The “Sticktight” Problem — Inspection Masters, LLC was formed in 2000 to commercialize the PS-10,000, an in-shell pecan “sticktight” sorter developed by Roger Holt, I.M.’s founder and CEO. Sticktights are in-shell pecans from which the outer hull failed to separate during mechanical de-hulling. At that time, separation of sticktights was performed either by visual inspection and hand picking by multiple workers, or by an infrared diode based sorter made by a company that has since abandoned the business.
The PS-10,000 Difference — Instead of diode detectors, the PS-10,000 used a high speed digital camera to capture near infrared (NIR) images of pecans. Custom software processed the images to detect sticktights, which were then ejected by air jets. Sorting labor was typically reduced from as many as a dozen or more to just a few inspectors.
From 2000 through 2009, I.M. sold more than 80 PS-10,000 sorters to pecan growers from Arizona to Georgia. These PS-10,000s have sorted well over half a billion pounds of in-shell pecans over the years. All PS-10,000s installed to date are still in service, except those that have been replaced by more advanced I.M. equipment.
The Next Generation — In 2009, I.M. introduced the PS-6,000 and in 2010, the PS-12,000. Both were a dramatic advance on the PS-10,000. They shared an advanced color imaging system rather than the NIR system in the PS-10,000. In addition to sticktights, small sticks and most other foreign material was also sorted out. Both utilized a vibratory feed system that is simpler and maintenance-free compared to the rod belt feed system in the PS-10,000.
The Next Tree Nut Market — In 2010, I.M. sold and installed its first WS-12,000, a sorter for the in-shell walnut market based on the PS-12,000. Since then, the WS-12,000 has found a place in numerous in-shell sorting applications in California.
Dual Spectrum Imaging — In 2011, I.M. introduced Dual Spectrum Imaging™ to its pecan and walnut sorters. By incorporating simultaneous NIR and color imaging, the PS-6,000/DS and PS-12,000/DS and WS-12,000/DS achieved even higher levels of sorting accuracy across a broader range of product defects.
Our Third Tree Nut – and First International Market – 2012 marked I.M.’s entry into the in-shell macadamia sorting market with the introduction of the MS-15,000/DS.
The + in Dual Spectrum+ — As part of our program of continuous improvement, I.M. added shape and size recognition to its detection software for 2013. If an object is simply too large or too small to be an in-shell nut, we can now eject it regardless of whether it meets our NIR and color reject criteria. Similarly, if it’s just the wrong shape — such as most sticks — it will be ejected also. Thus, all of our 2013 sorters all have four different systems for detecting rejects — NIR, color, size and shape. We call it Dual Spectrum+ Imaging, and it’s exclusive to I.M. among in-shell sorter suppliers.
WHS Series Walnut Hulling Line Sorter – In 2011, I.M. began an effort to bring its advanced technology to the walnut hulling line. After 4 years of development and field trials, the WHS Series Walnut Hulling Line Sorters were introduced in late 2014. Among the exclusive features are:
- Dual Sort in a Single Pass.
- Tightly spaced, computer controlled, pulsed air ejectors.
- Cameras separated and shielded from ejectors.
The WHS Series sorters have already begun to earn a place in hulling lines in Chile, France and California. WHS Series sorters are available from 10-30 tons per hour. For more details, click here.
I.M. Today — I.M. operates from an 8,500 sq. ft. facility in Las Cruces, NM, the heart of the southwest pecan growing region. We recently also opened a sales and service facility in Woodland, California. Our mission is to continue to develop and manufacture advanced optical sorting systems for the entire in-shell tree nut industry. Our customers are served by representatives across the southern tier of the U.S. and Hawaii. Internationally, we have representation in Australia, Chile, France, Mexico and South Africa. We also work closely with several OEM Partners who embed our sorters in their complete processing plants. Or, you can contact us directly with any questions about our products and how they may fit your application.