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Optical Sorters for Processed Protein Products

Key Technology's optical sorters COMPASS and VERYX automatically remove product defects and foreign materials, optimizing product quality while improving yield and reducing labor.

Processed protein on Key's VERYX sorter.
Processed protein on Key's VERYX sorter.

Key Technology, a member of Duravant’s Food Sorting and Handling Solutions group, introduces optical sorters for processed protein products, such as frozen chicken nuggets, chicken tenders, fish sticks, plant-based meat alternatives, and more.

Key’s COMPASS and VERYX optical sorters detect the color, 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 utilized immediately prior to packaging for final inspection but may also be utilized upstream to inspect incoming ingredients.

“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 labor market and consumers’ product quality expectations higher than ever, automating inspection makes more sense,” said 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.”

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 more to maximize equipment hygiene and ease 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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