7,858,130 (Dec. 28, 2010), M. Malenke, et al., assigned to Nestec S.A., Vevey, Switzerland

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This automated system handles and transports pizza crusts or other stackable food products between formation and downstream production operations. The system can use a combination of a fluffer assembly, an unstacker assembly and an accumulator assembly. The fluffer assembly makes lateral and vertical movement relative to a stack of food products. The unstacker features a loader for receiving a fluffed stack of food products, and lift platforms are arranged on opposite lateral sides of the picking mechanism for reciprocal up-and-down movement. The accumulator assembly temporarily collects food products received via a conveyor from the unstacker assembly or directly from a transport mechanism that was previously loaded with singulated product. It then dispenses the products individually at an approximately regular pitch onto another conveyor that transports food products to a handling unit.