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Title:
VACUUM INSULATED STRUCTURE WITH THERMAL BRIDGE BREAKER WITH HEAT LOOP
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/108204
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A refrigerator includes a wrapper having an opening with a front edge. A liner includes an opening and a front edge. A thermal bridge interconnects the wrapper and the liner to form a vacuum insulated cavity therebetween. The thermal bridge includes an outwardly opening channel and first and second inwardly opening channels. The front edge of wrapper is received in the first inwardly opening channel, and the front edge of the liner is received in the second inwardly opening channel. The second inwardly opening channel is inset relative to the first inwardly opening channel on the thermal bridge. A conduit is disposed within the outwardly opening channel and is configured to circulate a heated medium. The wrapper and liner are contemplated to be comprised of conductive materials, such sheet metal, while the thermal bridge is comprised of a thermally resistant material, such as a polymeric material.

Inventors:
DEKA, Lakshya J. (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
DHERDE, Eric J. (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
HUNTER, Lynne F. (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
LIU, Hua (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
MILLER, Dustin M. (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
MUKHERJEE, Diptesh (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
NAIK, Abhay (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
PATHAK, Sanjesh Kumar (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
Application Number:
US2017/063947
Publication Date:
June 06, 2019
Filing Date:
November 30, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION (2000 North M-63, MD 3601Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022, US)
International Classes:
F25D11/00; F16L59/06; F25D21/04
Foreign References:
SU1124169A11984-11-15
JPH1114241A1999-01-22
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CALLAGHAN, Terry S. et al. (Price Heneveld LLP, 695 Kenmoor S.E.,P.O. Box 256, Grand Rapids Michigan, 49501-2567, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A refrigerator, comprising:

a wrapper having a first opening and a first edge extending around the first opening;

a liner having a second opening and a second edge extending around the second opening, wherein the liner is disposed inside the wrapper;

a thermal bridge interconnecting the wrapper and the liner to form a cavity therebetween, wherein the thermal bridge includes a body portion having first and second channels opening in a first direction and a third channel opening in a second direction that is opposed to the first direction, and further wherein the first and second edges are disposed in the first and second channels, respectively; and

a conduit received in the third channel, wherein the conduit is configured to circulate a heated medium.

2. The refrigerator of claim 1, wherein the cavity positioned between the liner and the wrapper is a vacuum insulated cavity.

3. The refrigerator of any one of claims 1 and 2, wherein third channel and the conduit surround the first opening and the second opening.

4. The refrigerator of any one of claims 1-3, wherein the thermal bridge includes a sealing surface, and further wherein the first channel and the third channel are disposed on opposite sides of the sealing surface.

5. The refrigerator of claim 4, wherein the thermal bridge includes an inwardly projecting extension, and further wherein the second channel is disposed on an end of the inwardly projecting extension.

6. The refrigerator of any one of claims 1-5, wherein the conduit includes tubing configured to circulate heated refrigerant through the tubing.

7. A refrigerator, comprising:

a wrapper having an opening and a front edge extending around the opening of the wrapper;

a liner having an opening and a front edge extending around the opening of the liner; and

a thermal bridge interconnecting the wrapper and the liner to form a vacuum insulated cavity therebetween, wherein the thermal bridge includes a body portion having an outwardly opening channel disposed on a front side of the thermal bridge and first and second inwardly opening channels disposed on a rear side of the thermal bridge, wherein the front edge of wrapper is received in the first inwardly opening channel and the front edge of the liner is received in the second inwardly opening channel, and further wherein the second inwardly opening channel is inset relative to the first inwardly opening channel.

8. The refrigerator of claim 7, wherein the wrapper is comprised of a sheet metal material.

9. The refrigerator of any one of claims 7 and 8, wherein the liner is comprised of a sheet metal material.

10. The refrigerator of any one of claims 7-9, wherein the thermal bridge is comprised of a material having a lower coefficient of thermal conductivity as compared to the sheet metal material of the wrapper and the liner.

11. The refrigerator of any one of claims 7-10, wherein the front edge of the wrapper includes a plurality of engagement features disposed thereon.

12. The refrigerator of any one of claims 7-11, wherein the front edge of the liner includes a plurality of engagement features disposed thereon.

13. The refrigerator of any one of claims 7-12, wherein the front side of the thermal bridge defines a forward facing sealing surface.

14. The refrigerator of any one of claims 7-10, including:

a conduit received in the outwardly opening channel, wherein the conduit is configured to transport a heated medium.

15. A refrigerator, comprising:

a wrapper having a first opening and a first edge extending around the first opening;

a liner having a second opening and a second edge extending around the second opening;

a thermal bridge having a first portion with a first channel disposed thereon, the thermal bridge further including a second portion inwardly extending from the first portion and having a second channel disposed thereon, wherein the first and second channels are vertically and horizontally offset from one another, and further wherein the first and second edges are received in the first and second channels, respectively; and a refrigerated compartment having an outer opening, wherein the refrigerated compartment includes a front portion defined by the second portion of the thermal bridge and a rear portion defined by the liner, wherein the second edge of the liner is inset from the outer opening of the refrigerated compartment.

16. The refrigerator of claim 15, wherein the wrapper is comprised of a sheet metal material.

17. The refrigerator of any one of claims 15 and 16, wherein the liner is comprised of a sheet metal material.

18. The refrigerator of any one of claims 15-17, wherein the thermal bridge is comprised of a polymeric material.

19. The refrigerator of any one of claims 15-18, wherein the first portion of the thermal bridge defines an upright sealing surface for the refrigerator, and further wherein the second portion of the thermal bridge includes a inwardly projecting extension extending orthogonally to the upright sealing surface.

20. The refrigerator of claim 19, including:

an outwardly opening channel disposed on an opposite side of the upright sealing surface relative to the first inwardly opening channel; and

a conduit received in the outwardly opening channel, wherein the conduit is configured to contain a heated medium.

Description:
VACUUM INSULATED STRUCTURE WITH THERMAL BRIDGE BREAKER WITH HEAT LOOP

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 includes a heat loop and interconnects a wrapper and one or more liners and cooperates with the liners to define refrigerated storage compartments.

[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. Further, thermal conduction between component parts of a refrigerator is sought to be avoided to reduce condensation.

SUMMARY

[0003] In at least one aspect of the present concept, a refrigerator includes a wrapper having a first opening and a first edge extending around the first opening. A liner includes a second opening and a second edge extending around the second opening. In assembly, the liner is disposed inside the wrapper. A thermal bridge interconnects the wrapper and the liner to form cavity therebetween. The thermal bridge includes a body portion having first and second channels opening in a first direction and a third channel opening in a second direction that is opposed to the first direction. The first and second edges of the wrapper and liner are disposed in the first and second channels, respectively. Tubing for a heat loop is received in the third channel and is configured to circulate a heated medium.

[0004] In at least another aspect of the present concept, a refrigerator includes a wrapper having an opening and a front edge extending around the opening of the wrapper. A liner includes an opening and a front edge extending around the opening of the liner. A thermal bridge interconnects the wrapper and the liner to form a vacuum insulated cavity therebetween. The thermal bridge includes a body portion having an outwardly opening channel disposed on a front side of the thermal bridge and first and second inwardly opening channels disposed on a rear side of the thermal bridge. The front edge of wrapper is received in the first inwardly opening channel of the thermal bridge, and the front edge of the liner is received in the second inwardly opening channel of the thermal bridge. The second inwardly opening channel is inset relative to the first inwardly opening channel on the thermal bridge.

[0005] In yet another aspect of the present concept, a refrigerator includes a wrapper having a first opening and a first edge extending around the first opening. A liner includes a second opening and a second edge extending around the second opening. A thermal bridge includes a first portion with a first channel disposed thereon, and further includes a second portion inwardly extending from the first portion and having a second channel disposed thereon. The first and second channels are vertically and horizontally offset from one another, and the first and second edges are received in the first and second channels, respectively. A refrigerated compartment includes an outer opening. The refrigerated compartment includes a front portion defined by the second portion of the thermal bridge and a rear portion defined by the liner. The second edge of the liner is inset from the outer opening of the refrigerated compartment.

[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 cabinet structure;

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

[0011] FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the refrigerator 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 fragmentary cross-sectional view of the thermal bridge of FIG. 5 having a portion of a conduit coupled thereto;

[0016] FIG. 9 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view of the thermal bridge of FIG. 6 having a portion of a conduit coupled thereto;

[0017] FIG. 10 is a is a fragmentary cross-sectional view of the thermal bridge of FIG. 7 having a portion of a conduit coupled thereto; and

[0018] FIG. 11 is a top perspective view of the vacuum insulated cabinet structure of FIG.

3 with portions thereof shown in phantom to reveal a conduit loop.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

[0019] 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.

[0020] With reference to FIG. 1, a refrigerator 1 includes a vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 which, in the embodiment of FIG. 1, further includes a refrigerator compartment 28 positioned above 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.

[0021] Referring now to FIG. 2, the vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 generally includes a thermal bridge 10. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 2, the thermal bridge 10, or thermal breaker, 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 further includes an upper portion 10A, a middle portion 10B and a lower portion 10C. A rear portion of the upper opening 12A of the thermal bridge 10 defines a front portion 28A of a refrigerator compartment 28 (FIGS. 3 and 4), as further described below, when the vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 is assembled. Similarly, a rear portion of the lower opening 12B of the thermal bridge 10 defines a front portion 44A of a freezer compartment 44 (FIGS. 3 and 4), as further described below, when the vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 is assembled.

[0022] As shown in the embodiment of FIG. 2, the vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 further includes a refrigerator liner 16 having a top wall 18, a bottom wall 20, opposed sidewalls 22, 24, and a rear wall 26. Together, the walls 18, 20, 22, and 24 cooperate to define a rear portion 28B of the refrigerator compartment 28 when the vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 is assembled (see FIGS. 3 and 4). The refrigerator liner 16 further includes a front edge 30 disposed on a front portion thereof. The front edge 30 is disposed along the top wall 18, the bottom wall 20 and the opposed sidewalls 22, 24 in a quadrilateral ring configuration.

[0023] As further shown in the embodiment of FIG. 2, a freezer liner 32 is provided and includes a top wall 34, a bottom wall 36, opposed sidewalls 38, 40, and a rear wall 42.

Together, the walls 34, 36, 38, and 40 cooperate to define a rear portion 44B of the freezer compartment 44 when the vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 is assembled

(see FIGS. 3 and 4). The rear wall 42 is shown in FIG. 2 as being a contoured rear wall that provides a spacing S for housing mechanical equipment 43 (FIG. 4) for cooling both the refrigerator compartment 28 and freezer compartment 44. Such equipment 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. As further shown in the embodiment of FIG. 2, the freezer liner 32 includes a front edge 46 disposed on a front portion thereof. The front edge 46 is disposed along the top wall 34, the bottom wall 36 and the 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.

[0024] As further shown in FIG. 2, the vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 further includes the exterior wrapper 8 which, in the embodiment of FIG. 2, 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, the bottom wall 52, and the 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 VC (FIG. 3) 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 cavity, as further described below.

[0025] The wrapper 8 may be made from sheet metal, polymer materials, or other suitable materials. For purposes of the present concept, the wrapper 8 is contemplated to be made from a sheet metal material that is formed utilizing known steel forming tools and processes. The refrigerator liner 16 and the freezer liner 32 are also preferably made from a sheet metal material utilizing known steel forming tools and processes.

[0026] The thermal bridge 10 may be formed from a material having a low thermal conductivity. For example, the thermal bridge 10 may be fabricated by thermoforming a sheet of thermoplastic polymer material. The thermal bridge 10 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. The thermal bridge 10 may comprise a plurality of layers, wherein layers of polymeric material are selected to provide impermeability to gasses, such that the thermal bridge 10 provides for an air-tight connection between the wrapper 8 and the liners 16, 32 which allows for a vacuum to be held between the thermal bridge 10, the wrapper 8 and the liners 16, 32 in the vacuum cavity VC (FIG. 3). The thermal bridge 10 may also be formed from any suitable material that is substantially impervious to gasses to maintain a vacuum in the vacuum cavity VC. The material used to comprise the thermal bridge 10 is also contemplated to have a low coefficient of thermal conductivity to reduce or prevent transfer of heat between the metal wrapper 8 and the metal liners 16, 32 which have a high coefficient of thermal conductivity. 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 could be overmolded to the refrigerator liner 16, the freezer liner 32 and the wrapper 8 at the respective front edges 30, 46, 60 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. Thus, the thermal bridge 10 can be comprised entirely of a material having a low thermal conductivity (such as glass, cermic, or polymeric materials), or can by partially comprised of such materials.

[0027] 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. In this way, the vacuum cavity VC (FIG. 3) is formed 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 installation of the thermal bridge 10. 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.

[0028] As configured in assembly, the front edges 30, 46 of the liners 16, 32 are spaced- apart from each other at the linear portions thereof 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.

[0029] Referring now to FIG. 3, when the vacuum insulated cabinet structure 2 is assembled, the thermal bridge 10 connects to the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8, and further connects to the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16, and to the front edge

46 of the freezer liner 32, thereby interconnecting the components. In this way, the thermal bridge 10 interconnects the wrapper 8 and the liners 16, 32. 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 28 or the freezer compartment 44. 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.

[0030] The 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 quadrilateral inner coupling portions 64, 66. The 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 coupled 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 inner coupling portions 64, 66 are coupled to the front edges BO, 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 16 and a freezer liner 32) or in a refrigerator having a single liner for use as a refrigerator or freezer only.

[0031] 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 coupled to the liners 16, 32 and wrapper 8 to hermetically seal the components together as a unitary whole as shown in FIG. 3. In the cross-sectional view if FIG. 4, the thermal bridge 10 is shown as defining the front portion 28A of the refrigerator compartment 28, with the refrigerator liner 16 defining the rear portion 28B of the refrigerator compartment 28. A mating joint between the refrigerator liner 16 and the thermal bridge 10 is identified at reference numeral 29. Further, in the cross- sectional view if FIG. 4, the thermal bridge 10 is shown as defining the front portion 44A of the freezer compartment 44, with the freezer liner 32 defining the rear portion 44B of the freezer compartment 44. A mating joint between the freezer liner 32 and the thermal bridge 10 is identified at reference numeral 45. With the thermal bridge 10 providing the front portions 28A, 44A of the refrigerator compartment 28 and the freezer compartment 44, respectively, the metal materials of the cooled liners 16, 32 are inset from the surfaces of the refrigerator that are exposed to ambient room temperatures, such as the metal wrapper 8 and a sealing surface of the thermal bridge 10. In this way, the configuration of the thermal bridge 10 insulates the highly conductive metallic materials of the liners 16, 32 from the areas most prone to conductive heat influences. The overall configuration of the thermal bridge 10 is further described below.

[0032] Referring now to FIG. 5, the upper portion 10A of the thermal bridge 10 is shown having a body portion 70 with a front forward facing sealing surface 72 and an inwardly projecting extension 74. The front sealing surface 72 is a generally vertical forward facing sealing surface that provides a substantially planar surface for seal members of the doors, such as doors 5 and 6 shown above in FIG. 1, to seal against when closed. The inwardly projecting extension 74 of the body portion 70 of the thermal bridge 10 projects in a substantially horizontal manner at the upper portion 10A of the thermal bridge 10 and provides a substantially planar surface which defines the front portion 28A of the refrigerator compartment 28, as shown in FIG. 3. I n this way, the body portion 70 of the thermal bridge 10 includes a first portion (the upright outwardly facing sealing surface 72) and a second portion (the inwardly projecting extension 74 that extends orthogonally to the upright sealing surface 72) to provide an overall L-shaped body portion 70. The inwardly projecting extension 74 is positioned around the entire upper opening 12A of the thermal bridge 10 to define the front portion 28A of the refrigerator compartment 28 from all four sides thereof. Thus, the upper opening 12A of the thermal bridge 10 defines an opening into the refrigerated compartment 28 in assembly. The inwardly projecting extension 74 extends inwardly a distance D2 as shown in FIG. 5 from the sealing surface 72. The sealing surface 72 also extends around the entire upper opening 12A of the thermal bridge 10 to define a fully encircling sealing surface 72 for the refrigerator compartment 28.

[0033] The configuration of the body portion 70 of the thermal bridge 10 provides for the outer coupling portion 62 to be disposed outside of the inner coupling portion 64. Along the upper portion 10A of the thermal bridge 10, outer coupling portion 62 is specifically disposed above of the inner coupling portion 64. The outer coupling portion 62 is positioned on a rear side 72B of the sealing surface 72 and includes a first channel 67 which opens inwardly. As shown in FIG. 5, the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8 is received in the first channel 67. In the embodiment of FIG. 5, an outwardly opening channel 68 is shown disposed on a front side 72A of the sealing surface 72. The outwardly opening channel 68 is configured to receive tubing for a heat loop, as further described below with specific reference to FIG. 8.

[0034] As further shown in FIG. 5, the inner coupling portion 64 includes a second channel 69 which, much like first channel 67, is disposed on the rear side 72A and opens inwardly. As shown in FIG. 5, the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16 is received in the second channel 69 of the thermal bridge 10. Thus, the thermal bridge 10, as shown in the embodiment of FIG. 5, extends across a gap or vacuum cavity VC between the wrapper 8 and the refrigerator liner 16 to interconnect the wrapper 8 and the refrigerator liner 16. The body portion 70 of the thermal bridge 10 includes first and second channels 67, 69 which open inwardly in a first direction, and further includes a third channel, outwardly opening channel 68, which opens outwardly in a second direction that is opposed to or opposite from the first direction. The front edges 60, 30 of the wrapper 8 and the refrigerator liner 16 are disposed in the first and second channels 67, 69, respectively.

[0035] As further shown in FIG. 5, the outer coupling portion 62 is disposed along an upper portion of the sealing surface 72 of the body portion 70 of the thermal bridge 10 at the upper portion 10A of the thermal bridge 10. Thus, the outer coupling portion 62, and the channel 67 thereof, is outboard of the inner coupling portion 64, and the channel 69 thereof. Further, the inner coupling portion 64 is staggered or offset relative to the outer coupling portion 62. Specifically, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 5, the inner coupling portion 64, and the channel 69 thereof, is disposed inward and below the outer coupling portion 62, and the channel 67 thereof, as the inner coupling portion 64 is disposed on an end of the inwardly projecting extension 74 of the body portion 70 of the thermal bridge 10.

[0036] As further 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 first channel 67 of 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 first channel 67 of 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 first channel 67 for providing a surface for attachment of the outer coupling portion 62. This interconnection can include an adhesive or sealant medium disposed in the first channel 67 to adhere the components together in an airtight manner for retaining a vacuum between the thermal bridge 10 and the wrapper 8 and liner 16 in the vacuum insulated cavity VC. 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 the second channel 69 of the 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 the inwardly projecting extension 74 of the thermal bridge 10. With the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16 received in the second channel 69 of the inner coupling portion 64, the end flange portion 84 provides a surface for the thermal bridge 10 to adhere to the refrigerator liner 16. This interconnection can include an adhesive or sealant medium disposed in the second channel 69 to adhere the components together in an airtight manner for retaining a vacuum between the thermal bridge 10 and the wrapper 8 and liner 16 in the vacuum insulated cavity VC.

[0037] Thus, in the configuration of the thermal bridge 10 shown in FIG. 5, 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 or outboard from the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16 (as indicated by arrow D3), but is also offset laterally from the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16 (as indicated by arrow D2). This is generally due to the thermal bridge 10 having a staggered configuration for outer coupling portion 62 (and first channel 67 thereof) relative to the inner coupling portion 64 (and the second channel 69 thereof) for receiving the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8 and the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16, respectively. The first channel 67 is inset from the sealing surface a distance D1 and is outboard of the second channel 69 a distance D3. The second channel 69 is inset from the sealing surface a distance D2, which, as noted above is greater than the distance D1 defined between the sealing surface 72 and the first channel 67. This staggered configuration is also present between the wrapper 8 and the freezer liner 32, as further described below. Thus, the thermal bridge 10 includes a first portion defined by the sealing surface 72 with a first channel 67 disposed thereon. The thermal bridge 10 further includes a second portion defined by the inwardly projecting extension 74 which inwardly extends from the sealing surface 72 and includes a second channel 69 disposed at a distal end thereof. The first and second channels 67, 69 are vertically and horizontally offset from one another such that the staggered configuration of the channels 67, 69 is provided for around the entire upper opening 12A of the thermal bridge 10.

[0038] The distances indicated in FIG. 5 may include specific parameters in the ranges noted below. However, the scope of the present concept is not limited to such ranges. For example, the outer surface 72A of the sealing surface 72 may be approximately 20mm to provide a substantial surface for doors to seal against. The distance D3 measuring the offset between the first channel 67 and the second channel 69 may be approximately 12mm. The distance D2 may be approximately 70mm, such that the inwardly projecting extension 74 provides a substantial polymeric front portion 28A for the refrigerator compartment 28. Further, the first channel 67 and the second channel 69 may be spaced-apart about 57mm from one another in a direct path measured therebetween.

[0039] Referring now to FIG. 6, the middle portion 10B of the thermal bridge 10 is shown having inner coupling portion 64 disposed above inner coupling portion 66. As noted above, the inner coupling portion 64 is configured to receive the front edge 30 of the refrigerator liner 16 at channel 69 thereof, as shown in FIG. 6. As further noted above, the inner coupling portion 66 is configured to receive the front edge 46 of the freezer liner 32 at channel 69A thereof, as shown in FIG. 6. The inner coupling portion 66 is interconnected with the inner coupling portion 64 by a trim component 72C that may be a detachable trim component to the thermal bridge 10 that is used to seal lower portions of doors (such as doors 5 and 6 shown in FIG. 1) and an upper portion of a drawer (such as drawer 7 shown in FIG. 1) to the thermal bridge 10. At the middle portion 10B, the thermal bridge 10 includes an upper outwardly opening channel 65A and a lower outwardly opening channel 65B. The trim component 72C includes inwardly turned upper and lower legs 72D and 72E that are received in the upper outwardly opening channel 65A and the lower outwardly opening channel 65B, respectively.

[0040] As further shown in FIG. 6, the inner coupling portion 64 is disposed above the inner coupling portion 66. Further, the inner coupling portion 64 is not staggered or offset relative to the 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 second channel 69 of the 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 the second channel 69 of the inner coupling portion 64 of the thermal bridge 10.

[0041] Similarly, the freezer liner 32 includes a transverse portion 92 extending off of top wall 34 thereof, and leading to an end flange portion 94 which is received in the inner coupling portion 66. Like the refrigerator liner 16, the transverse portion 92 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 94 is also disposed fully around the freezer liner 32 extending outwardly from transverse portion 92, and defining a surface for adhering engagement with the channel 69A the inner coupling portion 64 of the thermal bridge 10.

[0042] Referring now to FIG. 7, the lower portion 10C of the thermal bridge 10 is shown having the outer coupling portion 62 disposed below the inner coupling portion 66. The outer coupling portion 62 is interconnected with the inner coupling portion 66 by the body portion 70 having the upright portion 72 and the horizontal portion 74. As shown in FIG. 7, the inner coupling portion 66 is staggered or offset relative to the outer coupling portion 62 by the distances indicated by arrows D2 and D3. Specifically, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 7, the inner coupling portion 66 is disposed inward and above the outer coupling portion 62 as disposed on an end of the inwardly projecting extension 74 of the body portion 70 of the thermal bridge 10. Thus, the staggered configuration of the outer coupling portion 62 and the inner coupling portion 66 is akin to the staggered configuration of the outer coupling portion 62 and the inner coupling portion 64 shown in FIG. 5. In this way, 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, but is also offset laterally outward from the front edge 46 of the freezer liner 32. Similarly, the thermal bridge 10 includes a staggered configuration for outer coupling portion 62 relative to the inner coupling portion 66 for receiving the front edge 60 of the wrapper 8 and the front edge 46 of the freezer liner 32.

[0043] Thus, as shown in FIGS. 5-7, the end flange portions 84 and 94 of the refrigerator liner 16 and the freezer liner 32, respectively, are disposed inwardly of the end flange portion 78 of the wrapper 8 given the inwardly projecting extension 74 of the thermal bridge 10. All of the end flange portions 78, 84 and 94 include inner and outer surfaces which may include a plurality of engagement features, such as engagement features 90 shown in FIG. 7 disposed on end flange portion 78 of the wrapper 8. The engagement features 90 shown in FIG. 7 are contemplated to be outwardly extending dimples and may be disposed on both sides of a front edge, such as front edge 84 of the refrigerator liner 16 shown in FIG. 9. The dimples may also be positioned on the inner contours of the channels 67 and 69A as well. Having such undulations positioned on the opposed contact surfaces of the end flange portions 78, 84 and 94 provides for better engagement between the wrapper 8, the liners 16, 32, and the thermal bridge 10 to ensure that a vacuum can be drawn and maintained in the vacuum cavity VC between the wrapper 8, the liners 16, 32, and the thermal bridge 10. The engagement features 90 also provide centering features for the front edges 78, 84 and 94 of the wrapper 8, the refrigerator liner 16 and the freezer liner 32, to center the edges 78, 84 and 94 within the channels 67, 69 and 69A.

[0044] Referring now to FIG. 8, the thermal bridge 10 is shown along the upper portion

10A thereof. In the outwardly opening channel 68 disposed along the sealing surface 72 of the thermal bridge 10, a conduit 100 is shown positioned therein. The conduit 100 comprises a continuous loop of tubing 102 that is routed through the refrigerator 1 (FIG. 1) as best shown in FIG. 11. The conduit 100 may be referred to as a heat loop, a Yoder loop or a condenser loop, but is not meant to be limited to any one shape or configuration by the term "loop." The conduit 100 circulates, or otherwise transports, a heated medium, such as heated refrigerant that is generated by the mechanical equipment 43 (FIGS. 4 and 11) when the mechanical equipment 43 is cooling the compartments 28 and 44. The heated refrigerant contained and transported through the tubing 102 of the conduit 100 provides for an "anti-sweat" feature to help prevent condensation that can develop when the cold surfaces of the compartments 28 and 44 are exposed to ambient air in which the refrigerator 1 is disposed. This warm and humid air can cause condensation to develop along the sealing surface 72 of the thermal bridge 10. The circulating warmed refrigerant of the conduit 100 provides a mitigating factor for combatting condensation buildup at the sealing surface 72.

[0045] As specifically shown in FIG. 8, the conduit 100 is positioned in the outwardly opening channel 68 which is configured to extend around an entire perimeter of the refrigerator 1, as best shown in FIG. 11. The conduit 100 can be retained in the outwardly opening channel 68 using an adhesive material. The placement of the conduit 100 in the outwardly opening channel 68 is provided, such that the conduit 100 can circulate heated refrigerant near the opening 12A into the refrigerator compartment 28. It is contemplated that the outwardly opening channel 68 and the conduit 100 thereof are positioned about 12mm from the opening 12A into the refrigerator compartment 28. However, the scope of the present concept is not limited to such an embodiment.

[0046] Referring now to FIG. 9, the conduit 100 is positioned in the outwardly opening channel 68 along the side of the refrigerator 1. An intermediate portion 104 of the tubing 102 of the conduit 100 loops through the mullion portion 14 of the thermal bridge 10 along trim piece 72C which is connected to the upper and lower outwardly opening channels 65A, 65B. With the portion 104 of the conduit 100 extending across the mullion portion 14, the openings 12A, 12B of the thermal bridge 10 are fully surrounded by the conduit 100, as best shown in FIG. 11.

[0047] Referring now to FIG. 10, the conduit 100 is positioned in the outwardly opening channel 68 which, as noted above, is configured to extend around an entire perimeter of the refrigerator 1, as best shown in FIG. 11. The conduit 100 is also shown having a return portion 107 positioned in a raceway 108 formed in the lower portion 10C of the thermal bridge 10. The return portion 107 is contemplated to run the conduit 100 back to the spacing S of the refrigerator 1 where the cooling equipment 43 is housed, as best shown in FIG. 11.

[0048] Referring now to FIG. 11, the conduit 100 is positioned in the outwardly opening channel 68 (see FIGS. 8-10) of the thermal bridge 10 around the entirety of the refrigerator 1. The intermediate portion 104 of the tubing 102 of the conduit 100 is shown covering the mullion portion 14 of the thermal bridge 10. Thus, the conduit 100 fully surrounds the openings 12A and 12B of the thermal bridge 10 which open into the refrigerator compartment 28 and the freezer compartment 44, respectively. Further, the return portion 107 is illustrated as running the conduit 100 back to the spacing S of the refrigerator 1 where the cooling equipment 43, that generates the heated refrigerant for circulation within the conduit 100, is housed.

[0049] 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. [0050] 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.

[0051] 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.