Refrigerator shelf assembly

A refrigerator shelf assembly includes a glass shelf element and a pair of mounting structures. The glass shelf element has a planar portion and upwardly extending walls extending upwardly from and around the planar portion. The planar portion has an upper side and a lower side, with the upper side defining a support surface. At least two of the walls include generally horizontal flanges, which extend outwardly from the planar portion. Each of the mounting structures has an elongate recess, with the flanges of the shelf element extending into the elongate recesses for slidably mounting the shelf element between the mounting structures and further permitting the shelf element to be extended from the refrigerator but also removed from the mounting structures for use as a tray exteriorly of the refrigerator, including for use as a cooking tray.

Skip to: Description  ·  Claims  · Patent History  ·  Patent History
Description

This application claims priority from U.S. provisional application Pat. Application Ser. No. 60/808,270, filed May 25, 2006, entitled REFRIGERATOR SHELF ASSEMBLY, by Applicant Alan D. Picken, which is incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD AND BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a shelf assembly and, more particularly, to a refrigerator shelf assembly.

SUMMARY

The present invention provides a refrigerator shelf assembly that incorporates a glass shelf element that can be removed from a refrigerator separate and apart from its supporting or mounting structure, which mounts the shelf assembly in the refrigerator compartment. When removed from the refrigerator and its mounting structure, the shelf element may be used as a tray and, further, can be placed in a dishwasher and, optionally, may be used as a cooking tray in an oven.

In one form of the invention, a shelf assembly includes a glass shelf element and a pair of mounting structures. The glass shelf element has a planar portion and upwardly extending walls extending upwardly from and around the planar portion. The upper side of the planar portion defines a support surface, and at least two of the walls include a generally horizontal flange that extend outwardly from the planar portion. Each of the mounting structures has an elongate recess, with the flanges extending into the elongate recesses for slidably mounting the shelf element between the mounting structures.

In one aspect, a resilient pad is provided at the lower side of the planar portion. For example, the lower side of the planar portion may include a recess, with the resilient pad being located or formed in the recess. The resilient pad may comprise a heat resistant resilient material having a heat resistance temperature of at least 450° F., and optionally of at least 600° F.

In another aspect, the walls include a forward wall at a forward edge of the shelf element. The forward wall includes a generally horizontal flange and at least one resilient body is provided at a lower side of the flange of the forward wall. For example, the flange of the forward wall may comprise an arcuate flange. In addition, the underside of the flange of the forward wall may include a resilient body, for example, an elongate resilient body.

According to yet another aspect, the mounting structures comprise brackets. For example, each of the brackets may include an elongate recess for slidably mounting the shelf element to the brackets. In addition, the brackets may be adapted to releasably engage the cabinet walls of a refrigerator.

According to another form of the invention, a shelf element includes a glass body that has a generally planar portion and upwardly extending walls, which extend from the planar portion. The walls extend around the planar portion and include at least two opposed flanges. The flanges extend in a generally horizontal plane outwardly from the planar portion in opposed directions and form guide surfaces for slidingly supporting the glass shelf element on mounting structures for mounting the shelf element in a refrigerator.

In one aspect, the shelf element further includes at least one resilient pad at a lower surface of the shelf element, such as the planar portion.

In other aspects, the walls form a forward flange at a forward edge of the shelf element for forming a handle. In addition, the shelf element preferably includes a resilient pad at the underside of the forward flange.

In other aspects, the lower surface of the planar portion includes a plurality of recesses and a plurality of resilient pads located at the recesses. For example, the resilient pads may comprise a resilient material having a heat resistance temperature of at least 450° F. or optionally of at least 600° F. so that the shelf element may form a baking tray as well as a refrigerator shelf element.

Accordingly, the present invention provides a refrigerator shelf assembly with a shelf element that can serve several functions—a supporting surface for the refrigerator shelf assembly or a tray that can be used exteriorly of the refrigerator, including as a cooking tray in an oven.

These and other objects, advantages, purposes, and features of the invention will become more apparent from the study of the following description taken in conjunction with the drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a shelf assembly of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a cross-section view taken along line II-II of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a plan view of the shelf element of the shelf assembly of the FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a bottom plan view of the shelf element of FIG. 2;

FIG. 5 is a cross-section view taken along line V-V of FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a inverted cross-section view taken along line VI-VI of FIG. 4; and

FIG. 7 is a cross-section view taken along line VII-VII of FIG. 4.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring to FIG. 1, the numeral 10 generally designates a shelf assembly of the present invention. As will be more fully described below, shelf assembly 10 incorporates a shelf element 12 and mounting structures 14, which mount shelf element 12 in a refrigerator. In the illustrated embodiment, mounting structures 14 comprises brackets 14a and 14b, which releasably mount shelf element 12 to the rearward cabinet or compartment wall of a refrigerator. In the illustrated embodiment, each bracket incorporates a pair of mounting tabs 16 and 18 that releasably engage a pair of rails mounted at the rearward wall of a refrigerator cabinet, as commonly known in the art. In this manner, shelf element 12 is cantilevered by brackets 14a, 14b from the rear wall of the refrigerator compartment. As will be more fully described below, shelf element 12 is adapted to be removable from the mounting structures and, further, be removable so as to provide a removable shelf element that can be used as a tray exteriorly of the refrigerator and, further, can be inserted into a dishwasher for cleaning or even used as a cooking tray in an oven.

As best seen in FIG. 2, shelf element 12 includes a lower planar portion 20 with upwardly extending walls 22. Each wall 22 includes or forms a generally horizontal flange 24 that extends around the periphery of planar portion 20 for engagement by mounting structures 14, namely brackets 14a and 14b. Walls 22 are preferably solid walls that extend around the full periphery of planar portion 20 to thereby form a spill barrier for the shelf element 12. Further, flange 26 at the forward edge of shelf element 12 may be enlarged and, further, arcuate in shape to form a handle 26a to facilitate the handling of tray element 12.

Referring again to FIG. 2, each bracket 14a, 14b includes a rail 28a, 28b with a recess for receiving the respective flanges 24 of shelf element 20 to thereby slidably mount tray element 12 to brackets 14a and 14b. In the illustrated embodiment, the recesses are provided by channel-shaped members 30a and 30b. Further, in the illustrated embodiment, rails 28a and 28b are mounted to the brackets 14a and 14b; however, it should be appreciated that at least the channel-shaped members 30a and 30b may be integrally formed as part of the respective brackets. In the illustrated embodiment, the rails 28a and 28b are mounted and secured to the brackets by fasteners 32 such as rivets, threaded fasteners, or the like. However, as noted above, the rails may be integrally formed or welded to the brackets to thereby fixedly secure the rails to the brackets.

Referring to FIGS. 4-7, in one preferred embodiment, shelf element 12 includes a plurality of pads 34 applied to the underside 20a of planar portion 20 of shelf element 12. For example, pads 34 may be formed from an elastomeric material and, further, may be formed from a heat resistant elastomeric material such as a silicone elastomeric material. A suitable silicone elastomeric material includes the silicone-based material used for bake ware sold under the trade name SMARTWARE® or TEMPERFLEX®. Optionally, pads 34 may be located in recesses 20b formed in the underside of planar portion 20 of shelf element 12. For example, when recesses or depressions are provided, the silicone material may be molded into the depressions in the glass, which molding adheres the pad to the lower surface of the shelf. Alternately, pads 34 may be applied to the underside or lower surface of planar portion 20 by an adhesive or the like. Further, flanges 24 may also be provided with pads 36 to provide a tactile function to facilitate grabbing of the shelf element when a user wishes to remove the shelf element from the refrigerator or slide the shelf element with respect to the brackets. Similarly, pads 36 may be formed from an elastomeric material, such as silicone, noted above, and may be similarly formed in corresponding recesses 24b formed in the underside or lower surface 24a of flange 26 as well as rearward flange 28. In the illustrated embodiment, pads 36 comprise elongate pads that generally follow the contour of flange 26 of the shelf element and, further, are formed from a generally continuous elongate body. However, it should be appreciated that discrete pads may be provided along the lower surface of the flange to provide a plurality of discrete tactile surfaces.

Shelf element 12 is preferably formed using a tempered glass and preferably formed from Pyrex, such that the shelf element is formed by molding molten glass into its desired shape rather than being formed from a sheet of glass. In this manner, the various surfaces bends and shapes performed on the glass shelf element may be formed during the molding process. In addition, side walls 22 of shelf element 12 may be formed and sized to provide a significant spill barrier. For example, side walls 22 may be sized to form a cavity that can hold on the order of 50 ounces, more preferably 75 ounces, and optionally on the order of 100 fluid ounces of liquid, which means that the shelf element 12 may be adapted to hold a half gallon of liquid.

As described above, shelf element 12 is supported at its edges by mounting structures 14 in a manner so that the shelf element may be easily withdrawn from the refrigerator and, further, from the mounting structures supporting the shelf element in the refrigerator. In addition, the shelf element may be easily removed from the refrigerator so that the shelf may be used by itself, for example, as a tray. Further, because the shelf element is formed from glass and the pads may be formed from a high temperature resistant elastomeric material, such as silicone, the shelf element may also be inserted into a dishwasher for cleaning and also may be used as a cooking tray in an oven.

Although described in reference to a static bracket, which releasably mounts to a refrigerator in a conventional manner, the mounting structure for the shelf element may be varied. For example, other suitable supporting structures may include molded or vacuumed formed rails that are formed in the wall of the refrigerator compartment. For example, reference is made to U.S. Pat. No. 5,893,620, which is owned by Whirlpool Corporation of Benton Harbor, Mich., which is incorporated by reference in its entirety. Alternately, the shelf element may be supported by a bracket that is fixedly mounted to the wall of the cabinet of the refrigerator, which are also commonly known and which similarly provide a sliding function for the shelf element from the refrigerator. Alternately, the shelf element may be supported by sliding rails, which in turn may be mounted to brackets similar to the bracket illustrated in FIG. 1 or may be fixedly mounted to the sidewalls of the refrigerator cabinet. Therefore, it should be understood that the mounting structure of FIG. 1 is just exemplary and is not intended to be limiting and is merely provided to be illustrative of one form of mounting structure.

While several forms of the invention have been shown and described, other forms will now be apparent to those skilled in the art. Therefore, it will be understood that the embodiments shown in the drawings and described above are merely for illustrative purposes, and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention which is defined by the claims which follow as interpreted under the principles of patent law including the doctrine of equivalents.

Claims

1. A shelf assembly comprising:

a glass shelf element, said glass shelf element having a planar portion and upwardly extending walls extending upwardly from and around said planar portion, said planar portion having an upper side and a lower side, said upper side defining a support surface, at least two of said walls including a generally horizontal flange extending outwardly from said planar portion in opposed directions; and
a pair of mounting structures, each of said mounting structures having an elongate recess, said flanges extending into said elongate recesses for slidably mounting said shelf element between said mounting structures.

2. The shelf assembly according to claim 1, further comprising a resilient pad at said lower side of said planar portion.

3. The shelf assembly according to claim 2, wherein said lower side of said planar portion includes a recess, said resilient pad being located in said recess.

4. The shelf assembly according to claim 2, wherein said resilient pad comprises a heat resistant resilient material having a heat resistance temperature of at least 450° F.

5. The shelf assembly according to claim 4, wherein said resilient material comprises a heat resistant resilient material having a heat resistance temperature of at least 600° F.

6. The shelf assembly according to claim 1, wherein said walls include a forward wall at a forward edge of said shelf element, said forward wall includes a generally horizontal flange, further comprising at least one resilient body provided at a lower side of said flange of said forward wall.

7. The shelf assembly according to claim 6, wherein said flange of said forward wall comprises an arcuate flange.

8. The shelf assembly according to claim 6, wherein said at least one resilient body comprises an elongate resilient body.

9. The shelf assembly according to claim 1, wherein said pair of mounting structures comprises a pair of brackets.

10. The shelf assembly according to claim 9, wherein each of said brackets includes an elongate recess for slidably mounting said shelf element to said brackets.

11. The shelf assembly according to claim 9, wherein said brackets are adapted to releasably engage the cabinet walls of a refrigerator.

12. A shelf element comprises:

a glass body, said glass body having a generally planar portion and upwardly extending walls extending from said planar portion, said walls extending around said planar portion and including at least two opposed flanges, said flanges extending in a generally horizontal plane outwardly from said planar portion in opposed directions, and said flanges forming guide surfaces for slidingly supporting said glass shelf element on mounting structures for mounting said shelf element in a refrigerator.

13. The shelf element according to claim 12, further comprising at least one resilient pad at a lower surface of said planar portion.

14. The shelf element according to claim 12, wherein said walls form a forward flange at a forward edge of said shelf element for forming a handle.

15. The shelf element according to claim 14, further comprising a resilient pad at said forward flange.

16. The shelf element according to claim 12, wherein said lower surface of said planar portion includes a plurality of recesses and a plurality of resilient pads located at said recesses.

17. The shelf element according to claim 16, wherein said resilient pads comprise a resilient material having a heat resistance temperature of at least 450° F.

18. A method of mounting a shelf element in a refrigerator, said method comprising:

providing a shelf element formed by a glass body having a planar portion and upwardly extending walls extending upwardly from and around said planar portion, at least two of the upwardly extending walls including a generally horizontal flange extending outwardly from the planar portion in opposed directions;
providing a pair of mounting structures; and
supporting the horizontal flanges of the glass body with the mounting structures for mounting the shelf element in a refrigerator.

19. The method according to claim 18, wherein said supporting the horizontal flanges includes removably supporting the horizontal flanges with the mounting structures whereby the shelf element can be removed from the mounting structures.

20. The method according to claim 18, wherein said providing a shelf element further includes providing a shelf element formed from a tempered glass wherein the shelf element may be used as an oven tray when removed from the refrigerator.

Patent History
Publication number: 20080012459
Type: Application
Filed: May 22, 2007
Publication Date: Jan 17, 2008
Applicant: Clarion Technologies, Inc. (Grand Rapids, MI)
Inventors: Alan Picken (Milford, MI), John Brownlow (Grand Rapids, MI)
Application Number: 11/805,026
Classifications
Current U.S. Class: 312/408.000
International Classification: F25D 23/00 (20060101); A47B 96/02 (20060101);