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New imaging tool detects thermal abnormalities in meat, says developer

By Jane Byrne , 19-Sep-2008
Last updated on 19-Sep-2008 at 11:46 GMT

A thermal imaging camera can provide rapid detection of temperature variations of high volume, fast moving meats products on a conveyor line, says its US manufacturers.

 

LumaSense Technologies said the new Mikron MCL-160 is a cost-effective and fast response radiometric camera that is integrated with MikroSpec RT software to offer food processors a non-contact temperature measurement system.

The company said that the MCL-160 is highly accurate and is able to detect thermal abnormalities in process applications instead of using multiple temperature sensors.

“With the flexibility the camera offers, users will no longer have to rely on just a single-point temperature or questionable measurements to control their critical processes,” claims the company.

Applications

Andy Beck, Sales Manager, Process Imaging for Mikron Infrared, a LumaSense Technologies division, told FoodProductionDaily.com that the technology is suited to the meat processing sector but has broader applications:

“We are targeting applications in the meat processing industry to identify meat that is frozen and which will thus not be fully cooked in the process. It can also be employed after the product exits the oven so that cooked meat is thoroughly inspected to ensure optimum temperature has been met.

“This camera is also well suited for packaging areas, as customers need verification of thermal seals and adhesion lines on products.”

Reliable monitoring

Beck said that the development of the thermal imaging system was informed by market research, with processors seeking a high-speed system that would tackle problems such as ‘image blur’ and temperature averaging on moving targets:

“The current industry solution involves cameras that are not designed for the process environment and are cost-prohibitive. Customers have seen the benefits of thermal imaging, yet have not (until now) had an alternative that was dependable and cost-effective,"

He explained that the camera is mounted above the conveyor line (with different lenses based on the distance to the target) in a stainless steel enclosure for wash-down requirements, and incorporates a polymer window to ensure that objects such as lenses remain above the food source to prevent contamination.

“This solution is completely non-contact and is only a receiver of energy. It affects the food no more than a standard video camera mounted in the corner of the room would,” claims Beck.

Energy transmission

He said that the imager receives the infrared radiant (IR) energy emitted from the product (all objects above 0 Kelvin emit IR energy) and translates that energy into a temperature based on internal calibration tables.

“This imager can measure 19,200 points within the field of view 60x/second,” said Beck.

According to Beck, the cameras output a video signal that the operators can view or, alternatively, the camera can be partnered with the MikroSpec RT software to give complete control based on the thermal patterns of the target:

“For example, if a camera is mounted at the exit end of a chicken cook conveyor and a piece of chicken passes by that is below a minimum threshold of 160°F (71°C) then the operator will see an alarm on the screen and the conveyor will be automatically stopped to allow for removal of that certain piece of meat.

“This allows for only the undercooked pieces to be scrapped instead of scrapping the entire batch, resulting in less waste and considerable savings for meat processors,” claims Beck.

Intuitive software

He said that the software is very intuitive and completely configurable by the operators; however, he said that the company also offers web-based or on-site training, if processors require it, through its network of local representatives.

According to Beck, the cost of the equipment can depend on its application:

Considering that a standard single point pyrometer is at least $200 (€140) and our camera is capable of measuring 19,200 points, the cost savings can be quite significant.”

He said that shipments of the camera, which is available world-wide through Mikron and a sister company located in German, Impac, will commence next month.

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