Title:
Ice-making machine
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An evaporator for use in an ice-making machine that has at least one water passage and at least one refrigerant passage. Water passing through the water passage is frozen by the conductive effects of a refrigerant passing through the refrigerant passages. The evaporator is wound in a flat, spiral, space-saving design. A flow-splitter for use in evaporators with two water passages is also provided.



Inventors:
Broadbent, John Allen (Denver, CO, US)
Application Number:
12/012264
Publication Date:
08/07/2008
Filing Date:
01/31/2008
Assignee:
MILE HIGH EQUIPMENT LLC.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F25C1/22
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ALI, MOHAMMAD M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Paul D. Greeley (Stamford, CT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An evaporator for an ice-making machine, comprising: at least one water passage with an inner surface adapted for the formation of ice thereon, and at least one refrigerant passage, said refrigerant passage being adapted for the passage of a refrigerant therethrough, wherein the evaporator is made via an extrusion process.

2. The evaporator of claim 1, wherein the evaporator is a flat, spiral evaporator.

3. The evaporator of claim 1, further comprising an insulating material disposed about said evaporator.

4. The evaporator of claim 1, wherein the evaporator is made of either a thermally conductive plastic or a metal alloy.

5. The evaporator of claim 4, wherein said metal alloy is an aluminum alloy.

6. The evaporator of claim 1, wherein the evaporator has one water passage, and two refrigerant passages.

7. The evaporator of claim 7, wherein said water passage is peanut-shaped.

8. The evaporator of claim 1, wherein said evaporator has two water passages, and one refrigerant passage disposed between said water passages.

9. The ice-making machine of claim 8, wherein said water passages are substantially oval.

10. The ice-making machine of claim 8, wherein said water passages are substantially round.

11. The ice-making machine of claim 1, wherein said evaporator is coated with a corrosion-resistant material, anodized, or a combination of the two.

12. An ice-making machine comprising: an evaporator comprising two water passages, each with an inner surface for the formation of ice thereon, and one refrigerant passage for the passage of a refrigerant therethrough; a water source in fluid communication with said water passages; and a flow-splitter disposed between said water source and said water passages, wherein said flow-splitter diverts at least a portion of said water to each water passage, wherein said evaporator is wound.

13. The machine of claim 12, wherein said evaporator is made via an extrusion process.

14. The machine of claim 12, further comprising an insulating material disposed about said evaporator.

15. The evaporator of claim 12, wherein said evaporator is made of either a thermally conductive plastic or a metal alloy.

16. The evaporator of claim 15, wherein said metal alloy is an aluminum alloy.

17. The ice-making machine of claim 12, wherein said water passages are substantially oval.

18. The ice-making machine of claim 12, wherein said water passages are substantially round.

19. The ice-making machine of claim 12, wherein said evaporator is wound in a spiral.

20. The ice-making machine of claim 12, wherein said evaporator is coated with a corrosion-resistant material, anodized, or a combination of the two.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The following application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/002,155, filed on Dec. 13, 2007. The following application also claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application Nos. 60/898,641, 60/918,842, and 61/009,252, filed on Jan. 31, 2007, Mar. 19, 2007, and Dec. 27, 2007, respectively.

BACKGROUND OF THE DISCLOSURE

1. Field of the Disclosure The present disclosure relates to ice-making machines. More particularly, the present disclosure relates to ice-making machines having a flat, spiral evaporator, within which the ice is formed.

2. Discussion of the Related Art

In the field of ice-making machines, it is desirable to have automated machines that produce continuous supplies of ice, while still maintaining mechanical simplicity and efficient use of resources such as power and water during the ice-making process.

Many ice-making machines of the prior art are designed in configurations that occupy a lot of space. Additionally, the machines of the prior art often require large and/or costly mechanical components that break the ice or form it into small pieces.

The machines of the prior art are also sometimes constructed from materials that are not approved for use with potable water, for example copper. These evaporators are often a tube-in-tube design, with refrigerant flowing through the annular space between the tubes. The inner tube is typically made of bare copper, which cannot be approved for potable water contact in commercial ice-making machines in the United States by the appropriate regulatory agencies. For these machines to be approved, the copper tubes would have to be plated with nickel or other approved substances. This process is difficult and costly, and often leads to machine failures.

Accordingly, there is a need for an ice-making machine that overcomes the aforementioned disadvantages of the machines of the prior art.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

The present disclosure provides an ice-making machine that comprises a flat, spiral tube evaporator. The evaporator has one or more water passages and one or more refrigerant passages disposed therein. Water and refrigerant are supplied to the evaporator, and the water is frozen by the conductive effects of the refrigerant while disposed within the evaporator. The present disclosure also provides a novel flow-splitting device to ensure that water flows as needed for successful harvesting of ice, when the evaporator has two water passages.

Thus, in one embodiment, the present disclosure provides an evaporator for an ice-making machine. The evaporator comprises at least one water passage with an inner surface adapted for the formation of ice thereon, and at least one refrigerant passage, the refrigerant passage being adapted for the passage of a refrigerant therethrough. The evaporator is wound so that it does not grow substantially in height with each revolution of the evaporator.

In another embodiment, the present disclosure provides an ice-making machine that comprises an evaporator, wherein the evaporator comprises two water passages, each with an inner surface adapted for the formation of ice thereon, and one refrigerant passage, the refrigerant passage being adapted for the passage of a refrigerant therethrough. The ice-making machine further comprises a water source that provides a flow of water to the evaporator, and a flow-splitter disposed between the water source and the water passages of the evaporator, wherein the flow-splitter diverts at least a part of the flow of water to each water passage. The evaporator is wound so that it does not grow substantially in height with each revolution of the evaporator.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front view of an ice-making machine of the present disclosure;

FIG. 2 is a top, perspective view of the ice-making machine of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a partial top view of the ice-making machine of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a front view of the outlet of the evaporator of the ice-making machine of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the evaporator of the ice-making machine of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of a second embodiment of the evaporator of the ice-making machine of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of a third embodiment of the evaporator of the ice-making machine of FIG. 1;

FIG. 8 is a top, perspective view of a flow-splitter of the present disclosure:

FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of the flow-splitter of FIG. 8; and

FIG. 10 is a top, right side perspective view of a second embodiment of an ice-making machine of the present disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to FIGS. 1-3, an ice-making machine (“machine”) 10 of the present disclosure is shown. Machine 10 further comprises evaporator 20, one or more refrigerant inlet pipes 25, one or more refrigerant outlet pipes 26, one or more hot gas inlet pipes 27, water tube 30, reservoir 40, and bin 50. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-3, there are two refrigerant inlet tubes 25 and two refrigerant outlet tubes 26.

As is shown in FIGS. 1-3, evaporator 20 is wound in a spiral, so that it is flat, and does substantially not grow in height with each revolution. This represents a significant advantage over conventional evaporators. It was previously thought that ice would not travel through an evaporator with an increasing radius, as it does in evaporator 20, through a process that will be discussed in greater detail below. Helical shapes that maintained a single radius of the evaporator were deemed necessary to allow for the easy removal of ice. Thus, the spiral and flat evaporator 20 of the present disclosure surprisingly provides an easy removal of ice that is formed therein, while providing a compact orientation that requires a greatly reduced amount of space. The present disclosure also contemplates helical shapes for evaporator 20.

Evaporator 20 can be covered with insulating material 21. In one embodiment, insulating material 21 can be foam. The insulating material 21 can help improve the thermal efficiency of machine 10, eliminate condensation and frost build-up on the exterior of evaporator 20, and also help protect evaporator 20 during shipping.

Evaporator 20 is preferably made of an inexpensive, thermally conductive material that is suitable for contact with water. For example, this material can be thermally conductive plastic, or a metal alloy such as brass. In one embodiment, evaporator 20 is made of an aluminum alloy. The aluminum alloy can further be coated and/or anodized to increase corrosion resistance. Possible coating materials include the Heresite™ and Alcoat™ brands of coatings. This represents another significant advantage over conventional evaporators.

During operation of machine 10, water is supplied to evaporator 20 through water tube 30, which is connected to a first end of evaporator 20. For example, water can be supplied through water tube 30 with a pump (not shown). Refrigerant is also supplied to evaporator 20 by refrigerant inlet pipes 25. As shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, refrigerant flows through one or more refrigerant passages 60, which are disposed within evaporator 20. The water that is supplied by water tube 30 flows through a water passage 70, which is also disposed within evaporator 20, and is adjacent to, and in thermal communication with, refrigerant passages 60. The water passage 70 and refrigerant passages 60 of evaporator 20 are formed in a single extrusion of evaporator 20. This provides additional benefits for the simplicity and cost of machine 10.

Water flowing through water passage 70 is thus frozen by the refrigerant passing through refrigerant passages 60. The water within water passage 70 freezes at the outer edges of water passage 70 first, and grows toward the middle of water passage 70, until the water is frozen solid. This stops the flow of water through the water passage 70. Refrigerant inlet pipe 25 can be in communication with a refrigerant compression circuit, which are well known to those skilled in the art. After passing through refrigerant passages 60 of evaporator 20, the refrigerant can be collected by refrigerant outlet pipe 26. Evaporator 20 can be manufactured with copper stubs on the refrigerant passages 60, to ease connections between the refrigerant inlet pipe 25 and outlet pipe 26.

A control system (not shown) can detect when the water has ceased to flow out of evaporator 20, indicating that it has frozen within evaporator 20. This control system can then send hot gas through hot gas inlet 27, and into refrigerant passages 60. The hot gas passing through refrigerant passages 60 loosens the ice located in water passage 70 enough so that the ice is pushed out by the pressure of the water continuously supplied to evaporator 20 by water tube 30.

When the ice is ejected from end 22 of evaporator 20 in this manner, it falls onto a cover 43 (shown in FIGS. 1-4) that can be disposed above reservoir 40. This prevents the ejected ice from falling into reservoir 40, and instead directs the ice into bin 50, where it can be collected by a user. Again, the present disclosure has unexpectedly discovered that the ice is easily ejected through evaporator 20, even when evaporator 20 is arranged in a flat spiral. As previously discussed, this was not thought possible previously, due to the increasing bend radius of the evaporator 20. This feature presents a significant savings, in the space occupied by machine 10.

In addition, the flat spiral shape of evaporator 20 can reduce the need for a mechanical ice breaker to break the ice ejected from evaporator 20 into smaller particles for use. In evaporator 20, the increasing bend radius of the tube can break up a significant amount of the ice before it is ejected. The present disclosure contemplates, however, an external breaking device such as a passive breaker 80 (shown in FIG. 3) that further assists with breaking up the ice ejected from evaporator 20. The present disclosure also contemplates the use of an active breaking device, for example a moving breaker that is driven by a gear motor.

Evaporator 20 is extruded as a single tube, incorporating both water passage 70 and refrigerant passages 60 in a single piece. Referring again to FIG. 4, in one embodiment evaporator 20 can be extruded to provide a large center water passage 70, and adjacent refrigerant passages 60. Water passage 70 may also be flattened slightly to improve the “breakability” of the ice that is ejected from evaporator 20.

Evaporator 20 of the present disclosure also provides a novel and improved profile. In evaporator 20, as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, water passage 70 (and therefore the resulting ice form) is “peanut shaped”. The peanut shape allows the cross-section of evaporator 20 to be larger, without creating an ice cube that is too large to use or to be broken up into smaller pieces. Instead, the “peanut” can be broken (at the narrow waist of the peanut) into two ice cubes. This configuration of evaporator 20, refrigerant passages 60, and water passage 70 maximizes the amount of internal heat transfer surface area per unit length of the water passage 70 and evaporator 20, and also maximizes the utilization of the available circle size of the extrusion die. The optimized heat transfer surface area per unit length of evaporator 20 is also advantageous because evaporator 20 does not have to be wound so tightly that it prevents the easy ejection of the ice formed therein.

As a result, evaporator 20 can have a shorter length while having equivalent heat transfer surface area when compared to, for example, a round water tube evaporator of the prior art. This improved profile of evaporator 20 also improves the ice-making capacity and energy efficiency of machine 10, due to the high amount of ice-making capacity per unit length of evaporator 20. Machine 10 is thereby a highly efficient and cost effective ice-making machine.

Referring to FIG. 6, a cross-section of a second embodiment of the evaporator of ice-making machine is shown, and referred to by numeral 120. Evaporator 120 has a single refrigerant passage 160 disposed between two oval-shaped water passages 170. During the operation of ice-making machine 10, water flows through water passages 170 and refrigerant flows through refrigerant passage 160. The method of creating and harvesting the ice from evaporator 120 is otherwise the same as that of evaporator 20.

In addition to the advantages of evaporator 20 described above, the present disclosure has found that evaporator 120 can exhibit favorable performance characteristics over conventional evaporators, and even over evaporator 20. For example, the dual-oval shaped profile of evaporator 120 is stronger and can resist higher internal pressure, created by the ice that forms therein, than the “peanut-shaped” profile of evaporator 20. Evaporator 20 also maintains the same surface area for heat transfer between the water and refrigerant as is present in evaporator 20.

In addition, evaporator 120 only requires two connections for the refrigerant passing through refrigerant passage 160, as opposed to the four for evaporator 20. Evaporator 120 also does not require the use of a refrigerant distributor, needed to equally divide the refrigerant passing through refrigerant passages 60 of evaporator 20 into two streams. The single refrigerant passage 160 of evaporator 120 thus eliminates the additional labor and equipment costs associated with evaporators having two or more refrigerant passages. The oval-shaped water passages 170 are also easier to connect to tubing that supplies water to ice-making machine 10 than those of the prior art.

Referring to FIG. 7, a cross-section of a third embodiment of the evaporator 20, referred to by numeral 220, is shown. Evaporator 220 has two substantially round water passages 270, and one refrigerant passage 260 disposed in between water passages 270. As with evaporator 120, evaporator 220 advantageously only requires two refrigerant connections, thus simplifying assembly, and ensuring an even distribution of refrigerant in refrigerant passage 260. Furthermore, due to the round shape of the water passages 270, evaporator 220 is easier to connect to water tube 30. The dual-round profile of evaporator 220 is also advantageous in that it is the strongest design when dealing with the internal stresses placed upon it by the water traveling through, and the ice forming within, water passages 270.

When using an evaporator that comprises two water passages, such as in evaporator 120 or 220, the use of a flow-splitter helps to ensure a sufficient flow of water to each of the water passages, even if the ice within one of the water passages harvests quicker than the other. Referring to FIGS. 8 and 9, the present disclosure also provides such a flow splitter 310 that can be fitted to a pipe, or a tube, such as water tube 30. Flow splitter 310 comprises an opening 315, a pivot 320, a flapper 330, a spring 340, a base 345, an inlet 350, a lower portion 352, and a pair of outlets 360. Thus, in machine 10, water would be supplied to inlet 315 by water tube 30. Outlets 360 would be connected to, and supply water to, the water passages of the above-described evaporators 120 and 220.

Flow splitter 310 provides a mechanism by which a fluid entering opening 315 can be diverted in a direction that is the opposite of the natural direction of flow the fluid would otherwise take. What sometimes happens in ice-making machines with evaporators that comprise two water passages is that the water within one passage will be ejected during harvest before the ice in the second passage. After the ice in the first passage has been harvested/ejected, the fluid entering the machine will naturally be inclined to pass through the first passage, since there is much less resistance to fluid flow within that passage. This is an undesirable situation, because if all the water flows into the first passage, the ice within the second tube will never be completely ejected during harvest. Thus, by ensuring that the fluid flow passes through the second passage, in the manner described below, flow splitter 310 ensures a proper harvest of ice from the second passage.

Flapper 330 is connected or attached to pivot 320. Pivot 320 can also be formed as one integral component with flapper 330. Pivot 320 can have two pivot ends 322 that can be connected to inlet 350 in such a way that flapper 330 can rotate about pivot 320 within inlet 350. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 9, for example, pivot ends 322 sit within divots disposed on an inner diameter of inlet 350.

When fluid enters opening 315, it can be diverted through one or both of outlets 360. Under normal circumstances, without a flow splitter, the fluid would flow in whichever direction offered the least amount of resistance. With flow splitter 310, however, the fluid flow can be controlled to flow in the opposite direction, namely toward the path of higher resistance.

Spring 340 is disposed within lower portion 352, and connected to an inner wall of bottom portion 352. The ends of spring 340 are connected to pockets (not shown) molded into the side of bottom portion 352, so that the ends of spring 340 are disposed within these pockets. When base 345 is attached to flow splitter 310, it retains the ends of spring 340 by holding said ends in place.

Spring 340 can be described as having a first half 342 and a second half 344 located on either side of flapper 330. The end of flapper 330 is positioned within spring 340 such that first half 342 is located on one side of flapper 330, and second half 344 is located on the opposite side of flapper 330. In a normal flow situation, i.e. one in which there is an equal amount of pressure within both outlets 360, spring 340 will keep flapper 330 centered within housing 350 such that the fluid can flow equally to both outlets 360.

In a situation where one outlet 360 is more restricted than the other outlet 360, the flapper 330 will be pushed, by the flowing fluid, preferentially toward the less restricted outlet, which has more flow. This will cause that outlet to be closed off by flapper 330, encouraging the fluid to flow through the opposite outlet.

Flapper 330, spring 340, and the rest of the components of flow splitter 310 described above can be made of any material suitable for contact with potable water. In one embodiment, flapper 330 is made of plastic, and spring 340 is made of stainless steel.

Referring to FIG. 10, a second embodiment of the ice-making machine of the present disclosure is shown, and referred to by reference numeral 410. Machine 410 is similar to machine 10. The most substantial difference between machine 10 and machine 410 is that evaporator 420 has a single, round water passage 470, and two refrigerant passages 460 disposed on either side thereof. The evaporators contemplated by the present disclosure can have any cross-sectional shape suitable for making and ejecting ice in the manner described above. For example, the cross-sections can have circular, oval, elliptical, or rectangular shapes.

The ice-making machines of the present disclosure can also comprise two or more evaporators per machine, due to the fact that the evaporators occupy such a small amount of space. The evaporators can be stacked on top of one another, and staggered so that the water and ice outlets for each evaporator are in different locations, and so that each evaporator has its own bin for collecting water and water level sensor. This allows for the fact that there may be different freeze rates of water within each evaporator.

While the instant disclosure has been described with reference to one or more exemplary or preferred embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope thereof. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings of the disclosure without departing from the scope thereof. Therefore, it is intended that the disclosure not be limited to the particular embodiment(s) disclosed as the best mode contemplated for carrying out this invention, but that the invention will include all embodiments falling within the scope as described herein.