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Get Inside Your Ice Machine Today

Aug 4, 2008
Life before ice machines meant warm Gin and Tonics, tepid water and a considerably greater chance of food poisoning. The ice machine was a natural evolutionary step in mechanical engineering which has its routes in the experimentation of artificial refrigeration.

William Cullen was the first documented case to experiment with artificial refrigeration in the late 18th Century and many other different individuals contributed small parts to the invention of what is effectively the modern day ice box. Most notably from them were Sir John Leslie who froze water artificially with an air pump in 1805 and Albert Einstein who created the Einstein refrigerator in 1926.

Before these major developments food was stored in ice houses or ice boxes, in hotter climates ice had to be delivered from wholesalers who imported it from colder climates. The aforementioned scientific developments turned ice from a rare luxury to a standard domestic essential with the first ice-making machine hitting the saturated US home appliance market in the 1960s.

Ice makers can be large stand alone units or can be installed into a freezer, or freezer section of a fridge-combi. A standard ice maker needs to be powered from the freezer or refrigerator circuitry and it requires a fresh water supply to produce the ice, both wires can be fed through the back of the refrigerator.

Inside the ice machine is made up from a series of parts. The motor, electric gear, thermostat, heating coil, ice mould, shut-off arm, water inlet tube and water valve. All the parts are linked together and operate in a cycle.

The cycle is powered by electricity fed from the mains if it is a standalone unit, or the circuit from the refrigerator power supply. The cycle is controlled by a series of simple switches control via current. When it begins a timed switch sends current to the electromagnetic water valve which then opens.

The water then runs from the mains into the ice mould which is typically the shape of a semi-circle for reasons which become clear later in the process. After the mould is filled, which usually takes 5 to 7 seconds, the valve closes and the freezing process begins. This operation is not performed by the ice maker but by the refrigeration unit and is monitored by the thermostat.

Once the temperature reaches a certain point the thermostat closes a switch which allows current to run through the heating coil. It may seem strange to have a heating coil in a refrigeration unit, however this is to loosen the ice enough so that it can be easily lifted from the mould.

This occurs as the motor is activated switching the electric gear which moves the ejector blades and the ice moves in one block due to the shape of the ice mould. The ice moves through plastic notches in front of the collection bin which are the same shape as the mould, splitting them up as they fall into the collection bin.

Although ice makers are more commonplace in certain countries domestically, commercially they are essential for many industries. The commercial ice makers tend to be stand along units which enable the production of specifically sized cubes. There is a multitude of domestic and commercial products available in the market today with stand alone models ranging from 300GBP to 3000GBP and beyond.
About the Author
Shaun Parker is a leading manufacturer of ice machines and an expert in their mechanics.
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