This prototype shows multiple acoustic
and optical sensors configured along a
process stream to detect foreign objects.
The technology can be used to detect metal,
plastic or cartilage in products such as ice
cream or baby food.
Researchers at Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory have developed an
ultrasonic technology that could tell
food manufacturers if foreign objects
have fallen into their product long
before it reaches the consumer.
The technology uses sound waves
and optical capabilities to detect
foreign objects in processing streams.
PNNL's patented inspection method
can detect cartilage, metal, plastic or
anything else that should not be in
Inspection methods, such as
x-ray, can be costly and slow and
require added safety precautions and
complex operator training. The PNNL
method offers the option of automation.
Ultrasonic technology alleviates much of
the added difficulty currently incurred
by manufacturers when inspecting
processed food products manually.
"Our method is the only one we're
aware of that uses both acoustics and
optics," said Aaron Diaz, PNNL staff
scientist. "Because it can be automated,
it's inherently safer and more effective
than inspecting certain types of process
Acoustics, combined with light
transmitted through the product, adds
to the data extracted from the stream,
making results more accurate. The
two methods may be used separately,
depending on the properties of the
product being inspected.
This technology could bring the
inspection quality of processed food
to a whole new level. "It's a useful
technology that could positively impact manufacturing in many areas,"
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