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Sacramento Valley Walnut Growers (SVWG), a grower-owned processor and marketer of shelled walnuts, has installed a sorter from Key Technology to maximise product quality.

The Optyx with Raptor combines lasers and colour cameras on one platform.

Mike Procunier, operations manager at SVWG, said: ‘We knew we wanted a laser sorter because it had to be effective in removing foreign material and shell.

‘Because Optyx with Raptor uses cameras as well as lasers, it can sort for size and shape, including detecting a broken shoulder.

‘And Optyx is the only one that can do a reverse sort where good product is ejected instead of bad, which helps us recover good product during rework,’ he added.

SVWG selected the Key Optyx 6795 with Raptor, which features top and bottom lasers and two top-mounted colour cameras inspecting product within a 48in-wide scan area.

Using colour cameras, Optyx analyses the size and shape of each object, as well millions of subtle colour differences to detect and remove defects.

The Raptor laser detects foreign matter based on differences in the structural properties of the objects.

The Optyx 6000 with Raptor can sort up to 20,000lb (9,000kg) of walnuts per hour.

Procunier continued: ‘Shelled walnuts are graded by size, colour and shell count.

‘With our old sorter, we incurred greater hand sorting costs to achieve our desired specs; with the Key, we have been able to set higher specifications for customers that require them.

‘At the same time the lasers are looking for shells, fibres, membranes and other foreign material, the cameras inspect colour, size and shape.

‘In addition to detecting defects, the cameras allow us to identify broken shoulders so our halves are both cleaned and sized in one pass through the sorter.

‘Breakage was a serious problem with our old sorter; to make grade, we had to send the product through four times, then follow that up with hand sorting.

‘The problem with that approach, in addition to it hurting productivity, is that every time we turned a bin through the old sorter, walnuts would slam against metal and break.

‘With Optyx, we’re producing product that is five times cleaner in one pass.

‘One person can sort three to four times more product in the same amount of time and we’re not destroying our walnuts in the process.

‘Not only are we turning the bins less, but product slides through the new sorter without breaking,’ he said.

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