Entretenimento

Saiba como máquinas escolhem/rejeitam tomates (e outros itens) tão rápido

Você provavelmente já deve ter se deparado com o vídeo abaixo, uma amostra hipnótica de como uma máquina escolhe e rejeita automaticamente os tomates maduros e verdes, em questão de milissegundos. Em câmera lenta, essa tarefa se torna um verdadeiro deleite. Mas como é que esses aparelhos conseguem tomar decisões de forma tão rápida e precisa? Jim Frost, o gerente de produtos da Tomra, companhia que fabrica essas seletoras de aço, responde.

“Estamos vendendo essas máquinas já há 25 anos. Essa seletora, em particular (a dos tomates), é como a  ‘mãe de todas as seletoras’. Ela bem básica e costuma ser usado no campo”, comenta Frost. A Tomra oferece vários modelos: a Blizzard, que faz a triagem de frutas e legumes congelados em queda livre, a partir de pulsos registrados por uma câmera LED; a Cerberus, que classifica tabaco, detecta a presença de metal e remove fragmentos; a Felix, que remove materiais estranhos e grandes “defeitos” em quilos e mais quilos de cenoura e vagem; entre outras.

Tomra IxusEsquema que ilustra o funcionamento da Ixus Bulk, da Tomra, que conta com raio-x e software de imagem, capazes de remover metal, pedra, vidro, plástico denso e outras impurezas em alimentos

De acordo com o especialista, aproximadamente 60% do alimento processado atualmente é separado com esse procedimento: um linha de sensores ópticos mira a correia transportadora e uma fileira de “rejeitores”, posicionados como dentes em um pente, expulsa os itens indesejados. “Usamos os ‘rejeitores’ parecidos com dedos para produtos maiores e os de ar para as coisas menores.”

Confira um vídeo de demonstração de limpeza de uvas, da rival da Tomra, a fabricante Europress:

Durabilidade é o grande desafio

Ainda que todo o processo pareça muito complexo, Frost afirma que as máquinas tomam as decisões de maneira bem simples. A rejeição de uma pedra, um torrão de terra ou uma fruta fora dos padrões é realizada a partir de respostas “sim” ou “não”, sem cálculos — e isso foi aprimorado ao longo dos anos.

Na alta temporada são processadas até 800 toneladas de vegetais por hora

“Cada um dos ‘dedos’ trabalha com uma janela de 30 ou 40 milissegundos. Eles precisam se movimentar, rejeitar o item e depois retornar à posição inicial o mais rápido possível, para não tocar em nada mais”, explica Frost. Então, o grande desafio para a engenharia nesse processo passa a ser construir estruturas que possam suportar o esforço repetitivo por muito tempo.

Na temporada dos tomates maduros na Califórnia, por exemplo, eles são colhidos em um período de 12 semanas, com classificadores rodando até 24 horas por dia, processando até 800 toneladas de vegetais por hora. Nessa época, os agricultores não podem se dar ao luxo de parar, pois as frutas maduras precisam ser conservadas ou enlatadas em um dia. Aliás, ele mesmo dá uma dica que pouca gente sabia — se é que é realmente verdade: “Enlatados têm má fama, mas são dos poucos alimentos que possuem a menor quantidade possível de aditivos. É só sal, suco de tomate e tomate. Só isso.”

Agora, sobre o fascínio que as pessoas têm por vídeo de seletores — verdadeiros virais em redes sociais —, ele diz que a maioria não sabe como tecnologias como essa se tornaram comuns. “Às vezes chegamos a clientes com quem lidamos há anos e quando eles percebem o que está acontecendo, dizem ‘Oh, meu Deus, isso é inacreditável!’ E eu digo ‘estamos fazendo isso por 20 anos, onde vocês estavam?’.”

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