Title:
MULTI-FUNCTION SINK WITH CENTRIFUGAL FOOD DRYER AND DRAIN
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A multi-function sink includes a basin, a motor and a colander. Advantageously, the basin is supported by a frame, which frame is sized and shaped to fit into a corresponding aperture in a counter. Wet food is placed into the colander and the colander is placed into the basin. A sink-based coupler mates with a colander-based coupler. The user activates the motor, thereby causing the motor to rotate the colander and centrifugally dry the food. The building-in of the multi-function sink into a counter provides advantages over stand-alone centrifugal food driers in that the location of the food drier is readily known and, in those embodiments that include a faucet assembly, a ready supply of water is available for washing the food before centrifugally drying the food. Further advantageously, when the colander is removed, the multi-function sink may be used as a simple basin having a drain.



Inventors:
Wang, Qian (Brampton, CA)
Chen, Yixin (Brampton, CA)
Lam, Andy (Scarborough, CA)
Application Number:
11/930853
Publication Date:
11/06/2008
Filing Date:
10/31/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E03C1/18
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NGUYEN, DINH Q
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
RIDOUT & MAYBEE LLP (TORONTO, ON, CA)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A multi-function sink apparatus comprising: a frame adapted to be installed in an aperture in a counter; a basin supported by said frame, said basin having a drain outlet; a colander sized to be received in said basin; and a motor attached external to said basin, said motor adapted to rotate said colander when said colander is installed in said basin.

2. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a basin lid for forming a releasable seal closing an open top end of said basin.

3. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 2 further comprising a colander lid for forming a releasable seal closing an open top end of said colander, said colander lid arranged to engage said colander and rotate with said colander.

4. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 3 wherein said basin lid includes a transparent section and said colander lid defines a viewing aperture allowing viewing of an interior of said colander through said transparent section and said viewing aperture.

5. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 3 wherein said colander lid attaches to said basin lid in a manner that allows said colander lid to rotate while said basin lid remains static.

6. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 2 further comprising a safety switch adapted to enable said motor only when said basin lid is closed.

7. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 1 wherein said motor is further adapted to rotate a shaft extending into an interior of said basin.

8. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 7 wherein said motor directly drives said shaft.

9. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 7 wherein said motor drives said shaft using a belt-drive, wherein said motor drives a first sheave that transmits rotation to a second sheave on said shaft using a belt.

10. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 7 wherein said motor drives said shaft using a gear-drive, wherein said motor drives a first gear and rotation of said first gear is transmitted to a second gear on said shaft.

11. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 1 wherein said motor has a plurality of predetermined rotational velocities and said apparatus further comprises a controller for said motor, said controller having a user interface that allows a user to select a candidate rotational velocity from among said plurality of predetermined rotational velocities.

12. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 11 wherein said plurality of predetermined rotational velocities include a high speed and a low speed.

13. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a second basin supported by said frame.

14. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 1 wherein said basin and said frame are formed from a single piece of sheet metal.

15. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a faucet positioned adjacent to said basin to dispense liquid into said basin.

16. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 15 wherein said a faucet is mounted to said basin.

17. The multi-function sink apparatus of claim 1 wherein said basin further comprises a removable stopper corresponding to said drain outlet.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present application relates generally to kitchen sinks and, more specifically, to a multi-function sink having a centrifugal food dryer and a drain.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In food preparation, it is common to thoroughly rinse food with tap water. Such rinsing acts to remove such “contaminants” as soil, dust and pesticides that can be deposited on the food during growing, picking, transportation or displaying. Unfortunately, such rinsing can leave the food particularly wet. Many foods are easily dried, such as those with small surface area. However, there are some foods with very large surface areas, e.g., lettuce, that are consequently very difficult to dry. To dry such difficult to dry foods, centrifugal food driers have been developed.

Such centrifugal food driers range from manually powered designs (see U.S. Pat. No. 4,209,916, issued to Doyel on Jul. 1, 1980), to battery powered designs (see U.S. Pat. No. 6,622,618, issued to Glucksman, et al. on Sep. 23, 2003), to designs powered by an electric motor (see U.S. Pat. No. 4,090,310, issued to Koff on May 23, 1978). While each of these designs have their merits, each generally requires a storage location in the kitchen. Furthermore, the user is required to remember the storage location each time the centrifugal food drier is to be used.

SUMMARY

A centrifugal food drier is provided as part of a basin that is supported by a frame for ready installation into a corresponding aperture in a counter. The centrifugal food drier includes a frame, a basin supported by the frame, a colander sized to be received in the basin and a motor attached external to the basin, the motor adapted to rotate the colander when the colander is installed in the basin. Advantages over stand-alone centrifugal food driers are provided in that the location of the food drier is readily known and, in those embodiments that include a faucet assembly, a ready supply of water is available for washing the food before centrifugally drying the food. Furthermore, when the colander is not in the basin, the basin may be considered operable as a normal sink.

According to an aspect of the present invention, there is provided a multi-function sink apparatus. The multi-function sink apparatus includes a frame adapted to be installed in an aperture in a counter, a basin supported by the frame, a colander sized to be received in the basin and a motor attached external to the basin, the motor adapted to rotate the colander when the colander is installed in the basin.

Other aspects and features of the present invention will become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon review of the following description of specific embodiments of the invention in conjunction with the accompanying figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Reference will now be made to the drawings, which show by way of example, embodiments of the invention, and in which:

FIG. 1 is a top, right, front perspective view of a multi-function sink, according to an aspect of the present invention, with a basin lid in a closed position over a basin;

FIG. 2 is a top, right, front perspective view of the multi-function sink of FIG. 1, with the basin lid in an open position, thereby exposing a colander in the basin and a colander lid attached to the basin lid;

FIG. 3 is a bottom, front perspective view of the colander lid and the basin lid of FIG. 2 in a detached configuration.

FIG. 4 is a sectional view, along a diameter, of the basin lid and the colander lid seen in FIG. 3, where the basin lid and the colander lid are in an attached configuration, the sectional view identifying an area of detail;

FIG. 5 is a sectional view of the area of detail identified in FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a top, right perspective view of the multi-function sink of FIG. 1, showing a basin drain outlet and a sink coupler attachment positioned in a bottom of the multi-function sink;

FIG. 7 is a bottom, front perspective view of the colander of FIG. 2, showing a colander coupler attachment;

FIG. 8 is a bottom, right, front perspective view of the multi-function sink of FIG. 1, showing a motor and a belt transmission located on an underside of the multi-function sink;

FIG. 9 is a top plan view of the multi-function sink of FIG. 1 defining sections A-A, B-B and C-C;

FIG. 10 is a sectional view of the multi-function sink of FIG. 1 along section A-A defined in FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a sectional view, along section B-B defined in FIG. 9, of a latch mechanism for locking the basin lid to the basin;

FIG. 12 is a right, rear, top perspective view, identifying an area of detail, of the multi-function sink of FIG. 1, illustrating relative position on the edge of the basin for a protrusion and an upstanding button of a safety switch;

FIG. 13 illustrates the area of detail identified in FIG. 12;

FIG. 14 is a sectional view, along section C-C defined in FIG. 9, of a latch mechanism for locking the basin lid to the basin; and

FIG. 15 is a top, right, front perspective view of a multi-function sink, according to another aspect of the present invention, with a lid in an open position;

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

A multi-function sink 20 is illustrated in FIG. 1 as including a frame 22, where the frame 22 is adapted to be installed in an aperture in a counter (not shown), and a basin 24 supported by the frame 22 such that the basin 24 would extend downward into the aperture when the multi-function sink 20 is installed therein. As illustrated, the frame 22 has a rectangular shape with rounded corners. However, as will be understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art, the shape of the frame 22 is not confined to the shape illustrated and, more accurately, in many cases, may match the shape of the aperture in the counter into which the frame 22 is designed to fit. Such may not always be the case however, as a round-shaped frame may support the basin 24 in a square aperture in the counter.

As is common in the art of sinks, the frame 22 and the basin 24 may be formed from stainless steel sheet metal. Additionally, the frame 22 and the basin 24 may be integrally formed from one piece of stainless steel sheet metal.

Attached to the frame 22 is a faucet assembly 32. The faucet assembly 32 includes a faucet base 34, to which are mounted valve control handles 36 and a spout 38. The faucet assembly 32 may be part of the multi-function sink 20; alternatively, the multi-function sink may be pre-cut with apertures sized and spatially arranged to accommodate an industry-standard faucet assembly.

An open end of the basin 24 is covered by a basin lid 26. FIG. 1 illustrates the multi-function sink 20 with the basin lid 26 in a closed position, in which the basin lid forms a releasable seal with the basin 24, while FIG. 2 illustrates the multi-function sink 20 with the basin lid 26 in an opened position. The basin lid 26 may be manually moved between the closed and opened positions while pivoting at a basin lid hinge 28, which attaches the basin lid 26 to the frame 22. The basin lid 26 has a ring pull 30 for use in opening the basin lid 26. The basin lid 26 also has a receptacle 33 that is positioned to receive a protrusion 31 from the edge of the basin 24. The combination of the receptacle 33, the protrusion 31 and the ring pull 30 allows the basin lid 26 to be locked to the basin 24 in the closed position.

The opened position of the basin lid 26 exposes the interior of the basin 24. As illustrated in FIG. 2, a colander 40 is installed in the interior of the basin 24. The opened position of the basin lid 26 also exposes a colander lid 42 attached to the underside of the basin lid 26. An upper lip 41 (see FIG. 7) is positioned at the top of the open end of the colander 40.

FIG. 3 illustrates an exploded combination of the basin lid 26 and the colander lid 42. The separation of the colander lid 42 from the basin lid 26 exposes a cylindrical peg 80 extending downwardly from the center of the basin lid 26. The center of the colander lid 42 has a downwardly depending peg-receiving structure 84. The colander lid 42 features four see-through apertures 82.

FIG. 4 is a sectional view of the colander lid 42 attached to the basin lid 26, where the section is taken along the diameter. The sectional view identifies an area of detail that is illustrated in FIG. 5. More specifically, the arrangement by which the peg 80 is received within the peg-receiving structure 84 is illustrated in detail and in section in FIG. 5. In particular, the peg-receiving structure 84 of the colander lid 42 includes an inner sleeve 86 forming a tube that is sized to receive the peg 80. The peg 80 includes a cavity in which a spring 90 biases a ball 88 out of the cavity. Egress of the ball 88 from the cavity is prevented by a lip at the outer end of the cavity. However, a portion of the ball 88 is allowed to protrude from the peg 80. The diameter of the inner sleeve 86 at a closed end of the inner sleeve 86 is larger than the diameter of the inner sleeve 86 at an open end of the inner sleeve 86. The transition between the closed end diameter and the open end diameter occurs at a shoulder 92.

As illustrated, the basin lid 26 includes two portions: an outer ring portion 29; and an inner circle portion 27. Either one or both of the two portions 27, 29 may be formed of transparent material, such as, for example, glass or transparent plastic, to allow a user to observe, through the four see-through apertures 82, the interior of the colander 40 while the basin lid 26 is in the closed position. Where one or both of the outer ring portion 29 and the inner circle portion 27 are opaque, the two portions 27, 29 may be formed of stainless steel sheet metal or plastic.

An annular channel 43 (see FIG. 4) in the colander lid 42 is sized and positioned to be engaged by the upper lip 41 of the colander 40, when the basin lid 26 is placed into the closed position, to form a releasable seal. The arrangement by which the peg 80 is received within the peg-receiving structure 84 allows the colander lid 42 to rotate, with the colander 40, pivoting around the peg 80. The combination of the arrangement between the peg 80 and the peg-receiving structure 84 along with the arrangement between the upper lip 41 of the colander 40 and the annular channel 43 in the colander lid 42 acts to stabilize the colander 40 while the colander 40 rotates within the basin 24.

Stainless steel sheet metal is considered to be suitable material for the colander 40 and the colander lid 42. In particular, such a material choice allows for the colander 40 to be used as part of a centrifugal food drier for drying hot foods, such as pasta, boiled green beans and rice, in an manner that may be ill-advised when certain types of plastics are used. Additionally, the material for the colander 40 and the colander lid 42 should be chosen so that the colander 40 and the colander lid 42 may be placed in a dishwasher for cleaning without concern for the structural integrity (i.e., melting) of material while the colander 40 and the colander lid 42 are being cleaned. This is not to say that plastic is a poor choice for a material for the colander 40 and the colander lid 42, simply that the thermal properties of a plastic under consideration for the colander 40 and the colander lid 42 should be carefully considered.

The top, right perspective view of the multi-function sink 20 illustrated in FIG. 6, shows a basin drain outlet 52 and a sink-based coupler 56 positioned in the bottom of the basin 24. Additionally, the basin drain outlet 52 is illustrated receiving a corresponding basin drain stopper 53.

As will be clear to a person of ordinary skill in the art, the basin drain stopper 53 is a removable means of preventing water from exiting the basin 24 through the basin drain outlet 52. Other terms for such devices with the same function include plug, bung, cork and stopple. The bottom of the exemplary basin 24 is illustrated as having a circular shape and the sink-based coupler 56 is positioned at the center of the circular shape, while the basin drain outlet 52 is positioned offset from the center. A colander-based coupler 58 is shown in the bottom, front perspective view of the colander 40 illustrated in FIG. 7. The colander-based coupler 58 is sized and positioned to mesh with the sink-based coupler 56 when the colander 40 is installed in the basin 24.

In the bottom, right, front perspective view of the multi-function sink 20 illustrated in FIG. 8, a motor 46 is illustrated attached to the bottom of the basin 24. To the end of a motor shaft 71 (see FIG. 10) extending from the motor 46 is mounted a motor sheave 72. In addition, a basin sheave 50 is illustrated mounted to a basin shaft 74. The basin shaft 74 passes through an aperture in the bottom of the basin 24, supported by a bearing 76, and terminates at the sink-based coupler 56. A belt 48 is received in a groove in the basin sheave 50 and a groove in the motor sheave 72 to form a belt-drive.

A drain pipe 44 is attached to the outside of the basin drain outlet 52.

As should be clear to a person of ordinary skill in the art, the mechanical seal 76 should provide a water-tight seal between the inside of the basin 24 and the outside of the basin 24. As a result of such a water-tight seal, water that accumulates in the basin 24 will generally exit the basin 24 via the drain pipe 44, when allowed to do so by removal of the basin drain stopper 53 from the basin drain outlet 52.

A control user interface is provided by a set of control electronics in an electronics housing 54 mounted to the frame 22. The control user interface is illustrated (see FIG. 9) as comprising three buttons and three light emitting diodes (LEDs). The buttons include a power button 60, a low speed selection button 62 and a high speed selection button 64. Associated with the power button 60 is a power LED 66. Associated with the low speed selection button 62 is a low speed indicator LED 68. Associated with the high speed selection button 64 is a high speed indicator LED 70.

As will be understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art, the control electronics in the electronics housing 54 are required to have a connection to the motor 46 and the motor 46 requires a source of energy. Commonly, the connection between the motor 46 and the electronics housing 54 is a wired connection. However, for simplicity of illustration, the connecting wires have been omitted from the figures. Similarly, wires providing household alternating electrical current to the motor 46 have also been omitted. In one embodiment, the connection between the motor 46 and the electronics housing 54 is a wireless connection, for instance, using the known Bluetooth™ protocol. Additionally, the motor 46 may receive necessary power from one or more replaceable batteries.

FIG. 11 illustrates, as section B-B from FIG. 9, the mechanism that allows the basin lid 26 to be locked to the basin 24 in the closed position. The ring pull 30 is attached to the basin lid 26 by a ring pull hinge 99 positioned toward the center of the basin lid 26. As discussed above, the protrusion 31 from the edge of the basin 24 is received in the receptacle 33 in the basin lid 26. FIG. 11 reveals a locking plate 91 that is biased toward the outer edge of the basin lid 26 by a locking plate spring 94. When the basin lid 26 is in the closed position, the locking plate 91 is received in an aperture in the protrusion 31.

FIG. 12 is a right, rear, top perspective view of the multi-function sink 20 illustrating relative position on the edge of the basin 24 for the protrusion 31 and an upstanding button 93 of a safety switch 96 (see FIG. 14). FIG. 13 illustrates the edge of the basin 24 is increased detail for a clearer representation of the protrusion 31 and the button 93.

FIG. 14 illustrates, as section C-C from FIG. 9, the edge of the basin 24 at the particular location of the safety switch 96. In particular, in FIG. 14, the basin lid 26 is closed and the button 93 is compressed into the safety switch 96. As discussed previously, for simplicity of illustration, connecting wires have been omitted from the figures, including those connecting wires that are expected to connect the control electronics in the electronics housing 54 to the safety switch 96.

In overview, the multi-function sink 20 includes the basin 24, the motor 46 and the colander 40. Advantageously, the basin 24 is supported by the frame 22, which frame 22 is sized and shaped to fit into a corresponding aperture in a counter. The building-in of the multi-function sink 20 into a counter provides advantages over stand-alone centrifugal food driers in that the location of the food drier is readily known and, in those embodiments that include the faucet assembly 32, a ready supply of water is available for washing the food before centrifugally drying the food. Further advantageously, when the colander 40 is removed, the multi-function sink 20 may be used as a simple basin with a drain (the basin drain outlet 52) and, optionally, a water source (the faucet assembly 32).

In operation, a user lifts the ring pull 30, thereby drawing the locking plate 91 against the bias of the locking plate spring 94 and out of the aperture in the protrusion 31 and allowing the basin lid 26 to be opened. Wet food, such as leaves of lettuce, is placed into the colander 40 and the colander 40 is placed into the open basin 24. The sink-based coupler 56 mates with the colander-based coupler 58.

The basin lid 26, with the colander lid 42 attached thereto, is closed by the user in a manner that allows the colander lid 42 to engage with the upper lip of the colander 40. Additionally, a beveled edge of the locking plate 91 meets a beveled edge of the protrusion and forces the locking plate 91 against the bias of the locking plate spring 94. As the basin lid 26 is further closed, the locking plate 91 is biased by the locking plate spring 94 into the aperture in the protrusion 31, thereby locking the basin lid 26 to the basin 24. Additionally, the button 93 is compressed into the safety switch 96.

The user presses the power button 60 to activate the motor 46, thereby causing the motor 46 to rotate the motor shaft 71 and, consequently, the motor sheave 72. Rotation of the motor sheave 72 is transmitted to rotation of the basin sheave 50 by the belt 48. Rotation of the basin sheave 50 causes rotation of the basin shaft 74 and, consequently, rotation of the sink-based coupler 56. Rotation of the sink-based coupler 56 leads directly to rotation of the colander-based coupler 58 and, consequently, the colander 40.

The rotation of wet items in a centrifugal drier is well known and such technology has been used for decades in drying clothes. The specific rotation of wet food in a centrifugal food drier is also well known and a device for centrifugally drying food is known colloquially as a “salad spinner”. Moisture on the leaves of lettuce is encouraged, by centrifugal forces, off the leaves of lettuce and toward the wall of the colander 40. In a typical, stand-alone, consumer-directed salad spinner, the force that causes the colander to rotate is manual. In a food service industry-directed salad spinner, it is more likely that the force that causes the colander to rotate is an electric motor.

As the wall of the colander 40 is perforated, the water departs the colander and is flung against the wall of the basin 24. Through the action of gravity, the moisture received on the wall of the basin 24, collects at the bottom of the basin 24. If the basin drain outlet 52 is open, the moisture then leaves the basin 24 and enters the drain pipe 44 on a path toward, for instance, a sewer or septic system.

As will be clear to a person of ordinary skill in the art, the transmission of rotation of the motor 46 to rotation of the colander 40 may be accomplished in any one of a number of ways. For a first exemplary alternative, in a direct drive mode, the sink-based coupler 56 is attached to the motor shaft 71. For a second exemplary alternative, rather than using the belt-drive combination of the motor sheave 72, the basin sheave 50 and the belt 48, a gear-drive is used to transmit rotation of the motor 46 to rotation of the colander 40. The gear-drive includes, in one embodiment, a motor spur gear attached to the motor shaft 71 and a basin spur gear may be attached to the basin shaft 74 such that the motor spur gear and the basin spur gear intermesh. Accordingly, rotation of the motor shaft 71 may be transmitted to rotation of the basin shaft 74. The gear-drive includes, in a further embodiment, a gear train (two or more gears) in a gearbox. The gears in the gearbox may include other types of gears, such as helical gears, bevel gears, worm gears, etc.

It has been recognized that known food service industry-directed salad spinners are only provided with a single speed of rotation. It should be understood that the speed of rotation relates directly to the degree or drying that is possible with the centrifugal food drying function of the multi-function sink 20. Furthermore, the degree of force against the side of the colander 40 experienced by the food being dried is also a function of the speed of the rotation of the colander 40. Since a user may desire a slower speed for drying delicate foods, e.g., strawberries, and can put up with a corresponding lesser degree of drying, the multi-function sink 20 may been provided with the control user interface mounted in the electronics housing 54. The user may employ the control user interface, and, in particular, the low speed selection button 62 and the high speed selection button 64, to select between two speeds of rotation of the motor 46 for a desired speed for the food being dried.

Notably, when the button 93 is not compressed into the safety switch 96, i.e., while the basin lid 26 is in the opened position, activation of the motor 46 is disabled. Conversely, when the button 93 is compressed into the safety switch 96, i.e., while the basin lid 26 is in the closed position, activation of the motor 46 is enabled.

As illustrated in FIGS. 1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 13, the multi-function sink 20 is among the class of sinks known as “self-rimming” or “top-mount” sinks, which sit in appropriately-shaped apertures roughly cut into a countertop (or substrate material, not shown) using a jigsaw or other cutter appropriate to the material at hand and are suspended by the frame 22. The frame 22 inherently forms a seal with the top surface of the countertop, especially when the multi-function sink 20 is clamped to the countertop from below.

Another class of sinks known as “bottom-mount” or “under-mount” sinks are available, which are installed below the countertop surface. The edge of the countertop material is exposed at the aperture created for the sink. The multi-function sink 20 would then be clamped to the bottom of the material from below.

FIG. 15 illustrates an alternative embodiment wherein a multi-function sink 120 is provided as part of a dual-basin sink structure 100. Like the multi-function sink 20 of FIG. 1, the multi-function sink 120 of FIG. 15 has a frame 122 supporting a basin 124. A colander 140 is provided sized to be received by the basin 124 and a basin lid 126 is provided to close the basin 124. Furthermore, a motor 146 is provided, along with control electronics, housed in an electronics housing 154, for activating, and controlling the speed of, the motor 146.

Distinct from the multi-function sink 20 of FIG. 1, the dual-basin sink structure 100 of FIG. 15 includes a second basin 123. The dual-basin sink structure 100 also includes a faucet assembly 132 attached to the frame 122. The faucet assembly 132 includes a faucet base 134, to which are mounted two valve control handles 136 and a spout 138. Advantageously, the spout 138 is operable to pivot to allow a selection of a destination for water emitted from the spout 138. That is, a user may use the spout 138 in a position to wet lettuce leaves in the colander 140 in the basin 124 of the multi-function sink 120 and, subsequently, pivot the spout 138 into a position to fill the second basin 123 with water for, e.g., washing dishes.

The above-described embodiments of the present application are intended to be examples only. Alterations, modifications and variations may be effected to the particular embodiments by those skilled in the art without departing from the scope of the application, which is defined by the claims appended hereto.