A powerful, easy to use digital sorting range from Key Technology is advancing the food industry by reducing operating costs and improving accuracy in removing foreign material – thus maximising product quality and yield.
With a long-standing history of providing quality equipment to the food industry, Heat and Control has been committed to offering the most innovative solutions to the food industry for over 70 years. Key Technology offers a range of innovative sorting, grading and vibratory conveying solutions and this equipment compliments Heat and Control’s large portfolio of single source solutions.
”Our partnership initially began in 1980. We started off building and selling Key’s vibration conveyors (or “shakers”) for the Australian and New Zealand market,” Heat and Control product manager Mark Holden said.
“In 2005 we parted ways, but by 2018 increasing demand from our customers for a complete solution brought us back together.”
VERYX Digital Sorters
Developing and maintaining an effective, verifiable inspection process is no longer an option for processors. Choosing the right inspection system for products is an important decision and can be a complex process.
“Key’s advanced sorting technology can detect foreign objects — while operating simply, efficiently and at high speed — and simultaneously collecting and retaining important production run data,” Holden said.
“The VERYX line has achieved tremendous market success and has earnt a reputation as the most advanced sorting technology in food processing.”
Originally introduced in 2015, in late 2021, VERYX further evolved and Key introduced VERYX 2.0 as a direct response to industry’s need to satisfy more stringent standards while also improving profitability.
The new line sets a new standard for digital sorting, featuring a new mechanical layout, next-generation LED illumination, enhanced laser scanner technology and new powerful software driven by artificial intelligence (AI).
Key Technology sales engineer and key account manager, Joseph Boster, explains how the new sorters work.
“VERYX 2.0 has a modular platform of belt- and chute-fed sorters (of varying sizes) which can be easily configurated for different product applications and production capacities,” Boster said. “We typically use camera and laser sensors with the product fed through the line of site as a mono layer by a high speed belt or a special convex chute. A Key Iso-Flo Vibratory conveyor spreads and separates the product before it transfers to the high-speed conveyor of convex chute so it is a single layer when scanned by the camera and laser sensors.
“The sensors can recognise and reject product that is defective and foreign material. Once the computer recognises the product should be rejected, it will tell the pneumatic actuators to remove the bad product from the stream of good product, using a puff of air.”
Many applications are possible, across a multitude of food processing sectors where foreign material and product defects must be removed. Applications include nuts, dried fruit, frozen fruit and vegetables, and fresh cut products.
“VERYX 2.0 is an ideal solution if you’re sorting nuts such as almonds and walnuts, or dried fruit products like raisins, sultanas and mango as well as fresh or frozen vegetables, fruit and berries,” Boster said.
“New LED technology provides clearer sensor images, and enhanced detection of product defects which is ideal for individual ‘quick frozen’ fruit and vegetable products and fresh cut products such as sliced or diced fruits, leafy greens, salads, green beans or capsicums.”
VERYX can even determine if there is product which is not of a high quality standard, for example wilted lettuce, spinach or even maturity of nuts.
“This equipment easily detects the things you’re expecting (like the pits in dried fruit) and the things you’re not,” Boster said.
“Foreign material could be things like stones or small insects from the field or pieces of plastic belt from belt conveyors, glass, or a multitude of other material which can be really hard to detect. It can even identify when there’s mould in the product stream on a single piece of product, and insect damage.”
VERYX 2.0 digital sorters can view all aspects of the product through a 360 degree range of visibility. According to Holden, this creates a complete image of the product.
“One of the things that VERYX does is collect data from both the cameras and laser sensors to come up with one complete image of the product using pixel fusion,” he said.
“Even though the product goes through the sorter quite quickly, the pixel fusion is able to pick up each individual piece of product, even if the products are overlapped.”
It can also recognise and retain information within the system and provide feedback to the processor, to ensure the quality of the product, as it is sorted.
“This allows for a higher throughput, because it can meet a specific grade, without removing more than is necessary, and hit targets by making sure it has removed all the products they don’t want,” Boster said.
BioPrint hyperspectral imaging technology
As part of the VERYX system, BioPrint hyperspectral imaging technology enables defects to be picked up more quickly and efficiently by identifying the colour, size, shape, structural composition and biological properties of each object.
According to Boster, the BioPrint technology is particularly well suited to the nut industry.
“The Bioprint allows us to recognise defects which are typically challenging for the nut industry, like moisture content or shells stuck in the product. It contributes to a higher yield and better quality of product,” he said.
Complete line solutions
Working with a single source supplier means processors can expect to receive a complete turnkey solution, which is tailored to their specific needs.
“Key Technology produced their first digital sorter in 1982 and has been developing the technology for 40 years,” Holden said. “Our partnership provides a combined expertise across the whole line process. Working with a single source supplier will allow all your upstream equipment to be matched with Key’s sorting equipment, to give you complete confidence in the whole system.”
Dedicated service technicians are available in both Australia and New Zealand — and a 24-hour hotline for technical issues allows immediate access to assistance by connecting the equipment to the Internet. If assistance is required, Key Technology experts are easily able to view the sorter’s performance and make adjustments if the operator is unable to.
Since its launch in 2021, VERYX 2.0 has enjoyed positive customer feedback:
“This powerful technology has improved our product quality; at the same time it has increased our yield by over 2,800 pounds (1,273 kg) per day.”
“VERYX Information Analytics collects data about every object flowing through the sorter. We can monitor real-time data and identify trends so we can adjust upstream processes.”
“Our VERYX BioPrint gives us total confidence. We’re always supplying a safe, clean product to our customers.”
“One of the great things about working with Heat and Control is they have local experience and people on the ground which we don’t have,” Boster said.
“Our combined fields of knowledge and expertise are proving vital for the customers we currently service in Australia and our partnership allows us to provide them with a complete solution which is highly customised and can be integrated seamlessly.”