Vision Automating Cotton Gins
By Don Comis
March 17, 2004
An Agricultural Research Service scientist has
developed a patented machine vision system for automating cotton gins that is
now being manufactured commercially. The system uses color video cameras for a
hands-off monitoring of the "on-the-fly" flow of cotton and attendant
debris through the many machines that make up a modern cotton gin.
Mathew G. Pelletier, an agricultural engineer with the ARS
Cotton Production and
Processing Research Unit in Lubbock, Texas, invented the system. Its
real-time monitoring of "trash" content will enable cotton ginners to
move closer to an automated system that seems inevitable in the near future. It
can advise ginners or automatically turn cleaners on and off, depending on
By knowing the trash content at each stage of ginning, gin operators will
know exactly which stages they can or cannot skip to reach particular quality
goals without under- or over-cleaning cotton. Under-cleaning lowers cotton's
value and makes the cotton more difficult to use at textile mills, while
over-cleaning wastes cotton. Added weight from the saved cotton provides an
additional $3 to $5 per 500-pound bale, which could lead to more than $100,000
in increased revenue for a typical cotton gin.
Knowing the trash content also helps gin operators judge how much heat is
needed to dry the cotton. The system includes ARS-developed software that
enables computers to recognize trash on video images fed live to the computer.
Not only can the computer distinguish cotton from trash, it can also
distinguish among various trash components--the sticks, leaves and burrs that
cling to cotton after harvest.
The system films 50 square feet of cotton a minute, giving gin operators a
very accurate measurement of trash levels.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.