While hand sorting systems do work, they are not capable of the high-speed action of automated optical sorting systems. In some applications, such as the recycling of papers and glass, optical sorting systems are also more accurate than human sorting.
Optical sorting systems are used for multiple purposes in many different industries. They can be used in recycling plants to separate metals, plastics, papers, and glass from each other. In addition to sorting by material, optical systems are also capable of sorting by color and resin type. Especially in applications where large quantities of broken and mixed glass need to be sorted, optical sorting machines can be very advantageous. Despite the many advantages apparent over human vision, machine vision is inherently limited.
Even with nearly continual advancements of both hardware and software pertaining to this highly skilled field, computer vision programs lack the ability to adapt beyond pre-determined algorithms as human vision so aptly does. Machine vision works best when performing narrowly defined tasks, though continued advancements continually improve the performance possibilities of this technology.
Optical sorting systems can also be used in the food industry to remove pits from cherries and unwanted or damaged nuts from good ones. Infrared light can be used to “see” the interiors of foods in order to remove those affected by fungus or rotting. Optical sorting machines are also used to remove contaminants from popcorn, coffee, rice, and other food products. Optical sorting systems can also be come in a number of other configurations such as vision sensors, vision inspection systems, robotic vision, optical inspection systems, magnetic imaging, machine vision, laser inspection, CCD cameras and much more.