Key Technology, a member of the Duravant family of operating companies, introduces its new sorting system for fresh-cut apple products. This versatile solution integrates Key’s Iso-Flo® shakers, rotary sizing and grading systems, belt conveyors and a VERYX digital sorter. Removing pieces of stem, seeds, calyx/flower and core as well as foreign material (FM) and product defects like dark and light stains, rot and skin, this apple sorting line automates inspection to significantly improve overall product quality and increase yield while reducing labor requirements.
This integrated solution gently sorts peeled and skin-on apples, as well as pears, which are cut in a variety of sizes and shapes including cubes, strips and wedges. With VERYX sorters available in different sizes, Key can design apple sorting lines for processors with production capacities from 3 to 15 metric tons (6,600 to 33,000 lb.) per hour.
The new solution begins with belt conveyors that transfer whole, halved or sliced apples, after they are peeled and cored, to Key’s Sliver Sizer Remover (SSR), which mechanically removes fines that result from the peeling and coring process. The product then continues to either a cutter that cuts the apples into different sizes and shapes or, if already sliced, directly on to the sorter. By cutting whole or halved apples instead of wedges, the yield from the cutter is improved since there are fewer slivers. When whole or half apples are the final product, the cutter can be easily bypassed. A conveyor then carries the apple cubes, strips, dices or wedges to an Iso-Flo infeed shaker that spreads the product for presentation to a mechanical Precision Size Grader (PSG), which removes small pieces that are generated in the cutting process. Next, a Key Iso-Flo dewatering shaker removes any residual water while spreading and singulating product to feed the downstream VERYX sorter.
Equipped with top- and bottom-mounted cameras and laser sensors, VERYX detects color, size, shape and structural properties of every object, including the presence of chlorophyll, to find and remove defects and FM. As the world’s only belt-fed sorter that can view product entirely in-air with top and bottom sensors for full-surface inspection, VERYX is ideal for challenging shapes like large cubes and wedges.
The innovative VERYX architecture positions sensor windows, light sources and backgrounds away from product splatter so accurate inspection is sustained throughout long production cycles without operator intervention. Key’s mechanical product handling systems also enhance sanitation, with features such as open designs, fully-welded frames, one-piece block pans, stainless steel bed surfaces, oil-free drives, label stand-offs and more.
VERYX features next-generation 4-channel cameras and high-resolution laser sensors, which offer twice the resolution of previous sensor technology to find smaller FM and defects. Key’s unique Pixel Fusion technology combines pixel-level input from multiple cameras and laser sensors, producing higher contrasts to find the most difficult-to-detect FM and defects.
Key designed this versatile apple sorting line to handle different apple and pear varietals and various cut shapes and sizes with minimal changeover. Recipe-driven operation enables VERYX to be changed over to handle a new product in seconds with only a couple of taps on the touchscreen. The SSR and PSG can be easily adjusted to handle different cut shapes and sizes.
VERYX can also be equipped with Key’s powerful Information Analytics software, which allows users to analyze and share big data across their enterprise via an OPCUA-compliant infrastructure. Data about the sort process and about each and every object flowing through the sorter, whether the data is used to make sort decisions or not, is available to reveal patterns, trends and associations to optimize processes upstream and downstream of the sorter.