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Quality Digest


Key Technology Introduces New Optical Sorters

For processed protein products

Published: Wednesday, February 7, 2024 - 11:59

(Key Technology: Walla Walla, WA) – Key Technology, a member of Duravant’s Food Sorting and Handling Solutions group, has introduced optical sorters for processed protein products, such as frozen chicken nuggets, chicken tenders, fish sticks, and plant-based meat alternatives. Automatically removing product defects and foreign material (FM), Key’s optical sorters, including COMPASS and VERYX, help optimize product quality while improving yield and reducing labor.

“Processors of protein products worldwide have relied on Key’s vibratory conveyors for more than 25 years,” says Jack Lee, Duravant Group president of food sorting and handling solutions. “However, when it comes to sorting, historically they’ve been satisfied with manual inspection. Now, with such a tight labor market and consumers’ product quality expectations higher than ever, automating inspection makes more sense. Drawing on our application expertise in material handling, we’ve developed optical sorting systems that automate a process that previously required several workers per shift, while simultaneously achieving more consistent product quality.”

Key’s COMPASS and VERYX optical sorters detect the color, size, shape, and/or structural properties of every object to identify and remove a variety of product defects: clumps of breading or batter, or product that hasn’t been formed, cooked, or coated correctly. Foreign material—plastic, metal, glass, and paper that may have been accidentally introduced to the production line—is also removed.

For processed protein applications, optical sorting is most often used immediately prior to packaging for final inspection, but may also be utilized upstream to inspect incoming ingredients.

Each sorting system is customized by Key to address each processor’s unique product characteristics and line requirements. Key in-feed and collection conveyors can be integrated with the sorter to gently move product and preserve its integrity while maximizing sort accuracy. Optional conveyor screens are available to remove fines prior to sorting, if needed.

Engineered to satisfy the high sanitary standards required for protein processing, Key’s optical sorters feature open designs, sloped surfaces, and more to maximize equipment hygiene and ease cleaning.

Every COMPASS and VERYX sorter is equipped with Key Discovery, a powerful data analytics and reporting software that enables the sorter to collect and analyze data about objects flowing through the sorter to reveal patterns that can help improve upstream and downstream processes.

Key’s optical sorters for frozen protein products virtually eliminate the need for manual inspection, decreasing labor costs and achieving more consistent FM and defect removal. Fast and accurate, recipe-driven changeovers maximize production versatility and uptime while ensuring repeatable results. With its operator qualification requirements, a minimally skilled individual can become a proficient user of the system in less than an hour.

Get more information on Key and its optical sorters here.

New VERYX optical sorter for processed protein products, from Key Technology


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