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Key Technology has introduced its first optical sorting system for whole potatoes.

Optyx WPS achieves a three-way sort using a combination of air ejectors to remove foreign material (FM) and a deflector system to separate potatoes for rework from good potatoes.

Maximising the removal of foreign material and providing gentle handling to avoid potato damage, Optyx WPS improves product quality and protects downstream equipment, while reducing labour costs and increasing yields.

Combining Key Technology’s proprietary high-performance colour cameras with Raptor laser technology, Optyx WPS can sort peeled and peel-on products, differentiating peel from scab, bruise, rot and green defects.

Using a combination of Raptor laser technology with high-resolution line-scan cameras, Optyx WPS detects and removes FM based on the structural properties of the material, as well as visible colour.

As the product passes through the sorter, it is scanned by cameras while still on the conveyor belt.

The product is then launched off the end of the Optyx WPS belt for in-air viewing by the Raptor laser sensor.

Using proprietary image-processing technology, the sorter analyses the images, comparing each object to previously defined accept/reject standards.

When foreign material is identified, the system activates the close-coupled high-speed air-ejector system, which is made up of a series of high-flow valves spaced 0.25in (6mm) apart that span the width of the system.

While the foreign material is still airborne, the air jets pinpoint the object to reject and precisely remove it from the product stream via the FM chute.

When off-grade potatoes are detected, the system activates the close-coupled deflectors, which span the width of the sorter.

The system raises the appropriate deflectors before the off-grade potato reaches it, producing a ramp that gently deflects the potato into a higher trajectory and onto the top deck of the two-deck collection conveyor or chute.

Good potatoes are allowed to pass over the lowered deflectors and gently slide onto the lower deck of the collection conveyor or chute.

Depending on the application, Optyx WPS features a two-deck collection conveyor or a two-deck collection chute to decelerate good potatoes leading to further processing as well as off-grade potatoes leading to re-work or alternative streams.

The collection conveyor and the chute both feature curved landing zones on each deck that mirror the trajectory of the potatoes for minimal impact.

The deflector design, the curved landing zones and the gradual deceleration are all intended to help avoid bruising, which is a common problem with other whole-potato sorters.

Compared to sorters that strike off-grade potatoes with more aggressive paddles as good potatoes fall through the system, Optyx WPS is claimed to minimise the impact to both good and off-grade potatoes.

Optyx WPS’s impact has been measured to be equivalent to dropping a potato only 1.7in (38mm) onto a rigid surface.

By eliminating even light cell damage, downstream blanchers and fryers produce the most uniform product colour.

Optyx 6000 WPS handles up to 100,000lb (45 metric tons) of whole potatoes per hour.

By sorting potatoes prior to cutting, processors protect the cutters’ knives from damage caused by foreign material, which maximises product quality and improves production line uptime.

By automating the sort, processors reduce labour costs.

By achieving a three-way sort with Key Technology’s G6 digital image-processing capabilities, potato processors can define their sort criteria to increase yields and speed payback.

When sorting whole potatoes after the peeler, Optyx WPS can be set up to identify potatoes with residual peel or scab and then send these to an abrasive re-peel.

This application allows a processor to reduce the retention time of its steam peeler, which increases yields.

When sorting potatoes for wedges or other speciality cuts, a processor can program Optyx WPS to analyse length, diameter and shape so that only the most suitable potatoes are cut and optimal wedges are produced, while rejected potatoes are used for other cuts.

In addition to removing FM and off-grade potatoes, Optyx WPS can collect data for process-control purposes.

Based on the presence or absence of peel, Optyx WPS can control the steam peeler upstream to optimise that process.

Additionally, Optyx WPS can collect data on potato length, diameter and shape to give the processor an early indication of the length profile of the finished product, enabling the processor to pull from another bin to adjust the overall length profile of the packaged product, if needed.

Processors producing multiple potato products can change Optyx WPS to achieve the ideal sort for each product run.

Keyware application packs translate data into action for each product, facilitating setup and reducing the skill level required to operate at optimal performance.

The patented, icon-based graphical user interface (GUI), which can reside locally on the sorter and can be accessed remotely via a network or the internet, is said to be easy to learn and use.

Featuring a modular design and proven, high-performance connectivity standards – such as Camera Link, Firewire and Ethernet – Optyx WPS is claimed to ensure forward compatibility to maximise a food processor’s long-term return on investment.

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