Published online: May 04, 2009
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Key Technology is launching its first optical sorting system for whole potatoes.

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

The company says Optyx WPS improves product quality and protects downstream equipment while reducing labor costs and increasing yields by maximizing the removal of foreign material and providing extremely gentle handling to avoid potato damage.

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

Using cameras, Optyx WPS recognizes color, size and shape to remove potatoes needing re-work based on the presence of peel, scab or gross defects, as well as potatoes that fail to meet user-defined standards for length, width or shape.

Using a combination of Raptor laser technology with high-resolution line scan cameras, Optyx WPS also detects and removes foreign material based on the structural properties of the material, as well as visible color.
As the product passes through the sorter, it is scanned by cameras when 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 a 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 0.25 inches apart that span the width of the system.

While the foreign material is still air-borne, 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 either 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 chute both feature curved landing zones on each deck that mirrors the trajectory of the potatoes for minimal impact.

The unique deflector design, the curved landing zones and gradual deceleration all 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 minimizes the impact to both good and off-grade potatoes.

Optyx WPS's impact has been measured to be equivalent to dropping a potato only 1.7 inches onto a rigid surface. By eliminating even light cell damage, downstream blanchers and fryers produce the most uniform product color.

Optyx 6000 WPS handles up to 100,000 lbs. of whole potatoes an hour. By sorting potatoes prior to cutting, processors protect the cutters' knives from damage caused by foreign material, which maximizes product quality and improves production line uptime.

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 specialty cuts, a processor can program Optyx WPS to analyze length and diameter and shape so only the most suitable potatoes are cut and optimal wedges are produced while rejected potatoes are used for other cuts.

In addition to removing foreign material 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 optimize 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 packaged product, if needed.

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