Newtec is a leading manufacturer of weighing, packing and sorting machinery primarily for the fruit and vegetable industry. With more than 20,000 successful installations over the last 40 years, they are renowned worldwide for their innovative solutions.

Newtec also manufactures optical sorting machines that will work in your market and meet all types of quality standards and pre-set classifications.

Packaging-Gateway spoke to Newtec about the company’s specialised optical sorting solutions for potatoes.

Newtec Engineering’s Head of Software Department Rasmus Andersen said: “With production lines designed for processing several hundred tonnes a day, you simply can’t afford too much downtime. We invest a lot in producing machines that virtually never break down, and this is highly appreciated by our customers.

“Another common demand is the ability to handle a certain type of defect that causes trouble for the customer. In these cases, we always make it a specific part of the showcase during a demonstration, showing exactly how well the machine handles such products.”

Overcoming challenges of sorting potatoes with Newtec solutions

Andersen says: “First of all, our patented system for vibrating rollers is unique and performs an excellent job in terms of making sure that all products are seen from all angles while maintaining the high speed. Designing and deploying a durable system, which can sustain the rather harsh and dirty production line environment has been quite an accomplishment.”

“Secondly, the machine is constructed with maximum efficiency in mind, combining high production throughput with a relatively small footprint. The result is an efficient and space-saving machine that ensures a very thorough quality check and classification of every single crop before it is presented in the sales packaging.”

The main benefits associated with an optical sorting machine

Compared to manual sorting, labour savings is an obvious benefit. Further, the result of the optical sorting is highly consistent and does not vary over time regardless of the personnel.

“When comparing to mechanical sorting, our advanced camera system performs intelligent product analysis, thus allowing for grading in both size, shape, and quality in a single-stage process.”

The main benefit over both manual and mechanical sorting is the ability to dynamically prepare special selections for different purposes such as trays, campaigns or similar.

Notable features of Newtec’s optical sorting solutions

The Celox-P-UHD is the only machine on the market that can simultaneously grade products in size, shape and quality, and then deliver the products in up to 16 different categories at a capacity of up to 30tph.

The optical sorting machine features a mechanical setup with chutes, rollers and a ‘spinaflex-system’, which is able to cope with great spans in product dimensions without the need for pre-grading. As the sorting is performed in a single process, the carbon footprint of the machine is quite small, allowing for easy integration in a production line.

“The Celox-P-UHD captures a lot of production data, which is made available for post-sorting analysis. Customers can choose to either handle this data themselves or use our WebServices platform, which offers an extensive range of customised reports for complete product and batch information, as well as remote servicing,” Rasmus explains.

Artificial intelligence-based optical sorting machines

Newtec produced the first AI-based optical grading machine back in 1997. Since then, both AI-algorithms and hardware accelerators have improved dramatically, and the Newtec Celox machine remains on the forefront of these technological innovations.

“Most of our algorithms for size, shape, and quality analysis rely on artificial intelligence, and they are executed on state-of-the-art embedded hardware platforms,” Rasmus adds.

“The main benefit of AI in our machines is accuracy and consistency. The machine operates with very small tolerances and error rates. Another benefit is the ability to quickly adjust to new types of defects or seasonal problems on specific varieties. Generally, the integration of AI provides means for detecting the same type of defects in many different types of products.”

Programmable sorting algorithms

Quality, shape, and size-based algorithms are all set in one go by the user. The Celox-P-UHD offers size measurement (length, diameter, volume), shape measurement (mis-shape detection), foreign material detection, and surface analysis for different surface defects in a single-stage process.

Each product is evaluated and compared to the grading parameters chosen by the operator and can be directed into any one of up to 16 different outlets. All these sorting criteria for the various categories are instantly customisable according to the current needs.

Future innovations

“To address the problems with internal defects, we’re just about to release an X-ray-based machine where multiple X-ray scans per product permit us to identify and reject products with internal defects,” Rasmus reveals.

A future machine aims to make use of hyperspectral imaging to acquire a chemical composition of the products to assess internal conditions such as moisture, oil and starch levels.