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Cutting edge technology transforms digital sorting process

Heat and Control's new line of VERYX 2.0 digital sorters.

Innovative technology that can not only detect foreign objects but operate simply, efficiently, and at high speed, while at the same time collecting and retaining production run data has become available to the industry.

In September, Key Technology, a member of the Duravant family of operating companies which includes Heat and Control, introduced the VERYX 2.0 line of digital sorters.

The VERYX 2.0 line includes belt and chute-fed sorters of various sizes, configurable to address a range of product applications and production capacities.

They are also capable of being tailored to meet the unique needs of each food processor.

Key can equip VERYX 2.0 with cameras, laser sensors and/or BioPrint hyperspectral imaging technology to identify the colour, size, shape, structural composition, and biological properties of each object.

VERYX 2.0 advances high performance sorting of food products by simplifying the process, reducing operating costs and improving the accuracy of foreign material (FM) and defect removal, which optimises product quality and maximises yield.

The product line features a new mechanical layout, next-generation LED illumination, enhanced laser scanner technology, and new powerful software driven by artificial intelligence (AI).

Digital sorting systems can identify and consistently remove objects based on colour, structure, shape, and size at a significantly faster rate than manual inspection.

By doing so the product line can reduce the downtime created by manual inspections.

Robert Marguccio, packaging and inspection systems manager at Heat and Control said the first VERYX was introduced to the market six years ago and in that time built a reputation as some of the most advanced sorting technology available.

“Continuous improvement from KEY has really allowed the VERYX lines to evolve and it’s achieving incredible market success. This latest VERYX 2.0 levels up on previous sort performance and production value,” said Marguccio.

“Consumers demand consistently high-quality products, and the food processing industry must satisfy more stringent standards, while also improving profitability.

“The VERYX 2.0 addressed both of these challenges.”

Digital sorting systems not only find contaminants like sticks, stems, stones or even mice in the bulk lines, but they are also used to sort by size and shape and grade by discolouration.

“A wide range of systems are available to sort specific applications and they include colour sorters, smart laser sorters and there is even a new hyperspectral technology that is being used to sort nuts,” said Marguccio.

The new optimised mechanical layout of this equipment also includes belt sorters that house all utility components within the frame, eliminating the need for an external enclosure.

Door seals have been updated to a new patented design and addition sanitation upgrades further ensure these sorters can withstand the harshest operating environments and over long production cycles.

A next-generation LED illumination system on VERYX 2.0 also delivers higher intensity light with less scatter and reduced shadowing effects, which improves the sorter’s FM and defect detection.

The upgrade includes components with up to twice the life expectancy of previous-generation LED lighting, and new LED illumination technology reduces operating costs while improving the sorting performance.

The new product line also introduces Key’s enhanced laser scanner technology.

New digital receivers produce the highest resolution available while delivering a signal that is more accurate and consistent.

As a result, its laser scanners create more contrast to better differentiate between various types of objects, enabling more precise FM and defect removal while reducing good product loss and improving yield.

Monitoring technology to understand trends

By using AI technology, Key has also enhanced the functionality of its FM Alert software for VERYX 2.0.

This monitoring tool sends alerts if a critical FM event occurs and records a time-stamped image of each critical FM object detected by the sorter.

This allows an operator to verify the critical FM has been sorted out and enables the processor to understand FM trends and research sources of possible contamination onto the line.

Meanwhile, AI techniques assist this alert by analysing the captured FM images to further improve the accuracy of its record-keeping.

“Processors can use Key’s powerful new Discovery suite of data analytics solutions to turn the sorter into an IIoT-connected device that collects, analyses and shares data while sorting product,” said Marguccio.

“This is used to harness data about the sort process, and about every object flowing through the sorter to reveal patterns and trends which improve sorting and help control upstream and downstream processes.

“It provides actionable information that is helping processors improve product quality, maximise yield, reduce downtime and minimise labour.”

Categorise every product defect

Key has also enhanced its intelligent Sort-to-Grade (STG) software which categorises every product defect and the dimensions of every object and automatically makes optimal accept/reject decisions based on the target quality spec defined by the operator.

It achieves accurate dimensional grading of the product, using AI techniques to digitally separate clumps of products into distinct objects for the software to evaluate.

A VERYX 2.0 STG-enabled sorter can also maintain the most complex final product specifications without operator intervention and has increased yields by one to three percent.

As the world’s only sorter capable of complete in-air inspection of every object in the product stream, each sensor views the same object at the same time.

This enables its software to combine data from multiple sensors and stitch together whole-object views, so the sorter can consider each object in its entirety when making classification and sort decisions.

“A shared line of sight for the sensors enables a unique technology called Pixel Fusion, which combines pixel-level input from multiple sensor types to produce higher contrasts for finding even the most difficult-to-detect FM and product defects,” said Marguccio.

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