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Vacuum based pill singulator and counter based thereon

Image Number 11 for United States Patent #8020724.

A singulating disc, carried by a housing, has a plurality of openings around its periphery. The disc rotates vertically through a pickup chamber of a hopper carried by the housing. A vacuum is pulled through the openings by a pump which is connected to the disc. Items are placed in the hopper and, via gravity, fall to the bottom of the hopper where they contact the periphery of the rotating disc. The vacuum at the openings attaches an item and holds it while the disc rotates. At the top of the disc's rotation, a diverter directs the item into a path depending on the results of a fragment detection and/or counting mechanism. Items that are allowed to pass by the diverter are scraped off the disc into another path by a scraper. Negative pressure is used to singulate and count a multitude of sizes and shapes of items with no calibration. Retractable paddles, a vacuum management system, and RFID tags may be incorporated. The paddles aid in the pickup and agitation of the items while the vacuum management system conserves the vacuum capacity necessary to pickup and singulate items. The RFID tags may contain information such as the number of items left in the hopper, a par level for that item, an expiration date, among others. Because of the rules governing abstracts, this abstract should not be used to construe the claims.

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