Vision Inspection System
Josh Grundmann, Sarah Rowland, Ashley Oulds
Lopez Foods, Incorporated provides frozen, cooked sausage patties to many large food corporations. The cooking lines for the sausage patties consist of a conveyor belt beginning at an extruder and running through three ovens to a blast freezer. The patties are extruded onto a conveyor belt and proceed down the conveyor belt to be cooked then stored in the freezer until shipping. During the cooking process, patties are flipped twice to allow them to be cooked evenly by the ovens which radiate heat towards the top of the patty. Flipping is achieved by running the patties off the end of one conveyor onto another conveyor. The flipping method intermittently causes the delicate patties to overlap, break, or fold onto themselves (for pictures of non-satisfactory patties, see Appendix 1). If these patties are folded or overlapped, their effective thickness is twice the design thickness the oven was programmed to cook. This means the patties do not cook long enough for the center temperature to be raised enough for the meat to be considered safe for consumption. These patties must be located and removed from the cooking line before the patties are transferred into the freezer so that any bacterium which may remain in the undercooked meat is not allowed into the sterile freezer.
The current method of ensuring only quality patties enter the freezer consists of three employees stationed on each oven line to remove any defective patties from the conveyors. Two employees are located inside the oven room inspecting patties before each flip and one is in the transition room to the blast freezer to inspect the patties a final time. The working conditions for these employees can be very harsh. Previous work by Thermal Solutions showed the oven room can reach temperatures of 120°F, but it is much warmer next to the ovens. The transition room is about 40°F, but it is much cooler next to the openings to the blast freezer. Lopez Foods, Inc. hopes by installing a computer-operated vision inspection system it will be unnecessary to have employees working in such conditions.
Scope of Work
GRO Engineering should provide to Lopez Foods, Inc. an inspection system which will identify all products which are defective in perimeter, shape, and color. This system should be easily cleaned, able to withstand the environment of oven and freezer transition rooms, work in the space allotted, and adapt to various situations and products. A vision system will increase safety to consumers, accuracy of removal, and create better working conditions for employees.