Published online: Dec 04, 2008 Alan Harman
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Walla Walla, Washington-based Key Technology Inc. has introduced Optyx sorters designed specifically for kettle-style potato chips.

Featuring a unique camera and lighting configuration to sense opacity as well as subtle color differences, the sorters identify and remove objectionable clusters of chips stuck together as well as defects and foreign material.

Historically, kettle chip processors have had to rely on hand sorting because, until now, automated inspection systems could not detect problematic clusters common to kettle chip production.

To address this sorting challenge, Key modified its field-proven Optyx sorters with a specialized off-belt scanning zone that measures opacity to detect and remove clusters of kettle chips in addition to standard on-belt scanning that identifies defects and foreign material.

Optyx for kettle chips features two scanning zones. An on-belt scan--identical to the inspection typically used by other potato chip manufacturers--uses a proprietary color camera to identify millions of subtle color differences to detect defects such as chips with green spots, bruises and overcooked black spots.

An optional top-mounted laser can be added to maximize detection and removal of foreign material. A unique off-belt, in-air scan uses a bottom-mounted color camera, no foreground lighting and high-intensity background lighting to inspect product opacity.

With opacity inspection, objectionable clusters of multiple chips stuck together are easily detected and ejected from the production line.

As product passes through the sorter, it is scanned while still on the belt. Product is then launched off the end of the Optyx belt for in-air viewing.

Using Key's image processing technology, the sorter quickly analyzes the images, comparing each object to previously defined accept/reject standards.

When a cluster, defective product or foreign material is identified, the system activates the close-coupled high-speed ejector system, which is made up a series of air jets spaced 6 mm apart that span the width of the system. While the defective object is still air-borne, the air jets pinpoint the object to reject and remove it from the acceptable product stream.

Optyx 3000 features a 24-inch scan width to handle up to 2,750 lb. of kettle chips an hour. For higher volume processors, Key offers Optyx 6000. With a 48-inch scan width, Optyx 6000 achieves production rates of up to 5,500 lbs. of kettle chips an hour.