US 3911691 A
An ice level sensing mechanism for use in ice storage bins and the like; the mechanism including a generally vertically disposed pendulum element and means pivotally supporting the element adjacent the upper end thereof, whereby the lower end of the element is movable in any direction defined by an imaginary plane extending generally perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the element, the mechanism also including contact means disposed in generally surrounding relationship to a portion of the pendulum element and adapted to be engaged thereby when the ice level within the associated storage bin reaches a predetermined magnitude, and means for operatively connecting the pendulum element and contact member with an electrical control circuit associated with an ancillary ice producing machine which functions to supply ice to the storage bin.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Kohl et a1.
Hoenisch, both of Albert Lea, Minn.
 Assignee: King-Seeley Thermos Co., Ann
 Filed: Jan. 17, 1974  Appl. No.: 434,009
 US. Cl. 62/137; ZOO/61.21; 340/246  Int. Cl. F25C 1/00  Field of Search 62/137; 200/61.2, 61.21,
ZOO/61.52, 153 A; 340/240 B, 246
 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 1,412,362 4/1922 McDougall 200/153 A 2,442,275 5/1948 Mayer.... 340/246 X 2,836,038 5/1958 Morgan... 62/137 3,045,444 7/1962 Todd 62/ 137 3,054,096 9/1962 Pcritz 340/249 B 3,114,804 12/1963 Geis 340/246 X 3,597,753 8/1971 Tabankin ZOO/61.52 X
Primary Examiner-William F. ODea Assistant ExaminerPeter D. Ferguson Attorney, Agent, or Firmllarness, Dickey & Pierce  ABSTRACT An ice level sensing mechanism for use in ice storage bins and the like; the mechanism including a generally vertically disposed pendulum element and means pivotally supporting the element adjacent the upper end thereof, whereby the lower end of the element is movable in any direction defined by an imaginary plane extending generally perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the element, the mechanism also including contact means disposed in generally surrounding relationship to a portion of the pendulum element and adapted to be engaged thereby when the ice level within the associated storage bin reaches a predetermined magnitude, and means for operatively connecting the pendulum element and contact member with an electrical control circuit associated with an ancillary ice producing machine which functions to supply ice to the storage bin,
6 Claims, 5 Drawing Figures US. Patent Oct. 14, 1975 3,911,691
ICE LEVEL SENSING MECHANISM BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION ing machines when the level of ice produced thereby I reaches a predetermined level within the ice storage bin. In the past, this has been accomplished by a variety of different types of devices, such as a thermostat provided with a sensing bulb placed at the maximum ice level within the storage bin; unfortunately, however, when the storage bins associated with such thermostatic sensing bulbs are sealed and insulated from the atmosphere, the temperature difference of the ice and the air above the ice within the bin is less than conventional thermostats can sense. In such sealed ice storage bins, various other types of controls have been used, such as capacitance controls, an exemplary of which is disclosed in US. Pat. No. 3,360,951, or high resistance, low voltage type controls which sense a minute current through a quantity of ice. The former type of control, however, has been found to be extremely costly to manufacture, while the latter type of control, although being effective with certain types of ice, has been found to be inappropriate when the ice is formed from water containing large amounts of chemicals, such as calcium, iron and the like. In such types of installations, the sensors in the ice storage bin have been found to become coated and/or corroded, which interferes with the operation of the control mechanism. It has also heretofore been proposed to utilize a horizontal float or the like for sensing the ice level within an ice storage bin; however, such horizontal floats have been found to be ineffective in applications of the type wherein the ice producing equipment or ice maker is mounted above the storage bin and functions to drop ice, such ice in cube form, downwardly into the bin in a random pattern which is difficult or impossible to sense by means of a horizontally disposed float.
The present invention is directed toward a new and improved ice level sensing mechanism adapted particularly, although not necessarily, for use with ice storage bins of the type which are located below the associated ice producing equipment or ice maker. The control mechanism of the present invention is intended to be mounted upon the side wall or the like of the storage bin and includes a pivotable or swingable ice level sensing pendulum which is disposed in a generally vertical orientation and provided with a float member at the lower end thereof hanging down at the desired level of the ice within the storage bin. The pendulum is cooperable with a contact member which senses swinging movement of the pendulum produced when the ice level within the storage bin reaches some predetermined level. That is, when ice introduced into the bin accumulates to a predetermined height, the upper level of the ice will engage the float on the pendulum, with the result that the pendulum will swing so as to engage the contact member, whereupon an electrical circuit is completed between conductors which are in electrical communication with the pendulum and the contact member. These conductors are also connected to the electrical circuitry controlling energization of theassociated ice maker, whereupon engagement of the pendulum with the contact member effects de-energization of the ice maker so that further ice will not be introduced into the ice storage bin until the quantity previously introduced thereinto has been dispensed or otherwise used.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION This invention relates generally to ice making machines and, more particularly, to a new and improved ice level sensing mechanism adapted for use in sensing the level of ice within an ice storage bin associated with an ice making machine or the like.
It is accordingly an object of the present invention to provide a new and improved ice level sensing mechanism.
It is a more particular object of the present invention to provide a new and improved ice level sensing mechanism which is particularly adapted for use with ice storage bins which are located below or subjaeent an associated ice maker or ice producing machine.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a new and improved ice level sensing mechanism 5 which is of a relatively simple design, is economical to manufacture and will have a long and effective operational life.
It is still a further object of the present invention to provide a new and improved ice level sensing mechanism which is positive in operation, and which is designed so as to assure against injurious electrical shocks by a person who may happen to touch or otherwise come into electrical contact with the mechanism.
It is still a further object of the present invention to provide a new and improved ice level sensing mechanism which will find universality of application in various types of ice storage bins and the like.
Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is an elevated perspective view of a typical ice making machine with which the ice level sensing mechanism of the present invention may be operatively associated;
FIG. 2 is a side elevational view, partially broken away, of the ice storage bin of the machine shown in FIG. I and depicts the ice level sensing mechanism operatively mounted therein;
FIG. 3 is an enlarged side elevational view of the ice level sensing mechanism of the present invention;
FIG. 4 is a side elevational view of the ice level sensing mechanism shown in FIG. 3, as taken in the direction of the arrow 4 therein; and
FIG. 5 is an enlarged fragmentary top elevational view of a portion of the contact member incorporated in the ice level sensing mechanism of the present invention.
DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring now in detail to the drawing and in particular to FIG. 1 thereof, an ice making machine is generally designated by the numeral I0 and includes an external or exterior housing 12 defining an ice dispensing cavity 14 in the front or forward side thereof. The cavity I4 is communicable with the discharge end of a dispensing chute 16 which is in turn communicable at its interior end with an ice storage bin, generally designated by the numeral 18. The ice storage bin 18 includes a pair of spaced apart upstanding or vertical side walls 20 and 22 and may be provided with a dispensing rotor 24 which is selectively rotatable to cause ice cubes or the like within the storage bin 18 to be transferred upwardly and through an opening 26 through which the ice is transferred into upper end of the chute 16. A more detailed description of the ice making machine 10 with which the present invention may be operatively associated will be seen in US. Pat. application, Ser. No. 437,468, filed Jan. 28, 1974 and having the same assignee as the present application.
In accordance with the principles of the present invention, the ice storage bin 18 is provided with an ice level sensing mechanism, generally designated by the numeral 30, which generally functions to sense the level of ice cubes deposited in the bin from an associated ice making apparatus which, as described in the aforementioned copending application, may typically be included within the upper end of the housing 12. As will hereinafter be described in detail, the ice level sensing mechanism 30 is adapted to control an electrical circuit supplying electrical energy to the aforesaid ice making apparatus, whereby operation of the apparatus is terminated at such time as the level of ice cubes deposited into the storage bin 18 reaches a predetermined magnitude.
As best seen in FIGS. 3 and 4, the ice level sensing mechanism 30 of the present invention includes a generally upright or vertically disposed mounting plate 32 which is adapted to be fixedly secured to one of the side walls, such as the side wall 22, of the ice storage bin 18 at a position, for example, overlying an opening 34 formed in said side wall. The mounting plate 32 is preferably fabricated of an electrically non-conductive material, such as bakelite, and includes upper and lower end portions 36 and 38 which are fixedly secured, by suitable screws, bolts or the like, generally designated by the numeral 40, to the side wall 22. The mounting plate 32 is adapted to operatively support a generally vertically disposed pendulum element herein designated by the numeral 42 which includes an elongated rod-like member 44 that is fabricated of an electrically conductive material, such as a corrosion resistant metal or the like. The member 44 includes an upper end portion 46 that is pivotably connected to a support member 48 which, as hereinafter will be described, is supported upon the plate 32. The rod-like member 44 also includes an intermediate portion 50 which extends downwardly through and is cooperative with a contact member 52 that is also operatively supported upon the mounting plate 32. Additionally, the rod-like member 44 includes a lower end portion 54, the terminal end of which is externally threaded and is adapted to be threadably received within a suitable bore 58 defined within the upper end of a float member, generally designated by the numeral 60. The float member 60 is preferably, although not necessarily, fabricated of a suitable easily molded polymeric material, such as plastic.
Referring now in detail to the'construction of the support member 48, as best seen in FIGS. 3 and 4, the member includes a generally circular crosssectioned body portion 62 having an inner end 64 which extends through a bore 66 formed in the mounting plate 32. Means in the form of a pair of threaded nuts or the like 68 and 70 are threadably received upon the inner end 64 on the opposite sides of the plate 32 for fixedly securing the support member 48 thereon. The outer end of the support member 48, herein designated by the numeral 72, is adapted to be operatively secured to a generally flat horizontally extending member 74, as by welding or the like. The member 74 is formed with an opening 76 through which an externally threaded portion 78 of the member 44 extends. Means in the form of a suitable threaded nut or the like 80 is provided upon the end portion 78 for operatively securing the pendulum element 42 upon the support member 48 in a manner such that the element 42 is pivotable relative to the plate 32 and hence relative to the interior of the ice storage bin 18 in any direction defined by an imaginary plane extending generally perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the pendulum element 42, as will hereinafter be described.
Referring now in detail to the contact member 52 which is cooperative with the intermediate portion 50 of the pendulum element 42, as best seen in FIG. 5, the member 52 includes an outer end portion 82 which is of a generally circular shape and defines an interior opening 84 through which the rod-like member 44 of the element 42 extends. As will be apparent, the center of the opening 84 is preferably vertically aligned with the aforementioned opening 76. The inner end of the contact member 52 is provided with an externally threaded portion 86 which extends through an opening 88 in the mounting plate 32, with means in the form of a pair of threaded nuts or the like 90 and 92 being threadably received upon the end portion 86 on the opposite sides of the plate 32 for operatively securing the contact member 52 thereto. It will be noted that the openings 66 and 88 are generally vertically aligned and are formed in an inwardly projecting or offset portion 89 of the mounting plate 32, as best seen in FIG. 3.
The ice level sensing mechanism 30 is adapted to be operatively associated with an electrical control circuit which supplies electrical energy to the ice making apparatus located within the upper end of the housing 12. The mechanism 30 may be operatively connected to the aforesaid circuit by means of a pair of conductors 94 and 96, the former of which is in electrical communication with the support member 48 and hence the pendulum element 42, and the latter of which is in electrical communication with the contact member 52, with the opposite ends of the conductors 94, 96 being provided with suitable terminal clips or the like 98, 100, respectively, to be used in connecting the mechanism 30 with the aforesaid electrical control circuit. By virtue of the fact that the mechanism 30 is exposed to the interior of the storage bin, it is preferable that only a low magnitude of voltage be transmitted through the mechanism 30 so as to avoid harmful electrical shocks to persons who may, for one reason or another, reach into the ice storage bin 18. As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, through use of a suitable isolating transformer with a low voltage secondary, such as a 12 volt secondary, and an associated relay, such as a 12 volt relay, the mechanism may be effective in opening and closing the aforesaid circuit to the ice making equipment without endangering an operator or a repairman who might inadvertently directly or indirectly touch or otherwise come into electrical communication with the ice level sensing mechanism 30 of the present invention.
Assuming that the machine is properly leveled, the pendulum element 42 is intended to be centrally disposed within the opening 84 defined by the contact member 52, as best seen in FIG. 5. Upon energization of the ice making equipment within the machine 10, and after completion of a suitable ice harvesting cycle thereof, ice will be deposited into the storage bin 18, and eventually accumulate therein. As the level of ice moves upwardly within the bin 18, the upper level thereof will eventually reach the vertical position of the float member 60, with the result that the ice will cause the pendulum element 42 to be pivoted or swung frontward, rearward, sideward or in any other direction defined by the aforementioned imaginary plane to a position, such as is indicated by phantom lines in FIG. 5, wherein the member 44 is engaged with the inner periphery of the opening 84 defined by the contact member 52. When this occurs, an electrical circuit is completed from the conductor 94, via the support member 48, pendulum element 42 and contact member 52, to the conductor 96, thereby causing the associated control circuit to cause the ice producing equipment to be de-energized and hence cease further supplying of ice into the storage bin 18. Eventually, through ice usage or meltage, the ice level within the bin 18 will drop downwardly to some predetermined level, whereupon the pendulum element 42 will again swing free and return to its central position shown by the solid lines in FIG. 5. At such time as the ice level reaches some predetermined minimum level within the storage bin 18, the aforesaid ice producing equipment will be reenergized to supply a quantity of fresh ice to the storage bin 18, whereupon the ice level sensing mechanism of the present invention will operate in the manner hereinabovc described to control the maximum quantity of ice delivered.
While it will be apparent that the preferred embodiment illustrated herein is well calculated to fulfill the objects above stated, it will be appreciated that the present invention is susceptible to modification, variation and change without departing from the scope of the invention.
1. An ice level sensing mechanism for use in an ice storage bin or the like.
said mechanism including an elongated rigid vertically disposed pendulum element, said element being fabricated of an electrically conductive material,
means pivotably supporting said element adjacent the upper end thereof whereby the lower end of said element is movable in any direction defined by an imaginary plane extending generally perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of said element,
said support means comprising an elongated horizontally oriented cantilevered member having means on the outer end thereof defining an opening lying in a second imaginary horizontal plane arranged parallel to said first mentioned imaginary plane and having the upper end of said pendulum element extending therethrough, and means on said upper end of said pendulum for supporting the same in said opening whereby said lower end of said element is movable in any direction defined by said first mentioned plane, contact means including an annular portion defining an opening through which a portion of said element located vertically below said support means extends, with the inner periphery of said opening adapted to be engaged by said portion of said element upon preselected movement thereof, said supporting means and said contact means being generally vertically aligned, electrical circuit means for performing a predetermined operation and including a first portion in electrical communication with said pendulum element and a second portion in electrical communication with said contact means, with said circuit being open when said element is disengaged from said contact means and being closed when said element is engaged with said contact means,
mounting plate for operatively mounting said mechanism in a vertical orientation and fabricated of an electrically non-conductive material.
2. An ice level sensing mechanism as set forth in claim 1 which is located within an-ice storage bin of an ice making machine, said bin including at least one generally vertically disposed side wall having said mechanism mounted thereupon.
3. The invention as set forth in claim 1 which includes an ice making apparatus having an ice storage bin, wherein said electrical circuit is in electrical communication with a circuit communicating electrical energy to said apparatus for supplying ice to said storage bin, and wherein said predetermined operation comprises opening said circuit to said apparatus for terminating the supply of ice to said bin when the ice level therewithin reaches a predetermined level.
4. The invention as set forth in. claim 1 wherein one end of said support member is externally threaded and extends through an opening in said mounting plate and has fastening means threadably engaged therewith for securing said support member to said mounting plate.
5. The invention as set forth in claim 4 which includes an ice making apparatus having an ice storage bin, wherein said contact means comprises a contact member having a generally ring-shaped outer end portion and an externally threaded inner end portion extending through a second opening in said mounting plate, and which includes fastening means threadably engaged with said inner end of said contact member for operatively securing the same to said mounting plate.
6. The invention as set forth in claim 5 wherein said first and second openings in said mounting plate are generally vertically aligned, and which includes first and second electrical conductors connected to said inner ends of said support member and said contact member and disposed in electrical communication with a circuit supplying electrical energy to said ice making apparatus, and wherein said portion of said circuit in electrical communication with said support member and said contact member is of a low voltage capacity to assure against electrical shock to anyone who may inadvertently come into contact with said ice level sensing mechanism.