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United States Patent 3,902,331
True, Jr. ,   et al. September 2, 1975

Ice dispensing system of household refrigerator

Abstract

An improved ice dispensing system of a household refrigerator has an upwardly sloping ice receptacle and rotatable dispensing means for improved control of ice delivery.


Inventors: True, Jr.; Howard D. F. (Fern Creek, KY), Gelbard; Robert B. (Louisville, KY), Merryman; Bob D. (Louisville, KY)
Assignee: General Electric Company (Louisville, KY)
Appl. No.: 05/443,739
Filed: February 19, 1974


Current U.S. Class: 62/137 ; 222/413; 62/344; 62/420
Current International Class: F25C 5/00 (20060101); F25C 001/04 ()
Field of Search: 62/344,353,137 222/413

References Cited

U.S. Patent Documents
2612294 September 1952 Dorschner
2791887 May 1957 Hennig
2834720 May 1958 Savoca
3040542 June 1962 Linstromberg
3074599 January 1963 Fox
3610482 October 1971 Van Steenburgh, Jr.
3640088 February 1972 Jacobus et al.
3719307 March 1973 Larson
Primary Examiner: Wayner; William E.
Assistant Examiner: Tapolcai, Jr.; W. E.

Claims



Therefore, we claim:

1. In a refrigerator having a freezing compartment and an automatic ice dispenser within the freezing compartment, said automatic ice dispenser comprising an ice mold, means for ejecting ice pieces from the mold, a receptacle for receiving the ice pieces from the mold, and a rotatable dispensing means positioned within the receptacle for moving the ice pieces through the receptacle and discharging said ice pieces from said receptacle, the improvement comprising:

said receptacle having a floor having forward and rearward end portions with said floor extending upwardly and forwardly from said rearward end portion to said forward end portion;

said receptacle dispensing means having an axis and forward and rearward end portions with the axis of said rotatable dispensing means extending upwardly and forwardly from said rearward end portion to said forward end portion; and

an ice directing element connected to the mold and extending laterally outwardly and downwardly therefrom, said ice directing element being of curvilinear configuration having an upper surface extending generally downwardly and rearwardly as measured along the length of said directing element.

2. An apparatus, as set forth in claim 1, wherein the floor of the receptacle is at an angle in the range of about 5.degree. to about 15.degree. relative to the horizontal.

3. An apparatus, as set forth in claim 1, including a cold air supply source;

first means for directing cold air from the cold air supply source into the freezing compartment, separating the cold air stream into at least first and second cold air streams and directing said first cold air stream along a first side of the mold and the second cold air stream along a top of the mold.

4. An apparatus, as set forth in claim 3, wherein the first means includes means for separating a third cold air stream and directing said third cold air stream along a bottom of the mold.

5. An apparatus, as set forth in claim 1, including means for positioning the receptacle at a preselected location in the freezing compartment and maintaining said receptacle at said preselected location.

6. An apparatus, as set forth in claim 1, including a shelf supporting the receptacle, said shelf having openings for the passage of air therethrough.

7. An apparatus, as set forth in claim 1, including a pivotally movable ice sensing element for sensing the elevation of the ice pieces within the receptacle; and

switching means for contacting the sensing element, pivoting said sensing element upwardly to an elevated position, and maintaining said element at said elevated position.
Description



BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an improved ice dispensing system of a household refrigerator of the general type disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,640,089 which issued to L. L. Frazier on Feb. 8, 1972, U.S. Pat. No. 3,640,088 which issued to D. W. Jacobus et al. on Feb. 8, 1972, and U.S. Pat. No. 3,602,441 which issued to R. J. Alvarez on Aug. 31, 1971, for example. Briefly described, the systems comprise a mold for forming ice pieces, means for ejecting ice pieces from the mold, a receptacle for receiving and collecting ice pieces, and rotatable dispensing means positioned within the receptacle for discharging said ice pieces from the receptacle for subsequent recovery by an individual. For maximum enjoyment of such an ice service, it is desirable that the ice pieces in the receptacle and which are discharged therefrom be relatively fresh ice pieces and that the ice dispensing system, which includes the mold and associated equipment, operates to form ice pieces at a relatively high rate.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention resides in an improved ice dispensing system of a household refrigerator which has an upwardly sloping ice receptacle and rotatable dispensing means for improved control of ice delivery.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic, partially sectioned, side view of a portion of a household refrigerator having the improved apparatus of this invention;

FIG. 2 is a diagrammatic, partially sectioned, frontal view of a portion of the apparatus of this invention;

FIGS. 3 and 4 are diagrammatic, partially sectioned views showing the directing element configuration at two locations along the length of said directing element;

FIG. 5 is a diagrammatic view of the switch of the improved apparatus of this invention;

FIG. 6 is a diagrammatic view of a centering element of the receptacle of the improved apparatus of this invention; and

FIG. 7 is a diagrammatic view of a portion of the ice sensing element and the ice directing element.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to FIG. 1, a refrigerator 10 such as a household refrigerator, for example, has a freezing compartment 12, a shelf 16 within the freezing compartment 12, and an automatic ice dispensing system 18. The automatic ice dispensing system 18 comprises an ice mold 20, means 22 for ejecting formed ice pieces 23 from the mold 20 into a receptacle 26, and a rotatable dispensing means 24 positioned within the receptacle 26 for moving ice pieces through the receptacle 26 and discharging said ice pieces from said receptacle 26, as is known in the art.

The receptacle 26 is supported by the shelf 16 and, as shown in FIG. 2, is positioned laterally adjacent and extends along the length of the mold 20. The receptacle 26 has a floor 28 having forward and rearward end portions 30, 32. The floor 28 extends downwardly and rearwardly from the forward end portion 30 to said rearward end portion 32 for gravitationally urging ice pieces 23 within the receptacle 26 to the rearward end portion 32 of said receptacle 26.

The rotatable dispensing means 24 is a helical element having an axis (not shown) such as a helical tube or auger, for example. The rotatable dispensing means 24 has forward and rearward end portions 34, 36 and is removably connected at one end thereof (37) to a power supply 38 for rotating the rotatable dispensing means 24 and moving ice pieces 23 along the receptacle 26 and discharging said pieces therefrom via a housing 40 which can contain, for example, an ice crusher (not shown).

The rotatable dispensing means 24 extends upwardly and forwardly from said rearward end portion 36 to said forward end portion 34. Preferably, the rotatable dispensing means 24 and the receptacle floor 28 are angularly inclined from the horizontal at a common angle preferably in the range of about 5.degree. to about 15.degree. from the horizontal to assure gravitational movement of the ice pieces 23 within the receptacle while maintaining the energy required by dispensing means 24 at a low value.

Referring to FIGS. 2-4, an ice directing element 42 is connected to the mold 20 and extends laterally outwardly and downwardly therefrom. The ice directing element 42 is of curvilinear configuration which changes in configuration along its length for providing an upper surface 44 which slopes generally downwardly and rearwardly along the length (L) of said directing element 42.

FIG. 3 shows a forward portion 46 of the ice directing element 42 which is adjacent a forward end portion 30 of the receptacle 26 in the installed position thereof and FIG. 4 shows a rearward portion 48 of the ice directing element 42 which is adjacent a rearward end portion 32 of the receptacle 26 in the installed position thereof.

In FIG. 3, the slope of the forward portion 46 of the ice directing element 42 can be seen by observing the downward direction of arrow A which lies along a longitudinally extending segment of the directing element 42. As one progresses rearwardly along a longitudinally extending segment of the directing element 42, the rearwardly directed slope, as depicted by arrow A becomes less. Also referring to FIGS. 3 and 4, it can be seen that the lateral cross sectional configuration of directing element 42 becomes more acute in the downward direction progressing rearwardly along the element 42, i.e., changing from a modified elliptical configuration to a generally circular configuration.

These unique configurations of the directing element 42 are provided to facilitate gravitationally moving the ice pieces to a location at the rearward end portion 32 of the receptacle 26. It should be understood, however, that the downward and rearward slopes of the ice directing element 42 can be uniform along the length thereof without departing from this invention.

Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, a cold air supply source 50 such as a compressor and refrigerant system, for example, is associated with the refrigerator 10 and is connected to means 52, such as a duct work system, for directing cold air from the cold air supply source 50 into the freezing compartment 12, separating the cold air into at least first and second, preferably first, second and third cold air streams 54, 56 and 58, and directing said cold air streams 54, 56 and 58 along preselected portions of the mold for cooling the mold 20 and water contained therein to a temperature at which the water will freeze in the mold 20, thereby forming the ice pieces 23.

The cold air stream 54 from means 52 is discharged through opening 60 and is separated by the mold 20 into the first cold air stream 54 which is directed along a first side 62 of the mold 20, the second cold air stream 56 which is directed along a top 66 of the mold 20, and the third cold air stream 58 which is directed along a bottom 70 of the mold 20.

It has been discovered that if the cold air is not separated and directed against and along different portions of the mold 20, the water in the mold will experience super cooling which will increase the time period required to form ice pieces 23, as opposed to the desired operation of decreasing said time period. By so providing a plurality of cold air streams 54, 56 and 58 and directing these air streams as set forth above by placement of the opening 60, relative to the mold 20 and/or providing air deflecting elements 72 associated with the opening 60, the rate at which ice pieces can be formed is significantly increased.

In order to further assure uniform controlled cooling of the ice dispensing system 18 and associated freezing compartments and controlled flow of said first, second and third cold air streams, means such as openings 74 are provided through shelf 16 for communicating the freezing compartments. These openings 74 additionally provide for air circulation between said compartments when the fan (not shown) of the cold air supply source 50 is not actuated.

In the preferred embodiment, the receptacle 26 and the rotational dispensing means 24 are easily detachable from the power supply 38 and removable as a unit from the freezing compartment 12. It therefore becomes necessary to provide means for accurately and easily positioning and securing ice receptacle 26 -- rotational dispensing means 24 relative to the mold 20.

Referring to FIGS. 1 and 6, at least one procrusion 76 extends upwardly from the shelf 16 and associates with a centering element 78 which is of a modified V configuration. At the seated position of the unit, as shown in FIG. 1, the protrusion 76 is seated in the centering element 78 and at that position a latch 80 has engaged in edge portion 82 of the shelf 16, thereby maintaining the receptacle 26 and associated dispensing means 24 at a pre-selected location relative to the mold 20.

The preferred ice dispensing system 18 also has a pivotally movable ice sensing element 84 for sensing the elevation of the ice pieces 23 within the receptacle 26. When the elevation of the ice pieces 23 has risen in the receptacle 26 to a preselected elevation, the sensing element 84, in response to the ice pieces, is pivoted upwardly to a location at which a switch (not shown) is actuated which terminates the delivery of water to the mold and the formation of ice pieces 23. Subsequent discharge of ice pieces 23 from the receptacle in response to demands of individuals using the system thereafter causes the elevation of the ice pieces 23 within the receptacle 26 to be lowered, thereby lowering the ice sensing element 84 which actuates the switch and initiates ice forming and harvesting operations. The ice sensing element 84 and associated switch means are well known in the art.

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 7, the ice sensing element 84 can be of a configuration such that, at the lowermost elevation of element 84, a forward portion 83 of element 84 (FIG. 2) is in closer proximity to the immediately adjacent portion of the ice directing element 42 than is the rearward portion 85 of element 84 (FIG. 7) relative to its immediately adjacent portion of the ice directing element 42. This configuration of ice sensing element 84 increases the accuracy of sensing the elevation of ice pieces 23 in the receptacle 26 whereas, in the apparatus of the present invention, the receptacle floor 28 is not horizontal.

Referring to FIGS. 1 and 5 of the improved system, a sensing element switch 86 is mounted adjacent the ice sensing element 84. The switch 86 is slidably movable between a first position (seen in FIG. 1) at which a contacting element 88 of the switch 86 is spaced from the ice sensing element 84, thereby permitting the ice sensing element to operate as set forth above, and a second position (see FIG. 2) at which the switch has been moved upwardly, the contacting element 88 has contacted the ice sensing element 84 and pivotally moved it to the elevated position shown by the broken lines. At this second position, the ice sensing element 84 is at a sufficient elevation to actuate its associated switch to terminate ice forming operations. An individual can thereby easily denergize the ice forming apparatus during periods when the receptacle 26 is removed from the freezing compartment 12.

In the method of this invention, ice pieces 23 are discharged from the mold 20 onto the upper surface 44 of the associated ice directing element 42. Owing to the unique configuration of this surface 44, the ice is urged by gravity toward a rearward end portion 32 of the receptacle 26. The floor 28 of the receptacle 26 is also rearwardly sloping for urging the ice pieces by gravity toward the rearward end portion 32.

Upon actuation of the rotational dispensing means 24 for recovering ice pieces from the receptacle 26, as is known in the art, the helical configuration causes the earliest formed ice pieces, which are located at the lower, rearward portion of the receptacle, to move forwardly for delivery. This unique construction therefore provides control for assuring maintaining relatively fresh ice pieces in the receptacle. The separation and direction of the cold air streams to pre-selected locations on the mold increases the ice production rate of the apparatus and the contacting element 78, latch 80, and sensing element switch 86 increases the conveniences and enjoyment of using the system.

While there has been shown and described a number of embodiments of the present invention, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited thereto and it is intended by the appended claims to cover all such modifications falling within the spirit and scope of the invention.

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