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Key: Food sorting demands power and speed

By Jenni Spinner+

20-Apr-2014

Optyx sorters from Key Technology use digital sorting to examine food and ingredient streams, and kick out undesirables.
Optyx sorters from Key Technology use digital sorting to examine food and ingredient streams, and kick out undesirables.

Food sorting technology is evolving to meet producer demand for faster machines and precise performance, according to a Key Technology executive.

John Kadinger, market manager at Key Technology, discussed advancements in sorting technology and explained emerging technologies in the sorting arena.

How has food sorting technology has evolved in recent years?

Like other digital technologies, sorters benefit from increases in computing power and speed. As Moore’s law predicted in 1965, data processing speeds have doubled every two years, and this allows more intelligent software to be developed for digital sorters to make smarter sort decisions. Recent advancements such as Sort-to-Grade, three-way sorting and FMAlert are all examples of powerful new sorting capabilities possible thanks to the new software enabled by faster data processing speeds.

What demands are professionals in the food industry placing on their sorting equipment?

Food processors are constantly striving to optimize product quality while maximizing yields, which is the fundamental trade-off inherent with any digital sorter since increasing the removal of defects and foreign material (FM) typically means more false rejects. Features that improve this sort efficiency are always in demand because they help food processors deliver higher quality products to their customers, which maximizes food safety, while improving yields.

Today, we’re seeing a changing of the guard as young people who grew up with digital technology their entire lives are entering the work force. They have a different perspective and are more comfortable using technology to make things smarter, faster and better.

One demand is for integrated systems. Rather than connecting various independent machines on a production line, each with its own control system, processors that link these machines so they communicate with the others are improving the efficiencies of their systems.

Fully integrating the controls costs more initially, but the added cost is quickly recovered by increases in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

Please tell me a bit more about the Optyx digital sorter line—why is digital sorting technology beneficial?

Key offers the most complete source of high performance digital sorting technology to the food industry, with laser, camera and hyperspectral sorters and intelligent algorithms to satisfy many applications on a variety of belt- and chute-fed sorting platforms. This, together with our product handling expertise, enable us to specify the ideal sorting system for each customer.

Optyx is one of Key’s most versatile sorters. It can be equipped with cameras or lasers-and-cameras to recognize each object’s size, shape, color and structural properties. Key can configure Optyx for traditional two-way sorting or optional three-way sorting. Optyx is a mid-volume sorter that is ideal for a wide range of fresh or frozen fruits, vegetables, berries, whole potatoes, potato strips, potato chips and other snack foods, nuts, confections, seafood and more.

What sets these machines apart from similar, competitive units?

In addition to its versatility and performance, what sets Optyx apart from many competitive units comes from being associated with Key Technology. More than 30 years of sorting experience goes into every solution, as does an expertise in product handling that contributes to a system that improves sort efficiencies.

Do you have any other company developments you’d like to talk about?

We are constantly evaluating and developing new methods to solve our customers’ production challenges. Last year, a series of developments, including our merger with Visys and our licensing and distribution agreements with EVK and Insort, have put us in a strong position to accelerate the development of next-generation sorting technology.

In particular, one area of interest is advancing new value-added hyperspectral sorting solutions that will solve product quality problems that cannot be addressed with traditional camera or laser sorters.

Currently, Key offers Cayman BioPrint, a hyperspectral-based digital sorter with intelligent software that is field-proven to maximize sorting performance for nuts and raisins, and other applications are being developed.

One of our new products is VitiSort, a sorter designed for red wine grapes. It combines a patent-pending mechanical MOG (material other than grape) removal shaker and digital sorting with an integral juice recovery system that offers world-class sorting performance at a unique level of affordability. As the lowest-cost optical sorting system on the market, VitiSort helps wineries improve their product quality while redirecting labor to other tasks.