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SORTEX K - new standards for safe, clean food

11.10.2006 Technologies proven in SORTEX Z+ dry sorters are applied to revolutionary solutions for fresh or frozen fruit and vegetable processors. Continuing innovation and improvement are central to any market leader’s drive to consolidate its position. Sortex delivers on both counts as its new SORTEX K optical sorters, designed specifically for the fresh and frozen fruit and vegetable sectors, demonstrate.

SORTEX K is offered in versions for each sector and builds on the success of the Niagara model, of which more than 200 are installed worldwide. There is a belt version for fresh produce and a chute version for frozen produce.

Each is fed by Sortex approved vibrators that ensure a constant, even flow. A semi-vertical chute feeds the optical system for frozen produce while a Powerslide™ belt, fitted with an automatic belt tracking system, feeds fresh produce.

Importantly, the Powerslide™ configuration allows the cameras and background lamps to be positioned at the front and rear rather than above and below the product flow. Consequently, the need for additional cleaning to keep the sorter running is obviated.

Successful trial installations
The first trial sorters, prior to the official launch in October 2006, went into service in Spain for the 2006 season. The fresh produce sorter with the Powerslide™ belt feed handles beans and root vegetables for Iberfresco SA in Olmedo near Valladolid.

The frozen product sorter is working at Ultracongelades de Cortes, Zaragoza, where Factory Manager Juan Jesus Perez Villarroya is delighted with its performance. “We have so far sorted frozen peas, French green beans and flat Romano type beans and are very impressed with the results. We are learning how very easy the SORTEX K is to use.”

Bruno Kilshaw, Sortex Managing Director, sees the SORTEX K launch as evidence of the company’s commitment to continuing R&D and product improvement, and its responsiveness to processors’ needs.

“Increasing consumer expectations and legislation instituted in every advanced market mean that standards that impact on food safety and cleanliness are increasingly rigorous. They have been key drivers in developing the SORTEX K”.
- Bruno Kilshaw MD Sortex Ltd

Leading edge specifications
The SORTEX K is wider than its Niagara predecessor so it delivers a 10pc to 15pc higher throughput within a smaller footprint. In each version, four newly designed, high definition Sortex cameras over-come the difficulties of colour registration. With greatly enhanced colour separation, they allow easy removal of even the smallest and most subtle colour defects.

In frozen applications, in addition to the four high definition cameras, there are two InGaAs cameras. The InGaAs technology uses the invisible spectrum to take removal of foreign material to a new level.

“I have never before seen such efficient removal of all types of foreign material and such small colour defects. The amount of acceptable product removed with the rejects is much lower than we anticipated. Product recovery is amazing.”.
- David McCambridge Sortex Application Engineer Sortex Ltd

Anything selected as unacceptable by the cameras is removed by 256 pneumatic ejectors. These have been designed specifically for the SORTEX K, are more powerful than previous designs, and so rejection of defects is improved. They are linked to an ejector system that fires at the profile of an individual reject rather than a broad area. The amount of good product lost in error is, as a result, reduced significantly.

The PROfile shape recognition system removes defects that do not conform to normal product shape. This powerful tool, operating simultaneously with the colour and InGaAS cameras, is used to remove rejects that, while of an acceptable colour, do not conform to the correct shape. Typical examples are pods in peas, stalks and stems in beans and berries, or misshapen carrots.

Trouble free productivity
The PROfile shape recognition system allows the SORTEX K to operate at higher speeds with no reduction in throughput due to its ability to recognise touching objects.

A new, easy to use and rapid in operation Interface is an important feature. Up to 50 product modes can be stored and no ‘extras’ are required for different products. Future units will be available with K Anyware software, which will enable Sortex engineers to link up anywhere in the world by the Internet either automatically or on request. It will give customers the ability to keep their sorters working constantly at optimum performance. Many problems will be prevented and it will be possible to react swiftly to the few that do arise.

SORTEX K is the result of substantial investment in R&D by Sortex’s in-house team. It is further proof of Sortex’s commitment to the development of its own technologies rather than purchasing systems off the shelf. Sortex, as part of the worldwide Swiss engineering group, Buhler AG, is particularly well placed to maintain its pre-eminence in the optical sorting sector.