Tate & Lyle
Carst and Walker
Optyx sorter for Simba

Simba’s new eyes on quality control

Simba is currently installing three, state-of-the-art optical inspection systems, the new Optyx for kettle chips, supplied by Key Technology.

KEY Technology’s new Optyx sorters are designed specifically for kettle-style potato chips. Featuring a unique camera and lighting configuration to sense opacity as well as subtle colour differences, the Optyx sorter identifies and removes objectionable clusters of chips stuck together as well as defects and foreign material. With Optyx, kettle chip manufacturers can now automate their inspection process to dramatically improve product quality and food safety while reducing labour costs.

Historically, kettle chip processors have had to rely on hand sorting because until now, automated inspection systems could not detect problematic clusters, which are common to kettle chip production. To address this sorting challenge, Key modified its field-proven Optyx sorters with a specialised 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.

Removing clusters of kettle chips from the production line enhances product quality and maximises food safety. While some two-chip clusters are acceptable to some customers, thicker clusters are usually not. More importantly, thick clusters tend to retain moisture, which can cause the entire contents of the package to spoil, creating a serious health risk to consumers and a liability concern to processors. Located immediately upstream of packaging, Optyx assures processors and their customers that packaged products meet specifications.

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 colour camera to identify millions of subtle colour differences to detect defects such as chips with green spots, bruises, and overcooked black spots. An optional top-mounted laser can be added to maximise detection and removal of foreign material. An off-belt, in-air scan uses a bottom-mounted colour 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 proprietary 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 6mm 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 (610-mm) scan width to handle up to 1250kg of kettle chips per hour. For higher volume processors, Key offers Optyx 6000. With a 1220mm scan width, Optyx 6000 achieves production rates of up to 2500kg of kettle chips per hour.

The patented, icon-based graphical user interface (GUI) is easy to learn and use, reducing operator training and simplifying optimum operation. Product settings can be stored and retrieved for fast product changeover. The GUI can reside locally on the sorter and can be accessed remotely via network or Internet. Sophisticated real-time and on-demand diagnostics help avoid costly downtime.

Key Technology’s local agent is Paarl-based Eptech.

Key Technology: www.key.net
Eptech: 021 8681594; www.eptech.co.za

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