Key Technology unveils advanced optical sorters for protein processing

Key Technology has introduced optical sorters for processed protein products, such as frozen chicken nuggets, chicken tenders, fish sticks, plant-based meat alternatives and more.

Automatically removing product defects and foreign material (FM), Key said its optical sorters, including Compass and Veryx, help optimise product quality while improving yield and reducing labour.

“Processors of protein products worldwide have relied on Key’s vibratory conveyors for more than 25 years. However, when it comes to sorting, historically they’ve been satisfied with manual inspection. Now, with such a tight labour market and consumers’ product quality expectations higher than ever, automating inspection makes more sense,” noted Jack Lee, Duravant Group president – food sorting and handling solutions. “Drawing on our application expertise in material handling, we’ve developed optical sorting systems that automate a process that previously required several workers per shift, while simultaneously achieving more consistent product quality.”

Key’s Compass and Veryx optical sorters detect the colour, size, shape and/or structural properties of every object to identify and remove a variety of product defects including clumps of product, clumps of breading/batter and product that hasn’t been formed, cooked or coated correctly.

Foreign material (FM), such as plastic, metal, glass and paper, that may have been accidentally introduced to the production line is also removed. For processed protein applications, optical sorting is most often utilised immediately prior to packaging for final inspection but may also be utilised upstream to inspect incoming ingredients.

Each sorting system is customised by Key in the ideal size and configuration to address the processor’s unique product characteristics and line requirements. Key infeed and collection conveyors can be integrated with the sorter to gently move product and preserve its integrity while maximising sort accuracy. Optional conveyor screens are available to remove fines prior to sorting, if needed.

Engineered to satisfy the high sanitary standards required for protein processing, Key’s optical sorters feature open designs, sloped surfaces and more to maximise equipment hygiene and ease cleaning.

Every Compass and Veryx sorter is equipped with Key Discovery, a powerful data analytics and reporting software that enables the sorter to collect and analyse data about objects flowing through the sorter to reveal patterns that can help improve upstream and downstream processes.

According to Key, its optical sorters for frozen protein products virtually eliminate the need for manual inspection, which decreases labor costs and achieves more consistent FM and defect removal. Fast and accurate recipe-driven changeovers maximise uptime while operator qualification requirements allow for a minimally-skilled individual to become a proficient user of the system in less than one hour.

Processors of meat, poultry and plant-based alternatives can learn more about Key’s optical sorters and vibratory conveyors at IPPE in booth #C19167.

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