Title:
ICE MAKING APPARATUS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An ice making apparatus includes: a water storage configured to cool and store therein water supplied to the water storage; an ice maker configured to make ice from the water stored in the water storage; and an ice conveyer configured to convey the ice made by the ice maker to an ice storage used for storing ice in the ice storage. The ice maker is configured to cool a part of the water stored in the water storage that is positioned in an upper section to make the ice.



Inventors:
Migishima, Nobutoshi (Fukaya-shi, JP)
Ichihara, Shimoto (Yokkaichi-shi, JP)
Miyakoshi, Tomoya (Mie-gun, JP)
Application Number:
15/873497
Publication Date:
07/19/2018
Filing Date:
01/17/2018
Assignee:
FUJI ELECTRIC CO., LTD. (Kawasaki-Shi, JP)
International Classes:
F25C1/08; F25C1/16; F25C5/18
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
HUDDLE, HEATHER J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KANESAKA BERNER AND PARTNERS LLP (ALEXANDRIA, VA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An ice making apparatus comprising: a water storage configured to cool and store therein water supplied to the water storage; an ice maker configured to make ice from the water stored in the water storage; and an ice conveyer configured to convey the ice made by the ice maker to an ice storage used for storing ice in the ice storage, wherein the ice maker is configured to cool a part of the water stored in the water storage that is positioned in an upper section to make the ice.

2. The ice making apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the ice maker includes: an ice making main body including a plurality of tubular bodies being continuous with one another; and a refrigerant pipe which has a flat shape and in which a plurality of refrigerant passages are arranged in a row, the refrigerant pipe connecting with the ice making main body thermally, and the ice maker is configured to cool the water positioned in the upper section that has entered hollow parts of the tubular bodies in the ice making main body to make the ice when refrigerant passes through the refrigerant passages.

3. The ice making apparatus according to claim 2, wherein, in the ice maker, the ice making main body and the refrigerant pipe are each formed by using aluminum.

4. An ice making apparatus comprising: a water storage configured to cool and store therein water supplied to the water storage; an ice maker configured to make ice from the water stored in the water storage; and an ice conveyer configured to convey the ice made by the ice maker to an ice storage used for storing ice in the ice storage, wherein the ice maker includes: an ice making main body including a hollow part; and a refrigerant pipe including a refrigerant passage, the refrigerant pipe connecting with the ice making main body thermally, the ice maker is configured to cool water that has entered the hollow part of the ice making main body to make the ice when refrigerant passes through the refrigerant passage, the ice conveyer includes a pusher member configured to reciprocate between a first position at which the pusher member substantially closes a lower face opening of the hollow part and a second position at which the pusher member having gone through the hollow part protrudes above an upper face opening of the hollow part, and the pusher member is arranged at the first position in a normal state, whereas when a convey command is issued, the pusher member is configured to be moved from the first position to the second position and be subsequently moved to the first position.

5. The ice making apparatus according to claim 4, wherein the pusher member is provided with an upper end part configured to substantially close the lower face opening of the hollow part when the pusher member is arranged at the first position, and the upper end part includes an upper face configured to be sloped gradually downward from one side to another.

6. The ice making apparatus according to claim 4, wherein the ice making main body includes a plurality of tubular bodies each having the hollow part, the tubular bodies being arranged in a row while being continuous with one another, and the pusher member includes a plurality of pusher members each corresponding to the hollow part, and the pusher members are connected to a common driving source for reciprocating the pusher members.

7. The ice making apparatus according to claim 5, wherein the ice making main body includes a plurality of tubular bodies each having the hollow part, the tubular bodies being arranged in a row while being continuous with one another, and the pusher member includes a plurality of pusher members each corresponding to the hollow part, and the pusher members are connected to a common driving source for reciprocating the pusher members.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION(S)

The present application claims priority to and incorporates by reference the entire contents of Japanese Patent Application No. 2017-007650 filed in Japan on Jan. 19, 2017, Japanese Patent Application No. 2017-038260 filed in Japan on Mar. 1, 2017 and Japanese Patent Application No. 2017-038468 filed in Japan on Mar. 1, 2017.

BACKGROUND

1. Technical Field

The disclosure relates to an ice making apparatus.

2. Related Art

In the related art, an ice making apparatus disclosed in Japanese Laid-open Patent Publication No. 2016-217549 has been well known. The ice making apparatus includes an ice maker and a water spurting unit.

The ice maker includes an ice making chamber unit and an evaporation pipe. The ice making chamber unit is structured in such a manner that a plurality of ice making sub-chambers referred to as so-called cells are arranged in front-and-back directions and left-and-right directions, each of the sub-chambers having an opening in the downward direction. The evaporation pipe is provided so as to be thermally connected to a top plate of the ice making chamber unit. The evaporation pipe is configured to structure a refrigeration cycle, together with a compressor that compresses refrigerant, a condenser that condenses the refrigerant compressed by the compressor, and an expansion mechanism that causes an adiabatic expansion by decompressing the refrigerant condensed by the condenser. The evaporation pipe cools the ice making chamber unit to a temperature below freezing, as a result of passing and evaporating of the refrigerant which was caused to have the adiabatic expansion by the expansion mechanism.

When a drive command is issued, the water spurting unit is configured to spurt water that has been stored in a cooled state in a water storage, toward each of the ice making sub-chambers.

In the ice making apparatus configured as described above, as a result of a part of the water spurted by the water spurting unit getting frozen in the ice making sub-chambers, ice blocks are formed in the ice making sub-chambers and gradually grow. Another part of water that was spurted toward the ice making sub-chambers by the water spurting unit but did not get frozen in the ice making sub-chambers falls down and is collected into the water storage and spurted again by the water spurting unit.

Further, in the ice making apparatus described above, when the ice making process performed in the ice making chamber unit is completed, the ice making chamber unit is heated by the refrigerant (hot gas) going through the evaporation pipe, the refrigerant having been compressed by the compressor with the use of a bypass pipeline structuring the refrigeration cycle. The ice blocks formed in the ice making sub-chambers fall down with predetermined timing and are supplied to an ice storage chamber used for storing ice therein.

SUMMARY

In the ice making apparatus described above, because the water stored in the water storage is spurted toward the ice making sub-chambers in the ice making chamber unit cooled to a temperature below freezing, it is necessary to sufficiently cool the water stored in the water storage also, to a nearly freezing temperature. In other words, it is necessary to sufficiently cool not only the water with which the ice blocks are actually formed, but all of the water stored in the water storage. As a result, a large heat loss occurs, which leads to a degradation of cooling efficiency.

In view of the circumstances described above, it is desirable to provide an ice making apparatus capable of improving cooling efficiency and saving energy.

It is an object of the disclosure to at least partially solve the problems in the conventional technology.

In some embodiments, an ice making apparatus includes: a water storage configured to cool and store therein water supplied to the water storage; an ice maker configured to make ice from the water stored in the water storage; and an ice conveyer configured to convey the ice made by the ice maker to an ice storage used for storing ice in the ice storage. The ice maker is configured to cool a part of the water stored in the water storage that is positioned in an upper section to make the ice.

In some embodiments, an ice making apparatus includes: a water storage configured to cool and store therein water supplied to the water storage; an ice maker configured to make ice from the water stored in the water storage; and an ice conveyer configured to convey the ice made by the ice maker to an ice storage used for storing ice in the ice storage. The ice maker includes: an ice making main body including a hollow part; and a refrigerant pipe including a refrigerant passage, the refrigerant pipe connecting with the ice making main body thermally. The ice maker is configured to cool water that has entered the hollow part of the ice making main body to make the ice when refrigerant passes through the refrigerant passage. The ice conveyer includes a pusher member configured to reciprocate between a first position at which the pusher member substantially closes a lower face opening of the hollow part and a second position at which the pusher member having gone through the hollow part protrudes above an upper face opening of the hollow part. The pusher member is arranged at the first position in a normal state, whereas when a convey command is issued, the pusher member is configured to be moved from the first position to the second position and be subsequently moved to the first position.

The above and other objects, features, advantages and technical and industrial significance of this disclosure will be better understood by reading the following detailed description of presently preferred embodiments of the disclosure, when considered in connection with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic drawing that schematically illustrates an ice making apparatus according to an embodiment of the disclosure;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view illustrating an enlarged view of a relevant part of the ice making apparatus in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a vertical cross-sectional view of the ice maker illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view illustrating the ice conveyer in FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view illustrating an enlarged view of an upper wall part of the ice storage in FIGS. 1 and 2;

FIG. 6 is a vertical cross-sectional view schematically illustrating a relevant part of the ice making apparatus in FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a flowchart illustrating contents of processing in an ice making control process performed by a controlling unit in FIG. 1;

FIG. 8 is another vertical cross-sectional view schematically illustrating the relevant part of the ice making apparatus in FIG. 1;

FIG. 9 is yet another vertical cross-sectional view schematically illustrating the relevant part of the ice making apparatus in FIG. 1;

FIG. 10 is yet another vertical cross-sectional view schematically illustrating the relevant part of the ice making apparatus in FIG. 1;

FIG. 11 is a front view illustrating a relevant part of an ice making apparatus according to a modification example of the embodiment of the disclosure;

FIG. 12 is a front view illustrating a relevant part of an ice making apparatus according to another modification example of the embodiment of the disclosure;

FIG. 13 is a perspective view illustrating a relevant part of an ice conveyer according to yet another modification example included in an ice making apparatus of the disclosure;

FIG. 14 is a perspective view illustrating, while omitting the case on the upper side, an internal structure of a driving unit included in the ice conveyer in FIG. 13;

FIG. 15 is an exploded perspective view of a relevant part of the ice conveyer in FIGS. 13 and 14;

FIG. 16 is a perspective view of a relevant part of the ice conveyer in FIGS. 13 and 14;

FIG. 17 is an exploded perspective view of the relevant part in FIG. 16;

FIG. 18 is a perspective view illustrating a relevant part of an conveyer according to the modification example included in an ice making apparatus of the disclosure;

FIG. 19 is a perspective view of a relevant part of the ice conveyer illustrated in FIG. 18;

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of a relevant part of an ice conveyer according to the modification example included in an ice making apparatus of the disclosure; and

FIG. 21 is a perspective view of the relevant part of the ice conveyer illustrated in FIG. 20.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Exemplary embodiments of an ice making apparatus of the disclosure will be explained in detail below, with reference to the accompanying drawings.

FIG. 1 is a schematic drawing that schematically illustrates an ice making apparatus according to an embodiment of the disclosure. An ice making apparatus 10 illustrated in the drawing is configured so as to include a water storage 20, an ice maker 30, and an ice conveyer 40.

As illustrated in FIG. 2, the water storage 20 is placed on a base 11 and is in the shape of a rectangular parallelepiped that has, in an upper wall part 21, a plurality of (eight) upper wall openings 21a (see FIG. 5) arranged in a row in the left-and-right direction. The water storage 20 has, in a right wall part 22, an inlet port 22a that is connected to a water supply line 50 via the inlet port 22a.

The water supply line 50 is a passage used for supplying water to the water storage 20. A water supply pump 51 is provided somewhere in the middle of the water supply line 50. The water supply pump 51 is configured to be driven according to a command issued from a controlling unit 1. The water supply pump 51 structures a water supply unit for supplying water to the water storage 20 via the water supply line 50 when being driven. The water storage 20 is provided with a cooling unit (not illustrated) for cooling the stored water. The stored water is cooled by the cooling unit to approximately 4° C.

The controlling unit 1 is a controller for controlling, in an integrated manner, operations of functional units of the ice making apparatus 10 according to a computer program and data stored in a memory (not illustrated). For example, the controlling unit 1 may be realized by causing a processing apparatus such as a Central Processing Unit (CPU) to execute a computer program, i.e., realized with software, or may be realized with hardware such as an Integrated Circuit (IC). Alternatively, the controlling unit 1 may be realized by using both software and hardware.

The ice maker 30 is configured to include an ice making main body 31 and a refrigerant pipe 32. The ice making main body 31 is formed by using aluminum. The ice making main body 31 is structured in such a manner that a plurality of (eight) tubular bodies 31a are continuous with one another while being arranged in a row in the left-and-right direction, each tubular body 31a having a hollow part 311 extending in the up-and-down direction. The ice making main body 31 is installed as being placed on the upper wall part 21 in such a manner that each lower face opening 311a (see FIG. 3, etc.) of the hollow parts 311 corresponds to a different one of the upper wall openings 21a to communicate with one another. In this situation, the width in the front-and-back direction and the width in the left-and-right direction of each of the hollow parts 311 are substantially equal to the width in the front-and-back direction and the width in the left-and-right direction of each of the upper wall openings 21a.

The ice maker 30 is provided with a water level sensor 33. The water level sensor 33 is configured to detect whether or not the level of the water that has entered the hollow parts 311 has reached an upper limit. When the water level has reached the upper limit, the water level sensor 33 is configured to send a signal to the controlling unit 1 to indicate that the water level has been reached the upper limit.

The refrigerant pipe 32 is formed by using aluminum, similarly to the ice making main body 31 described above. As illustrated in FIG. 3, the refrigerant pipe 32 is configured with a flat-shaped multi-hole pipe in which a plurality of refrigerant passages 321 are arranged in a row. The refrigerant pipe 32 is provided in the surroundings of the ice making main body 31 while the internal faces thereof are thermally connected to the front face and the rear face of the ice making main body 31. The refrigerant pipe 32 has, at one end thereof, an entrance header 32a communicating with the refrigerant passages 321 and has, at the other end thereof, an exit header 32b communicating with the refrigerant passages 321.

The refrigerant pipe 32 structures a refrigeration cycle together with a compressor 61, a condenser 62, and an expansion mechanism 63. The refrigeration cycle is structured by sequentially connecting the compressor 61, the condenser 62, the expansion mechanism 63, and the refrigerant pipe 32, with a refrigerant pipeline 64. Also, the refrigeration cycle has a refrigerant circuit 60 having refrigerant enclosed therein. A suction unit of the compressor 61 is connected to the exit header 32b via the refrigerant pipeline 64. The compressor 61 is configured to be driven when a drive command is issued from the controlling unit 1. When being driven, the compressor 61 is configured to suck in and compress the refrigerant from the refrigerant pipe 32 and to discharge the compressed refrigerant via a discharge unit.

The entrance of the condenser 62 is connected to the discharge unit of the compressor 61 via the refrigerant pipeline 64. The condenser 62 is configured to condense the refrigerant discharged by the compressor 61, by performing a heat exchange process with ambient air. A first valve 65 is provided somewhere in the middle of the refrigerant pipeline 64 connecting the compressor 61 and the condenser 62 to each other.

The first valve 65 is a valve member that opens and closes in response to a command issued from the controlling unit 1. While in an open state, the first valve 65 is configured to allow the refrigerant discharged from the compressor 61 to pass toward the condenser 62. In contrast, while in a closed state, the first valve 65 is configured to regulate the passing, toward the condenser 62, of the refrigerant discharged from the compressor 61.

The expansion mechanism 63 is structured by using a capillary tube, an electronic expansion valve, and the like, for example. The entrance side of the expansion mechanism 63 is connected to the exit of the condenser 62 via the refrigerant pipeline 64. Further, the exit side of the expansion mechanism 63 is connected to the entrance header 32a via the refrigerant pipeline 64. The expansion mechanism 63 is configured to cause an adiabatic expansion by decompressing the refrigerant condensed by the condenser 62 and to supply the resulting refrigerant to the refrigerant pipe 32.

Incidentally, in the refrigerant circuit 60, a bypass pipeline 66 is provided so as to branch, on the upstream side of the first valve 65, from the refrigerant pipeline 64 connecting the compressor 61 and the condenser 62 to each other and so as to merge with the refrigerant pipeline 64 somewhere in the middle thereof, the refrigerant pipeline 64 connecting the expansion mechanism 63 and the entrance header 32a to each other. A second valve 67 is provided somewhere in the middle of the bypass pipeline 66.

The second valve 67 is a valve member that opens and closes in response to a command issued from the controlling unit 1. While in an open state, the second valve 67 is configured to allow the refrigerant discharged from the compressor 61 to pass toward the entrance header 32a via the bypass pipeline 66. In contrast, while in a closed state, the second valve 67 is configured to regulate the passing, through the bypass pipeline 66, of the refrigerant discharged from the compressor 61.

The refrigerant pipe 32 is configured to cool or heat the ice making main body 31 that is thermally connected thereto, with the passing of the refrigerant through the refrigerant passages 321, the refrigerant having flowed into the refrigerant pipe 32 via the entrance header 32a. In other words, when the refrigerant caused to have the adiabatic expansion by the expansion mechanism 63 is passing through the refrigerant passages 321, the refrigerant pipe 32 cools the ice making main body 31 to a temperature below freezing as a result of evaporation of the refrigerant. In contrast, when the refrigerant compressed and discharged by the compressor 61 has flowed therein via the bypass pipeline 66 and is passing through the refrigerant passages 321, the refrigerant pipe 32 heats the ice making main body 31.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view illustrating the ice conveyer 40 in FIG. 1. As illustrated in FIG. 4, the ice conveyer 40 is configured to include pusher members 41 and a driving unit 42.

A plurality of (eight in the illustrated example) pusher members 41 are provided. Each of the pusher members 41 corresponds to a different one of the tubular bodies 31a (the hollow parts 311) of the ice making main body 31. Each of the pusher members 41 is structured by integrally forming a base part 411 and an upper end part 412 together.

The base part 411 is a long member of which the lengthwise direction corresponds to the up-and-down direction. As illustrated in FIG. 5, in a rear end section of the base part 411, the base part 411 is provided with a projection piece 411a projecting in the left-and-right direction in the base part 411. Further, in a front end part of the base part 411, the base part 411 is provided with a base gear part 411b including a plurality of teeth. The projection piece 411a of the base part 411 has entered a groove part 23a that is formed in the water storage 20 so as to be continuous with the upper wall part 21 at a rear wall part 23. As a result, the pusher members 41 that are movable in the up-and-down directions are provided in the water storage 20.

The upper end part 412 is provided so as to be continuous with an upper end section of the base part 411 and so as to be protrude more forward than the front end of the base part 411. The upper end part 412 has such a dimension that the width thereof in the front-and-back direction is slightly smaller than the width of a corresponding one the upper wall openings 21a in the front-and-back direction and the width of a corresponding one of the hollow parts 311 in the front-and-back direction. Also, the upper end part 412 has such a dimension that the width thereof in the left-and-right direction is slightly smaller than the width of a corresponding one of the upper wall openings 21a in the left-and-right direction and the width of a corresponding one of the hollow parts 311 in the left-and-right direction. Further, an upper face 412a of the upper end part 412 is sloped gradually downward toward the front thereof.

The driving unit 42 is configured to include a motor 421 and a transmitting unit 422. The motor 421 is a driving source that performs a driving operation in response to a command issued from the controlling unit 1. The rotation of the motor 421 may be reversible where, when a normal rotation drive command is issued from the controlling unit 1, the motor 421 performs a normal rotation driving operation, whereas when a reverse rotation drive command is issued from the controlling unit 1, the motor 421 performs a reverse rotation driving operation.

The transmitting unit 422 is configured to transmit the rotation drive of the motor 421 to a shaft part 43. In the present example, the shaft part 43 is provided on the inside of the water storage 20 so as to be rotatable on the central axis thereof between the right wall part 22 and a left wall part 24. The shaft part 43 has a plurality of (eight) transmission parts 44 attached thereto, the transmission parts 44 being positioned at intervals at which the pusher members 41 are arranged. Each of the transmission parts 44 is a circular cylindrical member attached to the shaft part 43 so as to protrude toward the radially outside of the shaft part 43. Each of the transmission parts 44 has a transmission gear part 44a formed on the circumferential surface thereof, the transmission gear part 44a being structured with a plurality of teeth. A part of each of the transmission gear parts 44a is engaged with a part of a corresponding one of the base gear parts 411b.

Further, the transmitting unit 422 is provided with a pusher position detecting unit 422a, such as an encoder for example, that is configured to detect the positions of the pusher members 41 on the basis of a rotation drive force applied from the motor 421 to the shaft part 43. When detecting that the pusher members 41 are positioned at a lower end position (a first position) serving as a lower limit, the pusher position detecting unit 422a is configured to send information indicating that the pusher members 41 are positioned at the lower end position to the controlling unit 1 as a detection signal. When detecting that the pusher members 41 are positioned at an upper end position (a second position) serving as an upper limit, the pusher position detecting unit 422a is configured to send information indicating that the pusher members 41 are positioned at the upper end position to the controlling unit 1 as a detection signal. With these arrangements, the pusher members 41 are capable of moving along the up-and-down directions between the lower end position and the upper end position. Further, as illustrated in FIG. 6, when the pusher members 41 are arranged at the lower end position, each of the upper end parts 412 substantially closes the lower face opening 311a of a corresponding one of the hollow parts 311.

In the ice making apparatus 10 configured as described above, when an ice making command is issued from a superordinate device (not illustrated), the controlling unit 1 performs an ice making controlling process. FIG. 7 is a flowchart illustrating contents of processing in the ice making controlling process performed by the controlling unit 1 in FIG. 1.

As a premise of an explanation of the ice making controlling process, it is assumed that the first valve 65 is in the open state, while the second valve 67 is in the closed state, that the water stored in the water storage 20 is cooled to approximately 4° C., and that the water in the water storage 20 has reached the upper limit water level and entered the hollow parts 311. Further, it is assumed that the pusher members 41 are arranged in the lower end position.

In the abovementioned ice making controlling process, the controlling unit 1 sends a drive command to the compressor 61 and starts clocking time by using a built-in clock (step S101; step S102). Accordingly, in the refrigerant circuit 60, the refrigerant compressed by the compressor 61 is condensed by the condenser 62 and, after being caused to have an adiabatic expansion by the expansion mechanism 63, the refrigerant passes through the refrigerant passages 321 in the refrigerant pipe 32. As a result of evaporation of the refrigerant passing through the refrigerant passages 321, the ice making main body 31 is cooled to a temperature below freezing. When the ice making main body 31 has cooled to a temperature below freezing in this manner, such a part of the water stored in the water storage 20 that is positioned in the upper section and has entered the hollow parts 311 is cooled. It is known that water has lower density in a solid state than in a liquid state. It is therefore considered that such a part of the water stored in the water storage 20 that is positioned in the upper section has lower density. Further, the density of the water cooled by the ice making main body 31 is further lowered and thus concentrates in the upper section.

Having performed the processes at steps S101 and S102, the controlling unit 1 repeatedly performs the process of driving the water supply pump 51 by sending a drive command thereto and stopping the driving of the water supply pump 51 by sending a drive stop command thereto, until an ice making time period determined in advance elapses (step S103; step S104; step S105: No). As a result of repeatedly driving and stopping the driving of the water supply pump 51 until the ice making time period elapses in this manner, the level of the water stored in the water storage 20 becomes higher and lower, and the water in the ice maker 30 moves to flow. Accordingly, as a result of step S101 above, in the locations near the inner wall surfaces of the hollow parts 311 of the ice making main body 31, water gets frozen so that ice is made and gradually grows as illustrated in FIG. 8. In this situation, because the flowing speed of the water changes, it is possible to eliminate air bubbles that may be contained in the water during the freezing process. In other words, the controlling unit 1 and the water supply pump 51 structure a water flowing unit for moving the water provided in the ice maker 30 to flow during making ice by the ice maker 30.

Further, when the time started being clocked at step S102 has reached the ice making time period, ice blocks are formed, as illustrated in FIG. 9, in the hollow parts 311 of the ice making main body 31. Accordingly, when the ice making time period has elapsed (step S105: Yes), the controlling unit 1 ends the clocking of time using the clock and sends a close command to the first valve 65. Also, the controlling unit 1 sends an open command to the second valve 67 (step S106; step S107).

Accordingly, the refrigerant compressed by the compressor 61 passes through the bypass pipeline 66 and passes through the refrigerant passages 321 of the refrigerant pipe 32 as hot gas. As a result, the ice making main body 31 is heated, and boundary portions of the ice blocks that are in contact with the inner wall surfaces of the hollow parts 311 are melted.

Meanwhile, the controlling unit 1 that has performed the process at step S107 sends a normal rotation drive command to the motor 421 (step S108). When the motor 421 performs a normal rotation driving operation in this manner, the rotation drive force thereof is transmitted to the shaft part 43 via the transmitting unit 422, and the shaft part 43 turns clockwise as viewed from the left. As a result of the shaft part 43 turning clockwise as viewed from the left, and the transmission parts 44 also turning clockwise as viewed from the left, the pusher members 41 engaged with the transmission parts 44 move upward from the lower end position and go through the hollow parts 311. When the pusher members 41 have moved upward in this manner, it is possible to press and move the ice blocks upward, the ice blocks being formed in the hollow parts 311 and having the boundary portions thereof with the ice making main body 31 melted.

When the pusher position detecting unit 422a issues a detection signal indicating that the pusher members 41 are arranged at the upper end position where the pusher members 41 are protruding above an upper face openings 311b of the hollow parts 311 as illustrated in FIG. 10 (step S109: Yes), the controlling unit 1 sends a reverse rotation drive command to the motor 421 (step S110).

When the pusher members 41 are arranged at the upper end position, the ice blocks that have moved upward together with the pusher members 41 follow the slopes formed by the upper faces 412a of the upper end parts 412 of the pusher members 41, move along forward, and are put and stored, as ice, into an ice storage 70 used for storing ice therein. In other words, the ice conveyer 40 conveys the ice made by the ice maker 30 to the ice storage 70.

When the motor 421 has performed the reverse rotation driving operation, the rotation drive force is transmitted to the shaft part 43 via the transmitting unit 422, and the shaft part 43 turns counterclockwise as viewed from the left. As a result of the shaft part 43 turning counterclockwise as viewed from the left and the transmission parts 44 also turning counterclockwise as viewed from the left, the pusher members 41 engaged with the transmission parts 44 move downward from the upper end position.

When the pusher position detecting unit 422a issues a detection signal indicating that the pusher members 41 are arranged at the lower end position where the upper end parts 412 substantially close the lower face openings 311a of the hollow parts 311 as illustrated in FIG. 6 (step S111: Yes), the controlling unit 1 sends a drive stop command to the motor 421 (step S112) to stop the driving of the motor 421. In other words, when a convey command is issued, the ice conveyer 40 moves the pusher members 41 from the lower end position to the upper end position and subsequently moves the pusher members 41 from the upper end position to the lower end position.

Having sent the drive stop command to the motor 421, the controlling unit 1 sends an open command to the first valve 65 and also sends a close command to the second valve 67 (step S113), so as to cool the ice making main body 31. Subsequently, the controlling unit 1 sends a drive command to the water supply pump 51, and stands by until a signal indicating that the water level has reached the upper limit is input thereto from the water level sensor 33 (step S114; step S115).

When a signal indicating that the water level has reached the upper limit is issued from the water level sensor 33 (step S115: Yes), the controlling unit 1 sends a drive stop command to the water supply pump 51 (step S116).

After that, until an ice making stop command is issued from the superordinate device, the controlling unit 1 repeatedly performs the processes at steps S102 through S116 (step S117: No). Accordingly, the process of making ice is repeatedly performed by cooling, in a concentrated manner, such a part of the water stored in the water storage 20 that is positioned in the upper section.

When an ice making stop command is issued from the superordinate device (step S117: Yes), the controlling unit 1 sends a drive stop command to the compressor 61 (step S118), subsequently returns the procedure to the start, and end the process at this time.

As explained above, in the ice making apparatus 10 according to an embodiment of the disclosure, the ice maker 30 makes the ice by cooling such a part of the water stored in the water storage 20 that is positioned in the upper section. It is therefore possible to make the ice by cooling, in a concentrated manner, the water that is nearly frozen and has small density. Accordingly, there is no need to cool all of the water stored in the water storage 20 to a nearly freezing temperature. As a result, it is possible to reduce the heat loss and to decrease the electric power consumption required by the cooling of the water. Consequently, it is possible to improve the cooling efficiency and to save energy.

In the ice making apparatus 10 described above, because the ice making main body 31 and the refrigerant pipe 32 structuring the ice maker 30 are each formed by using aluminum, it is possible to reduce manufacturing costs and to enhance heat transfer capability. In addition, because the ice making main body 31 and the refrigerant pipe 32 are joined together by using the same type of metal, there is no possibility that a galvanic corrosion or the like may occur, which is regarded as a problem in a conventional method where mutually-different types of metals such as copper and stainless steel are joined together.

In the ice making apparatus 10 described above, the ice making main body 31 is formed in such a manner that the plurality of tubular bodies 31a are continuous with one another, while the refrigerant pipe 32 has a flat shape in which the plurality of refrigerant passages 321 are arranged in a row. Accordingly, the thermal connection between the ice making main body 31 and the refrigerant pipe 32 is realized with surface contact. It is therefore possible to enhance the heat transfer efficiency by increasing the heat transfer area.

Further, in the ice making apparatus 10 according to an embodiment of the disclosure, when the pusher members 41 structuring the ice conveyer 40 are arranged at the lower end position, the upper end parts 412 substantially close the lower face openings 311a of the hollow parts 311 in the ice making main body 31. As a result, it is possible to separate the water that has entered the hollow parts 311 from another part of water that is stored in the water storage 20. Accordingly, it is possible to make the ice by cooling, in a concentrated manner, the water that has entered the hollow parts 311. Thus, there is no need to cool all of the water stored in the water storage 20 to a nearly freezing temperature. With these arrangements, it is possible to reduce the heat loss and to decrease the electric power consumption required by the cooling of the water. Consequently, it is possible to improve the cooling efficiency and to save energy.

In the ice making apparatus 10 described above, because the upper faces 412a of the upper end parts 412 of the pusher members 41 are sloped gradually downward toward the front, it is possible to put the ice into the ice storage 70, by simply arranging the pusher members 41 to be at the upper end position where the pusher members 41 protrude above from the upper face openings 311b of the hollow parts 311. It is therefore sufficient to simply move the pusher members 41 in the up-and-down directions. Consequently, it is possible to simplify the configuration of the device.

In the ice making apparatus 10 described above, the pusher members 41 are engaged with the shaft part 43 provided in common thereto, via the transmission parts 44, and are driven by the motor 421 serving as the driving source provided in common thereto. It is therefore possible to decrease the number of component parts, compared to the situation where a driving source is individually connected to each of the pusher members 41. It is therefore possible to reduce manufacturing costs.

Further, in the ice making apparatus 10 according to an embodiment of the disclosure, the water in the ice maker 30 is moved to flow, by the raising and the lowering of the level of the water stored in the water storage 20, as a result of the controlling unit 1 repeatedly driving and stopping the driving of the water supply pump 51 until the ice making time period elapses. It is therefore possible to eliminate air bubbles that may be contained in the water when the water gets frozen, by varying the flowing speed of the water in the ice maker 30. Consequently, it is possible to make clear ice.

Some preferred embodiments of the disclosure have thus been explained; however, the disclosure is not limited to these embodiments. It is possible to apply various modifications thereto.

In the embodiment described above, the plurality of transmission parts 44 are attached to the shaft part 43 while being positioned at the intervals at which the pusher members 41 are arranged. However, as illustrated in FIG. 11, another arrangement is also acceptable in which a transmission part 45 provided in common to the pusher members 41 is engaged therewith. Alternatively, as illustrated in FIG. 12, yet another arrangement is also acceptable in which the lower end parts of the pusher members 41 are linked together by a linking member 46 so as to be integrally formed, while a transmission part 47 attached to the shaft part 43 is engaged with any one of the pusher members 41.

In the disclosure, as explained below, each of the pusher members may be configured to move in the up-and-down directions by individually having applied thereto a drive force from a driving unit.

FIG. 13 is a perspective view illustrating a relevant part of an ice conveyer according to yet another modification example included in an ice making apparatus of the disclosure. Some of the constituent elements that are the same as those in the embodiment described above will be referred to by using the same reference characters, and the explanations thereof will be omitted. An ice conveyer 40′ in the present example is configured so as to include a driving unit 80 and a pusher member 41′.

The driving unit 80 is configured so as to include a mechanism main body 90, an output member 100, and an engagement member 110. The mechanism main body 90 is a casing member structured by joining together a pair made up of upper and lower cases 91 and 92. As illustrated in FIG. 14, the mechanism main body 90 has a housing space 93 on the inside thereof. Although not illustrated in the drawings, the mechanism main body 90 has formed therein a main body through bore that penetrates in the up-and-down direction.

The output member 100 is configured by using resin such as plastic, for example. As illustrated in FIG. 15, the output member 100 includes an output main body unit 101 and an output transmitting unit 102. The output main body unit 101 is a circular cylindrical member of which the central axis extends in the up-and-down direction.

The output transmitting unit 102 is provided in an upper end section of the output main body unit 101 so as to protrude radially outward. The output transmitting unit 102 is an annular member of which the outside diameter is larger than the output main body unit 101. On the lateral circumferential surface of the output transmitting unit 102, an output gear part 102a structured with a plurality of teeth is formed.

The output member 100 configured as described above is provided for the mechanism main body 90 in such a manner that the output main body unit 101 is inserted through the main body through bore while the central axis thereof is aligned with the central axis of the main body through bore and that the output transmitting unit 102 is installed in the housing space 93.

The output member 100 configured as described above is linked, via a gear unit 94, to an output shaft 95a of a motor 95 serving as a driving source and being installed in the housing space 93, as a result of the output gear part 102a of the output transmitting unit 102 being engaged with a linkage gear 94a structuring the gear unit 94.

Further, the output member 100 is configured to turn on the central axis counterclockwise as viewed from above, as a drive force from the motor 95 is applied thereto.

The engagement member 110 is configured by using resin such as plastic, for example. As illustrated in FIG. 15, the engagement member 110 is configured so as to include an engagement main body unit 111 and an engagement regulating unit 112.

The engagement main body unit 111 is a circular cylindrical member of which the central axis extends in the up-and-down direction. The outside diameter of the engagement main body unit 111 is slightly smaller than the inside diameter of a hollow part 101a of the output main body unit 101. As illustrated in FIG. 15, the engagement main body unit 111 has a cut-out part 111a formed therein and also has formed a locking hook part 111b extending the cut-out part 111a downward. In addition, a plurality of engagement projections 111c are formed in a part of a front-end outer circumferential part of the engagement main body unit 111.

The engagement regulating unit 112 is integrally formed with the engagement main body unit 111 so as to close the upper face opening of the engagement main body unit 111. The engagement regulating unit 112 is a disc-shaped member larger than the inside diameter of the main body through bore described above. The engagement regulating unit 112 has formed, in a central section thereof, a circular opening 112a of which the center is aligned with the central axis of the engagement main body unit 111. The inside diameter of the circular opening 112a is equal to the inside diameter of a hollow part 111d of the engagement main body unit 111.

As for the output member 100, the engagement member 110 configured as described above is attached to the output member 100 as a result of: the engagement main body unit 111 entering the hollow part 101a of the output main body unit 101 from above; the engagement projections 111c being fitted into engagement recesses 101b formed in an upper-end-side inner part of the output main body unit 101; and a tip end part of the locking hook part 111b being locked with a part of a lower edge part of the output main body unit 101. In this situation, the engagement member 110 is attached to the output member 100 in such a manner that the central axis of the engagement main body unit 111 is aligned with the central axis of the output main body unit 101. With these arrangements, the engagement member 110 turns on the central axis thereof, integrally with the output member 100.

In the driving unit 80 configured as described above, when the motor 95 is performing a driving operation, the engagement member 110 is configured to turn on the central axis of the engagement main body unit 111 (the central axis of the main body through bore and the central axis of the output main body unit 101) counterclockwise as viewed from above, together with the output member 100.

The pusher member 41′ corresponds to the tubular bodies 31a (the hollow part 311) of the ice making main body 31. The pusher member 41′ is structured by integrally forming a base part 411′ and an upper end part 412 that is continuous with an upper end section of the base part 411′ and that protrudes forward farther than the front end of the base part 411′.

The base part 411′ is a long member of which the lengthwise direction corresponds to the up-and-down direction. As illustrated in FIG. 13, the base part 411′ has a Napier screw part 121 formed therein.

The Napier screw part 121 is a primary constituent element of the base part 411′. The Napier screw part 121 is a long circular columnar member of which the lengthwise direction corresponds to the up-and-down direction. The outside diameter of the Napier screw part 121 is slightly smaller than the inside diameter of the hollow part 111d of the engagement main body unit 111. A screw groove 121a is formed in a lateral part of the Napier screw part 121.

The screw groove 121a is structured by forming a first groove part 121a1 spirally extending in one direction and a second groove part 121a2 spirally extending in the other direction that are each centered on a central axis L of the base part 411′, while the first groove part 121a1 and the second groove part 121a2 are continuous with each other.

To a lower end section of the base part 411′, a regulating piece 413 is attached. The regulating piece 413 is a plate-like member of which the width dimension in the direction orthogonal to the central axis L of the base part 411′ is larger than the inside diameter of the hollow part 111d of the engagement main body unit 111.

The base part 411′ configured as described above has entered the hollow part 111d of the engagement main body unit 111 in such a manner that the central axis L of the base part 411′ is aligned with the central axis of the engagement main body unit 111. Thus, the central axis of the main body through bore, the central axis of the output main body unit 101, the central axis of the engagement main body unit 111, and the central axis L of the base part 411′ are aligned with one another.

Further, in addition to the configuration elements described above, the engagement member 110 includes an engagement operating unit 113. As illustrated in FIG. 15, the engagement operating unit 113 is provided by being pressed, from the outside, into a support bore 111e formed in a lateral part of the engagement main body unit 111. The engagement operating unit 113 is provided with a boat-shaped engagement piece 113a. As illustrated in FIGS. 16 and 17, the engagement piece 113a has entered the screw groove 121a formed in the base part 411′.

In the ice conveyer 40′ configured as described above, in the state illustrated in FIG. 13 or 16, when the engagement member 110 turns, with the driving of the motor 95, on the central axis L of the base part 411′ counterclockwise as viewed from above together with the output member 100, the engagement piece 113a relatively moves along the first groove part 121a1 of the screw groove 121a. As a result, the base part 411′ moves downward as indicated with the solid arrows in FIGS. 18 and 19.

Further, as a result of the turning of the engagement member 110, when the engagement piece 113a has reached the upper end part of the first groove part 121a1 as illustrated in FIGS. 20 and 21, the engagement piece 113a relatively moves along the second groove part 121a2. As a result, the base part 411′ moves upward as indicated with the single-dot chain arrows in FIGS. 20 and 21. When the engagement member 110 keeps turning in this manner, the engagement piece 113a relatively moves along the second groove part 121a2. As a result, the base part 411′ moves upward as indicated by the single-dot chain arrows in FIGS. 18 and 19, and returns to the state illustrated in FIG. 13.

As explained above, in the ice conveyer 40′, when the drive force of the motor 95 is applied to the engagement member 110, the engagement member 110 turns on the central axis L of the base part 411′ in the one direction. As a result, the pusher member 41′ reciprocates in the up-and-down directions along the direction of the central axis L.

Accordingly, by using this configuration, it is possible to cause the pusher member 41′ to move in the up-and-down directions and to put the generated ice into the ice storage 70, by simply causing the motor 95 to rotate in the one direction, without the need to have the motor 95 rotate in the normal and the reverse directions.

In the embodiment described above, the water in the ice maker 30 is moved to flow by the raising and the lowering of the level of the water stored in the water storage 20, as a result of the controlling unit 1 repeatedly driving and stopping the driving of the water supply pump 51 until the ice making time period elapses; however, another arrangement is acceptable in which, the water in the ice maker 30 is moved to flow, by causing the pusher members 41 to reciprocate in the up-and-down directions during making the ice by the ice maker 30. With this arrangement also, it is possible to eliminate air bubbles that may be contained in the water when the water gets frozen and to thus make clear ice. Further, it is also acceptable to raise and lower the water level by opening and closing a drainage port formed in the water storage by using a drainage valve, while the water supply pump 51 is being driven.

According to some embodiments, because the ice maker makes the ice by cooling such a part of the water stored in the water storage that is positioned in the upper section, it is possible to make the ice by cooling, in a concentrated manner, water that is nearly frozen and has low density. Accordingly, there is no need to cool all of the water stored in the water storage to a nearly freezing temperature. With this arrangement, it is possible to reduce the heat loss and to also decrease the electric power consumption required by the cooling of the water. Consequently, an advantageous effect is achieved where it is possible to improve the cooling efficiency and to save energy.

Further, according to some embodiments, because the pusher members structuring the ice conveyer substantially close the lower face openings of the hollow parts of the ice making main body while being arranged at the first position, it is possible to separate the part of water that has entered the hollow parts from another part of water that is stored in the water storage. With this arrangement, it is possible to make the ice by cooling, in a concentrated manner, the water that has entered the hollow parts. Accordingly, there is no need to cool all of the water stored in the water storage to a nearly freezing temperature. With this arrangement, it is possible to reduce the heat loss and to also decrease the electric power consumption required by the cooling of the water. Consequently, an advantageous effect is achieved where it is possible to improve the cooling efficiency and to save energy.

Additional advantages and modifications will readily occur to those skilled in the art. Therefore, the disclosure in its broader aspects is not limited to the specific details and representative embodiments shown and described herein. Accordingly, various modifications may be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the general inventive concept as defined by the appended claims and their equivalents.