HYBRID TWIST TRAY ICE MAKER

US 2019 271 496A1

drawing #0

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An ice maker includes a harvest motor and an ice tray operably coupled to the harvest motor. The ice tray has a plurality of heat sinks coupled to a bottom section of ice forming cavities on the ice tray. The harvest motor is operable to twist the ice tray for causing the plurality of heat sinks to move relative to each other for releasing ice pieces from the ice forming cavities.

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Claims

1. An ice tray, comprising:
a flexible structure defining sidewalls of first and second ice forming cavities; and
first and second heat sinks having an upper portion defining a bottom surface of the respective first and second ice forming cavities, and an upward protruding flange extending from the bottom surface of each of the first and second ice forming cavities, wherein the flexible structure is molded around the upward protruding flange.

Show 12 dependent claims

14. An ice maker, comprising:
a harvest motor;
a fan; and
an ice tray operably coupled to the harvest motor, the ice tray having a flexible structure and a plurality of heat sinks coupled to the flexible structure, wherein the heat sinks are disposed at bottom portions of ice forming cavities of the ice tray;
wherein portions of the flexible structure are molded over portions of the plurality of heat sinks to form seals;
wherein the harvest motor is selectively operable to twist the ice tray about a rotational axis so that the flexible structure flexes and the plurality of heat sinks move relative to each other to release ice pieces from the ice forming cavities;
wherein the fan is positioned to direct an airflow along the plurality of heat sinks;
wherein each of the plurality of heat sinks includes an exposed surface area that is configured to be exposed to the airflow; and
wherein a first heat sink is located a first distance from the fan and defines a first exposed surface area, and wherein a second heat sink is located a second distance from the fan and defines a second exposed surface area, and wherein the first distance is less than the second distance and the first exposed surface area is less than the second exposed surface area.

Show 3 dependent claims

18. An ice maker, comprising:
a harvest motor;
an axle member;
an ice tray operably coupled to the harvest motor and the axle member, the ice tray having a flexible structure and a plurality of heat sinks coupled to the flexible structure, wherein the heat sinks are disposed at bottom portions of ice forming cavities of the ice tray;
wherein the harvest motor is selectively operable to twist the ice tray about a rotational axis so that the flexible structure flexes and the plurality of heat sinks move relative to each other to release ice pieces form the ice forming cavities;
wherein the ice tray may be agitated between a first position and a second position in a rocking motion during ice formation; and
wherein the plurality of heat sinks include a first heat sink with a first exposed surface area and a second heat sink with a second exposed surface area, and wherein the first exposed surface area is not equal to the second exposed surface area.

Show 2 dependent claims

Description

The present application is a continuation-in-part application of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 15/673,995 filed Aug. 10, 2017, entitled HYBRID TWIST TRAY ICE MAKER, which is a continuation-in part application of U.S. Pat. No. 9,746,229 granted Aug. 29, 2017, entitled HYBRID TWIST TRAY ICE MAKER, the entire contents of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference in their entireties.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present disclosure generally relates to an ice tray for an ice maker, and more particularly to an ice maker having a twistable ice tray that includes a number of heat sinks attached to a lower portion thereof for efficiently cooling a bottom surface of each ice forming cavity on the ice tray, thereby promoting quick and efficient ice formation. The present disclosure also relates to the corresponding methods of operating the ice maker and forming such an ice tray.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

It is generally understood that ice trays may be constructed with ice cavities for making ice pieces in shapes and sizes convenient for a user's intended application, such as beverage cooling. Commonly, ice trays are formed entirely of polymeric materials to allow for twisting the ice tray to release ice pieces. However, the polymeric materials used for these ice trays typically have low thermal conductivity, which can result in slow freezing times for water introduced to the ice tray. In some instances, ice trays have been formed entirely of rigid metal materials, which provide little flexibility and make ice harvesting relatively difficult.

SUMMARY OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

According to one aspect of the present disclosure, an ice tray includes a flexible structure having discrete ice forming cavities. A plurality of heat sinks is coupled to the flexible structure. Each heat sink has an upper portion that defines a bottom surface of at least one of the ice forming cavities and a lower portion with at least one member protruding from the upper portion for distributing heat away from the bottom surface.

According to another aspect of the present disclosure, an ice maker includes a harvest motor and an ice tray operably coupled to the harvest motor. The ice tray has a plurality of heat sinks coupled to a bottom section of ice forming cavities on the ice tray. The harvest motor is operable to twist the ice tray for causing the plurality of heat sinks to move relative to each other for releasing ice pieces from the ice forming cavities.

According to yet another aspect of the present disclosure, a method of forming an ice tray includes providing a plurality of heat sinks, each having an upper portion that defines a bottom surface of an ice forming cavity and a lower portion with at least one member protruding from the upper portion for distributing heat away from the bottom surface. The method also includes molding a flexible structure over a peripheral edge the upper portion of each of the plurality of heat sinks to define sidewalls of the ice forming cavities. A seal is formed between the peripheral edge and the sidewalls to contain water in the ice forming cavities.

According to another aspect of the present disclosure, an ice tray includes a flexible structure defining sidewalls of first and second ice forming cavities. The first and second heat sinks have an upper portion defining a bottom surface of the respective first and second ice forming cavities and an upward protruding flange extending from the bottom surface of each of the first and second ice forming cavities. The flexible structure is molded around the upward protruding flange.

According to another aspect of the present disclosure, an ice maker includes a harvest motor, a fan, and an ice tray operably coupled to the harvest motor. The ice tray has a flexible structure and a plurality of heat sinks coupled to the flexible structure, wherein the heat sinks are disposed at bottom portions of ice forming cavities of the ice tray. The portions of the flexible structure are molded over portions of the plurality of heat sinks to form seals, and the harvest motor is selectively operable to twist the ice tray about a rotational axis so that the flexible structure flexes. The plurality of heat sinks move relative to each other to release ice pieces from the ice forming cavities. The fan is positioned to direct an airflow along the plurality of heat sinks, and each of the plurality of heat sinks includes an exposed surface area that is configured to be exposed to the airflow. A first heat sink is located a first distance from the fan and defines a first exposed surface area. A second heat sink is located a second distance from the fan and defines a second exposed surface area. The first distance is less than the second distance, and the first exposed surface area is less than the second exposed surface area.

According to another aspect of the present disclosure, an ice maker includes a harvest motor, an axle member, and an ice tray operably coupled to the harvest motor and the axle member. The ice tray has a flexible structure and a plurality of heat sinks coupled to the flexible structure, wherein the heat sinks are disposed at bottom portions of ice forming cavities of the ice tray. The harvest motor is selectively operable to twist the ice tray about a rotational axis so that the flexible structure flexes and the plurality of heat sinks move relative to each other to release ice pieces from the ice forming cavities. The ice tray may be agitated between a first position and a second position in a rocking motion during ice formation. The plurality of heat sinks include a first heat sink with a first exposed surface area and a second heat sink with a second exposed surface area. The first exposed surface area is not equal to the second exposed surface area.

These and other aspects, objects, and features of the present disclosure will be understood and appreciated by those skilled in the art upon studying the following specification, claims, and appended drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a top perspective view of a refrigerator that has a refrigeration compartment enclosable with doors, one door having an ice dispenser, according to one embodiment;

FIG. 2 is a front elevational view of the refrigerator shown in FIG. 1, having the doors open to expose an ice storage compartment and an ice maker, according to one embodiment;

FIG. 3 is a top perspective view of an ice maker having an ice tray, according to one embodiment;

FIG. 4 is a top perspective view of the ice maker shown in FIG. 3, having portions of the ice maker housing shown in phantom lines to illustrate the ice tray operably engaged with a harvest motor;

FIG. 5 is a top perspective view of an ice tray, according to one embodiment of the present disclosure;

FIG. 6 is a partially schematic bottom perspective view of the ice tray shown in FIG. 5, taken from an opposite end from that shown in FIG. 5;

FIG. 6A is a partially schematic bottom perspective view of an ice tray according to another aspect of the present disclosure;

FIG. 7 is a top plan view of the ice tray shown in FIG. 5;

FIG. 8 is a bottom plan view of the ice tray shown in FIG. 5;

FIG. 9 is an exploded top perspective view of the ice tray shown in FIG. 5, illustrating a flexible portion of the ice tray separated from a plurality of heat sinks;

FIG. 10 is a top perspective view of an individual heat sink with an attachment feature, according to one embodiment;

FIG. 10A is a top perspective view of an individual heat sink having an additional embodiment of an attachment feature;

FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view of the ice tray, taken at line XI-XI of FIG. 7;

FIG. 11A is an enlarged view of a portion of the cross section shown in FIG. 11, taken at section XIA, illustrating a heat sink of the ice tray;

FIG. 11B is an enlarged view of a heat sink according to another aspect of the present disclosure;

FIG. 11C is an enlarged view of a heat sink according to another aspect of the present disclosure;

FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view of the ice tray, taken at line XII-XII of FIG. 7;

FIG. 12A is an enlarged view of a portion of the cross section shown in FIG. 12, taken at section XIIA, illustrating a heat sink of the ice tray;

FIG. 13 is a top perspective view of an additional embodiment of an ice tray, having heat sinks that span laterally between separate ice forming cavities;

FIG. 14 is a bottom perspective view of the additional embodiment of the ice tray shown in FIG. 13;

FIG. 15 is an end view of the ice tray in the home position relative to the ice maker housing;

FIG. 15A is a top perspective view of the ice tray shown in FIG. 15;

FIG. 16 is an end view of the ice tray in the rocked position relative to the ice maker housing;

FIG. 16A is a top perspective view of the ice tray shown in FIG. 16;

FIG. 17 is an end view of the ice tray shown in a twisted position relative to the ice maker housing; and

FIG. 17A is a top perspective view of the ice tray shown in FIG. 17.

FIG. 18 is a perspective view of an ice tray according to another aspect of the present disclosure;

FIG. 19 is a bottom plan view of the ice tray of FIG. 18;

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of an ice tray according to another aspect of the present disclosure;

FIG. 21 is a perspective view of an ice tray according to another aspect of the present disclosure;

FIG. 22 is an end view of an ice tray in a rest position, a first position, and a second position relative to the ice maker housing; and

FIG. 23 is a top perspective view of an ice tray, illustrating heat flow proximate heat sinks.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

For purposes of description herein, the terms upper, lower, right, left, rear, front, vertical, horizontal, and derivatives thereof shall relate to the ice maker as oriented in FIG. 3. However, it is to be understood that the ice maker may assume various alternative orientations, except where expressly specified to the contrary. It is also to be understood that the specific devices and processes illustrated in the attached drawings, and described in the following specification are simply exemplary embodiments of the inventive concepts defined in the appended claims. Hence, specific dimensions and other physical characteristics relating to the embodiments disclosed herein are not to be considered as limiting, unless the claims expressly state otherwise.

Referring initially to FIGS. 1-2, a refrigerator 10 is depicted having a refrigeration compartment 12 situated above a freezer compartment 14. The illustrated embodiment of the refrigerator 10 is shown with a pair of doors 16 that are movable to enclose the refrigeration compartment 12, whereby one of the doors 16 includes an ice storage container 18 that delivers ice to an associated ice dispenser 20. The ice dispenser 20 may be used for dispensing or otherwise removing ice from the refrigerator 10, and is typically accessible from the front side of the door 16 for use when the door 16 is in a closed position. The ice storage container 18 receives ice pieces from an ice maker 22 located above the ice storage container 18 on the door 16. It is, however, contemplated that the ice maker 22 in other embodiments may alternatively be located within the refrigeration compartment 12, the freezer compartment 14, within any door of the appliance, or external to the appliance, such as on a top surface of a refrigerator 10. Moreover, it is contemplated that the refrigerator 10 can be differently configured in alternative embodiments, such as with a single door enclosing the refrigeration compartment 12, an ice storage container without an ice dispenser, and the freezer compartment situated within, above, or on the side of the refrigeration compartment. Further, it is conceivable that the appliance associated with the ice maker 22 of the present disclosure may alternatively include a freezer appliance, a counter-top appliance, or other form of consumer appliance.

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