Title:
EXTERIOR PLATE ASSEMBLY FOR REFRIGERATOR
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to an exterior member for a refrigerator that defines the appearance of the refrigerator. According to the present invention, the exterior member comprises a rear plate 84 formed of polyvinyl chloride, and a front plate 82 that is formed of polyethylene terephthalate and positioned in front of the rear plate 84 and has a desired color or pattern printed thereon. It is preferred that the front plate 82 be a transparent and have a thickness of 0.1 mm to 0.5 mm, and the rear plate 84 have a thickness of 0.05 mm to 0.15 mm. The exterior member is mainly used for defining a front face of a refrigerator door, but it may also be used as a finishing member for a lateral side of a refrigerator. According to the present invention as above, since a front face of a refrigerator is formed of polyethylene terephthalate and polyvinyl chloride, which are thermoplastic resins, instead of glass and they are lightweight and less vulnerable to damage, there is an advantage in that the process of assembling a refrigerator is facilitated. Furthermore, since manufacturing costs are reduced as compared with glass, there is an advantage in that the manufacturing costs of a refrigerator are reduced.



Inventors:
Koo, Ja-hun (Gyeongsangnam-do, KR)
Application Number:
12/438866
Publication Date:
10/08/2009
Filing Date:
12/19/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F25D23/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HANSEN, JAMES ORVILLE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BIRCH, STEWART, KOLASCH & BIRCH, LLP (FALLS CHURCH, VA, US)
Claims:
1. An exterior plate assembly for a refrigerator, comprising: a front plate formed of transparent polyethylene terephthalate to define a front face of the refrigerator and having a rear face with a printed portion that has a predetermined color and/or pattern printed thereon; and a rear plate formed of polyvinyl chloride and installed on the rear face of the front plate, wherein the exterior plate assembly is installed on the exterior of the refrigerator.

2. The exterior plate assembly as claimed in claim 1, wherein the front plate has a thickness of 0.1 mm to 0.5 mm.

3. The exterior plate assembly as claimed in claim 1, wherein the rear plate has a thickness of 0.05 mm to 0.15 mm.

4. A refrigerator door, comprising: a door assembly including an outer door defining a front face of the refrigerator door, and a door liner coupled to a rear face of the outer door; and a plate assembly including a front plate formed of transparent polyethylene terephthalate to define a front face of the refrigerator and having a rear face with a printed portion that has a predetermined color and/or pattern printed thereon, and a rear plate formed of polyvinyl chloride and installed on the rear face of the front plate, the plate assembly being installed on a front face of the door assembly.

5. The refrigerator door as claimed in claim 4, wherein the door assembly further comprises upper and lower caps and a pair of side caps that are coupled to upper and lower ends and both lateral sides of the door assembly, respectively, and each of the upper and lower caps and the side caps is provided with an inner groove into which an edge of the door assembly is inserted and an outer groove into which an edge of the plate assembly is inserted to be supported therein.

6. The refrigerator door as claimed in claim 4, wherein the outer door of the door assembly is formed with a display-receiving portion that is recessed to receive a display therein, and the printed portion is not formed in a portion on the rear face of the front plate corresponding to the display-receiving portion.

7. The exterior plate assembly as claimed in claim 2, wherein the rear plate has a thickness of 0.05 mm to 0.15 mm.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to an exterior plate assembly defining the appearance of a refrigerator, and more particularly, to an exterior member for a refrigerator which comprises polyethylene terephthalate and polyvinyl chloride.

BACKGROUND ART

The appearance of a conventional refrigerator is generally defined by molding a plastic material that is lightweight and scratch resistant. However, the appearance of such a refrigerator, which is defined using a plastic member, looks lightweight and cannot provide an aesthetic stylish appearance. Accordingly, a refrigerator having a glass exterior in the entire front face (hereinafter, referred to as a ‘glass front refrigerator’) has been developed in recent years. The appearance of such a refrigerator relies heavily on a refrigerator door that defines the front face of the refrigerator. Hereinafter, the description will be made mainly in connection with a refrigerator door.

FIG. 1 is a front view showing the front face of a refrigerator, and FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view showing the structure of a refrigerator door with an exterior finished by a conventional exterior member for a refrigerator.

As shown in these figures, a conventional refrigerator door 5 comprises an outer door 10 defining the front face of a main body of the refrigerator door 5. Extensions 12 that are bent and extend by a predetermined length are formed at both sides of the outer door 10. The outer door 10 is formed with a display-receiving portion 14 that is formed by being recessed to a certain extent. The display-receiving portion 14 is a portion in which a display 30 that will be described later is to be installed.

A door liner 16 made of a synthetic resin material is coupled to the rear face of the outer door 10 so as to define the rear face of the refrigerator door. The door liner 16 is coupled to the extensions 12 of the outer door 10. When the outer door 10 and the door liner 16 are coupled to each other, a predetermined space is formed between the outer door 10 and the door liner 16. An insulation layer, which is formed through foaming of a foaming liquid such as a foaming resin, is provided in the space between the outer door 10 and the door liner 16.

An upper cap 20 and a lower cap 20A defining the appearance at upper and lower ends of the door are fitted into upper and lower ends of the combination of the outer door 10 and the door liner 16. The upper cap 20 and the lower cap 20A are formed to be substantially symmetrical with each other. As shown in an enlarged view of the lower cap 20A, each of the upper cap 20 and the lower cap 20A comprises a main body 22 formed to be elongated in a lateral direction, and a plurality of ribs 24 extending upwardly or downwardly by a certain length from the main body 22.

As enlargedly shown in FIG. 2, three ribs 24 are formed in the lower cap 20A, and two grooves 26a and 26b are formed between adjacent ones of the ribs 24. The upper cap 20 is symmetrical with the lower cap 20A in shape. Among the grooves formed by the ribs 24, an inner groove 26a is a portion into which the combination of the outer door 10 and the door liner 16 is fitted, and an outer groove 26b is a portion into which a front glass pane 36 to be described later is fitted.

A pair of side caps 28 are coupled to both sides of the combination of the outer door 10 and the door liner 16. Here, upper and lower ends of the side caps 28 are contacted and assembled with both side ends of each of the upper and lower caps 20 and 20A. Each of the side caps 28 is formed to have the same cross-sectional shape as the upper and lower caps 20 and 20A and thus has two grooves.

As described above, a door assembly is formed by coupling the upper cap 20 and the lower cap 20A to the upper and lower ends of the combination of the outer door 10 and the door liner 16 and subsequently coupling the pair of side caps 28 to the both sides of the combination.

A display 30 is installed in the display-receiving portion 14 formed in the front face of the door assembly. The display 30 includes a display part 32 for informing a user of an operating state of the refrigerator and a control part 34 including buttons for use in controlling the operating state of the refrigerator, and is formed to have a size corresponding to that of the display-receiving portion 14.

After the display 30 has been installed in the door assembly, the front glass pane 36 is installed in front of them. The front glass pane 36 is formed of a single sheet of glass, and the front glass pane 36 is installed by fitting edges thereof into the outer grooves of the upper cap 20, the lower cap 20A and the side caps 28. The rear face of the front glass pane 36 is provided with a colored portion 38 in which a color to be displayed at the exterior of the refrigerator is colored. Furthermore, a portion of the colored portion that is to be contacted with the display 30 is formed transparently to view the display 30. Moreover, input buttons are printed in a region corresponding to an input part of the display 30 so that a user can recognize an input position.

However, the aforementioned prior art has the following problems.

Since the front glass pane 36 is made of a sheet of glass that is heavyweight, it has difficulty in manufacturing a refrigerator. Further, since a sheet of glass is fragile, there is a risk that it may be damaged in a manufacturing or transporting process.

Furthermore, since the manufacturing costs of a sheet of glass are relatively high and the printing costs of the colored portion 38 for imparting a color or pattern to a sheet of glass are also relatively high in the prior art, there is a problem in that the manufacturing costs of a refrigerator increase.

DISCLOSURE

Technical Problem

Accordingly, the present invention is conceived to solve the aforementioned problems in the prior art. An object of the present invention is to provide an exterior plate assembly for a refrigerator, which imparts a deep, massive and aesthetic appearance to the refrigerator in the same manner as a refrigerator with an appearance defined by a sheet of glass, and simultaneously facilitates a manufacturing process by using an exterior member lighter than a sheet of glass.

Another object of the present invention is to provide an exterior plate assembly for a refrigerator, which gives the refrigerator an appearance with the same aesthetic effects as a refrigerator with an appearance defined by a sheet of glass, and simultaneously employs an exterior member of which manufacturing costs are relatively low.

Technical Solution

According to an aspect of the present invention for achieving the objects, there is provided an exterior plate assembly for a refrigerator, comprising: a front plate formed of transparent polyethylene terephthalate to define a front face of the refrigerator and having a rear face with a printed portion that has a predetermined color and/or pattern printed thereon; and a rear plate formed of polyvinyl chloride and installed on the rear face of the front plate, wherein the exterior plate assembly is installed on the exterior of the refrigerator.

The front plate has a thickness of 0.1 mm to 0.5 mm.

The rear plate has a thickness of 0.05 mm to 0.15 mm.

According to other aspect of the present invention for achieving the objects, there is provided a door assembly including an outer door defining a front face of the refrigerator door, and a door liner coupled to a rear face of the outer door; and a plate assembly including a front plate formed of transparent polyethylene terephthalate to define a front face of the refrigerator and having a rear face with a printed portion that has a predetermined color and/or pattern printed thereon, and a rear plate formed of polyvinyl chloride and installed on the rear face of the front plate, the plate assembly being installed on a front face of the door assembly.

The door assembly further comprises upper and lower caps and a pair of side caps that are coupled to upper and lower ends and both lateral sides of the door assembly, respectively, and each of the upper and lower caps and the side caps is provided with an inner groove into which an edge of the door assembly is inserted and an outer groove into which an edge of the plate assembly is inserted to be supported therein.

The outer door of the door assembly is formed with a display-receiving portion that is recessed to receive a display therein, and the printed portion is not formed in a portion on the rear face of the front plate corresponding to the display-receiving portion.

Advantageous Effects

According to the present invention thus constructed, there are advantages in that the exterior member for a refrigerator is lightweight and cannot be readily damaged, and thus, the manufacturing costs thereof are lowered.

DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front view showing an appearance of a front face of a refrigerator.

FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view showing the structure of a refrigerator door with an exterior finished by a conventional exterior member for a refrigerator.

FIG. 3 is a sectional view showing the structure of an exterior member according to the present invention.

FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view showing the structure of a refrigerator door employing the exterior member for a refrigerator according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

BEST MODEL

Hereinafter, an exterior member for a refrigerator according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention will be described in detail mainly in connection with a case where the exterior member of the embodiment is employed in a refrigerator door with reference to the accompanying drawings.

FIG. 3 is a sectional view showing the structure of an exterior member according to the present invention, and FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view showing the structure of a refrigerator door employing the exterior member for a refrigerator according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

As shown in these figures, a refrigerator door employing a preferred embodiment of the present invention comprises an outer door 50 defining the front face of a main body of a refrigerator. Extensions 52 that are bent and extend rearwardly by a predetermined length are formed at both sides of the outer door 50. A door liner 54 defining the rear face of the refrigerator door is coupled to the rear face of the outer door 50. The door liner 54 is coupled to the extensions 52. When the outer door 50 and the door liner 54 are coupled to each other, a predetermined space is formed therebetween. An insulation layer (not shown), which is formed through foaming of a foaming liquid such as a foaming resin, is provided in the space between the outer door 50 and the door liner 54.

Meanwhile, the outer door 50 is formed with a display-receiving portion 56 that is formed by being recessed to a certain extent. The display-receiving portion 56 is a portion in which a display 72 that will be described later is to be installed.

An upper cap 60 and a lower cap 60A defining the appearance at upper and lower ends of the door are fitted into upper and lower ends of the combination of the outer door 50 and the door liner 54. Since the upper cap 60 and the lower cap 60A are formed to have the substantially same structure, a description will be made in connection with the structure of the lower cap 60A.

As enlargedly shown in FIG. 4, the lower cap 60A comprises a main body 62 having a planar shape that is formed to be elongated in a lateral direction, and a plurality of ribs 64 extending generally perpendicularly to the main body 62. It is preferred that three ribs 64 are formed in the lower cap 60A so that two grooves 66a and 66b are formed between adjacent ones of the ribs 64. Among the grooves formed by the ribs 64, the inner groove 66a is a portion into which the combination of the outer door 50 and the door liner 54 is fitted, and the outer groove 66b is a portion into which a plate assembly 80 to be described later is fitted.

A pair of side caps 68 are coupled to both lateral sides of the combination of the outer door 50 and the door liner 54. The upper and lower ends of the side caps 68 are brought into contact and assembled with both side ends of the upper and lower caps 60 and 60A. Each of the side caps 68 has the same cross section as the upper and lower caps 60 and 60A and thus is formed with two grooves (inner and outer grooves).

As described above, a door assembly 70 is formed by coupling the upper and lower caps 60 and 60A to the upper and lower ends of the combination of the outer door 50 and the door liner 54 and coupling the pair of side caps 68 to the both lateral sides of the combination.

A display 72 is installed in the display-receiving portion 56 formed in the front face of the door assembly 70. The display 72 includes a display part 74 for informing a user of an operating state of the refrigerator, and a control part 76 for controlling the operating state of the refrigerator, and has a size corresponding to the display-receiving portion 56.

After the display 72 has been installed in the door assembly, a plate assembly 80 is installed in front of them.

The plate assembly 80 defines the appearance of the refrigerator and is supported by being fitted into the outer grooves of the upper and lower caps and the side caps. The front face of the plate assembly 80 is formed of a front plate 82 made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Since the polyethylene terephthalate has excellent transparency, the polyethylene terephthalate improves the transparency of the front face of the refrigerator. The rear face of the transparent front plate 82 has a printed portion 83 with a printed color or pattern to be displayed as the appearance of the refrigerator. The printed portion 83 can be obtained by printing a predetermined color or pattern on the rear face of the front plate 82. Accordingly, the color or pattern of the printed portion 83 decorates the appearance of the refrigerator door by means of the transparent front plate 82.

The thickness of the front plate 82 may vary differently. However, the front plate should have a certain thickness (t1 in FIG. 3) in order to make a massive impression like a refrigerator door formed of a glass member. In this case, it is preferred that the front plate have a thickness of 0.1 mm to 0.5 mm. If the thickness of the front plate is less than 0.1 mm, it is not possible to make a massive impression like a case where a glass member is used. Furthermore, if the thickness of the front plate is 0.5 mm or more, the weight of the front plate increases, and thus, it is difficult to handle the front plate and manufacturing costs thereof increase.

Moreover, the rear face of the plate assembly 80 is provided with a rear plate 84 formed of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Since the polyvinyl chloride has superior strength and rigidity, the rear plate 84 keeps the shape of the plate assembly during an operation. It is preferred that the rear plate 84 have a color falling in the same group as the color of the printed portion 83 and the thickness of the rear plate (t2 in FIG. 3) be from 0.05 mm to 0.15 mm in consideration of workability and strength thereof. The front plate 82 formed of polyethylene terephthalate and the rear plate 84 formed of polyvinyl chloride, which are described above, are integrated with each other to form an exterior member for the refrigerator, i.e., the plate assembly 80.

In a case where a color is intended to be printed on the rear face of the front plate 82, a portion of the rear face of the front plate corresponding to the display 72 is not subjected to printing, i.e., becomes transparent, so that a user can view the display 72. By transparentizing the portion thereof corresponding to the display 72 or a portion thereof corresponding to the indication part 74 of the display in such a manner, the user can view the indication part 74 from the outside. Further, input buttons are printed at a position on the rear face of the front plate corresponding to the input part of the display 72 so that the user can recognize an input position.

As described above, the front face of the refrigerator door according to the present invention is formed of polyethylene terephthalate. The polyethylene terephthalate is also called polyester and has excellent gloss and scratch resistance. Accordingly, the exterior of the refrigerator according to the present invention has excellent gloss and is not vulnerable to a scratch.

Meanwhile, since the rear face of the refrigerator door according to the present invention is formed of polyvinyl chloride that is resistant to impact, the entire exterior member is strongly resistant to impact. Furthermore, since the rear face of the front plate is formed with the printed portion in which a predetermined color and/or pattern are printed, it is possible to provide a desired esthetic feeling when the refrigerator is viewed from the front thereof.

Moreover, although the embodiment of the present invention has been described in connection with application to a refrigerator door, the present invention is not limited to such a refrigerator door. For example, it will be apparent that both sides of a main body of a refrigerator may be implemented with the same exterior member as above.

The scope of the present invention is not limited to the embodiment described and illustrated above but is defined by the appended claims. It will be apparent that those skilled in the art can make various modifications and adaptations thereto within the scope of the invention defined by the claims.

INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY

The exterior member for a refrigerator according to the present invention described above can be applied to a refrigerator main body as well as a refrigerator door. Furthermore, the exterior member for a refrigerator according to the present invention described in detail above is expected to have the following advantages.

That is, since the exterior of a refrigerator is formed of polyethylene terephthalate that is transparent like glass, there are advantages in that it provides a luxury and clean image in the same manner as glass, and the process of assembling a refrigerator is facilitated and a risk of damage of the exterior member during the assembling process is reduced since the exterior member is considerably lighter and less vulnerable to damage than glass. Moreover, since the rear face of the exterior member for a refrigerator according to the present invention is formed of polyvinyl chloride having high strength and light weight, there is an advantage in that the strength of the exterior member according to the present invention is further improved.

Furthermore, since the exterior member according to the present invention is made of relatively inexpensive polyethylene terephthalate and polyvinyl chloride instead of relatively expensive glass, there is an advantage in that the manufacturing costs of the exterior member are reduced. In addition, since costs for printing on polyethylene terephthalate is lower than costs for printing on glass, there is an advantage in that the manufacturing costs of the exterior member are further reduced.