Title:
Incorporation of particulates into fireplace articles
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gas fireplace article comprising a molded portion and a particulate. The particulate providing an effect different from the molded portion. An insert to fit within a recess of a gas fireplace article. The insert including a particulate. Methods and compositions for forming gas fireplace articles that include a particulate.



Inventors:
Early, Thomas Alfred (Hager City, WI, US)
Lyons, David Charles (Red Wing, MN, US)
Patitz, Thomas Clark (Menomonie, WI, US)
Showalter, Glen James (Rochester, MN, US)
Application Number:
10/384498
Publication Date:
09/09/2004
Filing Date:
03/06/2003
Assignee:
EARLY THOMAS ALFRED
LYONS DAVID CHARLES
PATITZ THOMAS CLARK
SHOWALTER GLEN JAMES
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
431/125
International Classes:
F24C3/00; (IPC1-7): F24C3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PRICE, CARL D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A gas fireplace article, comprising: a molded portion, the molded portion comprising a ceramic fiber and a binder; and an expandable particulate coupled to the molded portion, wherein the expandable particulate provides an effect different from the molded portion when heated.

2. The gas fireplace article of claim 1, the molded portion comprising a compression molded material.

3. The gas fireplace article of claim 1, wherein the particulate comprises a non-exfoliated vermiculite.

4. The gas fireplace article of claim 1, wherein an adhesive couples the particulate to an outer surface of the molded portion.

5. The gas fireplace article of claim 4, wherein the adhesive comprises a ceramic adhesive.

6. The gas fireplace article of claim 5, further comprising a volatile metallic salt.

7. A gas fireplace article comprising: a molded portion, the molded portion defining a recess; and an insert sized to fit within the recess, the insert comprising a ceramic fiber, a binder, and an expandable particulate, wherein the expandable particulate provides an effect different from the molded portion when heated.

8. The gas fireplace article of claim 7, the molded portion comprising a compression molded material.

9. The gas fireplace article of claim 7, the expandable particulate comprising a non-exfoliated vermiculite.

10. A molding composition for a gas fireplace article, the molding composition comprising a mixture of a ceramic fiber, a binder, and an expandable particulate.

11. The molding composition of claim 10, wherein the expandable particulate is a non-exfoliated vermiculite.

12. The molding composition of claim 10, wherein the mixture is a compression molding composition.

13. An insert for a fireplace article, the insert comprising: a molded portion comprising a ceramic fiber and a binder; and an expandable particulate coupled to the molded portion, wherein the expandable particulate provides an effect different from the molded portion when heated.

14. The replaceable insert of claim 13, wherein the expandable particulate is a non-exfoliated vermiculite.

15. A method for simulating the burn of natural fire, the method comprising: providing a gas fireplace article comprising a molded portion and an expandable particulate coupled to the molded portion; and altering the expandable particulate to allow the expandable particulate to fall from the molded portion.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein the step of altering the expandable particulate to allow the particulate to fall from the molded portion comprises heating the particulate.

17. The method of claim 15, wherein the expandable particulate is a non-exfoliated vermiculite.

18. The method of claim 15, further comprising the step of adhering the expandable particulate to the molded portion with an adhesive.

19. A method for forming a gas fireplace article, the method comprising: forming a mixture of a ceramic fiber, a binder, and an expandable particulate; providing the mixture of the ceramic fiber, the binder, and the expandable particulate to a mold; and molding the mixture into a desired shape.

20. The method of claim 19, wherein the particulate is a non-exfoliated vermiculite.

21. The method of claim 19, wherein the step of molding the mixture into a desired shape comprises compression molding the mixture.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] This invention relates to fireplaces. In addition, the invention relates to incorporation of particulates into molded gas fireplace articles.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Gas fireplaces are an efficient method for providing warmth and creating the appeal of a fire within a room. Also, gas fireplaces have become commonplace in today's building trades for both residential and commercial applications. Most new home construction designs include at least one, and often several gas fireplaces. Further, a significant number of remodeling projects are focused on fireplaces.

[0003] The representation of the glow and look in such gas fireplaces is desirable to simulate the effect created by a natural fire. Previous systems created to provide a natural look of a burning log or ember bed rely on contoured surfaces or the incandescent glow from the material that forms the article, such ceramic fibers or mineral wool. However, such systems have several drawbacks.

[0004] First, upon heating of the previous articles, such as artificial logs and burners, no materials are produced that expand in size or fall away from the article to simulate the natural burn or a log or the formation of burning embers and/or ash. Second, these articles do not provide a method to replace expended particulates that are incorporated into natural looking insert that are integrated into the article. Third, previous systems fail to incorporate particulates into the structure of the fireplace article. Fourth, previous systems fail to provide the most aesthetically appealing glow of fire because differential incandescence is not utilized to emphasize the change in glow intensity seen during the burn period of a natural fire. Further, the differences in glow observed on specific portions of a natural fire are not observed in gas fireplace articles.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] Generally, the present invention relates to gas fireplaces. One embodiment may include a gas fireplace article comprising a molded portion. The molded portion comprises a ceramic fiber and a binder. A particulate is coupled to the molded portion. The particulate provides an effect different from the molded portion when heated.

[0006] In another respect, the invention is directed to a gas fireplace article comprising a molded portion. The molded portion comprises a ceramic fiber and a binder. An expandable particulate is coupled to the molded portion. The expandable particulate provides an effect different from the molded portion when heated.

[0007] In another respect, the invention is directed to a gas fireplace article comprising. In another respect, the invention is directed to a gas fireplace article comprising a molded portion. The molded portion defines a recess. An insert is sized to fit within the recess. The insert comprises a ceramic fiber, a binder, and an expandable particulate. The expandable particulate provides an effect different from the molded portion when heated.

[0008] In another respect, the invention is directed to an insert for a fireplace article. The insert comprises a molded portion comprising a ceramic fiber and a binder and an expandable particulate coupled to the molded portion. The expandable particulate provides an effect different from the molded portion when heated.

[0009] In another respect, the invention is directed to a molding composition for a gas fireplace article. The molding composition comprises a mixture of a ceramic fiber, a binder, and an expandable particulate.

[0010] In another respect, the invention is directed to a method for simulating the burn of natural fire, the method comprising: providing a gas fireplace article comprising a molded portion and an expandable particulate coupled to the molded portion; and altering the expandable particulate to allow the expandable particulate to fall from the molded portion.

[0011] In another respect, the invention is directed to a method for forming a gas fireplace article, the method comprising: forming a mixture of a ceramic fiber, a binder, and an expandable particulate; providing the mixture of the ceramic fiber, the binder, and the expandable particulate to a mold; and molding the mixture into a desired shape.

[0012] The above summary of the present invention is not intended to describe each disclosed embodiment or every implementation of the present invention. The figures and the detailed description that follow more particularly exemplify these embodiments.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] The invention may be more completely understood in consideration of the following detailed description of various embodiments of the invention in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which:

[0014] FIG. 1 is a schematic front view of an embodiment of a gas fireplace artificial log;

[0015] FIG. 2 is a schematic cross-sectional view of the gas fireplace artificial log of FIG. 1;

[0016] FIG. 3 is a schematic cross-sectional view of a second embodiment of a gas fireplace artificial log;

[0017] FIG. 4 is a schematic cross-sectional view of a compression molded gas fireplace log;

[0018] FIG. 5 is a schematic cross-sectional view of the compression molded gas fireplace artificial log of FIG. 4 having an exposed inner portion;

[0019] FIG. 6 is a schematic cross-sectional view of a third embodiment of a gas fireplace artificial log;

[0020] FIG. 7 is a schematic cross-sectional view of an embodiment of a gas fireplace burner;

[0021] FIG. 8 is a schematic cross-sectional view of a second embodiment of a gas fireplace burner; and

[0022] FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of a third embodiment of a gas fireplace burner.

[0023] While the invention is amenable to various modifications and alternative forms, specifics thereof have been shown by way of example in the drawings and will be described in detail. It should be understood, however, that the intention is not to limit the invention to the particular embodiments described. On the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives failing within the spirit and scope of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0024] The present invention relates to gas fireplaces. In particular, the present invention is directed to the use of particulates in a molded log, burner, panel, or other article that is subjected to heat in gas fireplace. The molded object can include a ceramic fiber and a binder. The present invention may be applicable to any gas fireplace such as a direct vent, a universal vent, a B-vent, a horizontal/vertical-vent, a dual direct vent, a multisided unit, or any gas insert, stove, or other gas-burning device that utilizes heat and/or a flame. While the present invention is not so limited, an appreciation of various aspects of the invention will be gained through a discussion of the examples provided below.

[0025] Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, one embodiment of an article 100 molded in the shape of an artificial log 110 is shown. The artificial log 110 includes a molded portion 112 that forms the body of the article. Typically, the molded portion includes an inorganic ceramic fiber and a binder. The molded portion 112 includes an outer surface 114 to which a particulate 116, such as non-exfoliated vermiculite, is coupled. Particulate 116 is made of a material that provides an incandescent glow or intensity when heated or upon interaction with a flame. Particulates other than non-exfoliated vermiculite can be coupled to the molded log such as exfoliated vermiculite, mineral or rock wool, platinum embers, or other incandescent materials suitable for gas fireplaces. Any particulate that provides a differential effect or incandescent intensity on the article can be utilized. Volatile metallic salts can optionally be used in connection with the particulate for color enhancement. One method of using volatile metallic salts is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,429,495, which is incorporated by reference herein.

[0026] During heating or the interaction with a flame, the particulate 116 provides an effect different from the effect created by heating the molded portion 112. For example, as the particulate 116, such as non-exfoliated vermiculite, is heated it can expand and glow similar to the burning that is observed on a natural burning log. This forms an expanded or altered particulate 117. After expanding from heating, the expanded particulate 117 can fall to the bottom of a combustion chamber enclosure or onto a gas burner and continue to glow similar to embers and/or ash seen on the floor of a natural fireplace or remain attached to log. One example of an expanded particulate is exfoliated vermiculite. The expanded particulate 117 that remains coupled to molded portion 112 can continue to glow in a differential way than the molded portion 112. Other particulates that may not expand upon heating, such as mineral wool, can be utilized as a particulate 116 to create an incandescent intensity or effect that is different from the molded portion 112.

[0027] Molded portion 112 can be formed from, for example, inorganic ceramic fibers and a binder. Molded portion 112 can be formed by any known molding technique, such as, for example, compression molding and vacuum forming techniques. Exemplary compression molding compositions and forming techniques are described in pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/781,148, which is incorporated herein by reference. Additional exemplary molding compositions and forming techniques are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,941,237; 5,996,575; and 6,170,481; which are incorporated herein by reference.

[0028] In one embodiment of forming a gas fireplace article, such as artificial log 110, the particulate 116 can be coupled to outer surface 114 with a high temperature adhesive such as a ceramic adhesive 118. The particulate 116 can be placed on the surface in positions that provide a realistic glowing log. For example, non-exfoliated vermiculite can be concentrated on a front bottom portion 119 of the artificial log 110 to provide a more significant glow in this region of the artificial log 110.

[0029] Non-exfoliated vermiculite, also know as crude vermiculite or vermiculite concentrate, typically increases in volume about 6 to 12 times when heated to form exfoliated vermiculite (expanded vermiculite). Some individual flakes of non-exfoliated vermiculite can expand as much as 30 times in volume. During the conversion from non-exfoliated vermiculite (expandable particulate) to exfoliated vermiculite, the color of the vermiculite can change. This change can vary based upon the temperature in a particular location or flame position relative to the vermiculite particle. Another example of an expandable particulate is mica.

[0030] Particulate 116 can be adhered to the outer surface 114 of the artificial log 110 prior to the sale of the article to a consumer. Alternatively, the particulate can be sold as a kit with the ceramic adhesive so that the consumer can apply the particulate: as desired to a molded log; to previously purchased compression molded or vacuum formed logs; or to replace spent particulate that has been previously heated and fallen off a molded log.

[0031] Referring to FIG. 3, a cross-sectional view of a second embodiment of an artificial log 210 is shown. The artificial log 210 includes a distribution of particulate 216 throughout molded portion 212.

[0032] In the embodiment of FIG. 3, the particulate 216 can be coupled to the molded portion 212 through incorporation into a molding composition that is processed to form a gas fireplace article 200, such as artificial log 210. Incorporation of the particulate 116 into the molding composition will create a particulate distribution in the finished article. For example, a non-exfoliated vermiculite material can be incorporated into a slurry of inorganic ceramic fiber and a binder. The slurry is then utilized in a vacuum molding technique to form the article 200. Alternatively, the particulate can be incorporated into a compression molding composition. In another embodiment, the molding composition that includes the particulate can be applied to the surface of an existing article.

[0033] After the molding process, the non-exfoliated vermiculite (particulate 116) is thereby dispersed within the finished article 200. At least some of the particulate 216 is exposed on the outer surface 214 of the artificial log 210 to provide an effect different than the effect created from the inorganic ceramic fiber and binder that was included in the slurry.

[0034] Referring to FIGS. 4 and 5, some compression molded articles include particulate 316, for example, a non-exfoliated vermiculite, that burns and falls from the log exposing an inner portion 320 of the molded portion to heat or a flame. Due to differences in the density and composition of the molded portion 312, this inner portion 320 typically glows differently from the ceramic fiber and binder that forms the outer surface 314 of the molded portion 312. For example, as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, the inner portion 320 is less dense than an outer portion 321 of the article 300. This creates yet another differential glowing effect that is viewable by the consumer.

[0035] Referring to FIG. 6, a cross-sectional view of a third embodiment of an article 400 shaped as artificial log 410, is shown. The artificial log 410 includes particulate 416 that is coupled to log through the creation of recess 422, such as a pocket, pit, or hole. The recess 422 is defined by the outer surface 414 of the artificial log 410. For example, pieces of particulate 424, such as non-exfoliated vermiculite, can be inserted within pits in an outer surface 414 of the artificial log 410.

[0036] In another application, an insert 426 can be formed to fit within a recess 428. The insert 426 can include a particulate 416 such as non-exfoliated vermiculite coupled to a molded material 429, such as a ceramic fiber and a binder.

[0037] As materials such as particulate 416 and/or particulate 424 are expended during use of the fireplace, either the insert and/or pieces of material can be replaced with knew material or inserts that are the same or different from the material originally used to fill the recess. Alternatively, a paste or slurry of molding composition that includes the particulate can be applied to fill a recess on a gas fireplace article.

[0038] The pits, pockets, or holes can be formed during the compression or vacuum molding process or formed through post-article forming manufacturing processes, such as, for example, drilling, etching, sawing, or other processes. For compression molded articles to which a portion of the article is removed through a post-compression manufacturing process, as a particulate, such as, for example, non-exfoliated vermiculite burns and falls from the log, an inner portion of the compression molded ceramic fiber and binder is then exposed to heat or the flame. Due to differences in the density and composition of the compression molded ceramic fiber and binder, this inner portion typically glows differently from the ceramic fiber and binder that forms the outer surface of the molded portion, creating an additional differential glowing effect.

[0039] Referring to FIG. 7, a cross-sectional view of an embodiment of an article 500 in the form of a burner 510 is shown. A pan portion 511 is coupled to a molded portion 512. A gas tube 513 supplies a gas/air mixture to a space 515 defined by the molded portion 512 and the pan portion 511. The gas/air mixture travels from space 515 through ports 521 that are defined by the molded portion 512. The gas/air mixture then passes out of port 521 for combustion.

[0040] Burner 510 includes a particulate 516. Similar to artificial log 110, burner 510 includes the particulate 516 coupled to an outer surface 514 of a molded portion 512 with an adhesive 518. The particulate 516 can be incorporated into burner 510 through adhesion or any of the other methods described for the formation of artificial log 110.

[0041] Referring to FIG. 8, a cross-sectional view of a second embodiment of a burner 610 is shown. Burner 610 is similar to burner 510 in that it includes a pan portion 611, a molded portion 612, a gas tube 613, a space 615, and ports 621. Particulate 616 can be incorporated into the molded portion 612 of burner 610 similar to as described for artificial log 210.

[0042] Referring to FIG. 9, a cross-sectional view of a third embodiment of a burner 710 is shown. Burner 710 is similar to burner 510 in that it includes a pan portion 711, a molded portion 712, a gas tube 713, a space 715, and ports 721. Particulate 716 can be incorporated into the molded portion 712 of burner 710 similar to as described for artificial log 410.

[0043] In another embodiment of a method for forming a gas fireplace article, such as an artificial log, a vacuum forming technique is utilized. For example, a non-exfoliated vermiculite can be combined with water and alumina silicate to form a particulate slurry. The particulate slurry is drawn with a vacuum through a screen leaving the non-exfoliated material deposited on the screen. A second slurry of ceramic fibers and binder is then introduce to the mold and drawn through the screen leaving the ceramic fibers and binder deposited upon the non-exfoliated vermiculite. With this method, the non-exfoliated vermiculite remains exposed on the outer surface of the finished article.

[0044] Optionally, organic wood particles can be incorporated into the ceramic fiber and binder articles. The organic wood particles can generate smoke and burn away to further simulate the realism of a natural fire.

[0045] The present invention should not be considered limited to the particular examples described above, or to the materials used to describe the various embodiments, but rather should be understood to cover all aspects of the invention as broadly set out in the attached claims. Various modifications, equivalent processes, as well as numerous structures to which the present invention may be applicable will be readily apparent to those of skill in the art to which the present invention is directed upon review of the instant specification.