While it may sound simple at first, there are complexities in sorting grain in the food processing industry. Given the large volumes handled and quality standards expected in grain processing or food production lines, this is more so. You have whole grains, hulled grains, unhulled grains, spoiled grains, impurities, seeds, discoloration, mycotoxins, foreign objects, and grits to sort and weed out.
Fortunately, advancements in technology in automated optic color grain sorters have made this crucial industrial process more efficient and faster. Below is a comprehensive guide to help you in decision-making when purchasing a grain sorter.
What is a Color Grain Sorter?
A grain sorter is also referred to as a color sorter or optical sorter. It is a machine used to separate items according to their colors on production lines in industries such as bulk food processing. While color sorters can be used in different sectors, they are used primarily in the agricultural products and food industries to sorting grains, hence the name.
How Does a Grain Sorter Work?
A grain sorter comprises a feeding system, a signal processing system, an optical detection system, a separation execution system, a cleaning system, and an operating system. You input your selected materials into a top-mounted feeding hopper. The raw materials move along the machine into the optical detection system via a vibration feeder and conveyer belt or chute.
The optical detection system detects slight differences in the color or shade of objects (photoelectric properties) passing through the channel using sophisticated high-resolution CCD optic sensors and LED light sources. The light sources illuminate the raw materials passing through.
The CCD sensors convert the reflected light from the raw material into electrical signals processed by the digital control system. The grain sorter then utilizes pneumatic or mechanical ejection devices to divert the objects outside the desired or acceptable parameters to a separate chamber from the rest (waste hopper).
A grain sorter can help you separate undesired material with a high sorting accuracy. The cleaning system comprises glass cleaning brushes, cylinders, and other components. This system eliminates dust and other impurities that may accumulate on the glass during the sorting process. Dust accumulation can result in false detection.
The operating system comprises a user-friendly interface to preset various color sorting parameters for the end product. Grain sorters are the final stop in the production line after mechanical separation before packaging. A grain sorter uses full-color RGB, dichromatic or monochromatic high-resolution cameras, high-speed ejectors, and intelligent software, which monitors the entire process.
What are the Benefits/Advantages of a Grain Sorter?
1. Improves the Quality of Food products
This is probably the most crucial benefit of using a grain sorter. Food quality is a significant factor in the food processing industry. Factories have to adhere to the highest standards in this regard.
Color grain sorting machines have revolutionized the quality of food products by removing impurities, shells, moldy seeds, sand, and broken grains. As a producer, it enables you to monitor and ensure the products at the end of your production lines are top quality before launching them into the market.
2. Important for Food Safety
Color sorting machines help reduce food safety risks. Different grains are afflicted with various contaminants. One of the external signs of contamination is grain discoloration.
Discoloration can be an indicator of mycotoxins such as DON (vomitoxin) and aflatoxins. Grain sorting helps eliminate toxins from the product, thus ensuring you meet food safety requirements.
3. Helps You Save Time
Grain sorters are automated, and thus the quality check speed remains constant. These machines help speed up your production lines as well as the overall quality assurance process. It achieves this by removing the downtimes resulting from human labor aspects such as fatigue or strikes. This helps you save precious time and benefit from subsequent productivity.
4. Offers You Control Over Food Processing
With grain sorters, you can decide and change the sorting parameters according to your needs and preferences. You can easily tweak the extent of color or texture difference for rejection. This offers you additional control over your products. For instance, you can choose different parameters to sort products into multiple categories based on consumer preferences.
5. High Efficiency
Compared with manual sorting, grain sorting machines save resources, save work, and offer high-efficiency levels with significantly lower production costs.
6. Provides a Great Return on Investment (ROI)
A grain sorter provides an excellent return on investment due to two key aspects. First, it is closer to a one-time investment. Secondly, the machine incurs low maintenance costs.
7. You Can Save on Labor
Since color sorters are automated, they help you reduce labor and management costs. Employing grain sorters also reduces the accepted error margin significantly, which is mainly attributed to human errors.
What Grains Can Be Sorted by The Grain Sorter?
You can use a color sorter to sort any of the grains below:
- Wheat – helps you eliminate stem, undesired husks, and different types of foreign impurities such as glass, sand, and more. The principle is to use black impurities and wheat surface color depth to weed out low-quality produce. Defect that you can remove include ergot discoloration, DON, broken wheat, and insect-damaged wheat.
- Corn – you can separate fruit, shells, corn with mildew, corn stalk, rotten corn, split seeds, and black corn. The machine can also remove many types of foreign impurities, including glass and sand.
- Sorghum – a grain sorter is effective for both roasted and green beans. It helps remove spoiled coffee beans and overly roasted beans as well as any impurities.
- Oats – helps eliminate oat seeds, stems, and other impurities like tiny sticks and stones. You can also separate the oat leaves into various categories based on shape and color (rolled oats, malted oats, hulled oats, kilned oats, and unhulled oats).
- Rye – you can separate rye pellets and plastic flakes into categories based on color and types.
- Rice – rice sorting is conducted using a special type of color sorter that utilizes optoelectronic technology. This technology sorts based on different constituent parts of rice color and automatically removes any impurities present in the batch. You can also use this type of grain sorter to separate grains such as millet by color.
Other grains or food items that you can separate using a color sorter include buckwheat, millet, beans, cereal, tea leaves, seeds, seafood, spices, and nuts.
Definitive Guide: What Should I Consider When Buying a Grain Sorter?
1. Sorting Needs
This is one of the most important considerations to make before buying a grain sorter. It would be best if you clarified your grain processing needs. Ask yourself these questions. What materials do you need to sort? What’s the capacity you can handle in a day? How much space do you have at your disposal?
Most modern grain sorters are space-efficient and compact. Nonetheless, these machines still take considerable amounts of space. You will also need functional space around the machines. These are the consideration you must have in mind.
2. Accessories and features
While most grain sorters have several essential functions and features, some machines possess additional features that can be beneficial. For instance, a sorting machine with both front and rear-facing cameras is preferable over one with only the front cameras. The rear section of the optical detection chamber tends to accumulate dust easily, thus reducing production efficiency and increasing maintenance costs.
Also, some grain sorters come with automatic dust extraction devices that remove any dust automatically at start-up. It’s not difficult to see why the choice of features influences the stable operation of a grain sorter.
3. Ease of Use
Nobody wants to use an overly complicated sorting machine. A good grain sorter should be simple to use as this saves time and reduces the chances of errors. It’s no use purchasing a feature-rich grain sorter that your staff will find difficult to operate.
Your staff should be able to learn how to use the machines within a short period. In this regard, the resources you are ready to invest to train staff is an essential factor.
Some sorters are more complex and require sufficient staff training to operate safely and efficiently. These tend to have more features. Some machines have fewer features and thus require less training. You’ll have to determine what’s more important to you; Number of features or simplicity.
4. Processing Capacity
The processing capacity of a grain sorter is the number of products that the machine can process within a specific timeline. The processing capacity is determined by the speed of the serving or feeding system (conveyer belt maximum speed) and the number of impurities in your raw material.
5. Level and Quality of Customer Support
One sign of a great grain sorting machine vendor is a high level of customer support. There is always the chance that your sorting machines will break down. You may want some help regarding software operation or maintenance.
In these instances, your vendor should be able to provide immediate high-quality support to get production up and running as soon as possible. You can gauge a company’s level of customer support by making inquiries. Reputable companies take customer care seriously and have a system in place to reply to your queries quickly and satisfactorily.
6. Sorting Accuracy
An effective grain sorter is a highly accurate one that selects high-quality materials. One of the technical indicators for evaluating the performance of a grain sorter is the net selection rate. The higher the rate, the cleaner the selection.
Fortunately, the top grain sorters in the market have an accuracy rating above 99 percent. Any sorting machine with a rating lower than this may lead to lower quality products.
7. Wide Sorting Range
A suitable grain sorter has a wide sorting range. This means that it should be able to separate a wide range of items according to various selection parameters and criteria. These parameters may include colors, sizes, and shapes. Ideally, you should opt for a sorting machine capable of sorting many types of products according to a wide variety of colors, sizes, and shapes.
8. Machine Uptime
Top-quality grain sorters guarantee a high amount of machine uptime. A sophisticated and feature-packed sorting machine that breaks down frequently is not only highly inconveniencing but leads to increased maintenance and opportunity loss costs. A high grain sorter uptime level is essential for factory productivity and business output.
9. Image Correction Technology
It is important to consider the grain sorter’s technology to detect the items moving through the machine. A sorting machine utilizing outdated technology (such as photoelectric color sorting) won’t identify and eliminate unwanted materials with a high level of accuracy. It is good practice to always choose models employing the latest technological standards.
The Types of Grain Sorter Machines
There are two main broad categories of grain sorter machines. These are the belt type and chute type sorting machines:
1. Belt Type Grain Sorters
In the belt type sorting machines, the product to be sorted moves on conveyor belts. Belt type sorters break a smaller amount of the material, and the product stays primarily static during the transportation process as it moves along the belt. The belt structure ensures a stable and smooth transmission without much bouncing off the material.
For these reasons, you use belt-type color sorters to sort nuts, raisins, various seeds, chili, seafood, sugar, and salt. They have an advantage over chute-type sorters in that they are less limited, offering multiple applications. Also, belt-type sorters have a higher sorting accuracy and a low carryover ratio.
2.Chute Type Grain Sorters
In chute-type grain sorters, gravity is utilized to slide the material down special channels(chutes) based on the type of material, shape, and size. Chute type sorters are used for specific products since the tube has a unique channel design for materials based on the criteria mentioned above.
Chute-type grain sorters have higher capacities and are cheaper than belt-type sorters. However, they do have one notable drawback. The vertical movement of material in chutes results in friction and collisions, thus affecting the ratio of broken products.
Chute type grain sorters are used to sort rice, corn, wheat, sorghum, millet, oats, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, soybeans, cardamom, some seeds, and various types of beans.
It’s worth noting that multilayer color sorters employ both belt type and chute type technologies in one machine. These types of color sorters are used to sort different varieties of tea.
The Cost of Buying a Grain Sorter from China
There are multiple aspects regarding the cost of purchasing a grain color sorter from China. Depending on your jurisdiction, you have the actual product price, the shipping costs, import declaration fees, and other taxes.
For shipping costs, you have to contact your chosen vendor for the details. Lower shipping costs or free shipping are always a plus. For import duties, you have to visit the official website of the relevant authority in your jurisdiction.
The price of color grain sorters varied considerably. The product prices factor in certain aspects, including size, accessories/features, sophistication, and functionality. From most B2B sources, on the lowest end, small and simpler grain sorters cost around $8,000-$16,000.
On the higher end, the cost of advanced, multi-use, feature-packed industrial grain sorters can exceed $50,000. Note that these are rough approximations. The price may vary significantly based on the factors mentioned above and your product specifications.
Definitive FAQs Guide to Importing a Grain Sorter from China
1. Are spare parts easy to buy in my area?
Yes. Most local stores can easily obtain the spare parts of the different grain sorters, including CCD cameras, chipsets, lighting, ejectors, chute, and valves. You can also source spare parts from online stores.
2. Do you accept single grain sorting machine orders?
Yes, you can purchase one sorting machine. We supply the machines based on a per-piece model.
3. Do you provide after-sale services and technical support?
We have a dedicated crew ready to visit your processing plant to ensure proper setup and calibration. We also provide free on-site repair and maintenance services within your warranty period, as well as extra easily worn components with every grain sorting machine. We also offer full-scale technical support.
4. What is your warranty policy?
We pride ourselves on being a trustable supplier for quality grain processing solutions. To this end, we offer a quality warranty of 2 years. If any issues arise within the warranty period, we can deliver spare parts for replacement within 24 hours. Our professional on-site repair services are free.
5. How long will it take for me to receive my grain sorter machine?
Shipping goods internationally takes time. For instance, shipping from China to the West Coast and East Coast of the United States takes about 14 days and 30 days, respectively. It can take up to 2 months for other locations around the globe.
Also, it can take an additional seven days when you factor in documentation, customs clearance, terminal handling, and inland travel. Generally, it is advisable to place your order at least three months before you need the goods at your door.
Color sorting is crucial in today’s food processing industries to ensure the best quality of bulk products and ensure you adhere to strict health and hygiene requirements for end products. Employing top-of-the-line grain sorters like Skysorter will improve your factory productivity, lower your operational costs, saves time, and increase profitability as well.
The information provided in this definitive guide will help you make the right decisions for your food processing lines when purchasing a grain sorting machine.