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Stemilt Growers Selects Key Technology’s Optyx® Sorter for Cherry Packing

November 9, 2011 – Key Technology introduces Optyx® sorters designed specifically for packers of fresh sweet cherries.  With the rising cost and increasing shortage of labor in the packing plant, cherry packers are looking to automate inspection.  Optyx gently sorts dark red cherries, automatically removing foreign material (FM) and defects, including soft fruit, to dramatically reduce the packer’s manual sorting load to increase throughput and/or reduce labor, while maximizing product quality and shelf life.
Designed for dark red cherries including Bing, Chelan, Skeena, and other varieties, this Optyx sorter uses color cameras and lasers to inspect each cherry’s size, shape, color, and structural properties.  The system automatically removes limb, bark, rocks, and fruit with defects such as wind rub, scars, old splits, doubles, spurs, bird damage, rot, and soft fruit from the production line.  By removing soft cherries, which can be common especially late in the season, Optyx eliminates the need for hand sorters to touch and roll the fruit, which slows inspection and can damage good fruit.  By utilizing soft fruit removal, Optyx improves shelf life, which reduces shrink for packers and retailers and maximizes the quality of product reaching consumers.     
Stemilt Growers, located in Wenatchee, Washington is the first cherry packer to install Optyx.  “We’ve been operating Optyx 20 hours a day, seven days a week for most of the season, and we’ve been very encouraged with the sorter and with Key Technology as the supplier,” explained Jay Fulbright, Vice President of Operations at Stemilt.  “We’re known for world famous fruit, and we’re always looking for ways to handle the fruit better.  Optyx gives us the opportunity to process fruit better.  We’re using it to sort out major grade defects before hand sorting.  It’s allowed us to increase our throughput without increasing labor.”
To achieve the gentlest handling, Key designed a special infeed for cherries, which includes a water spreader and dewatering belt to deliver product to the sorter.  As product passes through the sorter, it is inspected from the top while still on the conveyor belt.  Product is then launched off the end of the Optyx belt for in-air viewing from the bottom.  Using proprietary image processing technology designed specifically for cherries, the sorter quickly analyses the images, comparing each object to previously defined accept/reject standards.  When foreign material or a defective cherry is identified, the system activates the ejector system, which is made up of a series of air jets that span the width of the system.  While still air-borne, the air jets pinpoint the object to reject and remove it from the product stream.  Good cherries are gently discharged from the sorter into a water flume.
This bulk flow operation sets Optyx apart from other cherry sorting systems that separate cherries into lanes and rotate each cherry using complex material handling equipment.  By maintaining the bulk flow of the production stream, Optyx achieves high volumes.  Optyx 3000 features a 24-inch (610-mm) wide scan width and sorts 3 to 4 tons (2.7 to 3.6 metric tons) of cherries per hour.  For higher volume operations, Optyx 6000, with its 48-inch (1220-mm) wide scan area, achieves a throughput of 6 to 8 tons (5.4 to 7.3 metric tons) of cherries per hour.
Ideal for large grower-owned cherry packing operations and contract packers, Optyx automatically removes a significant percent of the cull, allowing users to dramatically reduce the number of laborers manually sorting product and/or increase the volume of product on the line, while achieving high product quality. 
To ease use, Optyx is equipped with KeyWare® Application Software designed specifically for cherry packers.  Defects are categorized on the user interface in terms common to the cherry industry.  KeyWare reduces the skill level required to operate the sorter at peak performance.
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, enhancing the flexibility in the operating environment and easing access for remote factory troubleshooting and application assistance.  Sophisticated real-time and on-demand diagnostics help minimize and avoid costly downtime, and detect conditions that could compromise inspection.

Key designed Optyx to achieve superior sanitation by reducing horizontal surfaces where debris can build up and eliminating overlapping surfaces that can trap bacteria.  With stainless steel construction, watertight double-gaskets on doors, a sealed control panel, and easy access to areas needing periodic cleaning, Optyx is designed to operate reliably in harsh environments and easily withstand high-pressure washdowns.

Featuring a modular design and proven, high-performance connectivity standards such as Camera Link™, FireWire®, and Ethernet, Key’s Optyx offers flexibility that ensures forward compatibility to maximize the cherry packer’s long-term return on investment.

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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