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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
PICK AND THROW HARVESTING
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2020/167669
Kind Code:
A4
Abstract:
A conveyor system (24) carries work items, such as flexible, pliable, food products (22), through a scanning system (28) which generates data pertaining to various physical parameters of the food products. Thereafter, the food products are transported through a processing station which may be in the form of a portioning system (30). Next, the portioned food products are transported to a harvesting system (32) utilizing a actuator (34) to unload the food product portions (36) by vacuuming the portions into a nozzle (90). Such food products are transported to one or more desired locations through a hose/tube connected to a nozzle or may be launched through the air in a trajectory aimed at the desired placement location.

Inventors:
HOCKER JON (US)
BLAINE GEORGE (US)
GILL HARRISON (US)
KEOGH JONATHAN (US)
SORENSON ERICK (US)
Application Number:
US2020/017520
Publication Date:
November 12, 2020
Filing Date:
February 10, 2020
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
JOHN BEAN TECHNOLOGIES CORP (US)
International Classes:
A22C17/00; B25J11/00; B25J15/06; B65G47/91
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NAGAE, Jerald, E. (US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
AMENDED CLAIMS

received by the International Bureau on 25 September 2020 (25.09.2020)

CLAIMS

The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive property or privilege is claimed are defined as follows:

1. A food processing system for processing food items that may be of variable size and shape, as the food items are being carried on a support surface of a conveyor, and removing the processed food items from the conveyor to deliver the food items to one or more desired locations, comprising:

(a) a scanning system for scanning the food items and generating data pertaining to the physical specifications of the food items including the size and shapes of the food items and the locations of the food items on the conveyor;

(b) a removal system for removing the food items from the conveyor to deliver the food items at a one or more desired locations, comprising:

a first nozzle having an inlet opening shaped and sized to correspond to the shapes and sizes of the food items for receiving the food items into and through the first nozzle;

a delivery subsystem in fluid receiving communication with the first nozzle for receiving the food items from the first nozzle and transporting the food items through the delivery subsystem and directing the food items in a desired direction or to a desired location;

a vacuum generator generating a vacuum at the nozzle inlet opening; and

an actuator to move and position the nozzle to desired positions relative to the food items; and

(c) a control system receiving data from the scanning system including pertaining to the size and shape of the food items, and the location of the food items on the conveyor and controlling the actuator to position the nozzle with respect to the food item to enable the nozzle to pick up the food item, controlling the delivery subsystem to enable the delivery subsystem to deliver the food item at one or more desired locations; and controlling the operation of the vacuum generator.

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2. The system according to Claim 1, further comprising:

a food processing station located upstream from the removal system to process the food items being carried by the conveyor; and

wherein the control system receiving data from the scanning system pertaining to the physical specifications of the food items germane to the processing of the food items at the food processing station and controlling the processing of the food items at the food processing station.

3. The system according to Claim 2, wherein the food processing station comprises a cutting system for cutting one or more portions from the food items; and

the control system directing the cutting system to perform the required cuts of the food items.

4. A system according to any one of Claims 1-3, wherein the delivery subsystem comprises a tubular member in fluid communication with the first nozzle, the tubular member having an outlet directed at or directable to a desired direction or to a desired location for delivery of the food items.

5. A harvester for a food processing system wherein variably sized and shaped food items being processed are carried on a conveyor, the food processing system including a scanning system for scanning the food items to generate data pertaining to the physical specifications of the food items, including the size and shape of the food items and the locations of the food items on the conveyor, the harvester removing the processed food items from the conveyor and delivering the removed food items at one or more desired locations, the harvester comprising:

(a) a pickup system for picking up the food items from the conveyor, comprising:

a nozzle having an inlet configuration based on the size and shape of the food items;

a discharge subsystem in flow communication with the nozzle; and a vacuum source for creating a vacuum at the nozzle;

(b) an actuator to optimally position the nozzle in desired position relative to the food items to facilitate picking up the food items with and into the nozzle; and (c) a control system for receiving data from the scanning system pertaining to the physical specifications of the food items, including the size and shape of the food items and the locations of the food items on the conveyor, and controlling the actuator to position the nozzle with respect to the food items to enable the nozzle to pick up the food item into the nozzle from the conveyor and controlling the discharge subsystem to place the food subsystem items that flow through the discharge subsystem at one or more desired locations.

6. A system for cutting portions from a variably sized and shaped and food items based on desired physical specifications of the cut portions and placing the cut portions at one or more desired locations, comprising:

(a) a conveyor system for conveying the food items;

(b) a scanning system for scanning the food items and generating data pertaining to physical specifications of the food items including the size and shape of the food items and the locations of the food items on the conveyor;

(c) a cutting system for cutting one or more portions from the food items;

(d) a pickup system for picking up the cut portions from the conveyor, comprising:

a nozzle having an inlet configured based on the size and shape of the cut food items to receive the cut portions into and trough the nozzle

a discharge subsystem in flow communication with the nozzle; and a vacuum source generating a vacuum at the nozzle inlet ;

(e) an actuator coupled to the nozzle to optimally place the nozzle in optimum position relative to the cut piece to facilitate picking up the cut piece with the nozzle to be receivable into and through the nozzle; and

(f) a control system:

processing the scanned data to determine the physical characteristics of the food item including the size and shape of the food items and the locations of the food items on the conveyor;

determining the cutting paths to cut the food items to achieve desired physical specifications of the cut portions;

directing the cutting system to perform the determined cuts;

directing the actuator to position the nozzle with respect to the food items to enable the nozzle to optimally pick up the cut portions; and controlling the discharge subsystem to deliver the cut food items passing through the discharge subsystem at one or more desired locations.

7. The system according to Claim 5 or 6, wherein the discharge subsystem comprises a tubular member in fluid communication with the nozzle, the tubular member having an outlet directed at or directable to a desired direction or to a desired location for delivery of the food items.

8. The system according to Claim 4 or 7, further comprising an actuator acting on the outlet of the tubular member to direct the outlet at a desired direction or to a desired location for the delivery of the food items.

9. The system according to Claim 8, wherein the control system controlling the actuator acting on the outlet of the tubular member to direct the outlet at a desired direction or to a desired location for the delivery of the food items.

10. The system according to any one of Claims 4-9, further comprising a vacuum generator positioned along the length of the tubular member to generate a vacuum upstream of the location of the vacuum generator and generate a positive pressure in the tubular member downstream of the location of the vacuum generator.

11. The system according to any one of Claims 4-10, further comprising one or more pressure sensors operably connected to the tubular member to sense the pressure at one or more locations along the length of the tubular member.

12. The system accordingly to any one of Claims 4-11, wherein the tubular member comprises a member or a combination of members selected from the group consisting of: a rigid tube, a flexible tube, a hose, and a flexible hose.

13. The system according to any one of Claims 1-12, wherein the delivery subsystem comprises a ballistic launcher in flow communication with the first nozzle to launch food items into the air at a trajectory to deliver the food items to one or more delivery locations.

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14. The system according to Claims 1-12, wherein the pickup system comprises a ballistic launcher in flow communication with the nozzle to launch food items into the air at a trajectory to delivery of the food items to one or more delivery locations.

15. The system according to Claim 13 or 14, wherein the control system controlling the trajectory of the food item launched from the ballistic launcher.

16. The system of according to any one of Claims 1-15, further comprising a plurality of nozzles having inlet shapes and sizes to correspond to food items of different shapes and sizes, the plurality of nozzles detachably attachable to the actuator.

17. The system according to Claim 16, wherein the actuator operable by the control system to select a specific nozzle appropriate for the size and shape of the food items being processed.

18. The system according to any one of Claims 1-17, wherein the control system controlling the vacuum generator to produce a vacuum at the first nozzle at a desired level and for a desired duration.

19. The system according to any one of Claims 1-17, wherein the control system controlling the vacuum generator to produce a vacuum at the nozzle at a desired vacuum or air flow level and for a desired duration.

20. The system according to Claim 18 or 19, wherein the control system controlling the vacuum generator to pause the operation of the vacuum generator between sequential food items being picked up by the nozzle if sufficient time exists between the picking up of sequential food items.

21. The system according to any one of Claims 1-20, wherein the inlet of the first nozzle resembles the shape of the food item when the nozzle is in a specific orientation relative to the food item.

22. The system according to Claim 21, wherein the shape of the nozzle inlet is generalized so that in at least two orientations of the first nozzle, the shape of the nozzle resembles the shape of the food item.

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23. The system according to any one of Claims 1-22, wherein the size and/or shape of the nozzle inlet is selected to be the same or smaller than the size and shape of food items to be received into nozzle.

24. The system according to any one of Claims 1-22, wherein the size and/or shape of the nozzle inlet is selected so that the entire area, or substantially the entire area, of the nozzle inlet is covered of the food items to be received into nozzle.

25. The system according to any one of Claims 1-22, wherein the size and/or shape of the nozzle inlet is selected so that at least 90 percent of the entire area of the nozzle inlet is covered of the food items to be received into the first nozzle.

26. The system according to any one of Claims 1-22, wherein the size and/or shape of the nozzle inlet is selected so that at least 80 percent of the entire area of the nozzle inlet is covered of the food items to be received into the first nozzle.

27. The system according to any one of Claims 1-22, wherein the size and/or shape of the nozzle inlet is selected so that at least 70 percent of the entire area of the nozzle inlet is covered of the food items to be received into the first nozzle.

28. The system according to any of Claims 1-27, wherein the nozzle comprises a plurality of inlet opening and the-actuator indexes the nozzle so that a desired inlet opening is presented to the food item being removed.

29. The system according to any one of Claims 1-28, further comprising pressure sensors operably associated with the first nozzle to sense the pressure within the first nozzle.

30. The system according to any one of Claims 1-29, wherein a rim extends around at least a portion of the first nozzle inlet to project from the nozzle inlet, the rim having a thickness that reduces in the direction away from the nozzle inlet.

31. The system according to any one of Claims 1-30, wherein a rim extends around at least a portion of the first nozzle inlet to project from the nozzle inlet, the rim being resiliently flexible so as to at least partially conform to the contour of the top surface of the food items.

32. The system according to any one of Claims 1-31, wherein:

51 the conveyor defines a generally planar moving support surface; and the control system controls the actuator to rotate the first nozzle about an axis normal to the conveyor support surface.

33. The system according to Claim 32, wherein the control system controls the actuator to also rotate the first nozzle about two perpendicular axes that are disposed parallel to the support surface of the conveyor.

34. The system according to any one of Claims 1-4 and 8-33, wherein:

the removal system comprising:

a plurality of nozzles of different sizes or shapes;

an actuator for each nozzle; and

the control system controlling the actuators to pick up food items corresponding to the size and/or shape of the nozzle attached to the actuator.

35. The system according to any one of Claims 5-33, wherein:

the pickup system comprising:

a plurality of nozzles of different sizes or shapes;

an actuator for each nozzle; and

the control system controlling the actuators to pick up food items corresponding to the size and/or shape of the nozzle attached to the actuator.

36. The system according to any one of Claims 1-35, further comprising a skirt extending at least partially around the inlet of the nozzles to extend outwardly of the perimeter of the first nozzle.

37. The system according to Claim 36, wherein the skirt being resiliently flexible to apply a downward load on the food item located beneath the skirt and at least partially conforming to the topography of the top surface of the food item.

38. The system according to any one of Claims 1-37, wherein the control system controls the actuator to position the nozzles with respect to the food item based on seeking to position the nozzle inlet so that the entire area of the nozzle inlet, or as much of the area of the nozzle inlet as possible, is within the perimeter of the food items, and so that the center of the nozzle coincides or nearly coincides with the centroid of the food item.

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39. The system according to any one of Claims 1-38, wherein the actuator is a robotic actuator having at least four degrees of movement.

40. The system according to any one of Claims 1-39, wherein the actuator is capable of moving the nozzle in one or more directions selected from the group consisting of: rotatable about an upright axis relative to the support surface of the conveyor;

in an upright direction transverse to the support surface of the conveyor;

in a direction transverse to the longitudinal direction of travel of the conveyor; and in a direction along the directional travel of the conveyor.

41. The system according to any one of Claims 1-40, wherein the actuator comprises a delta robot having degrees of freedom of movement selected from the group consisting of three degrees of freedom of movement, four degrees of freedom of movement, and six degrees of freedom of movement.

42. (Currently Amended) A harvester for harvesting work items being processed are carried on a conveyor, the harvester removing the work items from the conveyor and delivering the removed work items at one or more desired locations, the harvester comprising:

(a) a pickup system for picking up the work items from the conveyor, comprising:

a nozzle having an inlet configuration based on the size and shape of the food items;

a ballistic launcher in flow communication with the nozzle to receive the work item from the nozzle and launch the work items into the air at a trajectory to deliver the work items to one or more delivery locations; and

a vacuum source for creating a vacuum at the nozzle sufficient to cause the work items to enter and pass through the nozzle and be launched from the ballistic launcher;

(b) an actuator to optimally position the nozzle in desired position relative to the work items to facilitate picking up the work items with the nozzle; and

(c) a control system controlling the actuator to position the nozzle with respect to the work items to facilitating the nozzle picking up the work item from the

53 conveyor and controlling the ballistic launcher to deliver the work items at one or more desired locations.

43. The harvester according to Claim 42, further comprising one or more sensors operably connected to the pickup system to sense the pressure at one or more locations on the pickup system.

44. The harvester according to Claim 42 or 43, wherein the control system controlling the trajectory of the work items launched from the ballistic launcher.

45. The harvester according to any one of Claims 42-44, further comprising a plurality of nozzles having inlet shapes and sizes to correspond to work items of different shapes and sizes, the plurality of nozzles detachably attachable to the actuator.

46. The harvester according to Claim 45, wherein the actuator is operable by the control system to select a specific nozzle appropriate for the size and shape of the work items being harvested.

47. The harvester according to any one of Claims 42-46, wherein the control system controlling the vacuum generator to produce a vacuum at the nozzle at a desired vacuum or air flow level and for a desired duration.

48. The harvester according to Claim 47, wherein the control system controlling the vacuum generator to pause the operation of the vacuum generator between sequential work items being picked up by the nozzle if sufficient time exists between the picking up of sequential work items.

49. The harvester according to any one of Claims 42-48, wherein the inlet of the nozzle resembles the shape of the work items when the nozzle is in a specific orientation relative to the work items.

50. The harvester according to Claim 49, wherein the shape of the nozzle inlet is generalized so that in at least two orientations of the nozzle, the shape of the nozzle resembles the shape of the work items.

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51. The harvester according to any one of Claims 42-50, wherein the size and/or shape of the nozzle inlet is selected to be the same or smaller than the size and shape of work items to be received into nozzle.

52. The harvester according to any one of Claims 42-51, wherein the size and/or shape of the nozzle inlet is selected so that the entire area, or substantially the entire area, of the nozzle inlet is covered by the work items to be received into the nozzle.

53. The harvester according to any one of Claims 42-52, wherein the nozzle comprises a plurality of inlet opening and the actuator indexes the nozzle so that a desired inlet opening is presented to the work items being removed.

54. The harvester according to any one of Claims 42-53, further comprising sensors operably associated with the nozzle to sense the presence of the work item within the nozzle.

55. The harvester according to any one of Claims 42-54, wherein a rim extends around at least a portion of the nozzle inlet to project from the nozzle inlet, the rim having a thickness that reduces in the direction away from the nozzle inlet.

56. The harvester according to any of Claims 42-55, wherein a rim extends around at least a portion of the nozzle inlet to project from the nozzle inlet, the rim being resiliently flexible so as to at least partially conform to the contour of the top surface of the work items.

57. The harvester according to any one of Claims 42-56, wherein:

the conveyor defines a generally planar moving support surface; and

the control system controls the actuator to rotate the nozzle about an axis normal to the conveyor support surface.

58. The harvester according to Claim 57, wherein the control system controls the actuator to also rotate the nozzle about two perpendicular axes that are disposed parallel to the support surface of the conveyor.

59. The harvester according to any one of Claims 42-58, wherein:

the pickup system comprising:

a plurality of nozzles of different sizes or shapes;

an actuator for each nozzle; and

55 the control system controlling the actuators to pick up work items corresponding to the size and/or shape of the nozzle attached to the actuator.

60. The harvester according to any one of Claims 42-59, further comprising a skirt extending at least partially around the inlet of the nozzle to extend outwardly of the perimeter of the nozzle.

61. The harvester according to Claim 60, wherein the skirt being resiliently flexible to apply a downward load on the work items located beneath the skirt and at least partially conforming to the topography of the top surface of the work items.

62. The harvester according to any one of Claims 42-61, wherein the control system controls the actuator to position the nozzle with respect to the work items based on seeking to position the nozzle inlet so that the entire area of the nozzle inlet, or as much of the area of the nozzle inlet as possible, is within the perimeter of the work items, and so that the center of the nozzle generally coincides with the centroid of the work items.

63. The harvester according to Claims 42-62, wherein the actuator is a robotic actuator having at least four degrees of movement.

64. The harvester according to Claims 42-63, wherein the actuator is capable of moving the nozzle in one or more directions selected from the group consisting of:

rotatable about an upright axis relative to the support surface of the conveyor;

in an upright direction transverse to the support surface of the conveyor;

in a direction transverse to the direction of travel of the conveyor; and

in a direction along the directional travel of the conveyor.

65. The harvester according to Claims 42-64, wherein the actuator comprises a delta robot having degrees of freedom of movement selected from the group consisting of three degrees of freedom of movement, four degrees of freedom of movement, and six degrees of freedom of movement.

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