The main objective of the project was to develop a technology and equipment to cut pinbones from fish fillets by automatic means. Pinbones are a series of bones in fish fillets, located at the most valuable part of the fillet. These bones are usually removed from the fillet by manual cutting. This manual operation is labor intensive, tedious, and requires skill that takes time and practice to develop. It is critical that the cutting operation (whether manual or automatic) does not leave any
bones or bone fragments in the fillet. At the same time, it is important to minimize the amount of high-value raw material that is cut away with the pinbone removal.
APRICOT - Automated Pinbone Removal in Cod and Whitefish
The technology needed to enable automatic pinbone removal was twofold. Real time X-ray system was developed to accurately locate the bones in each fillet. Secondly, a cutting mechanism was designed and constructed. This mechanism follows the trajectory of the pinbones in each fillet, based on the X-ray measurements. The project partners formed an ideal consortium for this work. Marel has long experience in developing advanced equipment for cutting, X-ray inspection, robotics, real time control, software and integrated system design for fish processing. SINTEF ICT and SINTEF RM contributed to the work with scientific and engineering knowledge and support in the fields of X ray imaging, cutting and mechanical handling. Norway Seafoods and Faroe Origin participated as end users and by overseeing the work so that the results can be readily applied by the fish processing industry. Finally, the technology has been tested under real life conditions, in collaboration with different processing plants in Iceland.
One of the main deliverables of the project is FleXicut, a system that incorporates two critical processing steps in one machine: precisely locating the pinbones and then cutting the fillet to remove them. The FleXicut uses the latest X-ray technology to locate pinbones with extremely high accuracy, down to 0.2 mm. Determining the orientation of the bones is critical in order to cut out less flesh and leave more on the loin. The water-jets used for the bone removal process are very flexible, enabling the FleXicut to perform a variety of cutting patterns. The angle cutting option allows it to follow the curved lines of the bone frame very closely. This means significant yield gains in the loin – the most valuable part of the fish.
With the X-ray scanning and water-jet cutting performed on the same belt, there is no risk of movement between the bone detection and cutting processes, which ensures a superb level of cutting accuracy based on the bone location. Furthermore, the machine is equipped with blade which easily trims the tail, when needed. The new level of automation aimed for by this project is of great importance for the fish industry. The new technology will result in better yield and quality of the valuable raw material, reduced risk of bones in the final product and increased overall automation, which is particularly important for the global competitiveness of fish processing in the North Atlantic region.