Key Technology Introduces DateSort™ and Strengthens its Leadership Position as the Date Sorting Expert
February 18, 2015 – Key Technology introduces DateSort™, its newest digital sorter for grading dates. This compact and mobile sorter combines mechanical pre-cleaning to remove foreign material (FM) with optical sorting to grade dates by size. As the lowest cost digital sorting system for dates, DateSort eliminates manual sorting and improves operating efficiencies.
“Key established its leadership position as the date sorting expert with the world’s first date sorter installation at Al Foah in the United Arab Emirates in 2009 with the Optyx® digital sorter. Optyx is a powerful three-way belt-fed sorter, and we are now pleased to extend our product portfolio for date processors with DateSort, the simple and affordable gravity-fed sorter,” said Marco Azzaretti, Advanced Inspection Systems Product Manager at Key Technology. “We support date processors with world-class sorting and conveying equipment as well as local service in the Middle East from Key-certified technicians through our partner Al Thika Packaging, based in Dubai.”
Compared to Optyx, which removes defects and FM, and grades dates by size and color at capacities of up to 8 metric tons (8.8 tons) of dates per hour, Key’s new DateSort is an entry level machine. Focused on accurate size grading and basic FM removal, DateSort handles 3 to 4 metric tons (3.3 to 4.4 tons) per hour. It is the world’s first gravity-fed sorter for dates and the first date sorter designed for use at receiving, where processors collect product from farmers.
“DateSort is ideal for situations where Optyx may be too large,” said Azzaretti. “There are a number of date sorting applications that are perfect for DateSort.”
At receiving, a date processor can use DateSort to accurately analyze all of the product delivered by each farmer. This allows them to objectively and consistently determine the quality of the product coming in, not just samples pulled off the top, and pay the farmer accordingly. It enables processors to establish non-negotiable transactions with each farmer, which helps reduce the cost of raw product while eliminating the labor costs associated with manual sorting.
Varietals such as Medina dates and others that require grading only by size are effectively sorted by DateSort, enabling the use of this new technology as the only sorter required. Small processors looking for an affordable entry-level date sorter for size grading will also benefit from DateSort’s low cost and easy operation. Large processors with varietals that are graded by size and color and require the most rigorous FM and defect removal will continue to benefit from Key’s Optyx sorter.
Processors that grade dates by size and color and wish to separate four grades in one pass can position DateSort upstream of a three-way Optyx. Here, DateSort will separate one grade by size and pass the remaining dates to Optyx, which separates them into three grades by size and color.
For processors that pit dates, DateSort is ideal for use upstream of the pitting machine. By removing large and small dates, DateSort passes dates of equal size to the pitting machine, which enhances the efficiency of the operation.
The stainless steel DateSort is compact and mobile. Key designed it to be easily transported from farm to farm and/or rolled on its wheels from one location to another at the processing facility. The simplicity of the mechanics and water cooling enable DateSort to easily withstand extreme dust and heat up to 50° C (122° F) for rugged reliability and years of trouble-free operation.
The two-stage system features a mechanical pre-cleaning and alignment shaker that removes dust, skins, small rocks, and leaves, and divides the bulk dates into lanes for optimal presentation to the integrated digital sorter. Singulated dates freefall from the end of the vibratory conveyor into the sorter where the camera inspects each date. The sorter quickly analyzes the images, comparing each object to the user-defined size criteria. When dates are identified that are larger or smaller than the target size, the sorter activates the ejector system, which is made up of a series of air jets that span the width of the sorter. While still air-borne, the air jets pinpoint the dates to reject and automatically remove them from the product stream. Right-size dates are discharged from the sorter and collected in bins or on a conveyor.
Compared to sorters that feature belts to inspect product on a horizontal plane, Key’s DateSort inspects product on a vertical plane to dramatically simplify the operation. DateSort offers a smaller footprint, improved sanitation with the elimination of belts, gentle handling with fewer transitions, and a new level of affordability.
Compared to manual sorting, DateSort improves the consistency of the operation while reducing labor costs. DateSort can do the work of 12 people or more while Optyx can do the work of 40 people or more. “With the recent immigration laws in parts of the Middle East, it’s becoming harder for processors to find inexpensive labor. Processors that automate with DateSort or Optyx are better equipped to deal with this labor challenge,” said Simon Kerkhofs, Territory Sales Manager Middle East at Key Technology.
Similar to Optyx, Key designed ease-of-use into every aspect of DateSort. A color touchscreen features a graphical user interface (GUI) where sort parameters can be created, adjusted, or retrieved from memory. Like Optyx, DateSort features KeyWare® Application Software designed specifically for dates, which simplifies training. The GUI resides locally on the system and can be accessed remotely via network or Internet, easing access for remote troubleshooting and application assistance.
About Key Technology, Inc.
Key Technology (NASDAQ: KTEC) is a global leader in the design and manufacture of process automation systems including digital sorters, conveyors, and processing equipment. Applying processing knowledge and application expertise, Key helps customers in the food processing and other industries improve quality, increase yield, and reduce cost. An ISO-9001 certified company, Key manufactures its products at its headquarters in Walla Walla, Washington, USA and in Beusichem, the Netherlands; Hasselt, Belgium; and Redmond, Oregon, USA. Key offers customer demonstration and testing services at five locations including Walla Walla, Beusichem, and Hasselt as well as Sacramento, California, USA and Melbourne, Australia; and maintains a sales and service office in Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico.