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Publication numberUS20060168984 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/265,662
Publication dateAug 3, 2006
Filing dateNov 2, 2005
Priority dateFeb 1, 2005
Publication number11265662, 265662, US 2006/0168984 A1, US 2006/168984 A1, US 20060168984 A1, US 20060168984A1, US 2006168984 A1, US 2006168984A1, US-A1-20060168984, US-A1-2006168984, US2006/0168984A1, US2006/168984A1, US20060168984 A1, US20060168984A1, US2006168984 A1, US2006168984A1
InventorsGary Myers
Original AssigneeTriteq Lock And Security, L.L.C.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Ice dispenser for cubed or crushed ice
US 20060168984 A1
Abstract
An ice dispenser for cubed or crushed ice is presented in a self contained modular design that can be used for commercial and consumer applications. A two-motor system is provided for the auger and ice crusher and features a motor driven bypass gate system with a worm drive to bypass the ice crusher when cubed ice is selected. A flexible bladed paddle at the end of an auger exerts a positive force to push ice into the crusher and touches the wall of a containing duct for reduction of ice jams. The ice crusher employs a unique roller chain sprocket or timing belt and pulley system for greater flexibility in mounting and maintaining compactness. There is also provided an ice chute with two inlet paths and all of the operations are managed by electronic controls which includes monitor means sensing motor current draws to detect an ice jam and programmed control means to rotate said drivers to free an ice jam.
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Claims(49)
1. An ice dispenser for use with a source of cube ice, said dispenser comprising:
a duct means that extends from said ice source, said duct having first and second outlets;
a chute extending from the duct first and second outlets;
an ice crusher between said duct and said chute to crush ice discharged through the duct first outlet;
a motor driven gate moveably attached to said duct that has a first position in which said gate allows ice flow through one of the duct first or second outlets and blocks flow through the other of the duct first or second outlets, and a second position in which said gate blocks flow through said one of the duct first or second outlets, and allows flow through the other of the duct first or second outlets; and
control means for selectively moving said gate to either the first or second position.
2. An ice dispenser of claim 1, further including a driver moveably mounted to said duct to move ice to the duct first and second outlets.
3. The ice dispenser of claim 2 wherein said driver comprises a motor driven auger disposed in said duct to move ice to the duct first and second outlets.
4. The ice dispenser of claim 2 further comprising a crusher motor for driving said ice crusher and a driver motor for driving said auger driver, said crusher motor and said auger driver motor having independently controllable means.
5. The ice dispenser of claim 1, further including a motor operated driver moveably mounted to said duct to urge ice out of the duct first outlet and toward said ice crusher.
6. The ice dispenser of claim 1, wherein:
a first driver is moveably mounted to said duct to move ice to the first and second duct outlets; and
a second driver is moveably mounted to said duct to move ice out of the duct first outlet and towards said ice crusher;
wherein said first and second drivers are attached to a common drive unit that simultaneously actuates said drivers.
7. The ice dispenser of claim 1, wherein:
said duct has an inlet opening through which cube ice from said ice source is received and the first and second outlets are spaced from the inlet opening;
a first driver is moveably mounted to said duct to move ice from the inlet opening towards the first and second duct outlets;
said gate is moveably mounted to said duct to extend over and retract away from the one duct outlet with which said gate is associated; and
a second driver is moveably mounted to said duct to urge ice through the duct first outlet opening and towards said ice crusher.
8. The ice dispenser of claim 1, wherein:
said duct has an inlet opening through which ice from said ice bin is received, the first outlet is distal to the inlet opening and the second outlet is proximal to the inlet opening;
said gate is moveably mounted to said duct to extend over and retract away from the duct second outlet opening; and
a paddle blade driver is moveably mounted to said duct to urge ice through the duct first outlet and towards said ice crusher.
9. An ice dispenser adapted to be used with a source of cube ice comprising:
a duct that extends from said ice source, said duct having an inlet opening through which ice enters from said ice source and first and second outlet openings spaced from the inlet opening;
a first driver moveably mounted to said duct that urges ice from the inlet opening towards the first and second outlet openings;
a motor driven gate moveably attached to said duct that has a first position in which said gate allows flow to and through one of the duct first or second outlet openings and a second position in which said gate blocks flow through said one of the duct first or second outlet openings;
an ice crusher positioned to receive ice from the duct second outlet opening; and
a chute extending from the duct first opening and from said ice crusher, said chute having a single discharge opening adjacent said dispensing head assemblies, and motor drive means for respectively operating said first driver, said gate and said ice crusher.
10. The ice dispenser of claim 9, wherein said first driver is an auger.
11. The ice dispenser of claim 9 further comprising a crusher motor for driving said ice crusher and a driver motor for driving said first driver, said crusher motor and said driver motor being independently controllable.
12. The ice dispenser of claim 9, further including a second driver having flexible paddles moveably mounted to said duct to urge ice out of the duct second opening and towards said ice crusher.
13. The ice dispenser of claim 9 wherein:
said gate is motor driven moveably mounted to said duct to extend over and retract away from the one duct outlet opening with which said gate is associated; and
when said gate extends over the duct outlet opening with which said gate is associated, said gate is located between the one duct outlet opening and said chute.
14. The ice dispenser of claim 9, wherein:
the duct first outlet opening is proximal to the duct inlet opening and the duct second outlet opening is distal to the duct inlet opening;
said gate is moveably mounted to said duct to extend over and retract away from the duct first outlet opening and, when said gate extends over the duct first outlet opening, said gate is located between the duct first outlet opening and said chute;
a second driver is moveably mounted in said duct to urge ice through the duct second outlet opening and towards said ice crusher.
15. An ice dispenser adapted to be used with a source of cube ice, said ice dispenser comprising:
an ice crusher;
a duct having an inner wall extending between said ice source and said ice crusher, said duct being formed with a bypass opening that is spaced from said ice crusher;
a motor driven gate moveably mounted to said duct and positioned to selectively block flow to the ice crusher or through the duct bypass opening; and
a chute positioned to receive ice from the ice crusher and the duct bypass opening, said chute having a common discharge opening for ice from said ice crusher and from the duct bypass opening.
16. The ice dispenser of claim 15, further including a motor driven auger means moveably mounted to said duct for urging ice from said ice bin to said ice crusher and the duct bypass opening.
17. The ice dispenser of claim 15, further including a flexible paddle bladed driver mounted to said duct adjacent said ice crusher that urges ice towards said ice crusher.
18. The ice dispenser of claim 15, wherein:
a first driver is moveably mounted to said duct to urge ice from said ice bin to said ice crusher and the duct bypass opening;
a second driver is moveably mounted to said duct to urge ice out of the duct and towards said ice crusher; and
said first and second drivers are attached to a common drive unit that simultaneously actuates said drivers.
19. The ice dispenser of claim 18 further comprising a crusher motor for driving said ice crusher and a driver motor for driving said first and second drivers, said crusher motor and said driver motor being independently controllable.
20. The ice dispenser of claim 15 wherein:
said duct is formed with an inlet opening through which ice enters from said ice crusher, said ice crusher is mounted to said duct to be distal from the inlet opening and the bypass opening is formed in said duct to be proximal to the inlet opening;
said gate is moveably mounted to said duct to extend over and retract away from the duct bypass opening; and
when said gate extends over the duct bypass opening, said gate is located between said duct and said chute.
21. The ice dispenser as claimed in claim 15 wherein the components are integrated into a single modular assembly.
22. The ice dispenser as claimed in claim 17 wherein said paddle blades touch the inner wall of said duct.
23. The ice dispenser as claimed in claim 11 wherein an ice crusher motor drives the crusher through a roller chain and sprocket.
24. The ice crusher as claimed in claim 11 wherein said ice crusher motor drives the crusher through a timing belt and pulleys.
25. The ice dispenser as claimed in claim 19 wherein electronic control means manages all of the operations of the ice dispenser including selection input, position of bypass gate, and driver motor speeds.
26. The ice dispenser as claimed in claim 25 wherein said electronic control means includes monitor means for detecting an ice jam and programmed control means to rotate selective ones of said drivers in a predetermined manner to free said ice jams.
27. An ice dispenser as claimed in claim 26 wherein said monitor means senses current draw of said motors to detect an ice jam.
28. The ice dispenser as claimed in claim 9 wherein said motor gate drive includes a worm gear driver.
29. An ice dispenser for use with a source of cube ice, said dispenser comprising:
a duct means that extends from said ice source, said duct having an outlet means;
a chute extending from the duct outlet means;
an ice crusher between said duct and said chute to crush ice discharged through the duct outlet means;
a first driver moveably mounted to said duct to move ice through the duct to the outlet; and
a second driver mounted to said duct having more ice to the outlet means.
30. The ice dispenser as claimed in claim 29 wherein said first driver comprises a motor driven auger disposed in said duct and said second driver comprises a flexible bladed paddle.
31. The ice dispenser of claim 29, wherein said first and second drivers are attached to a common drive unit that simultaneously actuates said drivers.
32. The ice dispenser as claimed in claim 30, wherein said auger and said flexible bladed paddle are attached in common line from said motor.
33. The ice dispenser as claimed in claim 29 wherein an ice crusher motor drives the crusher through a roller chain and sprocket.
34. The ice dispenser of claim 29 wherein:
said duct is formed with an inlet opening through which ice enters from said ice crusher, said ice crusher is mounted to said duct to be distal from the inlet opening and a bypass opening is formed in said duct to be proximal to the inlet opening;
a motor driven gate is moveably mounted to said duct to extend over and retract away from the duct bypass opening; and
35. The ice dispenser as claimed in claim 34 wherein the components are integrated into a single modular assembly.
36. The ice dispenser as claimed in claim 30 wherein said paddle blades touch the inner wall of said duct.
37. The ice dispenser of claim 29 further comprising a crusher motor for driving said ice crusher and a driver motor for driving said first and second drivers, said crusher motor and said driver motor being independently controllable.
38. The ice dispenser of claim 29, wherein said first driver is a rigid.
39. The ice dispenser of claim 29, further including a second driver having flexible paddles moveably mounted to said duct to urge ice out of the duct second opening and towards said ice crusher.
40. The ice dispenser of claim 29 wherein:
a motor driven gate is moveably mounted to said duct to extend over and retract away from the duct outlet opening means with which said gate is associated; and
when said gate extends over the duct outlet opening with which said gate is associated, said gate is located between the duct outlet opening and said chute.
41. An ice dispenser adapted to be used with a source of cube ice, said ice dispenser comprising:
an ice crusher;
a duct having an inner wall extending between said ice source and said ice crusher, said duct being formed with an opening means that is spaced from said ice crusher;
a chute positioned to receive ice from the ice crusher and the duct opening means, said chute having a common discharge opening for ice from said ice crusher and from the duct opening means;
a motor driven auger moveably mounted in said duct to move ice toward said duct opening means; and
a flexible bladed paddle means commonly mounted with said auger to move ice towards said crusher.
42. The ice crusher as claimed in claim 37 wherein said ice crusher motor drives the crusher through a timing belt and pulleys.
43. The ice dispenser as claimed in claim 34 wherein electronic control means manages all of the operations of the ice dispenser including selection input, position of bypass gate, and driver motor speeds.
44. The ice dispenser as claimed in claim 43 wherein said electronic control means includes monitor means for detecting an ice jam and programmed control means to rotate selective ones of said drivers in a predetermined manner to free said ice jams.
45. An ice dispenser as claimed in claim 44 wherein said monitor means senses current draw of said motors to detect an ice jam.
46. The ice dispenser as claimed in claim 34 wherein said motor gate drive includes a worm gear driver.
47. An ice crusher as claimed in claim 41 wherein electronic control means manages the operations of the motor
48. An ice dispenser as claimed in claim 41 wherein said electronic control means includes monitor means for detecting an ice jam and programmed control means to rotate selections of said drivers in a predetermined manner to free said ice jams.
49. An ice dispenser as claimed in claim 48 wherein said monitor means sensnes current draw of said motors.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This patent application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/648,893, filed Feb. 1, 2005. The entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to ice dispensers with the capability to dispense either crushed or cubed ice.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The ice dispenser of the present invention allows for the selection of either cubed ice or crushed ice. More specifically, the present invention relates to an improved self-contained, modular design. The present invention may be adapted for use in both consumer and commercial markets and has the potential for, but is not limited to, applications in equipment such as stand-alone ice crushers, refrigerators, and soft drink dispensers.

Accordingly, the present invention comprises of an ice feeding mechanism which transports ice through a duct to an ice crusher assembly. The ice crusher is driven by a separate motor. The invention also includes a bypass gate which allows ice to bypass the crusher assembly when cubed ice is selected for dispensing. Both cubed and crushed ice are routed and dispensed through a single ice chute.

The present ice dispenser allows for the selection of the type of ice to be dispensed: cubed ice or crushed ice. The ice type selection type usually occurs prior to dispensing, but the selection may also be made during the dispensing of ice. The means for the ice type selection may be made by, but is not limited to, a device such as a switch. If cubed ice is selected, the bypass gate is opened allowing ice to bypass the ice crusher assembly. If crushed ice is selected, the bypass gate is closed, and ice is delivered to the ice crusher. Opening and closing of the bypass gate is accomplished by means of a motor-driven worm drive, but may also be accomplished by means of an electric solenoid, pneumatic or hydraulic cylinder, or other actuating device.

Ice is supplied to the ice dispenser assembly from an ice bin, ice chest, or other ice reservoir and enters the auger duct. When the ice dispenser is activated, by means of a switch or other input device, the ice is transported through the length of the duct by a motor-driven auger. If cubed ice is the current selection, the ice then passes through the bypass gate, and the cubed ice exits the dispenser through the ice chute. If crushed ice is the current selection, the ice is delivered to the ice crusher, is crushed, and crushed ice exits the dispenser through the ice chute.

Brief Explanation of Unique Components

1. Two Motor System

2. Modular Design

3. Bypass gate system

4. Paddle blades

5. Ice crusher assembly

6. Ice crusher drive system

7. Ice chute

8. Electronic Controls

1. Two-Motor System

    • The invention utilizes a two-motor system for the auger and ice crusher; the auger and ice crusher each have a dedicated motor. This allows for completely independent control of the auger and ice crusher and increases the flexibility of the invention over previous crushed ice dispensers.
    • Because the auger and crusher each have an independently controlled motor, the speed of the auger can be adjusted without affecting the speed of the crusher and vise-versa. This gives the invention the capability to crush and dispense different types of ice produced by the multitude of ice makers available. The rate at which the auger feeds ice to the ice crusher and the speed of the ice crusher can be each adjusted to optimally crush and dispense ice of various geometries and densities.
    • Another advantage of independent motors for the crusher and the auger is that when cubed ice is dispensed, the crusher motor can be deactivated. This will render the crusher idle, allowing no further ice crushing to occur, and only cubed ice will be dispensed.
    • Additionally, the two-motor system allows the crushed ice dispenser to perform ice jam correction operations that would be difficult to accomplish with a single motor system, such as variable auger and crusher rotation speeds and independently reversible auger and crusher rotation directions.

2. Modular Design

    • The invention is designed so that all of the crushed ice dispenser's mechanical components are integrated into a single modular assembly. This allows the crushed ice dispenser design to easily be configured for use as either a stand-alone ice crusher or for integration into a multifunctional appliance, such as a refrigerator/freezer or beverage dispenser. The modular design of the crushed ice dispenser is an advantage for the manufacture of such appliances since it can be procured as a single subassembly.
    • The modular design also reduces the complexity of servicing the crushed ice dispenser because it can easily be removed entirely from the appliance for service or replacement.

3. Bypass Gate System

    • The crushed ice dispenser features a bypass gate system to bypass the ice crusher when cubed ice is selected. The gate is driven by a motor and worm drive system, but may also be driven by a solenoid, pneumatic or hydraulic cylinder, or some other type of actuation device. When crushed ice is selected, the bypass gate is closed, and ice is transported to the ice crusher. When cubed ice is selected, the bypass gate is opened, and ice bypasses the ice crusher to fall directly into the ice chute. Unlike existing ice crushers, the bypass gate is located external of the ice crusher. The external bypass gate reduces the delay time when changing selections between cubed and crushed ice, and reduces the complexity of the invention.

4. Paddle Blades

    • The crushed ice dispenser utilizes an auger with a 2 bladed paddle at its end. The paddle blades exert a positive force onto the ice, pushing it into the ice crusher, resulting in a faster and more consistent ice dispense than equipment available today. The blades are composed of a flexible material, such as rubber, to aid in the reduction of ice jams and by touching the walls of the chute prevent sticking of ice. If an ice jam does occur within the crusher, the soft paddle blade material will fold over itself, and the auger will continue to turn.

5. Ice Crusher Assembly

    • The crushed ice dispenser utilizes a compact ice crusher assembly. The ice crusher blades rotate at a high speed. In addition to crushing ice, the blades also increase the velocity of the ice as it exits the crusher assembly. This results in a high rate of crushed ice dispense.

6. Ice Crusher Drive System

    • The invention's ice crusher motor drives the ice crusher through a roller chain and sprocket system or timing belt and pulley system This allows greater flexibility in the mounting of the ice crusher motor within the crushed ice dispenser and aids in keeping the assembly compact in size.

7. Ice Chute

    • The crushed ice dispenser ice chute has two inlet paths: one for cubed ice and one for crushed ice. The two paths converge into one outlet at which both cubed and crushed ice is dispensed.

8. Electronic Controls

    • All of the operations of the crushed ice dispenser are managed by an electronic control board. The control board handles inputs such as cubed or crushed ice selection, and the position of the bypass gate, and controls the speed of the auger, crusher, and bypass gate motors. The electronic controls also monitors the current draw of each motor to determine if an ice jam has occurred If an ice jam does occurs, the control is programmed to rotate the auger and/or crusher blades in a certain manner to free the ice jam.

Advantages and Objects of the invention over the prior products, patents, and publications:

    • Can be adapted for use in many applications, both commercial and consumer
    • Ability to crush ice of various geometry and densities
    • Faster dispense of crushed ice
    • Fewer ice jams and the ability to free ice jams if they occur
    • Modular design
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention is pointed out with particularity in the claims. The above and further features and benefits of the invention are better understood by reference to the following detailed description taken together with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a first perspective view of the ice dispenser;

FIG. 2 is second perspective view of the ice dispenser assembly taken from the side opposite the side of the view of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a plan view of the ice dispenser;

FIG. 4 is an exploded view of the ice dispenser;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the ice crusher integral with the ice dispenser;

FIG. 6 is an exploded view of the ice crusher;

FIG. 7 is a cross sectional view of the ice crusher and discharge chute taken along line 7-7 of FIG. 3;

FIG. 8 is a side view of the ice dispenser illustrating the connection between the ice crusher and the motor that actuates the ice crusher; and

FIG. 9 is a block diagram of the control circuit of the ice dispenser of the beverage dispenser of this invention.

CRUSHED ICE DISPENSER ASSY

An example configuration of the crushed ice dispenser is shown in the drawings. The primary external components are shown; the auger motor is coupled to the auger; the auger resides within the auger duct; the bypass gate is positioned in front of the crusher assy and slides along the auger duct. In this example, a motor rotates a worm drive shaft to open and close the bypass gate. The crusher motor is located above the crusher assy; and in this example, a timing belt system transmits power from the crusher motor to the crusher assy. The ice chute is assembled at the end of the auger duct, below the ice crusher assy.

Crushed Ice Dispenser Assy, Exploded

The exploded assembly of the crushed ice dispenser is shown illustrating all the major components. The auger is assembled within the auger duct. At the end of the auger is a pair of paddle blades which push the cubed ice into the ice crusher. The paddle blades are constructed of a flexible material which allows the blades to fold and the blade ends touch the wall of the duct. This minimizes the occurrence of ice jams.

Auger and Bypass Gate

The drawing figures illustrate how the auger transports ice through the crushed ice dispenser in both the cubed ice and crushed ice selection modes. Ice enters the auger duct and is pushed down the length of the auger duct by the auger. When the dispenser is in cubed ice mode, the bypass gate is open, and the ice exits the auger duct through the bypass gate and falls into the ice chute. When the dispenser is in crushed ice mode, the bypass gate is closed, the cubed ice is pushed by the auger past the bypass gate, and the paddle blades push the ice into the ice crusher.

Bypass Gate System

The functionality of the bypass gate is shown in both the cubed ice and crushed ice selection modes. In the crushed ice mode, the bypass gate is closed, and the auger transports the cubed ice to the crusher. In the cubed ice mode, the bypass gate is open, and the cubed ice falls through the opening and into the ice chute. The bypass gate slides along the auger duct. In this example, the bypass gate is driven by a motor and worm dive.

Bypass Gate Assy

Shown in the drawings is one possible configuration of the bypass gate assembly with a worm drive system. The bypass gate motor turns a worm drive. Assembled to the bypass gate are bearings that run along the helix of the worm drive. As the motor turns, the bypass gate is moved along the length of the auger duct. The bypass gate is curved to conform to the outer diameter of the auger duct.

Ice Crusher System

The drawings illustrate how the crushed ice dispenser dispenses crushed ice. In the crushed ice selection mode, the bypass gate is closed, and cubed ice is transported by the auger to the paddle blades. The paddle blades push the ice into the crusher assembly where the cubed ice is crushed by the rotating crusher blades. The crusher blades are attached to the rotating crusher shaft which is driven by the crusher motor. In this example, the crusher motor transmits power to the crusher through a timing belt system. The crusher blades also add velocity to the ice as it exits the crusher and enters the ice chute, resulting in a greater crushed ice dispense rate than existing crushed ice dispensers.

Ice Crusher Assy

The ice crusher assembly is includes a set of stationary blades integrated into the base of the crusher and a set or rotating blades assembled to a rotating shaft. As ice enters the crusher assembly, the ice is crushed between the stationary and rotating blades and then pushed out of the crushing assembly by the motion of the rotating blades into the ice chute. The blades are spaced along the shaft by spacers, and the shaft is secured to the base with retainers. In this example, the shaft rotates on bushings, but bearings may also be used in higher demand applications. The geometry of the blades is such that the blades can crush ice in either rotational direction. This gives the ice dispenser greater effectiveness in eliminating ice jams.

Ice Chute

These drawings illustrate the ice chute design used in the crushed ice dispenser. The ice chute is configured to have two inlets: one inlet for cubed ice and one inlet for crushed ice; and one outlet for both cubed and crushed ice. Cubed ice falls into the cubed ice inlet when the crushed ice dispenser is in cubed ice selection mode and the bypass gate is open. Crushed ice is pushed into the crushed ice inlet by the crusher when the crushed ice dispenser is in crushed ice mode and the bypass gate is closed. Both cubed ice and crushed ice inlets converge, and both types of ice exit the ice chute through the same outlet.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Refering now to the drawings, FIGS. 1 and 2, chute 26 and crusher 28 are part of an ice dispenser 40. The ice dispenser 40 also includes a tube-shaped auger duct 42. A plate shaped mounting flange 44 is molded with or otherwise integrally attached to the circumferential surface of the auger duct 42 at one end of the duct. The auger duct 42 is further formed to have an inlet opening 46 (shown in phantom in FIG. 4) that extends through the mounting flange 44 into the center void space of auger duct 42.

The ice dispenser 40 is positioned in the dispenser 20 so that the mounting flange 44 is disposed against the outer front wall of an ice bin 24 (not shown). More particularly, the ice dispenser 40 is positioned so that auger duct inlet opening 46 is in registration with an ice discharge opening formed in the front wall of the ice bin 24 (ice bin opening not illustrated). Fasteners (not illustrated) extend through openings 50 formed in the mounting flange 44 to secure the ice dispenser 40 to the rest of the beverage dispenser 20. In some versions of the invention, mounting plate flange openings 50 are keyhole-shaped openings. Pins with relatively large heads are permanently affixed to and extend out from the wall of the ice bin 24 to which the ice dispenser 40 is attached. In this version of the invention, ice dispenser 40 is removably attached to the ice bin 24 by positioning the mounting flange 44 so that the ice bin pins seat and lock in the flange openings 50. This feature makes it easy to remove and replace ice dispenser 40 for maintenance.

The end of auger duct 42 adjacent mounting flange 44 is closed by a disc-shaped end cap 54 (shown in FIG. 5). In the depicted version of the invention, an end cap 55 formed integrally with the auger duct 42 closes the opposed end of the duct. The auger duct 42 is further formed to have two laterally directed, longitudinally aligned and longitudinally spaced apart openings adjacent the end opposite mounting flange 44. A first opening, primary opening 56, is located immediately rearward the end of the duct. In the depicted version of the invention, the auger duct 42 is formed with a rectangular-shaped flange 58 that surrounds primary opening 56 and extends laterally outward from the main circular body of the duct. The second opening, bypass opening 60, is located adjacent flange 58. The auger duct 42 is formed so that, relative to primary opening 56, bypass opening 60 is proximal to the duct inlet opening 46. The primary and bypass openings 56 and 60, respectively, are longitudinally aligned with each other.

Auger duct 42 is further formed to have four rectangularly-shaped protuberances 61. Two of the protuberances 61 are positioned on the outer surface of the top wall of flange 58. The remaining two protuberances 61 (one illustrated in FIG. 8) are integral with and project outwardly from outer surface of the bottom wall of flange 58.

An auger 62 is disposed inside the auger duct 42. The auger 62 is disposed over an elongated shaft 64 that extends axially through the auger duct 42. One end of shaft 64 is mounted in and extends a short distance beyond a through hole 68 formed in end cap 54. The opposed end of shaft 64 is rotatably seated in a center-located boss 71 formed in end cap 55. Not identified is the opening in boss 71 in which the shaft 64 is seated. In some versions of the invention, sleeves formed of low friction material are positioned between the ends of shaft 64 and the static parts of the auger duct to function as bearings.

Auger 62 extends longitudinally through the auger duct 42 from duct inlet opening 46 to the bypass opening 60. The auger 62 is mounted to shaft 64 to rotate with the shaft. A paddle blade 66 is mounted to the end of the shaft 64 that extends through the space internal to the auger duct 42 subtended by primary opening 56. Paddle blade 66, like auger 62, is fitted to shaft 64 to rotate with the shaft. In the illustrated version of the invention, a cylindrical spacer 69 disposed on shaft 64 longitudinally separates the paddle blade 66 from the auger 62. Auger 62 is shaped so that, upon rotation, the auger pushes the ice cubes from duct inlet opening 46 towards primary opening 56 and bypass opening 60. Paddle blade 66 is shaped to, upon rotation, push ice cubes through the primary opening 56. Paddle blade 66 is preferably made of a flexible material, such as rubber, which allows the blade to fold so as to minimize the occurrence of ice jams.

Shaft 64 and, by extension, auger 62 and paddle blade 66, are rotated by an auger motor 70. The auger motor 70 is located adjacent end cap 54. Not shown is a bracket that holds auger motor 70 fast to either auger duct 42 or mounting flange 44. The auger motor 70 has an output shaft 72 directed toward end cap 54. A cylindrical coupling sleeve 74 couples the auger shaft 64 to the motor shaft 72 so the two shafts move in unison. As seen in FIG. 5, fasteners 76 that extend into laterally directed openings in sleeve 74 (openings not identified) hold the two shafts 64 and 72 to the sleeve.

A bypass gate 80, also part of ice dispenser 40, selectively opens and closes the auger duct bypass opening 60. The bypass gate 80, best seen in FIGS. 3 and 5, has a curved main body 81 that surrounds an arcuate section of the auger duct 42. Bypass gate 80 is mounted to a threaded drive shaft 82. The drive shaft 82 is rotated by and suspended from a bypass gate motor 84. In the depicted version of the invention, the bypass gate motor 84 is laterally spaced from the auger duct 42 and located in front of the mounting flange 44. Not shown is a bracket that holds the bypass gate motor 84 to the mounting flange 44.

In addition to the curved main body 81, bypass gate 80 has three parallel aligned and spaced apart tabs 86 that extend away from the plate main body (see FIG. 3). A sleeve 88 with a through bore that has interior threading (through bore not illustrated) is held away from the gate main body 81 by tabs 86. Sleeve 88 is the bypass gate component that threadedly engages drive shaft 82. The rotation of the drive shaft 82 causes the bypass gate 80 to move longitudinally along the length of the auger duct 42. The bypass gate 80 is positioned relative to the auger duct 42 so that when the gate main body 81 is spaced distally from the bypass gate motor 84, the gate main body covers the duct bypass opening 60. When the bypass gate 80 retracts towards motor 84, the gate main body 81 moves away from the bypass opening 60. Alternately, bypass gate 80 may be driven by an electric solenoid, a hydraulic or pneumatic cylinder, or some other type of known actuation device.

FIGS. 6 and 7 illustrate the ice crusher 28 of the beverage dispenser 20 of this invention. Ice crusher 28 includes a base 90 formed of a single piece of rigid material. Base 90 has a generally square frame 92. A head 94 projects forward, towards chute 26, from the frame 92.

Head 94 is formed to have two rows of parallel stationary blades 96. The two rows of stationary blades 96 are spaced apart from each other to define an elongated gap 98 in the head 94 that extends along the longitudinal axis of the head. In each row, the individual stationary blades 96 are spaced apart from each other to define a longitudinally extending slot 102 between each pair of adjacent blades. Each stationary blade 96 is further positioned to be longitudinally aligned with a blade in the opposed row. Thus, each slot 102 is aligned with a complementary slot 102 in the opposed row. Base 90 is further formed so that the stationary blades 96 have tapered cross-sectional profiles. Specifically, the rearward directed face of each stationary blade 96 has a relatively narrow cross sectional width; the forward directed face of the blade has wider cross sectional width. Slots 102 thus have tapered profiles opposite in direction to those of the stationary blades 96.

A moving blade assembly 104 is rotatably mounted to ice crusher base 90. Blade assembly 104 includes an elongated shaft 106 that seats in base gap 98. Shaft 106 has a main body 108 with a square cross-sectional profile. At one end of the main body 108, shaft 106 has a cylindrical head 110. Head 110 has a diameter larger than the cross sectional area subtended by the shaft main body 108. The opposed end of the shaft 106 has a cylindrical stem 112. Stem 112 has a diameter smaller than the cross sectional area subtended by the shaft main body 108.

A number of blades 114 are mounted to the shaft 106 to rotate with the shaft. Each blade 114 has a circular base 116. The blade base 116 is formed to have a center located opening 118. The blade base openings 118 are square in shape and are dimensioned to facilitate the close slip fitting of the blade bases 116 over the shaft main body 108. A head 120 is integrally formed with and extends radially outwardly from each blade base 116. The opposed surfaces that define the sides of the head 120 are inwardly curved. The edge surface that defines the top of blade head 120 curves outwardly.

Blade assembly 104 has a number of blades 114 equal to the number of pairs of opposed aligned slots 102 defined by the ice crusher base 90. Tube-shaped spacers 122 longitudinally separate the blades 114 along the length of the shaft main body 108. An additional spacer 122 is located over the shaft main body 108 between the shaft head 110 and the adjacent blade 114. A spacer 122 is located between the shaft stem 112 and the adjacent blade 114. When the blade assembly 104 is assembled, the individual blades 114 are oriented relative to each other so that the radial positions of the blade heads 120 are angularly spaced apart. The geometry of the blades is such that ice is crushed in either rotational direction, which provides greater effectiveness in eliminating ice jams.

Shaft retainers 124 and 126 and bushings 128 and 130 rotatably hold blade assembly 104 to the crusher base 90. At one end of the base 90, frame 92 has an inner section formed with a concave surface (not identified) that defines a circular notch 132 in which shaft head 110 is seated. Shaft retainer 124 seats over the shaft head 110 and holds shaft head 110 in position. While the shaft retainer 124 is generally in the form of a bar, the retainer has a concave surface 134 to facilitate the close seating of the retainer over shaft head 110. Fasteners 135 extend through holes formed in the shaft retainer 124 and frame 92 to hold the shaft retainer to the ice crusher frame 90 (holes not identified).

Bushing 128, formed of a solid low friction material, is disposed around shaft head 10. Bushing 128 provides a low friction interface between the rotating shaft 106 and the static ice crusher base 90 and retainer 124.

The side of the base frame 92 opposite the side that defines notch 132 is formed with an inwardly curved inner surface 136. Surface 136 is curved to define a notch (not identified) identical in shape to notch 132. The side of the base frame in which curved inner surface 136 is formed with a slot 138. Slot 138 opens into the notch defined by surface 136. When ice crusher 28 of this invention is assembled, the shaft stem 112 extends outwardly across frame inner surface 136 and out through slot 138.

Shaft retainer 126 seats over the shaft stem 112. The shaft retainer 126 has a shape similar to, if not identical to, that of shaft retainer 124. Bushing 130, formed from the same material as bushing 128, is disposed around the portion of shaft stem 112 that extends between the frame inner surface 136 and the shaft retainer 126 and through slot 138. Fasteners 135 hold the shaft retainer 126 to the ice crusher base 90.

The base frame 92 is further formed so that the surfaces that define the spaces in which the shaft 108, shaft retainers 124 and 126 and bearings 128 and 130 seat are recessed relative to the rear edge of the frame. Thus, blade assembly 104, with the exception of the blade heads 120, is disposed within the space enclosed by the base frame 92.

Ice crusher base 90 seats over the rectangular flange 58 of auger duct 42. To facilitate the mounting of the ice crusher 28 to the rest of the ice dispenser 40, the base frame 92 is formed on the top and bottom surfaces to have raised ribs 140 and 142, respectively. Each rib 140 and 142 extends the width of the frame surface with which the rib is integral. When the ice crusher 28 is seated against duct flange 58, ribs 140 and 142 abut the protuberances 61 integral with the flange.

A crusher motor 144, best seen in FIGS. 4 and 5, rotates the moving blade assembly 104. The crusher motor 144 is located above the auger duct 42 adjacent the end of the duct to which the ice crusher 28 is mounted. Not illustrated is the bracket that holds the crusher motor 144 to the auger duct 42. Crusher motor 144 has a motor shaft 146 that extends parallel to shaft 64 internal to the auger duct 42. Motor shaft 146 extends a short distance beyond the adjacent closed end 55 of auger duct 42. Crusher motor 144 is controlled and operates independently of auger motor 70.

A pulley 148 is mounted for rotation to the free end of motor shaft 146. A complementary pulley 150 is mounted to the end of the blade assembly shaft stem 112 that extends beyond the crusher base 90. A drive belt 152 disposed around the pulleys 148 and 150 couples the pulleys for simultaneous rotation. Alternately, a roller chain and sprocket arrangement may be utilized instead of a drive belt and pulley arrangement to drive the ice crusher.

The ice chute 26, now described by reference to FIGS. 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9, is formed from bottom and top moldings 156 and 158, respectively. Lower molding 156 is shaped to have an open, rectangularly-shaped frame 160. Specifically, lower molding 156 is shaped so that frame 160 closely slip fits around the section of the ice crusher head 94 that extends forward of the ice crusher base frame 92. Extending forward and from frame 160, lower molding 156 has a first slide 162 that extends diagonally downwardly. The first slide 162 has a cross-sectional shape that transitions from three-sided (bottom surface and two opposed side surfaces) adjacent frame 160 to semi-circular adjacent the open end of the chute 26.

Bottom molding 156 is further shaped to have second slide 164 parallel to the first slide 162. The bottom molding 156 is formed so that the second slide 164 starts at a position rearward of frame 160. A plate 166 closes the most rearward end of the second slide, the end that extends beyond frame 160. This most-rearward section of the second slide 164 is formed as a three-sided structure; a base wall and two parallel, spaced apart side walls (individual wall sections not identified.) For reasons that are apparent below, side walls of the second slide 164 that extend rearward of frame 160 are formed to have concaved edges 168 which define a radius slightly greater than that defined by the bypass gate main body 81.

Chute bottom molding 156 is further formed so that, forward of frame 160, a single internal flange member 170 forms opposed sides of the first and second slides 162 and 164, respectively. Flange 170 terminates a short distance forward of frame 160 so that the flow path defined by the second slide 164 merges into the flow path defined by the first slide 162.

The chute bottom molding 156 is further formed to have a head piece 172. Head piece 172 extends forward from the outer wall of the molding 156 that defines the outer wall of the second slide 164. At the forward end of the bottom molding 156, the head piece 172 curves around and extends over the space where the flow path of the second slide 164 merges into the flow path of the first slide 162. Bottom molding 156 is further shaped so that a diverter panel 174 extends rearwardly from the free end of the head piece 172. Diverter panel 174 is disposed above the flow path defined by the first slide 162.

Top molding 158 is disposed over bottom molding 156. The top molding 158 is formed to have a first side wall 180 that projects upwardly from the outer wall of first slide 162. The top molding 158 has a second side wall 182 that extends upwardly from the outer wall of the second slide 164. A top wall 184, also part of top molding 158, extends between side walls 180 and 182. The ice chute 26 is further formed so that when top molding 158 is fitted over bottom molding 156, the top wall 184 is disposed over the top of the leading edge of frame 160 and over diverter panel 174.

Extending rearward from the top wall 184, the top molding 158 has a three-sided hood 186. Hood 186 extends rearward from the section of top molding 158 that extends laterally from the ice crusher base 90. A top wall 188 of hood 186 is flush with the molding top wall 184. A first side wall 190 of hood 186 is positioned to be adjacent and extend rearward of bottom molding frame 160. A second side wall 192 of hood 186 extends rearwardly from side wall 182.

The top molding 158 is also shaped to define a nose 196 that extends forward from the top wall 188. Nose 196 has a semicircular cross section profile that is downwardly directed. When moldings 156 and 158 are mated together, the opposed edges of nose 196 seat against the opposed edges of the forward end of the first slide 162. The forward end of the first slide 162 and nose 196 collectively form the opening 198 of chute 26 through which ice is discharged.

In the illustrated version of the invention, bottom and top moldings 156 and 158, respectively, are snap fitted together. Integrally formed with the bottom molding 156 are outwardly directed fingers 202. The top molding side walls 180 and 182 are each formed with a U-shaped downwardly directed bracket 204. Collectively, the fingers 202 and brackets 204 are positioned so that when the top molding 158 is positioned over the bottom molding 156, the fingers snap against surfaces integral with the brackets to hold the moldings together.

The ice chute 26 is further formed to have four tabs 206 integral with bottom molding frame 160. Two of the tabs 206 extend from the top of the frame 160 and are positioned to be aligned with the upper two auger duct protuberances 61. Two of the tabs 206 extend from the bottom of frame 160 (one tab seen) and are positioned to be aligned with the lower two auger duct protuberances.

As part of the assembly of ice dispenser 40, the ice crusher 28 is fitted against auger duct flange 58 and the ice chute 26 is fitted over the ice crusher so that crusher head 94 seats in the duct frame 160. Pairs of fasteners 208 and 210 extend through concentric openings formed in the flange protuberances 61, ice crusher ribs 140 and 142 and chute tabs 206 (openings not identified). Each pair of fasteners 208 and 210 interlock to hold the ice chute 26 and ice crusher 28 to the auger duct 42.

When the ice dispenser 40 is so assembled, the rear end of the bottom molding second slide 164 is disposed under the auger duct bypass opening 60. Top molding hood 186 extends rearwardly, towards the auger duct bypass opening 60. Thus, hood 186 extends rearwardly beyond the ice crusher 28. The rear end of the second slide 164 is disposed below bypass opening 60. However, the ice chute 26 is shaped so that both the second slide 164 and hood 186 are spaced from the auger duct 42. Specifically, the second slide 164 and hood 186 are positioned to define a space between the ice chute 26 and the auger duct 42 in which the bypass gate main body 81 can freely move.

Ice dispenser 40 also includes a lever arm 214 (FIG. 1) located immediately below ice chute 26. Lever arm 214 is pivotally mounted to a static portion of the beverage dispenser 20. The lever arm 214 is positioned relative to the ice chute 26 so that, when a container is placed under the chute opening 198, the lever arm is pivoted. A sensor 218, seen in FIG. 10, monitors the pivotal displacement of the lever arm 214. The signal generated by sensor 218 is supplied to a control unit 220 that regulates the operation of the ice dispenser 40. Also connected to the control unit 220 is a control switch 222. Switch 222 is actuated to set the dispenser 40 to discharge either cubed or crushed ice. Switch 222 is typically an SPST or SPOT switch (SPST switch shown). While not illustrated, switch 222 is mounted to the front of the beverage dispenser 20 so that it is readily accessible by the customer.

Control unit 220 may be a microcontroller, a PLA, a PGA or a set of discrete components. Based on the depression of lever arm 214 and the setting of switch 222, control unit 220 selectively actuates the auger motor 70, the bypass gate motor 84 and the ice crusher motor 144. Control unit 220 controls the operation and speed of auger motor 70, bypass gate motor 84 and crusher motor 144. Control unit 220 also monitors the current draw of each motor to determine if an ice jam has occurred. If an ice jam does occur, control unit 220 is programmed to rotate auger 62 and/or crusher blade assembly 104 in a manner so as to free the ice jam, for example, by reversing the direction of rotation of one or both of auger 62 and crusher blade assembly 104. Not illustrated is the power supply that supplies the energization signals to the motors 70, 84 and 144.

In some versions of the invention an agitator 224, shown diagrammatically in FIG. 10, is rotatably mounted in the ice bin 24. An agitator motor 226 is mounted to an outer wall of the ice bin 24. The agitator motor 226 is connected to the agitator 224 for periodically rotating the agitator. Agitator 224 is so rotated to prevent the cubed ice in bin 24 from congealing into large blocks that cannot pass through the ice bin opening. In some versions of the invention, control unit 220 also regulates the actuation of the agitator motor 226. Control unit 220 may be configured to actuate the agitator motor 226 whenever ice is discharged. In addition, or alternatively, the control unit 220 periodically actuates the agitator motor 226 independent of the discharge of ice.

When an individual wants an iced beverage from dispenser 20, he often initially fills the container with the desired quantity of ice. The individual first sets switch 222 to choose the form of ice desired for the beverage. If switch 222 is set to indicate a choice of cubed ice, control unit 220, if it has not already done so, actuates the bypass gate motor 84 to cause the bypass gate main body 81 to retract away from the auger duct bypass opening 60. Each time the bypass gate 80 is moved, it is moved a set distance. Therefore, for each extension and retraction of the bypass gate 80, motor 84 is actuated for a set period of time.

Once the signal from sensor 218 indicates that lever 214 is pivoted, the control unit 220 actuates auger motor 70. The auger motor 70 rotates to cause a like movement of auger 62 and paddle blade 66. This results in the movement of ice through the auger duct 42 from the end adjacent opening 46 towards the opposed end. Ice crusher motor 144 is not actuated. Consequently, a head of cubed ice develops in auger duct 42 adjacent the primary opening 56. The ice downstream of this head in the auger duct 42 is, therefore, forced out of the duct through the open bypass opening 60.

The ice discharged from bypass opening 60 flows onto the ice chute second slide 164. Gravity causes the ice to move down the second slide 164 onto the first slide 162 and be discharged through chute opening 198 into the waiting container.

Alternatively, at the start of the ice dispensing process, switch 222 is set to cause crushed ice to be dispensed. If switch 222 is not already in this state, control unit 220, upon sensing the change in switch state, actuates the bypass gate motor 84. Specifically, the bypass gate motor 84 is actuated to move the bypass gate main body 81 over the duct bypass opening 60.

Once sensor 218 transmits a signal indicating lever 214 has been pivoted, control unit 220 causes the auger motor 70 to be actuated as described above. Also during this ice dispensing process, the control unit 220 actuates the ice crusher motor 144. Thus, simultaneously, auger 62 moves ice towards the free end of the auger duct 42 and the ice crusher 28 is actuated. Once the ice reaches the free end of the auger duct 42, the paddle blades 66 force the ice out of the duct through the primary opening 56. The cubed ice is pushed against the rearwardly-directed face of the ice crusher head 94. The rotating blades 114 break the ice and force the crushed ice slivers through slots 102. The crushed ice then moves down the chute slide 162 and is discharged from chute opening 198. The rotating crusher blades 114 also add velocity to the crushed ice, resulting in an improved crushed ice dispense rate from chute opening 198.

All references, including publications, patent applications, and patents, cited herein are hereby incorporated by reference to the same extent as if each reference were individually and specifically indicated to be incorporated by reference and were set forth in its entirety herein.

The use of the terms “a” and “an” and “the” and similar referents in the context of describing the invention (especially in the context of the following claims) are to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. The terms “comprising,” “having,” “including,” and “containing” are to be construed as open-ended terms (i.e., meaning “including, but not limited to,”) unless otherwise noted. Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range, unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and all examples, or exemplary language (e.g., “such as”) provided herein, is intended merely to better illuminate the invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention unless otherwise claimed. No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non-claimed element as essential to the practice of the invention.

Preferred embodiments of this invention are described herein, including the best mode known to the inventors for carrying out the invention. Variations of those preferred embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading the foregoing description. The inventors expect skilled artisans to employ such variations as appropriate, and the inventors intend for the invention to be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7575185 *Dec 27, 2005Aug 18, 2009Pepsico, Inc.Beverage and ice dispenser capable of selectively dispensing cubed or crushed ice
US7802444Sep 1, 2006Sep 28, 2010Manitowoc Foodservice Companies, LlcIce/beverage dispenser with in-line ice crusher
US8581532Jan 19, 2011Nov 12, 2013Abb OyControl method for frequency converter
US8690027Jun 14, 2012Apr 8, 2014General Electric CompanyIce dispenser duct door motor with adjustable drive
US20100251740 *Sep 17, 2008Oct 7, 2010BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbHIce dispenser with an ice comminuting device
US20110146325 *Mar 24, 2010Jun 23, 2011Lg Electronics Inc.Refrigerator
EP2360832A1 *Jan 25, 2010Aug 24, 2011ABB OyControl method for frequency converter
WO2007028029A2 *Sep 1, 2006Mar 8, 2007Manitowoc Foodservice Co IncIce/beverage dispenser with in-line ice crusher
Classifications
U.S. Classification62/344
International ClassificationF25C5/18
Cooperative ClassificationF25C2700/08, F25C5/002, F25C5/046, F25C2400/08
European ClassificationF25C5/04C, F25C5/00B