Title:
ROTATING ICEMAKER ASSEMBLY
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An icemaker assembly disposed within a refrigerator is configured for continuous freezing of water and continuous harvesting of ice. The icemaker assembly includes a rotating ice mold having a plurality of ice forming compartments. A water distributor is operably disposed above the ice mold for supplying water individually to each of the plurality of ice forming compartments. The water distributor supplies the water at a flow rate which is dependent on a rotational speed of the ice mold. The rotating ice mold is rotatable such that each ice forming compartment is movable to a first position for receiving water from the water distributor and movable to a second position for harvesting ice. At the first position, each ice forming compartment is at a first temperature for rapidly freezing the water received from the water distributor. At the second position, each ice forming compartment is at a second, higher temperature for releasing the ice therein.



Inventors:
Devos, Richard (Goshen, KY, US)
Application Number:
12/138089
Publication Date:
12/17/2009
Filing Date:
06/12/2008
Assignee:
General Electric Company (Schenectady, NY, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/317, 62/344, 62/441
International Classes:
F25C5/08; F25C5/18; F25D11/02; F25D29/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20090165476Cooling storage cabinetJuly, 2009Hosaka
20080041086Water supply channel for evenly wetting a hybrid dry coolerFebruary, 2008Brentrop
20090178432ICE MAKER EVAPORATORJuly, 2009Reagen et al.
20090084133CONDENSER REBOILER SYSTEMApril, 2009Chakravarthy et al.
20070107464LNG system with high pressure pre-cooling cycleMay, 2007Ransbarger
20060101831Cooling apparatus, systems, and methodsMay, 2006Storm et al.
20080298981VARIABLE CAPACITY SWASH PLATE TYPE COMPRESSORDecember, 2008Park et al.
20090178434Food serving systemJuly, 2009Demirjian
20090272137Oil Return, Superheat and Insulation DesignNovember, 2009Wiggs
20090241591HEAT CONVERTER FOR CONDENSATION AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEM USING THE SAMEOctober, 2009Hara et al.
20090126387Duct mounted dehumidifier using parallel air flowMay, 2009Dinh



Primary Examiner:
ZEC, FILIP
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FAY SHARPE LLP (Cleveland, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An icemaker assembly disposed within a refrigerator and configured for continuous freezing of water and continuous harvesting of ice, the icemaker assembly comprising: a rotating ice mold, the ice mold having a plurality of ice forming compartments; a water distributor operably disposed above the ice mold for supplying water individually to each of the plurality of ice forming compartments, the water distributor supplying the water at a flow rate dependent on a rotational speed of the ice mold; wherein the rotating ice mold is rotatable such that each ice forming compartment is movable to a first position for receiving water from the water distributor and moveable to a second position for harvesting ice, wherein at the first position, each ice forming compartment is at a first temperature for rapidly freezing the water received from the water distributor, wherein at the second position, each ice forming compartment is at a second, higher temperature for releasing the ice therein.

2. The icemaker assembly of claim 1, further comprising an ice ready detector for detecting that the ice to be harvested from each ice forming compartment is completely frozen, wherein rotation of the ice mold is stopped when the ice is not completely frozen.

3. The icemaker assembly of claim 2, further comprising a drive mechanism operably connected to the ice mold, wherein the drive mechanism is one of a motor assembly and a slip clutch.

4. The icemaker assembly of claim 3, further comprising a controller electrically coupled to the water distributor and the ice ready sensor and the drive mechanism.

5. The icemaker assembly of claim 1, further comprising an ice storage bin located beneath the ice mold for receiving ice, and a fullness detector for detecting a level of ice in the ice storage bin, wherein the fullness detector includes a plurality of projections extending outwardly from the ice mold, each projection extending at least partially into the ice storage bin, wherein contact of one of the projections with ice in the ice storage bin stops rotation of the ice mold.

6. The icemaker assembly of claim 1, wherein the ice mold is generally cylindrical.

7. The icemaker assembly of claim 1, wherein the water distributor includes a nozzle for providing an intermittent drip supply of water directly into each ice forming compartment and a heater for heating the nozzle to prevent freezing of the intermittent drip supply of water.

8. The icemaker assembly of claim 1, further comprising a second ice mold coupled to the ice mold for rotation therewith, the second ice mold including a plurality of ice forming compartments, each ice forming compartment being aligned with one of the plurality of ice forming compartments of the ice mold.

9. The icemaker assembly of claim 8, further comprising a second water distributor for supplying water individually to each of the plurality of ice forming compartments of the second ice mold.

10. The icemaker assembly of claim 1, further comprising a stationary heater configured to separately heat each ice forming compartment to the second temperature thereby allowing the heater to operate at a low wattage.

11. The icemaker assembly of claim 10, wherein the heater is at least partially housed within the ice mold.

12. The icemaker assembly of claim 1, further comprising an ice removal device for engaging ice located in each ice forming compartment, the ice removal device configured to rotate at approximately the same speed as the rotational speed of the ice mold.

13. The icemaker assembly of claim 1, in combination with the refrigerator having a fresh food compartment and a bottom mount freezer compartment, wherein the icemaker assembly is disposed within the fresh food compartment, wherein the refrigerator includes an air duct for directing cold air from the freezer compartment to the ice mold, the cold air cooling each ice forming compartment of the ice mold from the second temperature to the first temperature prior to the rotation of each ice forming compartment to the first position.

14. An icemaker assembly for a refrigerator, the refrigerator including a fresh food compartment and a freezer compartment, the icemaker assembly being disposed within one of the fresh food compartment and the freezer compartment of the refrigerator, the icemaker assembly comprising: a housing; an ice mold rotatably disposed within the housing, the ice mold including a plurality of compartments in which ice is formed, the ice forming compartments being disposed about an outer periphery of the ice mold; a water distributor connected to the housing and disposed above the ice mold for providing a supply of water separately to each ice forming compartment; a cooling mechanism thermally connected to one of the housing and the ice mold for cooling each ice forming compartment prior to water being received therein and flash freezing the water received in each ice forming compartment from the water distributor; and a stationary heater thermally connected to the ice mold for separately melting an interface between the ice and each ice forming compartment, wherein the icemaker assembly is configured for continuous freezing of water and continuous harvesting of ice.

15. The icemaker assembly of claim 14, wherein the stationary heater is configured to one of mate with each ice forming compartment and engage one of each ice forming compartment and the ice located therein.

16. The icemaker assembly of claim 14, further comprising an ice storage bin located beneath the ice mold for receiving ice, wherein rotation of the ice mold is dependent on the level of ice in the ice storage bin.

17. The icemaker assembly of claim 16, further comprising a fullness detector for detecting a level of ice in the ice storage bin, the fullness detector stopping rotation of the ice mold when the level of ice within the ice storage bin is at a predetermined level.

18. A method of continuous freezing of water and continuous harvesting of ice for a refrigerator, the method comprising: rotating an ice mold, the ice mold including a plurality of compartments in which ice is formed, wherein each ice forming compartment is rotated through a first position and a second position; supplying water separately to each compartment at the first position; flash freezing the water received in each compartment at the first position; and heating each compartment at the second position to release the ice therein.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the water supplying step further comprises: producing an intermittent drip supply of water, and controlling the flow rate of the water so that the flow rate is dependent on a rotational speed of the ice mold.

20. The method of claim 18, further comprising: collecting the ice harvested from each compartment, and controlling the rotation of the ice mold so that the rotation is dependent on a level of ice collected.

Description:

BACKGROUND

The present disclosure generally relates to an automatic icemaker assembly for a refrigerator. More specifically, the present disclosure relates to an automatic icemaker assembly for rapidly harvesting ice.

A conventional automatic icemaker assembly disposed in a residential refrigerator typically has three major subsystems: an icemaker; a bucket with an auger and ice crusher; and a dispenser insert in a freezer door that allows the ice to be delivered from the bucket to a cup without opening the door. The designs of most conventional icemaker systems use substantial portions of the freezer volume, typically 25%-30%.

The icemaker includes a metal mold that makes batch ice (i.e., between six to ten ice cubes at a time). The mold is filled with water at one end and the water evenly fills ice cube sections through weirs (shallow parts of the dividers between each cube section) that connect the sections. Opening a valve on a water supply line for a predetermined period of time usually controls the amount of water. The temperature in the freezer compartment is usually between about −10° F. to about +10° F. The mold is cooled by conduction with the freezer air, and the rate of cooling is enhanced by convection of the freezer air, especially when an evaporator fan is operating. A temperature-sensing device in thermal contact with the ice cube mold generates temperature signals and a controller, monitoring the temperature signals indicates when the ice is ready to be removed from the mold. When the ice cubes are ready, a motor in the icemaker drives a rake in an angular motion. The rake pushes against the cubes to force them out of the mold. A heater on the bottom of the mold is turned on to melt the interface between the batch ice and the metal mold. When the interface is sufficiently melted, the rake is able to push the cubes out of the mold.

After the ice is harvested, a feeler arm, usually driven by the same motor as the rake, is raised from and lowered into the storage bucket. If the arm cannot reach its predetermined low travel set point, it is assumed that the ice bucket is full and the icemaker will not harvest until more ice has been removed from the bucket. If the feeler arm returns to its low travel set point, the ice making cycle repeats.

The ice storage bucket holds and transports ice to the dispenser in either crushed or whole cube form. If a user requests ice at the dispenser, a motor drives an auger that pushes the ice to the front of the bucket where a crusher is located. The position of a door, controlled by a solenoid, determines whether or not the cubes will go through the crusher or by-pass it and be delivered as whole cubes. The crushed or whole cubes then drop into the dispenser chute. The dispenser chute connects the interior of the freezer with the dispenser and usually has a door, activated by a solenoid, that opens when the user requests ice. The dispenser has switches that permit the user to select crushed or whole cubes, or water to be delivered to the glass.

The conventional icemaker has certain drawbacks. The conventional icemaker assembly is costly due to the controls necessary for making batch ice from a single ice mold. There is undesirable noise associated with the conventional icemaker. For example, a loud hiss noise is created by the burst of water into the batch ice mold, and by the tumbling of the batch ice into the storage bucket. There is also a delay in the forming and harvesting of batch ice. This is because, on the conventional icemaker, the entire ice mold is heated so the ice located in each ice cube section can be simultaneously harvested therefrom. In order to create additional ice, the entire mold has to be cooled before water is dispensed into the ice mold. The water is then frozen and the ice mold is again heated. This temperature cycling causes a time delay in harvesting ice. Further, because the entire ice mold has to be heated, the conventional icemaker requires additional energy.

Accordingly, there is a need in the art for an improved icemaker assembly for a refrigerator.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

In accordance with one aspect, an icemaker assembly disposed within a refrigerator is configured for continuous freezing of water and continuous harvesting of ice. The icemaker assembly comprises a rotating ice mold having a plurality of ice forming compartments. A water distributor is operably disposed above the ice mold for supplying water individually to each of the plurality of ice forming compartments. The water distributor supplies the water at a flow rate which is dependent on a rotational speed of the ice mold. The ice mold is rotatable such that each ice forming compartment is movable to a first position for receiving water from the water distributor and movable to a second position for harvesting ice. At the first position, each ice forming compartment is at a first temperature for rapidly freezing the water received from the water distributor. At the second position, each ice forming compartment is at a second, higher temperature for releasing the ice therein.

In accordance with another aspect, an icemaker assembly for a refrigerator including a fresh food compartment and a freezer compartment is provided. The icemaker assembly is disposed in one of the fresh food compartment and the freezer compartment of the refrigerator. The icemaker assembly comprises a housing and an ice mold rotatably disposed within the housing. The ice mold includes a plurality of compartments in which ice is formed. The ice forming compartments are disposed about an outer periphery of the ice mold. A water distributor is connected to the housing and disposed above the ice mold for providing a supply of water separately to each ice forming compartment. A cooling mechanism is thermally connected to one of the housing and the ice mold for cooling each ice forming compartment and flash freezing the water received in each ice forming compartment from the water distributor. A stationary heater is thermally connected to the ice mold for separately melting an interface between the ice and each ice forming compartment. The icemaker assembly is configured for continuous freezing of water and continuous harvesting of ice.

In accordance with yet another aspect, a method of continuous freezing of water and continuous harvesting of ice for a refrigerator is provided. The method comprises rotating an ice mold, the ice mold including a plurality of compartments in which ice is formed. Each ice forming compartment is rotated through a first position and a second position. Water is supplied separately to each compartment at the first position. The water received in each compartment at the first position is flash frozen. Each compartment at the second position is heated to release the ice therein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side schematic view of an icemaker assembly for a refrigerator according to one aspect of the present disclosure.

FIG. 2 is a front schematic view of the icemaker assembly of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a partial schematic cross-sectional side view of the icemaker assembly of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a schematic view of clear ice formed by the icemaker assembly of the present disclosure.

FIG. 5 is a schematic view of conventional ice formed by a conventional icemaker assembly.

FIG. 6 is a side schematic view of an alternative embodiment of an ice mold and heater for the icemaker assembly of FIG. 1.

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of the icemaker assembly of FIG. 6 taken along line 7-7 of FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is a side schematic view of another embodiment of an ice mold and heater for the icemaker assembly of FIG. 1.

FIG. 9 is a side schematic view of an icemaker assembly for a refrigerator according to another aspect of the present disclosure.

FIG. 10 is a schematic front view of the icemaker assembly of FIG. 9.

FIG. 11 is a schematic front view of an icemaker assembly for a refrigerator according to yet another aspect of the present disclosure.

FIG. 12 is a schematic side view of an icemaker assembly for a refrigerator according to yet another aspect of the present disclosure.

FIG. 13 is a schematic view of a refrigerator including the icemaker assembly of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring now to the drawings, wherein like numerals refer to like parts throughout the several views, FIGS. 1 and 2 illustrate an icemaker assembly 100 for a refrigerator according to one aspect of the present disclosure. The icemaker assembly includes a housing 110. The housing defines a chamber 112 and includes a first opening 114 disposed at an upper portion of the housing and a second opening 116 disposed at a lower portion of the housing. An ice mold 120 is rotatably disposed within the chamber 112 of the housing 110 for continuously freezing water and continuously harvesting ice. The term continuous is used in this context to refer to an icemaker configuration in which each individual ice cube or pair of ice cubes is formed and harvested on its own time line, as contrasted with the conventional “batch” process hereinbefore mentioned in which all of the cube forming compartments in the mold are filled in a single fill operation and the ice cubes are formed and harvested together as a batch. The size of the ice mold is dependent on the size and space constraints of the refrigerator. The ice mold is generally cylindrical in cross-section and includes a plurality of ice forming compartments 122 located about a periphery of the ice mold. Ice (designated in the figures by the letter “I”) is separately formed in each ice forming compartment 122. The dimensions of an individual ice forming compartment 122 can vary depending on the size of the ice desired. Also, a variety of ice shapes can be used, including any conventional shape as well as ornamental shapes such as fish, penguins, scallops, hemispheres, or the like.

Each ice forming compartment 122 includes a first surface 130, a second surface 132 and an arcuate third surface 134, which connects the first and second surfaces. As shown in FIG. 2, the first and second surfaces 130 and 132 of each ice forming compartment are generally inclined. This allows ice to slide off one of the first and second surfaces as the ice is being harvested from each ice forming compartment. The angle of inclination is sufficient to allow the ice to slide out of the ice forming compartment sooner than if the surface 130 and 132 were generally horizontal. The ice mold 120 includes a central opening 140 for receiving an axle 142. The axle has a first end 144 rotatably secured to a first inner wall 150 of the housing 110 and a second end 152 rotatably secured to an opposed second inner wall 154 of the housing.

The ice mold 120 can be formed of a rigid material having a low thermal mass. For example, the rigid material for the ice mold having a low thermal mass can be selected from a group of materials consisting of polypropylene, polyethylene, ABS and metals. The rigid material can have a thickness of about 0.020 inches. This allows a significant portion of thermal mass to be predominantly in the water. In that instance, the time required to harvest the ice in each ice forming compartment 122 is primarily determined by the latent heat of fusion of the water rather than the specific heat of the ice mold.

As is well known, the latent heat of fusion, also known as the standard enthalpy of fusion or specific melting heat, is the amount of thermal energy which must be absorbed or evolved for one mole of a substance to change states from a solid to a liquid or vice-versa. The specific heat is the amount of heat per unit mass required to raise the temperature by 1° C. The latent heat of fusion can be observed if you measure the temperature of water as it freezes. For example, if the ice mold 120 is held at a temperature below the freezing temperature of water (i.e. 0° C. or 32° F.), the temperature of the water in each ice forming compartment 122 will fall steadily until it drops just below the freezing point. The temperature of the water then rebounds and holds steady while the water crystallizes. The temperature stops falling at (or just below) the freezing point due to the latent heat of fusion. The energy of the heat of fusion must be withdrawn (the liquid must turn to solid) before the temperature can continue to fall. Once completely frozen, the temperature will fall steadily again.

A water distributor 170 is operably disposed above first opening 114 of the housing 110 and the ice mold 120 for supplying water individually to each of the plurality of ice forming compartments 122. The flow rate of the water supplied from the water distributor is dependent on a rotational speed of the ice mold and the rate of freezing of the water in each ice forming compartment. The water distributor includes a nozzle 176 which provides a supply of water directly into each ice forming compartment 122. In the depicted embodiment, the water is provided as an intermittent drip. Particularly, water is supplied from the nozzle 176 at a low rate that cannot sustain continuous flow due to capillary forces on the nozzle. Water drops should be large enough to prevent freezing when falling from the nozzle to the ice mold 120. A heater 180, which can be a resistance heater, heats the nozzle 176 to prevent freezing of the intermittent drip supply of water. The heater can be located above the first opening 114 of the housing 110 and can at least partially surround a section of the nozzle 176. The heater is spaced from the housing 110 to provide for an insulating air space.

The ice mold 120 is rotatable such that each ice forming compartment 122 is movable to a first position for receiving water from the water distributor 170 and movable to a second position for harvesting ice. At the first position, each ice forming compartment 122 is at a first temperature for rapid freezing of the water received from the water distributor 170. At the second temperature, each ice forming compartment 122 is at a second higher temperature for releasing the ice therein. To ensure that the ice to be harvested from each ice forming compartment is completely frozen, an ice ready sensor or detector 200 can be located in the chamber 112 of the housing 110. As shown in FIG. 2, the ice ready sensor can be electrically coupled to a controller 210. In the depicted embodiment, the sensor 200 is positioned between the first position and the second position of each ice forming compartment 122 to measure the temperature of water in each ice forming compartment prior to rotation of each ice forming compartment to the second position. If the ice ready sensor detects that the water is not completely frozen, the ice ready sensor can generate a signal to the controller 210 that the water is not completely frozen. The controller, in turn, can slow or stop the rotational speed of the ice mold 120 to allow the water to be completely frozen within the ice forming compartment. The ice ready sensor can be a radiant sensor, a thermocouple, a thermistor, or any other like temperature sensor. Again, the flow rate of the water supplied from the water distributor 170 is dependent on a rotational speed of the ice mold 120.

With reference to FIG. 2, a drive mechanism 220 is operably connected to the ice mold 120. In the depicted embodiment, the drive mechanism includes a motor 222 having an output shaft 224 coupled to a gear train 230. The gear train is coupled to the axle 142 of the ice mold. Actuation of the drive mechanism 220 causes the ice mold 120 to rotate. The motor 222 can be electrically connected to the controller 210. This allows the controller to control the operation of the drive mechanism in the event that the water in each ice forming compartment 122 is not completely frozen prior to that ice forming compartment moving to the second position. For example, the motor 222 can be a stepper motor which is actuated by the controller 210 to rotate the ice mold after certain conditions, such as whether the level of ice is at a predetermined level (see below) and/or whether the water is completely frozen in each ice forming compartment 122, are satisfied. The controller can also be electrically connected to the water distributor 170 to vary the flow rate as a function of the rotational speed of the ice mold 120. Thus, if the rotational speed of the ice mold 120 is to be reduced to allow the water to be completely frozen in each ice forming compartment 122 prior to the ice being harvested therefrom, the flow rate of the supply of water directly into each ice forming compartment at the first position from the water distributor 170 can be adjusted accordingly. The flow rate adjustment can be performed by a flow restrictor or valve that is controlled or modulated to match the demand of the icemaker.

An ice storage bin 250 can be located beneath the second opening 116 of the housing 110 and the ice mold 120 for receiving ice harvested from each ice forming compartment 122. A fullness detector 260 can be attached to one of the housing 110 and the ice storage bin 250. The fullness detector can be electrically connected to the controller 210. The fullness detector detects a level of ice in the ice storage bin 250. Depending on a level of ice in the ice storage bin, the fullness detector can slow or stop rotation of the ice mold 120 when the level of ice within the ice storage bin 250 is at a predetermined level. Thus, rotation of the ice mold 120 is dependent on the level of ice in the ice storage bin 260. The fullness detector can be any known variety of sensor such as a feeler connected to a switch, an LED beam, a capacitive sensor, and the like. As indicated previously, the fullness detector is electrically connected to the controller 210. Thus, the fullness detector can generate a first signal to the controller to slow or stop rotation of the ice mold when the level of ice within the ice storage bin is at a first level. The fullness detector can generate a second signal to the controller to start or speed up rotation of the ice mold when the level of ice within the ice storage bin has dropped below the first level.

A stationary heater 280 is positioned at or near the second position of each ice forming compartment 122 to separately heat each ice forming compartment to the second temperature. By individually heating each ice forming compartment, the intermittent heater 280 can operate at a low wattage, such as 10 watts. The heater 280 is in thermal proximity to the ice mold 120 for heating an interface between the ice and the surfaces 130, 132, 134 of each ice forming compartment 122. As shown in FIG. 1, the heater is at least partially housed within the ice mold. The heater is electrically connected to the controller 210 so that the operation of the heater can be dependent on the rotational speed of the ice mold 120.

In operation, the icemaker assembly 100 provides continuous freezing of water and continuous harvesting of ice for a refrigerator. The ice mold 120 is configured to continuously rotate wherein each of the ice forming compartments 122 is rotated through the first position and the second position. Water is separately supplied to each ice forming compartment 122 at or near the first position by the water distributor 170. The ice mold is continuously cooled and subsequently heated as the ice mold rotates from the first position to the second position. At or near the first position, each ice forming compartment 122 is at a predetermined first temperature such that the water received in each ice forming compartment at the first position is rapidly or flash frozen. The heater 280 heats each ice compartment 122 at or near the second position to release the ice therein. A nozzle 176 produces an intermittent drip supply of water and the flow rate of the drip supply of water is controlled so that the flow rate is dependent on the rotational speed of the ice mold 120. The ice harvested from each ice forming compartment 122 is collected in the ice storage bin 250. The rotational speed of the ice mold 120 can be dependent on a level of ice collected in the ice storage bin.

With reference to FIG. 3, an ice removal device 290 can be provided for removing ice formed in each ice forming compartment 122. The ice removal device, which can have a star-like conformation, includes a plurality of projections 292. The ice removal device is configured to rotate at the same speed as the rotational speed of the ice mold 120. As the ice removal device rotates, one of the projections 292 causes an interference with the ice located in each ice forming compartment 122 as the ice forming compartment moves past the second position. This interference assists in removal of the ice. The ice removal device can be connected to the drive mechanism 220. This allows the rotation of the ice removal device to be dependent on the rotation of the ice mold. Thus, if the rotation of the ice mold 120 is slowed due to the level of the ice in the ice storage bin 250, the rotation of the ice removal device will also be slowed accordingly. It is to be appreciated that alternative manners for ejecting ice are also contemplated. Further, it should be appreciated that alternative shapes for the ice removal device, such as a triangular shape, are contemplated.

As shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, an alternative embodiment of an ice mold 300 and a heater 302 for the icemaker assembly 100 is illustrated. The ice mold 300 has a uniform thickness and includes a plurality of ice forming compartments 310. Each ice forming compartment includes surfaces 320, 322 and 324. The heater, which is housed within the ice mold, is configured to heat the surfaces of each ice forming compartment 122 at or near the second position. Particularly, and similar to the ice removal device 290, the heater 302 has a star-like conformation and includes a plurality of projections 304 and arcuate or concave surfaces 306. The heater rotates at the same speed as the rotational speed of the ice mold 300. As the heater rotates, the contour of the heater mates with the surfaces of each ice forming compartment 310 to heat the surfaces. In this mating position, the heater 302 will be actuated, thereby further reducing the wattage required to operate. The ice removal device can be connected to the drive mechanism 220. This allows the rotation of the ice removal device to be dependent on the rotation of the ice mold.

Alternatively, as shown in FIG. 8, in lieu of or together with the illustrated ice removal device 290, a heater 350 can have additional projections 352 which would project through an opening 360 in each ice forming compartment. As the heater heats the interface between the ice and the surfaces of the ice forming compartment, an end of the projection 352 will cause an interference with the ice thereby assisting in the removal of the ice from the ice forming compartment. To prevent the water from leaking out of the opening 360, walls 362 and 364 defining the opening sealingly engage each other in a closed position.

As indicated previously, the ice mold 120 is at a predetermined temperature such that the water received in each ice forming compartment 122 from the water distributor 170 is rapidly or flash frozen within the ice forming compartment. This allows for the formation of clear ice (see FIG. 4). Clear ice results when clean water is frozen in thin cubes which allow the air to diffuse out of the ice before it is frozen. Conversely, as shown in FIG. 5, when air is trapped in the frozen ice cube, the ice appears to be cloudy or dirty. The clean water freezes first and the impurities in trapped air in the water will escape.

With reference to FIGS. 9 and 10, an icemaker assembly 400 according to another aspect of the present disclosure is schematically illustrated. Reference numerals with a primed suffix (′) refer to like components (for example, housing 110 will be identified as housing 110′), and new reference numerals identify new components.

As shown in FIGS. 9 and 10, the icemaker assembly 400 comprises a housing 110′ and an ice mold 410 rotatably disposed within the housing for continuous freezing water and harvesting ice. The ice mold is generally cylindrical in cross-section and includes a plurality of ice forming compartments 412 located about a periphery of the ice mold. Ice is separately formed in each ice forming compartment. Each ice forming compartment 412 includes a first surface 420, a second surface 422 and an arcuate third surface 424, which connects the first and second surfaces. As shown in FIG. 10, the first and second surfaces of each ice forming compartment is generally inclined. As indicated previously, this allows ice to slide off one of the first and second surfaces as the ice is being harvested from each ice molding compartment.

A water distributor 170′ is operably disposed above the housing 110′ and the ice mold 410 for supplying water individually to each of the plurality of ice forming compartments 412. The flow rate of the water supplied from the water distributor is dependent on a rotational speed of the ice mold. An ice ready detector 200′ can be located in the housing for detecting that the ice to be harvested from each ice forming compartment 412 is completely frozen. A stationary heater 280′ separately heats each ice forming compartment to melt an interface between the ice and the surfaces of the ice forming compartment. As shown in FIG. 10, the water distributor 170′, ice ready detector 200′ and heater 280′ are electrically connected to a controller 210′ so that the operation of each component can be dependent on the rotational speed of the ice mold 410.

A drive mechanism 440 is operably connected to the ice mold. In the depicted embodiment, the drive mechanism is a slip clutch 442. The slip clutch is operably engaged to an axle 446 of the ice mold 410. The axle has one end 450 rotatably secured to the housing 110′ and a second end 452 operably coupled to the drive mechanism. A solenoid 456 is operable connected to the slip clutch. The drive mechanism can be electrically connected to the controller so that the controller can monitor the rotational speed of the ice mold 410.

Similar to the previous embodiment, the ice mold 410 is configured for continuous rotation and harvesting of ice. However, unlike ice mold 120 which is rotatable via the drive mechanism 220′, ice mold 410 rotates via weight of ice formed in each ice forming compartment 412. Particularly, as water drips into each ice forming compartment 412 and is rapidly frozen therein, the weight of the ice causes the ice mold 410 to rotate slowly in one direction. Since an ice forming section 460 of the ice mold will be slightly heavier than a water receiving section 462 of the ice mold, the ice mold will turn or rotate itself. As ice is being formed in each ice forming compartment 412, gravity is pulling the ice downward towards the ice storage bin (not shown) located beneath the ice mold 410. This causes the ice mold to rotate. If the ice ready detector 200′ detects that the ice to be harvested from each ice forming compartment 412 is not completely frozen, the detector will send a signal to the controller 210′. The controller actuates the solenoid 456. The solenoid engages the slip clutch 442 which, in turn, stops rotation of the ice mold 410.

A fullness detector 470 is connected to the ice mold 410 for detecting a level of ice in the ice storage bin. The fullness detector stops rotation of the ice mold when a level of ice within the ice storage bin is at a predetermined level. In the depicted embodiment, the fullness detector 470 includes a plurality of projections 472 which extend outwardly from the ice mold 410. Each projection extends at least partially into the ice storage bin. A contact of one of the projections with ice located in the ice storage bin will stop rotation of the ice mold. As the ice drops below the predetermined fullness level, gravity will again cause the ice mold 410 to rotate. If the rotation of the ice mold is slowed or stopped by the level of ice in the ice storage bin, the controller 210′ will communicate with the water distributor 170′ and the heater 280′. The water distributor will adjust its flow rate to correspond to the rotational speed of the ice mold and the controller 210′ will adjust the timing of the intermittent heating of the heater to correspond with the rotation of the ice mold.

With reference to FIG. 11, an icemaker assembly 500 according to yet another aspect of the present disclosure is illustrated. Reference numerals with a primed suffix (′) refer to like components (for example, ice mold 120 will be identified as ice mold 120′), and new reference numerals identify new components.

The icemaker assembly 500 is similar to the icemaker assembly 100 of FIG. 1. In this embodiment, a housing 502 encloses a second ice mold 510 which is coupled to a first ice mold 120′ for rotation therewith. The second ice mold includes a plurality of ice forming compartments 512, each ice forming compartment being aligned with one of the plurality of ice forming compartments 122′ of the first mold. A separate ice detector 520, water distributor 530 and heater 540 is provided for the second ice mold. The ice detector 520, water distributor 530 and heater 540 of the second ice mold 510 can be electrically connected to the respective ice detector 200′, water distributor 170′ and heater 280′ of the first mold 120′, which, in turn, are electrically connected to a controller 210′.

The ice forming surfaces of the respective ice forming compartments 122′ and 512 of the first and second ice molds 120′ and 510 are angled away from each other such that the ice formed in each ice forming compartment will slide out of the ice forming compartment away from the other ice mold. A drive mechanism 220′ is coupled to a single axle 550 which extends through both the first and second ice molds. A single ice fullness detector 560 is provided on the housing 502 for detecting a level of ice in an ice storage bin (not shown) located beneath the housing.

With reference to FIG. 12, an icemaker assembly 600 according to yet another aspect of the present disclosure is illustrated. Reference numerals with a primed suffix (′) refer to like components (for example, water distributor 170 will be identified as water distributor 170′), and new reference numerals identify new components.

In this embodiment, the icemaker assembly 600 includes a housing 602 for housing a conveyor assembly 610 and a drive mechanism (not shown) operably coupled to the conveyor assembly. A water distributor 170′ is positioned adjacent to the conveyor assembly. An ice storage bin (not shown) is located beneath the housing of the icemaker assembly. A controller (not shown) can be electrically coupled to the drive mechanism and water distributor.

The conveyor assembly comprises at least a front roller 620, a rear roller 622 and a continuous conveyor belt 630 fitted in tension about the front and rear rollers. In one embodiment, the conveyor belt can be made of a flexible polymer. A plurality of individual ice forming compartments 632 are disposed within or upon the conveyor belt for creation of individual ice cubes therein. The ice forming compartments are molded directly into the material of the conveyor belt. Alternatively, the ice molds can be made of a rigid material and are fixedly attached to the conveyor belt. The rigid material can be, for example, polypropylene, polyethylene, and ABS, or the like. The conveyor belt dimensions can be dependent upon the size of the refrigerator and the desired ice cube output for the icemaker assembly 600. The dimensions of an individual ice forming compartment 632 can vary depending on the size of the ice cubes desired.

The drive mechanism is drivingly coupled to the conveyor assembly 610. When energized, the drive mechanism drives the rear roller 622 (or alternatively, the front roller 620) causing the conveyor belt to rotate rear to front. A portion of the ice forming compartments 632 will face generally upward during ice formation. As the conveyor belt rotates forward over the front roller 620, a portion of the ice forming compartments face generally downward and ice frozen within are gravity fed into the ice storage bin located beneath the housing. A heater 280′ is provided adjacent the second roller 622 such that the heater can heat each individual ice forming compartment to melt the interface between the ice formed therein thereby allowing the ice to drop out of the conveyor belt and into the ice storage bin. The water distributor 170′ is positioned generally above the ice forming compartment. The water distributor is actuated when a belt position sensor (optical, mechanical, proximity switch, or the like) generates a signal to a controller (not shown) indicating that the belt is in the correct position for refill. The drive mechanism is energized when the fullness of ice in the ice storage bin falls below a preset fill level and an ice-ready sensor 200′ generates a signal to the controller that the ice in the ice forming compartment to be delivered is frozen. If a fullness detector 260′ disposed within or about the ice storage bin generates a signal to the controller that the level of ice within the ice storage bin has dropped below a preset fill level, a cycle is initiated and the drive mechanism advances the conveyor belt 630 one ice forming compartment at a time such that water can be delivered separately into an empty ice forming compartment.

With reference now to FIG. 13, a bottom mount refrigerator 700 is schematically illustrated. The refrigerator includes a fresh food compartment 710 and a freezing compartment 714. Door 716 is provided for the fresh food compartment, and a door 718 is provided for the freezer compartment. Doors 716 can include an ice dispenser 720, which may also include a water dispenser. An icemaker assembly according to one of the aspects of the present disclosure is provided in the fresh food compartment. As shown in FIG. 13, icemaker assembly 100 is provided. The icemaker assembly is shown to be in one of the corners of the fresh food, compartment but other locations are also within the scope of the present disclosure. The housing 110 of the icemaker assembly can be insulated to prevent the cold air of the icemaker assembly from passing into the fresh food compartment.

Generally, the refrigerator 700 includes an evaporator (not shown) which cools the fresh food compartment and the freezer compartment. Normally, the fresh food compartment will be maintained at about 40° F. and the freezer compartment will be maintained at about 0° F. In order to rapidly freeze the water in the rotating ice mold 120, the chamber 112 defined by the housing of the icemaker assembly is maintained at a temperature approximately about 0° F.

A cooling mechanism or cold air duct 730 extends between the freezer compartment 714 and the icemaker assembly 100. The cold air duct has a lower air inlet 732 between the freezer compartment and an upper outlet 734 connected to the housing. A fan (not shown) draws cold air from the freezer department 714 and forces the air into the icemaker assembly so as to facilitate ice making. An air deflector 750 is provided in the housing 110 of the icemaker assembly 100 to direct the cold air from the freezer compartment to the ice mold 120 as the ice mold rotates to the first position. This insures that the temperature of each ice forming compartment 122 is at or about the first temperature as each ice forming compartment rotates to the first position. The deflector 750 also prevents the cold air from affecting the operation of the heater (not illustrated) which is located on the other side of the ice mold. Although, it should be appreciated that alternative manners for cooling the ice mold 120 to the first temperature are contemplated. An auger 780 is provided beneath the icemaker assembly to advance ice into the ice dispenser 720.

The carousel concept of the present disclosure insures that the icemaker assembly occupies minimal space in the fresh food compartment. The size of the ice storage bin (located in the ice dispenser) can be reduced to conserve space. Because the icemaker assembly continuously produces and harvests ice, there is less need to hold a significant ice inventory.

It should be appreciated from the foregoing, a method of continuous freezing of water and continuous harvesting of ice for a refrigerator is provided. The method comprises rotating an ice mold, the ice mold including a plurality of compartments in which ice is formed. Each ice forming compartment is rotated through a first position and a second position. Water is supplied separately to each compartment at the first position. The water received in each compartment at the first position is flash frozen. Each compartment at the second position is heated to release the ice therein.

It should also be appreciated that the icemaker assembly of the present disclosure can be less costly than a conventional icemaker assembly because many of the operating controls are already located on a master control for the refrigerator. The material of the ice mold can be less expensive than the conventional die cast body that is used for making batch ice. The forming of a single ice cube from a slow supply of water does not create the undesirable noise associated with the conventional icemaker. There is no delay in the forming and harvesting of ice because the icemaker assembly of the present disclosure is configured to continuously harvest ice. The ice rate is higher than the conventional icemaker because of the lower thermal mass of the ice mold and the ice mold is cooled prior to being filled with water. With the continuous ice making process of the present disclosure, the inefficient heating and cooling time of the conventional icemaker assembly is only associated with a portion of the rotating ice mold (i.e., the empty ice forming compartments). Further, because the icemaker assembly of the present disclosure does not require heating of air to harvest ice, less energy is required.

It will be appreciated that various of the above-disclosed and other features and functions, or alternatives thereof, may be desirably combined into many other different systems or applications. Also that various presently unforeseen or unanticipated alternatives, modifications, variations or improvements therein may be subsequently made by those skilled in the art which are also intended to be encompassed by the following claims.