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Key Technology’s new Auto Valve Check feature for new and installed G6 Tegra sorters is claimed to enable food processors to detect potential problems more frequently and with greater accuracy.

By automating the routine testing of Tegra’s ejection system valves, food processors can take the corrective action that may be needed to operate the sorter at peak performance.

Auto Valve Check helps to ensure that Tegra’s ejection system is functioning properly, which improves food safety and product quality while reducing demands on labour.

Tegra removes foreign material (FM) and product defects from the acceptable product stream using a close-coupled high-speed ejector system, which is made up of a series of air jets spaced 6mm apart that span the width of the system.

To ensure proper functionality, the valve on each of up to 256 air jets must be checked periodically because contamination of a valve at the end of its one-year life can cause a full or partial valve failure.

A valve sticking in the open position causes yield loss as good product is removed and a valve sticking in the closed position can prevent FM and defects from being ejected as desired.

The more frequently the valves are checked, the more quickly problems can be resolved.

Historically, a processor validates the performance of a sorter’s valves manually.

The manual routine typically steps through each valve one at a time and relies on the operator to hear anomalies in each valve’s operation.

This process is subjective, depending on the operator’s ability to interpret what he or she hears.

Since the general noise level in many plants can be substantial, the manual test can often be inaccurate.

The new Auto Valve Check is objective and can be performed any time the sorter is not running product, such as during changeovers or sanitation, according to Key.

Initiated by either the operator or an OPC command from the network, it recognises sluggish or partially open valves as well as failed valves.

It delivers a list to the sorter’s user interface and remotely via the plant-wide network of the valves that are not fully operational.

Armed with this data, the food processors can then perform any necessary valve maintenance.

The Auto Valve Check takes 10-25 minutes to perform, depending on the number of valves on the sorter and the performance of the valves.

Unlike manual valve checking, an operator need not be present during the Auto Valve Check.

The frequency of valve testing depends on the application – once every two or three weeks may be sufficient for food processors dealing only with product defects and more frequently for processors working to eliminate FM from the product stream.

The new Auto Valve Check feature includes hardware and software enhancements that can be installed as an option on any new or in-the-field G6 Tegra sorter.

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