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ARS Home » Midwest Area » East Lansing, Michigan » Sugarbeet and Bean Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #342868

Research Project: Nondestructive Quality Assessment and Grading of Fruits and Vegetables

Location: Sugarbeet and Bean Research

Title: Development of a new bin filler for apple harvesting and infield sorting with a review of existing technologies

item Zhang, Zhao - US Department Of Agriculture (USDA)
item Pothula, Anand - US Department Of Agriculture (USDA)
item Lu, Renfu

Submitted to: ASABE Annual International Meeting
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/21/2017
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The bin filler, which receives apples from the sorting system and then places them in the bin evenly without causing bruise damage, plays a critical role for the self-propelled apple harvest and infield sorting (HIS) machine that is being developed in our laboratory. Two major technical challenges in developing the bin filler are limited space in the HIS machine and high throughput. A literature review showed that despite many different types of bin fillers currently available for infield use, none of them is suitable for the HIS machine because of their large size, use of the bin rotating design concept, and high unit cost. Effort has thus been made on the development of new bin filling technology for use with the HIS machine. The new bin filler mainly consisted of a mechanical system with the pinwheel design and an automatic control system. A key innovation for the mechanical system is the use of two foam rollers to catch freely falling apples, which has greatly simplified the bin filler design and also made the system compact and lower in cost. The control system was mainly made up of an onboard Arduino microcontroller and three sensors (one infrared sensor and two Hall Effect sensors), to monitor and measure the status of apple filling in the bin as well as the rotational speed of the pinwheel. A program code was developed for the Arduino microcontroller to record and process the data of the three sensors in real-time to achieve automatic control of the bin filling. Laboratory tests with ‘Gala’ apples demonstrated that 97% of apples handled by the new bin filler were rated ‘Extra Fancy’ grade, which indicates that the bin filler has met our initial requirements for harvest and infield sorting of apples.