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PROliance Service Advisor

July 2017

Digital sorters are complex machines. Some might even say they are intelligent machines (or at least as intelligent as the people that program them). However, digital sorters do not need to be “Science Magic”. (Science Magic: a term to describe something you know has real science behind it but you don’t fully understand how it works.)

To help you better understand digital sorting and the science behind it, Key Technology has published a book discussing digital sorting technology. In this Service Advisor, we take an in-depth look into digital sorting with an excerpt from the book. You can request a free digital copy of the entire book here.

Excerpt from “The Definitive Guide to Digital Sorting for Food Processors”

Digital sorting systems mimic manual sorting in that cameras and/or laser scanners ‘see’ defects and FM much like human eyes and intelligent software and algorithms make accept/reject decisions much like a human brain. However, digital sorting achieves many significant improvements compared to manual inspection.

Brain CircuitsWhile laborers are subjective and inconsistent, digital sorters do not suffer from fatigue; they are objective and consistent, making thousands of decisions every second for an indefinite period of time. This consistency enables food processors to use digital sorters to produce the exact same quality of product day after day and at every location around the world, despite fluctuations in the quality of incoming product.

Sophisticated sensor technology enables digital sorters to greatly exceed the capabilities of humans. Color cameras can accurately distinguish millions of different colors in the visible light spectrum. Cameras and laser scanners can identify infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) light, which human eyes can’t see. Laser scanners can recognize surface structural properties, and hyperspectral sensing technology can differentiate chemical composition, which are both beyond human detection.

Spectrum Illustration 

Digital sorters with intelligent software and algorithms deliver additional value by making new and more complex sorting decisions using hundreds of data points. Sort-to-Grade is one example. Like humans, sorters make accept/reject decisions by comparing each defect to predetermined criteria. While humans make single, one-off decisions regardless of final in-the-bag quality results, smart sorters can make relative decisions and grade by count, accepting some lower grade product with minor defects in order to maximize yield while controlling the quality of the output to a defined grade.

KnobWhen product specifications change, simple adjustments on a digital sorter’s user interface (UI) instantaneously change the sort parameters, from the most-subtle differences to entirely new categories of product defects and FM. This operational flexibility enables food processors to perfectly match a wide variety of final product specifications.

With throughputs of more than 25 metric tons per hour on high-capacity sorters, this automated technology can do the work of dozens of manual laborers while achieving superior results. As such, digital sorters generate immediate cost reductions and protect a food processor from growing labor shortages.

To read more, request your digital copy of the whole book today!