Pasta Montana reportedly is the first US-based pasta manufacturer to install an Optyx digital sorter from Key Technology. The device has been placed on the line outputting penne, shells, elbows, and other short pasta pieces.
Claude Smith, Pasta Montana plant manager, told FoodProductionDaily minimizing defects is vital, considering its Japanese customers only accept zero-defect products.
“We wanted to add a quality control step that was as close to certain as we could get,” he said. “We were looking for a way to guarantee perfect pasta; that’s what drove this project.”
Smith said Pasta Montana went with the Optyx 3785 sorter because of its ability to customize the technology (typically used to process fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and nuts) for their needs, and because of its service and spare-parts depth.
Adam Hatch, a maintenance technical at the producer, said prior to installing the digital sorter, Pasta Montana relied upon mechanical screening and metal detection, which affected processing speed.
“When we ran products for some of our Japanese customers, we’d slow the line down to half-speed and add four people assigned to watch the product and achieve 100% percent inspection,” he said. “Now, we can run at full-speed and we’ve eliminated the human error that comes with manual inspection; we’ve increased productivity by 20 percent on that line and we’re better able to ensure the quality of our product.”
The customized sorter Pasta Montana is running includes color cameras and a laser, sorting on a 24-inch-wide belt, reportedly inspecting up to 4.5 tons of pasta per hour. The cameras detect color, size, and shape to detect defects and co-mingled product.
The sorter’s laser recognizes differences in structural properties to detect foreign material, even when it is the same color as good product (vital for Pasta Montana, which includes tri-colored pasta in its product line). When a problem (foreign matter, defects, and co-mingled product) are discovered, the auto ejection feature removes the faulty product from the stream.
In addition to the sorter, Key Technology installed its Iso-Flo scalping shaker at Pasta Montana, which removes fines and under-or oversized objects. It also provided an Iso-Flo shaker with an air-flow system to kick out lightweight material.
Another Iso-Flo conveyor (with a scale feed shaker) is placed above a combo weigher. That system is on the Pasta Montana line that produces smaller pastas.
Amanda Carpenter, floating operator at Pasta Montana, reports the updated sorting system performs better than the processing operation’s previous equipment.
“It’s easier to change screens, which we typically do for each product run,” she said. “It used to take four people 15 to 20 minutes to change the screens; now, it takes two people five to seven minutes.”