portfolio: development of Beef-Boning Assist Device
kinea design was contacted by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) to develop an intelligent and ergonomic assist device (a device that does not replace the worker but instead aims to make them more productive) for workers in meat processing plants . MLA had commissioned a study to find a research center or company worldwide, with appropriate experience in human-robot interaction. The study recommended Kinea Design and its association with Northwestern University.
our engineers and researchers visited meat processing plants in the US and Australia, learning hands-on about the forces and postures involved in boning beef carcasses and seeking the best initial opportunities for ergonomic improvement. Health and safety concerns motivate the project, as well as a desire to allow older or smaller workers to work in physically demanding jobs for longer healthy careers. Ergonomic assist devices must not reduce productivity, and ideally could improve speed or yield.
in addition to workers and trainers, we met with engineers, innovators, managers, and suppliers to the industry. We learned what forms of automation or assistance are promising, what's been tried, and what challenges we would face. Together we identified a one-axis power assist device for the hook hand as the best target application. One axis of power, but many axes of free motion, because workers move fast over a large workspace and will tolerate no hindrance.
in the following three months, Kinea Design developed and built two prototype systems, one which used a pull-down cable and another which used a full arm. The arm was specifically designed to allow five free axes of natural motion and power assist on the vertical axis. MLA, AMPC and Australian industry representatives attended a working demonstration of both prototypes and identified the arm as the more promising direction, and worked with us to improve its design. Another output of our work together was a large quantity of steak.
in August 2008, a demonstration of the BoningAssist device was carried out at the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE, to Australian beef and sheep processors and producers. During this week at NMIT the device was tried by a number of different boners as well as administrators, and industry experts. The device was used to perform the complete set of cuts on both hind and forequarters of a number of beef carcasses, as well as some boning tasks on sheep carcasses. The device proved to be flexible enough to carry out all the tasks that were tried, these included: tenderloin, skirt, loin, aitch bone, rump, knuckle, chuck, topside, silverside, brisket, flank, among others.
at present (July 2011) Scott Technology has signed on the commercialize the device and the alpha2 prototype is being tested at a major meat processing plant in Australia.
the pictures and videos below show the components of the BoningAssist device.
- for press release regarding this project, click here
- videos of the HookAssist alpha2 prototype, click here, and here
- video of the HookAssist alpha1 prototype, click here
- video of the HookAssist experience prototype on a "velcro cow", click here.
- video of the HookAssist experience prototype on a beef carcass, click here, here, or here.