Title:
Evaporator fan with shroud assembly
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A shroud for mounting a fan is provided. The shroud may include a plate, a hub, a first leg, and a second leg. The plate may include an aperture edge of an aperture in a surface of the plate. The hub includes a bore defining an axis of rotation of a fan. The first leg and the second leg are mounted to and extend between the hub and the aperture edge. The first leg includes a first leg portion having a first curve shape in a plane perpendicular to the axis of rotation. The second leg may include a second leg portion having a second curve shape in the plane. The first curve shape may be an arc of a circle. A fan housing may include the shroud, an actuator to effect rotation of the fan, and a mounting bracket, which mounts the actuator to the shroud.



Inventors:
Mccain, Paul Brian (Sun Prairie, WI, US)
Mashaw, Ronald A. (Freeport, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/580207
Publication Date:
04/17/2008
Filing Date:
10/12/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
165/120
International Classes:
F25B21/02
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
COMINGS, DANIEL C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FOLEY & LARDNER LLP (3000 K STREET N.W. SUITE 600, WASHINGTON, DC, 20007-5109, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A shroud for mounting a fan, the shroud comprising: a plate, the plate comprising an aperture edge of an aperture in a surface of the plate; a hub, wherein the hub includes a bore defining an axis of rotation of a fan; a first leg mounted to and extending between the hub and the aperture edge, wherein the first leg includes a first leg portion having a first curve shape in a plane perpendicular to the axis of rotation; and a second leg mounted to and extending between the hub and the aperture edge.

2. The shroud of claim 1, wherein the first leg mounts to the hub approximately tangentially.

3. The shroud of claim 1, wherein the first leg mounts to the hub on a first side and further wherein the second leg mounts to the hub on a second side, the second side opposite the first side.

4. The shroud of claim 1, wherein the first leg includes a first end and a second end, and further wherein the first leg mounts to the aperture edge at the first end and at the second end.

5. The shroud of claim 1, wherein the second leg includes a second leg portion having a second curve shape in the plane.

6. The shroud of claim 5, further comprising: a third leg mounted to and extending between the hub and the aperture edge, wherein the third leg includes a third leg portion having a third curve shape in the plane; and a fourth leg mounted to and extending between the hub and the aperture edge, wherein the fourth leg includes a fourth leg portion having a fourth curve shape in the plane.

7. The shroud of claim 6, wherein the first leg includes a first end and a second end, and further wherein the first leg mounts to the aperture edge at the first end and the first leg mounts to the hub at the second end.

8. The shroud of claim 1, further comprising a first mounting brace mounted between the first leg and the second leg, the first mounting brace including a first receptacle capable of accepting a first mounting arm.

9. The shroud of claim 8, further comprising a second mounting brace mounted between the first leg and the second leg, the second mounting brace including a second receptacle capable of accepting a second mounting arm.

10. The shroud of claim 8, further comprising a latch extending from a side of the first mounting brace.

11. The shroud of claim 10, wherein the latch extends from a side of the first receptacle of the first mounting brace.

12. The shroud of claim 1, wherein the first curve shape is an arc.

13. A fan housing, the fan housing comprising: an actuator operably coupled with a fan to effect rotation of the fan; a mounting bracket; and a shroud, the mounting bracket mounting the actuator to the shroud, wherein the shroud comprises a plate, the plate comprising an aperture edge of an aperture in a surface of the plate; a hub, wherein the hub includes a bore defining an axis of rotation of the fan; a first leg mounted to and extending between the hub and the aperture edge, wherein the first leg includes a first leg portion having a first curve shape in a plane perpendicular to the axis of rotation; and a second leg mounted to and extending between the hub and the aperture edge.

14. The fan housing of claim 13, wherein the mounting bracket comprises a body and a first mounting arm extending from the body, and further wherein the shroud further comprises a first mounting brace mounted between the first leg and the second leg, the first mounting brace including a first receptacle capable of accepting the first mounting arm.

15. The fan housing of claim 14, wherein the mounting bracket further comprises a second mounting arm extending from the body, and further wherein the shroud further comprises a second mounting brace mounted between the first leg and the second leg, the second mounting brace including a second receptacle capable of accepting the second mounting arm.

16. The fan housing of claim 14, wherein the shroud further comprises a latch extending from a side of the first receptacle.

17. The fan housing of claim 16, wherein the mounting bracket further comprises a clasp extending from a side of the first mounting arm, and further wherein the clasp is capable of engaging the latch.

18. The fan housing of claim 13, wherein the first curve shape is an arc.

19. A fan assembly, the fan assembly comprising: a fan, the fan comprising a plurality of blades; an actuator operably coupled with the fan to effect rotation of the plurality of blades; a mounting bracket; and a shroud, the mounting bracket mounting the actuator to the shroud, wherein the shroud comprises a plate, the plate comprising an aperture edge of an aperture in a surface of the plate; a hub, wherein the hub includes a bore defining an axis of rotation of the plurality of blades; a first leg mounted to and extending between the hub and the aperture edge, wherein the first leg includes a first leg portion having a first curve shape in a plane perpendicular to the axis of rotation; and a second leg mounted to and extending between the hub and the aperture edge.

20. The fan assembly of claim 19, wherein the first curve shape is an arc.

21. A refrigerator, the refrigerator comprising: a housing, the housing including a plurality of walls and a door, the plurality of walls and the door defining an enclosed receptacle; a fan, the fan comprising a plurality of blades; an actuator operably coupled with the fan to effect rotation of the plurality of blades; a mounting bracket; and a shroud, the mounting bracket mounting the actuator to the shroud, wherein the shroud comprises a plate, wherein the plate mounts to an interior surface of the enclosed receptacle, the plate comprising an aperture edge of an aperture in a surface of the plate; a hub, wherein the hub includes a bore defining an axis of rotation of the plurality of blades; a first leg mounted to and extending between the hub and the aperture edge, wherein the first leg includes a first leg portion having a first curve shape in a plane perpendicular to the axis of rotation; and a second leg mounted to and extending between the hub and the aperture edge.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The subject of the disclosure relates generally to the field of fans. More specifically, the disclosure relates to a shroud assembly for a fan.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

An evaporator fan assembly generally is provided in an evaporator compartment of a refrigerator or a freezer to circulate cooled air through the storage compartment. A typical evaporator fan assembly may include a number of parts some or all of which may be fabricated of metal. The parts may include a shroud, a fan, a motor, and one or more mounting brackets and attachment parts for forming the fan assembly. Because refrigerator/freezers are generally located in a house or other structure, it is preferable that the noise level be minimized. To reduce the noise created by the fan assembly, each of the parts should be isolated from the others. Additionally, the greater the number of parts, the greater the potential for noise and the more time consuming the assembly process may be. Thus, there is a need for a fan assembly that further reduces the noise level of the fan. There is further a need for a fan assembly that reduces the number of parts required, and therefore, the assembly time.

SUMMARY

Exemplary embodiments provide a fan assembly having a reduced noise level and a reduced assembly time. The fan assembly reduces the number of parts in the assembly by manufacturing the shroud from plastic and integrating a mounting bracket with the shroud thereby eliminating the need to isolate the bracket from the shroud and eliminating a number of the grommets and screws necessary for attaching the fan assembly parts.

A shroud for mounting a fan includes, but is not limited to, a plate, a hub, a first leg, and a second leg. The plate may include an aperture edge of an aperture in a surface of the plate. The hub includes a bore defining an axis of rotation of a fan. The first leg mounts to and extends between the hub and the aperture edge. The first leg includes a first leg portion having a first curve shape in a plane perpendicular to the axis of rotation. The second leg mounts to and extends between the hub and the aperture edge.

A fan housing includes, but is not limited to, an actuator operably coupled with a fan to effect rotation of the fan, a mounting bracket, and the shroud. The mounting bracket mounts the actuator to the shroud.

A fan assembly includes, but is not limited to, a fan including a plurality of blades, the actuator operably coupled with the fan to effect rotation of the plurality of blades, the mounting bracket, and the shroud.

A refrigerator includes, but is not limited to, a housing, the fan, the actuator, the mounting bracket, and the shroud. The housing includes a plurality of walls and a door. The plurality of walls and the door define an enclosed receptacle. The plate mounts to an interior surface of the enclosed receptacle.

Other principal features and advantages of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon review of the following drawings, the detailed description, and the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Exemplary embodiments of the invention will hereafter be described with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein like numerals will denote like elements.

FIG. 1 depicts a side perspective view of an evaporator fan assembly in accordance with an exemplary embodiment.

FIG. 2 depicts an exploded view of the evaporator fan assembly of FIG. 1 in accordance with an exemplary embodiment.

FIG. 3 depicts a side perspective view of a shroud of the evaporator fan assembly of FIG. 1 in accordance with an exemplary embodiment.

FIG. 4 depicts a top view of the shroud of FIG. 3 in accordance with an exemplary embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

With reference to FIG. 1, a fan assembly 100 includes a mounting bracket 102, an actuator housing 104, a fan mounting frame 106, a fan 108, and a shroud 110. Fan assembly 100 may be mounted for use within a variety of devices. In an exemplary embodiment, fan assembly 100 is mounted adjacent a heat exchanger to circulate heated/cooled air. For example, fan assembly 100 may be mounted adjacent an evaporator in a refrigerator for circulation of cooled air. As used in this disclosure, the term “mount” includes join, unite, connect, associate, insert, hang, hold, affix, attach, fasten, bind, paste, secure, bolt, screw, rivet, solder, weld, and other like terms.

With reference to FIG. 2, an exploded view of fan assembly 100 is provided. Mounting bracket 102 may include a body 200, a first mounting arm 202, and a second mounting arm 204. First mounting arm 202 extends from a first end of body 200. Second mounting arm 204 extends from a second end of body 200 opposite the first end of body 200. Body 200 includes a bracket aperture edge 206 which defines an aperture for accepting an attachment mechanism such as a grommet or a nut. First mounting arm 202 may include a first clasp (not shown) extending from a side of first mounting arm 202. Second mounting arm 204 may include a second clasp 208 extending from a side of second mounting arm 204. Second clasp 208 may include a receptacle for accepting a latch.

With reference to FIG. 2, actuator housing 104 may include an actuator (not shown), a first attachment mechanism 210, a port 212, a mounting lug 214, an actuator shaft 216, and a second attachment mechanism 218. Actuator housing 104 mounts between mounting bracket 102 and shroud 110. The actuator is housed within actuator housing 104. The actuator may be any device as known to those skilled in the art both now and in the future for causing movement of fan 108. Exemplary actuators include an electric motor, a servo, stepper, or piezo motor, a pneumatic actuator, a gas motor, etc. Actuator housing 104 may have a variety of shapes and sizes to some extent dependent on the actuator selected. First attachment mechanism 210 may include a grommet or a nut as known to those skilled in the art both now and in the future. First attachment mechanism 210 isolates actuator housing 104 from mounting bracket 102 and positions actuator housing 104 correctly relative to mounting bracket 102. Second attachment mechanism 218 may include a grommet or a nut as known to those skilled in the art both now and in the future. Second attachment mechanism 218 isolates actuator housing 104 from shroud 110 and positions actuator housing 104 correctly relative to shroud 110.

Port 212 may accept a cable connecting the actuator with a power supply, pneumatic supply, and/or a controller. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 2, first attachment mechanism 210 fits over mounting lug 214. First attachment mechanism 210 mounts to bracket aperture edge 206 of mounting bracket 102 to mount actuator housing 104 to mounting bracket 102. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 2, actuator shaft 216 extends from actuator housing 104 in a direction and from a side of actuator housing 104 that is generally opposite mounting lug 214. Actuator shaft 216 extends through second mounting mechanism 218. Actuator shaft 216 includes a coupling end 220 that operably couples with fan 108.

With reference to FIG. 2, fan 108 may include a plurality of blades 222, a blade hub 223, and a shaft coupler 224. The plurality of blades 222 extend radially outward from blade hub 223. The plurality of blades 222 typically have an identical shape and are arranged symmetrically about blade hub 223. Shaft coupler 224 accepts coupling end 220 of actuator housing 104. The actuator effects rotation of actuator shaft 216. Through the coupling with shaft coupler 224, the rotational motion of actuator shaft 216 effects rotation of the plurality of blades 222. Thus, actuator shaft 216 acts as a rotor of fan 108. Actuator shaft 216 defines an axis of rotation A-A of the plurality of blades 222 of fan 108. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 2, the axis of rotation A-A extends through first and second attachment mechanisms 210, 218.

With reference to FIG. 2, fan mounting frame 106 may include a plate 226, a first wall 228, and a second wall 230. Plate 226 has a generally rectangular shape though other shapes, including square, circular, elliptical, polygonal, etc., and combinations of shapes may be used without limitation. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 2, plate 226 is sized and shaped to fit within an appropriately located space within a refrigerator or freezer to provide circulation of cooled air within the refrigerator or freezer. Plate 226 need not be a solid surface. For example, plate 226 may be formed of a mesh or a web of material. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 2, plate 226 extends in a plane that is generally perpendicular to axis A-A. First wall 228 and second wall 230 extend from plate 226 at generally opposed edges. First wall 228 may include a mounting aperture 229 in which an attachment mechanism such as a screw can be inserted for mounting fan mounting frame 106, for example, within the refrigerator or freezer. Second wall 230 further may include a mounting aperture (not shown).

Plate 226 further includes an aperture defined by an aperture edge 232. Aperture edge 232 may extend from an aperture wall 234 which extends from a generally planar surface of plate 226. Aperture edge 232 forms a generally circular shape though other shapes, including square, rectangular, elliptical, polygonal, etc., and combinations of shapes may be used without limitation. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 2, aperture edge 232 is sized and shaped to accommodate the plurality of blades 222 of fan 108 so that the plurality of blades 222 can rotate freely within the aperture.

Shroud 110 provides the structural foundation for fan assembly 100 and maintains the proper configuration between actuator housing 104 and fan 108. With reference to FIG. 2, shroud 110 may include a plurality of legs 236 and a hub 238. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 2, hub 238 includes a bore through which axis A-A extends. Second attachment mechanism 218 mounts to the bore of hub 238. The plurality of legs 236 support hub 238 over the aperture defined by aperture edge 232 and accommodate rotation of the plurality of blades 222 of fan 108.

With reference to FIG. 3, a perspective view of shroud 110 is provided with additional detail. With reference to FIG. 4, a top view of shroud 110 is provided. The plurality of legs 236 may include a first leg 300, a second leg 302, a third leg 304, and a fourth leg 306. First leg 300 may include a first leg portion 308 and a second leg portion 310. First leg portion 308 of first leg 300 mounts to and extends from aperture wall 234. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 3, first leg portion 308 of first leg 300 extends from aperture wall 234 in a direction that is generally perpendicular to plate 226 and parallel to axis A-A. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 3, second leg portion 310 of first leg 300 extends from first leg portion 308 of first leg 300 at a first end and mounts to hub 238 at a second end opposite the first end.

Second leg 302 may include a first leg portion 312 and a second leg portion 314. First leg portion 312 of second leg 302 mounts to and extends from aperture wall 234. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 3, first leg portion 312 of second leg 302 extends from aperture wall 234 in a direction that is generally perpendicular to plate 226 and parallel to axis A-A. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 3, second leg portion 314 of second leg 302 extends from first leg portion 312 of second leg 302 at a first end and mounts to hub 238 at a second end opposite the first end.

Third leg 304 may include a first leg portion 316 and a second leg portion 318. First leg portion 316 of third leg 304 mounts to and extends from aperture wall 234. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 3, first leg portion 316 of third leg 304 extends from aperture wall 234 in a direction that is generally perpendicular to plate 226 and parallel to axis A-A. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 3, second leg portion 318 of third leg 304 extends from first leg portion 316 of third leg 304 at a first end and mounts to hub 238 at a second end opposite the first end.

Fourth leg 306 may include a first leg portion 320 and a second leg portion 322. First leg portion 320 of fourth leg 306 mounts to and extends from aperture wall 234. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 3, first leg portion 320 of fourth leg 306 extends from aperture wall 234 in a direction that is generally perpendicular to plate 226 and parallel to axis A-A. In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 3, second leg portion 322 of fourth leg 306 extends from first leg portion 320 of fourth leg 306 at a first end and mounts to hub 238 at a second end opposite the first end.

In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 3, second leg portion 310 of first leg 300, second leg portion 314 of second leg 302, second leg portion 318 of third leg 304, and second leg portion 322 of fourth leg 306 generally extend in a plane perpendicular to axis A-A. As more clearly shown with reference to FIG. 4, second leg portion 310 of first leg 300, second leg portion 314 of second leg 302, second leg portion 318 of third leg 304, and second leg portion 322 of fourth leg 306 define curved shapes in the plane perpendicular to axis A-A. The view of FIG. 4 is in the plane perpendicular to axis A-A. As a result, axis A-A extends out of the page as shown in FIG. 4. With reference to FIG. 4, the curved shapes of second leg portion 318 of third leg 304 and of second leg portion 322 of fourth leg 306 may be arcs of a first circle 404. Similarly, the curved shapes of second leg portion 310 of first leg 300 and of second leg portion 314 of second leg 302 may be arcs of a second circle (not shown). The center of first circle 404 may be located outside of the aperture defined by aperture edge 232. The curved shapes of second leg portion 310 of first leg 300, of second leg portion 314 of second leg 302, of second leg portion 318 of third leg 304, and/or of second leg portion 322 of fourth leg 306 may be portions of a hyperbola, a parabola, an ellipse, a conic section, a quadratic curve, a free form curve, or any other mathematical function that defines a curve. As used in this disclosure, the term “curve” means a line or a surface that bends in a smooth continuous fashion.

In the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 3, first leg 300 is a mirror image of second leg 302 relative to a first plane parallel to axis A-A, and first leg 300 is a mirror image of fourth leg 306 relative to a second plane parallel to axis A-A. Additionally, third leg 304 is a mirror image of second leg 302 relative to the second plane, and third leg 304 is a mirror image of fourth leg 306 relative to the first plane.

Increasing the number of legs supporting the actuator reduces the perceived noise that is caused by the fan because the frequency of the noise created by the fan is determined by the number of legs on the shroud. A larger number of legs creates a higher frequency noise which is normally less noticeable to a consumer. By forming the legs with curves in the plane perpendicular to the axis of rotation of the plurality of blades 222 of fan 108, the amount of noise created by the fan is also reduced relative to that created using a conventional design for the legs.

In an exemplary embodiment, a first shroud leg may include first leg portion 308 of first leg 300, second leg portion 310 of first leg 300, second leg portion 314 of second leg 302, and first leg portion 312 of second leg 302 wherein second leg portion 310 of first leg 300 and second leg portion 314 of second leg 302 mount approximately tangentially to hub 238. A second shroud leg may include first leg portion 316 of third leg 304, second leg portion 318 of third leg 304, second leg portion 322 of fourth leg 306, and first leg portion 320 of fourth leg 306 wherein second leg portion 318 of third leg 304 and second leg portion 322 of fourth leg 306 mount approximately tangentially to hub 238. The first shroud leg may mount to hub 238 on a first side and the second shroud leg may mount to hub 238 on a second side, wherein the second side is generally opposite the first side.

In the exemplary embodiment of FIGS. 3 and 4, shroud 110 further includes a first mounting brace 324 and a second mounting brace 340. First mounting brace 324 may include a first receptacle 326, a first arm 332, a second arm 334, a third arm 336, a fourth arm 338, and a first latch 400 (shown with reference to FIG. 4). First receptacle 326 may include a first end 328 and a second end 330 opposite first end 328. First end 328 of first receptacle 326 defines an aperture sized and shaped to accept first mounting arm 202. First mounting arm 202 may fit over an exterior of first end 328 of first receptacle 326 or may fit within an interior of first end 328 of first receptacle 326. First latch 400 extends from a side of first receptacle 326 of first mounting brace 324. In an exemplary embodiment, first latch 400 includes a recess. As used in this disclosure, the term “recess” describes a variety of structural shapes including notch, cut, indentation, elbow, groove, corner, chamfer, slope, etc. that can provide a frictional or press fit with an edge of an object to be engaged. The first clasp of first mounting arm 202 engages with the recess of first latch 400 when first mounting arm 202 is mounted to first mounting brace 324 thereby mounting actuator housing 104 to shroud 110.

First arm 332 and second arm 334 of first mounting brace 324 extend between second leg portion 310 of first leg 300 and second end 330 of first receptacle 326 to support first receptacle 326. Third arm 336 and fourth arm 338 of first mounting brace 324 extend between second leg portion 322 of fourth leg 306 and second end 330 of first receptacle 326 to support first receptacle 326. Fewer or additional arms may be used to support first receptacle 326. In an alternative embodiment, second end 330 mounts directly to second leg portion 310 of first leg 300 and to second leg portion 322 of fourth leg 306. In another alternative embodiment, second end 330 of first receptacle 326 and/or first arm 332 and/or second arm 334 of first mounting brace 324 mount to first leg portion 308 of first leg 300. Similarly, second end 330 of first receptacle 326 and/or third arm 336 and/or fourth arm 338 of first mounting brace 324 mount to first leg portion 320 of fourth leg 306. First arm 332, second arm 334, third arm 336, and fourth arm 338 of first mounting brace 324 may define curved shapes in the plane perpendicular to axis A-A.

Second mounting brace 340 may include a second receptacle 342, a first arm 348, a second arm 350, a third arm 352, a fourth arm 402 (shown with reference to FIG. 4), and a second latch 354. Second receptacle 342 may include a first end 344 and a second end 346 opposite first end 344. First end 344 of second receptacle 342 defines an aperture sized and shaped to accept second mounting arm 204. Second mounting arm 204 may fit over an exterior of first end 344 of second receptacle 342 or may fit within an interior of first end 344 of second receptacle 342. Second latch 354 extends from a side of second receptacle 342 of second mounting brace 340. In an exemplary embodiment, second latch 354 includes a recess. Second clasp 208 of second mounting arm 204 engages the recess of second latch 354 when second mounting arm 204 is mounted to second mounting brace 340 thereby mounting actuator housing 104 to shroud 110.

First arm 348 and second arm 350 of second mounting brace 340 extend between second leg portion 314 of second leg 302 and second end 346 of second receptacle 342 to support second receptacle 342. Third arm 352 and fourth arm 402 of second mounting brace 340 extend between second leg portion 318 of third leg 304 and second end 346 of second receptacle 342 to support second receptacle 342. Fewer or additional arms may be used to support second receptacle 342. In an alternative embodiment, second end 346 of second receptacle 342 mounts directly to second leg portion 314 of second leg 302 and to second leg portion 318 of third leg 304. In another alternative embodiment, second end 346 of second receptacle 342 and/or first arm 348 and/or second arm 350 of second mounting brace 340 mount to first leg portion 312 of second leg 302. Similarly, second end 346 of second receptacle 342 and/or third arm 352 and/or fourth arm 402 of second mounting brace 340 mount to first leg portion 316 of third leg 304. First arm 348, second arm 350, third arm 352, and fourth arm 402 of second mounting brace 340 may define curved shapes in the plane perpendicular to axis A-A.

Shroud 110 may be formed of plastic or of metal. In an exemplary embodiment, shroud 110 and plate 226 are formed of a single piece of material. In another exemplary embodiment, shroud 110 and fan mounting frame 106 are formed of a single piece of material.

The foregoing description of exemplary embodiments of the invention have been presented for purposes of illustration and of description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise form disclosed, and modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teachings or may be acquired from practice of the invention. The embodiments were chosen and described in order to explain the principles of the invention and as practical applications of the invention to enable one skilled in the art to utilize the invention in various embodiments and with various modifications as suited to the particular use contemplated. It is intended that the scope of the invention be defined by the claims appended hereto and their equivalents.