CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
This application claims a benefit of priority based on U.S. Non-provisional patent application Ser. No. 13/241,370, filed Sep. 23, 2011, the entire contents of which are hereby expressly incorporated by reference into the present application. U.S. Non-provisional patent application Ser. No. 12/017,895, filed Jan. 22, 2008, the entire contents of which are hereby expressly incorporated by reference into the present application. U.S. Non-provisional patent application Ser. No. 12/017,895 claims a benefit of priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/886,037, filed Jan. 22, 2007, and U.S. Non-provisional patent application Ser. No. 11/216,443, filed Aug. 31, 2005. The entire contents both applications are hereby expressly incorporated by reference into the present application. U.S. Non-provisional patent application Ser. No. 11/216,443 application claims a benefit of priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/622,185, filed Oct. 26, 2004, the entire contents of which are hereby expressly incorporated by reference into the present application, and claims a benefit of priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/606,396, filed Sep. 1, 2004, the entire contents of which are hereby expressly incorporated by reference into the present application.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to a warming apparatus and, more particularly, to an electronically controlled warming apparatus and an electronically controlled warming drawer.
2. Discussion of the Related Art
Warmer drawers of conventional design are typically configured as closed boxes, having a construction of single wall or a double wall with insulation or air in between and a sliding drawer of some sort to open up the interior of the box. Such conventional warmer drawers often have front door(s) fixed in a vertical plane and heating of the interior has been by a single cal rod (i.e., sheathed heating element) which will radiate heat, thus warming the interior of the box.
The conventional warmer drawers use mechanical controls to control and maintain the food temperatures. These mechanical controls tend to have an undesirable degree of inaccuracy and have a tendency to dry out food, overheat, and have large swings in temperature ranges from a desired set point, which results in over and under shoots.
These sensors and the design of operation generally cause slow response for temperature corrections, thus causing temperatures to over shoot and under shoot. These resulting temperature ranges and swings, from the on to off cycling, have a tendency to drive moisture out of foods, hold more moisture in the chamber, and/or over cook food(s). Also, when set for the proofing temperature, bread will not proof correctly (i.e., not to rise properly) at lower temperatures, and at the higher temperatures bread tends to develop large pockets of air.
Conventional warmer drawer designs typically use knobs and slides to set and control mechanical switches for setting the desired temperature. However, these mechanical switches are generally known to be inaccurate in their setting and repeatability. The mechanical switches often have problems maintaining a set point and can permit swings in temperature within the chamber partly due to the design of the warmer drawer and method of heating, but also due to the inaccuracy of the mechanical switches themselves. The inaccuracy of the mechanical switches tends to increase the effects of having temperature over and under shoots and contributes to the large temperature swings inside the chamber of the warmer drawer. This inaccuracy is believed to contribute greatly to the gradient temperature problems found in present warmer drawers with the chamber having problems with temperature over shoot and under shoot.
The mechanical switches typically used in conventional warmer drawers are also susceptible to the adverse effects of surrounding environmental influences. For example, if subjected to cold temperatures, mechanical switches could work slowly, crack, become hard to turn, fail to operate, their lubrication can harden causing the operation not to function, cause switch chatter resulting in premature failure or reduced life of product, and cause other detrimental issues to a user. Typical mechanical switches and controls for conventional warmer drawers tend to have poor repeatability and generally do not provide the user the ability to repeatably return to a certain preset position (e.g., reuse of same settings, etc.) or reliably establish the same temperature when using the conventional warmer drawer in a series of different operations. For example, a user generally cannot set a proper temperature on one day and then return the next day to the same set point if the controls were moved during an intervening period (as is often necessary). Temperature swings of as much as 30 degrees or more are believed to occur in such instances.
The conventional warmer drawers are also subject to other deficiencies. For example, conventional warmer drawers are typically constructed for use in permanent (e.g., built-in, etc.) installations, such as to cabinetry, an appliance, or some other generally stationary structure. Examples include conventional warmer drawers built into a cabinet under a product such as a cook top, oven, or some other appliance like a slide-in stove to a drop-in range. In other applications, conventional warmer drawers can be used in a location independently, but are still typically built into a cabinet or some structural frame. This limits the mobility of the warmer drawer from being used in a variety of desirable locations. Accordingly, it would be desirable to provide a warmer drawer capable of being used as a freestanding unit, as a mobile unit, used under a cabinet (e.g., suspended), or in areas with or without the support from a structural frame.
Therefore a need exists for a warmer drawer in which more accurate and controlled heating of objects such as food is accomplished. There also exists the need for an accurate method of controlling the operations and settings of the warmer drawer. There also exists a need for the controls of the warmer drawer to be less susceptible to environmental influences. There also exists a need for a display device to permit a user to be able to view/see the operation, temperature indication(s), set point functions, and view of the contents of the chamber. There also exists a need for a warmer drawer capable of remote control operation. There is a further need to accurately apply and control heat within the chamber of the warming drawer. There is also needed for a warmer drawer such that it can be used in any desirable location to suit the particular needs of a user.
Accordingly, it would be desirable to provide a warming apparatus, such as a warmer drawer having electronic control, with any one or more of these or other advantageous features.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
One object of this invention is to provide a warming apparatus that has one or more of the characteristics discussed below.
The present inventive warmer apparatus for either indoor or outdoor use consists of an enclosure defining a chamber with a heating element. A sensor system, preferably comprising at least one sensor, is operably coupled to the chamber and sends signals to an electronic control system that is operably connected to the heating element and a user interface provided on the enclosure or faceplate. A drawer is provided and is extendable from the chamber of the warmer and a means for preventing fluids and other contaminants from entering the chamber is also provided for between the enclosure and the user interface and drawer.
The user interface, for example, an electronic control panel, can be installed raised, recessed, or flush with the enclosure and can be constructed out of glass, plastic, metal, rubber or a composite material. The touch panel is preferably sealed and/or coated to protect the electronic controls from being damaged by the elements and to prevent fluids, insects, and other contaminants from gaining entry to the chamber through the touch panel. The touch panel may also include decorative overlays, labels, and trims that are configured for outdoor use. The touch panel may be mounted on the faceplate of the warmer or elsewhere on the enclosure and may be disconnected from the enclosure and used remotely by a wired or wireless controller. In another embodiment, the user interface uses one of a tactile, membrane, piezoelectric, capacitance, resistance, induction system, touch panel, or keypad for the selection of various operations.
The warmer preferably includes a fixed or variable speed fan that is located either in the chamber or remotely. Again, it may also be attached to the heating element or independent of it. The fan is used for mixing air, removing air, or controlling the moisture within the chamber of the warmer.
The warmer can be used for non-food or food and drink items alike. Flavoring additives may be added to the chamber so as to impart various flavors or scents to the items being warmed within the warmer.
The inventive warmer may also include a timer control that may be programmed by a user to automatically turn off the warmer after a certain amount of time. The warmer may also be capable of preset temperatures, preset times, and preset operations.
The warmer's user interface may be configured to display the current time, operations, temperatures, functions, remaining time, diagnostics, features, fan speeds, alarm controls and signals, messages, timed on/off, time delay or be remotely controlled by voice or sound commands from the user.
The warmer may also comprise accessible panels or walls on either its front, side, top, back, or bottom so that a user may gain access to the chamber of the warmer. Furthermore, the warmer may comprise additional warming chambers, e.g., one for food and one for non-food items.
According to one aspect of the present invention a warmer drawer is provided having a housing with a cavity, an extendable portion slidably connected to the housing that fits within the cavity, a door connected to the extendable portion, a heating element located in the cavity, a fan for moving heated air within the cavity, electronic controls for operating the fan and the heating element, and a sensor in communication with the electronic controls for controlling the current supplied to the heating element. Thus it is one object of the invention to provide a drawer for easy access to a warming chamber that effectively heats the items in the drawer under the user's control.
According to another aspect of the present invention, the warmer drawer may also have a panel configured to conceal the electronic controls, which may be a sliding panel, a sliding spring-biased panel, a sliding panel display, a panel on a rotating element, a L-shaped plate, a matching panel, and a portion of a rotating element having at least one electronic control. As well, there may be a cabinet where the panel is located on at least one extendable portion of the cabinet. Thus it is another object to provide an attractive warmer drawer by allowing the electronic controls of user interface to be concealed.
In yet another aspect, the invention's electronic controls may include programmable settings such as on/off settings. The programmable on/off settings may have automatic shutoff with an infinite setting of the automatic shutoff to disable the automatic shutoff. It is thus another object of the present invention to provide several useful features, including for safety and convenience, to allow the user to control the operation of the warmer drawer operation.
In still another aspect of the present invention the warmer drawer may have a receptacle for receiving aromatic materials wherein the aromatic materials are one or more of a fragrance source, flavoring additives, wood chips, and liquid smoke. Thus, it is an object to provide flavor and fragrance to objects in the drawer as well as warming.
In yet another aspect of the present invention, the warmer drawer heating element may be a convection heater, a cal rod, a heat plate, a glass film, a thermal ceramic heater, a flexible heater, a light, an infrared device, an inductive device, an electromagnetic device, a radio frequency device, a heat pump, a warming liquid device, a heat exchanger, an axial fan heater, a sonic heater, a gas fuel product, a solid fuel product, a radiant heating device, and/or a microwave device. It is thus yet another object to provide for a warming drawer having effective heating technology.
In still another aspect, the warmer drawer's electronic controls have an electronic display touch control panel with input elements that respond to user input. The operating technology of the input elements may of piezo electric, capacitive, resistive and infrared. In addition, the electronic controls may located in a variety of locations with respect to any plane on the drawer assembly and/or door, for example, at a location that is flush, raised, recessed, and may be recessed beneath glass, plastic, or composite material. It is thus yet another object to provide for a warming drawer having effective, attractive, and accessible electronic control input technology.
In anther aspect, the warmer drawer may also have an upper chamber and/or a lower chamber wherein the fan is located in one or both. Thus, it is another object to provide for a warming drawer that effectively heats the objects within the chamber.
In another aspect of the present invention the warmer drawer electronic controls may be on the drawer assembly and/or the door. Furthermore, the electronic controls may be concealed by moving the drawer assembly to a closed position. Thus, it is another object to provide controls that are easily accessible during the use of the warmer drawer that may be concealed when the drawer is closed for improved appearance.
In still another aspect of the present invention a method of manufacturing a warmer drawer has steps of defining an enclosure with a chamber and having an opening, configuring a movable portion to be moved with respect to the chamber, providing a heating element to heat to the chamber, configuring a user interface to receive input from a user for controlling operation of the warmer drawer, providing a sensor to sense a signal representative of a temperature of the chamber, and configuring an electronic control system for interfacing with the heating element, the user interface and the sensor to control a supply of electrical power in a continuous and regulated manner to the heating element during operation of the warmer drawer. The movable portion may be a lid, a drawer, or a door. Thus it is still another object to provide for a method of manufacturing a warmer drawer configured for usage in a flexible variety of uses.
In another aspect, the method of manufacturing a warmer drawer may also include the step of providing a second sensor such as a humidity sensor and/or a temperature sensing device. The second sensor may be a thermostat, a thermal protector, a thermal cutoff, a thermal switch, a thermocouple, a PCR thermostat, a time delay relay, a bulb and capillary device, a cold control, a bimetallic device, a pressure switch, a resistance temperature detector, a snap action switch, and/or a thermistor. Thus, it is another object to provide a method of manufacturing that produces a warmer drawer that can additionally sense humidity or sense temperature in more than one location to accurately monitor the condition of the objects in the drawer.
In still another aspect, the method of manufacturing a warmer drawer may also include the step of connecting the user interface having a display device configured to provide information to a user. The display device may use a display panel having technology such as light emitting diodes, a liquid crystal display, a plasma, a dot matrix, and/or a vacuum fluorescent display. The method may have an additional step of providing an element configured to hide the user interface such as a sliding panel, a sliding spring-biased panel, a display that is substantially similar to a surrounding surface, a panel on a rotating element, and/or a portion of a movable element having at least one electronic control. Thus, it is still another object of the present invention to provide a user display device that may alternatively be hidden from view to improve the warmer drawer aesthetics.
In yet another aspect, the method of manufacturing a warmer drawer may also include the step of providing the user interface that includes has one or more set points, timers, temperatures, on/off settings, automatic shutoff, and/or an infinite setting override of an on/off timer. Thus, it is another object to manufacture a warmer drawer having programmable features for ease-of-use.
In yet another aspect, the method of manufacturing a warmer drawer may also include the step of providing a receptacle for a source for fragrance, and/or a source for flavoring. Thus, it is an object to a method of manufacturing a warmer drawer that provides flavor and/or fragrance to objects in the drawer.
In yet another aspect, the method of manufacturing a warmer drawer may also include the step of providing a user interface comprising a touch screen having at least one input element configured to respond to a user input wherein the touch screen may have input element(s) that are displayed in response to a user input. The touch screen operating technology may be piezo electric, capacitance, inductive, resistance, infrared, magnetic, field effect, charge transfer, hall technology, and/or high frequency. Thus, it is one object to the method of manufacturing of a warmer drawer to provide an interactive and useful touch screen that may respond to the user input by displaying one or more input element(s)
These and other aspects and objects of the present invention will be better appreciated and understood when considered in conjunction with the following description and the accompanying drawings. It should be understood, however, that the following description, while indicating preferred embodiments of the present invention, is given by way of illustration and not of limitation. Many changes and modifications may be made within the scope of the present invention without departing from the spirit thereof, and the invention includes all such modifications.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The drawings illustrate the best mode currently contemplated of practicing the present invention.
In the drawings:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of the warmer drawer of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a fragmentary enlarged view of a portion of the warmer drawer of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is fragmentary enlarged view of another portion of the warmer drawer of FIG. 1;
FIG. 4 is fragmentary enlarged view of another portion of the warmer drawer of FIG. 1;
FIG. 5 is fragmentary enlarged view of another portion of the warmer drawer of FIG. 1;
FIG. 6 is fragmentary enlarged view of another portion of the warmer drawer of FIG. 1;
FIG. 7 is an exploded view of the warmer drawer of FIG. 1 with sections removed to show flow;
FIG. 8 is a sectional plan view taken along the lines of 8-8;
FIG. 9 is a fragmentary enlarged view of the area along 9-9;
FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of the warmer drawer of the present invention;
FIG. 11 is a sectional plan view taken along the lines of 10-10;
FIG. 12 is a schematic of an electronic control circuit for use with the present invention; and
FIG. 13 is a schematic of another electronic control circuit for use with the present invention.
FIG. 14 is a side elevation view of an exemplary embodiment of a warming appliance including an electronic controller to control the temperature, humidity, power and other user defined parameters shown with a drawer extended from an enclosure.
FIG. 15 is a top plan view of a warming appliance according to the embodiment of FIG. 14.
FIG. 16 is an illustration of an exemplary embodiment of a heating apparatus in a warming appliance.
FIG. 17 is a side elevation view of a warming appliance with a drawer in a closed position and illustrating an exemplary embodiment of a user interface, power circuit, and an electronic control device.
FIG. 18 is a block diagram of an exemplary embodiment of a power circuit for a warming appliance having an electronic controller and including a humidity control circuit and other sensors.
FIG. 19 is an exemplary embodiment of a fan/heater apparatus for use with a warming apparatus.
FIG. 20 is an alternative exemplary embodiment of a fan/heater apparatus for use with a warming apparatus.
FIG. 21 is a schematic diagram of an exemplary embodiment of an electronic control circuit for a warming appliance.
FIG. 22 is a schematic diagram of an exemplary embodiment of a power circuit for a warming appliance, including a temperature sensor and circuit.
FIGS. 23A-23B are elevation views of an exemplary embodiment of a warming appliance, including a venting system illustrating proportional venting to control heat and air flow in the warming appliance.
FIG. 24 is an illustration of a venting system for a warming appliance with an actuator to selectively operate the vent to control heat and air flow according to an exemplary embodiment.
FIG. 25 is an illustration of a venting system for a warming appliance with another actuator to selectively operate the vent to control heat and air flow according to another exemplary embodiment.
FIG. 26 is an illustration of a venting system for a warming appliance with a further actuator to selectively operate the vent to control heat and air flow according to a further exemplary embodiment.
FIG. 27 is a perspective illustration of an appliance configured to exchange a storage drawer (shown as the left device) for an exemplary embodiment of a warming apparatus (shown as the right device).
FIG. 28 is an illustration of possible locations of a warming apparatus in relation to another appliance (shown for example as a stove).
FIG. 29 is a side sectional view of an exemplary embodiment of a free standing warming apparatus mounted on wheels for mobility.
FIG. 30 is a perspective view of an exemplary multi-use warming apparatus configured to couple to a stand structure which can be movable, as facilitated by several alternative devices.
FIG. 31 is a sectional view of an exemplary embodiment of a warming appliance illustrating several locations of light fixtures mounted in the chamber.
FIG. 32 is a detailed view of a mechanical door switch for operating the light fixtures of the warming apparatus illustrated in FIG. 31.
FIG. 33 is a detailed view of an electronic door switch activated with a magnet for operating the light fixtures of the warming apparatus illustrated in FIG. 31.
FIG. 34 is a partial perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a face plate of a warming apparatus including an “on/off” type user interface.
FIGS. 35A-35E are illustrations of exemplary embodiments of a user interface for a warming apparatus.
FIG. 36 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a multi-use warming apparatus associated with another appliance (shown for example as a cook top) and controllable remotely with a remote control unit.
FIG. 37 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a multi-use warming apparatus having a removable remote control unit coupled to the face plate of the warming apparatus.
FIGS. 38 and 39 are detailed views of an exemplary embodiment of a coupling method of the user interface to the warming apparatus illustrated in FIG. 37.
FIG. 40 is a sectional side view of an exemplary embodiment of a warming apparatus coupled to a remote heater/blower.
FIG. 41 is a partial perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a warming apparatus illustrating alternative venting from the chamber (arrows depict an exemplary air flow pattern).
FIG. 42 is a side view of the venting illustrated in FIG. 41.
FIG. 43 is a partial side sectional view of an exemplary embodiment of a warming apparatus including a depository for a fragrant substance in gaseous communication with the drawer of the appliance.
FIG. 44 is a side sectional view of an exemplary embodiment of a multi-use warming apparatus, including a powered drawer.
FIG. 45 is a detailed view of an exemplary embodiment of the warming apparatus with a powered drawer illustrated in FIG. 44.
FIGS. 46 and 47 are alternative embodiments of a warming apparatus illustrating coupling and motion of a door (or panel) for accessing a chamber of the warming apparatus.
FIGS. 48 and 49A-49E are schematic views of a movable display device and user interface according to an exemplary embodiment.
In describing the preferred embodiment of the invention that is illustrated in the drawings, specific terminology will be resorted to for the sake of clarity. However, it is not intended that the invention be limited to the specific terms so selected and it is to be understood that each specific term includes all technical equivalents that operate in a similar manner to accomplish a similar purpose. For example, the word “connected,” “attached,” “coupled,” and “mounted” and variations thereof herein are used broadly and encompass direct and indirect connections, attachments, couplings, and mountings. In addition, the terms “connected,” “coupled,” etc. and variations thereof are not restricted to physical or mechanical connections, couplings, etc. Such “connection” is recognized as being equivalent by those skilled in the art.
Further, before any embodiments of the invention are explained in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced or of being carried out in various ways. Further, the use of “including”, “comprising”, “at least one of”, or “having” and variations thereof herein are meant to encompass the items listed thereafter and equivalents thereof as well as additional items.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS