Title:
Automated Ice Cube Makers with Interchangeable Trays for Making Stylized Ice Cubes
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An automated ice cube tray cycling system is provided with interchangeable trays. In some embodiments, a single removable ice tray allows users to switch between different ice trays depending on the specific characteristics of the individual trays and the user's ice cube requirements. In some embodiments, the system includes a plurality of removable trays that a user may switch between utilizing a switching mechanism and a control module. The system gives a user advantageous control over the automatic ice making process, allowing a user to easily adjust the size, shape, and other characteristics of the ice cube through simple tray replacement.



Inventors:
Safrin, Harold (Vauxhall, NJ, US)
Application Number:
15/006275
Publication Date:
07/28/2016
Filing Date:
01/26/2016
Assignee:
Safrin Harold
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F25C1/04; F25C5/08
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
MARTIN, ELIZABETH J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WIGGIN AND DANA LLP (NEW YORK, NY, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An automated ice cube maker including: at least one rotating rod; at least one ejector blade attached to the at least one rotating rod; a removable tray, wherein the removable tray has an ejector handle attached thereto and includes at least one reservoir; a fluid inlet; and a motor in communication with the at least one rotating rod for providing rotational force to the rod.

2. The automated ice cube maker according to claim 1, further comprising a color addition module.

3. The automated ice cube maker according to claim 2, wherein the color addition module is in fluid communication with the fluid inlet.

4. The automated ice cube maker according to claim 1, wherein the removable tray includes at least two reservoirs, wherein the at least two reservoirs have a different shape.

5. The automated ice cube maker according to claim 1, further comprising a heated base.

6. The automated ice cube maker according to claim 5, further comprising a track disposed above the heated base, wherein the removable tray is suspended above the heated base through interaction with the track.

7. The automated ice cube maker according to claim 1 and further including an ice cube tray cycling system, said ice cube tray cycling system comprising a plurality of removable trays attached to a cycling mechanism, wherein said cycling mechanism selectively brings at least one of said plurality of removable trays into proper alignment with said at least one rotating rod.

8. The automated ice cube maker according to claim 7, wherein the cycling mechanism is selected from a carousel, a conveyer belt, a cassette, and combinations thereof.

9. The automated ice cube maker according to claim 7, further comprising a control module configured to allow a user to select which of said plurality of removable trays is selectively brought into proper alignment with said at least one rotating rod.

10. The automated ice cube maker according to claim 8, wherein at least a portion of the automated ice cube maker is located within a freezer and the control module includes a control device located outside of the freezer.

11. A method of using an automated ice cube maker comprising the steps of: inserting a removable tray into a frame; introducing a liquid into said removable tray using a liquid delivery system; heating a bottom of said removable tray; rotating a rod using a motor to remove ice from said removable tray, wherein said rod has at least one ejector blade attached thereto; and removing said removable tray.

12. The method of using an automated ice cube maker according to claim 11, further comprising the step of cycling a plurality of removable trays into proper alignment with said rod.

13. The method of using an automated ice cube tray cycling system according to claim 12, wherein said plurality of removable trays are arranged in a cassette and wherein the step of cycling a plurality of removable trays into proper alignment comprises the step of repositioning at least one of a removable tray and a rod relative to each other such that said rod is in a position to remove formed solid from said removable tray.

14. An automated ice cube tray cycling system comprising: at least one rotating rod; at least one ejector blade attached to the at least one rotating rod; at least one removable tray, wherein the at least one removable tray has an ejector handle attached thereto and includes at least one reservoir having a desired shape; a fluid inlet comprising a color addition module; a first motor in communication with the at least one rotating rod for providing rotational force to the rod; an ice cube tray cycling system having a plurality of removable trays attached to a cycling mechanism, wherein said cycling mechanism selectively brings at least one of said plurality of removable trays into proper alignment with said at least one rotating rod; a control module configured to allow a user to select which of said plurality of removable trays is selectively brought into proper alignment with said at least one rotating rod.

15. The automated ice cube tray cycling system according to claim 14, wherein the plurality of removable trays are arranged in a carousel, a conveyer belt, a cassette, and combinations thereof.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 62/114,306, entitled “Automated Ice Cube Makers with Interchangeable Trays for Making Stylized Ice Cubes”, filed Feb. 10, 2015, and to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 62/108,869, entitled “Automated Ice Cube Makers with Interchangeable Trays for Making Stylized Ice Cubes”, filed Jan. 28, 2015, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated by reference herein.

BACKGROUND

Automatic ice cube makers have made it possible for consumers to have a supply of ice available on demand with very little effort. Despite the utility of these ice cube makers and the resultant ice cubes for providing cold beverages, consumers demanded a product that not only kept their beverages cool but also increased their enjoyment of consuming that drink.

As a result, static ice cube trays with novelty shapes entered the marketplace. With just a water source and a freezer, consumers could enjoy ice in any desired shape. However, these static ice trays suffered from the same limitations of other low-tech ice cube makers: they relied on the consumer to fill them with water, place them in the freezer, and wait for a time sufficient for the water to freeze.

Automatic ice cube makers are often bulky machines with the water retaining/ice making reservoirs incorporated as a permanent component of the machine and shaped to produce standard and uninteresting semi-circular solids.

There is a desire, therefore, for a system that automatically and/or continuously produces ice cubes in interesting and/or pleasing shapes. Further, there is a desire for a system that allows for multiple shapes to be produced from the same automatic ice cube maker.

SUMMARY

In some embodiments, the present disclosure is directed to an automated ice cube maker including at least one rotating rod, at least one ejector blade attached to the at least one rotating rod, a removable tray, wherein the removable tray has an ejector handle attached thereto and includes at least one reservoir, a fluid inlet, and a motor in communication with the at least one rotating rod for providing rotational force to the rod. In some embodiments, the automated ice cube maker further includes a color addition module. In some embodiments, the color addition module is in fluid communication with the fluid inlet. In some embodiments, the removable tray includes at least two reservoirs, wherein the at least two reservoirs have a different shape. In some embodiments, the automated ice cube maker further includes a heated base. In some embodiments, the removable tray is suspended above the heated base through interaction with the track.

In some embodiments, the automated ice cube maker further includes an ice cube tray cycling system, the ice cube tray cycling system including a plurality of removable trays attached to a cycling mechanism, wherein the cycling mechanism selectively brings at least one of the plurality of removable trays into proper alignment with the at least one rotating rod. In some embodiments, the cycling mechanism is selected from a carousel, a conveyer belt, a cassette, and combinations thereof. In some embodiments, the automated ice cube maker further includes a control module configured to allow a user to select which of the plurality of removable trays is selectively brought into proper alignment with the at least one rotating rod. In some embodiments, at least a portion of the automated ice cube maker is located within a freezer and the control module includes a control device located outside of the freezer.

In some embodiments, the present disclosure is directed to a method of using an automated ice cube maker including the steps of inserting a removable tray into a frame, introducing a liquid into the removable tray using a liquid delivery system, heating a bottom of the removable tray, rotating a rod using a motor to remove ice from the removable tray, wherein the rod has at least one ejector blade attached thereto, and removing the removable tray. In some embodiments, the method of using an automated ice cube maker further includes the step of cycling a plurality of removable trays into proper alignment with the rod. In some embodiments of the method of using an automated ice cube tray cycling system, the plurality of removable trays are arranged in a cassette and the step of cycling a plurality of removable trays into proper alignment includes the step of repositioning at least one of a removable tray and a rod relative to each other such that the rod is in a position to remove formed solid from the removable tray.

In some embodiments, the present disclosure the present disclosure is directed to an automated ice cube tray cycling system including at least one rotating rod, at least one ejector blade attached to the at least one rotating rod, at least one removable tray, wherein the at least one removable tray has an ejector handle attached thereto and includes at least one reservoir having a desired shape, a fluid inlet including a color addition module, a first motor in communication with the at least one rotating rod for providing rotational force to the rod, an ice cube tray cycling system having a plurality of removable trays attached to a cycling mechanism, wherein the cycling mechanism selectively brings at least one of the plurality of removable trays into proper alignment with the at least one rotating rod, a control module configured to allow a user to select which of the plurality of removable trays is selectively brought into proper alignment with the at least one rotating rod. In some embodiments, the plurality of removable trays are arranged in a carousel, a conveyer belt, a cassette, and combinations thereof.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The drawings show embodiments of the disclosed subject matter for the purpose of illustrating the invention. However, it should be understood that the present application is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown in the drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 shows an automated ice cube maker consistent with one embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 2 shows a front view of an automated ice cube maker consistent with one embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIGS. 3A-3C show various embodiments of a tray used in the automated ice cube makers shown in FIGS. 1 and 2.

FIG. 4 shows an exploded view of the automated ice cube maker shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 shows one embodiment of an automated ice cube tray cycling system consistent with some embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIG. 6 shows one embodiment of an automated ice cube tray cycling system consistent with some embodiments of the present disclosure.

FIGS. 7A and 7B show one embodiment of an automated ice cube tray cycling system consistent with some embodiments of the present disclosure in use.

FIGS. 8A and 8B show one embodiment of an automated ice cube tray cycling system consistent with some embodiments of the present disclosure in use.

FIGS. 9A and 9B show one embodiment of an automated ice cube tray cycling system consistent with some embodiments of the present disclosure in use.

FIG. 10 shows one embodiment of a control module for an automated ice cube tray cycling system.

FIG. 11 shows one embodiment of a method of using an automated ice cube tray cycling system consistent with FIGS. 1 and 5.

FIGS. 12A-12E show a pictographic representation of the method shown in FIG. 11.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

One embodiment of the automated ice cube maker 1 of the present disclosure is shown in FIG. 1. Ice cube maker 1 includes a rotating rod 120. In some embodiments, rotating rod 120 extends longitudinally along a length of ice cube maker 1. In some embodiments, rotating rod 130 extends laterally across ice cube maker 1. Motor 190 provides a rotational force to rotating rod 120. As used herein, the terms “ice”, “ice cube”, and “solid” are used interchangeably to describe the solid phase of a fluid injected into the system. A component described as making or interfacing with “ice” should not be construed as only capable interacting with water in the solid, but any substance provided in any phase for eventual conversion to the solid phase.

Attached to rotating rod 120 is at least one ejector blade 130. In some embodiments, ejector blade 130 moves via rotation of rotating rod 120 to cause displacement of ice from tray 110. In some embodiments, rotating rod 120 can rotate through an angle greater than 360 degrees. In some embodiments, rotating rod 120 causes displacement of ice from tray 110 without having to rotate beyond 360 degrees.

Tray 110 is provided in close enough proximity to rotating rod 120 that ice may be removed from it by ejector blades 130. The size and relative orientation of tray 110, rotating rod 120, and ejector blades 130 are a matter of design choice and depend on the spatial constraints provided by the freezer and the demand in terms of ice cubes required and/or desired per hour. These determinations are well within the skill of one having ordinary skill in the art. In one embodiment, ice cube maker 1 is sized to generally fit within a home freezer. In some embodiments, ice cube maker 1 is designed to replace a conventional ice cube maker from a home freezer. In some embodiments, tray 110 is itself removable from system 1. In some embodiments, ice cube maker 1 is a stand-alone and/or free-standing unit which may supplement a conventional ice cube maker or provide automated ice cube making functionality to home freezers which do not already have that functionality. In some embodiments, ice cube maker 1 operates independently and/or outside of a home freezer.

In some embodiments, a fluid inlet 160 provides a fluid to ice maker 1. Fluid inlet 160 is connected to ice cube maker 1 so as not to prevent removal of tray 110 when removal of tray 110 is desired. In some embodiments, flow of fluid through fluid inlet 160 is controlled through fluid control module 170. In some embodiments, fluid control module 170 is a valve which may restrict fluid flow rate of fluid flowing from fluid source 180, for instance when tray 110 is already filled with fluid. The fluid provided to ice maker 1 by fluid inlet 160 may be any suitable freezable fluid of any desired composition. In some embodiments, the freezable fluid is selected from water, alcohol or other consumer beverage, carbon dioxide, and the like.

Heatable base 150 is included to provide heat to tray 110. Fluid entering tray 110 via fluid inlet 160 is frozen due to the ambient temperature of the freezer being held below the freezing point of the liquid. Once the freezable liquid has changed to solid form, heatable base 150 provides the means for removing the formed solids. Heat from heatable base 150 increases the temperature at the surface of tray 110 near the interface between tray 110 and the formed solids. The surface of the formed solids liquefies enough that forces applied to the solid by ejector blade 130 allow the solid to slide free from tray 110.

Frame 100 is provided as a scaffold for those components of ice cube maker 1 that require support. In some embodiments, at least one of rotating rod 120, heatable base 150, and fluid inlet 160 are provided on frame 100. Frame 100 is provided with at least one slot to allow removable insertion of tray 110. In some embodiments, such as the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the slot allows tray 110 to be slid longitudinally into frame 100. In some embodiments, a slot is provided on the long axis of frame 100 and tray 110 is insertable laterally. In some embodiments, tray 110 includes a mold ejector handle 140 which allows a user to grip tray 110 for easier insertion and removal from frame 100. Mold ejector handle 140 may be made of any suitable material. In some embodiments, mold ejector handle 140 is made from the same material as tray 110. In some embodiments, tray 110 is made from metal while mold ejector handle 140 is made from plastic.

As shown in FIG. 2, the at least one slot may include a track 200 to support tray 110 within frame 100 without having direct contact with heatable base 150 and/or frame 100. In embodiments, where there is no track 200, tray 110 may interface directly with heatable base 150.

As shown in FIG. 3, each tray 110 for use in ice cube maker 1 is provided with at least one reservoir 300. Fluid inlet 160 provides the fluid to reservoir 300, and the shape and size of each reservoir 300 dictates the shape and size of the solid produced by ice cube maker 1. In some embodiments, such as at FIG. 3A, all reservoirs 300 in tray 110 are the same shape. In some embodiments, such as at FIG. 3B, all reservoirs 300 are different shapes. Reservoirs 300 may be of any desired shape and size. The shapes may be relatively simple, such as triangles, stars, circles, hearts, and the like; more complex, such as numbers, letters, and other symbols; or quite complex, such as animals, trademarked designs, or copyrighted images in relief. In some embodiments, reservoirs 300 are configured to produce symmetric cubes for use with liquors served “on the rocks”, such as scotch. Because trays 110 are removable, they are also interchangeable, enabling a user to change the ice cubes available for consumption simply by removing one tray and inserting another with differently shaped reservoirs.

In some embodiments, at least one additional rotating rod 120 (not pictured) is provided in ice cube maker 1. In some embodiments, such as at FIG. 3C, a second row of reservoirs is provided so that double the amount of solids may be produced utilizing the additional rotating rod 120.

In some embodiments, ice cube maker 1 includes a color addition module 181. Color addition module 181 provides coloring to the fluid, thus resulting in the production of colored ice. In some embodiments, color addition module 181 is a component of fluid inlet 160 or fluid source 180, such as the embodiment shown in FIG. 1. As fluid proceeds through one of fluid inlet 160 or fluid source 180, coloring agent may added to a desired concentration from color addition module 181. In some embodiments, the coloring agent is a liquid. In other embodiments, the coloring agent is a solid that dissolves or otherwise reacts with the fluid to color the fluid. In some embodiments, color addition module 181 supplies the coloring agent to tray 110 prior to the addition of the fluid. In some embodiments, color addition module 181 supplies the coloring agent to tray 110 after the fluid has already been provided to tray 110.

In some embodiments, an ice cube tray cycling system is included with ice cube maker 1. The ice cube tray cycling system provides the added functionality of allowing a user to switch between two or more trays automatically. This eliminates the need for a user to remove a tray from ice cube maker 1, or even open the freezer at all, when a different tray is desired. In all embodiments that will be described below, a heating element, such as heatable base 150 described above, is incorporated into either the frame, the track on which a desired tray is held, or the desired tray itself, so that when a user selects the desired tray, the system ensures the heating element is in close enough proximity to the tray to perform the function of heatable base 150. In all embodiments of the ice cube tray cycling system, the trays remain insertable, removable, and interchangeable with other trays as desired by the user.

Broadly, in some embodiments, the ice cube tray cycling system relies on at least one of the following mechanisms: moving tray 110 into suitable location to interact with rotating rod 120, moving rotating rod 120 into suitable location to interact with tray 110, and moving a coordinated pair of trays 110 and rotating rods 120 into suitable location for operation of ice cube maker 1. As discussed herein, terms or phrases which identify or describe the movement of trays and rotating rods into “proper alignment”, “suitable locations”, “suitable proximity”, and the like are used to indicate that either the rotating rod is in a position to remove formed ice from the desired tray; the formed ice removed from the desired tray will, by virtue of the interaction between the rotating rod with the formed ice, be transported from the desired tray and into a vessel where the formed ice may be retrieved by the user; and combinations of the two. In some embodiments, a second motor is utilized to reposition removable trays and rotating rods with respect to each other. In some embodiments, motor 190 is utilized for this purpose.

In some embodiments, multiple trays are held in a stack, cassette, cartridge, or any other structure capable of holding several trays in a predetermined order and allowing for removal and replacement of trays therein. In some embodiments, trays may be inserted and removed from the stack of trays in situ. In some embodiments, the stack itself is removable to allow for easier tray replacement.

In some embodiments, the ice cube tray cycling system includes at least two operation modes: an ice making mode and a tray replacement mode. In the ice making mode, ice cube maker 1 continues to produce ice on demand and allows for rotation as desired between the various trays already within the system. In the tray replacement mode, ice cube maker 1 is not capable of making ice cubes, but rather orients itself to allow for easier access to the trays, either for tray inspection/reorganization or tray replacement.

As shown in FIG. 5, in some embodiments, the ice cube tray cycling system is a carousel type apparatus included of a central hub and two or more extending arms including trays. In some embodiments, tracks may support the trays by running along a length of the tray. In some embodiments, the trays are supported only through interaction of an edge of the tray nearest the central hub with the hub itself. When a user selects the desired tray, the ice cube tray cycling system rotates about the central hub to position the desired tray into proper alignment for use.

As shown in FIG. 6, in some embodiments, the ice cube tray cycling system is a conveyor belt type apparatus included of a series of trays spaced along a track. When a user selects the desired tray, the ice cube tray cycling system advances the conveyor belt to position the desired tray into proper alignment for use.

FIGS. 7A and 7B portray one embodiment where the tray is moved into suitable location to interact with the rotating rod. In some embodiments, the track supporting the desired tray is removed from the stack of trays and then moved vertically to come into suitable proximity with the rotating rod. When a new tray is desired, the current tray is lowered and reinserted in its predetermined place and the new tray is then removed from the stack and moved vertically into suitable proximity with the rotating rod. In some embodiments, the trays are moved into position on a track that then moves the tray into position. In this embodiment, only a single track is needed and the trays can be held in otherwise static holding bays until such time as they are desired by a user. The specific movement and/or sequence of movements for the trays and the rotating rod are a matter of design choice and will depend on the spatial constraints of the freezer and the location of the new desired tray relative to the tray currently in position for use.

FIGS. 8A and 8B portray one embodiment where each tray is provided with its own rotating rod. The pairs of trays and rotating rods may be organized in any suitable configuration. As shown in FIGS. 8A and 8B, the pairs are arranged in a recessed stack. Upon selection by a user, the desired tray is moved horizontally from the stack into position for use. When another of the trays is desired, the pair currently in position for use is retracted to the stack and the newly desired tray is moved into position for use. As mentioned above with respect to the embodiments shown in FIGS. 7A and 7B, the specific movement of the tray and rod pair, e.g. the axis of movement, number of axis in which movement occurs, duration of movement, distance of movement, and the like, are all a matter of design choice and will depend on the spatial constraints of the freezer and the desired number of trays that are available for use at any one time.

FIGS. 9A and 9B portray one embodiment where a single rotating rod is capable of moving about ice cube maker 1 to align with a desired tray. Upon selection by a user, the desired tray is moved from the stack horizontally into position for use. The rotating rod is then moved vertically into suitable position relative to the desired tray. When another of the trays is desired, the tray currently in use is retracted into the stack and the rotating rod is moved to accommodate the horizontal movement of the desired tray from the stack into position for use. As mentioned above with respect to the embodiments shown in FIGS. 7A, 7B, 8A, and 8B, the specific movement and/or sequence of movements for the trays and the rotating rod are a matter of design choice and will depend on the spatial constraints of the freezer and the location of the new desired tray relative to the tray currently in position for use.

In some embodiments, the ice cube tray cycling system is controlled by a control module. The control module is used to cycle through the trays currently installed in ice cube maker 1. In some embodiments, the control module is also used to switch between the ice making mode and the tray replacement mode. In some embodiments, the control module includes at least one control device that is physically activated by the user when there is a desire to change the tray that is in use. In some embodiments, the at least one control device is selected from the group consisting of: switches, buttons, touch screens, sliders, knobs, levers, and the like. The control module may be located in any suitable place, so long as the user can access the at least one control device. In some embodiments, the at least one control device is disposed at a location remote from ice cube maker 1. In some embodiments, such as the embodiment portrayed in FIG. 10, the at least one control device is mounted to an exterior portion of a freezer or refrigerator that houses ice cube maker 1.

FIG. 11 and FIGS. 12A-12E portray methods of using an automated ice cube tray cycling system consistent with some embodiments described above. In some embodiments, such as that shown in FIG. 11, the method of using an automated ice cube tray cycling system includes the step of inserting 1100 the tray into a frame. In some embodiments, the method includes introducing 1101 liquid using the liquid delivery system. In some embodiments, the bottom of the tray is heated 1102 using a heating coil. In some embodiments, a rod is rotated 1103 using the motor to remove formed ice. Finally, in some embodiments, the tray is removed 1104 after use. In some embodiments (not shown), an additional step of repositioning at least one of a removable tray and a rod such that the rod is in a position to remove formed solid from the removable tray is performed. Various embodiments detailing the specific repositioning steps are discussed in detail elsewhere in the instant disclosure.

FIG. 12A shows a tray being inserted into an automated ice cube tray cycling system consistent with some embodiments described above. FIG. 12B shows liquid being introduced into tray. Liquid is then frozen into ice conforming to the shape of the reservoirs in the tray. FIG. 12C shows a heating coil providing heat to the tray. The heat melts the ice at the interface with the tray, allowing the ice to more easily separate from the tray. FIG. 12D then shows a rotating rod being used to remove the ice from the tray. FIG. 12E shows removal of the tray from the automated ice cube tray cycling system.

Although the invention has been described and illustrated with respect to exemplary embodiments thereof, it should be understood by those skilled in the art that the foregoing and various other changes, omissions and additions may be made therein and thereto, without parting from the spirit and scope of the present invention.