US20090165492A1 - Icemaker combination assembly - Google Patents

Icemaker combination assembly Download PDF

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Publication number
US20090165492A1
US20090165492A1 US12005997 US599707A US2009165492A1 US 20090165492 A1 US20090165492 A1 US 20090165492A1 US 12005997 US12005997 US 12005997 US 599707 A US599707 A US 599707A US 2009165492 A1 US2009165492 A1 US 2009165492A1
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Prior art keywords
ice
icemaker
fresh food
freezer
refrigerator
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Abandoned
Application number
US12005997
Inventor
Mark Wayne Wilson
William T. Moon
Paul Robert Surowiec
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General Electric Co
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General Electric Co
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    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25CPRODUCING, WORKING OR HANDLING ICE
    • F25C5/00Working or handling ice
    • F25C5/18Storing ice
    • F25C5/182Ice bins therefor
    • F25C5/187Ice bins therefor with ice level sensing means
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25CPRODUCING, WORKING OR HANDLING ICE
    • F25C1/00Producing ice
    • F25C1/10Producing ice by using rotating or otherwise moving moulds
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25CPRODUCING, WORKING OR HANDLING ICE
    • F25C5/00Working or handling ice
    • F25C5/02Apparatus for disintegrating, removing or harvesting ice
    • F25C5/04Apparatus for disintegrating, removing or harvesting ice without the use of saws
    • F25C5/046Ice-crusher machines
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25CPRODUCING, WORKING OR HANDLING ICE
    • F25C2305/00Special arrangements or features for working or handling ice
    • F25C2305/022Harvesting ice including rotating or tilting or pivoting of a mould or tray
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25CPRODUCING, WORKING OR HANDLING ICE
    • F25C2400/00Auxiliary features or devices for producing, working or handling ice
    • F25C2400/06Multiple ice moulds or trays therefor
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25CPRODUCING, WORKING OR HANDLING ICE
    • F25C2400/00Auxiliary features or devices for producing, working or handling ice
    • F25C2400/10Refrigerator units
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25CPRODUCING, WORKING OR HANDLING ICE
    • F25C2700/00Sensing or detecting of parameters; Sensors therefor
    • F25C2700/06Rotation angle of the ejector ejecting ice from a stationary mould
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25CPRODUCING, WORKING OR HANDLING ICE
    • F25C2700/00Sensing or detecting of parameters; Sensors therefor
    • F25C2700/12Temperature of ice trays

Abstract

In accordance with the present disclosure, an icemaker combination assembly is provided and comprises a refrigerator having a freezer compartment and a fresh food compartment. The freezer compartment can have a freezer door assembly and the fresh food compartment can have a fresh food door assembly. The icemaker combination further comprises a first icemaker having a first ice cube storage bin disposed within the freezer compartment and a second icemaker having a second ice cube storage bin disposed within the fresh food compartment. The first and second icemakers having a production activation level selected from the group consisting of the first icemaker active only, the second icemaker active only, the first and the second icemakers both active, and the first and the second icemakers both inactive. The first and second icemakers can selectively and simultaneously produce and independently store ice.

Description

    BACKGROUND
  • This disclosure relates generally to a plurality of icemakers for a refrigerator and freezer combination appliance having independent and dual ice production, storage, and access.
  • A conventional automatic through-the-door icemaker in a typical residential refrigerator appliance has three major subsystems: an icemaker, a bucket with an auger and ice crusher, and a dispenser insert in the freezer door that allows the ice to be delivered to a cup without opening the door.
  • In one arrangement, a freezer can have a metal mold that makes between six to ten ice cubes at a time. The mold is filled with water at one end and the water evenly fills the ice cube sections through weirs (shallow parts of the dividers between each cube section) that connect the sections. Opening a valve on the water supply line for a predetermined period of time usually controls the amount of water. The temperature in the freezer compartment is usually between about −10 degrees Fahrenheit to about +10 degrees Fahrenheit. The mold can be cooled by conduction with the freezer air, and the rate of cooling is enhanced by convection of the freezer air, especially when the evaporator fan is operating. A temperature-sensing device in thermal contact with the ice cube mold generates temperature signals and a controller, monitoring the temperature signals indicates when the ice is ready to be removed from the mold. When the ice cubes are ready, a motor in the icemaker drives a rake in an angular motion. The rake pushes against the cubes to force them out of the mold. A heater on the bottom of the mold is turned on to melt the interface between the ice and the metal mold. When the interface is sufficiently melted, the rake is able to push the cubes out of the mold. Because the rake pivots on a central axis, the cross-sectional shape of the mold typically is an arc of a circle to allow the ice to be pushed out.
  • After the ice is harvested, a feeler arm, usually driven by the same motor as the rake, is raised from and lowered into the storage bucket. If the arm cannot reach its predetermined low travel set point, it is assumed that the ice bucket is full and the icemaker will not harvest until more ice has been removed from the bucket. If the feeler arm returns to its low travel set point, the ice making cycle repeats.
  • The ice storage bucket holds and transports ice to the dispenser in either crushed or whole cube form. If a user requests ice at the dispenser a motor drives an auger that pushes the ice to the front of the bucket where a crusher is located. The position of a door, controlled by a solenoid, determines whether or not the cubes will go through the crusher or by-pass it and be delivered as whole cubes. The crusher has sets of stationary and rotating blades that break the cubes as the blades pass each other. The crushed or whole cubes then drop into the dispenser chute.
  • The dispenser chute connects the interior of the freezer with the dispenser and usually has a door, activated by a solenoid, that opens when the user requests ice. The dispenser has switches that permit the user to select crushed or whole cubes, or water to be delivered to the glass. The dispenser may have a switch that senses the presence of a glass and starts the auger motor and opens the chute door.
  • Occasionally, the ice cubes that are stored in the storage bucket fuse together in large clusters of cubes. These fused clusters are much more difficult for the crusher to break up, raising the crushing design requirements for the mechanism and occasionally causing damage. Additionally, the designs of most conventional icemaker systems use substantial portions of the freezer compartment volume, typically 25%-30%.
  • Accordingly, there is a need in the art for an improved icemaker combination assembly that provides convenient light usage of ice, provides selectively enough ice to supply high demand, and balances the icemaker volume requirements and resultant usable storage volume, i.e. available space, in the freezer and fresh food compartments.
  • SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE
  • In accordance with one aspect of the disclosure, an icemaker combination assembly is disposed within a refrigerator having a freezer compartment, a fresh food compartment and respective freezer and fresh food door assemblies. The icemaker combination includes a first icemaker having a first ice cube storage bin removably disposed within the freezer compartment and a second icemaker having a second ice cube storage bin disposed within the fresh food compartment. The first and second icemakers can selectively and simultaneously produce and independently store ice.
  • In accordance with another aspect of the disclosure, an icemaker combination assembly comprises a refrigerator having a freezer compartment and a fresh food compartment. The freezer compartment can have a freezer door assembly and the fresh food compartment can have a fresh food door assembly. The icemaker combination further comprises a first icemaker having a first ice cube storage bin removably disposed within the freezer compartment and a second icemaker having a second ice cube storage bin removably disposed within the fresh food compartment. The first and second icemakers can selectively and simultaneously produce ice and the second ice cube storage bin is selectively mounted onto the fresh food door assembly for dispensing of the ice through the fresh food door.
  • In accordance with still another aspect of the disclosure, an icemaker combination assembly comprises a refrigerator having a freezer compartment and a fresh food compartment. The freezer compartment having a freezer door assembly and the fresh food compartment having a fresh food door assembly. The icemaker combination further comprises a first icemaker having a first ice cube storage bin disposed within the freezer compartment and a second icemaker having a second ice cube storage bin disposed within the fresh food compartment. The combination first and second icemakers having a production activation level selected from the group consisting of the first icemaker active only, the second icemaker active only, the first and the second icemakers both active, and the first and the second icemakers both inactive.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a side-by-side refrigerator with the access doors open;
  • FIG. 2 is a part schematic side elevational view of a refrigerator including one exemplary embodiment of an ice maker according to the instant disclosure;
  • FIG. 3 is a front perspective view of a bottom freezer refrigerator with the access doors closed including dual icemakers;
  • FIG. 4 is a front perspective view of a bottom freezer refrigerator with one access door open showing one of the exemplary icemakers;
  • FIG. 5 is a cross sectional view of another exemplary embodiment of an icemaker; and,
  • FIG. 6 is a front perspective view of a bottom freezer refrigerator with the access doors open showing both exemplary icemakers.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a side-by-side refrigerator 10 including a freezer compartment 12 and a fresh food compartment 14. Freezer compartment 12 and fresh food compartment 14 are arranged side-by-side. A side-by-side refrigerator such as refrigerator 10 is commercially available from General Electric Company, Appliance Park, Louisville, Ky. 40225.
  • Refrigerator 10 includes an outer case 16 and inner liners 18 and 20. The space between case 16 and liners 18 and 20, and between liners 18 and 20, is typically filled with foamed-in-place insulation. Outer case 16 normally is formed by folding a sheet of a suitable material, such as pre-painted steel, into an inverted U-shape to form the top and side walls of case 16. The bottom wall of case 16 normally is formed separately and attached to the sidewalls and to a bottom frame that provides support for refrigerator 10. Inner liners 18 and 20 are typically molded from a suitable plastic material to form freezer compartment 12 and fresh food compartment 14, respectively. Alternatively, liners 18 and 20 may be formed by bending and welding a sheet of a suitable metal, such as steel. The illustrative embodiment includes two separate liners 18 and 20 as it is a relatively large capacity unit and separate liners add strength and are easier to maintain within manufacturing tolerances. In smaller refrigerators, a single liner is formed and a mullion spans between opposite sides of the liner to divide it into freezer compartment 12 and fresh food compartment 14.
  • A breaker strip 22 extends between the case front flange and the outer front edges of liners 18 and 20. Breaker strip 22 is formed from a suitable resilient material, such as an extruded acrylo-butadiene-styrene based material (commonly referred to as ABS).
  • The insulation in the space between liners 18 and 20 can be covered by another strip of resilient material 24, which is commonly referred to as the mullion. Mullion 24 is preferably formed of an extruded ABS material. It will be understood that in a refrigerator with a separate mullion dividing a unitary liner into a freezer and fresh food compartment, the front face member of that mullion corresponds to mullion 24. Breaker strip 22 and mullion 24 form a front face, and extend completely around the inner peripheral edges of case 16 and vertically between liners 18 and 20. Mullion 24, insulation between compartments 12 and 14, and the spaced wall of liners 18 and 20 separating compartments 12 and 14, sometimes are collectively referred to as the center mullion wall.
  • Shelves 26 and drawers 28 normally are provided in fresh food compartment 14 to support items being stored therein. Similarly, shelves 30 and wire baskets 32 or the like are provided in freezer compartment 12. In addition, freezer compartment 12 also typically includes an icemaker 34.
  • A freezer door 36 and a fresh food door 38 close the access openings to freezer and fresh food compartments 12 and 14, respectively. Each door 36, 38 is mounted by a top hinge 40 and a bottom hinge (not shown) to rotate about its outer vertical edge between an open position, as shown in FIG. 1, and a closed position closing the associated storage compartment. Freezer door 36 typically includes a plurality of storage shelves 42 and fresh food door 38 typically includes a plurality of storage shelves 44 and a butter storage bin 46.
  • In accordance with one appliance arrangement, a refrigerator 200 (FIGS. 3 and 4) can include a machinery compartment (not shown) that at least partially contains components for executing a known vapor compression cycle for cooling air. The components include a compressor (not shown), a condenser (not shown), an expansion device (not shown), and an evaporator (not shown) connected in series and charged with a refrigerant. The evaporator is a type of heat exchanger which transfers heat from air passing over the evaporator to a refrigerant flowing through the evaporator, thereby causing the refrigerant to vaporize. The cooled air is used to refrigerate one or more refrigerator or freezer compartments via fans (not shown).
  • Collectively, the vapor compression cycle components in a refrigeration circuit, associated fans, and associated compartments are referred to herein as a sealed system. The construction of the sealed system is well known and therefore not described in detail herein, and the sealed system is operable to force cold air through the refrigerator.
  • In accordance with one embodiment of the instant disclosure, a first icemaker assembly 100 (FIG. 2) can be disposed within a fresh food compartment 214 (see FIGS. 3 and 4). It is to be appreciated that the exemplary icemaker 100 is for illustrative purposes only and is not limited to the specific icemaker described hereinafter.
  • Icemaker assembly 100 includes a conveyor assembly 102, a first motor 104 drivingly coupled to conveyor assembly 102, a second motor 106 drivingly coupled to an ice crusher 108 and an auger mechanism 109, a refill valve 110 positioned adjacent to conveyor assembly 102, a first ice cube storage bin 112, and a controller 116 electrically coupled to first motor 104 and second motor 106.
  • Conveyor assembly 102 can be positioned within fresh food compartment 214, for example, within a top portion of fresh food compartment 214, defined by a fresh food liner 220 and fresh food door 238 (FIGS. 3 and 4). Conveyor assembly 102 comprises at least a front roller 120 and a rear roller 122 and a continuous flexible conveyor belt 124 fitted in tension about front and rear rollers 120, 122. In one embodiment, flexible conveyer belt 124 is made of a flexible polymer. In illustrative examples flexible conveyer belt 124 is made from a thermoplastic elastomer, butyl rubber, chlorobutyl rubber, natural rubber, synthetic rubber, neoprene rubber, polyurethane, ethylene-propylene-diene modified, ethylene-propylene rubber, silicone rubber or the like. Silicone rubber is particularly preferred.
  • A multiplicity of individual ice cube molds 126 are disposed within or upon conveyor belt 124 for creation of individual ice cubes 128 therein. Typically, ice cube molds 126 are molded directly into the material of flexible conveyor belt 124. In an alternative embodiment, ice cube molds 126 are made of a rigid material and are fixedly attached to conveyor belt 124. The rigid material can be, for example, polypropylene, polyethylene, nylon, ABS, or the like.
  • Flexible conveyor belt 124 dimensions can vary depending upon the size of fresh food compartment 214 and the desired ice cube 128 output for a respective fresh food icemaker assembly 100. Typically, a nominal linear length (l) of flexible conveyor belt 124 is in the range between about 12 inches to about 18 inches, a nominal width (w) is in the range between about 3 inches to about 8 inches and a nominal depth (d) is in the range between about 0.5 inches to about 1.5 inches.
  • As discussed above, the number of separate ice cube molds 126 is dependent upon the desired ice making capacity, but a nominal number of individual ice cube molds 126 is in the range between about 20 to about 300 divided into a nominal number of rows (r) in the range between about 10 to about 30 and a nominal number of columns (c) in the range between about 2 to about 10. The dimensions of an individual ice cube mold 126 can vary depending on the size of ice cubes 128 desired but a nominal length (x) is in the range between about 0.75 inches to about 2 inches, and a nominal width (y) is in the range between about 0.5 inches to about 1.5 inches. Also, a variety of cube shapes can be used, including any conventional or unconventional shapes.
  • First motor 104 (FIG. 2) is drivingly coupled to conveyor assembly 102. When energized, first motor 104 drives rear roller 122 (or alternatively front roller 120) causing conveyor belt 124 to rotate rear-to-front. A portion of ice cube molds 126 face generally upward during ice cube 128 formation. As conveyor belt 124 rotates forward over front roller 120, a portion of ice cube molds 126 face generally downward and ice cubes 128 frozen within are gravity fed into first ice cube storage bin 112. In one embodiment, first ice cube storage bin 112 is disposed within fresh food door 238 (FIG. 4). First ice cube storage bin 112 can be molded directly into fresh food door assembly 238 or first ice cube storage bin 112 can be fixedly attached to or removeably disposed within a portion of fresh food door assembly 238. A harvester bar 129 can be positioned adjacent to front roller 120 so as to contact a portion of each respective ice cube 128 (as ice cube molds 126 rotate forward over front roller 120) and assist ice cubes 128 to eject from ice cube molds 126.
  • As shown best in FIG. 2, the position of front roller 120 is aligned with a top portion 130 of first ice cube storage bin 112 (when fresh food door 238 is in a closed position) such that ice cubes 128 frozen within conveyor belt 124 are gravity fed into first ice cube storage bin 112 as conveyor belt 124 rotates forward over front roller 120.
  • Refill valve 110 is positioned within fresh food compartment 214 generally positioned above at least one and typically a row 132 of ice cube molds 126. Refill valve 110 is actuated when a belt position sensor 133 (optical, mechanical, proximity switch or the like) generates a signal to controller 116 indicating that belt 124 is in the correct position for refill. In one embodiment, belt position sensor 133 detects holes that are punched though a band that extends from the bottom web of conveyor belt 124 past a sidewall of a respective ice cube mold 126. An IR LED positioned adjacent, typically above, the band emits light that reaches a photodiode positioned below the band only when a hole passes between the two optical devices. An electronic circuit determines whether the hole is present by processing the signal from the photodiode. If the hole is between the LED and the photodiode, the circuitry stops first motor 104 and commences a water dose.
  • Typically, refill valve 110 is positioned within a machine or mechanical compartment (not shown). An inlet tubing 134 to refill valve 110 enters fresh food compartment 214 from a rear wall of the liner 220. A fill tube 136 connected to inlet tube 134 delivers water to a respective row 132 of ice cube molds 126 at a portion of belt 124, typically adjacent to rear roller 122.
  • Second motor 106 (FIG. 2) can be positioned within fresh food door 238 and is drivingly coupled to ice crusher 108, which ice crusher 108 either crushes ice cubes 128 or delivers whole ice cubes 128 depending on the user selection. An end user by means of a push button 138, or similar actuation device selectively controls second motor 106.
  • First motor 104 is energized when the fullness of ice cubes 128 in first ice cube storage bin 112 falls below a preset fill level and an ice-ready sensor 142 generates a signal to controller 116 that a respective row 132 of ice cubes 128 to be delivered is frozen. If a first fullness sensor 144 disposed within or about first ice cube storage bin 112 generates a signal to controller 116 that the level of ice cubes 128 within first ice cube storage bin 112 has dropped below a preset fill level, a cycle is initiated and first motor 104 advances conveyor belt 124 one full row 132 of ice cube molds 126 and refill valve 110 delivers water to a row of empty molds 126.
  • In one embodiment, ice-ready sensor 142 is a temperature sensor such as a thermistor or a thermocouple in sliding contact with belt 124 adjacent front roller 120 where ice cubes 128 are delivered. Depending on the design of belt 124 and the airflow of refrigerator 200 various algorithms can be used to determine ice readiness from a temperature sensor. Time and temperature can be integrated to provide a degree-minute set point beyond which it is known that the ice is frozen. Alternatively a temperature cutoff can be used below which it is known that the ice is frozen. This temperature cutoff will typically be about 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Another ice-ready sensor 142 is based on capacitance. The capacitance sensor is positioned below belt 124 near front roller 120. The sensor is part of a capacitance bridge circuit. An excitation frequency is applied to the bridge. The bridge is balanced such that when a respective ice cube mold 126 is empty the voltage across the bridge is nearly zero. When water is in a respective ice cube mold 126, the capacitance reading of ice-ready sensor 142 increases dramatically, because the dielectric constant of water is about 80 times that of air, causing the bridge to become unbalanced. Thus the voltage signal sensed by controller 116 increases dramatically when water is in a respective ice cube mold 126. As the water freezes, the dielectric constant decreases to about 6 times that of air, reducing the imbalance of the bridge and decreasing the signal sent by ice-ready sensor 142 to controller 116. Alternatively, the bridge can be balanced such that the output is nearly zero when water is present in the mold, in which case the bridge becomes more unbalanced when the water freezes, and a large output indicates that the ice is ready.
  • In operation, if a system user presses push button 138, a signal is generated and controller 116 energizes second motor 106 and ice cubes 128 are delivered by auger mechanism 109 from first ice cube storage bin 112 to a conventional ice dispenser. As with most conventional delivery systems, a system user can select either crushed ice or whole cubes to be delivered (or water in most systems). If a user selects crushed ice, ice cubes 128 are fed from first ice cube storage bin 112 to crusher 108. Second motor 106 activates crusher 108 and sets of rotating and stationary blades break up the cubes as the blades pass each other, and the crushed ice is delivered to the system user. If a user selects whole ice cubes, crusher 108 is bypassed, via chute 148 and path selector 149, and whole ice cubes 128 are delivered to the system user.
  • Ice cubes 128 tend to stick tightly to most materials, and in their hard-frozen state, they lend substantial rigidity to any mold they may be frozen to. This may make it difficult to eject ice cubes 128 in a hard-frozen state. Ice cubes in automatic icemakers are usually melted by a heating element so as to produce a thin film of liquid water between the ice cubes and the molds. This film makes it easy to dislodge the ice cubes from the molds.
  • In this embodiment, bases of ice cube molds 126 are affixed to the conveyor belt 124 on rectangular regions that are rigid and planar in the regions where sides of molds 126 contact belt 124, and that are somewhat flexible in the region of center of mold 126. The regions of belt 124 between these rectangular regions are flexible. The molds are not connected to belt 124 at any other place except the bases. Thus, when rows of molds 126 pass around front roller 120, a generally wedged shape region opens up between adjacent rows due to the fact that the tops of the molds are at a larger radius with respect to the roller shaft than the bases. Due to the rigidity and the planarity of the regions where the sides of the bases are attached to belt 124 and the flexibility of belt 124 between these regions, base regions in adjacent rows will naturally want to follow a polygonal shape rather than a circle, and in a preferred embodiment, such a shape is formed into the roller in the regions where the bases are rigid and the belt tension is adjusted to assure a tight fit between the polygon shape of the belt and that in the roller.
  • In this same embodiment, the region of the roller that contacts the central region of the molds is left in its original cylindrical form. In this embodiment, there are circumferential ridges disposed on roller 120 in the regions beneath centers of molds 126. In both embodiments, the roller regions beneath centers of molds 126 have a larger radius than the radius at which mold centers would travel in an unstrained condition, and they must deform in order to travel around the roller. This deformation will break the bond between ice cubes 128 and mold 126 and eject the ice cubes 128.
  • It should be noted that in order to fracture the bond between the ice cube and its mold, shear must be propagated all the way up the sides of the mold. This will happen if the sides of the mold are sufficiently rigid, but if they are too flexible the deformation induced at the base may not propagate all the way to the top. In this case a stiffener can be incorporated either within the sides of the molds or along an outside surface. In one embodiment (not shown) external stiffeners are used which also serve to stiffen the edges of the bases of the molds (as discussed above).
  • Referring now to FIGS. 3-6, a second exemplary icemaker assembly 300 is displayed therein and disposed a within freezer compartment 212. It is to be appreciated that the exemplary icemaker 300 is for illustrative purposes only and is not limited to the specific icemaker described hereinafter.
  • As will become evident below, ice maker 300, in accordance with conventional ice makers includes a number of electromechanical elements that manipulate a mold to shape ice as it freezes, a mechanism to remove or release frozen ice from the mold, and a primary ice bucket for storage of ice produced in the mold. Periodically, the ice supply is replenished by ice maker 300 as ice is removed from a freezer compartment ice bucket or primary ice bucket 368. The storage capacity of the primary ice bucket 368 provides increased ice capacity and is generally sufficient for bulk use of ice (i.e. ice bucket or cooler fill-up).
  • FIG. 5 displays a cross sectional view of the exemplary independent second icemaker 300. The icemaker 300 includes a metal mold 350 with a tray structure having a bottom wall 352, a front wall 354, and a back wall 356. A plurality of partition walls 358 extend transversely across mold 350 to define cavities in which ice pieces 360 are formed. Each partition wall 358 includes a recessed upper edge portion 362 through which water flows successively through each cavity to fill mold 350 with water.
  • A sheathed electrical resistance heating element 364 is press-fit, staked, and/or clamped into bottom wall 352 of mold 350 and heats mold 350 when a harvest cycle is executed to slightly melt ice pieces 360 and release them from the mold cavities. A rotating rake 366 sweeps through mold 350 as ice is harvested and ejects ice from mold 350 into the primary or second storage bin or second ice bucket 368. Cyclical operation of heater 364 and rake 366 are effected by a controller 370 disposed on a forward end of mold 350, and controller 370 also automatically provides for refilling mold 350 with water for ice formation after ice is harvested through actuation of a water valve (not shown in FIG. 5) connected to a water source (not shown) and delivering water to mold 350 through an inlet structure (not shown).
  • In order to sense a level of ice pieces 360 in storage bin 368, a controller actuates a cam-driven feeler arm 372 rotates underneath icemaker 300 and out over storage bin 368 as ice is formed. Feeler arm 372 is spring biased to an outward or “home” position that is used to initiate an ice harvest cycle, and is rotated inward and underneath icemaker by a cam slide mechanism (not shown) as ice is harvested from icemaker mold 350 so that the feeler arm does not obstruct ice from entering storage bin 368 and to prevent accumulation of ice above the feeler arm. After ice is harvested, the feeler arm is rotated outward from underneath icemaker 300, and when ice obstructs the feeler arm and prevents the feeler arm from reaching the home position, controller 370 discontinues harvesting because storage bin 368 is sufficiently full. As ice is removed from storage bin 368, feeler arm 372 gradually moves to its home position, thereby indicating a need for more ice and causing controller 370 to initiate formation and harvesting of ice pieces 360.
  • Freezer door or drawer 236 and fresh food doors 238, 239 close access openings to freezer and fresh food compartments 212, 214, respectively. Each door 238, 239 can be mounted by a top hinge 250 and a bottom hinge 252 to rotate about its outer vertical edge between an open position, as shown in FIG. 6, and a closed position, as shown in FIG. 3 closing the associated storage compartment. Freezer door 236 can be a drawer slidably disposed below the fresh food compartment 214 and can include a plurality of storage shelves (not shown). The fresh food compartment 214 can include a plurality of storage shelves 242 and a sealing gasket 244.
  • Second ice cube storage bin 368 can be removably disposed within freezer compartment 212. Second ice cube storage bin 368 can be a primary ice storage bulk bin and the first ice cube storage bin 112 can be a supplemental storage bin, or vice versa. Second ice cube storage bin 368 can be disposed in a lower portion of freezer compartment 212.
  • First ice cube storage bin 112 can be removed from the door 238, and as such, when removed, its space 260 within door 238 can be used for storing other items. To prevent the ice maker assembly 100 from sending ice cubes 128 to first ice cube storage bin 112 when first ice cube storage bin 112 is not in place, a detection sensor can be used. In one embodiment, detection sensor 144 is a microswitch that is actuated by a special geometrical feature of first ice cube storage bin 112, such as a pin or a tab. Alternatively, detection sensor 144 could be an inductive proximity sensor that detects a metal insert on first ice cube storage bin 112, or an optical sensor that detects a reflecting surface adhered to first ice cube storage bin 112, or the like. In one embodiment, fullness sensor 144 is a weight determining means such as a microswitch. In another embodiment, fullness sensor 144 is an ultrasonic level detector. In another embodiment, fullness sensor 144 comprises an ultrasonic transmitter (piezo driver,) an ultrasonic receiver (piezo microphone), and an electronic circuit capable of causing transmitter to emit a short burst (approximately 100 microseconds long) of ultrasound and capable of measuring the time interval between short burst and a return echo received by receiver. This time interval is proportional to the distance between fullness sensor 144 and the top layer of ice cubes 128 and is therefore a measure of the fullness of ice cube storage bin 112.
  • In still another embodiment, fullness sensor 144 comprises an optical proximity switch that detects the fullness of ice cube storage bin 112. The optical switch sends out light (usually IR) and detects the reflected light intensity with a photodiode. High intensity of reflected light indicates close proximity of ice or fullness. Pulse width modulation of the IR signal can be used to increase the sensitivity of the optical switch.
  • An exemplary control logic sequence including selective activation/deactivation modes for icemaker assemblies 100, 300 can be described as follows. A user can selectively activate/deactivate icemakers 100 and/or 300, as necessary, to meet current ice usage and future bulk ice demands. For example, if demand for ice is high, then both icemakers 100, 300 can be activated to provide the maximum available ice in storage bins 112, 368.
  • If ice demand is of the light usage order, then icemaker 100 can be active while icemaker 300 is inactive. Ice cube storage bin 368 can be removed, thereby deactivating icemaker 300 during these periods of light ice usage. The space consumed by bin 368 can then be used for additional storage of typical freezer items.
  • When demand for ice requires bulk amounts, bin 368 can be place into service and icemaker 300 reactivated. Bulk demands for ice can arise when needed to fill, for example, an ice bucket or cooler when preparing for a party or travel. It is to be appreciated that if light ice usage is not a concern, but rather having a moderate bulk supply of ice available (i.e. icemaker 300), then ice bin 112 can be removed thereby deactivating icemaker 100. The space consumed by bin 112 can then be used for additional storage of typical fresh food items.
  • If there is no demand for ice, ice bins 112, 368 can both be removed thereby deactivating both icemakers 100, 300. The space consumed by bins 112, 368 can then be used for additional storage of typical fresh food and frozen items, respectively.
  • As described above, when bins 112, 368 are in service, fullness sensors 144, 372 will be monitoring the respective fullness of the bins. If the signals generated from the fullness sensors 144, 372 are greater than or equal to the preset fullness value, icemakers 100, 300 will be idled. If, however, the signals generated from fullness sensors 144, 372 are less than the preset value (indicating low ice), the icemakers will be activated and additional ice will be harvested.
  • It is to be appreciated that icemakers 100, 300, and the associated mounting arrangements, can alternatively be mounted in the freezer compartment and fresh food compartment, respectively. In addition, the freezer and fresh food compartments can respectively include identical icemakers, for example dual icemakers 100 or dual icemakers 300, or other icemakers conventionally known, albeit with each icemaker having the same or different ice making production levels or capacities.
  • While the disclosure has been described with reference to preferred embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope of the disclosure. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings of the disclosure without departing from the essential scope thereof. Therefore, it is intended that the disclosure not be limited to the particular embodiments disclosed herein, but that the disclosure will include all embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims.

Claims (20)

  1. 1. A refrigerator having an icemaker combination assembly comprising:
    said refrigerator having a freezer compartment and a fresh food compartment, said freezer compartment having a freezer door assembly and said fresh food compartment having a fresh food door assembly;
    a first icemaker having a first ice cube storage bin removably disposed within said freezer compartment;
    a second icemaker having a second ice cube storage bin disposed within said fresh food compartment; and,
    said first and said second icemakers selectively simultaneously producing and independently storing ice.
  2. 2. The refrigerator according to claim 1, wherein said second ice cube storage bin is molded directly into said fresh food door assembly.
  3. 3. The refrigerator according to claim 1, wherein said second ice cube storage bin is fixedly attached to said fresh food door assembly.
  4. 4. The refrigerator according to claim 1, wherein said second ice cube storage bin is removeably disposed within a portion of said fresh food door assembly.
  5. 5. The refrigerator according to claim 1, wherein said freezer compartment is side-by-side with said fresh food compartment.
  6. 6. The refrigerator according to claim 1, wherein said freezer compartment is a drawer situated below said fresh food compartment.
  7. 7. The refrigerator according to claim 1, wherein said freezer compartment is above said fresh food compartment.
  8. 8. A refrigerator having an icemaker combination assembly comprising:
    said refrigerator having a freezer compartment and a fresh food compartment, said freezer compartment having a freezer door assembly and said fresh food compartment having a fresh food door assembly;
    a first icemaker having a first ice cube storage bin removably disposed within said freezer compartment;
    a second icemaker having a second ice cube storage bin removably disposed within said fresh food compartment;
    said first and said second icemakers selectively simultaneously producing ice; and,
    said second ice cube storage bin is selectively mounted onto said fresh food door assembly for dispensing of the ice through said fresh food door.
  9. 9. The refrigerator assembly according to claim 8, wherein said first icemaker is selectively inactive while said second icemaker is active for a first ice production level.
  10. 10. The refrigerator assembly according to claim 8, wherein said first icemaker is selectively active while said second icemaker is inactive for a second ice production level.
  11. 11. The refrigerator assembly according to claim 8, wherein said first icemaker is selectively active while said second icemaker is active for a third ice production level.
  12. 12. The refrigerator assembly according to claim 8, wherein said first ice cube storage bin is molded into said freezer door assembly for selective dispensing of the ice through said freezer door.
  13. 13. The refrigerator assembly according to claim 8, wherein said first ice cube storage bin is selectively mounted onto said freezer door assembly for dispensing of the ice through said freezer door
  14. 14. A refrigerator having an icemaker combination assembly comprising:
    said refrigerator having a freezer compartment and a fresh food compartment, said freezer compartment having a freezer door assembly and said fresh food compartment having a fresh food door assembly;
    a first icemaker having a first ice cube storage bin disposed within said freezer compartment;
    a second icemaker having a second ice cube storage bin disposed within said fresh food compartment; and,
    said first and said second icemakers having a production activation level selected from the group consisting of said first icemaker active only, said second icemaker active only, said first and said second icemakers both active, and said first and said second icemakers both inactive.
  15. 15. The refrigerator assembly according to claim 14, wherein said first icemaker having a first production level and said second icemaker having a second production level, said first production level different than said second production level.
  16. 16. The refrigerator assembly according to claim 15, wherein said first ice cube storage bin and said second ice cube storage bin removably disposed from said freezer compartment and said fresh food compartment, respectively, for bulk dumping of the ice from said bins.
  17. 17. The refrigerator assembly according to claim 15, wherein said first ice cube storage bin is molded directly into said freezer door assembly for selective dispensing of the ice through the freezer door.
  18. 18. The refrigerator assembly according to claim 15, wherein said second ice cube storage bin is molded directly into said fresh food door assembly for selective dispensing of the ice through the fresh food door.
  19. 19. The refrigerator assembly according to claim 18, wherein said first ice cube storage bin is molded directly into said freezer door assembly for selective dispensing of the ice through the freezer door.
  20. 20. The refrigerator assembly according to claim 18, wherein a relative positioning of said freezer compartment and said fresh food compartment is selected from the group consisting of a side-by-side arrangement, a bottom freezer arrangement, and a top freezer arrangement.
US12005997 2007-12-28 2007-12-28 Icemaker combination assembly Abandoned US20090165492A1 (en)

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US9310115B2 (en) 2012-12-13 2016-04-12 Whirlpool Corporation Layering of low thermal conductive material on metal tray
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