constructed and arranged such that it moves towards and away from said support member to engage and disengage a body to be inspected.

4. Apparatus as set forth in claim 1 wherein said tranporting means includes a pocket wheel assembly comprising a plurality of arcuately spaced arms each having a product carrying member at the outer ends thereof, a drive shaft rotatably supported by said support member and fixed to said arms for rotating said arms as a unit, and drive means coupled to said drive shaft for providing the motive power thereto; and wherein said pocket wheel assembly is constructed and arranged such that bodies to be inspected are transported in said product carrying members to and from a position beneath said detecton means.

5. Apparatus as set forth in claim 1 including product separation means on said support member defining a first zone along the path of travel of said product transporting means for receiving bodies which have solid particles detected therein and a second zone along said path of travel for receiving those bodies which have no detectable solid particles therein.

6. Apparatus as set forth in claim 5 wherein said control means is operative with said detection means and said product transporting means for effecting the operation of said transporting means to movebodies to and from beneath said detection means and for positioning bodies having solid particles detected therein at said first zone and for positioning bodies which have no detectable solid particles therein at said second zone in response to the operation of said detection means in testing the bodies for detecting particles.

7. Apparatus as set forth in claim 5 wherein said first and second zones include means defining openings through the upper surface of said support member, and selectively movable closure means closing at least one of said openings during movement of said product transporting means, whereby said closure means may be operated to open the said openings with which it is associated, zones as bodies are received on the openings such that the bodies will be deposited beneath said support member.

8. Apparatus as set forth in claim 7 wherein said control means is operative with said detection means, said product transporting means, and said closure means for effecting the operation of said transporting means to move bodies to and from beneath said detection means and for positioning bodies having particles detected therein at said first zone and for positioning bodies which have no detectable particles therein at said second zone and further for actuating said closure means to discharge bodies to a position beneath said support member, said control means responding to the operation of said detection means in engaging the bodies for detecting particles.

9. Apparatus as set forth in claim 7 including product receiving means supported by said support member and arranged beneath said first and second zones, respectively, for receiving bodies as they are discharged through the first and second zones.

10. Apparatus as set forth in claim 4 wherein said transporting means includes a pair of pocket wheel assemblies arranged in spaced relation to each other,

each of the pocket wheel assemblies being further arranged on one side of said penetration means; wherein both of said pocket wheel assemblies further include a common drive means coupled to the drive shafts thereof; and wherein said control means is further operative with said pocket wheel assemblies to drive each of the assemblies in timed sequence for moving a said product carrying member of one assembly into position beneath said penetration means followed by a product carrying member of the other assembly.

11. Apparatus for inspecting soft bodies for the presence of hard particles, comprising:

a main support member having a generally flat upper surface; detection means for detecting the presence of hard solid particles in bodies of softer substance, and supported by said support member such that a spaced relationship exists between the upper surface of the support member and the underside of the detection means;

product transporting means supported by said support member for transporting bodies on said support member to and from a position beneath said detection means;

means for effecting relative movement between said detection means and at least that portion of said support member beneath said detection means such that bodies to be inspected will be engaged by said detection means;

product separation means on said support member defining a first zone along the path of travel of said product transporting means for receiving bodies which have solid particles detected therein and a second zone along said path of travel for receiving those bodies which have no detectable solid particles therein;

product discharge means operative with said product separation means for discharging bodies from said first and second zones in accordance with whichever of said zones has bodies positioned thereon; and

control means operative with said detection means and said product transporting means for effecting the operation of said transporting means to move bodies sequentially to and from beneath said detection means and for positioning bodies having solid particles detected therein at said first zone and for positioning bodies which have no detectable solid particles therein at said second zone in response to the operation of said detection means in engaging the bodies for detecting solid particles.

12. Apparatus as set forth in claim 11 wherein said control means is further operative with said product discharge means for effecting operation of said discharge means in response to the operation of said detection means.

13. Apparatus as set forth in claim 1 1 wherein at least one of said first and second zones include means defining openings through the upper surface of said support member; and wherein said discharge means includes selectively movable closure means closing said openings during movement of said product transporting means, whereby said closure means may be operated to open said openings of such that the bodies will be discharged to an area beneath said support member.

14. Apparatus as set forth in claim 13 including product receiving means supported by said support member and arranged beneath said first and second zones, respectively, for receiving bodies as they are discharged through the first and second zones.

15. Apparatus as set forth in claim 13 wherein said transporting means includes a pocket wheel assembly comprising a plurality of arcuately spaced arms each having a product carrying member at the outer ends thereof, a drive shaft rotatably supported by said support member and fixed to said arms for rotating said arms as a unit, and drive means coupled to said drive shaft for providing the motive power thereto; and wherein said pocket wheel assembly is constructed and arranged such that bodies to be inspected are transported in said product carrying members to and from a position beneath said detection means.

16. Apparatus as set forthinn claim 15 wherein said transporting means includes a pair of pocket wheel assemblies arranged in spaced relation to each other, each of the pocket wheel assemblies being further arranged on one side of said detection means; wherein both of said pocket wheel assemblies further include a common drive means coupled to the drive shafts thereof; and wherein said control means is further operative with said pocket wheel assemblies to drive each of the assemblies in timed sequence for moving a said product carrying member of one assembly into position beneath said detection means followed by a product carrying member of the other assembly.

17. Apparatus as set forth in claim 11 wherein said detection means is a penetration means which includes a probing unit having a matrix of spaced probes slidably arranged for reciprocal movement with respect to each other, pressure means for maintaining pressure on each of said probes such that a force sufficient to penetrate the body to be inspected is exerted on each probe but not enough to penetrate the hard solid particles sought to be detected, and sensing means for sensing the movement of the probes when such probes are moved when a hard solid particle is engaged.

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US5847382 *Oct 22, 1996Dec 8, 1998Jay KochBone detector
US6209706 *Feb 26, 1999Apr 3, 2001G. Robert Tod, Jr.Article grouping and transferring system
EP0024171A1 *Aug 7, 1980Feb 25, 1981Winstone Ryan JamesPoultry abattoir apparatus
EP1348338A1 *Mar 21, 2003Oct 1, 2003Slagteriernes ForskningsinstitutMethod and apparatus for detecting ribs in meat
Classifications
U.S. Classification209/552, 209/688
International ClassificationA22C21/00, A22C17/00
Cooperative ClassificationA22C21/00
European ClassificationA22C21/00