Title:
METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR CLINCHED DOOR DESIGN
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A refrigerator includes a refrigerator cabinet and a refrigerator door for providing access to a compartment within the refrigerator cabinet, the refrigerator door includes a door pan and a plurality of corner brackets. The door pan includes a front surface, four sidewalls members extending rearwardly from the front surface thereby forming four corners, and an inwardly extending flange from each of the four side wall members. Each of the plurality of corner brackets is connected to two flanges of the door pan by clinching to thereby conceal the clinching from consumers of the refrigerator and to provide support to the door pan without welding. A method includes clinching a plurality of corner brackets to inwardly extending flanges of the prepainted door pan without welding to form a door pan assembly and assembling the refrigerator using the door pan assembly.



Inventors:
Leimkuehler, Scott W. (SWISHER, IA, US)
Mcelvain, Christopher R. (HOMESTEAD, IA, US)
Robertson, Robert V. (ANAMOSA, IA, US)
Srikanth, Ramamoorthy (CEDAR RAPIDS, IA, US)
Standefer, Jack J. (CEDAR RAPIDS, IA, US)
Walker, Richard N. (VICTOR, IA, US)
Application Number:
11/624955
Publication Date:
07/24/2008
Filing Date:
01/19/2007
Assignee:
WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION (BENTON HARBOR, MI, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B96/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
HANSEN, JAMES ORVILLE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION - MD 3601 (BENTON HARBOR, MI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A refrigerator, comprising: a refrigerator cabinet; a refrigerator door for providing access to a compartment within the refrigerator cabinet, the refrigerator door comprising a door pan and a plurality of corner brackets; wherein the door pan includes a front surface, four sidewalls members extending rearwardly from the front surface thereby forming four corners, and an inwardly extending flange from each of the four side wall members; wherein each of the plurality of corner brackets is connected to two flanges of the door pan by clinching to thereby conceal the clinching from users of the refrigerator and to provide support to the door pan without welding.

2. The refrigerator of claim 1 wherein the plurality of corner brackets includes four corner brackets.

3. The refrigerator of claim 2 wherein each of the plurality of corner brackets is clinched to each of the two flanges of the door pan with two clinches.

4. The refrigerator of claim 1 wherein each of the plurality of corner brackets is clinched to each of the two flanges of the door pan with two clinches.

5. The refrigerator of claim 1 wherein the door pan is stainless steel.

6. The refrigerator of claim 5 wherein the door pan is prepainted.

7. The refrigerator of claim 1 wherein the refrigerator door provides access to a freezer compartment and wherein the freezer compartment is positioned below a fresh food compartment in the refrigerator cabinet.

8. The refrigerator of claim 1 wherein each of the four corners has a seam to allow for one of the corner brackets to be placed in each of the plurality of corners.

9. A refrigerator, comprising: a refrigerator cabinet; a refrigerator door for providing access to a compartment within the refrigerator cabinet,; wherein the refrigerator door comprises a prepainted door pan and four corner brackets; wherein the prepainted door pan includes a prepainted front surface, four sidewalls members extending rearwardly from the front surface to form four corners, and an inwardly extending flange from each of the four side wall members; wherein each of the four corner brackets is connected to two flanges of the door pan with two clinches to thereby conceal the clinching from users of the refrigerator and to provide support to the prepainted door pan without welding.

10. The refrigerator of claim 9 wherein the prepainted door pan is stainless steel.

11. The refrigerator of claim 9 wherein the refrigerator door provides access to a freezer compartment and wherein the freezer compartment is positioned below a fresh food compartment in the refrigerator cabinet.

12. The refrigerator of claim 9 wherein each of the four corners has a seam to allow for one of the corner brackets to be placed in each of the plurality of corners.

13. A method of manufacturing a refrigerator, comprising: providing a prepainted door pan having a prepainted front surface, four sidewalls members extending rearwardly from the front surface to form four corners, and an inwardly extending flange from each of the four side wall members; clinching a plurality of corner brackets to inwardly extending flanges of the prepainted door pan without welding to form a door pan assembly; and assembling the refrigerator using the door pan assembly.

14. The method of claim 13 further comprising mitering each of the four corners of the door pan to allow for insertion of the corner brackets.

15. The method of claim 13 wherein the prepainted door pan is stainless steel.

16. The method of claim 13 further comprising directly attaching a door stop to one of the corner brackets without use of a tap plate.

17. The method of claim 13 wherein the step of clinching includes clinching four corner brackets.

18. The method of claim 13 wherein the step of clinching includes clinching each of the corner brackets to two separate inwardly extending flanges.

19. The method of claim 18 wherein each of the corner brackets is clinched to the two separate inwardly extending flanges with a plurality of clinches.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to stainless steel doors, and more particularly, but without limitation to the manufacturing of refrigerators having stainless steel or metallic doors.

Stainless steel doors and silver metallic doors are both common in refrigerators. Such doors may have a door pan of stainless steel or silver metal which is welded to the door assembly. In such a configuration, the welding may be along the flat part of the door, but not the radius. The backside or flange side of the door pan may have an offset with projection welds that may be visible. The welding provides structural support to the door pan assembly. After welding, the door may then be painted according to a desired color scheme.

What would be beneficial is a door that may be manufactured without welding of the door pan in forming the door pan assembly such that the door pan may be prepainted. Moreover, it would be beneficial if the door pan assembly were to maintain a clean and aesthetically pleasing look.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In light of the foregoing, it is a primary object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide an improved refrigerator.

It is a further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide for a refrigerator having a pre-painted door.

It is a still further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide for a refrigerator which has a door with a non-welded design.

Another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide for a refrigerator which has a vinyl coated metal or clear coated metal door.

Yet a further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a method of manufacturing a refrigerator which decreases manufacturing time and/or costs.

Another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide a method of manufacturing a refrigerator which replaces welded door designs with non-welded door designs by retrofitting an existing refrigerator door manufacturing line.

Yet another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention to provide for the use of clinching which still results in a door which is aesthetically pleasing to consumers.

Yet another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide for a refrigerator door which uses clinching but does not provide clinches on the top or bottom surface of the door.

A still further object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide for the use of clinching of a door pan assembly of a refrigerator door which allows an unwelded seam to be present along the corner.

Another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is to provide for the use of clinching of a door pan assembly of a refrigerator door which eliminates the need for tap plates.

Yet another object, feature, or advantage of the present invention is reduce cost in the manufacturing process using stainless doors, prep-painted steel doors, or other finishes.

One or more of these and/or other objects, features, or advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the specification and claims that follow.

According to one aspect of the present invention a refrigerator is provided. The refrigerator includes a refrigerator cabinet and a refrigerator door for providing access to a compartment within the refrigerator cabinet, the refrigerator door comprising a door pan and a plurality of corner brackets. The door pan includes a front surface, four sidewalls members extending rearwardly from the front surface thereby forming four corners, and an inwardly extending flange from each of the four side wall members. Each of the plurality of corner brackets is connected to two flanges of the door pan by clinching to thereby conceal the clinching from consumers of the refrigerator and to provide support to the door pan without welding.

According to another aspect of the present invention a method of manufacturing a refrigerator is provided. The method includes providing a prepainted door pan having a prepainted front surface, four sidewall members extending rearwardly from the front surface to form four corners, and an inwardly extending flange from each of the four side wall members, clinching a plurality of corner brackets to inwardly extending flanges of the prepainted door pan without welding to form a door pan assembly, and assembling the refrigerator using the door pan assembly.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a refrigerator of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a door pan.

FIG. 3 illustrates an exploded view of a door pan assembly.

FIG. 4 illustrates a door pan assembly after the step of clinching.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a set of corner brackets.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a bracket.

FIG. 7 is a top view of one embodiment of a bracket.

FIG. 8 is a front view of one embodiment of a bracket.

FIG. 9 is a side view of one embodiment of a bracket.

FIG. 10 is a partial view of one embodiment of a door pan assembly showing the corner clinched to the flange of the door pan.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

FIG. 1 illustrates one embodiment of a refrigerator of the present invention. It should be understood that what is shown is merely representative as numerous variations in the style and configuration of the refrigerator are contemplated. For example, the refrigerator may be a top mount configuration where a freezer is on top of or above the fresh food compartment, a bottom mount configuration where a freezer is mounted below the fresh food compartment, a side-by-side configuration where a freezer compartment and fresh food compartment are mounted side-by-side, a French door configuration, or other type of configuration. The refrigerator 10 has a cabinet 12. A freezer compartment door 14 provides access to a freezer compartment while a fresh food compartment door 16 provides access to a fresh food compartment.

FIG. 2 illustrates one embodiment of a door pan 30. The door pan 30 has a panel 32 which may be made of stainless steel. The panel 32 is framed by sides 50, 52, 54, 56 to form corners 34, 36, 38, 40. There are flanges on each side, with flange 60 shown along the top side 54, flange 62 along bottom side 56, flange 64 along side 52, and flange 66 along side 50. Brackets 42, 44, 46, 48 are shown. The design of the door pan 30 allows for corner bracket insertion. The corner brackets are inserted into the corners and provide for additional support so that welding is not needed. The corner brackets 42, 44, 46, 48 are clinched to the door pan 30. Clinching is a mechanical joining method and may use buttons formed on the die side of metal and a recess formed on the punch side of the metal. The clinching of the corner brackets 42, 44, 46, 48 may be performed through TOG-L-LOC operation. TOG-L-LOC technology is available from the BTM Corporation. Information regarding the TOG-L-LOC technology is also provided in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,574,453; 4,574,473; 5,339,509; all of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entireties. Clinching may also be performed through use of equipment and technologies from other sources including, but not limited to, Tox Pressotechnik LLC and Techline Engineering Co.

The clinching of the door pan 30 to the brackets 42, 44, 46, 48 provides a strength substantially equal to that of a door pan with a welded corner. Because welding is not required, the door may be made of pre-paint material. The doors may be made of a pre-painted steel. One example of a pre-painted steel is silver metallic. Another example of a material which can be used is vinyl coated metal (VCM). The invention also contemplates that the door may be a stainless steel door with a clear coat. It is of note that a vinyl coated metal and a clear coated metal can not be welded.

FIG. 3 illustrates an exploded view of a door which includes a door pan assembly 30 and a door assembly 22. FIG. 4 illustrates an assembled door 18 which includes the door pan assembly 30.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the corner brackets 42, 44, 46, and 48. Each of the corner brackets 42, 44, 46, 48 is clinched to the door pan. Each of the corner brackets 42, 44, 46, 48 shown is L-shaped and provides an opening for the clinching operation. The present invention contemplates that the shape and physical configuration of each of the corner brackets may vary as the door design varies. A single door may even have four brackets which are all unique relative to one another. Where a refrigerator manufacturing line is retrofitted to replace welding of the corners of the door pan with clinching of corner brackets, there may be a greater need for different styles of brackets.

FIG. 6-9 provide additional views of the bracket 42. The bracket 42 is a bottom bracket placed on the hinge side of the refrigerator door. The bracket 42 has an L-shaped body 70. There are a plurality of extruded holes 72, 74, 76 shown. The extruded holes 72, 74, 76, allow for directly connecting a door stop to the bracket without requiring a tap plate. The use of a door stop proximate the hinge of a refrigerator door prevents over extending the door and damaging the hinge. Because the door stop may be directly connected to the bracket 42, there is no need for a tap plate. Also in FIG. 6, tabs 78, 80 are shown which extend upwardly. An aperture 82 is also shown. The corner bracket 42 has an L-shaped body with members 84, 86 forming the L. The member or side flange 84 has separated portions 85, 87 as best shown in FIG. 8. The corner bracket 42 has a bottom flange 82. During the manufacturing process, the side flange 84 and the bottom flange 82 are clinched to the flanges of door pan.

In a preferred embodiment, there are four clinches on the flanges of the door assembly 30 for each corner bracket. Returning to FIG. 2, note that at corner 38 there are apertures 90, 92, 94, 96. At corner 36, there are apertures 98, 100, 102, 104. At corner 34, there are apertures 106, 108, 110, 112. At corner 40 there are apertures 114, 116, 118, 120. Note that each of the apertures 90, 92, 94, 96, 98, 100, 102, 104, 106, 108, 110, 112, 114, 116, 118, 120 is for clinching. Note further that each of these apertures is positioned on a flange. For each corner, there is a clinch associated with each of these apertures to thereby provide for four clinches per corner, although the present invention contemplates that different numbers of clinches may be used. For example, for corner 34, an upper side clinch using aperture 106 provides vertical support for corner bracket 44. A lower side clinch using aperture 108 ties the bottom flange of the corner bracket 44 to the side flange 66 of the door. The outboard bottom clinch using aperture 112 and an inboard bottom clinch using aperture 110 both tie the bottom flange 62 of the door to the bottom flange of the corner bracket 44. Where all clinching occurs along the flanges, consumers of the refrigerator will not be able to see the clinches as the clinches will not be on the top or bottom or sides of the refrigerator door. This results in an aesthetically appealing refrigerator. Because welding of the door pan is no longer required, the door pan may be pre-painted. The doors may have smooth pre-paint doors or vinyl coated metal doors.

FIG. 10 is a partial view of one embodiment of a door pan assembly showing the corner clinched to the flange of the door pan. Clinches 106, 108 are shown along a flange 66 on the side of the door pan while clinches 110, 112 are shown along a flange 62 along the bottom of the door pan. A seam 134 is shown the corner 34. Note that the clinches 106, 108, 110 would not present along the top or bottom of the door but would be hidden from the consumer. Also, the clinches need not be present on the sides of the door.

According to a method of manufacturing a refrigerator, a first step is to make available or otherwise provide a prepainted door pan having a prepainted front surface, four sidewalls members extending rearwardly from the front surface to form four corners, and an inwardly extending flange from each of the four side wall members. Next clinching is performed to connect corner brackets to inwardly extending flanges of the prepainted door pan without welding to form a door pan assembly. Next, the assembly of the refrigerator is completed. To allow for the corner brackets to be placed within the door pan, each of the four corners of the door pan may be mitered. Also, as previously disclosed a door stop may be directly attached to one of the corner brackets without use of a tap plate.

In a refrigerator manufacturing, an existing door line may be used to make non-welded metal doors. New door dies, door brackets, and clinching machines may be obtained to retrofit the existing door line.

The invention has been shown and described above with the preferred embodiments, and it is understood that many modifications, substitutions, and additions may be made which are within the intended spirit and scope of the invention.