Title:
REFRIGERATING APPARATUS AND METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A refrigerating apparatus having two or more climate controlled compartments is disclosed. The refrigerating apparatus has a climate control device capable of controlling the climate of the compartments. The control device is electrically connected to an interactive display, wherein the display presents a compartment selection element to a user and, upon selection of a compartment by the user, the display presents a predetermined climate control element corresponding to the selected compartment. The compartment selection element comprises a plurality of compartment icons corresponding to the climate controlled compartments of the refrigerating apparatus. The climate control element may comprise, for example, a temperature control icon or a plurality of food-type icons. Preferably, the elements of the display are presented sequentially as the user makes selections. It is also preferred that the user's selections should be highlighted in some manner, for example a color change of the selected icon within an element.



Inventors:
Kueny, Matthew D. (Ewing, NJ, US)
Placke, Frank (Gutersloh, DE)
Van Pels, Ulrich (Rheda-Wiedenbruck, DE)
Stahl, Matthias (Oerlinghausen, DE)
Application Number:
14/486711
Publication Date:
03/12/2015
Filing Date:
09/15/2014
Assignee:
MIELE, INC. (Princeton, NJ, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F25D29/00; F25D11/00
View Patent Images:
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Foreign References:
JP2005061757A2005-03-10
Other References:
Sakumoto et al., Refrigerator, 3/10/2005, JP2005061757A, Whole Document
Primary Examiner:
FURDGE, LARRY L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Fox Rothschild LLP (Lawrenceville, NJ, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A refrigerating apparatus comprising: (a) two or more climate controlled compartments; and (b) a climate control device capable of controlling the climate of the compartments electrically connected to an interactive display, wherein the display comprises a climate control activation element, a compartment selection element, and a climate control element, wherein upon activation of the climate control activation element, the display presents a compartment selection element to a user, and wherein upon selection of a compartment by the user, the display presents a predetermined climate control element corresponding to the selected compartment.

2. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 1, wherein the compartment selection element comprises a plurality of compartment icons corresponding to the climate controlled compartments.

3. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 2, wherein the compartment icons are displayed in a first color and, upon selection of a compartment by the user, the icon corresponding to the selected compartment is displayed in a second color.

4. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 1, wherein the climate control element comprises a temperature control icon.

5. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 4, wherein the temperature control icon comprises a temperature adjustment sub-icon.

6. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 5, wherein, upon activation of the temperature adjustment sub-icon, the control device adjusts the temperature of the selected compartment.

7. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 1, wherein the climate control element comprises a plurality of food-type icons representing types of foods capable of being stored in the selected compartment.

8. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 7, wherein, upon activation of a selected food-type icon, the control device adjusts the climate of the selected compartment to predetermined climate conditions associated with the selected food type.

9. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 8, wherein the control device adjusts the temperature and the humidity of the selected compartment.

10. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 8, wherein the food-type icons are displayed in a first color and, upon selection of a food type, the icon corresponding to the selected food type is displayed in a second color.

11. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 7, wherein a combination of more than one food type may be selected by activating the corresponding food-type icon of each desired food type.

12. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 11, wherein, upon activation of a selected food-type icon, the control device adjusts the climate of the selected compartment to predetermined climate conditions associated with the combination of selected food types.

13. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 12, wherein the control device adjusts the temperature and the humidity of the selected compartment.

14. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 12, wherein the food-type icons are displayed in a first color and, upon selection of one or more food types by the user, the icons corresponding to the selected food types are displayed in a second color.

15. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 1, wherein the display additionally presents a function control element.

16. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 1, wherein the display presents only the climate control activation element until the user activates the climate control activation element.

17. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 16, wherein the climate control activation element is displayed in a first color and, upon activation by the user, the climate control activation element is displayed in a second color.

18. A refrigerating apparatus comprising: (a) two or more climate controlled compartments; and (b) a climate control device capable of controlling the climate of the compartments electrically connected to an interactive display, wherein the display comprises a climate control activation element, a plurality of compartment selection element, and a plurality of climate control elements, wherein upon activation of the climate control activation element, the display presents the compartment selection elements and climate control elements.

19. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 18, wherein each of the climate control elements are displayed in a first color and, upon selection of a compartment by the user, the climate control element corresponding to the selected compartment is displayed in a second color.

20. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 18, wherein each of the climate control elements are displayed in a first color and, upon selection of a compartment by the user, only the climate control element corresponding to the selected compartment is displayed.

21. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least one of the elements ceases to be displayed after a predetermined time-out period.

22. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 1, wherein the compartments are disposed within a cabinet and the interactive display is positioned on or in the cabinet and angled away from a vertical orientation.

23. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 22, wherein the interactive display is angled to permit improved viewing of the display by the user relative to viewing at a vertical orientation.

24. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 1, wherein the compartments are disposed within a cabinet and the compartments comprise a lower compartment and an upper compartment having an insulated barrier positioned between the upper and lower compartments, the insulated barrier having a front perimeter surface on which the interactive display is positioned.

25. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 24, wherein the interactive display is angled away from a vertical orientation.

26. The refrigerating apparatus of claim 25, wherein the interactive display is angled to permit improved viewing of the display by the user relative to viewing at a vertical orientation.

27. A refrigerating apparatus comprising: (a) two or more climate controlled compartments; and (b) a climate control device capable of controlling the climate of the compartments electrically connected to an interactive display, wherein the display is in an inactive state a climate control activation element is activated, and wherein upon activation of the climate control activation element, the display presents a compartment selection element, and upon selection of one or more compartments, the display presents a climate control element, a function control element, or a combination of a climate control element and a function control element corresponding to the selected compartment.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application is a Continuation of U.S. Ser. No. 12/526,078, which is a 35 U.S.C. §371 National Phase application of International Application Serial No. PCT/US2008/53272 filed Feb. 7, 2008, which claims priority under 35 U.S.C. §119 to U.S. Provisional application 60/888,761 filed Feb. 7, 2007, the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a refrigerating apparatus such as refrigerator, a freezer, a wine cabinet, or a combination thereof and a method of controlling cooling climate of the apparatus and displaying control elements. The refrigerating apparatus has an interactive, ergonomic cooling control system.

2. Description of Related Art

Prior art refrigerating appliances typically include one or more refrigerating or freezer compartments for the storage of fresh and frozen foods. Typically, the temperature settings for the fresh food compartment and the freezer compartment were adjusted by manipulating an electromechanical mechanism such as a dial or a sliding switch. Usually these systems provided no apparent way to determine the actual temperature of the compartments and the temperature settings were often determined by user trial and error.

More recently, electronic controls have offered various control schemes the user including, for example, digitally displaying the temperature of a compartment. However, electronic controls can be confusing and, to a large extent, the setting of temperature of a particular compartment remains a trial and error operation. Also, while some refrigerating appliance have climate zones with fixed humidity for certain types of food, there is lack of appliances that permit the adjustment of the humidity. It should be readily apparent that adding adjustment of humidity to adjustment of temperature across multiple compartments increases the complexity and likelihood for potential user confusion in controlling a refrigerating appliance. Therefore, there is a need for a climate control system in refrigerating appliances that provides the user with an interface that is easy to use and easy to understand while at the same time capable of handling complex temperature and humidity adjustments for multiple compartments.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a refrigerating apparatus, such as a refrigerator, freezer, or wine cabinet having two or more climate-controlled compartments. The refrigerating apparatus has a climate control device capable of controlling the climate of the compartments. The control device is electrically connected to an interactive display, wherein the display presents a compartment selection element to a user and, upon selection of a compartment by the user, the display presents a predetermined climate control element corresponding to the selected compartment.

In a preferred embodiment, the interactive display has a climate control activation element. The compartment selection element is not presented until the user activates the climate control activation element. The compartment selection element comprises a plurality of compartment icons corresponding to the climate controlled compartments of the refrigerating appliance. The climate control element may comprise, for example, a temperature control icon or a plurality of food-type icons, representing types of foods capable of being stored in the selected compartment.

The interactive display is preferably a touch-control device such as an LCD touch screen. Preferably, the elements of the display are presented sequentially as the user makes selections. For example, first, upon selection of the climate control activation element, the compartment selection element is displayed; second, upon selection of a compartment, the appropriate climate control element is displayed. It is also preferred that the user's selections be highlighted in some manner such as, for example, a color change of the selected icon within an element.

Upon selection of the desired parameters for a selected compartment, the control device will adjust the cooling climate of the compartment to correspond to the temperature adjustment or the humidity and temperature requirements of the food types intended to be stored in the compartment.

These and other features of the invention will be more fully understood from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments which should be read in light of the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Exemplary embodiments of the invention are shown in schematic form in the drawings and are described in greater detail below. The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and form a part of the specification, illustrate the embodiments of the present invention and, together with the description, serve to explain the principles of the invention.

In the drawings:

FIGS. 1A and 1B are perspective views of exemplary embodiments of the refrigerating apparatus;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the interior compartments of the refrigerating apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3A is a perspective view of the interactive control panel positioned on an insulation barrier;

FIG. 3B is a side view of the interactive control panel;

FIGS. 4A through 4E are perspective views of various refrigerating apparatuses that may be employed with the present invention;

FIGS. 5 through 10B are a variety of displays of an interface display in accordance with preferred embodiments of an interactive control panel;

FIG. 11 is an exemplary interface display for an interactive control panel for use on a wine cabinet;

FIG. 12 is an exemplary interface display for an interactive control panel for use on a freezer;

FIG. 13 is an exemplary interface display for an interactive control panel for use on a refrigerator.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a refrigerating apparatus, such as a refrigerator, freezer, combination refrigerator and freezer, wine cabinet, or other similar refrigerating apparatus, comprising two or more climate-controlled compartments and a climate control device capable of controlling the climate of the compartments. The climate control device is electrically connected to an interactive display, wherein the display presents a compartment selection element to a user and, upon selection of a compartment by the user, the display presents a predetermined climate control element corresponding to the selected compartment.

In a preferred embodiment, the interactive display has a climate control activation element, and the compartment selection element is not presented until the user activates the climate control activation element. The compartment selection element comprises a plurality of compartment icons corresponding to the climate controlled compartments of the refrigerating appliance. The climate control element may comprise, for example, a temperature control icon or a plurality of food-type icons, representing types of foods capable of being stored in the selected compartment. Preferably, the elements of the display are presented sequentially as the user makes selections. For example, first, upon selection of the climate control activation element, the compartment selection element is displayed; second, upon selection of a compartment, the appropriate climate control element is displayed. In an alternative embodiment, all elements are displayed to the user upon activation of the climate control activation element.

The interactive display is preferably a touch-control device such as an LCD touch screen. It is also preferred that the user's selections be highlighted in some manner such as, for example, a color change of the selected icon within an element. Upon selection of the desired parameters for a selected compartment, the control device will adjust the cooling climate of the compartment to correspond to the temperature adjustment or the humidity and temperature requirements of the food types intended to be stored in the compartment.

With reference to the drawings in general and FIGS. 1 through 13 in particular, the apparatus of the present invention is disclosed. In describing preferred embodiments of the invention illustrated in the drawings, specific terminology will be used for the sake of clarity. However, the invention is not intended to be limited to the specific terms so selected, and it is to be understood that each specific term includes all technical equivalents that operate in a similar manner to accomplish a similar purpose.

FIG. 1 shows perspective views of typical refrigerating apparatuses 10 according to various embodiments of the present invention. Refrigerating apparatus 10 has one or more doors 12 that open to one or more upper refrigerating compartments and door 13 that opens to a lower freezer drawer compartment. FIG. 1A depicts a refrigerating apparatus in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention having one upper refrigerating compartment door 12 and one lower freezer drawer compartment door 13. FIG. 1B depicts an alternative embodiment of the invention having two upper refrigerating compartment doors 12 and one lower freezer drawer compartment door 13. One of skill in the art will appreciate that any of various door arrangements may be employed consistent with the present invention. For example, the instant invention may also be employed with a refrigerating apparatus in which the freezer portion is above the refrigerator portion.

FIG. 2 shows the interior compartments of refrigerating apparatus 10 in accordance with one embodiment of the invention. Refrigerating apparatus 10 has a cabinet 20 having freezer compartment 22 and refrigerator compartments 24, 26, 28 separated by an insulated barrier (not shown). A control panel 32 is preferably positioned on the front edge of the insulated barrier and has an interface display 30 on which the display elements are presented. As shown in FIGS. 3A and 3B, in a preferred embodiment, control panel 32 is positioned on the front perimeter surface 36 of insulated barrier 34. Interface display 30 is preferably angled from vertical orientation 31 such that the display surface is positioned at an angle a to permit an optimal view of the display. While the interface display 30 may be located in a variety of positions on or in cabinet 20, such as along the top of compartment 28, it is preferred that interface display 30 be positioned toward the center of cabinet 20 so that it is easy for the user to reach. Thus, interface display 30 is preferably ergonomically positioned and oriented to optimize the viewing of the display and facilitate the operation of selection of inputs through the display.

Interface display 30 is preferably a touch-control device such as an LCD touch screen or a display surface using LEDs or light guides. As is described in greater detail below, various elements of the display such as climate control activation, compartment selection and climate control selections are displayed on the interface display. A user makes a selection by touching the appropriate icon on the displayed element. While touch controls are preferred, the interactive climate control system of the present invention may also be implemented by other activation technologies such as pressure sensitive buttons or a combination of buttons and screens.

The interface display is electrically connected to a climate control device that controls the temperature and humidity of the compartments. The control device may comprise a data processing system that provides for digital inputs from the interface display and other sources such as internal temperature sensors, external temperature sensors, evaporator temperature sensors, and the like. The control device will also provide outputs to the various component devices of the refrigerating appliance which regulate the climate of a compartment as is known in the art.

FIGS. 4A through 4E depict various refrigerating apparatuses that may be used in conjunction with the various embodiments of the instant invention. FIG. 4A depicts an embodiment of the present invention in which the refrigerating apparatus 10 is a stand-alone refrigerator having multiple climate-controlled refrigerator compartments 24, 26, 28. In this embodiment, refrigerator compartments 24 and 26 are separated from refrigerator compartment 28 by insulated barrier 34, on which control panel 32 is positioned. It is to be appreciated that in varying embodiments control panel 32 need not be mounted on insulated barrier 34. Control panel 32 may also be located at any desirable position in refrigerating apparatus 10. FIG. 4B depicts an embodiment of the present invention in which the refrigerating apparatus 10 is a stand-alone freezer having an upper freezer compartment 21 and lower freezer compartments 23, 25. FIGS. 4C and 4D depict further embodiments of a refrigerating apparatus 10 according to the instant invention. FIG. 4E depicts an embodiment of the present invention in which the refrigerating apparatus 10 is a wine cabinet having climate-controlled compartments 27, 29. In a preferred embodiment, upper climate-controlled compartment 27 is separated from lower climate-controlled compartment 29 by an insulated barrier (not shown), thereby permitting variations in temperature or humidity between upper compartment 27 and lower compartment 29. Control panel 32 is preferably positioned on the insulated barrier. One of skill in the art will appreciate that these embodiments are only exemplary and may be combined or modified without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

FIGS. 5 through 10B show an exemplary interface display 30 for a four-compartment refrigerator-freezer combination such as that shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. It will be appreciated by one skilled in the art that a variety of compartment configurations are possible. By way of further example, FIG. 11 shows an exemplary interface display 70 for a three-compartment wine cabinet, FIG. 12 shows an exemplary interface display 72 for a freezer, and FIG. 13 shows an exemplary interface display 74 for a three-compartment refrigerator.

Referring now to FIGS. 5 through 10B, interface display 30 has a climate control activation element 42. The display elements may be any suitable icon or icons, graphical depictions, pictograms, text, or the like. The selection of icons may vary with language and culture of the region where the refrigerating appliance is intended to be used. In this preferred embodiment, the climate control activation element is a graphical depiction of a thermometer.

In a preferred embodiment, interface display 30 comprises compartment selection element 41. In this embodiment, compartment selection element 41 comprises four pictogram icons 44, 45, 46, 47 representing compartments 28, 24, 26, 22, respectively. In alternative embodiments, the refrigerating device may have two or more compartments with compartment icons of compartment selection element 41 corresponding to each compartment of the device. Preferably, interface display 30 additionally has two climate control elements 43, 48. Climate control element 43 is a temperature control icon having a numeric temperature display sub-icon 52 and temperature adjustment sub-icons 51, 53. Activation of the temperature adjustment sub-icons causes the device to adjust the temperature of the selected compartment. Climate control element 48 is a presentation of a plurality of food-type icons 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, and 66. In this embodiment, each icon is textual: FRUIT, MEAT, DELI, DAIRY, FISH, and VEG, representing the specific food types of fruit, meat, deli products, dairy products, fish, and vegetables, respectively. In varying embodiments, climate control element 48 may comprise any variety of preset food type icons. Activation of a selected food-type icon causes the system to adjust the climate of the selected compartment to predetermined climate conditions associated with the selected food type. In a preferred embodiment, at least one compartment permits activation of more than one food-type icon, and the device is capable of adjusting the climate of the selected compartment to predetermined climate conditions associated with the combination of selected food types. In preferred embodiments, the predetermined climate conditions are temperature, humidity, or both temperature and humidity. Interface display 30 may also have icons for functionalities other than climate control of specific compartments. For example, icon 55 (SUPER) activates a supercooling function when selected in conjunction with climate control change. Icons 56, 57, and 58 (ICE, ALARM, and FILTER, respectively) may actuate an ice-making function, an alarm function, and a filter function, respectively.

In the operation of a preferred embodiment, the elements of the interface display are presented sequentially as user selections are made. FIG. 6A illustrates the display of only the activation element 42. When the user selects activation by touching activation element 42, compartment selection element 41 is displayed as shown in FIG. 6B. Also, preferably, activation element 42 changes color to indicate that its has already been selected. FIG. 7A illustrates the display icon 44 of compartment selection element 41 is selected. In this case, temperature control icon 43 is displayed and the compartment icon 44 is changed in color to indicate selection. Also in this case, the food-type icons 48 are not displayed, because compartment 28 corresponding to icon 44 is not designed to permit a variance of humidity. Upon actuation of sub-icon 51, the temperature setting is reduced to the temperature displayed in the temperature display sub-icon 52 as shown for example in FIG. 7B. FIG. 7C illustrates the selection of the supercooling function in conjunction with the temperature change selection. The SUPER icon 55 preferably changes color upon actuation.

Any suitable colors may be used to indicate selection choices. For example, prior to selection (or if an icon is not selected), the icon may be displayed in white and, upon selection, the icon may be displayed in yellow. While the preferred embodiment illustrates the combination of sequential display and color changes to indicate the selection sequence and selection choices, respectively, it will be readily appreciated that other highlighting methodologies may also employed such as a first color change for selection sequence and a second color change for selection choices. Other graphical indicators may also be used for selection sequence and selection choices.

With reference to FIGS. 8A and 8B, the plurality of food-type icons is displayed when either of icons 45 or 46, corresponding to compartments 24 and 26, are actuated. In this embodiment, these compartments are designed to effect temperature and humidity changes depending on the type of food to stored in the compartment. FIG. 8A illustrates that compartment 24 was selected and icon 45 has changed color. Similarly, FIG. 8B illustrates that compartment 26 has been selected and icon 46 has changed color.

FIGS. 9A, 9B, and 9C illustrate a preferred embodiment of interface display 30 when food-type icons 62 (MEAT), 65 (FISH), and 66 (VEG) have been sequentially selected for compartment 26. In the case where multiple food types have been selected, the control device will alter the temperature and humidity to predetermined levels to take into consideration the optimal temperature and humidity levels for the selected combination. Thus, there is no need for the user to experiment through trial and error to determine the optimum temperature and humidity values for one food type or any combination of food types. The interface provides an intuitive and user-friendly means to make complex climate control decisions for individual compartments of the refrigerating appliance.

FIGS. 10A and 10B illustrate a preferred embodiment of interface display 30 when icon 47, corresponding to freezer compartment 22, is activated. In this case, temperature control icon 43 is displayed and compartment icon 47 is preferably changed in color to indicate selection. Also in this case, the food-type icons 48 are not displayed, because freezer compartment 22 corresponding to icon 47 is not designed to permit a variance of humidity. In FIG. 10B, SUPER icon 55 is activated and, in a preferred embodiment, changes color.

FIG. 11 shows an exemplary interface display 70 for a three-compartment wine cabinet, FIG. 12 shows an exemplary interface display 72 for a freezer, and FIG. 13 shows an exemplary interface display 74 for a three-compartment refrigerator. One of skill in the art will appreciate that the number of compartments may be varied depending on the type of refrigerating apparatus. Accordingly, interface display 30 may be modified such that compartment selection element 41, temperature control icon 43, and food-type icons 48 appropriately correspond to the climate control compartments of the particular refrigerating apparatus.

The invention is not limited to the specific embodiments disclosed above. Modifications and variations of the methods and devices described herein will be obvious to those skilled in the art from the foregoing detailed description. Such modifications and variations are intended to come within the scope of the following claims.