Refrigerator Case Top Duct Member
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A refrigerated case top duct member (122). The top duct member is the unitarily molded combination of a main panel (132) and a number of turning vanes (150, 152) at a forward end of the main panel. The member may be formed by vacuum molding.

Wester, Perry G. (Midlothian, TX, US)
Decker, Daren M. (McGregor, TX, US)
Lorzadeh, Jamie (Katy, TX, US)
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What is claimed is:

1. A refrigerated case top duct member (122) comprising the unitarily molded combination of: a main panel (132); and a plurality of turning vanes (150; 152) at a forward end of the main panel (132).

2. The top duct member of claim 1 formed by vacuum molding.

3. The top duct member of claim 1 comprising material selected from the group consisting of ABS and polystyrene.

4. The top duct member of claim 1 wherein said plurality of turning vanes (150; 152) comprises 2-5 vanes.

5. The top duct member of claim 1 wherein said plurality of turning vanes are oriented to turn a discharge air flow (516) by 80-120°.

6. The top duct member of claim 1 wherein said main panel (132) is essentially non-insulated.

7. The top duct member of claim 1 having a width of 0.5-1.5 m and a depth of 0.5-1.5 m.

8. The top duct member of claim 1 wherein the main panel has a median thickness of 1-3 mm.

9. The top duct member of claim 1 wherein the unitarily molded combination includes left and right edge flanges (138; 140).

10. A refrigerated case apparatus (20) comprising: a base (30); a plurality of supports (92) extending upward from the base; a plurality of structural uprights (70; 72; 74) coupled to the supports; at least one insulated panel (86; 88) between the uprights and the supports and secured to the uprights and the supports; a refrigeration apparatus (60) positioned to cool an interior (36) of the case; a plurality of rear duct panels (80); and a plurality of top duct panels (122) according to claim 1 cooperating with the rear duct panels (80) to define a flow path: from an intake (66) at a forward end of the base; through the base (30) and upward behind the rear duct panels (80); forward above the main panels (132) of the top duct panels (122); and downward through the turning vanes (150; 152) to discharge.



The invention relates to refrigerator cases. More particularly, the invention relates to structural integration of insulated panels in walls of such cases.

Refrigerator cases (generically including freezers) are used in a variety of commercial situations. One key use is for retail display and vending. Many such cases include a closed rear wall and either an open front or a glass door front.

Providing a forced air flow through the compartment of such cases is important for a number of reasons. Maintaining the desired food temperature in view of exposure to room air is an important factor. Moisture transport is another (e.g., to control undesirable condensation). One common forced flow scheme involves a cold air curtain downwardly discharged from a front top area of the compartment. a return flow is drawn through an intake at the bottom front of the compartment.

The return flow may be drawn across a cooling heat exchanger (e.g., an evaporator) in a base of the case. The cooled air passes upward through a rear duct at the back of the compartment. The cooled air then passes forward through a top duct, at the front of the top duct, the air is turned downward by turning vanes to form the air curtain. The rear and top ducts may respectively be defined between rear and top insulated panels and non-insulated rear and top duct panels along the rear and top of the compartment.

In addition to basic efficiency concerns, insulation may be appropriate to avoid or control condensation on components external to the compartment. This may be motivated by sanitary considerations in addition to refrigerator case longevity.

A variety of top duct and vane assemblies are known. Exemplary assembly configurations are shown in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,357,767, 5,475,987, 5,517,826, and 6,722,149.


Accordingly, one aspect of the invention involves a refrigerated case top duct member. The top duct member is the unitarily molded combination of a main panel and a number of turning vanes at a forward end of the main panel. The member may be formed by vacuum molding.

The details of one or more embodiments of the invention are set forth in the accompanying drawings and the description below. Other features, objects, and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the description and drawings, and from the claims.


FIG. 1 is a view of a refrigerator case.

FIG. 2 is a partially schematic side sectional view of the case of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a transverse horizontal sectional view of the case of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a view of a top duct panel of the case of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a longitudinal sectional view of the panel of FIG. 4, taken along 5-5.

Like reference numbers and designations in the various drawings indicate like elements.


FIG. 1 shows a refrigerator case 20 having a front 22, a back 24, and left and right ends 26 and 28. For purposes of reference, front, back, left, and right, are taken from the point of view of the case itself rather than a user facing the case. The case includes a base structure 30, a rear wall structure 32, and a top structure 34. The case has a cooled interior volume or compartment 36. The exemplary case has a series of vertical groups of shelves 38. The exemplary case is a closed case having a sliding or hinged glass door front structure 40 and patch end or partition structures 42 and 44. Partitions are used where cases are arrayed side-by-side; patch ends are used at the two ends of the array. Alternative cases are open-front.

The exemplary base 30 includes front and back transverse rails 50 and 52 for supporting the remainder of the base and, therethrough, the remainder of the case atop a ground/floor surface. The exemplary base 30 contains the refrigeration equipment (e.g., an evaporator, and the like shown schematically as 60 in FIG. 2). The evaporator may be connected to a central compressor and condenser elsewhere in the facility. Alternatively, the case equipment could be self-contained. FIG. 2 further schematically shows an air flowpath having a first portion 510 carrying cooled air from the equipment 60 to a rear air flowpath section or duct 62. A second portion 512 flows upward through the rear duct 62. A third portion 514 flows forward from the top of rear duct 62 through a top duct 64. A fourth portion 516 exits the top duct near the forward end of the top 34 and is discharged downward along the front 22. A return portion 518 is drawn back into the equipment 60 through a grate 66 near the forward top portion of the base 30 immediately in front of a base cover member 68.

FIG. 3 shows further details of the rear duct 62. The duct 62 is segmented by a series of interior uprights including a left upright 70, a right upright 72, and a series of intermediate uprights 74. Forwardly, the duct segments are each bounded by an associated duct panel 80 (e.g., mounted by fasteners 81 to side portions of forward flanges 82 of the adjacent two uprights). As is discussed in further detail below, each shelf 38 may be mounted to these uprights (e.g., a single width shelf spanning and mounted to exactly two adjacent such uprights via mounting apertures in root portions of the flanges 82). Rearwardly, the duct segments are collectively bounded by the forward surfaces of panels of an insulated panel assembly 84. FIG. 2 shows the panel assembly 84 as including an upper panel 86 and a lower panel 88.

FIGS. 2 and 3 further show the base 30 as including a series of support brackets or braces 90 extending front-to-back spanning the rails 50 and 52. Mounted to and extending upward from a rear end portion of each brace 90 is a rear external support 92. Each support 92 has a lower end 94 mounted to the rear end portion 96 of the associated brace 90 and has an upper end 98. As is discussed in further detail below, the panel assembly 84 is sandwiched between the uprights 70, 72, and 74 along the front and the supports 92 along the rear.

The top duct 64 may be similarly segmented or may be substantially unsegmented. FIG. 2 shows the top duct 64 defined between a top insulated panel 120 and a side-by-side array of interior top duct panels 122. Each of the panels 122 is unitarily molded as a single piece of a polymeric material (e.g., ABS or polystyrene). The exemplary panels 122 are generally rectangular in planform extending from a rear end 124 to a front end 126 and between left and right edges 128 and 130. The panel 122 has a main body portion 132 also generally rectangular in planform. A short rear wall 134 depends from a rear edge of the main body 132 to engage and seal with the associated rear duct panel 80. At a front edge of the main body 132 a shorter wall 136 depends. Edge flanges 138 and 140 extend upward along edges of the panel including along the main body 132. First and second turning vanes 150 and 152 extend between the flanges 138 and 140 and are supported thereby. Each exemplary vane 150; 152 extends from a leading edge 154; 156 to a trailing edge 158; 160. A leading portion 162; 164 of each vane extends from the leading edge generally parallel to the main body 132. These portions split the flow 514 into an exemplary two portions 515A and 515B to, in turn, merge at an outlet 170 formed at the trailing side downstream edges 158 and 160 to form the flow 516. To turn the flow, the exemplary vanes each have an intermediate portion 172; 174 transverse to the leading portion 162; 164 (e.g., perpendicular thereto in the exemplary embodiment). A downstream end portion 176; 178 extends from the associated intermediate portion to the associated downstream/trailing edge 158; 160. In the exemplary embodiment, these portions are oriented to provide a total flow turn of approximately 120°, more broadly about 80-120°. The panel 122 has an exemplary width W of 0.5-1.5 m and an exemplary depth D of 0.5-1.5 m. An exemplary thickness of the main body portion 132 is 1-5 mm.

In various implementations, the top duct panel 122 may be formed as a drop-in replacement for an existing panel assembly. The panel 132 may thus duplicate the overall dimensions and flow exit angle(s) of the existing panel. Exemplary discharge angles are 70-140° and may be other than a single angle (e.g., a fanned group of vanes).

One or more embodiments of the present invention have been described. Nevertheless, it will be understood that various modifications may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example, the foregoing teachings may be applied in the reengineering of an existing case configuration. In such a reengineering, details of the existing configuration will influence or dictate details of any particular implementation. Accordingly, other embodiments are within the scope of the following claims.