Key Technology has introduced new optical sorters for processed protein products, such as frozen chicken nuggets, chicken tenders, fish sticks, plant-based meat alternatives, and other foods. Automatically removing product defects and foreign material (FM), Key’s optical sorters including COMPASS® and VERYX® help optimize product quality while improving yield and reducing labor.

Key’s COMPASS and VERYX optical sorters detect the color, size, shape, and 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 has not been formed, cooked, or coated correctly. FM like 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 utilized immediately prior to packaging for final inspection but may also be utilized upstream to inspect incoming ingredients.

Each sorting system is customized 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 maximizing 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 other characteristics to maximize equipment hygiene and ease of cleaning.

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

Key’s 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 maximize production versatility and uptime while ensuring repeatable results. Operator qualification requirements allow a minimally skilled individual to become a proficient user of the system in less than one hour.

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