Title:
ICE CREAM DIPPING CABINET
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An ice cream dipping cabinet which holds tubs of ice cream, is provided with individual tub receptacles, surrounded by cooling coils. The cabinet, which can be used for other foods, either frozen or cold, has a solid top plate which orients the individual tubs. This allows lower maintenance time and cost, helps keep moisture out and cold air in the enclosed bottom of the cabinet. The top plate has holes for the tubs, which limits the escape of cold air from the cabinet, improving energy efficiency, as well as improving the overall visual aesthetics of the cabinet, and the ease of access to the desired tub by the server. The invention also includes a locking device for preventing each tub from turning when being accessed in the proper serving position, and means for moving the tub upward for ease of removal. A clear cover has a slidable lid, which is slidable about an arc, and also pivotable upwardly for ease of removing and replacing the more remote tubs.



Inventors:
Halprin, Steven B. (Concord, NC, US)
Application Number:
13/989471
Publication Date:
07/30/2015
Filing Date:
12/07/2012
Assignee:
HALPRIN STEVEN B.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/257
International Classes:
A47F3/04
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
ANDEREGG, ZACHARY R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Ralph H. Dougherty (Matthews, NC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. Apparatus for cooling and storage of cold or frozen foods, comprising: a generally box-shaped base; a top plate engaging said box, and having one or more receiving holes therethrough; at least one tub receptacle within said base and mating with said one or more receiving holes in said top plate for receiving a tub containing a foodstuff; a cooling coil assembly within the base, arranged about at least a portion of each tub receptacle for cooling the tub and the contents thereof; and a compressor connected to said cooling coil assembly for passing refrigeration gas therethrough.

2. Apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising biasing means associated with each tub receptacle for urging a tub upwardly within said tub receptacle, and means for inhibiting the upward movement and rotation of a tub within said tub receptacle.

3. Apparatus according to claim 2, wherein said means for inhibiting the upward movement of a tub within the tub receptacle is an associated collar adapted for friction contact of the top of a tub and to engage the top plate.

4. Apparatus according to claim 3, wherein said collar is provided with at least one gasket to seal the collar against the top plate.

5. Apparatus according to claim 1 wherein said top plate is insulated.

6. Apparatus according to claim 1 wherein said base is comprised of side walls which are insulated.

7. Apparatus according to claim 1 wherein said cooling coil assembly comprises one or more roll bond evaporator coils.

8. Apparatus according to claim 7, wherein said one or more roll bond evaporator coils is adapted to fit about at least 50% of each tub receptacle.

9. Apparatus according to claim 7, wherein said cooling coil assembly comprises a pair of identical roll bond end sections and one or more middle sections, connected in series.

10. Apparatus according to claim 1 wherein said top plate is provided with additional holes for receiving serving items.

11. Apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising a drawer within said base for storage,

12. Apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said base is divided into an upper cooling zone in which the tubs and cooling coil assembly are located, and a lower storage zone.

13. Apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said cooling coil assembly comprises at least one turn of a cooling coil around each tub receptacle.

14. Apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said base is provided with at least one door.

15. Apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising a cover assembly atop said base, said cover assembly having a track for receiving a movable lid, and a movable lid engaged in said track.

16. Apparatus according to claim 15, wherein said movable lid is provided with rollers engageable in said track.

17. Apparatus according to claim 16, wherein said movable lid is rotatable about said rollers to an upper position.

18. Apparatus according to claim 16, wherein said movable lid is provided with magnets to releasably hold the lid in an upper position.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of priority of the following applications: PCT Application PCT/US2012/068337, filed 7 Dec. 2012; U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/630,294, filed 8 Dec. 2011.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to cabinet apparatus for containing ice cream, sherbet and the like, for maintaining the contents at a desired temperature, and for ready access by servers, particularly in a commercial retail establishment.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Ice cream (or ice-cream) is a frozen dessert usually made from dairy products, such as milk and cream, which is often combined with fruits or other ingredients and flavorings. The resulting mixture of chosen ingredients is stirred slowly while cooling, in order to incorporate air and to prevent large ice crystals from forming in the product. The result is a smoothly textured semi-solid foam that is readily scooped. For commercial distribution as ice cream cones or related items, the ice cream product is poured into tubs and frozen for delivery to commercial outlets for ice cream. These outlets or stores usually have cabinets for containing the tubs, which maintain the temperature of the tubs in the proper range of about −10° F. to +10° F., and in which the tubs are positioned for access by servers. Most ice cream tubs are cylindrical, although some have a rectangular or square cross section. The tubs are placed in a cabinet either without any lateral restraint, or multiple tubs are sometimes banded together to keep them from turning or shifting. When it is necessary to replace an empty tub with a full one, it is necessary to disband all tubs in the group, replace one tub and reband the group. This impairs efficient serving of customers. Thus, the tubs are not easy for a server to replace during a time of high activity. In present cabinets a server must reach deeper and deeper with a scoop to access the ice cream as the level of the product falls lower, which can make access to the bottom of the tub difficult, particularly for short persons. Additionally, it is difficult for persons to remove tubs, as one must bend far over to reach the bottom of a tub for removal. Further, the tubs are kept frozen by cooling coils in the vertical walls of the cabinet. In current cabinets, a server changing a tub occasionally scrapes against the accumulated ice crystals on the side of the cabinet, knocking bits of ice into the ice cream in the replacement tub, creating a contaminated food product, which is unappealing to the consumer.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention provides an ice cream dipping cabinet in which tubs of ice cream are provided with individual tub receptacles surrounded by cooling coils which are configured inside the cabinet around the ice-cream tubs. The cabinet has a solid top plate which orients the individual tubs. This allows lower maintenance time and cost, helps keep moisture out and cold air in the enclosed bottom of the cabinet. A top plate is provided that has holes for the tubs, which, when the tubs are in place, limits the escape of cold air from the cabinet, improving energy efficiency, as well as improving the overall visual aesthetics of the cabinet and the ice cream display, and the ease of access to the desired tub by the server. Ice buildup reduces thermal efficiency, but since the buildup is slow in the invented cabinet because of the limited moisture, thermal efficiency is maintained. Also, because the cooling coils are readily accessible, a damaged coil or coil section can be easily replaced, resulting in improved and more efficient maintenance than is possible on currently available cabinets in which the coils are embedded in the walls. Further, because the tubs are at a higher elevation in the invented cabinet than in currently available cabinets, the server has better access to the tub contents. Also, a single tub can readily be replaced by a server without impacting the serving capability of an adjacent server.

The invention is also useful in display and serving of other than frozen foods, such as foods to be served in a cafeteria, particularly cold foods.

The invention also includes means for preventing each tub from turning when being accessed in the proper serving position.

Thus, the invention is an apparatus for cooling and storage of cold or frozen foods, comprising:

    • a generally box-shaped base;
    • a top plate engaging said box, and having one or more receiving holes therethrough;
    • at least one tub receptacle within said base and mating with said one or more receiving holes in said top plate for receiving a tub containing a cold or frozen foodstuff;
    • a cooling coil assembly within the base, arranged about said at least a portion of each tub receptacle for cooling the tub and the contents thereof; and
    • a compressor connected to said cooling coil assembly for passing refrigeration gas therethrough.

OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION

The principal object of the present invention is to provide a cabinet for storing and accessing frozen confections which has low energy consumption.

Another object of the invention is to provide a cabinet for storing and accessing ice cream having improved and efficient time-motion capabilities.

A further object of this invention is to provide an ice cream dipping cabinet that protects the quality of the ice cream stored therein.

Another object of the invention is to provide an improved ice cream dipping cabinet having a readily accessible cooling coil for ease of maintenance and repair of a damaged coil.

Another object of the invention is to provide an improved ice cream dipping cabinet having low and slow ice buildup which requires less defrosting than current cabinets.

Another object of the invention is to provide an improved ice cream dipping cabinet having improved storage capacity over that of current cabinets.

Another object of the invention is to provide an improved ice cream dipping cabinet having improved presentation of the product therein.

Another object of the invention is to provide a cabinet that holds food containers firmly, and provides ease of removal and replacement of the containers.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing and other objects will become more readily apparent by referring to the following detailed description and the appended drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of the invented cabinet from the customer side.

FIG. 2 is an isometric view of the invented cabinet from the server side, with the top in an open position, and within the cabinet.

FIG. 3 is an isometric view of the invented cabinet from the server side, with the top open, and the lid in a pivoted upper position.

FIG. 4 is an exploded isometric view of the cabinet of the invention.

FIG. 5 is an isometric view of a cooling or evaporator coil configuration for an 8-tub cabinet according to the invention.

FIG. 6 is a rear elevation view of the invented cabinet.

FIG. 7 is a front elevation view of the invented cabinet.

FIG. 8 is a right end view of the cabinet taken from the server side.

FIG. 9 is a top view of the invented cabinet.

FIG. 10 is a bottom view of the invented cabinet.

FIG. 11 is an isometric view of a top plate of the invented cabinet showing a tub cage and cooling coil configuration.

FIG. 12 is an isometric view of a tub retaining pin.

FIG. 13 is an isometric view of a tub retaining collar and pin.

FIG. 14 is horizontal cross sectional view of the invented cabinet with tubs, taken generally along line 14-14 of FIG. 8.

FIG. 15 is an isometric view of a 4-container top plate with associated tub receptacles.

FIG. 16 is an isometric partially cutaway view of the assembly of FIG. 15 showing retracted biasing means.

FIG. 17 is an isometric partially cutaway view of the assembly of FIG. 15 with the biasing means in the extended position.

FIG. 18 is an isometric view of a top plate showing a keyway configuration in the top plate for receiving a collar pin or tab.

FIG. 19 is an alternative collar configuration, the collar having a threaded connector.

FIG. 20 is a top plate with interior threaded holes for receiving the collar of FIG. 19.

FIG. 21 is a cross section of an alternative collar arrangement utilizing mating tabs.

FIG. 22 is a bottom view of the collar depicted in FIG. 21.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring now to the drawings, and particularly to FIGS. 1 and 4, the invented cabinet 10 for cooling and storage of frozen foods, especially frozen confections, such as ice cream and the like, has a generally box shaped base 12 with a top plate 14 engaging the top of the box, and forming a chamber. The top plate, shown more clearly in FIG. 4, is made from an easily cleanable and durable material, such as stainless steel, and may contain insulating material 54 therein, as shown in FIG. 11. The top plate keeps the cold air in the cabinet chamber beneath it and atmospheric moisture out of the chamber. The top plate is supported within the base 12 of the chamber by a horizontal support 26 connected to the side walls 28 of the base 12. The top plate is provided with a series of tub-receiving holes, or tub holes, 16, each hole being adapted for receiving a tub 22 of a frozen food or confection, preferably ice cream. Hereinafter, the frozen food with which the invention is utilized will be referred to as “ice cream”. Advantageously, the number of tub holes in the top plate is 4, 6, 8, 12, or 16. FIGS. 1 through 4 show 8 tub holes, while FIGS. 11 and 15 through 18 show four holes. Beneath each hole is a tub receptacle 18 which extends downwardly beneath the top plate 14, mating with a hole 16 in the top plate for receiving a tub 22 containing a frozen food. The top plate 14 may be provided in sections with mating end grooves 17 as shown in FIG. 15. A cooling coil or a cooling coil assembly 20, also known as an evaporator assembly, is arranged outside of and about all or a substantial portion of each tub receptacle for cooling the tub receptacle and the contents thereof. The cooling coil assembly is adjacent at least half (50%) of each tub receptacle 18. The tub receptacle protects the cooling coil from damage caused by insertion of a tub 22 into the tub receptacle. As shown in FIG. 5, the evaporator assembly has a pair of end or side roll bond evaporator coil sections 20A, and one or more middle sections 20B, depending on the number of tub holes 16 in the top plate 14. The desired number of sections are connected together by connectors 20C. The end sections 20A may be identical and interchangeable, if desired. Because multiple sections form the cooling coil assembly 20, any damaged section can be readily replaced.

A compressor 24 is connected to the cooling coil assembly 20 for passing refrigeration gas through the evaporator coils and maintaining the temperature of a tub in the tub receptacle in the desired range, which for ice cream is a temperature range of about −10° F. to about +10° F., (about −12.2° C. to about −23.3° C.).

The preferable arrangement of cooling coils is an arrangement of roll bond coils 20A and 20B as shown in FIG. 5. Alternatively, the cooling coil assembly may constitute coil tubing externally wound around each tub receptacle in a spiral configuration, as shown in FIG. 11, which provides good surface area cooling coverage with the least amount of coil tubing. The closeness of the cooling coil to each ice cream tub keeps each tub at the optimum temperature range. A coil arrangement can have each tub receptacle individually provided with a surrounding spiral coil, or a coil arrangement can encircle one line of tub receptacles and then the other, or the coil can encircle two tub receptacles and then another two tub receptacles, or a coil can encircle the outside of the entire group of tub receptacles. Such coils will be connected to the compressor. Any of these arrangements will cool the tub contents effectively.

The tub receptacle 18 is supported within the base 12 of the chamber by the top plate, or by a lower support such as plate 84. Biasing means 30, is located at the bottom of the tub receptacle for urging a tub 22 upwardly within the tub receptacle. Such biasing means can be a coil spring 32 housed at the bottom of the tub receptacle 18, or preferably in a downward projection 34 from the bottom of the tub receptacle 18, as shown. The spring can be provided with an associated plate 42 which bears against the bottom of an inserted tub, or the spring can bear directly against the bottom of the tub. FIG. 16 shows the spring 32 compressed, and FIG. 17 shows the spring extended. When the collar is removed, the tub moves upwardly under the spring pressure, allowing the user to easily grasp and remove the tub.

In a computer-generated comparison test of a prototype of the invented cabinet with the operation of an equivalent Kelvinator stock cabinet, the power consumption required to operate the stock cabinet was about three times the power consumption required to operate the invented cabinet at the same temperature.

The cabinet 10 ordinarily has a transparent shield or cover 40, also known a sneeze guard, through which customers may view the tubs of ice cream in the cabinet in order to make their selections.

Insulation is preferably provided in the top plate, the side walls of the cabinet, and in the bottom of the cabinet, but may be omitted in the top plate, if desired.

As shown in FIG. 16, a tub retainer collar 44, which may be insulated, prevents moisture intrusion and cold air loss from the cooling compartment beneath the top plate 14, and acts as a sealer around the upper lip of a tub 22. In a recess (FIG. 21) it has a sealing gasket 46 which contacts the top of the tub 22. A retaining gasket 48 which contacts the top plate 14 may also be provided to act as a further seal.

As shown in FIGS. 13 and 18, a locking mechanism for attaching the tub-retainer collar 44 is provided by a locking pin 50 on the exterior surface of the retainer collar 44 and a mating slot or keyway 52 in the hole 16 of top plate 14 for receiving pin 50. The retainer collar is twisted to tighten the lock, and reverse twisted to unlock it. A slot indicator 53 may be provided atop the collar 44 to aid the user in locating the pin 50 when commencing engagement of the locking mechanism. The pin 50 may be integral with the collar, as a single molded unit, or it may be insertable into the collar.

As shown in FIGS. 19 and 20, an alternative locking or securing mechanism is provided wherein the retainer collar 44 contains exterior threads 76 for mating with interior threads 78 of tub holes 16 in top plate 14 and securing the collar atop a tub.

As shown in FIGS. 21 and 22, an alternative locking mechanism for attaching the tub-retainer collar 44 may be provided by a locking lug or protrusion 70 on the interior of the tub-receiving hole 16 of top plate 14 and a mating lug 72 on the exterior of the retainer collar 44. The retainer collar is pushed down against the top of tub 22, and turned or twisted to tighten the lock, and the retainer collar is reverse twisted to unlock it. The lug 70 on the interior of the hole is preferably inclined to create the tightening effect. Alternatively, one or both of the lugs can form a slot for mating with the other. A sealing gasket 46 may be provided between the collar and the tub, which will provide sufficient friction contact to keep the tub from turning during use. A sealing gasket 74 may also be provided between the retainer collar and the top plate 14, as shown.

The interior of the cabinet 10 beneath the tub receptacles 18 provides space for the compressor 24, which is surrounded by insulation, and vents 56 are provided in the cabinet base for venting the compressor motor to the atmosphere as shown, to prevent heat buildup within the cabinet. Also within the cabinet is refrigerated space for storing additional tubs of product to be served, and other items useful in the operation of the establishment. Alternatively, such space can be used for storage or dispensing of sundries, such as ice cream cups or cones. Any desired number of doors 38 may be provided on any side of the cabinet to access the storage chamber within the cabinet base. Drawers 36 may be provided for storage, if desired.

The cabinet 10 is preferably provided with a cover assembly 64 having a slidable clear cover or movable lid 66, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. The clear cover 66 allows visibility of the comestibles in the cabinet regardless of the position of the cover. The cover 66 has integral ears or rollers 65 which slide in a track 68, preferably arcuate, on the cabinet cover assembly. Normally, when the cover is in the open position, it has followed the track, as shown in FIG. 1. The clear cover also can pivot upwardly about the rollers 65, when desired by the operator. It can be rotated as shown in FIG. 3 to a position where it will lean slightly toward the customer and be held in place by magnets 67 on its edges. This upper lid position allows additional clearance for changing a tub that is on the customer's side of the cabinet.

The invented cabinet has an upper cooling zone in which the tubs and cooling coils assembly are located, and a lower zone which is a storage section, primarily for storage of additional tubs. One or more zone dividing plates 84 may be provided. These dividing plates may incorporate fans (not shown) therein to move cold air from the upper zone to the lower zone to maintain the lower storage zone at a temperature in the desired range for ice cream or other comestibles.

Because the tubs are securely held in position, and their orientation is fixed within the cabinet, any identification such as flavor indicators displayed in or on the cabinet will be arranged and fixed in relation to the tub collars, all of which helps create a more pleasing presentation to the customer than present cabinets.

ALTERNATIVE EMBODIMENTS

The top plate 14 may be provided with one or more additional holes 58 for receiving insulated compartments which are used for storing serving items, such as sampling spoons, straws, napkins, ice cream cones, serving cups, milk shake containers, and the like. The size and location of each such additional hole is selected for the specific item or items to be stored therein.

A serving lip extension 60 and/or a dipping well 62 can be installed as shown in FIGS. 2, 6, and 8, for improvement of the time-motion process of serving a customer. FIG. 8 shows only serving lip 60, while FIGS. 2 and 6 show both a serving lip 60 and a dipping well 62. Sundries storage places may be incorporated into the serving lip 60 of the cabinet, or in the top plate 14, or both, allowing the server to keep frequently used items close at hand to save time and energy. Alternatively, sundries may be stored on a shelf in the lower portion of the cabinet, or in a drawer, with access by an opening or a door.

Biasing means 30 can be mounted at 86 directly on or supported by a plate beneath it, such as zone dividing plate 84A as shown on the right side of FIG. 14. In this case, the spring can bear against a plate 42 to urge the tub upwardly.

For tubs with rectangular cross section rather than circular, the holes in the top plate and the tub receptacles will be adapted to conform to the exterior configuration of the tubs. In such instance, the rectangular collar may be adapted to press fit into the mating rectangular holes in the top plate, and the biasing means is used to facilitate tub removal.

The cabinet base 12 may be provided with a cabinet base support 80 as shown in FIGS. 6 and 10, to raise the cabinet slightly, and allow easier relocation.

If desired, the cabinet can be provided with an automated defrosting system.

SUMMARY OF THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THE OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION

From the foregoing, it is readily apparent that I have invented an improved refrigerated ice cream cabinet for storing and accessing frozen confections, and having improved and efficient time-motion capabilities, and low energy consumption. It is to be understood that the foregoing description and specific embodiments are merely illustrative of the best mode of the invention and the principles thereof, and that various modifications and additions may be made within the spirit and scope of this invention.