FIELD OF THE INVENTION
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The present subject matter relates generally to appliances, such as refrigerator appliances, and liners for the same.
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OF THE INVENTION
Certain refrigerator appliances utilize sealed systems for cooling chilled chambers of the refrigerator appliances. A typical sealed system includes an evaporator and a fan, the fan generating a flow of air across the evaporator and cooling the flow of air. The cooled air is then provided through an opening into the chilled chamber to maintain the chilled chamber at a desired temperature. Air from the chilled chamber is circulated back through a return duct to be re-cooled by the sealed system during operation of the refrigerator appliance, maintaining the chilled chamber at the desired temperature.
In some refrigerator appliances, an ice maker may be mounted in a fresh food chamber. The ice maker may have a mold body configured to receive water that can freeze over time to form ice cubes. However, because the fresh food chamber is generally maintained at a temperature above the freezing point of water, the ice maker must be contained within a chilled chamber that is maintained at a freezer temperature. In order to achieve this, the ice maker is typically placed in a chilled chamber having an inlet and an outlet. A sealed system has a fan that circulates chilled air through the chamber by delivering the chilled air to the chilled chamber through the inlet and receiving the return air from the outlet.
A chilled chamber for housing an icemaker may be disposed in the refrigerator door of a bottom mount refrigerator. Such refrigerator doors commonly include an outer door frame, a door liner, and foam insulation. The outer door frame is typically constructed of rigid material such as steel and is stamped or otherwise formed to the desired door shape. The door liner is typically formed from a combination of injection-molded and thermoformed parts. The door liner is then sealed against the outer door frame to form an insulating cavity. Insulating foam is then sprayed inside the cavity to provide insulation and structural support for the door liner.
The inlet and outlet of the chilled chamber are typically formed by injection-molding or thermoforming a skeleton of the door liner and piercing holes for the inlet and outlet. To complete the formation of the inlet and outlet ducts, a separate thermoformed duct is formed and joined with the door liner. The additional parts require separate design, tooling, procurement, and storage. The joints are typically welded together or joined using tapes and adhesive. However, the holes and joints in the door liner create leak points that cause issues during the foam insulation process. Moreover, the holes may not have sufficient structural integrity, and may separate during the foam insulation process. Indeed, foam leaks around the air ducts of these assemblies are not uncommon, and frequently result in the scrapping of expensive foam door assemblies.
Accordingly, a refrigerator appliance including an injection-molded door liner that is integrally formed would be useful. More particularly, a door liner for a refrigerator appliance including an icebox defining an inlet and an outlet without requiring assembly of multiple parts would be especially beneficial.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
The present subject matter provides an injection-molded door liner for a refrigerator door and a method for forming such a door liner. More particularly, the door liner is injection molded as a single, integral piece and defines an icebox compartment, a cooling air inlet duct, and a cooling air outlet duct. A sealed cooling system circulates cooling air into the icebox compartment through the cooling air inlet duct and the cooling air is returned to the sealed cooling system through the cooling air outlet duct. The door liner simplifies assembly, reduces parts, and minimizes the likelihood of leaks. The door liner thereby reduces costs while increasing refrigerator performance and efficiency. Additional aspects and advantages of the invention will be set forth in part in the following description, or may be apparent from the description, or may be learned through practice of the invention.
In a first exemplary embodiment, an injection molded door liner for a door of a refrigerator appliance is provided. The door liner includes an icebox compartment defined at least in part by the door liner and having a back wall and a plurality of sidewalls. A cooling air inlet duct is defined by the door liner and is configured to receive cooling air from a sealed cooling system. A cooling air outlet duct is defined by the door liner and is configured to return cooling air to the sealed cooling system. The door liner is injection molded as a single, integral part.
According to another exemplary embodiment, a refrigerator appliance is provided. The refrigerator appliance includes a cabinet including a liner defining a chilled chamber and a door configured to provide access into the chilled chamber. A door liner is injection molded as a single, integral piece and is mounted in the door. The door liner defines a sub-compartment including an icebox cavity, an inlet for receiving chilled air into the icebox cavity from a sealed cooling system, and an outlet for returning chilled air to the sealed cooling system.
These and other features, aspects and advantages of the present invention will become better understood with reference to the following description and appended claims. The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention and, together with the description, serve to explain the principles of the invention.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
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A full and enabling disclosure of the present invention, including the best mode thereof, directed to one of ordinary skill in the art, is set forth in the specification, which makes reference to the appended figures.
FIG. 1 provides a perspective view of a refrigerator appliance according to an exemplary embodiment of the present subject matter.
FIG. 2 provides a perspective view of the exemplary refrigerator appliance of FIG. 1 with refrigerator doors of the refrigerator appliance shown in an open position to reveal a fresh food chamber of the refrigerator appliance.
FIG. 3 provides an exploded perspective view of the refrigerator appliance door of FIG. 1 showing a door liner defining an icebox compartment.
FIG. 4 provides a schematic view of a sealed cooling system of the refrigerator appliance of FIG. 1.
FIG. 5 provides a perspective view of a door liner of the exemplary refrigerator appliance of FIG. 1.
FIG. 6 provides a rear view of the door liner of the exemplary refrigerator appliance of FIG. 1.
FIG. 7 provides a cross-sectional view of the cooling air inlet and outlet ducts defined in the door liner of the exemplary refrigerator appliance of FIG. 1 taken along Line 7-7 in FIG. 6.
FIG. 8 provides a close-up, perspective view of a cooling air inlet duct of the door liner of the exemplary refrigerator appliance of FIG. 1.
FIG. 9 provides a perspective view of a door liner of the exemplary refrigerator appliance of FIG. 1.
FIG. 10A provides a plot of a measured pressure drop of cooling air as it is circulated through the icebox compartment of the refrigerator appliance of FIG. 1 compared to the pressure drop in a prior design over various cooling air flow rates.
FIG. 10B provides a plot of a measured pressure drop of cooling air flowing across the inlet duct and the outlet duct of the icebox compartment of the refrigerator appliance of FIG. 1 compared to the pressure drop in a prior design over various cooling air flow rates.
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Reference now will be made in detail to embodiments of the invention, one or more examples of which are illustrated in the drawings. Each example is provided by way of explanation of the invention, not limitation of the invention. In fact, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations can be made in the present invention without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention. For instance, features illustrated or described as part of one embodiment can be used with another embodiment to yield a still further embodiment. Thus, it is intended that the present invention covers such modifications and variations as come within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents.
FIG. 1 provides a perspective view of a refrigerator appliance 100 according to an exemplary embodiment of the present subject matter. Refrigerator appliance 100 includes a cabinet or housing 120 that extends between a top 101 and a bottom 102 along a vertical direction V. Housing also extends along a lateral direction L and a transverse direction T, each of the vertical direction V, lateral direction L, and transverse direction T being mutually perpendicular to one another. Housing 120 defines chilled chambers for receipt of food items for storage. In particular, housing 120 defines fresh food chamber 122 positioned at or adjacent top 101 of housing 120 and a freezer chamber 124 arranged at or adjacent bottom 102 of housing 120. As such, refrigerator appliance 100 is generally referred to as a bottom mount refrigerator. It is recognized, however, that the benefits of the present disclosure apply to other types and styles of refrigerator appliances such as, e.g., a top mount refrigerator appliance or a side-by-side style refrigerator appliance. Consequently, the description set forth herein is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to be limiting in any aspect to any particular refrigerator chamber configuration.
Refrigerator doors 128 are rotatably hinged to an edge of housing 120 for selectively accessing fresh food chamber 122. In addition, a freezer door 130 is arranged below refrigerator doors 128 for selectively accessing freezer chamber 124. Freezer door 130 is coupled to a freezer drawer (not shown) slidably mounted within freezer chamber 124. Refrigerator doors 128 and freezer door 130 are shown in the closed configuration in FIG. 1.
Refrigerator appliance 100 also includes a dispensing assembly 140 for dispensing liquid water and/or ice. Dispensing assembly 140 includes a dispenser 142 positioned on or mounted to an exterior portion of refrigerator appliance 100, e.g., on one of refrigerator doors 128. Dispenser 142 includes a discharging outlet 144 for accessing ice and liquid water. An actuating mechanism 146, shown as a paddle, is mounted below discharging outlet 144 for operating dispenser 142. In alternative exemplary embodiments, any suitable actuating mechanism may be used to operate dispenser 142. For example, dispenser 142 can include a sensor (such as an ultrasonic sensor) or a button rather than the paddle. A control panel 148 is provided for controlling the mode of operation. For example, control panel 148 includes a plurality of user inputs (not labeled), such as a water dispensing button and an ice-dispensing button, for selecting a desired mode of operation such as crushed or non-crushed ice.
Discharging outlet 144 and actuating mechanism 146 are an external part of dispenser 142 and are mounted in a dispenser recess 150. Dispenser recess 150 is positioned at a predetermined elevation convenient for a user to access ice or water and enabling the user to access ice without the need to bend-over and without the need to open refrigerator doors 128. In the exemplary embodiment, dispenser recess 150 is positioned at a level that approximates the chest level of a user. As described in more detail below, the dispensing assembly 140 may receive ice from an icemaker disposed in a sub-compartment of the fresh food chamber 122.