Insulated outer structure for refrigerated food storage...

Static structures (e.g. – buildings) – Composite prefabricated panel including adjunctive means – Sandwich or hollow with sheet-like facing members

Reexamination Certificate

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C052S784130, C052S783190, C052S792100, C052S794100, C052S750000, C052S801120, C052S309700, C312S405000, C312S405100, C312S408000, C220S592100, C220S592010, C220S592020

Reexamination Certificate

active

06295787

ABSTRACT:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to a refrigerated food storage apparatus and, more particularly, to a structure of an outer wall or hinged door of such an apparatus, in which a plurality of integrally formed bosses are provided on an inner panel or panels of the structure, to extend outward within an inter-panel space filled with an insulating body by a reactive foam injection process.
2. Discussion of the Related Art
A food storage apparatus, commonly known as a refrigerator or freezer, generally includes an insulated interior cabinet formed by five outer walls and at least one hinged door provided on a side or top surface. The outer walls and door are essentially comprised of a combination of inner and outer panels which are spaced apart from each other using a spacing means connected to the outer panel, thereby forming an inter-panel space. A body of insulation, e.g., Styrofoam, is injected into the inter-panel space using a foam injection process, to completely fill the space. Thus, the interior cabinet is thermally insulated for the storage of perishable foodstuffs and the like. The food storage apparatus is designed such that, once the air in the interior cabinet is refrigerated (or heated) to a desired temperature, the temperature is maintained by insulating the cabinet's interior from its exterior and blocking the effluence of the temperature-controlled air. Generally speaking, the design and structure of the door of the apparatus has a greater affect on this operation than the outer walls.
Specifically, the spacing means is integrally formed with the outer panel (shell), which forms the exterior shape of such a food storage apparatus and is generally made of a plastic material. The inner panel (liner) forms the shape of the interior cabinet and is also typically made of plastic. The panels are combined to form an outer wall or door using a conventional coupling means.
In the structure of the insulated outer wall or door as described above, the spacing means is realized by a plurality of bosses (spacers) integrally formed with the outer panel, to support the combination of the panels and maintain a constant panel separation distance which defines the inter-panel space. The bosses are provided at regular intervals on the inner side of the outer panel, to extend inward, by a molding process using heat. Therefore, one end (bottom) of the boss is common with the outer panel forming the visible exterior of the food storage apparatus. After the molding process, the bosses are cooled and a contraction takes place at the bottom of each boss, forming a series of slight depressions in the outer panel. Such imperfections in the exterior surface of a food storage apparatus detract from its appearance, by producing an uneven surface considered unsightly.
The foam injection process is conventionally performed with the workpiece (e.g., door) situated horizontally while the space between the door's outer and inner panels is filled with the foam. To ensure a closely coupled fit during foam injection, the inner and outer panels are held tightly together using an auxiliary support means. The door is then left undisturbed for a predetermined time to allow the foam to set. The horizontal orientation of the door leads to difficulties in achieving an even consistency of the filled foam throughout the inter-panel space, whereby the foam fills the space insufficiently and/or disproportionally and the insulation efficiency is thereby degraded. The foam injection process also generates gases which transform an unshaped body of the foam insulation, i.e., before setting, so that the foam injected first and pushed to the rear of the inter-panel space with continued injection bears the pressure of the generated gases. Besides a further hindrance to achieving a consistently filled inter-panel space, the pressure of the generated gases has the potential to buckle one or the other of the panels.
After completing the foam injection process, the surface of the outer panel is finished. That is, the outer panel is generally provided with a foam injection hole for introducing the foam into the inter-panel space. The foam injection hole is sealed to prevent foreign matter from entering the inter-panel space and is then finished (smoothed) to achieve an attractive appearance. The finishing process of the foam injection hole is time consuming and difficult. More importantly, however, even a well-finished hole is unsightly and detracts from the appearance of the food storage apparatus.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
It is therefore an object of the present invention to overcome the problems encountered in the conventional art.
It is another object of the present invention to provide an insulated outer structure for a refrigerated food storage apparatus, in which the appearance of the exterior surface of the structure is enhanced.
It is yet another object of the present invention to provide an insulated outer structure for a refrigerated food storage apparatus, which simplifies manufacture by eliminating the need to perform a finishing process for completing the structure.
It is still another object of the present invention to provide an insulated outer structure for a refrigerated food storage apparatus, in which insulation efficiency is improved.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide an insulated outer structure for a refrigerated food storage apparatus, which facilitates a foam injection process by enabling a consistent filling of the inter-panel space with an insulating body.
It is a yet further object of the present invention to provide an insulated outer structure for a refrigerated food storage apparatus, which facilitates a foam injection process by obviating the need for auxiliary support means for holding the inner and outer panels closely together during foam injection.
It is a still further object of the present invention to provide an insulated outer structure for a refrigerated food storage apparatus, which enables an insulating body to be injected into the inter-panel space without the danger of buckling the panels.
To accomplish the above and other objects of the present invention, there is provided an insulated outer structure for a refrigerated food storage apparatus. The structure comprises an outer shell forming a visible exterior of the refrigerated food storage apparatus; and an inner liner made of molded plastic and coupled to the outer shell using coupling means, to form an inter-panel space to be filled with a body of foam insulation. The inner liner includes a plurality of bosses of a predetermined length, integrally formed with the inner liner at regular intervals and extending toward the outer shell, to support and maintain a constant spacing between the outer shell and the inner liner, at least one foam-injection inlet for injecting foam into the inter-panel space, and a plurality of vents for exhausting air and gases generated during a foam injection process.
A reactive foam completely fills the inter-panel space, to form a consistent body of insulation. The force of the reactive foam filling the inter-panel space closes a hinged first flap for covering the foam-injection inlet and a plurality of hinged second flaps for covering the vents. The foam-injection inlet is formed in the bottom of a container centrally installed on the inner liner, to communicate with the inter-panel space.
Another aspect of the present invention is realized by a method for performing the foam injection process. The method comprises the steps of providing the inner liner with a hinged first flap for covering at least one foam-injection inlet centrally formed in a surface of the inner liner and a hinged second flap for covering a plurality of vents peripherally formed in a surface of the inner liner, wherein the hinges of the flaps are arranged on a common side; orienting the structure such that the inner liner faces upward in an inclined manner which elevates the plurality of vents, the hinges of the flaps being arranged downward

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