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Title:
HERMETICALLY SEALED OVERMOLDED PLASTIC THERMAL BRIDGE BREAKER WITH LINER AND WRAPPER FOR A VACUUM INSULATED STRUCTURE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/044274
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A vacuum insulated cabinet structure includes an exterior wrapper with a front edge extending around an opening thereof. At least one liner includes a front edge extending around an opening of the liner, wherein the liner is disposed inside of the wrapper with the front edge of the wrapper disposed around the front edge of the liner in assembly. A thermal bridge includes an outer coupling portion and an inner coupling portion. In assembly, the outer coupling portion is overmolded to a portion of the front edge of the wrapper, and the inner coupling portion is overmolded to a portion of the front edge of the liner to form a sealed vacuum cavity between the wrapper and the liner. The thermal bridge is formed in a mold in which the preformed wrapper and liner are partially disposed to form a unitary composite structure.

Inventors:
DEKA, Lakshya, J. (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, MI, 49022, US)
MILLER, Dustin, M. (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, MI, 49022, US)
LIU, Tao (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, MI, 49022, US)
Application Number:
US2016/049449
Publication Date:
March 08, 2018
Filing Date:
August 30, 2016
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, MI, 49022, US)
International Classes:
F25D23/06; F16L59/06; F25D23/08
Domestic Patent References:
WO2010132339A12010-11-18
Foreign References:
EP1744114A22007-01-17
EP2765376A22014-08-13
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CALLAGHAN, Terry, S. (Price Heneveld LLP, 695 Kenmoor S.E.,P.O. Box 256, Grand Rapids MI, 49501-2567, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An overmolded composite structure, comprising:

an exterior wrapper having an opening into a cavity and a front edge extending around the opening;

at least one liner having an opening into a compartment and a front edge extending around the opening of the liner, wherein the liner is disposed inside the cavity of the wrapper with the front edge of the wrapper disposed laterally outward relative to the front edge of the liner; and

a thermal bridge having an outer coupling portion and at least one inner coupling portion, wherein outer coupling portion is overmolded to at least a portion of the front edge of the wrapper, and further wherein the inner coupling portion is overmolded to at least a portion of the front edge of the liner to form a sealed vacuum cavity between the wrapper and the liner.

2. The overmolded composite structure of claim 1, wherein the at least one liner includes first and second liners, and further wherein the at least one inner coupling portion includes first and second inner coupling portions.

3. The overmolded composite structure of claim 2, wherein the first and second inner coupling portions are overmolded to front edges of the first and second liners.

4. The overmolded composite structure of any one of claims 2-3, wherein the first liner includes a refrigerator liner, and further wherein the second liner includes a freezer liner.

5. The overmolded composite structure of claim 2-4, wherein the first liner is disposed above the second liner.

6. The overmolded composite structure of any one of claims 2-5, wherein the first and second liners are made from a sheet metal material.

7. The overmolded composite structure of any one of claims 2-6, wherein the exterior wrapper is made from a sheet metal material.

8. The overmolded composite structure of any one of claims 2-7, wherein the thermal bridge is made from a polyurethane material.

9. A vacuum insulated cabinet structure, comprising:

an exterior wrapper having a front edge extending around an opening thereof; at least one liner having a front edge extending around an opening of the liner, wherein the liner is disposed inside of the wrapper with the front edge of the wrapper disposed around the front edge of the liner; and

a thermal bridge having an outer coupling portion and at least one inner coupling portion, wherein outer coupling portion is overmolded to at least a portion of the front edge of the wrapper, and further wherein the inner coupling portion is overmolded to at least a portion of the front edge of the liner to form a sealed vacuum cavity between the wrapper and the liner.

10. The vacuum insulated cabinet structure of claim 9, wherein the front edge of the at least one liner includes an end flange portion having first and second contact surfaces.

11. The vacuum insulated cabinet structure of claim 10, wherein the at least one inner coupling portion includes first and second contact surfaces partially disposed over and adhered to the first and second contact surfaces of the end flange portion of the at least one liner.

12. The vacuum insulated cabinet structure of anyone of claims 9-11, wherein the front edge of the exterior wrapper includes an end flange portion having first and second contact surfaces.

13. The vacuum insulated cabinet structure of claim 12, wherein the outer coupling portion includes first and second contact surfaces partially disposed over and adhered to the first and second contact surfaces of the end flange portion of the exterior wrapper.

14. The vacuum insulated cabinet structure of claim 12, wherein the outer coupling portion is offset in a laterally outward direction relative to the at least one inner coupling portion.

15. A method of making a cabinet structure, the method comprising:

forming a wrapper from a sheet of material whereby the wrapper has an opening and a front edge extending around the opening;

forming a first liner from a sheet of material whereby the first liner has an opening and a front edge extending around the opening of the first liner;

forming a second liner from a sheet of material whereby the second liner has an opening and a front edge extending around the opening of the second liner;

providing a mold having a body portion with an outer channel and first and second inner channels opening into a mold cavity disposed within an interior of the body portion, the mold cavity having an inverse configuration of a thermal bridge;

positioning the front edge of the first liner in the first inner channel of the mold whereby the front edge of the first liner is partially disposed within the mold cavity of the mold through the first inner channel of the mold;

positioning the front edge of the second liner in the second inner channel of the mold whereby the front edge of the second liner is partially disposed within the mold cavity of the mold through the second inner channel of the mold;

positioning the front edge of the wrapper in the outer channel of the mold whereby the front edge of the wrapper is partially disposed within the mold cavity of the mold through the outer channel of the mold;

introducing a resin mixture into the mold cavity to substantially fill the mold cavity; and

forming a thermal bridge from the resin mixture within the mold cavity, the thermal bridge including an outer coupling portion overmolded to a portion of the front edge of the wrapper, a first inner coupling portion overmolded to a portion of the front edge of the first liner, and a second inner coupling portion overmolded to a portion of the front edge of the second liner.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein the outer coupling portion is laterally offset from the first and second inner coupling portions.

17. The method of anyone of claims 15-16, wherein the step of positioning the front edge of the wrapper in the outer channel of the mold further includes:

positioning the wrapper over the first and second liners as received on the mold.

18. The method of anyone of claims 15-17, including the step of:

heating the mold before introducing the resin mixture into the mold cavity.

19. The method of anyone of claims 15-18, wherein the step of forming a thermal bridge from the resin mixture within the mold cavity further includes:

allowing the resin mixture to cure in the mold cavity.

20. The method of anyone of claims 15-17, including the step of:

forming a sealed vacuum cavity between the first and second liners and the wrapper by overmolding the thermal bridge thereto.

Description:
HERMETICALLY SEALED OVERMOLDED PLASTIC THERMAL BRIDGE BREAKER WITH LINER

AND WRAPPER FOR A VACUUM INSULATED STRUCTURE

BACKGROUND

[0001] The present device generally relates to insulated structures, in particular, to a vacuum insulated refrigerator cabinet that includes a thermal bridge breaker that is overmolded to and interconnects a wrapper and a liner.

[0002] Various types of insulated refrigerator cabinet structures have been developed.

One type of insulated structure includes a wrapper and a liner. The wrapper and liner are generally spaced-apart to form a cavity therebetween that is filled with an insulating material. In a vacuum insulated refrigerator structure, this cavity may be filled with a vacuum insulated core material. In order to hold the vacuum, it is necessary to provide an airtight seal between the wrapper, one or more liners, and the thermal bridge breaker.

SUMMARY

[0003] In at least one aspect, the present concept includes an overmolded composite structure having an exterior wrapper with an opening that opens into a cavity and a front edge extending around the opening. At least one liner has an opening that opens into a compartment and also includes a front edge extending around the opening of the liner. The liner is disposed inside the cavity of the wrapper with the front edge of the wrapper disposed outwardly relative to the front edge of the liner. A vacuum cavity is formed between the wrapper and the liner. A thermal bridge inlcudes an outer coupling portion and at least one inner coupling portion, wherein outer coupling portion is overmolded to at least a portion of the front edge of the wrapper, and further wherein the inner coupling portion is overmolded to at least a portion of the front edge of the liner to form a sealed vacuum cavity between the wrapper and the liner.

[0004] In at least another aspect, the present concept includes a vacuum insulated cabinet structure having an exterior wrapper with a front edge extending around an opening thereof. At least one liner includes a front edge extending around an opening of the liner, wherein the liner is disposed inside of the wrapper with the front edge of the wrapper disposed around the front edge of the liner in assembly. A thermal bridge includes an outer coupling portion and at least one inner coupling portion. In assembly, the outer coupling portion is overmolded to at least a portion of the front edge of the wrapper, and the inner coupling portion is overmolded to at least a portion of the front edge of the liner to form a sealed vacuum cavity between the wrapper and the liner.

[0005] In yet another aspect, the present concept includes a method of making a cabinet structure, wherein the method includes the following steps: a) forming a wrapper from a sheet of material whereby the wrapper has an opening and a front edge extending around the opening; b) forming a first liner from a sheet of material whereby the first liner has an opening and a front edge extending around the opening of the first liner; c) forming a second liner from a sheet of material whereby the second liner has an opening and a front edge extending around the opening of the second liner; d) providing a mold having a body portion with an outer channel and first and second inner channels opening into a mold cavity disposed within an interior of the body portion, the mold cavity having an inverse configuration of a thermal bridge; e) positioning the front edge of the first liner in the first inner channel of the mold whereby the front edge of the first liner is partially disposed within the mold cavity of the mold through the first inner channel of the mold; f) positioning the front edge of the second liner in the second inner channel of the mold whereby the front edge of the second liner is partially disposed within the mold cavity of the mold through the second inner channel of the mold; g) positioning the front edge of the wrapper in the outer channel of the mold whereby the front edge of the wrapper is partially disposed within the mold cavity of the mold through the outer channel of the mold; h) introducing a resin mixture into the mold cavity to substantially fill the mold cavity; and i) forming a thermal bridge from the resin mixture within the mold cavity, the thermal bridge including an outer coupling portion overmolded to a portion of the front edge of the wrapper, a first inner coupling portion overmolded to a portion of the front edge of the first liner, and a second inner coupling portion overmolded to a portion of the front edge of the second liner.

[0006] These and other features, advantages, and objects of the present device will be further understood and appreciated by those skilled in the art upon studying the following specification, claims, and appended drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0007] In the drawings: [0008] FIG. 1 is isometric view of a refrigerator including a vacuum insulated cabinet structure;

[0009] FIG. 2 is an exploded isometric view of a vacuum insulated refrigerator cabinet structure;

[0010] FIG. 3 is a rear isometric view of the vacuum insulated refrigerator cabinet structure of FIG. 2 as assembled;

[0011] FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the refrigerator cabinet of FIG. 1 taken at line IV;

[0012] FIG. 5 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view of the thermal bridge taken from location V of FIG. 4;

[0013] FIG. 6 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view of the thermal bridge taken from location VI of FIG. 4;

[0014] FIG. 7 is cross-sectional view of the thermal bridge taken from location VII of FIG.

4;

[0015] FIG. 8 is a top perspective view for making a mold form for making a thermal bridge breaker;

[0016] FIG. 9 is a top perspective view of the mold form of FIG. 8 showing a refrigerator liner and a freezer liner inserted into the mold form;

[0017] FIG. 10 is a top perspective view of the mold form of FIG. 9 with an exterior wrapper inserted into the mold form;

[0018] FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view of the mold form of FIG. 10 taken at location XI;

[0019] FIG. 12A is a cross-sectional view of the mold form taken at location XII;

[0020] FIG. 12B is a cross-sectional view of the mold form of FIG. 12A having a resin disposed within the mold form of the mold; and

[0021] FIG. 13 is a cross-sectional view of the mold form of FIG. 10 taken at location XIII.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

[0022] For purposes of description herein the terms "upper," "lower," "right," "left,"

"rear," "front," "vertical," "horizontal," and derivatives thereof shall relate to the device as oriented in FIG. 1. However, it is to be understood that the device may assume various alternative orientations and step sequences, except where expressly specified to the contrary. It is also to be understood that the specific devices and processes illustrated in the attached drawings, and described in the following specification are simply exemplary embodiments of the inventive concepts defined in the appended claims. Hence, specific dimensions and other physical characteristics relating to the embodiments disclosed herein are not to be considered as limiting, unless the claims expressly state otherwise.

[0023] With reference to FIG. 1, a refrigerator 1 includes a vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 which further includes a refrigerator compartment 28 and a freezer compartment 44. Doors 5 and 6 are provided to selectively provide access to the refrigerator compartment 28, while a drawer 7 is used to provide access to the freezer compartment 44. The vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 is surrounded by an exterior wrapper 8 in assembly. The configuration of the refrigerator 1 is exemplary only and the present concept is contemplated for use in all refrigerator styles including, but not limited to, side-by-side refrigerators, whole refrigerator and freezers, and refrigerators with upper freezer compartments.

[0024] Referring now to FIG. 2, the vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 generally includes a thermal bridge 10 that includes a frame 12 having an upper opening 12A and a lower opening 12B with a mullion portion 14 disposed therebetween. The thermal bridge

10 includes an upper portion 10A, a middle portion 10B and a lower portion IOC. The vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 further includes a refrigerator liner 16 having a top wall 18, bottom wall 20, opposed sidewalls 22, 24, and a rear wall 26 which cooperate to define a refrigerator compartment 28. The refrigerator liner 16 further includes a front edge 30 disposed on a front portion of the refrigerator compartment 28 along the top wall 18, bottom wall 20 and opposed sidewalls 22, 24 in a quadrilateral ring configuration. Similarly, a freezer liner 32 includes a top wall 34, a bottom wall 36, opposed sidewalls 38, 40, and a rear wall 42 which all cooperate to define a freezer compartment 44. The rear wall 42 is a contoured rear wall that provides a spacing S for housing cooling components for cooling both the refrigerator compartment 28 and freezer compartment 44. Such components may include a compressor, a condenser, an expansion valve, an evaporator, a plurality of conduits, and other related components used for cooling the refrigerator and freezer compartments 28, 44. The freezer liner 32 further includes a front edge 46 disposed at a front portion of the freezer compartment

44 which is disposed along the top wall 34, bottom wall 36 and opposed sidewalls 38, 40 in a quadrilateral ring configuration. In assembly, the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16 and the front edge 46 of the freezer liner 32 define first and second openings 31, 47 that are configured to couple with coupling portions disposed about the upper and lower openings 12A, 12B of the thermal bridge 10, as further described below.

[0025] As further shown in FIG. 2, the vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 further includes the exterior wrapper 8 which includes a top wall 50, a bottom wall 52, opposed sidewalls 54, 56, and a rear wall 58 which cooperate to define a cavity 59. The wrapper 8 further includes a front edge 60 which is disposed along an opening 61 of the cavity 59 which is further disposed along the top wall 50, bottom wall 52 and opposed sidewalls 54, 56 so as to be a circumventing frontmost edge 60 of the exterior wrapper 8 presented in a quadrilateral ring configuration. In assembly, the front edge 60 of the exterior wrapper 8 is coupled to coupling portions of the thermal bridge 10 around the liners 16, 32. In this way, the thermal bridge 10 interconnects the exterior wrapper 8 and the refrigerator liner 16 and the freezer liner 32 when assembled. Further, the refrigerator liner 16 and freezer liner 32 are received within the cavity 59 of the exterior wrapper 8 when assembled, such that there is a spacing between the outer surfaces of the refrigerator liner 16 and the freezer liner 32 relative to the inner surfaces of the exterior wrapper 8. In this way, the spacing can be used to create a vacuum insulated space as further described below.

[0026] The wrapper 8 may be made from sheet metal, polymer materials, or other suitable materials. If the wrapper 8 is made from sheet metal, the wrapper 8 may be formed utilizing known steel forming tools and processes. Alternatively, the wrapper 8 may be formed from a polymer material. For example, the wrapper 8 may be fabricated by thermoforming a sheet of thermoplastic polymer material. The wrapper 8 may be constructed of a material that is substantially impervious, such that oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and/or other atmospheric gasses are sealed out of the vacuum cavity VC (FIG. 3) defined in the spacing or gap that is formed between the wrapper 8 and liners 16, 32 as discussed in more detail below. If the wrapper 8 is formed from a polymer material, the polymer material may comprise a plurality of layers, wherein the layers of material are selected to provide impermeability to gasses.

[0027] The refrigerator liner 16 and the freezer liner 32 are preferably made from a sheet metal material utilizing known steel forming tools and processes. The liners 16, 32 may otherwise be formed from a polymer material in the form of a polymer sheet that is thermoformed. The polymer material may comprise one or more layers of material that are selected to provide impermeability to gasses. The liners 16, 32 may optionally include a plurality of reinforcing structures, such as vertically spaced ridges or other forms for supporting dividers within the refrigerator compartment 28 or freezer compartment 44. Examples of layered polymer materials that may be utilized to construct the wrapper 8 or liners 16, 32 are disclosed in United States Patent Application

No. 14/980,702, entitled "MULTILAYER BARRIER MATERIALS WITH PVD OR PLASMA

COATING FOR VACUUM INSULATED STRUCTURE," and United States Patent Application

No. 14/980,778, entitled "MULTI-LAYER GAS BARRIER MATERIALS FOR VACUUM

INSULATED STRUCTURE," filed on December 28, 2015, the entire contents of which are incorporated by reference. Specifically, the wrapper 8 and/or liners 16, 32 may be thermoformed from a tri-layer sheet of polymer material comprising first and second outer structure layers and a central barrier layer that is disposed between the outer layers. The outer layers and the barrier layer may comprise thermoplastic polymers. The barrier layer may optionally comprise an elastomeric material. The outer layers and the barrier layer may be coextruded or laminated together to form a single multi-layer sheet prior to thermoforming. The outer layers or walls of the wrapper 8 and liners 16, 32 are contemplated to have a thickness of about 0.1 mm to 10 mm, and the barrier layer(s) are contemplated to have a thickness of about 0.1 mm to 10 mm.

As shown in FIG. 2, the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16 includes linear portions disposed around the top wall 18, bottom wall 20 and opposed sidewalls 22, 24 at front portions thereof, such that front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16 is generally quadrilateral. As further shown in FIG. 2, the front edge 46 of the freezer liner 32 includes linear portions disposed around the top wall 34, bottom wall 36 and opposed sidewalls 38, 40 at front portions thereof, such that front edge 46 of the freezer liner 32 is also generally quadrilateral. As depicted in FIG. 2 and further shown in FIG. 3, the profile of the combination of the liners 16, 32 is preferably somewhat smaller than the profile of the wrapper 8 to thereby form the vacuum cavity VC (FIG. 3) within the spacing defined between the liners 16, 32 and the wrapper 8 when the liners 16, 32 are positioned inside the cavity 59 of the wrapper 8. The vacuum cavity VC is configured to receive an insulating material (not shown) that may be described as a vacuum core material. The vacuum core material may comprise a plurality of preformed individual core panels that are preformed and positioned between wrapper 8 and the liners 16, 32 during assembly prior to the formation of the thermal bridge 10 which is overmolded to portions of the wrapper 8 and the liners 16, 32 as further described below. Alternatively, the vacuum core material may comprise silica powder or other suitable loose filler material that is inserted (e.g. blown) into the vacuum cavity VC after wrapper 8, liners 16, 32, and thermal bridge 10 are formed into a unitary composite structure.

[0029] As configured in assembly, the front edges 30, 46 of the liners 16, 32 are spaced- apart from each other at the linear portion disposed along the bottom wall 20 of the refrigerator liner 16 and the linear portion disposed along the top wall 34 of the freezer liner 32. Further, the front edges 30, 46 of the liners 16, 32 disposed along the opposed sidewalls 22, 24 and 38, 40 of the liners 16, 32, and the top wall 18 of the refrigerator liner 16 and the bottom wall 36 of the freezer liner 32 are spaced-apart from the linear portions defining the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8 in assembly.

[0030] When the vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 is assembled, as shown in FIG. 3, the thermal bridge 10 connects to the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8, to the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16, and to the front edge 46 of the freezer liner 32 to thereby interconnect the wrapper 8 and the liners 16, 32 into an overmolded composite structure. The thermal bridge 10 may be formed from a suitable material that is substantially impervious to gasses to maintain a vacuum in the vacuum cavity VC, and also having a low coefficient of thermal conductivity to reduce or prevent transfer of heat between the wrapper 8 and the liners 16, 32. For use with the present concept, the thermal bridge 10 is preferably formed utilizing a molding process, and specifically, may include a reaction injection molding (RIM) process as further described below. In an RIM process, the thermal bridge 10 is likely formed in a mold using a polyurethane material. Other materials suitable for an RIM process may include, but are not limited to, polyureas, polyisocyanurates, polyesters, polyphenols, polyepoxides, thermoplastic elastomers, polycarbonate, and nylon materials. Using an RIM process of the present concept, the thermal bridge 10 is overmolded to the refrigerator liner 16, the freezer liner 32 and wrapper 8 at the front edges 30, 46, 60, respectively, thereof. In this way, the vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 can be a unitary part after the thermal bridge 10 is cast onto the front edges 30, 46, 60, of the liners 16, 32 and the wrapper 8.

[0031] When refrigerator 1 (FIG. 1) is in use, the wrapper 8 is typically exposed to ambient room temperature air, whereas the liners 16, 32 are generally exposed to refrigerated air in the refrigerator compartment 3 or the freezer compartment 4. With the thermal bridge 10 being made of a material that is substantially non-conductive with respect to heat, the thermal bridge 10 reduces transfer of heat from the wrapper 8 to the liners 16, 32.

[0032] Thermal bridge 10 may include linear portions that are interconnected to form a ring-like structure having a quadrilateral perimeter or outer coupling portion 62 and upper and lower quadrilateral inner coupling portions 64, 66. The upper and lower inner coupling portions 64, 66 define upper and lower openings 12A, 12B that generally correspond to the openings 31, 47 defined by the front edges 30, 46 of the refrigerator liner 16, and freezer liner 32 of the cabinet structure 2. In assembly, the outer coupling portion 62 is overmolded to the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8. Further, the inner coupling portions 64, 66 are disposed inside of the outer coupling portion 62 and set back therefrom, as further described below. In assembly, the upper and lower inner coupling portions 64, 66 are overmolded to the front edges 30, 46 of the refrigerator liner 16, and freezer liner 32, respectively. It will be understood that the thermal bridge 10 may have various shapes and configurations as may be required for a particular application, and it is further contemplated that the thermal bridge 10 can be used in a refrigerator having multiple liners (as shown in FIG. 2 with a refrigerator liner and a freezer liner) or in a refrigerator having a single liner for use as a refrigerator or freezer only.

[0033] Referring now to FIG. 4, the refrigerator 1 is shown in a cross-sectional view having the refrigerator liner 16 and freezer liner 32 coupled to the thermal bridge 10 at upper and lower openings 12A, 12B, respectively. Further, the wrapper 8 is also coupled to the thermal bridge 10, such that the thermal bridge 10 interconnects the wrapper 8 with the refrigerator liner 16 and freezer liner 32. Specifically, the thermal bridge 10 of the present concept is overmolded to the liners 16, 32 and wrapper 8 to hermetically seal the components together as a unitary whole as shown in FIG. 3. As used herein, the term

"overmolded" and/or "overmolding" refers to a process by which one thermoplastic material is molded over another material(s) to form a unitary part. In an overmolding process of the present concept, a first component (or multiple components) are formed and placed in a mold. After positioning the first component in the mold, a second component is injected into and molded in the mold that already contains the first component. In this way, the first and second components are adhered to each other over at least a portion of a surface of the first component. The overmolding process of the present concept is further described below.

Referring now to FIG. 5, an upper portion 10A of the thermal bridge 10 is shown having the outer coupling portion 62 disposed above the upper inner coupling portion

64. The outer coupling portion 62 is interconnected with the upper inner coupling portion 64 by a central wall or web 70 having both an upright portion 72 and a horizontal portion 74. As shown in FIG. 5, the outer coupling portion 62 is coupled to the upright portion 72 of the central wall or web 70, such that the outer coupling portion 62 is raised above the upper inner coupling portion 64. Further, the upper inner coupling portion 64 is staggered or offset relative to the outer coupling portion 62. Specifically, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 5, the upper inner coupling portion 64 is disposed inward and below the outer coupling portion 62 as disposed on an end of the horizontal portion 74 of the central wall or web 70. As shown in FIG. 5, the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8 may include an angled transverse wall 76 and an end flange portion 78 that is received in the outer coupling portion 62 of the thermal bridge 10. The angle of the transverse portion

76 of the wrapper 8 allows the top wall 50 of the wrapper 8 to be flush with an outer surface 80 of the thermal bridge 10, when the end flange portion 78 is received in the outer coupling portion 62 of the thermal bridge 10. The end flange portion 78 is contemplated to be part of the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8 that is received in the outer coupling portion 62 thereof for providing a surface for attachment of the outer coupling portion 62 at upper and lower contact surfaces 62A, 62B thereof. Similarly, the refrigerator liner 16 includes an angled transverse portion 82 extending off of top wall 18 thereof, and leading to an end flange portion 84 which is received in upper inner coupling portion 64. The angle of transverse portion 82 of the refrigerator liner 16 allows for the inner surface of top wall 18 to align with an inner surface 81 of the thermal bridge 10.

With the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16 received in the inner upper coupling portion 64, the end flange portion 84 provides a surface for the thermal bridge 10 to adhere to the refrigerator liner 16 at contact surfaces 64A, 64B at upper inner coupling portion 64. Thus, the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8 is not only spaced-apart from the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16 so as to be outside of the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16 (as indicated by arrow A), but is also offset laterally outward from the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16 (as indicated by arrow B). Similarly, the thermal bridge 10 includes a staggered configuration for outer coupling portion 62 relative to the upper inner coupling portion 64 for receiving the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8 and the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16. This staggered configuration is also present between the wrapper 8 and the freezer liner 32, as further described below.

[0035] Referring now to FIG. 6, a middle portion 10B of the thermal bridge 10 is shown having inner upper coupling portion 64 disposed above lower inner coupling portion 66. The lower inner coupling portion 66 is interconnected with the upper inner coupling portion 64 by a central wall or web 90. The web 90 includes outwardly opening upper and lower channels 92, 94 that are configured to a receive attachment flanges 96, 98 of a trim member 100. It is contemplated that the thermal bridge 10 may also be over molded to the trim member 100 in assembly. As further shown in FIG. 6, the upper inner coupling portion 64 is disposed above the lower inner coupling portion 66. Further, the upper inner coupling portion 64 is not staggered or offset relative to the lower inner coupling portion 66, but rather they are aligned with one another. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 6, the refrigerator liner 16 includes the transverse portion 82 extending off of bottom wall 20 thereof, and leading to the end flange portion 84 which is received in the upper inner coupling portion 64. Thus, the transverse portion 82 of the refrigerator liner 16 is disposed all the way around the opening 31 of the refrigerator liner 16 at top wall 18, bottom wall 20 and opposed side walls 22, 24 at front portions thereof. The end flange portion 84 is also disposed fully around the refrigerator liner 16 extending outwardly from transverse portion 82, and defining a surface for adhering engagement with contact surfaces 64A, 64B of the upper inner coupling portion 64 of the thermal bridge 10.

[0036] Similarly, the freezer liner 32 includes a transverse portion 102 extending off of top wall 34 thereof, and leading to an end flange portion 104 which is received in the lower inner coupling portion 66. Like the refrigerator liner, the transverse portion 102 of the freezer liner 32 is disposed all the way around the opening 47 of the freezer liner 32 at top wall 34, bottom wall 36 and opposed side walls 38, 40 at front portions thereof. The end flange portion 104 is also disposed fully around the freezer liner 32 extending outwardly from transverse portion 102, and defining a surface for adhering engagement with upper and lower contact surfaces 66A, 66B of the upper inner coupling portion 64 of the thermal bridge 10 which are overmolded to the end flange portion 104.

[0037] Referring now to FIG. 7, a lower portion IOC of the thermal bridge 10 is shown having the outer coupling portion 62 disposed below the lower inner coupling portion 66. The outer coupling portion 62 is interconnected with the lower inner coupling portion 66 by the central wall or web 70 having the upright portion 72 and the horizontal portion 74. As shown in FIG. 7, the outer coupling portion 62 is raised above the lower inner coupling portion 66. Further, the lower inner coupling portion 66 is staggered or offset relative to the outer coupling portion 62. Specifically, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 7, the lower inner coupling portion 66 is disposed inward and below the outer coupling portion 62 as disposed on an end of the horizontal portion 74 of the central wall or web 70. Thus, the staggered configuration of the outer coupling portion 62 and the lower inner coupling portion 66 is akin to the staggered configuration of the outer coupling portion 62 and the upper inner coupling portion 64 shown in FIG. 5. As further shown in FIG. 7, the angle of the transverse portion 102 of the freezer liner 32 allows the bottom wall 36 of the freezer liner 32 to be flush with an inner surface 81 of the thermal bridge 10, when the end flange portion 104 is received in the lower inner coupling portion 66 of the thermal bridge 10. Thus, the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8 is not only spaced-apart from the front edge 46 of the freezer liner 32 so as to be outside of the front edge 46 of the freezer liner 32 (as indicated by arrow A), but is also offset laterally outward from the front edge 46 of the freezer liner 32 (as indicated by arrow B). Similarly, the thermal bridge 10 includes a staggered configuration for outer coupling portion 62 relative to the lower inner coupling portion 66 for receiving the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8 and the front edge 46 of the freezer liner 32. In assembly, it is contemplated that the outer coupling portion 62 of the thermal bridge 10 is disposed outwardly (as indicated by arrow A shown in FIG. 5 and arrow A shown in FIG. 7) relative to the upper inner coupling portion 64 (FIG. 5) and the lower inner coupling portion 66 (FIG. 7). Further, the outer coupling portion 62 of the thermal bridge 10 is also offset in a laterally outward direction relative to the upper inner coupling portion 64 (FIG. 5) and the lower inner coupling portion 66 (FIG. 7) as indicated by arrow B in FIG. 5 and arrow B in FIG. 7.

[0038] Thus, as shown in FIGS. 5-7, the end flange portions 78, 84 and 104 of the wrapper 8, refrigerator liner 16, and freezer liner 32, respectively, include first and second outer contact surfaces on opposed sides thereof. These opposed contact surfaces of the end flange portions 78, 84 and 104 are enrobed or covered by a resin material used to form the contact surfaces 62A, 62B; 64A, 64B; and 66A, 66B of the thermal bridge 10 to adhere the thermal bridge 10 to the wrapper 8, refrigerator liner 16, and freezer liner 32, as further described below.

Referring now to FIG. 8, a mold 110 is shown having a body portion 112, wherein the body portion 112 includes first and second portions 112A, 112B. The first and second portions 112A, 112B of the body portion 112 of the mold 110 generally correspond to the locations of the refrigerator compartment 28 and freezer compartment 44 as configured in FIG. 3. The body portion 112 includes a mold cavity or mold form disposed in an interior thereof, wherein the mold cavity is a hollow space having an inverse configuration of the thermal bridge 10 for casting the thermal bridge 10 using the mold 110. Thus, the mold 110 is configured to receive a resin mixture for forming the thermal bridge 10 in the mold cavity therein. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 8, the mold 110 is contemplated for use with a RIM process, wherein A-side and B-side components 114, 116, respectively, are mixed in an impinging mixer 118 and dispersed into the mold cavity of the mold 110 through supply lines 120. Specifically, the supply lines 120 provide the mixture of the A-side component 114 and the B-side component 116 through access apertures 122 which provide access to the mold cavity of the mold 110. There are several methods known in the art for providing access to a cavity of a mold, all of which are contemplated for use with the present concept. The mold 110 is contemplated to be made of a metallic material, such as aluminum and is configured to be heated to facilitate the formation of the thermal bridge. The A-side and B-side components 114, 116 may be polyurethane reacting materials which mix in the impinging mixer 118 and are then introduced into the mold cavity of the heated mold 110 through supply lines 120 under pressure. The A-side and B-side components 114, 116 react with one another when mixed and expand in a mold cavity of the mold 110. The reaction mixture is then allowed to cure to form the final thermal bridge 10. The mold 110 may be cooled to facilitate the curing process. Once the thermal bridge 10 is formed, the mold 110 is removed to deliver the overmolded composite part. Generally, the A-side component 114 is an isocyanate containing material and the B-side component 116 is a polyol containing material which may include a variety of chain extenders, cross-linkers, catalyst, surfactants, blowing agents and other like components.

[0040] In the embodiment shown in FIG. 8, the body portion 112 of the mold 110 includes an outer channel 124 and first and second inner channels 126, 128. The channels 124, 126 and 128 are configured to receive components of the vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 of the present concept for positioning within the mold 110 prior to the injection of a resin mixture used to form the thermal bridge 10. Specifically, outer channel 124 includes a configuration akin to the configuration of the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8 shown in FIG. 2. Similarly, the first and second inner channels 126, 128 include configurations similar to the front edges 30, 46 of the refrigerator liner 16 and the freezer liner 32, respectively, as shown in FIG. 2. In this way, the wrapper 8 and the liners 16, 32 can be positioned such that the front edges thereof are inserted into the mold cavity of the mold 110, as shown in FIG. 9. In FIG. 9, the refrigerator liner 16 and freezer liner 32 are inserted into the first and second channels 126, 128 of the mold 110 prior to the injection of the resin mixture into the mold cavity of the mold 110 for forming the thermal bridge 10 in an overmolding manner to connecting portions of the wrapper 8 and liners 16, 32.

[0041] Referring now to FIG. 10, the wrapper 8 is shown inserted over the refrigerator liner 16 and freezer liner 32, such that the wrapper 8 is received in the outer channel 124 of the mold 110. In this way, the refrigerator liner 16 and the freezer liner 32 are received within the cavity 59 of the wrapper 8 to form the vacuum cavity VC of the vacuum insulated structure 2 shown in FIG. 3. Thus, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 10, the wrapper 8, refrigerator liner 16 and freezer liner 32 have portions thereof received within a mold cavity of the mold 110. In this way, the front edges 60, 30, and 46, of the wrapper 8, and liners 16, 32, are received either fully or partially within the mold cavity of the mold 110 prior to the injection of the resin mixture used to form the thermal bridge 10. Specifically the end flange portions 78, 84 and 104 of the wrapper 8, and liners 16, 32 are received in the mold cavity to define coupling surfaces for overmolding coupling portions of the thermal bridge 10 thereto.

[0042] Referring now to FIG. 11, the mold 110 is shown having a mold cavity 130 disposed within an interior of the body portion 112 of the mold 110. The mold cavity 130 is shown filled with a resin mixture M which is introduced into the mold cavity 130 under pressure from the impinging mixer 118 shown in FIG. 10. In FIG. 11, the first portion 112A of the mold 110 is shown having outer coupling portion 62 and upper inner coupling portion 64 of the thermal bridge 10 formed therein. The top wall 18 of the refrigerator liner 16 is shown inserted into the first inner channel 126 of the mold 110 for receiving the end flange portion 84 thereof within a portion of the mold cavity 130 used to form the upper inner coupling portion 64. As such, the upper and lower contact surfaces 64A,

64B surround or enrobe the end flange portion 84, such that the upper inner coupling portion 64 is overmolded to the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16 at end flange portion 84. Similarly, the end flange portion 78 of the top wall 50 of the wrapper 8 is inserted into outer channel 124 of the mold 110 for positioning within the mold cavity

130 at a location configured to mold the outer coupling portion 62 of the thermal bridge

10. As the resin mixture M is added to the mold cavity 130, the upper and lower contact surfaces 62A, 62B form around the end flange portion 78, such that the outer coupling portion 62 is overmolded to the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8 at end flange portion 78.

Thus, the overmolding of the thermal bridge 10 to the wrapper 8 and refrigerator liner 16 at upper portions thereof in the mold 110 provides for an upper portion 10A of the thermal bridge 10 depicted in FIG. 5 that has adhered to the end flange portions 78, 84 of the wrapper 8 and refrigerator liner 16, respectively.

Referring now to FIG. 12A, the mold 110 is shown with the bottom wall 20 of the refrigerator liner 16 having the front edge 30 and end flange portion 84 thereof disposed within the mold cavity 130. The bottom wall 20 of the refrigerator liner 16 accesses the mold cavity 130 through the first inner channel 126 of the mold 110. As further shown in

FIG. 12A, the front edge 46 and end flange portion 104 of the freezer liner 32 is shown inserted into the mold cavity 130 through second inner channel 128 of the mold 110. The front edges 30, 46 and end flange portions 84, 104 of the refrigerator liner 16 and freezer liner 32 are shown suspended within portions of the mold cavity 130 configured to form the upper and lower inner coupling portions 64, 66 as shown in FIG. 12B. The portions of the refrigerator liner 16 and freezer liner 32 disposed within the mold cavity 130 can be suspended within the mold cavity 130 using any number of sacrificial inserts placed within the mold cavity 130 prior to the insertion of the front edges 30, 46 of refrigerator liner 16 and freezer liner 32 into the mold cavity 130. As specifically illustrated in FIG.

12A, the mold cavity 130 includes sidewalls 136 that are used to define the outer surfaces of the thermal bridge 10 after a resin mixture M is injected into the mold cavity 130 and allowed to cure therein. Thus, once the components (such as the wrapper 8 and liners 16, 32) have been inserted into the mold 110 at the respective channels thereof, an overmolding resin composition M is introduced into the heated mold cavity 130 in a molten form. In this way, the previously formed wrapper 8, refrigerator liner 16 and freezer liner 32 are adhered together with the thermal bridge 10 by overmolding portions of the thermal bridge 10 to contact surfaces of the pre-formed components.

[0044] With reference to FIG. 12B, the middle portion 10B of the thermal bridge 10 is formed as the resin mixture M is introduced into the mold cavity 130. Specifically, portions 132, 134 of the mold cavity 130 are configured to form the upper and lower inner coupling portions 64, 66 with contact surfaces 64A, 64B and 66A, 66B which enrobe, surround, and adhere to end flange portions 84, 104 of the refrigerator liner 16 and freezer liner 32 in an overmolding procedure. The middle portion 10B of the thermal bridge 10 formed in the portion of the mold 110 shown in FIG. 12B is illustrated in FIG. 6.

[0045] With reference to FIG. 13, the mold 110 is shown having the mold cavity 130 configured for forming the lower portion IOC of the thermal bridge 10 that is illustrated in FIG. 7. End flange portions 78, 104 of the wrapper 8 and freezer liner 32 are shown overmolded within outer coupling portion 62 and lower inner coupling portion 66, respectively. In the embodiments shown in FIGS. 11-13, portions of the mold 110 are shown having mold form cavity configurations used to overmold to portions of the wrapper 8, refrigerator liner 16, and freezer liner 32 for forming a unitary overmolded composite structure 2 as shown in FIG. 3. It is contemplated that the overmolding of the end flange portions of these components is continuous throughout the cavity 130 of the mold 110, such that a hermetic airtight seal is formed between the thermal bridge 10 and the wrapper 8, refrigerator liner 16 and freezer liner 32. In this way, the vacuum cavity VC (FIGS. 3 and 10) is an airtight cavity which can hold a vacuum necessary providing a vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2.

[0046] Thus, the present concept further includes a method of making a cabinet structure, wherein the method includes the following steps: a) forming a wrapper 8 from a sheet of material, preferably sheet metal, whereby the wrapper 8 has an opening 61 and a front edge 60 extending around the opening 61 (FIG. 2); b) forming a first liner 16 from a sheet of material, preferably sheet metal, whereby the first liner 16 has an opening 31 and a front edge 30 extending around the opening 31 of the first liner 16 (FIG. 2); c) forming a second liner 32 from a sheet of material, preferably sheet metal, whereby the second liner 32 has an opening 47 and a front edge 46 extending around the opening 47 of the second liner 32 (FIG. 2); d) providing a mold 110 having a body portion 112 with an outer channel 124 and first and second inner channels 126, 128, wherein all channels 124, 126, and 128 open into a mold cavity 130 disposed within an interior of the body portion 112, the mold cavity 130 having an inverse configuration of a thermal bridge (FIG. 8); e) positioning the front edge 30 of the first liner 16 in the first inner channel 126 of the mold 110 whereby the front edge 30 of the first liner 16 is partially disposed within the mold cavity 130 of the mold 110 through the first inner channel 126 of the mold 110 (FIGS. 9 and 12A); f) positioning the front edge 46 of the second liner 32 in the second inner channel 128 of the mold 110 whereby the front edge 46 of the second liner 32 is partially disposed within the mold cavity 130 of the mold 110 through the second inner channel 128 of the mold 110 (FIGS. 9 and 12A); g) positioning the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8 in the outer channel 124 of the mold 110 whereby the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8 is partially disposed within the mold cavity 130 of the mold 110 through the outer channel 124 of the mold 110 (FIGS. 10, 11 and 13); h) introducing a resin mixture M into the mold cavity 130 to substantially fill the mold cavity 130 (FIG. 12B); and i) forming a thermal bridge 10 from the resin mixture M within the mold cavity 130, the thermal bridge 10 including an outer coupling portion 62 overmolded to a portion of the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8, a first inner coupling portion 64 overmolded to a portion of the front edge 30 of the first liner 16, and a second inner coupling portion 66 overmolded to a portion of the front edge 46 of the second liner 32 (FIGS. 3 and 5-7).

[0047] It will be understood by one having ordinary skill in the art that construction of the described device and other components is not limited to any specific material. Other exemplary embodiments of the device disclosed herein may be formed from a wide variety of materials, unless described otherwise herein.

[0048] For purposes of this disclosure, the term "coupled" (in all of its forms, couple, coupling, coupled, etc.) generally means the joining of two components (electrical or mechanical) directly or indirectly to one another. Such joining may be stationary in nature or movable in nature. Such joining may be achieved with the two components

(electrical or mechanical) and any additional intermediate members being integrally formed as a single unitary body with one another or with the two components. Such joining may be permanent in nature or may be removable or releasable in nature unless otherwise stated.

[0049] It is also important to note that the construction and arrangement of the elements of the device as shown in the exemplary embodiments is illustrative only. Although only a few embodiments of the present innovations have been described in detail in this disclosure, those skilled in the art who review this disclosure will readily appreciate that many modifications are possible (e.g., variations in sizes, dimensions, structures, shapes and proportions of the various elements, values of parameters, mounting arrangements, use of materials, colors, orientations, etc.) without materially departing from the novel teachings and advantages of the subject matter recited. For example, elements shown as integrally formed may be constructed of multiple parts or elements shown as multiple parts may be integrally formed, the operation of the interfaces may be reversed or otherwise varied, the length or width of the structures and/or members or connector or other elements of the system may be varied, the nature or number of adjustment positions provided between the elements may be varied. It should be noted that the elements and/or assemblies of the system may be constructed from any of a wide variety of materials that provide sufficient strength or durability, in any of a wide variety of colors, textures, and combinations. Accordingly, all such modifications are intended to be included within the scope of the present innovations. Other substitutions, modifications, changes, and omissions may be made in the design, operating conditions, and arrangement of the desired and other exemplary embodiments without departing from the spirit of the present innovations.

[0050] It will be understood that any described processes or steps within described processes may be combined with other disclosed processes or steps to form structures within the scope of the present device. The exemplary structures and processes disclosed herein are for illustrative purposes and are not to be construed as limiting.

[0051] It is also to be understood that variations and modifications can be made on the aforementioned structures and methods without departing from the concepts of the present device, and further it is to be understood that such concepts are intended to be covered by the following claims unless these claims by their language expressly state otherwise. The above description is considered that of the illustrated embodiments only.

Modifications of the device will occur to those skilled in the art and to those who make or use the device. Therefore, it is understood that the embodiments shown in the drawings and described above is merely for illustrative purposes and not intended to limit the scope of the device, which is defined by the following claims as interpreted according to the principles of patent law, including the Doctrine of Equivalents.