Title:
MULTIFUNCTIONAL ROD FOR ICEMAKER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus includes a mold body with at least one cavity configured and dimensioned to receive water to be frozen into ice; and a rod, the rod in turn comprising at least one of a heat source and a heat sink. The mold body is mounted to the rod such that the rod functions as an axis of rotation for the mold body. A refrigerator using the apparatus is also disclosed.



Inventors:
Mcdaniel, Aaron Matthew (Louisville, KY, US)
Application Number:
12/857772
Publication Date:
02/23/2012
Filing Date:
08/17/2010
Assignee:
MCDANIEL AARON MATTHEW
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F25C1/00
View Patent Images:



Foreign References:
SU1532777A11989-12-30
Primary Examiner:
TRPISOVSKY, JOSEPH F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
General Electric Company (Norwalk, CT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus comprising: a mold body with at least one cavity configured and dimensioned to receive water to be frozen into ice; and a rod, said rod in turn comprising at least one of a heat source and a heat sink, said mold body being mounted to said rod such that said rod functions as an axis of rotation for said mold body.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein: said rod is hollow and sealed; said mold body has first and second ends; said rod has an evaporator portion in thermal communication with said mold body; and said rod has a condenser portion, comprising said heat sink, and extending past said second end of said mold body and above said evaporator portion when said mold body is disposed to receive said water; further comprising: a two-phase heat transfer fluid contained within said hollow rod; and a heat transfer surface on said condenser portion.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein said heat transfer surface comprises a plurality of fins.

4. The apparatus of claim 2, further comprising an actuation arrangement which causes said mold body to rotate about said axis of rotation between a first position wherein said water can be introduced into said at least one cavity and a second position wherein said ice can be discharged from said at least one cavity.

5. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein said rod further comprises a heater in thermal communication with said evaporator portion, said heater comprising said heat source.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein said rod has a distal end, extending past said first side of said mold body, said heater being in thermal contact with said distal end of said rod.

7. The apparatus of claim 5, further comprising a controller configured to cause said actuation arrangement to rotate said mold body about said axis of rotation and to activate said heater under at least one of: a condition when said mold body is in said second position; and a condition when said mold body is in said first position and about to rotate to said second position.

8. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein said controller is configured to activate said heater at least under said condition when said mold body is in said first position and about to rotate to said second position, further comprising a secondary rack located to scoop said ice our of said mold body as said mold body rotates from said first position to said second position.

9. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein said mold body and said rod are fixed against relative rotation about said axis of rotation, further comprising at least one bearing, wherein said rod and said mold body rotate as a unit about said axis of rotation.

10. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein said rod is fixed and said mold body rotates about said rod.

11. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein said mold body has a plurality of cavities configured and dimensioned to receive said water to be frozen into said ice.

12. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein: said mold body is hollow and in fluid communication with said hollow rod, said two-phase heat transfer fluid extending into said hollow mold body, said evaporator portion of said rod being in said thermal communication with said mold body via said fluid communication.

13. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein: said evaporator portion of said rod is in said thermal communication with said mold body via conduction.

14. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said rod further comprises a heater, said heater comprising said heat source.

15. The apparatus of claim 14, further comprising an actuation arrangement which causes said mold body to rotate about said axis of rotation between a first position wherein said water can be introduced into said at least one cavity and a second position wherein said ice can be discharged from said at least one cavity.

16. The apparatus of claim 15, further comprising a controller configured to cause said actuation arrangement to rotate said mold body about said axis of rotation and to activate said heater under at least one of: a condition when said mold body is in said second position; and a condition when said mold body is in said first position and about to rotate to said second position.

17. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein said controller is configured to activate said heater at least under said condition when said mold body is in said first position and about to rotate to said second position, further comprising a secondary rack located to scoop said ice our of said mold body as said mold body rotates from said first position to said second position.

18. A refrigerator comprising: a body defining at least one cooled compartment; a door hinged to said body and permitting access to said at least one cooled compartment; a mold body with at least one cavity configured and dimensioned to receive water to be frozen into ice; a rod, mounted to at least one of said body and said door, said rod in turn comprising at least one of a heat source and a heat sink, said mold body being mounted to said rod such that said rod functions as an axis of rotation for said mold body, at least one of said body and said door having a region for receiving discharge of said ice from said mold body.

19. The refrigerator of claim 18, wherein: said rod is hollow and sealed; said mold body has first and second ends; said rod has an evaporator portion in thermal communication with said mold body; and said rod has a condenser portion, comprising said heat sink, and extending past said second end of said mold body and above said evaporator portion when said mold body is disposed to receive said water, said condenser portion being in thermal communication with said at least one cooled compartment; further comprising: a two-phase heat transfer fluid contained within said hollow rod; and a heat transfer surface on said condenser portion.

20. The refrigerator of claim 19, further comprising an actuation arrangement which causes said mold body to rotate about said axis of rotation between a first position wherein said water can be introduced into said at least one cavity and a second position wherein said ice can be discharged from said at least one cavity.

21. The refrigerator of claim 20, wherein said rod further comprises a heater in thermal communication with said evaporator portion, said heater comprising said heat source.

22. The refrigerator of claim 21, further comprising a controller configured to cause said actuation arrangement to rotate said mold body about said axis of rotation and to activate said heater under at least one of: a condition when said mold body is in said second position; and a condition when said mold body is in said first position and about to rotate to said second position.

23. The refrigerator of claim 22, wherein said controller is configured to activate said heater at least under said condition when said mold body is in said first position and about to rotate to said second position, further comprising a secondary rack located to scoop said ice our of said mold body as said mold body rotates from said first position to said second position.

24. The refrigerator of claim 22, wherein said mold body has a plurality of cavities configured and dimensioned to receive said water to be frozen into said ice.

25. The refrigerator of claim 19, wherein: said mold body is hollow and in fluid communication with said hollow rod, said two-phase heat transfer fluid extending into said hollow mold body, said evaporator portion of said rod being in said thermal communication with said mold body via said fluid communication.

26. The refrigerator of claim 19, wherein: said evaporator portion of said rod is in said thermal communication with said mold body via conduction.

27. The refrigerator of claim 18, wherein said rod further comprises a heater, said heater comprising said heat source.

28. The apparatus of claim 27, further comprising an actuation arrangement which causes said mold body to rotate about said axis of rotation between a first position wherein said water can be introduced into said at least one cavity and a second position wherein said ice can be discharged from said at least one cavity.

29. The apparatus of claim 28, further comprising a controller configured to cause said actuation arrangement to rotate said mold body about said axis of rotation and to activate said heater under at least one of: a condition when said mold body is in said second position; and a condition when said mold body is in said first position and about to rotate to said second position.

30. The refrigerator of claim 29, wherein said controller is configured to activate said heater at least under said condition when said mold body is in said first position and about to rotate to said second position, further comprising a secondary rack located to scoop said ice our of said mold body as said mold body rotates from said first position to said second position.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is related to U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______, filed on ______, Attorney Docket Number 236952, entitled ICEMAKER WITH REVERSIBLE THERMOSIPHON, the complete disclosure of which is expressly incorporated herein by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The subject matter disclosed herein relates to refrigeration, and more particularly to icemakers and the like.

It is now common practice in the art of refrigerators to provide an automatic icemaker. The icemaker is often disposed in the freezer compartment and ice is often dispensed through an opening in the access door of the freezer compartment. In this arrangement, ice is formed by freezing water with cold air in the freezer compartment.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

As described herein, the exemplary embodiments of the present invention overcome one or more disadvantages known in the art.

One aspect of the present invention relates to an apparatus comprising: a mold body with at least one cavity configured and dimensioned to receive water to be frozen into ice; and a rod, the rod in turn comprising at least one of a heat source and a heat sink, the mold body being mounted to the rod such that the rod functions as an axis of rotation for the mold body.

Another aspect relates to a refrigerator comprising: a body defining at least one cooled compartment; a door hinged to the body and permitting access to the at least one cooled compartment; a mold body with at least one cavity configured and dimensioned to receive water to be frozen into ice; a rod, mounted to at least one of the body and the door, the rod in turn comprising at least one of a heat source and a heat sink, the mold body being mounted to the rod such that the rod functions as an axis of rotation for the mold body, at least one of the body and the door having a region for receiving discharge of the ice from the mold body.

These and other aspects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. It is to be understood, however, that the drawings are designed solely for purposes of illustration and not as a definition of the limits of the invention, for which reference should be made to the appended claims. Moreover, the drawings are not necessarily drawn to scale and, unless otherwise indicated, they are merely intended to conceptually illustrate the structures and procedures described herein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a diagram of a first exemplary icemaker location in a side-by-side refrigerator, according to an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view along line of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a diagram of a second exemplary icemaker location in a side-by-side refrigerator, according to an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view along line IV-IV of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a diagram of a third exemplary icemaker location in a side-by-side refrigerator, according to an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view along line VI-VI of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a top view of an icemaker assembly with a secondary rack, according to an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 8A is a cross-sectional view along line VIIIA-VIIIA of FIG. 7;

FIG. 8B is a cross-sectional view along line VIIIB-VIIIB of FIG. 8A;

FIG. 9 is a diagram of a first exemplary icemaker location in a bottom mount refrigerator, according to an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view along line X-X of FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a diagram of a second exemplary icemaker location in a bottom mount refrigerator, according to an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view along line XII-XII of FIG. 11;

FIG. 13 is a diagram of a third exemplary icemaker location in a bottom mount refrigerator, according to an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 14 is a cross-sectional view along line XIV-XIV of FIG. 13;

FIG. 15 is a diagram of a fourth exemplary icemaker location in a bottom mount refrigerator, according to an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 16 is a cross-sectional view along line XVI-XVI of FIG. 15;

FIG. 17 is a top view of an icemaker assembly with a first exemplary multifunctional fixed rod, in a fill and freeze mode, in accordance with an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 18 is a side view looking in direction shown in FIG. 17;

FIG. 19 is an end view along line XIX-XIX in FIG. 18;

FIG. 20 is a side view of the assembly of FIGS. 17-19 in heat and dispense mode;

FIG. 21 is an end view along line XXI-XXI in FIG. 20;

FIG. 22 is a top view of an icemaker assembly with a second exemplary multifunctional fixed rod, in a fill and freeze mode, in accordance with an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 23 is a side view looking in direction XXIII-XXIII shown in FIG. 22;

FIG. 24 is an end view along line XXIV-XXIV in FIG. 23;

FIG. 25 is a side view of the assembly of FIGS. 22-24 in heat and dispense mode;

FIG. 26 is an end view along line XXVI-XXVI in FIG. 25;

FIG. 27 is a view similar to FIG. 20 but of an alternative embodiment with a fixed rod;

FIG. 28 is a top view of an icemaker assembly with a hollow ice mold, in a fill and freeze mode, in accordance with an aspect of the invention;

FIG. 29 is a side view looking in direction. XXIX-XXIX shown in FIG. 28;

FIG. 30 is an end view along line XXX-XXX in FIG. 29;

FIG. 31 is a side view of the assembly of FIGS. 28-30 in heat and dispense mode; and

FIG. 32 is an end view along line XXXII-XXXII in FIG. 31.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

Reference should initially be had to FIGS. 1-16. In one or more embodiments, a multifunctional rod 102 provides an icemaker mold body 104 with an axis of rotation, a heating path for enhancing release of ice from the mold body, and optionally a cooling path for rapid freezing of ice. Further details are provided below.

FIGS. 1-8 illustrate different exemplary configurations of a “side-by-side” refrigerator 100 which includes a fresh food compartment 106 and a freezer compartment 108. The refrigerator 100 is cooled by a conventional vapor-compression mechanical refrigeration cycle (although embodiments could also be used with other types of refrigerators, such as those cooled using thermoelectric cooling). The present invention is therefore not intended to be limited to any particular type or configuration of a refrigerator.

The freezer compartment 108 and the fresh food compartment 106 are arranged in a side-by-side configuration where the freezer compartment 108 is disposed next to the fresh food compartment 106. The doors closing the fresh food and freezer compartments are omitted in FIGS. 1, 3, and 7, while the freezer door 110 is shown in FIG. 5. The doors can be hinged to the body in a conventional fashion.

The fresh food compartment 106 and the freezer compartment 108 are, in a well-known manner, contained within a main body including an outer case, which can be formed by folding a sheet of a suitable material, such as pre-painted steel, into a generally inverted U-shape to form a top and two sidewalls of the outer case. The outer case also has a bottom which connects the two sidewalls to each other at the bottom edges thereof, and a back. A mullion or divider 112 connects the top and bottom to each other and separates the fresh food compartment 106 from the freezer compartment 108. As is known in the art, a thermally insulating liner is affixed to the outer case.

As illustrated in FIG. 2, an ice making assembly including rod 102 and mold body 104 is mounted adjacent to the interior surface of the freezer door 110. The ice making assembly is disposed near a thermally insulated hopper-like ice compartment 114 mounted or formed on the freezer door 110, and the mold body 104 of the ice making assembly is adjacent the hopper 114. A bucket 115 collects ice discharged from mold body 104. Auger 113 conveys same to crusher blades 117 which discharge ice to hopper 114. Hopper 114 can have different locations in different embodiments; for example, freezer door, fresh food door, compartment in the freezer or fresh food regions, and so on.

Water is provided to the mold body 104 through a water supply conduit (not shown but per se familiar to the skilled artisan), and then is frozen into ice cubes. Then the ice cubes are usually discharged from the mold body 104 and stored in the ice storage hopper 114 until needed by a user. In FIGS. 1 and 2, the axis of rod 102 is generally perpendicular to the freezer door 110 and generally parallel to the sides of the freezer compartment 108.

FIGS. 3 and 4 depict an embodiment similar to the embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 2, except that the axis of rod 102 is generally parallel to the freezer door 110 and perpendicular to the mullion or divider 112.

FIGS. 5 and 6 depict an embodiment wherein the ice making assembly including rod 102 and mold body 104 is mounted within a cavity 116 of the freezer door 110. In FIGS. 5 and 6, the axis of rod 102 is generally parallel to the freezer door 110 and generally perpendicular to the sides of the freezer compartment 108.

FIGS. 9-16 illustrate different exemplary configurations of a “bottom mount” refrigerator 100′ which includes a fresh food compartment 106 and a freezer compartment 108. The refrigerator 100′ can be cooled in a manner similar to that described above, for example.

The freezer compartment 108 and the fresh food compartment 106 are arranged in a configuration where the freezer compartment 108 is disposed beneath the fresh food compartment 106. The doors closing the fresh food and freezer compartments are omitted in FIGS. 9, 11, and 15, while the fresh food door 130 is shown in FIG. 13. The doors can be hinged to the body in a conventional fashion.

The fresh food compartment 106 and the freezer compartment 108 are, in a well-known manner, contained within a main body constructed in a well-known manner, similar to that described above. A mullion or divider 112 connects the sides to each other and separates the fresh food compartment 106 from the freezer compartment 108. As is known in the art, a thermally insulating liner is affixed to the outer case.

As illustrated in FIG. 9, an ice making assembly including rod 102 and mold body 104 is mounted on the left side wall of the freezer compartment 108. Ice is discharged via bucket 115 on a pull-out freezer bin. In FIGS. 9 and 10, the axis of rod 102 is generally parallel to the freezer door 110 and generally perpendicular to the sides of the freezer compartment 108.

FIGS. 13 and 14 show an embodiment wherein an ice making assembly including rod 102 and mold body 104 is mounted within a cavity 132 of the fresh food door 130. In FIGS. 13 and 14, the axis of rod 102 is generally parallel to the fresh food door 130 and generally perpendicular to the sides of the fresh food door compartment 106. Auxiliary cooling may be provided to compartment 132 to aid ice formation (for example, by ducting air from freezer compartment 108, or a separate evaporator may be employed in the mechanical refrigeration cycle (not to be confused with the evaporator of a heat pipe, thermosiphon, or reflux boiler as described below)).

FIGS. 15 and 16 show an embodiment wherein an ice making assembly including rod 102 and mold body 104 is mounted within a separate ice-making compartment 134 within the fresh food compartment 106. In FIGS. 15 and 16, the axis of rod 102 is generally perpendicular to the fresh food door 130 and generally parallel to the sides of the fresh food door compartment 106. Auxiliary cooling may be provided to compartment 134 to aid ice formation (for example, by ducting air from freezer compartment 108, or a separate evaporator may be employed in the mechanical refrigeration cycle (not to be confused with the evaporator of a heat pipe, thermosiphon, or reflux boiler as described below)).

Reference should now be had to FIGS. 17-21. In one or more embodiments, rod 102 is a thermosiphon, reflux boiler or heat pipe (in some instances, as discussed below, mold body 104 is hollow and also forms part of the thermosiphon, reflux boiler or heat pipe). Rod 102 is a sealed hollow pipe or tube containing a refrigerant which rapidly cools the mold body 104, thus greatly reducing the freeze time for the ice. In a non-limiting example, ice may freeze in about ⅕ to 1/10 the time as in a conventional system, such that proportionately more ice can be generated per unit time. Rod 102 is a two-phase system containing liquid and vapor. Fins 140 augment cooling on one side (the condenser side 141). During cooling, middle region 142 functions as an evaporator, absorbing heat from mold body 104. Heater 144 is provided on the opposite side from fins 140 to aid in harvesting. Fins 140 are depicted as annular but any suitable configuration can be employed.

In some instances, mold body 104 is fixed to rod 102 and rotates therewith when driven by motor 146 and suitable gearing 148 or the like. As best seen in FIGS. 18 and 20, rod 102 is bent such that in “fill and freeze” mode, as seen in FIGS. 17-19, finned condenser region 141 is elevated above the remainder of the rod. Refrigerant in rod 102 absorbs heat from the water in mold body 104, and evaporates, then condenses in condenser region 141 where it gives up heat to the ambient (e.g., freezer compartment) through the fins 140. The condensate flows back to the evaporator region by gravity. Because of this gravity action, a heat pipe with a wicking structure is not necessary, although it could be employed if desired. In the “release” mode in FIGS. 20 and 21, heater 144 is activated and the mold body 104 attached to rod 102 is rotated upside down to release the ice by a combination of heating and gravity. Heat from heater 144 is conducted through rod 102. In some instances, to assist with the ice falling out of the mold body, the mold body can be twisted when in the inverted position; for example, by having one side rotate while the other side resists the rotating motion for a small time period or small distance. As seen in FIGS. 20 and 21, a mold stop 201 can be provided on one side of the mold body 104 opposite the side driven by the motor. The stop can be located to cause a slight interference with the position the mold body would otherwise assume, resulting in a twisting of the mold body to assist in discharging the ice.

Thus, in one or more embodiments, ice mold 104 is made of a conductive material, secured mechanically and thermally to rod 102 which functions as an axis of rotation. Rod 102 is a hollow sealed pipe with refrigerant inside; it acts as thermosiphon or reflux boiler; i.e., a heat pipe which can but need not have a wicking structure because the evaporator is below the condenser. In addition, one end of rod 102 has a heater 144 on it and the other end is the condenser 141 of the heat pipe and has fins 140. The condenser end is angled up in the fill and freeze mode as seen in the view of FIG. 18.

Note that FIGS. 17-21 show an embodiment wherein the mold body 104 and rod 102 are secured together and rotate together. In one or more alternate embodiments, the mold body 104 rotates and the rod 102 is fixed; i.e., the mold body 104 is secured to rod 102 in a way that conducts heat between the two but allows rotary motion therebetween. FIGS. 17-19 and 21 are applicable to either configuration. FIG. 27 shows the alternative configuration. As seen therein, where the rod 102 is fixed, then condenser 141 is always elevated above evaporator 142. If both rotate as in FIG. 20, condenser 141 is elevated above evaporator 142 when mold body 104 is upright in the fill and freeze mode, as in FIG. 18, wherein it is desired to draw heat away from mold body 104 to cause water therein to freeze and turn to ice. In heat and dispense mode, in the embodiment of FIG. 20 where the rod 102 rotates, the evaporator 141 is pointed down.

A conventional motor 146 has reduction gear 148 and a controller 197 to cause it to actuate just enough to rotate the mold body 104.

Any suitable heater 144 can be employed. The heater can also be controlled by the controller 197. One non-limiting example of a suitable heater is the CALROD® line of resistance heating elements available from General Electric Company, Appliance Park, Louisville, Ky. 40225 USA. Where the rod 102 is fixed, the heater element 144 can be wrapped around the rod and heat is conducted through a thermal contact interface (the same could be augmented, for example, by soldering, brazing, use of thermally conductive grease or Indium foil, or the like). Where rod 102 rotates, the heater element 144 may, for example, be coiled around rod 102 with good thermal contact but sufficiently free to rotate. In this latter case, thermally conductive grease and/or a journal bearing can be employed, for example. Where mold 104 rotates with rod 102, the two can be brazed, soldered, or in tight mechanical contact, so that heat is conducted easily through the mechanical fingers 150 seen in the drawings. Rod 102 may be mounted on bearings 199. Where the mold 104 rotates about the rod 102, with rod 102 stationary, journal bearings could be employed between the rod and mold body, optionally with thermal grease, or fingers 150 can form bearing surfaces against rod 102, again optionally with thermal grease.

From a purely thermal standpoint, a presently preferred embodiment is one, to be discussed below, wherein mold 104 is hollow and contains working fluid in communication with the cavity of rod 102; the mold 104 thus itself forms the evaporator of the thermosiphon. In a thermal sense, the next best approach is the case where the mold body 104 is fixed to the rod 102 and both rotate together, as in FIG. 20. Again, in a purely thermal sense, a least preferred but still acceptable approach is as shown in FIG. 27, wherein rod 102 is fixed and mold body 104 rotates. Note that this ranking is purely from a thermal standpoint, and when other factors such as cost, ease of manufacture, or the like are taken into account, a different ranking may result.

Note that when in heat and dispense mode, in the embodiment of FIG. 27 the rod 102 still functions as a thermosiphon, reflux boiler, or heat pipe, so that heat transfer from the heater 144 is from both conduction through the metal and the effect of the thermosiphon, reflux boiler, or heat pipe. However, in the embodiments of FIG. 20, fluid will stay in condenser portion 141 so for the heating effect, reliance is primarily on conduction through the metal from heater 144. Of course, a wicking structure could be provided if desired so that rod 102 would function as a heat pipe in the heat and dispense mode of FIG. 20.

Reference should now be had to FIGS. 28-32 which depict an alternative embodiment wherein mold body 104′ is hollow and in fluid communication with the hollow interior of rod 102′, the two forming a closed system containing the two-phase working fluid. FIGS. 28-30 show the fill and freeze condition. The hollow interior of the mold body 104′ forms the evaporator of the heat pipe, thermosiphon, or reflux boiler. FIGS. 31 and 32 show the heat and dispense mode. The remainder of the elements are similar to those in the embodiment of FIGS. 17-21, have received the same reference characters, and will not be described again. Because of the fluid communication between the hollow rod 102′ and the hollow mold body 104′, the rod and mold body rotate together on suitable bearings 199 or the like as described above.

It will thus be appreciated, with reference again to FIGS. 1-16, that ice making assemblies in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention can be positioned in a variety of locations, which may be similar to the positions of ice making assemblies on current refrigerators. These include, for example, the top corner of the freezer compartment, within the fresh food or freezer compartment doors, and so on. The footprint of ice making assemblies in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention can, in at least some instances, be similar to those of current ice makers. The condenser 141 of the rod should be in an environment with a temperature sufficiently low to freeze water into ice at ambient pressure, such as the ambient air in the freezer compartment or separate ice making compartment.

FIGS. 22-26 depict an alternative embodiment wherein rod 2202 is not a thermosiphon, reflux boiler, or heat pipe, but rather is simply a heater. This approach is lower in cost, but not as advantageous with respect to freezing time. Element 2203 is an electrical lead to a CALROD® heating element or other type of heating element, which provides an axis of rotation and also heats mold body 104 (and is one and the same as rod 2202 or is integrated with rod 2202). This embodiment works in a similar manner to the embodiments of FIGS. 17-21 and 27 except without enhanced cooling. The mold body 104 may be secured to the rod 2202 as it is secured to the rod 102 in FIG. 20 or may rotate with respect thereto as in FIG. 27.

It should be noted that in some instances, the mold body is filled and freezing occurs in an upright position, then the mold body is inverted and heat is applied to aid discharge. However, heat can be applied at different times. For example, in some cases, the mold body is filled and freezing occurs in an upright position, then heat is applied to aid discharge, and finally the mold body is inverted. For example, consider FIGS. 7, 8A, and 8B. As seen therein, mold body 104 is upright, the ice freezes, the mold body is heated up, melting a small layer of ice between the mold and the body of the ice. The mold body then rotates while at the same time secondary rack 203 engages ice 207 under the action of torsion spring 205. Spring 205 keeps rack 203 down until it contacts the mold body side wall; upon contact, the mold body side wall pushes the secondary rack up as seen in phantom lines. Secondary rack 203 thus prevents ice 207 from rotating with mold body 104, effectively scooping the ice out of the mold.

One advantage that may be realized in the practice of some embodiments of the described systems and techniques is more rapid ice production. Another advantage that may be realized in the practice of some embodiments of the described systems and techniques is a simple, robust, and low cost design (the components needed to make ice include a fixed (or rotating) rod, mold body, gear, and step motor.). Still another advantage that may be realized in the practice of some embodiments of the described systems and techniques is production of ice cubes with unique shapes, such as hemispheres, three-dimensional trapezoids, hollow cylinders, and the like. Yet another advantage that may be realized in the practice of some embodiments of the described systems and techniques is that less internal refrigerator volume is taken up by the icemaker (since one or more embodiments allow more rapid freezing of ice—say, on the order of ten times faster than conventional techniques—more rapid dispensing can be achieved, thus allowing production of a desired volume of ice per unit time with a smaller mold volume; furthermore, in at least some instances, rotation of the mold body overcomes the need for a large rotating rack).

It will thus be appreciated that in one or more embodiments, a fixed multifunctional rod provides the icemaker mold body with an axis of rotation, as well as a heat source and/or heat extraction for rapid chill of ice. Possible fixed rods includes a heat pipe, thermosiphon, or reflux boiler with fins on one side (to extract heat from the mold body) and a CALROD® or other heater looped around or otherwise in thermal communication with the heat pipe, thermosiphon, or reflux boiler on the other side (the same applies heat to the mold body for ice release), or a CALROD® or other heater (which only applies heat to mold body). The bottom of the mold body is attached to and rotates around the fixed rod or with a rotating rod. A large gear attached to one side of the mold body, and a step motor, rotate the mold body.

Given the teachings herein, the skilled artisan will be able to select working fluids and determine an appropriate charge of the selected working fluid. Further useful details are provided in the aforesaid U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______, filed on even date herewith, attorney docket number 236952, entitled ICEMAKER WITH REVERSIBLE THERMOSIPHON.

Given the discussion thus far, it will be appreciated that, in general terms, an exemplary apparatus, according to one aspect of the invention, includes a mold body 104, 104′ with at least one cavity configured and dimensioned to receive water to be frozen into ice, as well as a rod 102, 102′, 2202. The rod in turn includes at least one of a heat source 144 and a heat sink 141. The mold body is mounted to the rod such that the rod functions as an axis of rotation for the mold body (i.e., rod is fixed and mold body rotates about it or mold body and rod are fixed to each other and rotate as a unit).

In some instances, the rod 102, 102′ is hollow and sealed, the mold body 104, 104′ has first and second ends, and the rod has an evaporator portion 142 in thermal communication with the mold body 104, 104′. Further, the rod 102, 102′ has a condenser portion 141, comprising the heat sink, and extending past the second end of the mold body 104, 104′ and above the evaporator portion 142 when the mold body is disposed to receive the water. Furthermore, the apparatus can also include a two-phase heat transfer fluid contained within the hollow rod 102, 102′ and a heat transfer surface (e.g., fins 140) on the condenser portion 141.

In some instances, the apparatus further includes an actuation arrangement (e.g., motor 146 with gearing arrangement 148) which causes the mold body to rotate about the axis of rotation between a first position wherein the water can be introduced into the at least one cavity and a second position wherein the ice can be discharged from the at least one cavity.

In one or more embodiments, the rod further comprises a heater 144 in thermal communication with the evaporator portion 142, the heater comprising the heat source. Heater 144 may be in thermal communication with evaporator 142 by conduction from a distal end extending past the first side of the mold body (left side of rod in FIGS. 22, 27, and 28 with heater being in thermal contact with the distal end of the rod) or could even extend into the evaporator region.

In at least some instances, controller 197 is configured to cause the actuation arrangement to rotate the mold body about the axis of rotation/or to activate the heater (for example, when the mold body is in the second position and/or when the mold body is in the first position and about to rotate to the second position).

As shown, for example, in FIGS. 7, 8A, and 8B, in some instances, a secondary rack 203 is located so as to scoop the ice out of the mold body as the mold body rotates from the first position to the second position. This approach can be used, for example, when the controller is configured to activate the heater at least under the condition when the mold body is in the first position and about to rotate to the second position.

As noted, in some cases, the mold body 104, 104′ and the rod 102, 102′ are fixed against relative rotation about the axis of rotation, in which case one or more bearings 199 can be provided, such that the rod and the mold body rotate as a unit about the axis of rotation. In another aspect as in FIG. 27, the rod is fixed and the mold body rotates about the rod.

In a preferred but non-limiting approach, mold body 104 has a plurality of cavities 160 configured and dimensioned to receive the water to be frozen into the ice.

In a thermally preferred approach of FIGS. 28-32, the mold body 104′ is hollow and in fluid communication with the hollow rod 102′, the two-phase heat transfer fluid extends into the hollow mold body, and the evaporator portion 142 of the rod is in thermal communication with the mold body via fluid communication. In the approach of FIGS. 17-20 and 27, the evaporator portion 142 of the rod 102 is in thermal communication with the mold body 104 via conduction.

In some instances, as in FIGS. 22-26, the rod further comprises a heater 2202, the heater comprising the heat source.

An actuation arrangement as described above (optionally with controller 197) can also be provided in this case.

Furthermore, given the discussion thus far, it will be appreciated that, in general terms, an exemplary refrigerator 100, 100′, according to still another aspect of the invention, includes a body defining at least one cooled compartment (e.g., 108, 134); a door such as 110 or 130 hinged to the body and permitting access to the at least one cooled compartment; and an apparatus as described above.

Software includes but is not limited to firmware, resident software, microcode, etc. As is known in the art, part or all of one or more aspects of the methods and apparatus discussed herein may be distributed as an article of manufacture that itself comprises a tangible computer readable recordable storage medium having computer readable code means embodied thereon. The computer readable program code means is operable, in conjunction with a computer system or microprocessor, to carry out all or some of the steps to perform the methods or create the apparatuses discussed herein. A computer-usable medium may, in general, be a recordable medium (e.g., floppy disks, hard drives, compact disks, EEPROMs, or memory cards) or may be a transmission medium (e.g., a network comprising fiber-optics, the world-wide web, cables, or a wireless channel using time-division multiple access, code-division multiple access, or other radio-frequency channel). Any medium known or developed that can store information suitable for use with a computer system may be used. The computer-readable code means is any mechanism for allowing a computer or processor to read instructions and data, such as magnetic variations on a magnetic medium or height variations on the surface of a compact disk. The medium can be distributed on multiple physical devices (or over multiple networks). As used herein, a tangible computer-readable recordable storage medium is intended to encompass a recordable medium, examples of which are set forth above, but is not intended to encompass a transmission medium or disembodied signal. A processor may include and/or be coupled to a suitable memory. A processor with suitable software and/or firmware instructions may be used to implement controller 197. Other types of controls, such as electromechanical controls, could also be used.

Thus, while there have shown and described and pointed out fundamental novel features of the invention as applied to exemplary embodiments thereof, it will be understood that various omissions and substitutions and changes in the form and details of the devices illustrated, and in their operation, may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit of the invention. Moreover, it is expressly intended that all combinations of those elements and/or method steps which perform substantially the same function in substantially the same way to achieve the same results are within the scope of the invention. Furthermore, it should be recognized that structures and/or elements and/or method steps shown and/or described in connection with any disclosed form or embodiment of the invention may be incorporated in any other disclosed or described or suggested form or embodiment as a general matter of design choice. It is the intention, therefore, to be limited only as indicated by the scope of the claims appended hereto.