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Publication numberUS20060196198 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/256,983
Publication dateSep 7, 2006
Filing dateOct 25, 2005
Priority dateMar 2, 2005
Also published asCN1828200A, CN100582611C
Publication number11256983, 256983, US 2006/0196198 A1, US 2006/196198 A1, US 20060196198 A1, US 20060196198A1, US 2006196198 A1, US 2006196198A1, US-A1-20060196198, US-A1-2006196198, US2006/0196198A1, US2006/196198A1, US20060196198 A1, US20060196198A1, US2006196198 A1, US2006196198A1
InventorsSang Kim, Seong Kim, Seung Oh, Kyung Jeong
Original AssigneeLg Electronics Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Refrigerator, refrigerator control apparatus and method
US 20060196198 A1
Abstract
A control apparatus for a refrigerator is provided. The refrigerator includes a door and a container connected to the door. The container is movable along a first direction by moving the door along the first direction. The control apparatus includes: a door holding unit for holding the door at a fully open position when the door is fully open in the first direction; a container moving unit, the container being movable along a second direction by moving the container moving unit along the second direction; and a controlling unit for controlling the container moving unit to move the container along the second direction after the door is held by the door holding unit at the fully open position
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Claims(39)
1. A control apparatus for a refrigerator, the refrigerator including a door and a container connected to the door, the container being movable along a first direction by moving the door along the first direction, the control apparatus comprising:
a door holding unit for holding the door at a fully open position when the door is fully open in the first direction;
a container moving unit, the container being movable along a second direction by moving the container moving unit along the second direction; and
a controlling unit for controlling the container moving unit to move the container along the second direction after the door is held by the door holding unit at the fully open position.
2. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the first direction is a horizontal direction and the second direction is a vertical direction.
3. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising a container supporter on which the container is seated, wherein the container moving unit moves the container along the second direction by moving the container supporter along the second direction.
4. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising a slider to guide the door moving along the first direction, wherein the door holding unit is connected to the slider.
5. The apparatus according to claim 4, wherein the door holding unit is located on the slider.
6. The apparatus according to claim 5, wherein the slider includes an outer rail mounted on an outer side of the door and an inner rail mounted on an inner side of a main body of the refrigerator, the door holding unit being inserted through the outer rail and the inner rail when the door is at the fully open position.
7. The apparatus according to claim 6, wherein the door holding unit is a solenoid.
8. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the door holding unit is a solenoid.
9. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising a door sensing unit for detecting the door at the fully open position.
10. The apparatus according to claim 9, wherein the door sensing unit is connected to the controlling unit, the controlling unit controlling the door holding unit to hold the door at the fully open position when the door sensing unit detects the door at the fully open position.
11. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising a container sensing unit to detect the movement of the container along the second direction.
12. The apparatus according to claim 11, wherein the container sensing unit is connected to the controlling unit, the control apparatus further comprising an alarming unit connected to the controlling unit, the controlling unit controlling the alarming unit to issue an alarm signal during the movement of the container along the second direction when the container sensing unit detects the movement of the container along the second direction.
13. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising an alarming unit, the alarming unit issuing an alarm signal during the movement of the container along the second direction.
14. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising a drawing sensing unit, the controlling unit preventing the container moving unit from moving the container in the second direction when the drawing sensing unit detects a drawing of the refrigerator located on a path blocking movement of the container in the second direction.
15. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising a stop button connected to the controlling unit, wherein when the stop button is pressed, the controlling unit controls the container moving unit to temporarily stop moving the container.
16. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising a reset button connected to the controlling unit, wherein when the reset button is pressed, the controlling unit controls the container moving unit to move back the container to a previous position in the second direction which is before the container is moved.
17. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising a first button and a second button connected to the controlling unit, wherein when the first button is pressed, the controlling unit controls the container moving unit to move the container forward in the second direction, and when the second button is pressed, the controlling unit controls the container moving unit to move the container backward in the second direction.
18. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising a battery connected to the container moving unit to supply power to the container moving unit when the door is open, the battery being charged when the door is closed.
19. The apparatus according to claim 18, wherein the battery is located on the door.
20. A refrigerator, comprising:
a main body including at least one chamber;
a door movable along a horizontal direction for opening and closing the at least one chamber;
a container supporter located on a side of the door facing the at least one chamber, the container supporter being movable along the horizontal direction by moving the door along the horizontal direction;
a door sensing unit for detecting the door at a fully open position when the door is fully open in a horizontal direction;
a door holding unit for holding the door at the fully open position when the door sensing unit detects the door at the fully open position; and
a container moving unit, the container supporter being movable by the container moving unit along a vertical direction after the door is held by the door holding unit at the fully open position.
21. The refrigerator according to claim 20, further comprising:
a battery connected to the door, the battery being charged when the door is closed, the container moving unit receiving power from the battery when the door is open.
22. The refrigerator according to claim 20, further comprising a slider to guide the opening and closing of the door, wherein the door sensing unit is connected to the slider.
23. The refrigerator according to claim 22, wherein the door sensing unit is located on the slider.
24. The refrigerator according to claim 22, wherein the slider includes an outer rail mounted on an outer side of the door and an inner rail mounted on an inner side of the main body, and wherein the door sensing unit detects that the door is at the fully peon position when the outer rail is separated from the inner rail without overlapped portion therebetween.
25. The refrigerator according to claim 24, wherein the door holding unit is inserted through the outer rail and the inner rail when the door is at the fully open position.
26. The refrigerator according to claim 20, further comprising:
a drawer located at a predetermined portion of the main body; and
a drawer sensing unit for detecting opening of the drawer.
27. The refrigerator according to claim 26, wherein the container supporter is prevented from moving along the vertical direction toward the drawer when the drawer is open.
28. The refrigerator according to claim 20, further comprising a control panel to receive a request for lifting up, lowering down, temporarily stopping, or moving back the container supporter.
29. The refrigerator according to claim 28, wherein the request inputted through the control panel is ignored when the door is not fully open.
30. The refrigerator according to claim 20, further comprising an alarming unit, the alarming unit issuing an alarm signal when the door is open and/or the container supporter moves.
31. The refrigerator according to claim 30, wherein the alarm signal includes at least one of a sound and a vibration.
32. A method for controlling a refrigerator, comprising:
opening a door at a fully open position;
holding the door at the fully open position;
moving, by a container moving unit, a container with respect to the door along a vertical direction when a vertical movement command is received by the container moving unit; and
generating an alarm signal when the door moves along a horizontal direction or the container moves along the vertical direction.
33. The method according to claim 32, further comprising determining whether a drawer is open or not after the door is fully open.
34. The method according to claim 33, further comprising generating a warning signal when the door is not at the fully open position or the drawer is open.
35. The method according to claim 33, further comprising refusing to move the container along the vertical direction if the door is not at the fully open position or the drawer is open.
36. The method according to claim 32, further comprising:
when a user starts to close the door, determining whether the container is fully lowered down or not; and
if not, generating a warning signal.
37. The method according to claim 32, further comprising:
receiving a stop request; and
in response to the stop request, temporarily stopping moving of the container by the container moving unit in the vertical direction.
38. The method according to claim 32, wherein the step of moving the container includes:
receiving a reset request; and
in response to the reset request, moving the container by the container moving unit back to a previous position in the vertical direction which is before the container is moved.
39. The method according to claim 32, wherein the step of moving the container includes:
determining whether the container is fully moved up or down in the vertical direction by using an upper sensor or a lower sensor to detect a position of the container in the vertical direction; and
terminating the moving of the container when the container is fully moved up or down in the vertical direction.
Description

This Nonprovisional application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. 119(a) on Patent Application No. 10-2005-0017451 filed in Korea on Mar. 2, 2005, the entire contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a refrigerator, and more particularly, to a bottom freezer type refrigerator. The present invention further relates to a refrigerator control apparatus and method capable of lifting a container installed in a bottom freezer.

2. Description of the Related Art

Refrigerators can be classified into several types depending on the locations of a freezing chamber and a chilling chamber. For example, a top mount refrigerator includes a freezing chamber and a chilling chamber that are partitioned up and down, a side-by-side refrigerator includes a freezing chamber and a chilling chamber that are partitioned left and right, and a bottom freezer refrigerator includes a freezing chamber and a chilling chamber that are partitioned down and up.

Although the bottom freezer refrigerator is illustrated to describe the present invention, the present invention is not limited to this particular type of refrigerator.

The bottom freezer refrigerator includes a chilling chamber door and a freezing chamber door. Although the chilling chamber door is a hinged door like other types of refrigerators, the freezing chamber door is a drawer type door because the freezing chamber is relatively small and located at a lower portion of the refrigerator.

Therefore, what is needed is a simple, easy, and convenient way to stow and remove food in the freezing chamber.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, the present invention is directed to a refrigerator, refrigerator control apparatus and method that substantially obviate one or more problems due to limitations and disadvantages of the related art.

An object of the present invention is to provide a refrigerator, refrigerator control apparatus and method that give a more convenient way of putting food in the refrigerator and taking food out of the refrigerator.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a refrigerator, refrigerator control apparatus and method, in which a drawer type door is more safely and conveniently operated.

A further another object of the present invention is to provide a refrigerator, refrigerator control apparatus and method, in which a door is safely open and closed without interference with other parts.

A still further another object of the present invention to provide a refrigerator, refrigerator control apparatus and method, in which an alarm/warning signal is generated to inform a user whether a door is properly operated or not, such that the user can conveniently use the refrigerator.

Additional advantages, objects, and features of the invention will be set forth in part in the description which follows and in part will become apparent to those having ordinary skill in the art upon examination of the following or may be learned from practice of the invention. The objectives and other advantages of the invention may be realized and attained by the structure particularly pointed out in the written description and claims hereof as well as the appended drawings.

To achieve these objects and other advantages and in accordance with the purpose of the invention, as embodied and broadly described herein, a control apparatus for a refrigerator is provided. The refrigerator includes a door and a container connected to the door. The container is movable along a first direction by moving the door along the first direction. The control apparatus includes: a door holding unit for holding the door at a fully open position when the door is fully open in the first direction; a container moving unit, the container being movable along a second direction by moving the container moving unit along the second direction; and a controlling unit, the controlling unit controlling the container moving unit to move the container along the second direction after the door is held by the door holding unit at the fully open position.

In another aspect of the present invention, a refrigerator is provided. The refrigerator includes: a main body, the main body including at least one chamber; a door movable along a horizontal direction for opening and closing the chamber; a container supporter located on a side of the door facing the at least one chamber, the container supporter being movable along the horizontal direction by moving the door along the horizontal direction; a door sensing unit for detecting the door at a fully open position when the door is fully open in a horizontal direction; a door holding unit for holding the door at the fully open position when the door sensing unit detects the door at the fully open position; and a container moving unit, the container supporter being movable by the container moving unit along the vertical direction after the door is held by the door holding unit at the fully open position.

In a further another aspect of the present invention, a method for controlling a refrigerator is provided. The method includes: opening a door at a fully open position; holding the door at the fully open position; moving, by an container moving unit, a container with respect to the door along a vertical direction when a vertical movement command is requested; and generating an alarm signal when the door moves along a horizontal direction or the container moves along the vertical direction.

Therefore, food can be more conveniently put in and taken out of the refrigerator. In addition, the refrigerator door can be more safely operated such that the user can use the refrigerator more conveniently.

Further, the door and the container can be moved without interfering with other parts, thereby decreasing the possibility of damaging the door and the container.

Furthermore, the user can be informed whether the door and the container are properly operated or not. Therefore, the user can use the door and the container more conveniently.

It is to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following detailed description of the present invention are exemplary and explanatory and are intended to provide further explanation of the invention as claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings, which are included to provide a further understanding of the invention and are incorporated in and constitute a part of this application, illustrate embodiment(s) of the invention and together with the description serve to explain the principle of the invention. In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a refrigerator equipped with a container moving unit according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a sectional view taken along line I-I′ in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 shows a container that is lifted from a position depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a rear perspective view of a door according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a rear view of a door according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a block diagram of a control apparatus for a refrigerator according to an embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 7 is a flowchart showing a control method for a refrigerator according to an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATED EMBODIMENTS

Reference will now be made in detail to the preferred embodiments of the present invention, examples of which are illustrated in the accompanying drawings.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a refrigerator equipped with a container moving unit according to an embodiment of the present invention.

Referring to FIG. 1, a refrigerator 1 is a bottom freezer type refrigerator that includes a freezing chamber at a lower portion and a freezing chamber door capable of sliding along a horizontal direction, e.g., the forward and backward directions.

In detail, the refrigerator 1 includes a main body 2, first doors 5, a second door 6, a slider 10, a first chamber (refer to the reference numeral 3 in FIG. 2), a second chamber (refer to the reference numeral 4 in FIG. 2), drawers 8, a container supporter 55, and a power supply terminal 32. The first doors 5 are hinged on a front upper portion of the main body 2 to open and close the first chamber 3. The second door 6 is slidably installed at a front lower portion of the main body 2 to open and close the second chamber 4. The slider 10 is connected between the main body 2 and the second door 6 to enable the sliding of the second door 6 in forward and backward directions. The drawers 8 are formed under the first chamber 3 to store food. The power terminal 32 is formed above or between the drawers 8 to supply power to a container moving unit (as will be described later) for lifting the container supporter 55.

Further, the refrigerator 1 includes a control panel such as control switch buttons 7 at a front side of the second door 6 and a container 62 behind the second door 6. The control switch buttons 7 are formed at a front side of the second door 6 for controlling the operation of the second door 6. The container 62 is supported by the container supporter 55 to store food. The container 62 can be vertically lifted by lifting the container supporter 55. That is, the container 62 may be lifted up for an easy access to food in the container 62, and it may be lowered down to open and close the second door 6.

The lifting and lowering of the container 62 will now be described with reference to accompanying drawings.

FIG. 2 is a sectional view taken along line I-I′ in FIG. 1, and FIG. 3 shows a container that is lifted from a position depicted in FIG. 2.

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, a container moving unit in the illustrate embodiment includes an actuating unit 40, a vertical guide unit 20, and a power supply unit 30. The actuating unit 40 lifts up and lowered down the container supporter 55 along a rear wall of the second door 6. The vertical guide unit 20 guides the lifting and lowering of the container supporter 55. The power supply unit 30 supplies power to the actuating unit 40. It should be noted that in the illustrated embodiment the container moving system moves the container supporter 55 along the vertical direction. However, the present invention can also be applied to move the container supporter along the horizontal or other directions.

The refrigerator 1 further includes a compartment wall 61 between the first chamber 3 and the second chamber 4. The drawers 8 are placed under the compartment wall 61 to provide storages at a constant temperature. That is, food and other substances requiring a constant temperature condition can be kept in the drawers 8.

Between the compartment wall 61 and the drawer 8, a drawer sensor 15 is installed to detect opening of the drawer 8. The drawer senor 15 may be a contact sensor, an optical sensor or any other types of sensors. When the drawer sensor 15 detects the opening of the drawer 8, the lifting of the container 62 is not carried out to prevent collision between the container 62 and the drawer 8.

When the second door 6 is extended outward, the slider 10 stably guides the second door 6. After the second door is fully extended, the actuating unit 40 operates to lift up the container supporter 55. Accordingly, the lifting of the container supporter 55 is stably guided by the vertical guide unit 20. The power supply unit 30 controls power supply to the actuating unit 40.

The slider 10 includes a pair of horizontal rails. An inner rail 12 is mounted on an inner side of the main body 2 and an outer rail 11 is mounted on an outer side of the second door 6. In addition, the slider 10 includes a connecting structure with a roller to sidably connect the inner rail 12 and the outer rail 11, such that when the second door 6 is open, the outer rail 11 can be slid outward from the inner rail 12.

Further, in the illustrated embodiment, the slider 10 includes a stopping unit 13 at an overlapped portion between the inner rail 12 and the outer rail 11 when the second door 6 is fully open. In an embodiment, the stopping unit 13 may be a solenoid. In detail, when the outer rail 11 is fully extended from the inner rail 12, a rod extended from the solenoid is inserted through the outer rail 11 and the inner rail 12 to prevent the outer rail 11 from further extending, such that the outer rail 11 can be fixed at its fully extended position. In other words, when the second door 6 is fully open, the rod of the solenoid is extended from the solenoid and inserted through the outer rail 11 and the inner rail 12. For this purpose, the outer rail 11 and the inner rail 12 respectively define holes to receive the rod of the solenoid when the second door 6 is fully open.

Alternatively, the stopping unit 13 may be protruded from a front end of the inner rail 12 to define a predetermined distance from a rear end of the outer rail 11 when the outer rail 11 is fully extended. Therefore, the stopping unit 13 can prevent the extended outer rail 11 from moving back to the retracted position.

A door sensor 14 is located at a front end of the inner rail 12 to detect the opening of the second door 6. The door sensor 14 may determine that the second door 6 is fully open when the outer rail 11 completely passes the door sensor 14.

The vertical guide unit 20 is provided to guide the container supporter 55 when the container supporter 55 is lifted up and lowered down. The vertical guide unit 20 includes a vertical rail 21 fixed to the rear surface of the second door 6. The vertical rail 21 defines a groove (refer to the reference numeral 22 in FIG. 4) running its length to receive a protrusion formed on a corresponding side of the container supporter 55, such that the lifting and lowering of the container supporter 55 can be exactly guided by the vertical rail 21. The structure of the vertical rail 21 can be clearly understood with reference to FIG. 4.

To lift the container supporter 55, the actuating unit 40 includes an arm support 57 fixed to the rear surface of the second door 6, an rotary arm 47 hinged on the arm support 57 and extended toward the inside of the refrigerator 1, a free end 56 of the rotary arm 47, and a roller 48 rotatably fixed to the free end 56 to make contact with the container supporter 55 at a bottom of the container supporter 55. The actuating unit 40 further includes a motor (refer to the reference numeral 41 in FIG. 4) to rotate the rotary arm. The actuating unit 40 will be further described later.

The power supply unit 30 includes a battery 33 connected to the motor 41 to supply power to the motor 41. The battery can be located at any place, e.g., within the door 6 as shown in FIG. 3, on the rear side of the door 6 as shown in FIG. 4, or on/within the main body 2 with a wiring connection to the motor 41. The charging terminal 31 is connected to the batter 33 via a wire connection, and the charging terminal 31 comes into contact with the power terminal 32 formed on the main body 2 when the second door 6 is closed.

The lifting of the container 62 will now be described more fully. First, the second door 6 is open manually or automatically. When the second door 6 is fully open, the door sensor 14 detects the opening of the second door 6 from the relative positions of the inner rail 12 and the outer rail 11. Then, the stopping unit 13 fixes the current position of the outer rail 11 to prevent the second door 6 from being closed involuntarily.

After the second door 6 is fully open and fixed to the fully open position, a user can request to lift the container 62 by manipulating the control switch buttons 7. When the user presses a lift-up button, the battery 33 supplies power to the motor 41 to lift the container up.

When the power is on, the motor 41 rotates the rotary arm 47 about the arm support 57 in an upward direction. Thus, the roller 48 as it turns pushes the container supporter 55 upward to lift the container 62. An alarm signal can be generated to inform the user of the lifting of the container 62.

The relationship between the rotary arm 47 and the container supporter 55 can be clearly understood with reference to FIGS. 2 and 3, which respectively show the container 62 before and after the lifting.

The power supply unit 30 is provided with the battery 33. When the second door 6 is closed, the battery 33 is charged by receiving power from the main body 2 through the power terminal 32 and the charging terminal 31. Therefore, the battery 33 can supply power to the motor 41 when the two terminals 32 and 31 are disconnected by the opening of the second door 6.

That is, since the power supply unit 30 is provided with the rechargeable battery 33, in this illustrated embodiment, an additional wire connection is not required between the main body 2 and the second door 6 to supply power to the motor 41 when the second door 6 is open. Therefore, the container moving unit can be simply constructed and conveniently used.

FIG. 4 is a rear perspective view of the second door 6 according to an embodiment of the present invention, and FIG. 5 is a rear view of the second door 6 according to an embodiment of the present invention. An operation of the refrigerator 1 related to the lifting of the container 62 will now be more fully described with reference to FIGS. 4 and 5.

The actuating unit 40 includes the motor 41 installed on the rear surface of the second door 6, a motor shaft 42, a driving gear 43 connected to the motor shaft 42, a driven gear 44 engaged with the driving gear 43, an arm shaft 46 coupled to a center of the driven gear 44, and the rotary arm 47 fixed to an end of the arm shaft 46. A gear support 45 is fixed to the rear surface of the second door 6 to support the driving gear 43 and the driven gear 44.

In the illustrate embodiment, there are two rotary arms 47 that are respectively coupled to both ends of the arm shaft 46. Therefore, the container supporter 55 can be supported at both sides by the rotary arm 47 and thus it can be stably lifted.

The gear support 45 includes a first arm stopper 49 and a second arm stopper 50 that are projected from a surface of the gear support 45 to restrict the rotation of the rotary arm 47 to a predetermined angle range. That is, the container supporter 55 can be exactly limited between the non-lifted and lifted positions. For example, even when the motor 41 is not properly controlled, arm stoppers 49 and 50 can prevent the rotary arm 47 from over-rotation.

Another stopping structure can be formed on the vertical rail 21 to stop the container supporter 55. That is, the upper and lower stoppers 51 and 52 may be formed on the upper and lower ends of the vertical rail 21 in order to further limit the container supporter 55 between the non-lifted and lifted positions. Therefore, the container moving system can be more reliably operated.

Sensors are provided to detect the up and down motions of the container supporter 55. That is, the upper and lower sensors 53 and 54 are respectively installed on the upper and lower ends of the vertical rail 21 to detect the lifting up and lowering down of the container supporter 55. For example, both the contact type sensor and the optical type sensor can be used for the upper and lower sensors 53 and 54. Based on the detection of the upper and lower sensors 53 and 54, the power supply to the motor 41 may be controlled.

When the container 62 is not in the fully lifted position or the fully lowered position (that is, when the container 62 is being lifted up or lowered down), an alarm signal may be generated to inform a user of the moving state of the container 62. Whether the container 62 is being moved or not is determined by checking detected signals from the upper and lower sensors 53 and 54.

An operation of a refrigerator control apparatus of the illustrated embodiment will now be described. When the second door 6 is closed, the power terminal 32 and the charging terminal 31 come into contact with each other so that the battery 33 can be charged.

When the second door 6 is open, the door sensor 14 will detect whether the second door 6 is fully open. If so, the stopping unit 13 operates to fix the second door 6 at the fully open position as described above.

If a user presses a lift-up button among the control switch buttons 7, the battery 33 supplies power to the motor 41 to drive the motor 41. Driving force is transmitted from the motor shaft 42 to the rotary arm 47 through the driving gear 43, the driven gear 44, and the arm shaft 46. Upon the rotation of the rotary arm 47, the roller 48 on the free end 56 of the rotary arm 47 pushes up the container supporter 55.

When the container supporter 55 is completely lifted up, the upper sensor 53 detects the container supporter 55. In response to the detection of the container supporter 55 by the upper sensor 53, the motor 41 is powered off to stop the rotary arm 47 and the container supporter 55.

During the lifting up of the container 62, an alarm signal can be generated to prevent a user from getting hurt. Also, when the opening of the drawer 8 is detected by the drawer sensor 15, the lifting up of the container 62 is not carried out to prevent collision between the container 62 and the open drawer 8.

Further, when the container supporter 55 is completely lifted up, the container supporter 55 is prevented from being further lifted up by the physical structure of the upper stopper 51 and/or the first arm stopper 49. Therefore, even if the upper sensor 53 failed to detect the fully lifted container supporter 55, the container supporter 55 would be prevented from being over-lifted. This increases the reliability of the actuating unit 40. The container supporter 55 is lowered down in the same way as it is lifted up. Merely, the motor is rotated in the reverse direction.

The operation of the refrigerator control apparatus of the illustrated embodiment will now be more fully described with reference to a block diagram. FIG. 6 is a block diagram of a control apparatus for a refrigerator according to an embodiment of the present invention. Referring to FIG. 6, the refrigerator control apparatus of the illustrated embodiment includes: a controlling unit 80 to control the movement of the second door 6; a drawer sensing unit 81 to detect opening of the drawer 8 and send a corresponding signal to the controller 80; a door sensing unit 82 to detect opening of the second door 6 and send a corresponding signal to the controlling unit 80; and a container sensing unit 83 to detect the movement of the container 62 and send a corresponding signal to the controlling unit 80.

The controlling unit 80 may be any kind of microprocessor installed in the refrigerator 1. The drawer sensing unit 81 may be the drawer sensor 15 that detects opening or closing of the drawer 8. The door sensing unit 82 may include the door sensor 14 and the battery 33. The container sensing unit 83 may be the upper sensor 53 and the lower sensor 54 that are respectively installed on the upper and lower ends of the vertical rail 21.

To receive requests from a user and send them to the controlling unit 80, the refrigerator control apparatus further includes a lift-up button 84, a lift-down button 85, a stop button 87, and a reset button 86. The buttons 84, 85, 87, and 86 may be the control switch buttons 7 that are formed on the outer surface of the second door 6. The lift-up button 84 receives a request for lifting up the container 62 and sends it to the controlling unit 80. The lift-down button 85 receives a request for lifting down the container 62 and sends it to the controlling unit 80. The stop button 87 receives a request for prompt stopping of the container 62 and sends it to the controlling unit 80. The reset button 86 receives a request for returning of the container 62 from a currently moving position to an original or previous position, which is before the container 62 is moved, and sends it to the controlling unit 80.

As operating units according to the control of the controlling unit 80, the refrigerator control apparatus further includes a door holding unit 88, an alarming unit 89, and a container moving unit 90. The door holding unit 88 securely holds the second door 6 when the door is placed in a fully open position. The alarming unit 89 generates an alarm signal when the second door 6 or the container 62 is moving. The container moving unit 90 lifts up and lowers down the container 62.

The door holding unit 88 may be the stopping unit 13 formed on a front end of the inner rail 12. The alarming unit 89 may be installed at any location of the refrigerator 1 and may include any type of speaker. The stopping unit 13 may be a solenoid as described above or any kind of holding device that can perform the function of the stopping unit 13. The container moving unit 90 may include the motor 41, the rotary arm 47, and other components to lift up and lower down the container 62.

FIG. 7 is a flowchart showing a control method for a refrigerator according to an embodiment of the present invention. In step S1, the second door 6 is open manually or automatically. During the opening of the second door 6, the alarming unit 89 generates an alarm signal to inform a user of the opening operation of the second door 6. Further, since the power terminal 32 and the charging terminal 31 is disconnected upon the opening of the second door 6, the starting of the opening operation of the second door 6 can be determined by checking the voltage of the battery 33 that is connected to the charging terminal 31.

In step S2, the controlling unit 80 determines whether the lift-up button 84 is pressed to lift up the container, and if so, the process goes to step S3.

In step S3, the door sensing unit 82 determines whether the second door 6 is fully open. If not, the pressing of the lift-up button 84 is ignored to prevent the container 62 from colliding with the other part of the refrigerator 1. If the second door is fully open, the process goes to step S4 where a lifting up of the container 62 is carried out.

In step S4, the door holding unit 88 holds the second door 6 at the fully open position and the container moving unit 90 operates to lift up the container 62. While the container 62 is being lifted up, the alarming unit 89 generates an alarm signal to inform a user of the lifting up of the container 62.

The alarming unit 89 generates the alarm signal to prevent the user from putting food in the container 62 or taking food out of the container 62 during the lifting of the container 62. Also, the alarming unit 89 may generate different alarm signals for informing the user of the opening of the second door 6 and the lifting-up of the container 62. For example, the alarming unit 89 may generate human voices, other sounds, vibration, etc.

In step S5, the container sensing unit 83 determines whether the container 62 is fully lifted up. If so, the process goes to step S6. In step S6, the operations of the alarming unit 89 and the container moving unit 90 stop. When the container 62 is fully lifted up, the user can put food in the container 62 or take food out of the container 62 (step S7).

After that, if the lower-down button 85 is pressed (step S8), the container moving unit 90 operates to lower down the container 62 until the container 62 is fully lowered down and the alarming unit 89 generates an alarm signal to inform the user of the lowering down of the container 62 (step S9). In step S10, it is determined whether the container 62 is fully lifted down. If so, the process goes to step S11. In step S11, the door holding unit 88 releases the holding of the second door 6, and the alarming unit 89 changes its alarm signal to inform the user that the container 62 is fully lowered down but the second door 6 is still open.

In step S12, the second door 6 is closed. In step S13, the door sensing unit 82determines whether the second door 6 is fully closed. If so, the process goes to step S14. In step S14, the alarming signal is stopped, thereby informing the user that the second door 6 is fully closed.

As described above, the user is informed of whether the second door 6 is fully closed or not, such that leakage of cold air from the refrigerator 1 can be prevented.

Also, the user is informed of the lifting up and lowering down of the container 62, such that the user can use the refrigerator 1 more safely with less possibility of putting food in the container 62 and taking food out of the container 62 during the lifting up and lowering down of the container 62.

Further, the container 62 is not lifted up or lowered down when the lifting of the container 62 is obstructed. For example, when the second door 6 is not fully open or the drawer 8 is open, the lifting up or lowering down of the container 62 is automatically prevented. Therefore, the container 62 can be more stably used with less possibility of breakage.

Further, the drawer-type second door 6 is securely held at the fully open position to prevent undesired shifting from the fully open position, such that the user can use the second door 6 more conveniently and stably.

Further, the reset button 86 is provided to move back the container 62 to its original or previous position when the lifting up lowering down of the container 62 is not properly carried out. For example, when an obstacle such as user's skirt is inserted between the container 62 and the second door 6 during the lifting up or lowering down of the container 62, the user can press the reset button 86 to move back the container 62 and remove the obstacle. Furthermore, the stop button 87 is provided such that if necessary the user can temporarily stop the container 62 during the lifting up or lowering down of the container 62. In addition, the stop button 87 and the reset button 86 can be designed to be automatically pressed or triggered when the motor 41 is overloaded.

It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations can be made in the present invention. Thus, it is intended that the present invention covers the modifications and variations of this invention provided they come within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
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Classifications
U.S. Classification62/131, 62/465
International ClassificationF25B49/00, F25D25/00
Cooperative ClassificationF25D25/025, F25D2700/02, A47B51/00, F25D25/04
European ClassificationF25D25/02C2, A47B51/00
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Oct 25, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: LG ELECTRONICS INC., KOREA, REPUBLIC OF
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:KIM, SANG OH;KIM, SEONG JAE;OH, SEUNG HWAN;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:017144/0842
Effective date: 20051007