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Title:
OFFAL REMOVAL
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/072501
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An offal removal station (10) for use in an automated meat processing line, the station (10) comprising an inlet (11A) for shackled joints (CP) to enter the station (10) and an outlet (11b) for processed shackled joints, the station (10) further comprising, between the inlet (11a) and outlet (11b), joint handling means (12) for increasing, preferably temporarily increasing, the relative distance between paired joints (CP) travelling therethrough and/or for at least partially restraining a joint portion (CP) and offal removal means (13) arranged to engage a joint as it travels through said joint handling means (12).

Inventors:
AKEHURST, Kevin (Trinity Business ParkFox Way, Wakefield Yorkshire WF2 8EE, WF2 8EE, GB)
Application Number:
GB2016/053326
Publication Date:
May 04, 2017
Filing Date:
October 26, 2016
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
2 SISTERS FOOD GROUP LIMITED (Trinity Park House, Trinity Business Park Fox Way, Wakefield Yorkshire WF2 8EE, WF2 8EE, GB)
International Classes:
A22C21/06
Foreign References:
US5015213A1991-05-14
US5873774A1999-02-23
US20140256241A12014-09-11
US3750231A1973-08-07
US3930282A1976-01-06
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HGF LTD et al. (Document Handling - HGF, 1 City Walk, Leeds Yorkshire LS11 9DX, LS11 9DX, GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. An offal removal station for use in an automated meat processing line, the station comprising an inlet for shackled joints to enter the station and an outlet for processed shackled joints, the station further comprising, between the inlet and outlet, joint handling means for increasing, preferably temporarily increasing, the relative distance between paired joints travelling therethrough and/or for at least partially restraining a joint portion and offal removal means arranged to engage a joint as it travels through said joint handling means.

2. A kidney removal station for use in an automated poultry processing line, the station comprising an inlet where shackled poultry leg joints can enter the station and an outlet for processed shackled poultry leg joints, the station further comprising, between the inlet and outlet, joint handling means for increasing, preferably temporarily increasing, the relative distance between paired joints travelling therethrough and/or for at least partially restraining a leg joint and kidney removal means arranged for engaging a joint as it travels through said joint handling means.

3. A station according to Claim 1 or 2, wherein at least a part of a path of travel for a shackled joint through the station is non-rectilinear.

4. A station according to any of Claims 1 , 2 or 3, wherein the joint handling means comprise an entrance portion, an exit portion and an intermediate portion therebetween, defining a path of travel for shackled joints travelling therethrough.

5. A station according to any preceding Claim, wherein the station comprises a path of travel for shackled joints, which path of travel comprises an inlet path of travel (for example corresponding to the inlet portion) and intermediate path of travel (for example corresponding to the intermediate portion) and an outlet path of travel (for example corresponding to the outlet portion).

6. A station according to Claim 5, wherein the inlet path or travel and the intermediate path of travel are non rectilinear.

7. A station according to any of Claim 4, 5 or 6, wherein paired shackled joints travelling along the path of travel may be at a or approaching a maximum inter- joint distance as at least one of the joints travels along the intermediate path of travel and/or along the intermediate portion.

8. A station according to any one of Claims 4 to 7, wherein said offal removal means is arranged to engage a shackled joint as the shackled joint travels along the intermediate path of travel, and/or through the intermediate portion of said joint handling means.

9. A station according to any preceding Claim, wherein said offal removal means is arranged to engage a shackled joint as or when the shackled joint has been displaced from an equilibrium position by said splaying means.

10. A station according to any preceding Claim, wherein said joint handling means comprises at least one guide, and preferably, where a pair of joints are travelling along the or a path of travel, a pair of guides.

1 1. A station according to Claim 10, wherein said one guide or one or each guide is arranged to alter the position of a joint being conveyed along the path of travel.

12. A station according to Claim 10 or 1 1 , wherein the, one or each guide comprises one or more guide rails.

13. A station according to any one of Claims, 10, 1 1 , 12, wherein each guide comprises a pair of matched guide rails, between which a joint may travel as it traverses the path of travel.

14. A station according to Claim 13, wherein the sets of matched guide rails are arranged so as to cause a pair of joints to move relative to one another as each traverses a path of travel, for example such that the relative spacing between the joints is increased.

15. A station according to any preceding Claim, wherein said offal removal means comprises contact means or non-contact means for removal of offal from the joint.

16. A station according to Claim 15, wherein said contact means comprise one or more of an abutment surface, for example a roller, brush or wiper.

17. A station according to Claim 15, wherein said non-contact means comprise one or more of a fluid spray device or vacuum application device.

18. A station according to any preceding Claim, further comprising a detector, arranged to detect passage of a joint.

19. A station according to any preceding Claim, wherein said offal removal means is arranged to operate in response to a joint travelling along the path of ravel, for example, when detected by the or a detector.

20. A continuous method of removing offal from a joint, for example removing kidney tissue from a thigh joint of poultry, the method comprising applying a vacuum to or in the vicinity of the joint to remove said offal.

21. A continuous and automated method of removing offal from a joint, for example removing kidney tissue from a thigh joint of poultry, the method comprising applying a vacuum to or in the vicinity of the joint to remove said offal.

22. A method according to Claim 20 or 21 , wherein in excess of 500 joints per hour are processed, preferably in excess of 1000 joints per hour and still more preferably processing in excess of 1500, 2000, 2500, 3000, 3500, 4000, 4500, 5000, 5500, 6000 joints per hour, for example from 1000 to 14000 joints per hour.

23. A thigh portion of poultry, for example a thigh portion processed according to the method of Claim 20, 21 or 22 or using the apparatus of any of Claims 1 to 19, absent kidney tissue.

24. Plural thigh portions of poultry processed automatically and serially and being absent kidney tissue.

Description:
OFFAL REMOVAL

This invention relates to offal removal and particularly, although not exclusively, to offal removal from poultry such as chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and other fowl.

Automated processing of the carcases of birds in food production is a well-known and commercially-established practice. Figure 1 shows the steps of a well-known process for the processing of chickens. Firstly individual birds are hung from shackles by their hocks. The birds are then processed by the following sequential steps (as shown in Figure 1): stunning 2, bleeding 3, scalding 4, defeathering 5, eviscerating 6, chilling 7 and, optionally further processing, for example and depending on whether a whole bird or joints is required, a further step of cutting or jointing 8.

In cases where joints are required, the carcass may be cut into individual pieces: legs, thighs, breast and so on.

Whilst such further processing (cutting or jointing 8) can be completed by hand, it is clearly desirable to process the carcass automatically to maximise throughput. Automatic processing should ensures that any such further processing step is, as far as possible, able to match the number throughput of the upstream carcass processing steps, which can be in the region of 8000 to 14000 carcasses per hour (although other number throughputs may also be used).

The further processing, which we shall hereinafter refer to as "jointing" can involve separating the carcass into nine or ten useful chicken portions. In what is known as the nine-piece cut, the chicken carcass may be separated into two drumsticks, two wings, two thighs and three breast portions (a keel and two rib portions). This nine-piece cut is particularly popular for providing chicken joints to fast food restaurants as the joints are suitably sized to provide individual (or desired) portions of chicken.

In some fast food restaurants the joints of chicken are further processed, perhaps by coating the joints in a batter or breaded coating and then deep frying the portions for subsequent sale. Because of the nature of fast food restaurants, it is necessary and/or desirable to cook joints of meat in a short time period. For chicken, this may involve pressure frying the joints.

When the nine-piece cut is effected in an automated process, it is often difficult to ensure that the kidneys are removed from the thigh portions. Accordingly, it is necessary to conduct a visual inspection of the thigh portion to ensure removal of the kidney or any parts of the kidney therefrom.

In some restaurants, the visual inspection of thigh portions of chicken is carried out on site. The accurate identification by visual inspection of kidney tissue can be difficult. Such inspection issues may be exacerbated in high throughout food outlets where or when there is a high customer demand.

If the thigh portions are cooked, and especially if the thigh portions are pressure fried, with kidney or kidney parts attached, the cooked product can take on an unattractive aspect. Indeed, because of the nature of pressure frying, when exposed to the temperatures used, kidney tissue will shrivel and, to some, take on the appearance of brain tissue. Whilst this in no way impairs the flavour of the meat, it can be off-putting for some.

Accordingly, there is a need to alleviate the above-identified problem and this invention seeks to do so.

Accordingly, a first aspect of the invention provides an offal removal station for use in an automated jointing line, the station comprising an inlet where shackled joints can enter the station and an outlet for processed joints, the station further comprising, between the inlet and outlet, joint handling means for increasing, preferably temporarily increasing, the relative distance between paired joints travelling therethrough and/or for at least partially restraining said joint and offal removal means (or offal remover) arranged to engage a joint as it travels through said joint handling means (or joint handler).

The joint handling means may comprise an entrance portion, an exit portion and an intermediate portion therebetween, defining a path of travel for shackled joints travelling therethrough. It is preferred that the path of travel for a shackled joint travelling along at least part of the path or travel is non-rectilinear. The path of travel may comprise an inlet path of travel (corresponding to the inlet portion) and intermediate path of travel (corresponding to the intermediate portion) and an outlet path of travel (corresponding to the outlet portion). Preferably, the inlet path of travel and the intermediate path of travel are non rectilinear. Paired joints travelling along the path of travel may be at a maximum, or approaching or departing a maximum, inter-joint distance as at least one of the joints travels along the intermediate path of travel and/or along the intermediate portion. The outlet path of travel and the intermediate path of travel may be non rectilinear. At least partially restraining the joints means to substantially hold or retain the joint in its desired configuration so as to present the joint appropriately to the offal removal means.

Said offal removal means may be arranged to engage the joint as the joint travels along the intermediate path of travel, and/or through the intermediate portion of said joint handling means. The offal removal means may be arranged to engage a shackled joint as or when the shackled joint has been displaced from an equilibrium position by said joint handling means.

For example, wherein paired shackled joints are travelling along the or a path of travel the joints may be at a, or approaching a, maximum inter-joint distance as at least one of the joints travels along the intermediate path of travel and/or along the intermediate portion.

The joint handling means may be arranged to splay the portions travelling therethrough.

Said joint handling means may comprise at least one guide, preferably, where a pair of joints are travelling along the path of travel, a pair of guides. Said one guide or one or each guide may comprise a crank therealong. For example, the, one or each guide may comprise a cranked portion, for example between the inlet portion and intermediate portion. The, one or each guide is arranged to engage a joint portion as it travels along the path of travel.

The guide or one guide or each guide may be arranged to alter the position of a joint being conveyed along the path of travel.

The, one or each guide may comprise one or more guide rails, preferably each guide comprises a pair of matched guide rails, between which a joint may travel as it traverses the path of travel. The sets of matched guide rails may be arranged so as to cause a pair of joints to move relative to one another as each traverses a path of travel, such that the relative spacing between the joints is increased, for example as one joint moves along the intermediate portion as compared to when it traverses the inlet portion.

If both sets of guide rails are similarly formed then both joints will be caused to move away from each other, thereby increasing the inter-joint spacing.

The joint handling means may comprise matched or staggered guides, for example matched or staggered sets of guide rails.

The matched guide rails may comprise an entrance portion and intermediate portion and an exit portion. Preferably the inlet portion of the matched guide rails flares inwardly in a direction towards the intermediate portion.

The offal removal means may comprise means to contact the joint or non-contact means. Contact means may comprise an abutment surface, for example a roller, brush or wiper. The non-contact means may comprise a fluid spray device or vacuum application device. It is particularly preferred to use a vacuum application device, whereby the joint is not exposed to potential other contaminants from or by use of said offal removal means.

Said joint handling means may comprise a detector, arranged to detect passage of a joint along the path or travel. Said offal removal means may be arranged to operate in response to a joint travelling along the path of ravel, for example, when detected by the or a detector.

A further aspect of the invention provides a method of removing offal from a joint, for example removing kidney tissue from a thigh joint of poultry, the method comprising applying a vacuum to or in the vicinity of the joint to remove said offal.

A yet further aspect of the invention provides a method of automatically removing kidney tissue from a thigh joint of poultry, the method comprising, in a processing line and whilst the thigh joint is suspended from a shackle, engaging the thigh portion with kidney removal means, preferably said kidney removal means comprising a source of vacuum. The method may comprise processing in excess of 500 joints per hour, preferably in excess of 1000 joints per hour and still more preferably processing in excess of 1500, 2000, 2500, 3000, 3500, 4000, 4500, 5000, 5500, 6000 joints per hour, for example from 1000 to 14000 joints per hour.

The method may comprise restraining the joint, for example a or the thigh joint, whilst engaging said portion with kidney removal means, for example a vacuum.

A further aspect of the invention provides a thigh portion of poultry, for example a thigh portion processed according to the above method or using the above apparatus, absent kidney tissue. A yet further aspect provides plural thigh portions of poultry (e.g. over 100 portions) processed automatically and serially and being absent kidney tissue.

Whilst not every thigh portion processed in an automated processing line will have a kidney (or remnants of kidney tissue) attached thereto, at least some will. The automated removal of any adhered kidney tissue will significantly reduce the inspection burden at downstream locations, for example fast food restaurants.

The term 'joints' in this specification does not include entire carcasses.

The invention will now be described, by way of example only, and with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Figure 1 is a schematic of a prior art poultry processing scheme;

Figure 2 is an end elevation of apparatus according to the invention;

Figure 2A is a side elevation of the apparatus of Figure 2;

Figure 3 is a plan view of a portion of the apparatus of Figure 2;

Figure 3A is a schematic representation of the path of travel through a portion of the apparatus of the invention;

Figure 4 is diagrammatic representation of apparatus according to the invention; Figure 5A is a schematic representation of the apparatus of the invention in use; and

Figure 5B is a further schematic representation of the apparatus of the invention in use. Referring first to Figure 1 , there is shown the process steps in a poultry processing plant, which includes the sequential steps or stages of stunning 2, bleeding 3, scalding 4, defeathering 5, eviscerating 6, chilling 7 and, optionally further processing, for example depending on whether a whole bird or joints is required a further processing step of cutting or jointing 8.

In the so-called 9-piece cut, after the chilling stage 7 the carcass remains suspended by its hocks from a shackle. At this stage the carcass is 'halved' which separates the front of the carcass (including the breast and the wings) from the rear of the carcass (including the legs and thighs). The halving process enables the front of the carcass to fall away from the suspended rear of the carcass, and thence to allow the front of the carcass to be jointed separately to provide two wings and three breast portions (after a de-boning stage). The rear of the carcass is then separated into two halves, each comprising a leg and a thigh portion, and wherein each half is suspended from the shackle. It is at this stage that the current invention is deployed.

Referring now to Figure 2 and Figure 2A, there is shown apparatus for the removal of offal 10, preferably for deployment in-line, in an automated poultry processing line, such as that described in Figure 1 , for example as part of the cutting stage 8. The apparatus 10 comprises a housing 11 in which is located joint handling means in the form or a pair of matched guides 12 and offal removal means in the form of a pair of fluid conduits 13 (for convenience we refer to these as hoses 13 although the lines may be flexible or rigid and may be fabricated from any suitable material). The hoses 13 extend at an angle from the guide 12 to a union 13a and thence to a fluid line 14 extending from the housing 11 to a chamber 15.

The housing 1 1 includes an inlet 1 1 a and outlet 11 b for a line L conveyed in the direction of arrow A. The line L comprises a motorised conveyor line from which depend plural shackles S and from which shackles S may be suspended chicken portions CP, typically formed from a thigh and leg of a chicken, the thigh being lowermost as a consequence of the upstream suspension of a whole chicken on a shackle S. As will be appreciated, from each shackle S there may be suspended a pair of chicken portions CP, each of the pair of portions CP originating from the same chicken. As will be appreciated, the chicken may well have been halved (for harvesting of the breast and wing portions) and the rear of the carcass will have been separated into two halves. Within the housing 1 1 the pair of matched guides 12 comprises a first set of guide rails 20a and a second set of guide rails 20b (as seen in Figure 3). Each set (20a or 2b) comprises an inner rail 20i and an outer rail 20o and has an entrance portion 21 a, an intermediate portion 21 b and an exit portion 21c, in the direction of conveyance (i.e. arrow A). Each set of guide rails 20a, 20b, and specifically the inner rail 20i and outer rail 20o of each set 20a, 20b, defines a path of travel T1 , T2 respectively, for each chicken portion CP traveling in the direction of arrow A, and between the inner rail 20i and outer rail 20o.

A the start of the entrance portion 21a each guide rail 20i, 20o is angled to provide an inwardly flaring entrance 20e so as to provide a funnel for ingressing matter. As shown in Figure 3A, the path of travel Ta along the entrance portion 21 a is rectilinear. At the start of the intermediate portion 21 b, each guide rail 20i, 20o has a crank or bend so as to angle the path of travel Tb away from that of the entrance portion Ta and then adopts a rectilinear path. The path of travel Tb along the intermediate portion 21 b is then angled toward the exit portion 21 c (by virtue of each guide rail 20i, 20o having a crank or bend) and the path of travel Tc along the exit portion 21 c is rectilinear. The path of travel Tc along the exit portion 21 c may be aligned with and parallel to the path of travel Ta along the entrance portion 21 a. The rectilinear portion of the path of travel Tb along the intermediate portion 21 b may be parallel to the path of travel Ta along the entrance portion 21a.

The exit portion 21 c of each set of rails 20a, 20b comprises an outwardly flared exit 20x, where the outer guide rail 20o of each set (20a, 20b) extends further than the inner guide rail 20i or each set (20a, 20b). In the exit portion 21 c, the outer guide rail 20o of each set of rails 20a, 20b comprises an inwardly extending guide or hook portion 20p which terminates in an outwardly flared portion, to define a U-shaped terminal portion, the inner guide rail 20b having an outwardly flaring terminal portion. We have surprisingly found that this feature helps with down-stream presentation of matter egressing from the respective set of guide rails 20a, 20b, in short it helps to minimise swinging of suspended matter as they exit the guide rails (20a, 20b).

Referring now to Figure 4, there is shown a process diagram which sets out the functional components of the apparatus 10 of the invention. As set out above in relation to Figure 2, there is provided a housing 11 in which are located matched guides 12 and hoses 13, from which hoses extends a line 14 which communicates with a chamber 15. Also provided is a vacuum and gas control system 20 and a programmable logic controller (PLC) 25 or other control means. A proximity sensor 26 may be provided for detecting the presence of an article within the housing 11. Located below the chamber 15 is a tank 27.

Communication between the hoses 13 and the chamber 15 is controlled by a valve 26, preferably a pneumatically actuated valve, which is operable between an open and a closed state thereby to enable communication between the hoses 13 and the tank 15. Also provided is a vacuum pump 28 and a source of compressed air 29.

The compressed air from the compressed air source 29 is controlled by the PLC 25 to actuate the valve 26 to control communication between the hoses 13 and the chamber 15. The vacuum pump 28 is operable to generate a vacuum within the chamber 15 which, when in communication with the hoses 13 via the line 14 will cause a suction force at the free end of the hoses 13. Compressed air from the compressed air source 29 can be controlled by the PLC 2 to vary the vacuum within the chamber 15, preferably in response to a signal generated by a vacuum gauge 30. The tank 27 is arranged to receive matter delivered via the line 14 from the hoses 13 under the action of the vacuum in the chamber 15. Preferably the tank 27 will be suitable sized and configured to be able to receive and retain an appropriate quantity of matter, for example an amount of matter appropriate to the use to which the apparatus 10 is to be put. The tank 27 may be removable from the chamber 15 (and indeed the two need not be connected at all) so as to be able to replace the tank 27 when it is full or approaches its storage capacity.

In use, chickens are processed according to a chicken processing methodology (an example of which is shown in Figure 1). The chickens are halved and the rear of the carcass is separated to leave two matched chicken portions CP suspended from a shackle S. In practice there are plural shackles S on the line L which is conveyed in the direction of arrow A to the apparatus 10 and through the housing 11 from the inlet 1 1 a to the outlet 1 1 b.

Figure 5A shows chicken portions CP suspended from a shackle S at the inlet 1 1 a of the housing 11 with an inter-portion distance d. This is the equilibrium position of the suspended chicken portion CP. As the shackle S is further conveyed by the line L in the direction of arrow A, the chicken portions CP enter the entrance 20e (aided by the funnel defined by the respective inner 20i and outer 20o guide rails of each set of guide rails 20a, 20b) and start to travel along the path of travel Ta of the inlet portion 21a. As the chicken portion CP enters the intermediate portion 21 b and travels along the path of travel Tb the distance between the chicken portions CP increases by virtue of the bend or crank in the inner 20i and outer 20o guide rails (i.e. the guides 12 splay the chicken portions CP). Figure 5B provides a schematic diagram of the chicken portions CP at one position as the chicken portions CP travel along the path of travel Tb through the intermediate portion 21 b. Clearly, the chicken portions CP have been pivoted by an angle Θ, and have thus splayed such that the inter-portion distance d' is increased away from the equilibrium position. We prefer that the angle is between 30° and 60°, and is preferably 45°. The effect of increasing the inter-portion distance d' is to allow greater access to the facing surfaces of the chicken portion CP.

In this way, as the chicken portions CP traverse the intermediate portion 21 b, along the rectilinear portion of the path of travel Tb their presence is detected by proximity sensor 26. A signal is sent to the PLC 25 which actuates (or causes to be actuated) the valve 26 whereupon the hoses 13 are placed into fluid communication with the chamber 15 and a suction force is applied to the free end of the hose 13 to draw matter into the hose 13 and thus along line 14 and to the tank 27.

The hoses 13 are positioned so that the free end is proximate to the part of the chicken portion CP likely to bear kidney tissue (where the chicken portions CP comprise thigh portions). Thus, as the chicken portion CP is conveyed through the housing 1 1 , and specifically as it travels along the intermediate portion 21 b of the guides 12 a suction force is applied to suck kidney tissue (or remnants thereof) from the thigh of the chicken portion CP and that tissue is delivered to the tank 27. The chicken portions CP may be continuously conveyed by the line L in the direction of arrow A or the line L may temporarily stop when a chicken portion CP is proximate the free end of the hose 13.

One of the advantages of using a pair of matched guide rails, that is inner rail 20i and outer rail 20o, is that the chicken portion CP is restricted in its movement as it traverses the path of travel (T1 , T2), which will limit the ability of the portion to rotate or swing as it is conveyed along its respective path of travel T1 , T2. Instead of a pair of guide rails, a single guide rail may be used or a guide rail and a cooperating wall, or a pair of walls may be used. As the chicken portion CP exits the intermediate portion 21 b of the guide and enters the exit portion 21 c it again adopts the configuration shown in Figure 5A. At the exit 21x the outer guide rails 20o act to align the portions CP appropriately for downstream processing, which may involve separating the thigh portion from the leg (drumstick).

When used for removing kidney tissue from a chicken portion we prefer that the hose 13 and line 14 has a diameter of about 30mm and may be about 1.2m long although other diameters and widths may be used. The tank 27 may have a capacity for 60000 kidneys, although it may be larger or smaller.

By using the apparatus 10 it is possible to process chicken portions CP continuously and in-line with other poultry processing stages and without disturbing the volume throughput. Moreover, the apparatus 10 can be installed at a plant without any substantive disruption to the rest of the plant.

As will be appreciated, as well as causing the chicken portions to pivot, or splay, other means may be provided to allow or facilitate access to the required part of the chicken portion CP. Moreover, although matched pairs of chicken portions CP are shown to be processed at the same time, it is also possible to stagger the sets of guides 12, for example so that one guide12 causes one of the chicken portions CP to deviate outwardly and then the other. In this fashion the apparatus may be made narrower, although this would sacrifice length. However, the hoses 13 could then be caused to operate at different times, and or may have different lengths which would provide a different travel time for matter being sucked along the hose 13.

Although we prefer to use a vacuum source, it would also be possible to remove kidney tissue or other matter using other offal removal means, for example compressed air to blow it away or contact means such as scrapers, rollers, brushes and so on. Clearly, for reasons of minimising actual or potential damage to the chicken portion CP, it is preferred to use as offal removal means non-contact means. In particular, a vacuum source is preferred because other matter can be drawn away from the chicken portion CP.

It is possible to take the chicken portions CP off of the shackle, and subject those removed portions to offal removal means but this is less preferred because it is labour or equipment intensive and potentially interferes with other aspects of the line L. However, it is possible to deploy mechanical means such as a robotic arm or abutment to cause the chicken portion away from the equilibrium position. Additionally or alternatively the chicken portion CP could be caused to be displaced from the equilibrium position by other contact or non-contact means, such as a vacuum source.




 
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