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Publication numberUS20050229918 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/082,360
Publication dateOct 20, 2005
Filing dateMar 18, 2005
Priority dateApr 19, 2004
Publication number082360, 11082360, US 2005/0229918 A1, US 2005/229918 A1, US 20050229918 A1, US 20050229918A1, US 2005229918 A1, US 2005229918A1, US-A1-20050229918, US-A1-2005229918, US2005/0229918A1, US2005/229918A1, US20050229918 A1, US20050229918A1, US2005229918 A1, US2005229918A1
InventorsYoungtack Shim
Original AssigneeYoungtack Shim
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Grill safety systems and methods
US 20050229918 A1
Abstract
The present invention relates to grill assemblies for generating heat from various sources. In particular, the present invention relates to grill assemblies including various control members to detect unintended heating and terminating such. The present invention also relates to various methods of detecting the unintended heating by the heating elements and stopping such operations. The present invention also relates to various processes for providing various control members and grill assemblies including such control members. Such control members may be incorporated into grill assemblies for generating heat from various sources, e.g., burning gas, flowing electricity, irradiating electromagnetic waves thereby, and so on. In addition, the control members of this invention may be implemented into various stationary and/or portable grills and ovens for cooking food, various fireplaces or burners for heating interior, and the like.
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Claims(20)
1. A grill assembly with at least one heating element configured to convert input energy into heat comprising:
at least one first sensor configured to be disposed between a source of said input energy and said heating element and to monitor supply of said input energy to said heating element;
at least one second sensor configured to be disposed adjacent to said heating element and to sense intention of an user to generate said heat by said heating element; and
at least one control member configured to be coupled to said first and second sensors and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting said supply of said input energy to said heating element and upon detecting absence of said intention of said user to generate said heat by said heating element.
2. The grill assembly of claim 1, wherein said second sensor is configured to sense said intention of said user based upon at least one of presence and absence of said user within a preset distance from said heating element, presence and absence of an object disposed above said heating element, presence and absence of said object inside said heating element, and movement of said user within another preset distance therefrom.
3. The grill assembly of claim 1 further comprising at least one time sensor configured to receive an user input and to provide said supply of said input energy for a preset period of time determined by said user input, wherein said second sensor is configured to sense said intention of said user based upon presence and absence of said user input.
4. The grill assembly of claim 1, wherein said input energy is combustible gas and wherein said heating element is configured to generate said heat by burning said combustible gas.
5. The grill assembly of claim 4, wherein said first sensor is configured to sense at least one of presence of said supply of said gas to said heating element and a rate of said supply of said gas to said heating element.
6. The grill assembly of claim 5 further comprising at least one control valve which is configured to be disposed between said source of said input energy and heating element and to move between an on-position and off-position, wherein said control member is configured to move said control valve to said off-position and to stop said supply of said gas to said heating element upon sensing both of said supply of said input energy and said absence of said intention.
7. The grill assembly of claim 6, wherein said control valve is disposed between said source of said energy and a plurality of said heating elements and wherein said control member is configured to stop said supply of said energy to all of said heating elements upon detecting both of said supply and absence.
8. The grill assembly of claim 4 further comprising at least one switch configured to be coupled to said source and heating element, to move between an off-position with none of said supply of said gas and at least on-position with a preset amount of said supply of said gas, and to adjust an amount of said supply of said gas to said heating element in each of said positions, wherein said first sensor is configured to sense disposition of said switch in one of said positions.
9. The grill assembly of claim 8, wherein said control member is configured to move said switch to said off-position and to stop said supply of said input energy to said heating element upon sensing both of said supply of said input energy and said absence of said intention.
10. The grill assembly of claim 9, wherein said control valve is disposed between said switch and one of a plurality of said heating elements and wherein said control member is configured to stop said supply of said energy to said one of said heating elements upon detecting said supply and absence.
11. The grill assembly of claim 1, wherein said input energy is electric current and wherein said heating element is configured to generate said heat by flowing said electric current therethrough.
12. The grill assembly of claim 11, wherein said first sensor is configured to sense at least one of presence of said supply of said electric current to said heating element and a rate of said supply of said electric current to said heating element.
13. The grill assembly of claim 12 further comprising at least one control valve which is configured to be disposed between said source of said input energy and heating element and to move between an on-position and off-position, wherein said control member is configured to move said control valve to said off-position and to stop said supply of said current to said heating element upon sensing both of said supply of said input energy and said absence of said intention.
14. A grill assembly having at least one heating element which is configured to generate heat from at least one of combustion of gas therein, application of electric current therethrough, and generation of electromagnetic waves thereby and to supply said heat to an object contained in a container, said grill assembly comprising:
at least one third sensor configured to be placed adjacent to at least one of said container and heating element and to sense at least one of temperature of said container and at least one substance resulting from combustion of said object and emitting from said container; and
at least one control member which is configured to be operatively coupled to said third sensor and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting at least one of said substance beyond a preset amount and said temperature exceeding a preset value.
15. The grill assembly of claim 14, wherein said third sensor is one of a temperature sensor and a mass detection sensor, wherein said temperature sensor is configured to detect temperature beyond said preset temperature, and wherein said mass detection sensor is configured to sense presence of said substance exceeding said preset value.
16. A method of detecting leak of input energy from a grill assembly including at least one heating element for converting said input energy into heat comprising the steps of:
monitoring supply of said input energy to said heating element;
sensing intention of an user to generate said heat by said heating element; and
detecting said leak of said input energy upon sensing said supply of said input energy to said heating element without said intention of said user to generate said heat by said heating element.
17. The method of claim 16 further comprising the steps of;
supplying combustible gas as said input energy; and
generating said heat by burning said combustible gas by said heating element.
18. The method of claim 17, said monitoring step further comprising at least one of the steps of;
monitoring presence of flow of said gas to said heating element; and
monitoring a rate of said flow of said gas to said heating element.
19. The method of claim 17, said sensing step further comprising at least one of the steps of;
sensing presence and absence of an object over said heating element;
sensing presence and absence of an object inside said heating element;
sensing movement of an user within a preset distance from said grill assembly; and
sensing presence and absence of an user within a preset distance therefrom.
20. The method of claim 17 further comprising the steps of;
stopping said supply of said gas to said heating element upon said detecting.
Description
  • [0001]
    The present application claims a benefit of an earlier filing date of a U.S. Provisional Application which is entitled “Grill Safety Systems and Methods” and filed on Apr. 19, 2004 by the same Applicant and which bears a U.S. Ser. No. 60/563,148, an entire portion of which is to be incorporated by reference herein.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    The present invention generally relates to various grill assemblies capable of generating heat from various energy sources. More particularly, the present invention relates safety grill assemblies including various control members capable of detecting unintended heating by their heating elements and terminating such heating upon detecting such unintended operations. The present invention also relates to various methods of detecting such unintended heating by the heating elements of various grill assemblies and terminating such unintended operations. The present invention further relates to various processes for providing various control members and such grill assemblies with such control members. The control members of the present invention may also be incorporated into grill assemblies designed to generate such heat by, e.g., burning gas, flowing electricity, irradiating electromagnetic waves, and the like. In addition, the control members of the present invention may be implemented into grills for cooking food, heating interior, and the like, and into stationary as well as portable grills.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0003]
    Various grills have been in use to provide heat required for boiling water, preparing food, and so on. As the mankind has resorted to different energy sources, the grills have evolved as well. For example, earlier grills used coals and woods as an energy source. With the advent of technology for producing combustible gas, storing such gas in containers, and providing a network of pipes to deliver such gas to individual buildings, such gas has become a primary energy source for various cooking grills. After electricity has found its way into such grills, the gas and electric grills are now the most common appliances which can be found in every household.
  • [0004]
    Despite its evolution, both the gas and electric grills share many features with their ancestors. For example, the grills have on-off switches with which an user may turn on and off heating elements thereof. More particularly, such switches are generally manual switches and, accordingly, once the user moves the switch to its on-position, such a switch remains in the on-position only until the user moves the switch back to its off-position. Thus, as the user moves the switch to the on-position, the gas or electricity is constantly supplied to the heating element of the grill, regardless of intention of the user in case he or she should forget to turn the grill off.
  • [0005]
    In addition, when the user intends to turn off the grill but fails to move the switch completely to its off-position, the gas or electricity is slowly but constantly supplied to the grill, leading to waste of valuable energy sources. Severe problems may also arise as the user accidentally moves the switch of the gas grill to its on-position but does not ignite the gas or when a flame of the grill is extinguished against intention of the user by strong wind or by water or food spilt from a container disposed over the heating element of the grill. This not only wastes the gas but also causes a buildup of gas inside a kitchen, which may lead to toxic condition as well as create fire hazard. Even when the user intends to turn on the gas (and electric) grill and the flame is kept on, the user may forget to turn off the grill in time, leading to combustion of the foods inside the container and fire hazard. Alternatively, when the grill assembly has a timer, the user may set an excessive period of time thereinto, which may lead to combustion of food.
  • [0006]
    Accordingly, there is a need for gas or electric grills which may detect unintended heating by their heating elements and terminate the unintended heating by cutting off supply of the energy source thereto or by moving the switches to their off-positions. There also is a need for gas or electric grills which may detect unintended overcooking or burning of foods and terminate such by similarly cutting off supply of the energy source thereto or by moving their switches to their off-positions.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0007]
    The present invention generally relates to various grill assemblies capable of generating heat from various energy sources. More particularly, the present invention relates safety grill assemblies including various control members capable of detecting unintended heating by their heating elements and terminating such heating upon detecting such unintended operations. The present invention also relates to various methods of detecting such unintended heating by the heating elements of various grill assemblies and terminating such unintended operations. The present invention further relates to various processes for providing various control members and such grill assemblies with such control members.
  • [0008]
    As will be described in greater detail below, various grill assemblies according to this invention may be used to prevent fire hazards and/or gas poisoning which may occur due to user's mistakes or other unforeseeable circumstances. For example, an user may turn on the grill but not accidentally check whether gas is properly ignited. In case the gas is not ignited, such gas will leak and poison an area around the grill such as a kitchen or a dining room. In another example, the user may turn on the gas and successfully ignite such gas, but its flame goes off when water or food boils and spills onto such flame. The gas then leaks until it poisons a neighboring area. In another example, the user may turn on the gas and successfully ignite the gas, but gas supply may be terminated due to malfunction of the grill or gas supplier, construction of a gas supply line, and the like. When the gas supply is back on, such gas will leak and poison the area. Such gas leak may not only poison persons and animals in the above area but also cause explosion when the user ignites a cigarette or causes a electric spark. In yet another example, the user may properly turn on the gas and ignite such but forget to turn it off. As a result, the grill overcooks food disposed thereon, burns the food, and causes excessive heating of the grill, container, and food, while generating fumes and smokes, and even causing fire. Although electric grills may not cause the gas poisoning, unintended heating of their electric coils may burn the unwary user and even cause fire. Various grill safety systems of this invention are aimed to prevent these accidents by sensing unintended operation of the grill and cutting off supply of various energy source to the grill upon detecting such an operation. As will be described in greater detail below, the grill assemblies of this invention may incorporate various sensors for detecting unintended operation thereof.
  • [0009]
    The control members of the present invention may be incorporated into grill assemblies which are designed to provide such heat by burning gas, flowing electricity, emitting electromagnetic waves, and so on. In addition, the control members of the present invention may be implemented into grills for cooking food, heating interior, and the like, may be incorporated into stationary and portable grills, may be implemented into various ovens, burners, fire places, and others which generally require burning combustible gas or require electricity for generating heat.
  • [0010]
    In one aspect of the present invention, a grill assembly may have at least one heating element arranged to convert input energy into heat.
  • [0011]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly includes at least one first sensor, at least one second sensor, and at least one control member. The first sensor is arranged to monitor supply of the input energy to the heating element, while the second sensor is arranged to sense intention of an user to generate such heat by the heating element. The control member is arranged to couple with the first and second sensors and then to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the gas to the heating element and absence of the intention of the user to generate the heat by the heating element.
  • [0012]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may have at least one first sensor, at least one second sensor, and at least one control member. Such a first sensor is arranged to be disposed between a source of the input energy and heating element and to monitor supply of such input energy to the heating element, while the second sensor is arranged to be disposed adjacent to such a heating element and to sense intention of an user to generate the heat by such a heating element. The control member is arranged to couple with the first and second sensors and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting such supply of the input energy to the heating element and absence of such intention of the user to generate the heat by the heating element.
  • [0013]
    In another aspect of the present invention, a grill assembly may also have at least one heating element arranged to generate heat from combustion of gas supplied thereto.
  • [0014]
    In one exemplary embodiment, such a grill assembly includes at least one first sensor, at least one second sensor, and at least one control member. The first sensor is arranged to monitor supply of the gas to the heating element, while the second sensor is arranged to monitor the combustion of the gas in the heating element. The control member is arranged to operatively couple with both of the first and second sensors and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the gas to the heating element during absence of the combustion of the gas in the heating element.
  • [0015]
    In another exemplary embodiment, such a grill assembly may include at least one flow sensor, at least one temperature sensor, and at least one control member. Such a flow sensor is arranged to be disposed between a source of the gas and heating element and to monitor supply of the gas to the heating element, and the temperature sensor is arranged to sense temperature of the heating element and to monitor the combustion of the gas in the heating element. The control member is arranged to be operatively coupled to such sensors and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the gas to the heating element during absence of the combustion of the gas in the heating element.
  • [0016]
    In another exemplary embodiment, such a grill assembly may include at least one flow sensor, at least one mass detection sensor, and at least one control member. The flow sensor is arranged to be disposed between a source of the gas and heating element and to monitor supply of the gas to the heating element, while the mass detection sensor is arranged to be disposed near the heating element and to sense the gas which is emitted from the heating element without going through the combustion. The control member is arranged to operatively couple with the sensors and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the gas to the heating element during absence of the combustion of the gas in the heating element.
  • [0017]
    In another aspect of the present invention, a grill assembly may be provided with at least one heating element and at least one switch, where the heating element is arranged to generate heat from combustion of gas supplied thereto, while the switch is arranged to operate between an off position and at least one open position and to control an amount of the gas supplied to the heating element.
  • [0018]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly includes at least one first sensor, at least one second sensor, and at least one control member. The first sensor is arranged to sense supply of the gas to the heating element based upon a flow of the gas to the heating element and/or the position of the switch, while the second sensor is arranged to monitor the combustion of the gas in the heating element from temperature of the heating element and/or presence of the gas which is emitted from the heating element without going through the combustion. The control member is arranged to operatively couple with both of the first and second sensors and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting such supply of the gas to the heating element during absence of such combustion of the gas in the heating element.
  • [0019]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may include a flow and/or position sensor, a temperature and/or mass detection sensor, and at least one control member. The flow sensor may be arranged to to be disposed between a source of the gas and the heating element and to monitor a flow of the gas to the heating element, while the position sensor is arranged to be operatively coupled to the switch and to monitor disposition of the switch in its off- and/or on-positions. The temperature sensor is arranged to monitor temperature of the heating element, while the mass detection sensor is arranged to monitor presence of the gas emitted from the heating element without going through such combustion. The control member may be arranged to operatively couple with the flow and/or position sensors, to operatively couple with the temperature and/or mass detection sensors, and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting gas supply to the heating element during absence of the combustion of the gas in the heating element.
  • [0020]
    Embodiments of the foregoing two aspects of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0021]
    The first sensor may be a flow and/or position sensor capable of to detecting the supply of the gas to the heating element, whereas the second sensor may be a temperature and/or mass detection sensor capable of detecting the combustion of the gas. The safety protocol includes, e.g., termination of the supply of the gas, issuance of an alarm, generating a warning signal followed by the foregoing termination and/or issuance, and the like. The grill assembly may also include an actuator member for terminating the supply of the gas.
  • [0022]
    In another aspect of the present invention, a grill assembly may also have at least one heating element arranged to generate heat from electric current supplied thereto.
  • [0023]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may have at least one first sensor, at least one second sensor, and at least one control member. The first sensor is arranged to monitor supply of the current to the heating element, and the second sensor is arranged to sense an unintended heating of the heating element. The control member is arranged to be operatively coupled to such sensors and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the current to the heating element as well as the unintended heating of the heating element.
  • [0024]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly includes at least one first sensor, at least one second sensor, and at least one control member. The first sensor is arranged to monitor supply of the current to the heating element, while the second sensor is arranged to sense an activity of an user within a preset distance of the heating element. The control member is arranged to operatively couple with such sensors and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the current to the heating element during absence of the activity of the user.
  • [0025]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly includes at least one flow sensor, a mass and/or motion sensor, and at least one control member. The flow sensor is arranged to be disposed between a source of the current and the heating element and to monitor supply of the current to the heating element, the mass sensor is arranged to sense presence of an object disposed over or on the heating element, while the motion sensor is arranged to sense a movement of an user within a preset distance of the heating element. The control member may be arranged to operatively couple with such sensors and then to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting such supply of the current to the heating element during absence of the object over the heating element and/or movement of the user.
  • [0026]
    In another aspect of the present invention, a grill assembly may also have at least one heating element and at least one switch, where the heating element is arranged to generate heat from electric current supplied thereto, and where the switch is arranged to operate between an off position and at least one open position and to control an amount of the current supplied to the heating element.
  • [0027]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly includes at least one first sensor, at least one second sensor, and at least one control member. The first sensor is arranged to monitor supply of the current to the heating element based upon a current flow to the heating element and/or position of the switch, while the second sensor is arranged to sense an activity of an user within a preset distance of the heating element based upon presence of an object over the heating element and/or movement of the user within the preset distance. The control member is arranged to operatively couple with the above sensors and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the current to the heating element as well as absence of the activity.
  • [0028]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may include a flow and/or position sensor, a mass and/or motion sensor, and at least one control member. Such a flow sensor is arranged to be disposed between a source of the current and heating element and to monitor a flow of the current to the heating element, while the position sensor is arranged to operatively couple with the switch and to sense disposition of the switch in the off- and/or on-positions. The mass sensor is arranged to sense presence of an object on or over the heating element, while the motion sensor is arranged to monitor movement of an user within another preset distance of the user. The control member is arranged to operatively couple with the flow and/or position sensors, to operatively couple with the mass and/or motion sensors, and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting supply of such current to the heating element during absence of the object over the heating element and/or the movement within the preset distance.
  • [0029]
    Embodiments of the foregoing two aspects of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0030]
    The first sensor may be any flow and/or position sensors capable of detecting such supply of the current, whereas the second sensor may be any mass and/or motion detection sensors capable of detecting such activity. The unintended heating may include heating without presence of the user, heating without any object over the heating element, and the like. The safety protocol includes, e.g., termination of the supply of the current, issuance of an alarm, generating a warning signal and then performing above termination and/or issuance, and so on. The grill assembly may include an actuator member capable of terminating the supply of the current
  • [0031]
    In another aspect of the present invention, a grill assembly may include a chamber and at least one heating element which is arranged to generate electromagnetic waves, to supply the waves into the chamber, and to heat an object placed in the chamber.
  • [0032]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly includes at least one first sensor, at least one second sensor, and at least one control member. The first sensor is arranged to monitor supply of the waves into the chamber, while the second sensor is arranged to sense an unintended wave emission into the chamber. The control member is arranged to operatively couple with the above sensors and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the current to the heating element as well as the unintended emission of the waves.
  • [0033]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may also include at least one first sensor, at least one second sensor, and at least one control member. Such a first sensor is arranged to monitor supply of the waves into the chamber, while the second sensor is arranged to sense an activity of an user within a preset distance of the heating element. The control member is arranged to operatively couple with such sensors and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the waves into the chamber during absence of the activity of the user.
  • [0034]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly include a flow and/or wave sensor, a mass and/or motion sensor, and at least one control member. The flow sensor may be disposed between a source of the waves and a source of electric current supplying electric current to such a source and arranged to monitor supply of the current to the source, whereas the wave sensor may be disposed in the chamber and arranged to monitor application of the waves into the chamber. The mass sensor is arranged to sense presence of an object inside the chamber, and the motion sensor is arranged to sense a movement of an user within a preset distance from the chamber. The control member may be arranged to operatively couple with the above sensors and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting supply of the current beyond a preset value and/or application of the waves into the chamber during absence of the object inside the chamber and/or the movement of the user.
  • [0035]
    In another aspect of the present invention, a grill assembly may include a chamber, at least one heating element, and at least one switch. The heating element generates electromagnetic waves and supplies such waves into the chamber in order to heat an object disposed in the chamber, while the switch operates between an off position and at least one open position and controls an amount of the waves supplied into the chamber.
  • [0036]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly includes at least one first sensor, at least one second sensor, and at least one control member. The first sensor is arranged to monitor supply of the waves into the chamber based upon emission of the waves, presence of the waves in the chamber, and/or position of the switch, whereas the second sensor is arranged to sense an activity of an user within a preset distance of the heating element based upon presence of an object inside the chamber and/or the movement of the user within the preset distance. The control member may be arranged to operatively couple with the sensors and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting both of the supply of such waves into the chamber and absence of such activity.
  • [0037]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly includes at least one of a flow, wave, and position sensor, at least one of a mass and motion sensor, and at least one control member. The flow sensor is placed between a source of the waves and a current source supplying electric current to the source and arranged to monitor supply of the current to the source, the wave sensor is disposed inside the chamber and arranged to monitor application or emission of such waves into the chamber, while the position sensor is arranged to operatively couple with the switch and to monitor disposition of the switch in the off- and/or on-positions. The mass sensor is arranged to sense presence of an object inside the chamber, and the a motion sensor is arranged to sense movement of an user within a preset distance of the chamber. The control member is arranged to operatively couple with at least one of the flow, wave, and position sensors, to operatively couple with at least one of the mass and motion sensors, and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting supply of the current beyond a preset value and/or the application or emission of the waves into the chamber during absence of the object inside the chamber and/or the movement of the user.
  • [0038]
    Embodiments of the foregoing two aspects of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0039]
    The first sensor may be any flow and/or position sensor capable of detecting the supply of the waves into the chamber and/or the supply of electric current to the heating element, while the second sensor may be any mass and/or motion sensor capable of detecting the foregoing activity. The safety protocol includes, e.g., termination of the emission of the waves, supply of the current, issuance of an alarm, generating a warning signal and then performing the foregoing termination or issuance, and the like. The grill assembly may include an actuator member capable of terminating such application of the waves and/or the supply of the current to the heating element. Detailed configurations described with the above third and fifth aspects of the present invention invention may also be incorporated into the foregoing two aspects of the present invention.
  • [0040]
    In another aspect of the present invention, a grill assembly may have multiple heating elements and at least one switch, where each of the heating elements is arranged to convert an input energy into heat and where the switch is configured to adjust an amount of the heat generated by the heating elements.
  • [0041]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly includes multiple first sensors, multiple second sensors, and at least one control member. The first sensors may be arranged to monitor supply of the input energy to the heating elements, while the second sensors may be arranged to sense generation of heat by the heating elements. The control member is arranged to be operatively coupled to the first and second sensors and to apply, impose or initiate a safety protocol onto at least one of the heating elements upon detecting the supply of the input energy to at least one of such heating element as well as absence of intention of an user to generate the heat by at least one of such heating element.
  • [0042]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may have at least one first sensor, at least one second sensor, and at least one control member. The first sensor is arranged to monitor supply of the input energy to the heating elements, while second sensor is arranged to monitor generation of heat by the heating elements. The control member is arranged to operatively couple with the first and second sensors and to apply, impose or initiate a safety protocol onto all of the heating elements upon detecting the supply of the input energy to at least one of such heating element as well as absence of intention of an user to generate the heat by at least one of such heating element.
  • [0043]
    Embodiments of the foregoing aspect of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0044]
    The first sensor may be any flow and/or position sensors capable of detecting such supply of the waves emitted by the heating element and/or electric current supplied thereto. The second sensor may be any mass and/or motion detection sensors capable of detecting the activity related to the user. The safety protocol may include, e.g., termination of such supply, issuance of an alarm, generating a warning signal and then performing the above termination or issuance, and the like. The grill assembly may include an actuator member capable of terminating the application of the waves and/or the supply of the current to the heating element. Detailed configurations described in conjunction with the above third, fifth, and seventh aspects of the present invention may also be incorporated into the foregoing aspect of the present invention.
  • [0045]
    In another aspect of the present invention, a grill assembly may also have at least one heating element arranged to generate heat from or by combustion of gas therein, application of electric current therethrough, and/or generation of electromagnetic waves thereby and to supply the heat to an object contained in a container.
  • [0046]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may have at least one third sensor and at least one control member. Such a third sensor is arranged to sense temperature of the container and/or at least one substance which is formed as a result of combustion (burning or overheating) of the object. The control member is arranged to operatively couple with such a third sensor and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting such a combustion substance beyond a preset amount, concentration or rate and/or temperature exceeding a preset value.
  • [0047]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may include at least one third sensor and at least one control member. The third sensor is arranged to be placed adjacent to the container and/or heating element and to sense temperature of the container and/or at least one substance formed as a result of combustion, burning or overheating of the object and emitting from the container. The control member is arranged to be operatively coupled to the third sensor and to initiate a safety protocol upon detecting the temperature which exceeds a preset value and/or such a substance beyond a preset amount, concentration or rate.
  • [0048]
    Embodiments of the foregoing aspect of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0049]
    The third sensor may be any mass detection sensors capable of sensing a mass of the object, whereas the temperature sensor may be any sensor capable of measuring an absolute temperature, a relative temperature with respect to a reference, a change in such temperatures, and the like. The safety protocol may include, e.g., termination of the supply of the gas, current, and/or waves to or by the heating element, issuance of an alarm, generating a warning signal and then performing the above termination or issuance, and the like. The grill assembly may include an actuator member to terminate the application or emission of the waves and/or to stop supply of the current to the heating element. Detailed configurations described in conjunction with the above third, fifth, and seventh aspects of the present invention may also be incorporated into the foregoing aspect of the present invention.
  • [0050]
    In another aspect of the present invention, a control panel is provided for a grill assembly with at least one heating element and at least one control member, where the heating element is arranged to convert an input energy into heat and where the control member is arranged to control flow of such input energy to the heating element generally based upon intention of an user to generate heat by the heating element.
  • [0051]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a control panel may include at least one first switch and at least one second switch. The first switch is arranged to control an amount of the input energy supplied to the heating element and to control an amount of the heat generated thereby, while the second switch is arranged to engage and to disengage the control member.
  • [0052]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a control panel may include the foregoing first and second switches in addition to at least one of at least one third switch arranged to change a mode of sensing such intention of the user, at least one fourth switch arranged to provide at least one user input signal into the control member, at least one fifth switch arranged to provide at least one output signal from the control member, and the like.
  • [0053]
    In another aspect of the present invention, a display panel is provided for a grill assembly with at least one heating element and at least one control member, where the heating element is arranged to convert an input energy into heat and where the control member is arranged to control flow of such input energy to the heating element generally based upon intention of an user to generate heat by the heating element.
  • [0054]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a display panel may include at least one first display and at least one second display. The first display is arranged to display such input energy supplied to the heating element, and the second display is arranged to display engagement and disengagement of the control member.
  • [0055]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a display panel may include the foregoing first and second displays in addition to at least one of at least one third display arranged to display a mode of sensing the intention of the user, at least one fourth display arranged to display at least one user input which is supplied to such a control member, at least one fifth display arranged to display at least one output signal from the control member, and the like.
  • [0056]
    In another aspect, a method is provided for detecting leak of input energy from a grill assembly including at least one heating element for converting said input energy into heat.
  • [0057]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a method may include the steps of monitoring supply of such input energy to the heating element, sensing intention of an user to generate such heat by the heating element, and detecting the leak of the input energy upon sensing the supply of the input energy to the heating element without such intention of the user to generate such heat by the heating element.
  • [0058]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of disposing at least one first sensor between a source of the input energy and the heating element, monitoring supply of the input energy to the heating element by the first sensor, disposing a second sensor adjacent to or near the heating element, sensing intention of an user to generate such heat by such a heating element, and detecting such leak of the input energy upon sensing the supply of such input energy to the heating element without the intention of the user to generate such heat by the heating element.
  • [0059]
    In another aspect, a method is provided for detecting a leak of gas from a grill assembly with at least one heating element and at least one switch, where the heating element may generate heat by burning the gas supplied thereto, and where the switch may control an amount of the gas supplied to the heating element by operating between an off-position and at least one on-position.
  • [0060]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a method may include the steps of monitoring flow of the gas to the heating element, sensing the combustion of the gas in the heating element, and detecting the leak of the gas by sensing the flow of the gas to the heating element and no combustion of the gas in the heating element.
  • [0061]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method may include the steps of monitoring the position of the switch, sensing the combustion of the gas in the heating element, and detecting the leak of the gas by sensing the switch disposed in one of the open positions and no combustion of the gas inside the heating element.
  • [0062]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method may include the steps of monitoring flow of the gas to the heating element, sensing the gas away from the heating element within a preset distance, and detecting the leak of the gas by sensing the flow of the gas to the heating element and presence of the gas exceeding a preset amount within the preset distance.
  • [0063]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method may include the steps of monitoring the position of the switch, sensing such gas away from the heating element within a preset distance, and detecting the leak of the gas by sensing the switch disposed in one of the open positions and presence of such gas exceeding a preset amount within the preset distance.
  • [0064]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method may further include the steps of sensing the gas away from the heating element within a preset distance and detecting the leak of the gas by sensing presence of the gas beyond a preset amount.
  • [0065]
    Embodiments of the foregoing aspect of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0066]
    The monitoring step may also include the steps of measuring presence of said flow, measuring a rate of such flow, and so on. The sensing step may include measuring temperature, change in such temperature and/or its rate, and the like. The method may further include the step of initiating a safety protocol upon detecting the gas leak. The method may also include the step of providing an actuator member and terminating supply of the gas thereby.
  • [0067]
    In another aspect, a method is provided for detecting an unintended heating operation of a grill assembly including at least one heating element and at least one switch, where the heating element is arranged to generate heat by flowing electric current therethrough, and where the switch is arranged to control an amount of electric current provided to the heating element by operating between an off-position and at least one on-position.
  • [0068]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of monitoring flow of the current to the heating element, sensing intention of an user for operating the heating element, and detecting the unintended heating of the heating element by sensing the flow of the current to the heating element as well as no intention of the user to operate the heating element.
  • [0069]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method may include the steps of monitoring the position of the switch, sensing intention of an user to operate the heating element, and detecting the unintended heating of the heating element by sensing disposition of the switch away from the off-position and no intention of the user to operate the heating element.
  • [0070]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of monitoring temperature of the heating element, sensing intention of an user for operating the heating element, and detecting the unintended heating of the heating element by sensing the temperature of the heating element above a preset value and no intention of the user to operate the heating element.
  • [0071]
    Embodiments of the foregoing aspect of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0072]
    The monitoring step may include the steps of measuring presence of flow, measuring a rate of such flow, and the like. The sensing step may include the steps of sensing an object over the heating element, sensing the user, movement of the user within a preset distance, and/or sensing a period of heating time provided into an optional timer by the user, and the like. The method may include the step of initiating safety protocol upon detecting such unintended heating, and may also include the step of providing an actuator member and terminating supply of the gas and/or current to the heating element thereby.
  • [0073]
    In another aspect, a method is provided for detecting an unintended heating operation of a grill assembly having a chamber, at least one heating element, and at least one switch, where the heating element heats an object disposed in the chamber by generating and providing electromagnetic waves to the object inside the chamber, and where the switch controls an amount of such waves generated by the heating element by operating between an off-position and at least one on-position.
  • [0074]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of monitoring flow of such waves into the heating element, sensing intention of an user for operating the heating element, and detecting unintended heating of such a heating element by sensing the flow of the waves to the heating element and no intention of the user to operate the heating element.
  • [0075]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of monitoring the position of the switch, sensing intention of an user for operating the heating element, and detecting such unintended heating of the heating element by sensing disposition of the switch away from the off-position and no intention of the user to operate the heating element.
  • [0076]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method may include the steps of monitoring temperature of one of the object and chamber, sensing intention of an user for operating the heating element, and detecting unintended heating of the heating element by sensing the temperature of the heating element above a preset value and no intention of the user to operate the heating element.
  • [0077]
    Embodiments of the foregoing aspect of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0078]
    The monitoring step may include the steps of measuring presence of flow, measuring a flow rate, and the like. The sensing step may include the steps of sensing an object disposed inside such a chamber, sensing the user, movement thereof within a preset distance, and/or a period of heating provided into an optional timer by the user, and the like. The method may include the step of initiating safety protocol upon detecting such unintended heating, and may also include the step of providing an actuator member and terminating supply of the gas and/or current to the heating element thereby.
  • [0079]
    In another aspect, a method is provided for detecting combustion of an object which is placed in a container heated by a grill assembly including at least one heating element for providing heat to the object by burning gas thereby, flowing electric current therethrough, and/or emitting electromagnetic waves to the object.
  • [0080]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of disposing at least one sensor in fluid communication with the object, sensing at least one substance generated by combustion, burning or overheating of the object by such a sensor, and detecting the combustion, burning or overheating of the object based on presence of the substance.
  • [0081]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method also includes the steps of providing at least one sensor adjacent to the object and/or container, sensing temperature of the object and/or container by the sensor, and detecting the combustion, burning or overheating of the object in the container based upon the temperature exceeding a preset value and/or a change in the temperature over time.
  • [0082]
    Embodiments of the foregoing aspect of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0083]
    The method may include the step of initiating safety protocol upon detecting such unintended heating, and may also include the step of providing an actuator member and terminating supply of the gas and/or current to the heating element thereby.
  • [0084]
    In another aspect, a method is provided to control a grill assembly including at least one heating element for converting input energy into heat.
  • [0085]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a method may include the steps of monitoring supply of the input energy to such a heating element, sensing intention of an user to generate the heat by such a heating element, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting such supply of the gas to the heating element and absence of the intention of the user to generate such heat by the heating element.
  • [0086]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of disposing at least one first sensor between a source of the input energy and the heating element, monitoring supply of such input energy to the heating element by the first sensor, disposing at least one second sensor adjacent to or near the heating element, sensing intention of an user to generate the heat by the heating element, and initiating a safety protocol by detecting both of such supply of the input energy to the heating element and absence of such intention of the user to generate such heat by the heating element.
  • [0087]
    In another aspect, a method is provided for controlling operations of a grill assembly including at least one heating element and at least one switch, where such a heating element generates heat by combustion of gas supplied thereto, and where the switch controls an amount of the gas supplied to the heating element by operating between an off-position and at least one on-position.
  • [0088]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of monitoring supply of the gas to the heating element, sensing the combustion of the gas in the heating element, and applying a safety protocol onto the heating element upon detecting the supply of the gas to the heating element during absence of the combustion of the gas in the heating element.
  • [0089]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of monitoring the position of the switch, sensing the combustion of the gas in the heating element, and applying a safety protocol onto the heating element upon detecting disposition of the switch away from the off-position and absence of the combustion of the gas in the heating element.
  • [0090]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of monitoring supply of the gas to the heating element, sensing the gas emitted from the heating element, and then applying a safety protocol onto the heating element upon detecting the supply of the gas to the heating element and the gas within a preset distance from the heating element.
  • [0091]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of monitoring the position of the switch, sensing the gas emitted from the heating element, and then applying a safety protocol onto the heating element upon detecting disposition of the switch away from such an off-position and the gas within a preset distance from the heating element.
  • [0092]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of sensing the gas emitted from the heating element within a preset distance and applying a safety protocol onto the heating element upon detecting the gas within the preset distance beyond a preset amount.
  • [0093]
    Embodiments of the foregoing aspect of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0094]
    The monitoring step may be the step of detecting the supply of the gas, while the sensing step may be the step of detecting temperature and/or the gas. The applying step includes, e.g., terminating the gas supply to the heating element, issuing an alarm, generating a warning signal and performing the above terminating or issuing, and the like. The method may further include the step of providing an actuator member and terminating supply of the gas and/or current to the heating element thereby.
  • [0095]
    In another aspect, a method is provided for controlling operations of a grill assembly including at least one heating element and at least one switch, where the heating element may generate heat by passing electric current therethrough and where the switch controls an amount of the electric current supplied to the heating element by operating between an off-position and at least one on-position.
  • [0096]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of monitoring flow of the current to the heating element, sensing intention of an user to operate the heating element, and applying a safety protocol onto the heating element upon detecting the flow of the current to the heating element and no intention of the user to operate the heating element.
  • [0097]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a method may include the steps of monitoring the position of the switch, sensing intention of an user for operating the heating element, and applying a safety protocol onto the heating element upon detecting disposition of the switch away from the off-position and no intention of the user to operate the heating element.
  • [0098]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a method may include the steps of monitoring temperature of the heating element, sensing intention of an user for operating the heating element, and applying a safety protocol onto the heating element upon detecting the temperature of the heating element exceeding a preset value and no intention of the user to operate the heating element.
  • [0099]
    Embodiments of the foregoing aspect of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0100]
    The monitoring step may include the steps of measuring presence of flow, measuring a flow rate, and the like. The sensing step may include the steps of sensing an object over or on the heating element, sensing the user, movement of the user within a preset distance, and/or a period of heating provided into an optional timer by the user, and the like. The applying step may include the steps of terminating the supply of the gas, issuing an alarm, generating a warning signal and performing such terminating and/or issuing, and the like. The method may also include the step of providing an actuator member and terminating supply of the gas and/or current to the heating element thereby.
  • [0101]
    In another aspect, a method is provided for controlling operations of a grill assembly including a chamber, at least one heating element, and at least one switch, where the heating element heats an object disposed in the chamber by generating and providing electromagnetic waves to the object, and where such a switch controls an amount of the waves generated by the heating element by operating between an off-position and at least one on-position.
  • [0102]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of monitoring flow of such waves into the heating element, sensing intention of an user for operating the heating element, and applying a safety protocol onto the heating element upon detecting the flow of the waves and no intention of the user to operate the heating element.
  • [0103]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of monitoring the position of the switch, sensing intention of an user for operating the heating element, and applying a safety protocol onto the heating element by sensing both of disposition of the switch away from the off-position and no intention of the user to operate the heating element.
  • [0104]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method may include the steps of monitoring temperature of one of the object and chamber, sensing intention of an user for operating the heating element, and applying a safety protocol onto the heating element by sensing the temperature of the heating element above a preset value and no intention of the user to operate the heating element.
  • [0105]
    Embodiments of the foregoing aspect of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0106]
    The monitoring step may include the steps of measuring presence of such flow, measuring a flow rate, and the like. The sensing step may include the steps of sensing an object disposed in the chamber, sensing the user, movement of the user within a preset distance, and/or a period of heating provided into an optional timer by the user, and the like. The applying step may also include the steps of terminating the supply of the gas, issuing an alarm, generating a warning signal and performing the above terminating and/or issuing, and the like. The method may include the step of providing at least one actuator member and terminating supply of the gas and/or current to the heating element thereby.
  • [0107]
    In another aspect, a method is provided for controlling operations of a grill assembly including multiple heating elements and at least one switch, where each of the heating elements is arranged to provide heat by burning gas, flowing electric current therethrough, and/or generating electromagnetic waves, and to supply the heat to the object, and where the switch is arranged to adjust an amount of the heat supplied to the object by operating between an off-position and at least one on-position.
  • [0108]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of detecting an unintended heating in at least one of the heating elements, and stopping supply of at least one of the gas and current only to at least one of such heating elements, without stopping supply of the gas and/or current to the rest of the heating elements.
  • [0109]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method may include the steps of detecting an unintended heating in at least one of the heating elements, and stopping supply of the gas and/or current to all of such heating elements.
  • [0110]
    Embodiments of the foregoing aspect of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0111]
    The detecting step may include the step of sensing no user, no object on the heating element, no movement of the user within a preset distance, and/or no time period set into an optional timer by the user. The applying step may also include the steps of terminating the supply of gas to the heating element, issuing an alarm, generating a warning signal and then performing the terminating or issuing, and the like. The method may also include the step of providing an actuator member and terminating supply of the gas and/or current to the heating element thereby.
  • [0112]
    In another aspect, a method is provided for controlling operations of a grill assembly including multiple heating elements and at least one switch, where the heating elements are arranged to convert an input energy into heat and then to supply the heat to the object, whereas the switch is arranged to adjust an amount of the heat supplied to the object by operating between an off-position and at least one on-position.
  • [0113]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a method may include the steps of sensing supply of such input energy to the heating elements, generation of the heat by the heating elements, a presence of an user within a preset distance from the heating elements, and/or an intention of the user to operate at least one of the heating elements, and detecting unintended heating by at least one of the heating elements from the sensing. In one example, the method further includes the step of stopping supply of the input energy to at least one of such heating elements immediately upon detecting or within a preset period after detecting the unintended heating. In another example, the method may further includes the steps of warning the user upon detecting the unintended heating, waiting for a preset period, and stopping supply of the input energy to at least one of such heating elements. In another example, the method may further include the steps of warning the user upon detecting such unintended heating, repeating the sensing at least once within a preset period, confirming the unintended heating from the sensing, and stopping supply of the input energy to the at least one of the heating elements immediately upon or within a preset period after the confirming.
  • [0114]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a method includes the steps of one of the following sensing steps, detecting unintended heating by at least one of such heating elements from the above sensing, optionally warning the user upon detecting the unintended heating, optionally waiting for at least one of the preset periods, optionally confirming the unintended heating by repeating the sensing, and then terminating supply of the input energy to at least one of the heating elements upon detecting or within a preset period after detecting the unintended heating (or upon the confirming). One of such sensing step may be the step of sensing at preset intervals supply of the input energy to the heating elements, generation of the heat by the heating elements, presence of an user within a preset distance from the heating elements, and/or intention of the user to operate the heating elements, while the other of such sensing steps may be continuously sensing supply of the energy to the heating elements, generation of the heat by the heating elements, presence of an user within a preset distance from such heating elements, and/or an intention of the user to operate the heating elements.
  • [0115]
    Embodiments of the foregoing aspect of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0116]
    The sensing step includes the step monitoring supply of gas to the heating element, supply of electric current to the heating element, temperature of the heating element, disposition of the switch, presence of an user within a preset distance from the heating element, emission of electromagnetic waves by the heating element, and the like. The detecting step may include the step of sensing no user, no object on the heating element, no movement of the user within a preset distance, and/or no time period set into an optional timer by the user. When the grill assembly includes an optional timer, the sensing step may include the step of monitoring activation of the timer. The method may further include the step of providing an actuator member and terminating supply of the gas and/or current to the heating element thereby.
  • [0117]
    In another aspect, a grill assembly may have at least one heating element arranged to convert input energy into heat.
  • [0118]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by a process including the steps of sensing supply of the input energy to the heating element, sensing intention of an user to generate the heat by the heating element, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the gas to the heating element and absence of the intention of the user by the heating element.
  • [0119]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by another process including the steps of disposing at least one first sensor capable of sensing flow of the input energy, sensing supply of such input energy to the heating element by the first sensor, disposing at least one second sensor capable of monitoring an activity of an user, sensing intention of the user to generate the heat by the heating element by the second sensor, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting the above supply of the gas to the heating element as well as absence of the intention of the user by the heating element.
  • [0120]
    In another aspect, a grill assembly may have at least one heating element arranged to generate heat from combustion of gas supplied thereto.
  • [0121]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by a process including the steps of sensing supply of the gas to the heating element, sensing the combustion of the gas in the heating element, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting such supply of the gas to the heating element and absence of the combustion of the gas in the heating element.
  • [0122]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by another process including the steps of monitoring supply of the gas to the heating element, sensing temperature of the heating element, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting such supply of the gas to the heating element and such temperature below a preset value related to the combustion.
  • [0123]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by another process including the steps of monitoring supply of the gas to the heating element, sensing the gas adjacent or near the heating element, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting such supply of the gas to the heating element and such gas beyond a preset level within a preset distance from the heating element.
  • [0124]
    In another aspect, a grill assembly may include at least one heating element as well as at least one switch, where the heating element is arranged to generate heat from combustion of gas supplied thereto and where the switch is arranged to operate between an off position and at least one open position and to control an amount of the gas supplied to the heating element.
  • [0125]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by a process including the steps of first sensing a flow of the gas to the element and/or position of the switch, monitoring supply of the gas to the heating element based upon the first sensing, second sensing temperature of the heating element and/or presence of the gas which is emitted from the heating element without going through the combustion, sensing absence of the combustion of the gas from the second sensing, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting such supply of the gas to the heating element and such absence of the combustion of the gas in the heating element.
  • [0126]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by another process including the steps of disposing at least one flow sensor between a source of the gas and the heating element and/or operatively coupling at least one position sensor with the switch, monitoring supply of the gas to the heating element from flow of the gas to the heating element sensed by the flow sensor and/or disposition of the switch in one of the on- and off-positions measured by the position sensor, placing at least one temperature sensor near the heating element and/or at least one mass detection sensor in fluid communication with an object placed on the heating element, sensing absence of the combustion in the heating element from temperature of the heating element below a preset value and/or presence of such gas within a preset distance from such a heating element, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the gas to the heating element as well as the absence of the combustion of the gas in the heating element.
  • [0127]
    Embodiments of the foregoing two aspects of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0128]
    The monitoring the supply step may include the step of monitoring gas flow, the position of the switch, and so on. The monitoring the absence step may include the steps of sensing temperature of or near the heating element, sensing the gas within a preset distance from the heating element, and so on. The initiating the safety protocol step may include the steps of terminating the supply of the gas to the heating element, issuing an alarm, generating a warning signal and then the terminating or issuing, and the like. The method may also include the steps of providing an actuator member and terminating the supply of the gas thereby.
  • [0129]
    In another aspect, a grill assembly may have at least one heating element arranged to generate heat from electric current supplied thereto.
  • [0130]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by a process including the steps of monitoring supply of the current to the heating element, sensing unintended heating of the heating element, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the current to the heating element and the unintended heating of the heating element.
  • [0131]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by another process including the steps of monitoring supply of such current to the heating element, monitoring an activity of an user within a preset distance of the heating element, and then initiating a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the current to the heating element and absence of the activity of the user.
  • [0132]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by another process including the steps of monitoring supply of such current to the heating element, sensing presence of an object disposed on (or over) the heating element and/or movement of an user within a preset distance from the heating element, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting such supply of the current to the heating element and such absence of at least one of the object disposed over the heating element and the movement of the user.
  • [0133]
    In another aspect, a grill assembly may also have at least one heating element and at least one switch, where the heating element is arranged to generate heat from electric current supplied thereto and where the switch is arranged to operate between an off position and at least one open position and to control an amount of the current supplied to the heating element.
  • [0134]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by a process including the steps of disposing at least one first sensor capable of measuring flow of the current to the heating element and/or the position of the switch, sensing supply of such current to the heating element by the above measuring by the first sensor, disposing at least one second sensor capable of sensing an activity of an user within a preset distance from such a heating element based upon presence of an object over (or on) the heating element and/or movement of the user within a preset distance, sensing absence of such activity of the user by the above sensing by the second sensor, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the current to the heating element as well as the absence of the activity.
  • [0135]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by another process including the steps of disposing at least one flow sensor between a source of the current and heating element and/or operatively coupling at least one position sensor with the switch, sensing a flow of the current to the heating element from flow of current to the heating element sensed by the flow sensor and/or disposition of the switch in one of the off- and on-positions measured by the position sensor, placing at least one mass sensor in relation to the heating element and/or disposing at least one motion sensor adjacent to the heating element, sensing absence of intention of the user to generate the heat by the heating element from absence of the presence of the object on the heating element and/or movement of an user within a preset distance from the heating element, and then initiating a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the current to the heating element and the absence of the intention of the user.
  • [0136]
    Embodiments of the foregoing two aspects of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0137]
    The monitoring the supply step may include the step of monitoring current flow, the position of the switch, and the like. The initiating the safety protocol step may include the steps of stopping such supply to the heating element, issuing an alarm, generating a warning signal and then the terminating or issuing, and the like. The method may also include the steps of providing an actuator member and terminating the supply of the gas thereby.
  • [0138]
    In another aspect, a grill assembly may also have a chamber and at least one heating element which is arranged to generate electromagnetic waves, to supply the waves into the chamber, and to heat an object placed in the chamber.
  • [0139]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by a process including the steps of monitoring supply (or emission) of the waves into the chamber, sensing unintended wave emission into the chamber, and then initiating a safety protocol upon detecting such supply of the current to the heating element and the unintended emission of the waves.
  • [0140]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by another process including the steps of monitoring supply of the waves into the chamber, sensing an activity of an user within a preset distance from the heating element, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the waves into the chamber during absence of the activity of the user.
  • [0141]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by another process including the steps of incorporating at least one flow sensor between a source of the waves and a source of electric current for the source of the waves and/or incorporating at least one wave sensor inside the chamber, sensing supply of the waves based upon flow of such current to the source of the waves measured by the flow sensor and/or emission of the waves by the heating element into the chamber measured by the wave sensor, disposing at least one mass sensor in relation to the heating element and/or placing at least one motion sensor adjacent to or near the heating element, sensing absence of intention of the user to generate the heat by the heating element from absence of an object inside the chamber and/or movement of an user within a preset distance from the chamber, and then initiating a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the waves to the heating element as well as the absence of the intention of the user.
  • [0142]
    In another aspect, a grill assembly may include a chamber, at least one heating element, and at least one switch, where the heating element is arranged to emit electromagnetic waves and to supply such waves into the chamber so as to heat an object disposed in the chamber, and where the switch is arranged to operate between an off position and at least one open position and to also manipulate an amount of the waves supplied into the chamber.
  • [0143]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by a process including the steps of incorporating at least one first sensor capable of sensing emission of the waves into the chamber and/or the position of the switch, sensing supply of the waves into the chamber by the above sensing by the above first sensor, disposing at least one second sensor capable of sensing an activity of an user within a preset distance from the heating element based upon presence of an object inside such a chamber and/or movement of the user within a preset distance, sensing absence of the activity of the user by the sensing by the second sensor, and then initiating a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the waves into the chamber as well as the absence of the activity.
  • [0144]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by another process including the steps of at least one of (1) placing at least one flow sensor between a source of the waves and a source of electric current for the source of the waves, 92) placing at least one wave sensor inside the chamber, and (3) operatively coupling at least one position sensor with the switch, sensing supply of the waves based upon the current flow to the source of the waves measured by the flow sensor, emission of the waves by the heating element into the chamber measured by the wave sensor, and/or disposition of the switch in one of the positions, placing at least one mass sensor in relation to such a heating element and/or disposing at least one motion sensor adjacent to the heating element, sensing absence of user's intention to generate the heat by the heating element from absence of an object in the chamber and/or movement of an user within a preset distance from the chamber, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting the supply of the waves to the heating element as well as the absence of the intention of the user.
  • [0145]
    Embodiments of the foregoing two aspects of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0146]
    The monitoring the supply step may include the step of monitoring current flow to the heating element, emission of the waves, the position of the switch, and so on. The monitoring the activity step may include the step of sensing presence of the object in the chamber, the activity of the user, and so on. The initiating the safety protocol step may include the steps of stopping such supply of the waves into the chamber, issuing an alarm, generating a warning signal and the terminating or issuing, and so on. The method may include the steps of providing an actuator member and terminating the supply of the waves thereby. Detailed configurations described in conjunction with the foregoing third and fifth aspects of the present invention may also be incorporated into the above aspect of this invention.
  • [0147]
    In another aspect, a grill assembly may have multiple heating elements and at least one switch, where each of the heating elements is arranged to convert an input energy into heat, and where the switch is arranged to adjust an amount of the heat generated by the heating elements.
  • [0148]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by a process including the steps of disposing multiple first sensors for detecting flow of the input energy, sensing supply of such input energy to the heating elements by the first sensors, disposing multiple second sensors for detecting the heat, sensing generation of the heat by the heating elements by the second sensors, detecting the supply of the input energy to at least one of the heating element, detecting user's intention to generate the heat in at least one of such heating element, and applying a safety protocol onto the at least one of the heating elements upon detecting the supply of the input energy and absence of the intention of the user.
  • [0149]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by another process including the steps of disposing at least one first sensor for detecting flow of the input energy, sensing supply of the input energy to the heating elements by the first sensor, disposing at least one second sensor for detecting the heat, sensing generation of the heat by the heating elements by the second sensor, detecting such supply of the input energy to at least one of the heating element, detecting intention of the user to generate the heat in at least one of such heating element, and applying a safety protocol onto all of the heating elements upon detecting such supply of the input energy as well as absence of such intention of the user.
  • [0150]
    Embodiments of the foregoing aspect of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0151]
    The monitoring the supply step may include the step of monitoring flow of the current to such a heating element, emission of the waves, position of the switch, and so on. The monitoring the activity step may include the step of sensing presence of the object in the chamber, activity of the user, and the like. The applying the safety protocol step may include the steps of terminating such supply of the waves into the chamber, issuing an alarm, generating a warning signal and the above terminating or issuing, and the like. The method may include the steps of providing an actuator member and stopping the supply of the waves thereby. Detailed configurations described in conjunction with the foregoing third, fifth, and seventh aspects of the present invention may be incorporated into the above aspect of this invention as well.
  • [0152]
    In another aspect, a grill assembly may have at least one heating element arranged to generate heat from combustion of gas therein, application of electric current therethrough, and/or generation of electromagnetic waves thereby and supplying the heat to an object contained in a container.
  • [0153]
    In one exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by a process including the steps of sensing at least one substance from combustion (burning or overheating) of the object and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting the substance over a preset amount (or rate) and/or the temperature exceeding a preset value.
  • [0154]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by another process including the steps of measuring temperature of the object and/or container and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting the substance exceeding a preset amount (or rate) and/or temperature exceeding a preset value.
  • [0155]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by another process including the steps of disposing at least one third sensor near the container and/or heating element, sensing at least one substance formed by combustion, burning or overheating of the object and emitting from the container, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting such a substance beyond a preset amount or rate.
  • [0156]
    In another exemplary embodiment, a grill assembly may be made by another process including the steps of disposing at least one third sensor in relation to the container, sensing temperature of the object and/or container, and initiating a safety protocol upon detecting such temperature exceeding a preset value.
  • [0157]
    Embodiments of the foregoing aspect of the present invention may include one or more of the following features.
  • [0158]
    The initiating step may include the steps of stopping the supply of the waves into the chamber, issuing an alarm, generating a warning signal and then the terminating or issuing, and the like. Such a method may include the steps of providing an actuator member and stopping the supply of the waves thereby. Detailed configurations described in conjunction with the foregoing third, fifth, and seventh aspects of the present invention may also be incorporated into the above aspect of this invention.
  • [0159]
    More product-by-process claims may also be produced by combining preambles of the above apparatus claims with bodies of the above method claims. In addition, embodiments of these aspects of the present invention regarding various processes may also include one or more of the foregoing features which have been described in conjunction with various supports and/or various methods for controlling various aspects of the grill assemblies of the present invention.
  • [0160]
    As used herein, a “grill” or “grill assembly” refers to any household or business appliance with at least one heating element arranged to generate heat and to deliver such heat to an object disposed thereon, thereover or therein. Thus, such “grills” or “grill assemblies” may include, but not be limited to, grills, ranges, stoves, and ovens which may be stationary or portable and which may generate such heat by burning gas by the heating elements, by flowing electric current through the heating elements, by emitting electromagnetic waves thereby, and the like.
  • [0161]
    Unless otherwise defined in the following specification, all technical and scientific terms used herein have the same meaning as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which the present invention belongs. Although the methods or materials equivalent or similar to those described herein can be used in the practice or in the testing of the present invention, the suitable methods and materials are described below. All publications, patent applications, patents, and/or other references mentioned herein are incorporated by reference in their entirety. In case of any conflict, the present specification, including definitions, will control. In addition, the materials, methods, and examples are illustrative only and not intended to be limiting.
  • [0162]
    Other features and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the following detailed description, and from the claims.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING
  • [0163]
    FIG. 1A is a schematic block diagram of a prior art conventional grill;
  • [0164]
    FIG. 1B is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary grill assembly including a control member and other auxiliary members according to the present invention;
  • [0165]
    FIG. 2 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary grill assembly similar to that of FIG. 1B but including more details according to the present invention;
  • [0166]
    FIG. 3A is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary control algorithm for a control member of a gas grill assembly according to the present invention; and
  • [0167]
    FIG. 3B is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary control algorithm for a control member of an electric or microwave grill assembly according to the present invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0168]
    The present invention generally relates to various grill assemblies capable of generating heat from various energy sources. More particularly, the present invention relates safety grill assemblies including various control members capable of detecting unintended heating by their heating elements and terminating such heating upon detecting such unintended operations. The present invention also relates to various methods of detecting such unintended heating by the heating elements of various grill assemblies and terminating such unintended operations. The present invention further relates to various processes for providing various control members and such grill assemblies with such control members.
  • [0169]
    The control members of the present invention may be incorporated into grill assemblies which are designed to provide such heat by burning gas, flowing electricity, emitting electromagnetic waves, and so on. In addition, the control members of the present invention may be implemented into grills for cooking food, heating interior, and the like, and into stationary as well as portable grills.
  • [0170]
    Various exemplary aspects and embodiments of safety grill assemblies and methods therefor of the present invention will now be described more particularly with reference to the accompanying drawings and/or text, where such aspects and embodiments may only represent different forms. The safety grill assemblies and methods therefor of the present invention, however, may be embodied in many other different forms and, therefore, should not be limited to such aspects and embodiments set forth herein. Rather, various exemplary aspects and embodiments described herein are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete and fully convey the scope of the present invention to one skilled in the relevant art.
  • [0171]
    Unless otherwise specified, it is to be understood that various members, elements, units, and parts of the wave blocking systems are not generally drawn to scales and/or proportions for ease of illustration. It is also understood that the members, elements, units, and/or parts of the wave blocking systems designated by the same numerals generally represent the same, similar, and/or functionally equivalent members, elements, units, and parts thereof, respectively.
  • [0172]
    FIG. 1A is a schematic block diagram of a conventional grill in the prior art. Such a grill includes multiple heating elements 12A, 12B and multiple on-off switches 11A, 11B. The heating elements 12A, 12B are typically disposed to be in fluid and/or electric communication with a source of energy 10 and arranged to receive various input energy from the energy source 10 such as, e.g., combustible gas, electric current, and the like. The heating elements 12A, 12B are also arranged to generate heat from such input energy, e.g., by burning the combustible gas in a nozzle thereof, passing electric current therethrough, emitting electromagnetic waves thereby, and the like. Each of the switches 11A, 11B is disposed between the energy source 10 and corresponding heating element 12A, 12B and arranged to control supply of the input energy to such a heating element 12A, 12B by manipulating flow of such gas and/or current. A valve 13 is generally disposed between the energy source 10 and grill in order to connect and disconnect the grill from the source 10.
  • [0173]
    A grill assembly of the present invention differs from such a prior art grill in a few key aspects. For example, the grill assembly of the present invention includes at least one control member which is arranged to adaptively control supply of input energy to the heating elements depending upon whether heating of a specific heating element is intended by an user and/or whether such heating exceeds an optimal period of time.
  • [0174]
    FIG. 1B is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary grill assembly including a control member and other auxiliary members according to the present invention. Similar to the prior counterpart of FIG. 1A, a grill assembly of the present invention also includes multiple switches 11A and multiple heating elements 12A, although only one of each is shown for ease of illustration. Such a grill assembly also includes at least one input member 30, sensor member 40, control member 50, and output member 70, where the input member 30 is arranged to receive various input command signals provided thereinto by an user, where the sensor members 40 are arranged to sense (or monitor) various system and/or operational parameters and/or variables of the grill assembly and/or its heating operations, where the output member 70 is arranged to output (or displays) various system and/or operational parameters and/or variables, and where the control member 50 is arranged to operatively couple with the above members 30, 40, 70 in order to receive the user input commands signals through the input member 30, to receive various sensing signals generated by the sensor members 40, and to decide, based upon the foregoing signals, whether or not to continue supply of the input energy such as the combustible gas and/or electric current to the heating element 12A, e.g., by shutting off one or more control valves 12A, 12B disposed between a main valve 13 and switches 11A. The control member 50 may also be arranged to output the system and/or operational parameters and/or variables when desirable.
  • [0175]
    FIG. 2 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary grill assembly similar to that of FIG. 1B but describing its further details according to the present invention. An exemplary grill assembly includes at least one switch 11A, at least one heating element 12A, and at least one control valve 62A, 62B as described hereinabove. The grill assembly includes a grill safety system 20 which may in turn include at least one input member 30, at least one sensor member 40, at least one control member 50, at least one actuator member 60, and at least one output member 70.
  • [0176]
    The input member 30 is arranged to receive various user inputs or user input command signals 31 about a system mode 32 (e.g., an engaged or disengaged state of the system 20), a control mode 33 (e.g., local vs. global control mode, intermittent vs. continuous control mode, and so on), an action mode 34 (e.g., providing a warning, issuing an alarm, terminating supply of input energy to the heating element 12A, and the like), an override and/or release setting 35, and other auxiliary set points 36 for the system variables and/or parameters which may be provided by a manufacturer of the grill safety system 20 or may be provided by an user, where details of such modes will be described in greater detail below. In order to receive such user inputs, the input member 30 typically includes at least one keypad, keyboard, numeric pad, numeric board, selector, and/or other conventional mechanical and/or electrical signal receiving devices which may be disposed in any desirable location on or around such a grill assembly.
  • [0177]
    The sensor member 40 is arranged to sense, monitor or measure various system parameters and/or variables, operational parameters and/or variables, and/or operational states and/or positions of various members, units, and/or parts of such a grill assembly. For example, the sensor member 40 generally includes various sensors 41 such as, e.g., at least one flow sensor 42, temperature sensor 43, position sensor 44, mass sensor 45, time sensor 46, motion sensor 47, and/or other miscellaneous sensors 48. The flow sensor 42 is typically arranged to sense flow of the input energy such as, e.g., gas, electric current or electromagnetic waves, to the heating element 12A by sensing, e.g., presence of flow of such input energy, a flow rate thereof, and the like. Any conventional flow detector and/or sensor may be used to sense the flow of gas, any conventional current detector and/or meter may be used to sense the flow of electric current, and any conventional wave detector and/or counter may be used to sense the flow of electromagnetic waves. The temperature sensor 43 is also arranged to sense temperature of or adjacent to the heating element 12A, temperature of an object disposed over or in the heating element 12A, temperature of a container containing such an object therein, and so on. Such a temperature sensor 43 may also be arranged to measure an absolute temperature, a relative temperature defined as a difference between the absolute temperature and a reference temperature, a temperature profile as a function of time, and so on. Any conventional temperature sensors may be used to sense one or more of such temperatures. It is appreciated that the temperature sensor may be a contacting-type sensor which is required to be in mechanical contact with an article of which the temperature is to be sensed or, in the alternative, a non-contacting-type sensor which is arranged to sense the temperature from a preset distance by electromagnetic waves such as, e.g., infrared rays. It is also appreciated that, as long as such flow and temperature sensors may be able to sense one of the above flows and temperatures, respectively, detailed mechanisms and/or operations of such flow and temperature sensors are not critical to the scope of the present invention.
  • [0178]
    The position sensor 44 is generally arranged to sense disposition of the switch 11A in one of its off-position and at least one on-positions, regardless of whether the switch 11A is a mechanical or electrical and whether such a switch 11A is arranged to move between multiple discrete positions or along a continuous track. Any conventional mechanical and/or electric position sensors may be used to sense the disposition of the switch 11A, and detailed mechanisms and/or operations of the position sensors are not critical to the scope of the present invention as long as such sensors may be able to sense the disposition of the switch 11A in and away from its off-position.
  • [0179]
    The mass sensor 45 is typically arranged to sense a mass or weight of an object, a container, and/or the container containing such an object therein. More particularly, such a mass sensor 45 may be disposed below, in flush with or slightly above the heating element 12A so as to measure the mass or weight of the object and/or container which may be disposed on (or over) the heating element 12A in order to be heated thereby. Any conventional mass or weight sensors may be employed to sense the mass or weight of such an object and/or container. As will be described in greater detail below, however, a primary objective of such a mass sensor 45 is to detect whether any object or container is disposed on, over or inside the heating element 12A and heated thereby. Accordingly, such a mass sensor 45 may be simply arranged only to detect presence or absence of the object and/or container on, over or inside the heating element 12A. It is appreciated that, as long as such mass sensors may be able to monitor the mass, weight, presence, and/or absence of the object or container on, over or inside such a heating element 12A, their detailed mechanisms and/or operations are not critical to the scope of the present invention.
  • [0180]
    The time sensor 46 may be arranged to sense a time, an interval (or period of time), an elapsed period of time after a reference time, a period of time remaining to a target time, and the like, where the reference or target time may be time on which the switch 11A is moved to one of its on-positions, time after the control member generates a warning and/or issues an alarm as will be described below, any time selected by the user, and the like. It is appreciated that, as long as such a time sensor 46 senses the time and is able to receive and store various input signals from the user such as, e.g., the interval, reference time, and/or target time, such a time sensor 46 may be able to calculate therefrom the above periods by, e.g., using various conventional electric circuits and/or microchips, using digital algorithms, and so on.
  • [0181]
    The motion sensor 47 may be arranged to sense presence, absence, and/or movement of the user within a preset distance from the heating element 12B and/or grill assembly. When desirable, the motion sensor 47 may also be arranged to detect presence, absence, and/or movement of the object and/or container on, over or inside the heating element 12B. As will be described below, a primary objective of the motion sensor 47 is to determine intention of the user to supply the input energy to the heating element 12B. Thus, as long as such motion sensors may be able to generate sensing signals from which such intention of the user is determined, detailed mechanisms, operations, and/or sensing variables of such sensors are not critical to the scope of the present invention.
  • [0182]
    Such a sensor member 40 may also include other auxiliary sensors. For example, at least one mass detection sensor may be used in order to detect presence, amount or concentration of at least one chemical substance by sensing, e.g., color, thermal conductivity, electric conductivity, and so on. Because a primary objective of such a mass detection sensor is to sense presence of the substance generated by combustion of the object heated by the heating element 12A, various conventional mass detection sensor may be used to sense various hydrocarbon particles which may or may not include nitrogen molecules beyond a preset amount or concentration by, e.g., detecting their distinct physical and/or chemical properties. Other conventional sensors may also be used to detect the combustion of the object by excessive heating thereof. For example, conventional smoke sensors may be disposed to be in fluid communication with the object disposed on, over or inside the heating element 12A and to detect the smoke from the combustion. In addition, conventional humidity sensors may be disposed to be in fluid communication with the object, to sense humidity of steam or fume emitted from the object, and to detect an onset of the combustion when the measured humidity falls below a preset value. It is appreciated that any conventional sensors may be applied as long as they may detect the combustion of the object by overheating thereof, and detailed mechanisms, operations, and/or sensing variables of such sensors are not critical to the scope of the present invention.
  • [0183]
    The foregoing sensors 41 may be arranged in various locations around the grill assembly. For example, the time sensor 46 (denoted as “t”) may be disposed in almost any part of the grill assembly, for such a sensor 46 does not have to be disposed near the switch 11A or the heating element 12A and does not have to be incorporated along gas pathways 15A-15C. Similarly, the motion sensor 47 (denoted as “M”) may be disposed in almost any location where such a sensor 47 may handily sense either or both of the presence and absence of the user within the preset distance from a specific part of the grill assembly. When the motion sensor 47 employs various waves as a detecting means, such a sensor 47 may have to be disposed in a location where such waves may not be obstructed by the switch 11A, heating element 12A, object, and/or container.
  • [0184]
    Other sensors may be disposed in or near the switch 11A and/or heating elements 12A, along the gas pathways 15A-15C, in or near the object and/or container. For example, the flow sensor 42 (denoted as “F”) is preferably disposed to be in fluid communication with the gas flowing through the gas flowing through the gas pathways 15A-15C so as to sense flow of the gas therethrough and/or to measure a flow rate thereof. More particularly, such a flow sensor 42 may be disposed along or in the upstream gas pathway 15A coupling a source of gas 10 and a bifurcation 16 from which the gas bifurcates and flows into individual heating elements 12A. Such a sensor 42 may offer the benefit of sensing the global gas flow and/or its flow rate into the grill assembly. Such a flow sensor 42 may be incorporated along or in the middle gas pathway 15B connecting the bifurcation 16 to the switch 11A or, alternatively, along or in the downstream gas pathway 15C between the switch 11A and heating element 12A. These flow sensors 42 enable to sense the local gas flow and/or its flow rate into each heating element 12A. Depending upon desirable control algorithms which will be described below, at least one flow sensor 42 may be disposed in one or more of such locations. When the grill assembly provides heat by flowing electric current through the heating element 12A, the current sensor 42 may be disposed in series with circuits 15A-15C so as to measures flow of current therethrough. Similar to the gas flow sensors, such a current sensor 42 may be disposed along the upstream circuit 15A to sense or measure the global flow of current into the grill assembly, or along the middle or downstream circuits 15B, 15C to sense or measure the local flow of current to individual heating element 12A. It is appreciated that the current sensor 42 may be disposed in parallel with such circuits 15A-15C when the sensor 42 is simply required to sense presence and/or absence of the current flow therethrough. When the grill assembly generates heat by emitting electromagnetic waves onto the object disposed in the heating element 12A or, more specifically, a heating chamber (not shown in the figure), the same current sensor 42 may be disposed in one of the above circuits 15A-15C so as to sense or measure the flow of current therethrough or, in the alternative, conventional wave sensor 42 may be placed in such a chamber to sense or measure flow of such waves inside the chamber.
  • [0185]
    The temperature sensor 43 (denoted as “T”) is generally disposed in, on, below or adjacent to the heating element 12A in order to sense a range of temperature (e.g., near room temperature or well above such a temperature) or to measure the temperature of or near the heating element 12A. Thus, the temperature sensor 43 may be disposed in any part of the grill assembly which tends to get hot by conduction of heat as the heating element 12A generates heat. Examples of such parts may include, but not be limited to, a nozzle or heating coil of the heating element 12A, a support of the assembly, a body of the assembly, a container, and so on. As described above and when the temperature sensor 43 is of the non-contacting type, the temperature sensor 43 may be disposed in any location in which the temperature sensor 43 may emit waves toward the heating element 12A and receive such waves reflected thereby. Because the primary object of such a temperature sensor 43 is detect whether the heating element 12A is on and/or whether the measured temperature is beyond a preset value, exact disposition of the temperature sensor 43 is not material to the scope of the present invention as far as the temperature sensor 43 may accomplish one of such objectives.
  • [0186]
    The position sensor 44 (denoted as “X”) is preferably operatively coupled to the switch 11A in order to sense disposition thereof in one of its off- and on-positions. For example, the position sensor 44 may be coupled to the mechanical switch 11A so that the sensor 44 recognizes disposition of the switch 11A based on translation or rotation thereof. In the alternative, the position sensor 44 may be incorporated into an electric circuit of the electric switch 11A and sense disposition of the switch 11A based upon the user selection. When the switch 11A is arranged to move between one off-position but multiple on-positions (e.g., low, medium, and high), such a position sensor 44 may be arranged to monitor the exact location of the switch 11A. Because the primary objective of the position sensor 44 is to detect whether the heating element 12A is on or off, the position sensor 44 may also be arranged to sense the off-position and not-off-position or, in the alternative, only to sense a position which may be away from its off-position. As long as the position sensor 44 may accomplish this objective, exact disposition of the position sensor 44 is not material to the scope of the present invention.
  • [0187]
    The mass sensor 45 (denoted by “M”) may typically be disposed in any location in which such a sensor 45 may measure the mass or weight of the object and/or container disposed on or over the heating element 12A and/or inside the heating chamber of the heating element 12A. When the primary objective of the position sensor 45 is to detect presence or absence of the object and/or container on, over or inside the heating element 12A, such a sensor 45 may not need a fair sensitivity of measuring the mass or weight within a preset resolution. It is appreciated that, in addition to various conventional mass or weight sensors, other conventional sensors which are designed not to directly measure the mass or weight may be used as well. For example, conventional beam sensors may be employed so as to detect the presence or absence of the object or container on, over or inside the heating element 12A. In addition, conventional displacement sensors may be disposed so that they may be displaced and detect such presence or absence in response to disposition of the object or container on, over or inside the heating element 12A. In another example, conventional force sensors may be employed to detect such presence or absence by sensing force exerted by such an object or container. It is to be understood, however, that such a mass sensor 45 may require at least minimal precision when it may be desirable to sense the exact mass or weight thereof and/or change in such a mass or weight over time as heating proceeds. As long as the mass sensor 45 may accomplish the above objective, exact disposition of such a sensor 45 is not material to the scope of the present invention.
  • [0188]
    The actuator member 60 may be arranged to receive at least one control signal generated by the control member 50 and performs at least one preset control action of a safety protocol which may be embedded into the control member 50 by the manufacturer. For example, the actuator member 60 may be arranged to open and to close a control valve 61 disposed along the upstream pathway 15A in order to start and stop supply of the input energy into the entire grill assembly. In the alternative, the actuator member 60 may also be arranged to open and to close each control valve 62A, 62B disposed along the middle pathway 15B so as to start and stop the supply of the input energy into each heating element 12A. When desirable, the control valves 62A, 62B may be incorporated into the downstream pathways 15C for individual or local control of the input energy supply as well. In another example, the actuator member 60 may be arranged to move the switch 11A or, more particularly, to reset such a switch 11A back to its off-position, thereby terminating the supply of the input energy to each of the heating elements 12A. The actuator member 60 may be arranged to perform other actions included in such a safety protocol, examples of which may include, but not be limited to, generating audio and/or visual warnings including warning signals and/or actions, issuing audio and/or visual alarms including alarm signals and/or actions, and the like. Depending upon a variety of actions included in the safety protocol, the control and/or actuator members 50, 60, may also be arranged to allow the user to select desired control actions upon detecting unintended heating operation and/or burning food.
  • [0189]
    It is appreciated that the actuator member 50 may be arranged to manipulate the control valves 61 on its own, without having to be manipulated by the control member 50. For example, bimetal-type devices may be disposed between the energy source 10 and heating element 12A and arranged to connect and disconnect various pathways 15A-15C through their deformation caused by temperature of or near the heating element 12A. Similarly, fluid-filled devices may also be arranged to accomplish the similar function through their expansion and contraction caused by such temperature.
  • [0190]
    The output member 70 is generally coupled to the control member 50 and arranged to provide at least one display 71 regarding system and/or operation parameters and/or variables. For example, a warning unit 72 of the output member 70 is arranged to generate at least one warning signal and/or to display such a warning signal or whether any warning signal is generated. Similarly, an alarm unit 73 is arranged to issue at least one alarm signal and/or to display such an alarm signal or whether any alarm is issued. An on/off display unit 74 is arranged to display whether the grill assembly is properly connected up to the input energy source 10. The on/off display unit 74 may also be arranged to show whether any heating element 12A is turned on and, therefore, multiple on/off display units 74 may also be employed to display on- and off-states of individual heating elements 12A. A selection display unit 75 is typically arranged to display at least some selections regarding system and operational variables and/or parameters chosen by the user through the input command signals. For example, the selection display unit 75 may display an user selected control mode such as, e.g., global vs. local control mode, continuous vs. intermittent control mode, and the like. In addition, such a unit 75 may display various predetermined set-points supplied by the manufacturer and/or other set-points adjustable by the user, examples of which may include, but not be limited to, the preset distance used by the motion sensor, preset temperature used by the temperature sensor, reference or target time used by the time sensor, and the like. An operation display unit 76 may be arranged to display various system and/or operation variables and/or parameters such as, e.g., presence or absence of the supply of the input energy to the heating element, temperature of the heating element, positions of the switches and control valves, and the like. A time display unit 77 is arranged to display present time, elapsed period of time from the reference time, period of time remaining to the target time, and the like. Other additional variables and parameters may also be displayed by an auxiliary display unit 78.
  • [0191]
    The control member 50 is arranged to operatively couple with the input, sensor, actuator, and output members 30, 40, 60, 70 and to control overall and individual aspects of the operation of the grill safety system 20. For example, the control member 50 is arranged to receive user input signals from the input member 30. The control member 50 may use such raw signals or may include an input unit in which such raw signals are amplified or otherwise processed. Depending on characteristics thereof, the control member 50 may replace the preexisting set-points stored therein with new values which are determined by and/or calculated from the user input signals. Thereafter, the control member 50 is arranged to operate the grill safety system 20 based on various preexisting and replaced set-point. The control member 50 is also arranged to couple with the sensor member 30 and/or its sensors 41, and to receive various sensing signals from the sensors 41. The control member may use such raw signals directly or may include a transducer unit through which such raw signals may be amplified or otherwise processed. The control unit 50 may also include a microchip implemented with at least one algorithm which processes the raw or amplified sensing signals so as to extract or calculate various information which will be needed to control various operations of the grill safety system 20.
  • [0192]
    Based upon such user input signals and/or sensing signals and/or various algorithms thereof, the control member 50 may detect the supply of the input energy to the heating element 12A and the intention of the user to generate heat by the heating element 12A. Upon detecting unintended heating by the heating element 12A, the control member 50 may generate at least one control signal and sends such a signal to the actuator member 60 which then takes at least one control action according to the control signal. In general, the control member 50 stores a library of safety protocol which is basically a list of control signals each corresponding to each of the control actions as described above. When the grill safety system offers a single control action such as, e.g., stopping the input energy supply to the heating element 12A, the control process is straightforward, i.e., stopping such supply as soon as detecting the unintended heating operation. However, when the control member 50 may offer various control actions, the user may provide one or more input signals to the input member 30, and the control member 50 selects one or more control signals based upon such input signals. The actuator member 60 then manipulates the switch 11A and/or various control valves 61, 62A, 62B in response thereto. The control member 50 may also be arranged to control various display units 71 of the output member 70, either directly or indirectly, e.g., by generating various output control signals based upon its control signals and then sending such output control signals to corresponding display units 71 of the output member 50.
  • [0193]
    Configurational and/or operational variations and/or modifications of the above embodiments of the above exemplary grill safety systems and various members, units, and elements thereof described in FIG. 2 also fall within the scope of this invention.
  • [0194]
    First of all, it is appreciated that the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 2 is a rather comprehensive grill safety system and, accordingly, that not all such members and/or units described in the figure are necessary in all cases. For example, the sensor member may require only two of the above sensors, one of which is arranged to sense the supply of input energy to the heating element, and the other of which is arranged to sense the intention of the user to generate heat thereby. Therefore, the sensor member may include the flow and time sensors, position and time sensors, flow and motion sensors, position and motion sensors, temperature and time sensors, temperature and motion sensors, and the like. Similarly, the grill safety system may include a single global control valve 61 or, in the alternative, multiple local control valves 62A, 62B without including the global control valve 61. In addition, such a control member may include one or more but not all display units shown in the figure. Conversely, the members and/or units of the grill safety system of FIG. 2 may be provided in multiplicity or redundancy. For example, the sensors of a particular type may be disposed in different positions to obtain multiple measurements of a system variable, which may then be screened, e.g., by deleting the measurement most deviating from a mean thereof, by averaging multiple measurements, and the like.
  • [0195]
    Various sensors of the sensor member may be disposed in various embodiments. In general, the sensing signals generated by such sensors have very low electric voltages or currents and may have to be amplified to be properly processed by the control member. Thus, such a sensor includes a sensing unit to sense a target system variable and to generate a raw sensing signal and a transducer unit to amplify the voltage and/or current of the raw sensing signal. As described hereinabove, some sensors may be disposed away from the switch and/or heating elements and, therefore, their sensing and transducer units may be disposed away from the switch and/or heating elements and adjacent to each other. The sensing units of the sensors such as, e.g., the flow, temperature, position, and mass sensors, however, may have to be disposed near or in the heating elements or switches. Thus, the transducer units of such sensors may be disposed near or in the heating elements or switches or, in the alternative, may be disposed near the control panel or included thereinto. As far as such sensors may sense its target variable, detailed disposition of their sensing and transducer units is not material to the scope of the present invention.
  • [0196]
    It is to be understood that some sensors of such a sensor member may be disposed adjacent to the heating elements and, accordingly, may have to be exposed to high temperatures. In order to obtain reliable measurements from such sensors, it may be necessary to provide various calibration algorithms from time to time or at preset intervals. For example, such sensors may be incorporated with self-calibration algorithm such that they run the algorithm after a preset period of time and/or after a preset interval of heating operation by the heating element. In another example, the sensor member and/or control member may be arranged to issue warning signals to the user after the above period or interval so that the user may calibrate such sensors in time. It is appreciated, in these examples, that the sensor and/or control member may be use the temperature of flame of the gas and/or that of the heated heating element as a reference temperature and perform the calibration of the sensors.
  • [0197]
    Although not shown in the figure, the grill safety system may include at least one override unit which is arranged to operatively couple with and to manipulate the control member to engage and to disengage the grill safety system. Therefore, by providing the proper override input signal to the input member, the control member may engage or disengage operation of the grill safety system regardless of any operational status of the grill safety system. The override unit may be arranged to temporarily disable the grill safety system temporarily or, alternatively, to permanently disengage such a system until the user provides the release or reset signal thereto. The grill safety system may also include at least one release or reset unit which is arranged to restore original set points or settings provided or set by the manufacturer and/or user. Accordingly, the user may use the reset unit in order to nullify the temporary or interim set points and return the grill safety system to its original operational status.
  • [0198]
    Depending upon detailed arrangements of the safety protocol, the above release unit may also be arranged to manipulate the gas or current supply to the heating element. For example, the control member may be arranged to stop the input energy supply to the heating element upon detecting such supply and absence of intention of the user to generate heat by the heating element, without moving the switch. In this embodiment, the input energy supply is to be stopped, although the switch may still be in its on-position. The release unit may then be arranged to restore original functions of the switch by receiving the release or reset input signal such as, e.g., by pressing the release unit, moving such a switch back to its off-position, and the like.
  • [0199]
    The grill safety system of the present invention may be arranged to detect unintended heating of the heating elements 12A and to perform the safety protocol according to various algorithms. FIGS. 3A and 3B describe a few exemplary block diagrams for such control algorithms.
  • [0200]
    FIG. 3A is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary control algorithm for a control member of a gas grill assembly according to the present invention. As depicted in the figure, the control member starts or initiates an exemplary control algorithm with initiating or activating a detection sequence (step G00). The algorithm checks whether there is a supply of gas to the heating element (step G01) and, if there is not any, terminates the algorithm. However, when such a supply of gas is detected by any of the foregoing sensors, the control member follows along the algorithm to check whether there exists any gas flame in or above the heating element (step G02). If not, the control member may directly shut off the supply of gas (step G04) or, in the alternative, issue an alarm (step G03) and then shut off the supply of gas. Even when the control detects the supply of gas and flame in the heating element, the control member may optionally proceed to determine whether the heating operation is intended by the user (step G05) by, e.g., detecting the presence and/or absence of the user and so on, using various sensors of the sensor member as described above. When the sensors do not sense the user within the preset distance, the control member may optionally check whether the user has set an interval of heating into the time sensor (step G06). If so, the control member may terminate such an algorithm or, in the alternative, hold for the interval and restart the algorithm. Upon confirming such intention of the user, the control member may terminate the algorithm or, alternatively, may check whether the heating element is overheating the object disposed thereover by, e.g., checking the temperature of the object or container, and the like, by various sensors as described above (step G08). When the temperature of the object and/or container may not exceed the preset temperature range, the control member may then terminate the algorithm. Otherwise, the control member may directly shut off the supply of gas to the heating element (step G04) or, in the alternative, such a control member may issue the alarm (step G03) and shut off the gas supply (step G03) thereafter or, in another alternative, the control member may optionally wait for a preset period of time (step G07), issue the alarm (step G03), and shut off the gas supply (step G04).
  • [0201]
    FIG. 3B is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary control algorithm for a control member of an electric or microwave grill assembly according to the present invention. The control member starts or initiates an exemplary control algorithm with initiating or activating a detection sequence (step E00). The control algorithm checks whether there is a supply of electric current to the heating element (step E01) and, if not, terminates the algorithm. However, when such a supply of current may be detected by any of the above sensors, the control member follows along the algorithm to check whether such heating operation is intended by the user (step E02) using various sensors of the sensor member as described above. If not, the control member may directly terminate the supply of current (step E05) or, in the alternative, optionally issue an alarm (step E04) and then terminate the supply of current. When desirable, the control member may also check whether the user has set an time interval of heating into the above time sensor (step E03). If not, the control member may confirm such heating operation as unintended, and directly terminate the supply of current (step E05) or, in the alternative, issue an alarm (step E04) before terminating such supply. However, even upon confirming the heating operation as intended, the control member may optionally check whether the heating element may be overheating the object disposed thereover by, e.g., checking the temperature of the object or container, and so on, using various sensors as described above (step E06). When such temperature of the object and/or container may not exceed the preset temperature range, the control member terminates the algorithm. Otherwise, the control member may directly shut off the supply of current to the heating element (step E05) or, in the alternative, such a control member may issue the alarm (step E04) and then shut off the current supply (step E05), in another alternative, the control member may optionally wait for a preset period of time (step E07), issue the alarm (step E04), and shut off the current supply (step E05).
  • [0202]
    Configurational and/or operational variations and/or modifications of the above embodiments of the above exemplary grill safety systems and various members, units, and elements thereof described in FIGS. 3A and 3B also fall within the scope of this invention.
  • [0203]
    As described hereinabove, the supply of various input energies to the heating element may be sensed by various means, e.g., by the position sensor, gas flow sensor, current flow sensor, wave sensor, and so on. In addition, the temperature sensor may be used to monitor the temperature of the heating element and to sense the supply of such energies to the heating element. Conversely, once the heating is confirmed, the temperature sensor may monitor a sudden drop in the temperature of the heating member and sense that the gas flame is extinguished due to wind, spill, and the like.
  • [0204]
    The excessive temperature of the object or container and/or combustion of the object thereby may also be sensed by various means, e.g., by the temperature sensor monitoring the temperature of the object or container, by the mass detection sensor sensing gaseous substances generated by the overheated object or container, by the flow sensor in conjunction with the time sensor which monitor a total amount of energy supplied to the object or container, by the mass sensor monitoring weight or mass of the object or container during the heating operation, by the smoke sensor, and the like.
  • [0205]
    The initiation of the foregoing control algorithm may be triggered by a variety of events. In one example, the control member may initiate the control algorithm at a fixed interval or at variable intervals and/or whenever it senses an onset of the flow of input energy. The control member may also initiate such an algorithm whenever the sensors detect the unintended heating operation. In other words, as the control member detects the unintended heating operation, such a member may reinitiate the control algorithm by repeating the sensing steps such as, e.g., G02, G05, G08, E03, and/or E06, before taking the drastic control action such as stopping the supply of input energy, and so on. The control member may also be arranged to continuously or intermittently receive the sensing signals from the sensors of the sensor member. More particularly, the control member may further be arranged to stop the control algorithm whenever a new sensing signals confirms the absence of the supply of input energy and/or intention of the user to generate heat by the heating element. In addition, the control member may also be arranged to adaptively initiate the control algorithm whenever the sensors sense a sudden change in the system and/or operation parameters and/or variables, e.g., an onset of the input energy supply, a change in position of the switch, a sudden or gradual change in temperature of the heating element, object, and/or container therefor, and the like.
  • [0206]
    The safety protocol may provide various control actions, examples of which may include, but not limited to, generating various warnings or warning signals, issuing various alarms or alarm signals, shutting off the supply of input energy, holding off for the preset period of time before taking on any of the foregoing actions, and so on. The shutoff action may also include variations, examples of which may include, but not be limited to, an unconditional shutoff action, a conditional shut-off-action, and a timed shutoff action. The unconditional shutoff action is generally arranged to shut off the supply of input energy regardless of whether or not the user may be around, the user has set the time sensor, and the like, whereas the conditional shutoff action is the one associated with additional actions such as generating the warnings, issuing the alarms, holding off for the preset period, and so on, such that the control member may be able to confirm that there exist the supply of input energy and unintended heating operation and that the user is not able to intervene such unintended heating operation. To the contrary, the timed shutoff action is generally arranged to shut off the supply of input energy after a preset period of time, whether or not the user may be around, the user has set the time sensor, such heating operation is intended, and the like. The foregoing shutoff actions may be used in combination thereof, in conjunction with the above various embodiments for initiating the control algorithm, and/or the foregoing steps of generating the warnings and/or issuing the alarms. The control member may also be arranged to check the sensing signals at least one more time before shutting off such supply of input energy.
  • [0207]
    The grill safety system of the present invention may be coupled to other household equipment in order to assure the user to be warned, alarmed, and/or informed of the control actions taken by the control member. Accordingly, the grill safety system may be operatively coupled to lighting equipment, audiovisual appliances, communication equipment such as, e.g., wired or wireless phones, and so on, such that the user may be able to be informed about the unintended heating operation even when he or she is away from the grill assembly.
  • [0208]
    As described above, the above aspects and/or embodiments of the grill safety system and its various members and/or units may only represent different forms, and may be embodied in many other different forms. Thus, the grill safety system and its members and units should not be limited to such aspects and/or embodiments set forth herein.
  • [0209]
    It is to be understood that, while various aspects and embodiments of the present invention have been described in conjunction with the detailed description thereof, the foregoing description is intended to illustrate and not to limit the scope of the invention, which is defined by the scope of the appended claims. Other embodiments, aspects, advantages, and modifications are within the scope of the following claims.
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7479006 *Aug 2, 2006Jan 20, 2009General Electric CompanyApparatus and methods for operating a cooking appliance
US7793649 *Dec 10, 2007Sep 14, 2010Wolfedale Engineering LimitedTemperature control apparatus and method for a barbeque grill
US7866311 *Mar 19, 2008Jan 11, 2011Warner Jon AHigh speed solid cooking fuel igniter
US8662067Jan 7, 2011Mar 4, 2014Jon A. WarnerHigh speed solid cooking fuel igniter
US8783243 *Oct 25, 2010Jul 22, 2014General Electric CompanyLockout system for surface burners of a cooking appliance
US9289096 *Nov 16, 2008Mar 22, 2016Wolfedale Engineering LimitedTemperature control device and method
US9291349Feb 28, 2014Mar 22, 2016Jon A. WarnerHigh speed solid cooking fuel igniter
US9329606 *Aug 23, 2010May 3, 2016Wolfedale Engineering LimitedTemperature control apparatus and method for a barbeque grill
US9357878 *Oct 17, 2012Jun 7, 2016Bonnie Lee BuzickGrill with safety system
US20080030351 *Aug 7, 2007Feb 7, 2008William HomeAlarm device of barbeque
US20080096147 *Aug 2, 2006Apr 24, 2008General Electric CompanyApparatus and methods for operating a cooking appliance
US20080230044 *Mar 19, 2008Sep 25, 2008Warner Jon AHigh speed solid cooking fuel igniter
US20090126714 *Dec 10, 2007May 21, 2009Wolfedale Engineering LimitedTemperature control apparatus and method for a barbeque grill
US20090183729 *Nov 16, 2008Jul 23, 2009Wolfedale Engineering LimitedTemperature control device and method
US20100288260 *May 5, 2010Nov 18, 2010Angelo CastelliDoor release automatic gas oven shut down
US20110088682 *Aug 23, 2010Apr 21, 2011Wolfedale Engineering LimitedTemperature control apparatus and method for a barbeque grill
US20110168157 *Jan 7, 2011Jul 14, 2011Warner Jon AHigh speed solid cooking fuel igniter
US20120100492 *Oct 25, 2010Apr 26, 2012Hodapp Jr Leo EdwardLockout system for surface burners of a cooking appliance
US20140102316 *Oct 17, 2012Apr 17, 2014Bonnie Lee BuzickGrill With Safety System
US20140260775 *Mar 15, 2013Sep 18, 2014Bsh Home Appliances CorporationEncoder selector for a module of a household cooking appliance
EP1818618A3 *Feb 13, 2007Jun 7, 2017SMEG S.p.A.Cooking range with an indicator device
Classifications
U.S. Classification126/39.0BA, 126/42
International ClassificationF23N5/20, F23D14/72, F24C3/12, F23N1/00, F24C15/10
Cooperative ClassificationF23N1/005, F24C3/128, F23N5/203, F24C15/106, F23D14/72, F24C3/126
European ClassificationF23N1/00D, F24C3/12F2, F24C15/10C4, F23D14/72, F24C3/12F, F23N5/20B