The company's Optyx with Raptor allows processors of iceberg and romaine lettuce to cut the un-cored head with conventional cutting technology and use the Optyx to remove the core, saving on manual coring and outer leaf removal. Processors who invest in the sorter will recoup their costs within four to 16 months based on labour cost reductions and yield improvements, according to a press release from Key. As well as reducing labour costs and improving yields, the equipment improves the shelf life of the cut lettuce by not removing core in the field, claims the firm. Investment in optical sorters is increasing owing to industry pressures to improve food quality and safety. The tools are typically used for fruits, vegetables, potato strips, snack foods, confectionery and seafood. Key's new sorting equipment is based on a powerful infrared laser working in combination with the company's proprietary colour cameras. The cameras help the sorter to assess the size and shape as well as millions of subtle colour differences in the lettuce while the Raptor laser inspects and detects foreign material. As a product passes through the sorter, it is launched off the end of the Optyx belt for in-air viewing by the sensors. Image processing technology allows the sorter to rapidly analyse the images, comparing each object to previously defined standards. When the core or a defective or foreign material is identified, the system activates a high-speed ejector system made up of a series of air jets. These pinpoint the object to reject and remove it from the product stream. The Optyx can be easily integrated into the processing line, according to Key, and it also has precision-engineered product handling chutes designed for leafy greens and a unique clean-in-place (CIP) system that improves sanitation and reduces product build-up. The graphical user interface (GUI) is easy to learn and use, reducing operator training. Product settings can be stored and retrieved for fast product changeover. The GUI can reside locally on the sorter and can be accessed remotely via network or Internet, enhancing the flexibility in the operating environment and easing access for remote factory troubleshooting and application assistance. Key Technology has ISO-9001 certification and makes a range of process automation systems, integrated electro-optical inspection and sorting systems, and other processing systems. The firm is headquartered in Walla Walla, Washington, and also has facilities in Beusichem, the Netherlands.