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Popular reception for Sortex 6000.

Sortex Ltd, part of the Booker food group, have been enjoying considerable success with their latest colour sorter. Their Model 6000 broad belt colour sorter for wet, dry and frozen products has been purchased by major UK, European and American companies.

The 6000 was introduced towards the end of 1990 and the first sale was made to Christian Salvesen in Dundee, who use it for the removal of foreign matter from frozen peas. That machine has now been in operation for more than a year and the plant personnel are pleased with its ease of use and reliability. The sorter is positioned between the freezer and the cold store and, during the pea season, is used to remove small stones, pieces of pod, insects and other foreign matter that are not removed by their mechanical cleaning line. During the remainder of the year, peas are taken in Palletainers from the cold store and passed through the colour sorter for a final clean before peas are dispatched in bulk to customers.

Another early sale was to Columbia Foods in Washington State, USA. This company, one of the largest privately owned frozen food processors in that country, is run by the Cedargreen family, who have been in the frozen food business for more than 50 years. John Cedargreen was particularly keen on the 6000 because its optics allow it to sort frozen rather than fresh produce, which results in easier product handling. They now run their sorter round the clock and have used it for green peas, corn and diced carrots with equal success. They estimate it paid for itself in under half a year.

During 1991, a large number of demonstrations and trials were carried out, resulting in further sales in the UK, Italy, Sweden, the USA and Canada. The range of products that have been sorted and the machine's capacity are quite impressive: fresh and frozen peas, beans, carrots, sweetcorn and other vegetables at throughput rates up to 20 tons, frozen lingonberries at 4 tons, redskin and blanched peanuts at 10 tons and even frozen rice at 2 tons an hour. Depending upon requirements, this machine can be set to remove foreign material, discoloured product or both simultaneously.

Although Sortex have been making colour sorters for more than 40 years, and are the world's largest manufacturer of such equipment, their machinery has traditionally been used for sorting dry products, such as coffee, rice, pulses and nuts. In the 1980s they developed Model 2024 for colour sorting small frozen fruits and vegetables. This machine has been successful but, as its feed system uses narrow chutes, it is restricted to capacities of about a ton an hour on spherical or diced products. Its main use is therefore for repacking operations in a frozen food factory.

During the late 1980s it became possible to produce colour sorters using a wide belt to transport product, thus allowing much higher capacities and the sorting of more irregularly shaped products. These machines could now be used in a cleaning line for fresh fruit and vegetables, often after a blancher or immediately after a flow freezer.

Before designing the new machine, Sortex surveyed the market to establish what potential customers through of existing broad belt sorters and what they would like to see in a new machine. Many existing machines were considered complicated to operate and operators needed to know how to use a computer. They tended to reject a lot of good product along with the substandard material, which resulted in unacceptable yield losses. Such machines were also considered expensive in relation to labour savings or quality improvement by some European customers, although a different view was taken in the USA where labour is more expensive or difficult to find. To cap it all, servicing back-up was not always up to scratch.

Sortex were able, therefore, to set down objectives for their new model: good performance with emphasis on reducing yield loss, reliability, ease of operation and value for money. Initial reactions seem to indicate they have met these objectives.

The new 6000 unit offers several important features. These include: a unique combination of incandescent and fluorescent lighting that gives good results when removing foreign matter; specially designed high speed ejectors to remove defective pieces, which minimize the loss of good product; a touch-screen integrated control panel with a simple menu system that allows easy operation without the need for a separate control cabinet; the possibility of storing parameters of up to 20 products in the machine's memory, which allows fast changeover between products; and the ability to be connected to a factory computer control system, which means the machine can be remotely controlled. In addition, it is competitively priced to give a shorter pay-back period.

PHOTO : A Sortex 6000 in action
COPYRIGHT 1992 Food Trade Press Ltd.
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Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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