A new sorting machine was recently introduced, which makes it possible to remove more than 98 per cent of foreign objects, and with more productivity
The technologies for optical sorting are far advanced, yet improvement is still possible. With renewed software, productivity can be increased even more.
Global demand for processed potato products is still increasing. TOMRA develops and installs machines for the potato processing industry, including steam peelers and optical sorting machines. A new sorting machine was recently introduced, which makes it possible to remove more than 98 per cent of foreign objects in product flows. Moreover, an improved ejection system ensures more productivity.
The new TOMRA 5A (picture) is applied in sorting whole potatoes, both for the processing industry and the fresh market. “For the fresh market it mostly concerns unpeeled product, while the peeled product is sorted for the processing industry,” says Frank de Brauwer from TOMRA Sorting Solutions. “The sorter is then often placed between the steam peeler and the processing machine to protect the knives. No foreign objects should be among the potatoes before being cut.”
While 90 to 95 per cent of the foreign objects could be detected in the past, TOMRA 5A shows an improvement up to as much as 98 per cent. Frank also says the ejection system has been adjusted. Heavy defects such as a stone or golf ball are forcefully knocked off the line, while plastic objects now slide off the line, as it were. “By knocking objects off the line, the amount of ejection of good product is reduced. This results in an increase of productivity. Besides foreign objects, the machine can also eject potatoes that haven’t been peeled properly, so they might be transported to a re-peeler, which also results in more productivity. Machines introduced earlier also had these options, but detection options have been visibly improved.”
Reducing false ejection
The sorter uses camera technology in combination with led and infrared. Frank says TOMRA is very near the top in the field of technologies. “Improvements are now mostly in software, and the important points of attention are mostly detection, ejection and processing.” Customers want to keep maintenance costs as low as possible. Besides, yield remains an important point of attention according to Frank. “The more false ejection, the lower the productivity. The yield can and must still be increased. Each per cent gained is an improvement. We can definitely contribute to this with the TOMRA 5A. As few foreign objects as possible combined with the highest possible yield.” The new sorter is now being installed globally.
“What we can expect in future? Machines that set themselves up will be the next big thing. The customer’s quality requirement can be set up in advance, after which the machine sets itself up for processing. In some ways this is already done, but the process will be automated even more, and the machine will operate itself increasingly often. We are also working hard on this. Besides, optimising yield is still in development, and big data is also a hot topic. What goes in, and how does the product come out? That way, quality demand of the customer can be responded to even better in future, and purchasing can then be guided in advance.”