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Title:
MACHINE COMPARTMENT FOR A VACUUM INSULATED STRUCTURE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/034665
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A refrigerator cabinet is provided that includes an inner liner and an external wrapper. The inner liner is positioned within the external wrapper such that a gap is defined between the external wrapper and inner liner. The external wrapper includes a machine compartment including: a top wall, an interior wall, a bottom wall, a first side wall and a second side wall. A foot is defined by the external wrapper and is positioned below the machine compartment. The foot is at least partially defined by the bottom wall and at least partially supports the refrigerator cabinet.

Inventors:
BECKNER, Jeffrey P. (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
ALLARD, Paul B. (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
HUNTER, Lynne F. (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
FRATTINI, Gustavo (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
NAIK, Abhay (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
Application Number:
US2016/047558
Publication Date:
February 22, 2018
Filing Date:
August 18, 2016
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
International Classes:
F25B1/00; F16L59/065; F25D23/06; F25D23/10
Foreign References:
US20110011119A12011-01-20
RU2162576C22001-01-27
RU2234645C12004-08-20
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CALLAGHAN, Terry S. (Price Heneveld LLP, 695 Kenmoor S.E.,P.O. Box 256, Grand Rapids Michigan, 49501-2567, US)
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Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A refrigerator cabinet comprising:

an inner liner;

an external wrapper, the inner liner positioned within the external wrapper such that a gap is defined between the external wrapper and the inner liner, wherein the external wrapper includes a machine compartment comprising:

a top wall;

an interior wall;

a bottom wall;

a first side wall; and

a second side wall; and

a foot defined by the external wrapper and positioned below the machine compartment, wherein the foot is at least partially defined by the bottom wall and at least partially supports the refrigerator cabinet.

2. The cabinet of claim 1, wherein the foot is partially defined by a base wall of the external wrapper

3. The cabinet of claim 2, wherein the base wall and the bottom wall are substantially parallel and the foot is hollow.

4. The cabinet of any of claims 1-3, wherein the interior wall of the machine compartment is spaced apart from the inner liner.

5. The cabinet of any of claims 1-4, wherein the top wall has a greater depth than the bottom wall.

6. The cabinet of any of claims 1-5, wherein the gap has a pressure of less than about 1000 Pa.

7. The cabinet of any of claims 1-6, wherein the foot extends the length of the machine compartment.

8. The cabinet of any of claims 1-7, wherein the top wall is angled with respect to the bottom wall.

9. A method of forming a refrigerator cabinet, comprising the steps:

providing an external wrapper defining a rear surface;

deep-drawing the rear surface of the external wrapper to form a machine compartment defining a top wall, a bottom wall and an interior wall;

positioning an inner liner within the external wrapper such that a gap is defined between the inner liner and the interior wall of the machine compartment; and

drawing a vacuum within the gap.

10. The method of claim 9, further comprising the step:

constructing the machine compartment so that a planar extent of the bottom wall is angled toward a planar extent of the top wall.

11. The method of either of claims 9 and 10, further comprising the step:

constructing the machine compartment so that a surface having a radius of curvature is positioned between the top wall and the interior wall.

12. The method of any of claims 9-11, further comprising the step:

constructing the machine compartment so the machine compartment is positioned inboard on the refrigerator cabinet relative to the rear surface.

13. The method of any of claims 9-12, further comprising the step of:

constructing the external wrapper from a metal.

14. The method of any of claims 9-13, further comprising the step of:

deep-drawing the rear surface to form a foot positioned below the machine compartment that is defined by the external wrapper.

15. The method of claim 14, further comprising the step of:

deep-drawing the rear surface to form the foot such that the foot is configured to at least partially support the refrigerator cabinet.

16. The method of any of claims 9-15, further comprising the step:

constructing the machine compartment to form a machine compartment opening which is larger than the interior wall.

17. A method of forming a vacuum insulated structure, comprising the steps:

providing an external wrapper;

deep-drawing the external wrapper to form a machine compartment and a foot, wherein the foot is configured to at least partially support the vacuum insulated structure; positioning an inner liner within the external wrapper such that a gap is defined between the inner liner and the external wrapper; and

drawing a vacuum within the gap.

18. The method of claim 17, further comprising the step:

positioning the foot below the machine compartment.

19. The method of claim 18, further comprising the step:

forming the foot to be hollow.

20. The method of claim 19, further comprising the step:

forming the foot to extend the length of the machine compartment.

Description:
MACHINE COMPARTMENT FOR A VACUUM INSULATED STRUCTURE

BACKGROUND

[0001] The efficiency of a refrigerator may, at least in part, rely on the refrigerator's ability to keep items within the refrigerator cool and prevent heat from entering the refrigerator. The formation of compartments within the refrigerator may affect the refrigerator's insulative ability. Accordingly, new methods of compartment formation within refrigerators are sought.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

[0002] According to one aspect of the present disclosure, a refrigerator cabinet is provided that includes an inner liner and an external wrapper. The inner liner is positioned within the external wrapper such that a gap is defined between the external wrapper and inner liner. The external wrapper includes a machine compartment comprising: a top wall, an interior wall, a bottom wall, a first side wall and a second side wall. A foot is defined by the external wrapper and is positioned below the machine compartment. The foot is at least partially defined by the bottom wall and at least partially supports the refrigerator cabinet.

[0003] According to another aspect of the present disclosure, a method of forming a refrigerator cabinet is provided and includes the steps of providing an external wrapper defining a rear surface; deep-drawing the rear surface of the external wrapper to form a machine compartment defining a top wall, a bottom wall and an interior wall; positioning an inner liner within the external wrapper such that a gap is defined between the inner liner and the inner wall of the machine compartment; and drawing a vacuum within the gap-

[0004] According to yet another aspect of the present disclosure, a method of forming a vacuum insulated structure is provided that includes the steps of providing an external wrapper; deep-drawing the external wrapper to form a machine compartment and a foot, the foot configured to at least partially support the vacuum insulated structure; positioning an inner liner within the external wrapper such that a gap is defined between the inner liner and the external wrapper; and drawing a vacuum within the gap. [0005] These and other features, advantages, and objects of the present disclosure will be further understood and appreciated by those skilled in the art by reference to the following specification, claims, and appended drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0006] The foregoing summary, as well as the following detailed description of the disclosure, will be better understood when read in conjunction with the appended drawings. For the purpose of illustrating the disclosure, there are shown in the drawings, certain embodiment(s). It should be understood, however, that the disclosure is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown. Drawings are not necessarily to scale. Certain features of the disclosure may be exaggerated in scale or shown in schematic form in the interest of clarity and conciseness.

[0007] FIG. 1A is a top perspective view of a refrigerator cabinet, according to one example;

[0008] FIG. IB is an exploded top view perspective of the refrigerator cabinet of FIG. 1A, according to one example;

[0009] FIG. 2 is a rear view perspective of the refrigerator cabinet with an exposed machine compartment, according to one example;

[0010] FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view taken at line III of FIG. 2; and

[0011] FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional perspective view of a machine compartment of the refrigerator cabinet taken at line III of FIG. 2.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0012] Additional features and advantages of the invention will be set forth in the detailed description that follows and will be apparent to those skilled in the art from the description, or recognized by practicing the invention as described in the following description together with the claims and appended drawings.

[0013] As used herein, the term "and/or," when used in a list of two or more items, means that any one of the listed items can be employed by itself, or any combination of two or more of the listed items can be employed. For example, if a composition is described as containing components A, B, and/or C, the composition can contain A alone; B alone; C alone; A and B in combination; A and C in combination; B and C in combination; or A, B, and C in combination. [0014] In this document, relational terms, such as first and second, top and bottom, and the like, are used solely to distinguish one entity or action from another entity or action, without necessarily requiring or implying any actual such relationship or order between such entities or actions. The terms "comprises," "comprising," or any other variation thereof, are intended to cover a non-exclusive inclusion, such that a process, method, article, or apparatus that comprises a list of elements does not include only those elements but may include other elements not expressly listed or inherent to such process, method, article, or apparatus. An element proceeded by "comprises . . . a" does not, without more constraints, preclude the existence of additional identical elements in the process, method, article, or apparatus that comprises the element.

[0015] Referring to FIGS. 1A-4, a vacuum insulated structure (e.g., depicted as a refrigerator 10) includes a cabinet 14 having an inner liner 18 and an external wrapper 22. The inner liner 18 is positioned within the external wrapper 22 such that a gap 26 is defined between the external wrapper 22 and inner liner 18. The external wrapper 22 integrally defines a machine compartment 30. The machine compartment 30 includes a top wall 34, an interior wall 38, a bottom wall 42, a first side wall 46 and a second side wall 50. A foot 54 is defined by the external wrapper 22 and is positioned below the machine compartment 30. The foot 54 is at least partially defined by the bottom wall 42 and at least partially supports the refrigerator cabinet 14.

[0016] Referring now to FIGS. 1A and IB, the refrigerator 10 includes the cabinet 14.

The refrigerator 10 may take a variety of configurations including French door, side-by-side, top freezer, bottom freezer, counter depth, compact, built-in, and other types of refrigerators. The cabinet 14 includes the inner liner 18, the external wrapper 22 and may optionally include a shell 42. In the depicted example, the inner liner 18 has a generally rectangular box shape, but may take a variety of shapes including a cube, prism, parallelepiped, etc. and combinations thereof. The inner liner 18 may have a liner flange 48 disposed around the inner liner 18 which is connected to a plurality of liner walls 52 which define the inner liner 18. The inner liner 18 may be formed from a polymeric material having high barrier properties (e.g., low gas permeation), metals and combinations thereof. The inner liner 18 may be formed via thermo forming, injection molding, bending and/or forming. The liner walls 52 of the inner liner 18 may have a thickness ranging from between about 0.1 mm to about 2.0 mm. In a specific example, the liner walls 52 have a thickness of about 0.5 mm. [0017] The inner liner 18 is shaped and configured to mate, couple or otherwise be positioned within the external wrapper 22. The external wrapper 22 includes a plurality of wrapper walls 58 to which a wrapper flange 62 is coupled. The wrapper flange 62 and the liner flange 48 are configured to be coupled when the cabinet 14 is in an assembled configuration. The coupling of the liner flange 48 and the wrapper flange 62 may be performed such that an airtight, or hermetic, seal is formed between the inner liner 18 and the external wrapper 22. The hermetic seal of the wrapper flange 62 and the liner flange 48 may be achieved through use of adhesives, welding, and elastomeric gasket fitting under compression and/or crimping.

[0018] The external wrapper 22 may be formed of and by any of the materials and processes listed above in connection with the inner liner 18. The wrapper walls 58 of the external wrapper 22 may have a thickness ranging from between about 0.1 mm to about 1.0 mm. In a specific example, the wrapper walls 58 have a thickness of about 0.5 mm. The wrapper walls 58 of the external wrapper 22 may define a vacuum port 70. The vacuum port 70 may be positioned as illustrated or in a variety of positions about the external wrapper 22. It will be understood that the vacuum port 70 may be disposed on either the external wrapper 22 or inner liner 18. Further, more than one vacuum port 70 may be defined on either or both of the inner liner 18 and external wrapper 22. The vacuum port 70 may be used to access (e.g., draw a vacuum and/or perform maintenance within) the gap 26 once the inner liner 18 and the external wrapper 22 are bonded. The vacuum port 70 may have a diameter of between about 10 mm and about 50 mm, or between about 12.5 mm and about 25 mm. In examples utilizing more than one vacuum port 70, the sizes of the vacuum ports 70 may vary.

[0019] Once the inner liner 18 and the external wrapper 22 have been joined and the gap 26 defined, the gap 26 may have a thickness of between about 12 mm to about 60 mm.

The thickness of the gap 26 may vary throughout the refrigerator 10 or may remain constant. The gap 26 may have an air pressure of less than about 1 atm (101,325 Pa), less than about 0.5 atm (50,662.5 Pa), less than about 0.1 atm (10, 132.5 Pa), less than about

0.00986 atm (1000 pa), less than about 0.001 atm (101.325 Pa), or less than about 0.00001 atm (1.01 Pa). According to some examples, the gap 26 may be partially or fully filled with an insulator. The insulator may be a material configured to have low thermal conductivity. For example, the insulator may include precipitated silica, polyurethane foam, fumed silica, beads (e.g., of glass, ceramic, and/or an insulative polymer), hollow organic micro/nanospheres, hollow inorganic micro/nanospheres, silica aerogel, nano aerogel powder, perlite, glass fibers, polyisocyanurate, urea foam, rice hulls, rice husk ash, diatomaceous earth, cenospheres, polyethylene foam, vermiculite, fiberglass and combinations thereof. Optionally, an opacifier (e.g., Ti0 2 , SiC and/or carbon black) may be included in the insulator or materials configured to change and/or reduce the radiation conduction, the flow properties and/or packing factor of the insulator. Further, one or more gas (e.g., oxygen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide) and/or moisture getters may be included in the insulator.

[0020] Referring now to FIGS. 2-4, a rear surface 80 of the external wrapper 22 defines the machine compartment 30. As explained above, the machine compartment 30 includes the top wall 34, the interior wall 38, the bottom wall 42, the first side wall 46 and the second side wall 50. The walls 34, 38, 42, 46, 50 cooperate to define a compartment space 84 and a compartment opening 86 permitting access to the compartment space 84. The walls 34, 38, 42, 46, 50 each include a planar extent. According to some examples, the compartment opening 86 may be covered with a shroud during operation. The compartment space 84 of the machine compartment 30 is a space configured to hold various mechanical and electrical components of the refrigerator 10. In the depicted example, positioned within the compartment space 84 are a compressor 88 and a fan 92. It will be understood that more or less components (e.g., circuit boards, tubes, hoses, wires, condensers, valves) may be positioned within the compartment space 84. The machine compartment 30 extends inboard (i.e., into the refrigerator 10) relative to the rear surface 80.

[0021] The machine compartment 30 is integrally defined by the external wrapper 22. As such, according to various examples, the machine compartment 30 includes no welds or other joints between the top wall 34, the interior wall 38, the bottom wall 42, the first side wall 46 and the second side wall 50. The machine compartment 30 may be formed using a variety of techniques. According to one example, the machine compartment 30 may be formed via a deep-drawing technique. In such a deep-drawing technique, the external wrapper 22 is radially drawn into a forming die by the mechanical action of a punch. The deep drawing process may result in a machine compartment 30 which has a depth (i.e., inboard direction) greater than its diameter. During the deep-drawing process, the external wrapper 22 may be redrawn through a series of dies to achieve a desired shape for the machine compartment 30. Deep-drawing may result in the machine compartment 30 being inboard of the rear surface 80. It will be understood that other forming techniques capable of forming the machine compartment 30 integrally from the external wrapper 22 may also be used without departing from the teachings provided herein.

[0022] The top wall 34, the interior wall 38, the bottom wall 42, the first side wall 46 and the second side wall 50 may each be sized and angled (with respect to the rear surface 80) differently than one another (i.e., not parallel). In other words, the angle and size of the planar extent of each of the walls 34, 38, 42, 46, and 50 may be different. For example, the top wall 34 and bottom walls 42 may be angled toward a Z-axis direction off of an X- Y plane, the first and second side walls 46, 50 may be angled in an X-axis direction off of a Y-Z plane, and the interior wall 38 may be angled in a Y-axis direction off of an X-Z plane. The walls 34, 38, 42, 46, 50 may each be angled in their respective directions by between about 0° and about 10°, or between about 0.5° and about 5°. In a specific example, the interior wall 38 may be angled in an inboard Y-axis direction such that a top portion of the machine compartment 30 is volumetrically larger than a bottom portion (i.e., the top wall 34 has a greater depth in the gap 26 than the bottom wall 42).

[0023] Integral formation of the machine compartment 30 from the rear surface 80 of the external wrapper 22 results in a plurality of interfaces between the walls 34, 38, 42, 46, 50 themselves as well as the top, bottom, first and second side walls 34, 42, 46, 50 and the rear surface 80. According to various examples, the interfaces may be curved (i.e., have a radius of curvature) or be substantially 90° angles. The top wall 34 to rear surface 80 interface may have a radius of curvature of between about 0 mm and about 15 mm. The top wall 34 to interior wall 38 interface may have a radius of curvature of between about 0 mm and about 40 mm. The radius of curvature of an interface between the bottom wall 42 and the second side wall 50 may vary. Proximate the compartment opening 86, the radius of curvature may be between about 0 mm to about 10 mm, while proximate the interior wall 38 the radius of curvature may be between about 0 mm and about 40 mm.

[0024] The inner liner 18 (FIG. 3) is formed such that the gap 26 extends around the machine compartment 30. The inner liner 18 is in a spaced apart configuration from the top wall 34, the interior wall 38, and the first and second side walls 46, 50. In the depicted example, the inner liner 18 integrally defines an upper wall 94 and an inboard wall 96. The upper wall 94 is positioned above the top wall 34 of the machine compartment 30. The inboard wall 96 is positioned inboard of the interior wall 38. The upper wall 94 and the inboard wall 96 may or may not have substantially the same angling as the respective top wall 34 and interior wall 38. In examples where the upper wall 94 and the inboard wall 96 share the same angling as the top wall 34 and the interior wall 38, the width of the gap 26 may be uniform around the machine compartment 30. It will be understood that the upper wall 94 and the inboard wall 96 may not share the same angling or shape as the top wall 34 and the interior wall 38 such that the width of the gap 26 is not uniform. The upper wall 94 and the inboard wall 96 may be formed in a substantially similar manner to that described in connection with the machine compartment 30, or by a different process.

[0025] The formation of the machine compartment 30 in the rear surface 80 of the external wrapper 22 also forms the foot 54. The foot 54 is positioned below the machine compartment 30 and may form a bottom of the refrigerator 10. The foot 54 is composed of the bottom wall 42 of the machine compartment 30, the rear surface 80 of the external wrapper 22 and a base wall 100 of the external wrapper 22. As such, the foot 54 is integrally defined by the external wrapper 22. As the foot 54 is partially formed by the bottom wall 42, the foot 54 extends the length of, and as deep as, the machine compartment 30. The gap 26 extends into the foot 54 and as such, the foot 54 may be hollow. In examples where an insulator is present in the gap 26, the insulator may fill the foot 54. According to various examples, the foot 54 may be sufficiently rigid or stiff to at least partially support and/or stabilize the refrigerator 10. In examples where the machine compartment 30 is positioned higher on the external wrapper 22, the inner liner 18 may extend into the foot 54 (i.e., below the machine compartment 30).

[0026] It will be understood that although described as integrally formed from the external wrapper 22, the machine compartment 30 may alternatively be a separately formed and integral piece which is coupled to the external wrapper 22. For example, the machine compartment 30 may be deep-drawn into the appropriate shape and welded to the external wrapper 22. Such an example may be advantageous in balancing the practical limitations of deep-drawing while still reducing the overall number of welds used to form the machine compartment 30.

[0027] Use of the present disclosure may offer several advantages. First, by integrally forming the machine compartment 30 from the external wrapper 22, the likelihood of air leaks into the gap 26 is reduced. For example, traditional refrigerators may suffer from multiple weld locations (e.g., to form a machine space or other shape) which may provide potential locations for air exchange between the environment and the cabinet, thereby reducing insulating efficiency. Use of the deep-drawing process allows for the elimination of potential leak points by integrally forming the machine compartment 30 and its walls from the external wrapper 22. Second, deep drawing of the machine compartment 30 may reduce the cost (e.g., related to manufacturing time and part cost) of the refrigerator 10. For example, as the machine compartment 30 is formed from a single piece of material, costs associated with multiple components and their manufacturing time may be eliminated. Third, formation of the foot 54 may allow for the reduction, or elimination, of traditional support mechanisms. For example, in traditional refrigerators, exterior wrappers may be slanted inward such that machine spaces may be positioned below or exterior to the exterior wrapper. In such configurations, a separate support component may be positioned across the machine space to provide stability to the refrigerator. Use of the integrally defined machine compartment 30 allows for the formation of the foot 54 which provides stability and support to the refrigerator 10. Further, as the foot 54 is formed at the same time as the machine compartment 30, additional manufacturing time may be eliminated. Fifth, vacuum insulated cabinets 14, panels and structures may provide enhanced insulative properties as compared to traditional foam filled insulating structures in addition to a reduced size (e.g., thickness decrease of greater than about 55%, 60% or 70%)). Sixth, as explained above, it will be understood that the present disclosure is not limited to cabinets for refrigerators, but may be used to from a variety of panels, structures and containers which have insulative properties. It will be understood that although the disclosure was described in terms of a refrigerator, the disclosure may equally be applied to coolers, ovens, dishwashers, laundry applications, water heaters, household insulation systems, ductwork and other applications.

[0028] Modifications of the disclosure will occur to those skilled in the art and to those who make or use the disclosure. Therefore, it is understood that the embodiments shown in the drawings and described above are merely for illustrative purposes and not intended to limit the scope of the disclosure, which is defined by the following claims as interpreted according to the principles of patent law, including the doctrine of equivalents.

[0029] It will be understood by one having ordinary skill in the art that construction of the described disclosure and other components, is not limited to any specific material. Other exemplary embodiments of the disclosure disclosed herein may be formed from a wide variety of materials, unless described otherwise herein.

[0030] 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.

[0031] It is also important to note that the construction and arrangement of the elements of the disclosure, 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, and the nature or numeral 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.

[0032] 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 disclosure. The exemplary structures and processes disclosed herein are for illustrative purposes and are not to be construed as limiting.

[0033] 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 disclosure, 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. Further, the claims as set forth below, are incorporated into and constitute part of this Detailed Description.