Title:
Integrated heat exchanger support and sealing structure
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus is disclosed for supporting and sealing a heat exchanger unit. Specifically, a heat exchanger is disclosed comprising a pair of integrated header units arranged in parallel relation to each other. Each header unit comprises a radiator header and a condenser. The radiator unit and condenser maintain separate heat exchange fluid flowpaths. A plurality of parallel heat transfer tubes is connected perpendicularly to said integrated headers, and a plurality of fins extend between adjacent heat transfer tubes of the radiator. A fin unit including a plurality of fins is mounted to an outside surface of an outermost heat transfer tube, and an integrated side support is connected to the fin unit and integrated headers.



Inventors:
Rhodes, Eugene E. (Belleville, MI, US)
Yu, Wen Fei (Ann Arbor, MI, US)
Whitlow, Gregory A. (Whitmore Lake, MI, US)
Application Number:
09/753293
Publication Date:
07/04/2002
Filing Date:
12/28/2000
Assignee:
RHODES EUGENE E.
YU WEN FEI
WHITLOW GREGORY A.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B60K11/04; F28D1/04; F28F9/00; (IPC1-7): F28D1/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
FLANIGAN, ALLEN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BGL (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A heat exchanger comprising: at least one pair of integrated headers arranged parallel to each other, each integrated header comprising a radiator unit and a condenser unit, said radiator unit and said condenser units defining separate heat-exchange fluid flowpaths; a plurality of parallel heat transfer tubes connected perpendicularly to said integrated headers; a plurality of fins extending between adjacent heat transfer tubes; a fin unit including a plurality of fins mounted to an outside surface of an outermost heat transfer tube; and an integrated side support connected to said fin unit and said integrated headers, said side support extending along an outside surface of said outermost heat transfer tube.

2. The heat exchanger of claim 1, wherein said integrated side support further comprises an elongated flattened portion having an end cap defined at each end, each of said end caps having a unitary structure extending between said radiator unit and said condenser unit.

3. The heat exchanger of claim 1, wherein said integrated side support further comprises an elongated flattened portion having an end cap defined at each end, each of said end caps having reinforcing tabs extending radially from annular portions of said end caps.

4. The heat exchanger of claim 1, wherein said integrated side support further comprises expansion joints at both ends of said integrated side support.

5. A heat exchanger comprising: at least one pair of integrated headers arranged parallel to each other, each integrated header comprising a radiator unit and a condenser unit, said radiator unit and said condenser units defining separate heat-exchange fluid flowpaths; and a unitarily structured end cap positioned to cover each of said headers to block said flowpaths

6. The heat exchanger of claim 5, wherein said unitarily structured end cap further comprises at least two cap members integral with the said unitarily structured end cap, each cap member being capable of sealing a separate header unit.

7. The heat exchanger of claim 5, wherein said unitarily structured end cap further comprises a molded indentation within each cap member that coincides with the inner diameter of a separate heat exchanger unit.

8. The heat exchanger of claim 5, wherein said unitarily structured end cap further comprises reinforcing tabs extending radially from annular portions of said unitarily structured end caps.

9. The heat exchanger of claim 5, wherein said unitarily structured end cap is integrally molded with a side support for a heat exchanger.

10. Apparatus for supporting a pair of integrated headers arranged in parallel relation to each other comprising: a side support mounted adjacent both of said integrated headers; end cap means integrated with said side support for sealing said integrated headers, and securing means extending from said end cap means for securing said end cap means to said headers.

11. The apparatus of claim 10 wherein said end cap means is integrally molded with said side support.

12. The apparatus of claim 10 wherein said end cap means comprises at least one cap member integrally molded within a unitary structure.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to heat exchangers. In particular, the invention relates to a structural improvement for sealing and supporting heat exchanger elements.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Heat exchangers are utilized in conventional automobiles to dissipate heat from the engine, or to provide heat exchange to the interior of the car such as with air-conditioning. Typically, these automotive components take the form of radiator structures that are positioned in front of a cooling fan and behind the intake grill. Other heat exchanger structures can include condensers and evaporators.

[0003] As currently produced, heat exchangers are constructed from a variety of components. For example, radiator header units are composed of headers, tanks, inlet and outlet pipes. The radiator headers are typically connected in perpendicular relation to a heat exchanger core. The core of a radiator consists of a plurality of heat transfer tubes and fins which serve to dissipate heat from the coolant that is cycled through the heat exchanger. The heat transfer tubes and fins are typically arranged to maximize their exposure to a moving airflow. The core of a heat exchanger is most often affixed to side supports that, in turn, are welded or otherwise affixed to end caps which seal or cap headers or tanks. Thus, the manufacture of a heat exchanger is a complex process that involves welding, or otherwise affixing, numerous parts into a cohesive unit.

[0004] With respect to side supports and end caps for heat exchangers, the current practice is to affix end caps to each end of a side support during the manufacturing process. Once pieced together, the side support and end caps are affixed to the heat exchanger core and the heat exchanger headers or tanks. Specifically, the side support is affixed in adjacent fashion to the core of the heat exchanger. The end caps, in turn, are affixed to the header units of the heat exchanger. Thus, the current practice utilizes at least three separate pieces to support the heat exchanger core and seal the heat exchanger headers or tanks—a side support with an end cap component located on each end of the side support.

[0005] In sum, the current manufacture of heat exchangers is a complex and expensive undertaking. As has been described, this is due, in large part, to the assembly and construction of multiple mechanical components that must be blended into a cohesive sum.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] The present invention relates to an integrated side support capable of supporting, uniting and sealing at least one heat exchanger. By having a one-piece, integrated side support, manufacturing costs are substantially reduced. Collateral benefits such as reduced leakage and better overall structural integrity are also derived from the present invention.

[0007] In one embodiment of the present invention, a heat exchanger is disclosed comprising a pair of integrated header units arranged in parallel relation to each other. Each header unit comprises a radiator header and a condenser. The radiator unit and condenser maintain separate heat exchange fluid flowpaths. A plurality of parallel heat transfer tubes is connected perpendicularly to said integrated headers, and a plurality of fins extend between adjacent heat transfer tubes of the radiator. A fin unit including a plurality of fins is mounted to an outside surface of an outermost heat transfer tube, and an integrated side support is connected to the fin unit and integrated headers.

[0008] In another embodiment of the invention, an apparatus for supporting a pair of integrated headers arranged in parallel relation to each other is disclosed. A side support is mounted adjacent to both of said integrated headers, and an end cap means is integrated with said side support for sealing said integrated headers. A securing means is provided extending from said end cap to said header.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0009] These and other features of the invention will appear from the following written description, and from the drawings, in which:

[0010] FIG. 1 is a perspective of one embodiment of a heat exchanger assembly of the present invention.

[0011] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a side support removed from the embodiment of FIG. 1 in accordance with the present invention.

[0012] FIG. 3 is a sectional view of the interface between the integrated header, integrated side support and core of the heat exchanger of FIG. 1.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0013] FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a heat exchanger unit with the preferred embodiment incorporated therein. As shown in the drawing, the heat exchanger has two integrated header units 1, 2, each containing a radiator header 1 and a condenser 2 (more fully shown in FIG. 3), arranged in parallel relation to each other. The first preferred embodiment of the invention is an integrally molded side support that includes a side support component 3 and end caps 4, each end cap 4 with at least two cap members 4a, 4b (more fully shown in FIG. 3) located at each end of the side support component. As shown in the drawing, the side support component 3 supports the heat exchanger core 8. The end caps 4 operate to seal the radiator headers 1 and the condenser 2. The addition of expansion joints 6 on each end of the side support component can also be seen from this drawing. This drawing also shows the inclusion of reinforcement tabs 5 in the preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0014] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a first preferred embodiment of the present invention viewed removed from the other components illustrated in FIG. 1. As shown in the drawings, the preferred embodiment includes a substantially flat portion 3a for the side support 3 to the heat exchanger core 8. The preferred embodiment further includes end caps 4 on each end of the side support, each with two cap members 4a, 4b.

[0015] Referring specifically to FIG. 3, it can be clearly seen that, as contemplated by the present invention, the integrated header unit comprises two adjacent and attached heat exchanger units—the radiator header 1 affixed to the condenser 2. Each component of the integrated header unit functions as a separate and autonomous unit. Although affixed to one another, the two heat exchanger components remain partitioned so that each can serve its separate function independently of the other. FIG. 3 further shows an enlarged view of the interface between the integrated side support end cap 4 and the integrated header unit 1, 2. It is also shown that the preferred embodiment includes reinforcing tabs 5 arranged in a roughly equidistant fashion around the end caps 4. The preferred embodiment also includes expansion joints 6 on each end of the side support to allow for the expansion and contraction of the heat exchanger core 8 during heating and cooling cycles. As can be clearly seen from the drawing, the preferred embodiment of the present invention is preferably an integrally molded component that incorporates all of these features.

[0016] Referring again to FIG. 3, each end cap 4 has two cap members 4a, 4b. One cap member 4a coincides in shape with the oblong cross-sectional configuration of the radiator 1 while the second cap member 4b is shaped substantially round so as to coincide with the round cross-sectional shape of the condenser 2. The two cap members 4a, 4b are integrally molded so that the end cap is preferably a unitary structure that incorporates both cap members. Thus, in the preferred embodiment, the integrated side support caps two heat exchanger units 1, 2 with a unitarily structured end cap 4 that has two cap members 4a, 4b.

[0017] In the preferred embodiment, each cap member 4a, 4b fits to the outer diameter of a coinciding heat exchanger component. As stated, one cap member 4a is adapted to fit the radiator header 1 and the other cap member 4b is adapted to fit the condenser 2. Of note is that within each cap member, there is an indentation that coincides with the inner diameter of each coinciding heat exchanger component. The indented part of the cap member fits within the inner diameter of the coinciding heat exchanger component thus being positioned similarly to a plug. The end cap 4 is then affixed to the integrated header units 1,2 through the process of brazing.

[0018] The placing of indentations within the cap members 4a, 4b so as to fit within the diameter of the heat exchanger header improves the function of the heat exchanger. Heat exchangers involve the cycling of fluid throughout their various components. Thus, structural integrity is of vital importance so that components do not leak the fluid that is essential to the operation of the heat exchanger. By placing the cap member 4a, 4b in the inner diameter of the corresponding heat exchanger header in the way of the preferred embodiment, a cleaner and more secure fit between the cap member and the header is ensured and the overall structural integrity of the unit is enhanced. The alignment of the cap member 4a, 4b with the outer surface of the heat exchanger(s) also streamlines the design of the end cap-to-header interface. It is contemplated that a variety of shapes could be utilized for a cap member depending on the heat exchanger cross-sectional shape for which the cap member is to be united. The requirements for designing other cap member configurations would only require altering the design and stamp specifications of the end cap.

[0019] In addition to the unique configuration of the end cap 4, a plurality of reinforcing tabs 5 are also included in the present invention so as to better secure the end caps 4 to the heat exchanger components. The reinforcing tabs 5 are positioned along the outer surface of the end cap 4, and specifically, along the outer surface of each cap member 4a, 4b. The reinforcing tabs 5 extend radially and are bent axially to contact the surface of the attached header unit. The reinforcing tabs are secured to the header units through the same brazing process that is used to affix the end caps 4 to the integrated header units 1,2. In the preferred embodiment, three reinforcing tabs 5 are positioned in a roughly equidistant relationship to one another along the outer surface of each cap member 4a, 4b. The number of reinforcing tabs 5 could be greater, or less, than those identified in the preferred embodiment, depending on design needs. It is also contemplated that additional spacing patterns of the reinforcing tabs 5 could be utilized to achieve a satisfactory result.

[0020] The end caps 4 also provide a means for securing a mounting pin 7 to the heat exchanger unit. The mounting pins function to secure the heat exchanger to its operative location, such as within an automobile engine. The current practice is simply to weld mounting pins onto some portion of the heat exchanger unit—often the side support or the end caps. In the preferred embodiment, small rectangular holes are drilled through the “radiator” cap member 4a of the integrated side support after it has been stamped. In a separate process, mounting pins 7 are stamped that contain tabs at the cylindrical ends of the mounting pins. In the next step, the tabs of the mounting pins are placed through the holes that have been drilled in the cap member 4a and then the tabs, now protruding through the cap member 4a, are expanded through a process called stacking. The expansion of the mounting pin tabs secures the mounting pins in place.

[0021] The present invention further contemplates the addition of expansion joints 6 on each end of the integrated side support 3. Preferably, the expansion joint 6 includes a pursed (or folded) portion of the flat area 3a located adjacent the end cap 4. This configuration allows the pursed portion to lengthen and expand, thereby adding to the length of the side support 3 itself. The addition of an expansion joint 6 on each end of the side support 3 serves to allow for thermal expansion during the operation of the heat exchanger. This is necessary in that, as the core temperature of the heat exchanger rises during operation, core components 8 of the heat exchanger expand. If such components are rigidly contained within the core of the heat exchanger, components can become damaged and, in some instances, the side supports can warp. The addition of the expansion joints 6 to the side support 3 allows the side support 3 to flex which alleviates the problem of damaging the heat exchanger core components 8, as well as the warping of the side support 3 itself. An additional benefit is derived from the inclusion of expansion joints in that the expansion joints 6 allow the integrated side support 3 to flex during the manufacturing process. The process for manufacturing heat exchangers involves meshing what are often inflexible components into a cohesive whole. The addition of expansion joints 6 in the preferred embodiment allows a degree of flexibility to the side support thereby making it easier to assemble the components during the manufacturing process.

[0022] The manufacturing process of the integrated side support itself consists of creating a stamping die according to the needed specifications. The utilization of a stamping die to create structural components is well known in the mechanical arts. For example, the stamping die can be utilized to form internal passageways in a tubular structure or to create specific components to exacting detail for use in machinery components, as is well-known in the art. Although the preferred embodiment of the present invention has been described in detail herein, the invention is not limited thereto. It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that various modifications can be made without materially departing from the novel and advantageous teachings of the invention. For example, a traditional configuration of just a single heat exchanger, such as a radiator, would still benefit from the integrated side support. It is also possible that, at some point in the future, even more than two heat exchangers could be combined into an integrated unit. With slight modification in the stamping process, such a device could be accommodated by the present invention. Specifically, addition cap members could be added to the end cap to accommodate such a device.

[0023] It would be understood by those skilled in the art that the outer dimensions of the end cap 4, and specifically, the cap members 4a, 4b, would vary according to the required specification of the heat exchanger component it was to be joined with, and the indentation in the cap member would vary with the inner dimensions in a similar manner. As stated, in the preferred embodiment, one cap member 4a would fit to the outer diameter of a radiator header 1 while its indentation would fit within the inner diameter of the radiator header 1. The other cap member 4b would fit to the outer diameter of a condenser 2 while its indentation would fit within the inner diameter of the condenser header 2. While it is believed that those skilled in the art would understand how to utilize a basic design configuration to achieve such a task, a detailed illustrative embodiment of the end cap 4 and its cap members 4a, 4b is schematically illustrated in FIG. 3.

[0024] Of course, it should be understood that a wide range of changes and modifications can be made to the preferred embodiments described above. Thus, it is intended that the foregoing detailed description be regarded as illustrative rather than limiting, and that it be understood that it is the following claims, including all equivalents, which are intended to define the scope of this invention.





 
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