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Key Technology Introduces Auto Valve Check for Tegra® Sorters

February 24, 2011 – Key Technology introduces its new Auto Valve Check feature for new and installed G6 Tegra® sorters.  By automating the routine testing of Tegra’s ejection system valves, food processors can easily detect potential problems more frequently and with greater accuracy, enabling them to take the corrective action that may be needed to operate the sorter at peak performance.  Auto Valve Check helps assure that Tegra’s ejection system is functioning properly, which improves food safety and product quality while reducing demands on labor.

Tegra removes foreign material (FM) and product defects from the acceptable product stream using a close-coupled high-speed ejector system, which is made up of a series of air jets spaced 6 mm apart that span the width of the system.  To assure proper functionality, the valve on each of up to 256 air jets must be checked periodically because contamination of a valve at the end of its one-year life can cause a full or partial value failure.  A valve sticking in the open position causes yield loss as good product is removed and a valve sticking in the closed position can cause FM and defects to not be ejected as desired.  The more frequently the valves are checked, the more quickly problems can be resolved.

Historically, processors validate the performance of a sorter’s valves manually.  The manual routine typically steps through each valve one at a time and relies on the operator to hear anomalies in each valve’s operation.  This process is subjective, depending on the operator’s ability to hear and interpret what he hears.  Since the general noise level in many plants can be substantial, the manual test can often be inaccurate.

Key’s new Auto Valve Check is objective and can be performed anytime the sorter is not running product such as during changeovers or sanitation.  Initiated by either the operator or an OPC command from the network, it tests each value and recognizes sluggish or partially open valves as well as failed valves.  It delivers a list to the sorter’s user interface and remotely via the plant-wide network of the valves that are not fully operational.  Armed with this data, the food processors can then perform any necessary value maintenance.

The Auto Valve Check takes from 10 to 25 minutes to perform the test, depending on the number of valves on the sorter and the performance of the valves.  Unlike manual valve checking, an operator need not be present during the Auto Valve Check. 

The frequency of valve testing depends on the application – once every two or three weeks may be sufficient for food processors dealing only with product defects and more frequently for processors working to eliminate foreign material from the product stream.

The new Auto Valve Check feature includes hardware and software enhancements that can be installed as an option on any new or in-the-field G6 Tegra sorter.

About Key Technology, Inc.
Key Technology, an ISO-9001 certified company, is a leading designer and manufacturer of process automation systems, integrated electro-optical inspection and sorting systems, and processing systems. Key® systems help processors to improve quality, increase yield, and reduce cost. With worldwide sales representation, the company maintains demonstration and testing facilities at its headquarters and manufacturing divisions in Walla Walla, Washington, USA, and at Key Technology BV in Beusichem, the Netherlands. The company's common stock trades on The NASDAQ Global Market under the symbol: KTEC.

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