Bühler pays tribute to company stalwart and pioneer of the world’s first SORTEX sorter

28 May 20203 min reading
Herbert Max Fraenkel

Former colleagues remember ‘father of optical sorting’ and ‘larger than life’ inventor and engineer Herbert Max Fraenkel who sadly passed away aged 95, at home in London.

SORTEX G1, world’s first Sortex Sorter, launched in 1947.

Bühler, the global leader in food processing and optical sorting solutions, has paid tribute to inventor and highly-respected engineer Herbert Max Fraenkel, who helped to design the world’s first Sortex Sorter known as the SORTEX G1, launched in 1947.

Having started as an apprentice, who remained at Bühler until retirement, Fraenkel quickly established himself as an instrumental part of the business and many of the early patents, if not all, were thanks to his tenacity and expertise.

Following news of his death, friend and colleague Ben Deefholts, senior research engineer, Bühler Sortex, said during the early days, Fraenkel was ultimately responsible for specifying every machine that went into manufacturing, and could often be found tinkering with the machines for special applications almost as they were being packed.

He took on some big projects during his career, including the development and launch of the 2024 frozen food sorter, which Birds Eye and many other large multinationals installed.

Thanks to his continuous dedication, The Bühler Group paid tribute to Fraenkel in its 60th anniversary Sortex sorting book in 2007, explaining how he started as an assistant to Hungarian scientist, Dr. Okolicsanyl and together they worked to research and find a technological breakthrough to speed up the practice of manually handpicking seeds.

He and the research team at Bühler Sortex gave the world’s first demonstration of sorting, on the SORTEX G1, using a combination of optical inspection and electrostatic deflection. This forerunner to all modern day optical sorters, was extremely versatile and could sort, peas, beans, corn, small grains such as rice, coffee, beans, nuts and other similar sized foods.

Hamid Kefayati, head of single machine business, Bühler, said: “When I joined Bühler Sortex back in 1997, Herbert had been working for the company for 50 years or so. I was told by colleagues that he was the father of optical sorting as we know it today.

“Knowing Herbert, his achievements and lifelong commitment to the company, I understand why. He was a true gentleman with a great deal of technical knowhow which is part of the 70 year sorting history of the company.”

Bruno Kilshaw, managing director, Bühler Sortex (1993 to 2011) added: “Herbert personified Sortex and he’d been prominent from its beginning until he retired. He was devoted to the company. Physically, and in his demeanour, he resembled a benevolent uncle and a science professor, with a wide face, bearing glasses and topped with white, curly hair.

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