(19)
(11)EP 1 464 751 B2

(12)NEW EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION
After opposition procedure

(45)Date of publication and mention of the opposition decision:
25.02.2015 Bulletin 2015/09

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
10.06.2009 Bulletin 2009/24

(21)Application number: 04000337.8

(22)Date of filing:  09.01.2004
(51)Int. Cl.: 
D06F 39/08  (2006.01)
D06F 39/04  (2006.01)
D06F 35/00  (2006.01)

(54)

Steam jet drum washing machine

Dampfstrahlwaschmaschine

Machine à laver à jet de vapeur


(84)Designated Contracting States:
DE FR GB

(30)Priority: 31.03.2003 KR 2003020204

(43)Date of publication of application:
06.10.2004 Bulletin 2004/41

(60)Divisional application:
06022219.7 / 1746194
06022220.5 / 1746195

(73)Proprietor: LG Electronics Inc.
Seoul 150-721 (KR)

(72)Inventors:
  • Kim, Jin Woong
    Kwangmyung-si, Kyungki-do 423-757 (KR)
  • Woo, Kyung Chul
    Yangchun-ku, Seoul 158-072 (KR)
  • Oh, Soo Young
    Yangchun-ku, Seoul 158-785 (KR)
  • Jeon, Si Moon
    Seocho-ku, Seoul 137-062 (KR)

(74)Representative: Urner, Peter 
Ter Meer Steinmeister & Partner Patentanwälte mbB Mauerkircherstrasse 45
81679 München
81679 München (DE)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A1- 1 275 767
DE-A1- 19 641 309
GB-A- 799 788
GB-A- 1 222 227
GB-A- 2 348 213
JP-A- 2002 360 987
JP-A- 2003 093 775
DE-A1- 4 447 160
GB-A- 799 788
GB-A- 1 222 227
GB-A- 2 348 213
JP-A- H04 158 896
JP-A- 2003 019 382
US-A- 4 207 683
  
  • PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 2003, no. 05, 12 May 2003 (2003-05-12) -& JP 2003 019382 A (MITSUBISHI ELECTRIC CORP), 21 January 2003 (2003-01-21)
  • PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 016, no. 449 (C-0986), 18 September 1992 (1992-09-18) -& JP 04 158896 A (SANYO ELECTRIC CO LTD), 1 June 1992 (1992-06-01)
  • PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 2003, no. 08, 6 August 2003 (2003-08-06) & JP 2003 093775 A (MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC IND CO LTD), 2 April 2003 (2003-04-02)
  • HEA BILDERDIENST WASCHMASCHINEN no. 6.5.1, October 1998, pages 19 - 20
  


Description

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION


Field of the Invention



[0001] The present invention relates to a drum washing machine which is capable of lifting clothes to a predetermined height and then dropping the lifted clothes so that the clothes can be washed by means of friction and impact, and more particularly to a steam jet drum washing machine which is capable of heating wash water and spraying the heated wash water into a tub and a drum of the washing machine in a phase of high-temperature and high-pressure steam, whereby sterilizing and washing efficiencies of the drum washing machine are improved.

Description of the Related Art



[0002] A drum washing machine is a kind of washer which is capable of washing clothes by friction between a drum rotated by a motor and the clothes put in the drum while a detergent and wash water are supplied in a horizontally mounted tub and the drum, which is disposed in the tub. With the drum washing machine, the clothes are neither damaged nor tangled with one another. Furthermore, the drum washing machine washes clothes by striking and rubbing the clothes, whereby washing efficiency is improved.

[0003] Fig. 1 is a perspective view of a conventional drum washing machine, and Fig. 2 is a side view, in cross section, of the conventional drum washing machine.

[0004] As shown in Figs. 1 and 2, the conventional drum washing machine comprises: a casing 2 forming the exterior of the drum washing machine; a tub 6 disposed in the casing 2 in such a manner that the tub 6 is suspended by means of springs 4 and simultaneously supported by means of damper assemblies 5; a drum 8 rotatably mounted in the tub 6, in which clothes are put and into which wash water is supplied; a plurality of vanes 8a provided on the inner circumference of the drum 8 for lifting the clothes in the drum 8 as the drum 8 is rotated, the vanes 8a being longitudinally extended parallel to the axis of rotation of the drum 8 and inwardly protruded to a predetermined height while the vanes 8a are uniformly spaced apart from each other; and a motor 10 connected to the drum 8 in the rear of the tub 6 for rotating the drum 8.

[0005] The drum washing machine further comprises: a water-supply valve assembly 12 mounted above the tub 6 for supplying wash water into the tub 6 and the drum 8; a detergent box assembly 14 also mounted above the tub 6 for supplying a detergent into the tub 6 and the drum 8; and a drainage pump assembly 16 mounted below the tub 6 for draining the wash water from the tub 6 and the drum 8.

[0006] The drum 8 is provided at the inner circumference thereof with a plurality of through-holes 8h, through which the wash water flows between the drum 8 and the tub 6. When the drum 8 is rotated to dewater the clothes, the wash water contained in the clothes is separated from the clothes by means of the centrifugal force of the drum 8. At this time, the wash water separated from the clothes is discharged through the through-holes 8h. The water-supply valve assembly 12 includes a water-supply valve (not shown) so that the water-supply valve assembly 12 supplies wash water into the tub 6 and the drum 8 when the water-supply valve is opened. Similarly, the drainage pump assembly 16 includes a drainage pump (not shown) so that the drainage pump assembly 16 discharges the wash water from the tub 6 and the drum 8 when the drainage pump is operated.

[0007] To the lower part of the tub 6 is mounted a heater 20 for heating wash water in the tub 6 to a high temperature, by which the washing efficiency is improved. Specifically, the tub 6 includes a heater mounting part 6a formed at the lower part thereof. The heater mounting part 6a of the tub 6 is downwardly extended from the tub 6 so that the heater 20 is mounted in the heater mounting part 6a. The heater 20 is slidably inserted into the heater mounting part 6a of the tub 6 from the front part thereof, and then securely fixed to the heater mounting part 6a of the tub 6.

[0008] The operation of the conventional drum washing machine with the above-stated construction will now be described.

[0009] When a washing process is performed while clothes are put in the drum 8, the water-supply valve is opened so that a proper amount of wash water is supplied into the tub 6 and the drum 8 depending upon the amount of the clothes. The wash water passes through the water-supply valve assembly 12, and then passes through the detergent box assembly 14. The wash water having passed through the detergent box assembly 14 is supplied into the tub 6 together with a detergent.

[0010] When the drum 8 is rotated by operation of the motor 10, the clothes are lifted to a predetermined height by the vanes 8a and then dropped from the vanes 8a so that the clothes can be washed by means of friction and impact. At this time, the heater 20 may be operated to heat the wash water in the tub 6 so that the washing efficiency is improved.

[0011] After the washing process is finished, the drainage pump is operated so that the wash water is discharged. Subsequently, the motor 10 is rotated at a high speed, and thus the drum 8 is also rotated at a high speed. When the drum 8 is rotated, the wash water contained in the clothes is separated from the clothes by means of the centrifugal force of the drum 8. At this time, the wash water separated from the clothes is discharged through the through-holes 8h. In this way, an intermittent dewatering process is performed. Thereafter, the water-supply valve is opened again so that wash water is supplied into the tub 6 and the drum 8. At the same time, the drum 8 is rotated so that a rinsing process is performed.

[0012] The aforementioned rinsing and intermittent dewatering processes are alternately and repeatedly carried out, and finally a dewatering process is performed. In this way, a cleaning process comprising washing, rinsing, and dewatering processes is completed.

[0013] In the conventional drum washing machine, however, the wash water is supplied into the tub 6 from the upper part thereof together with the detergent via the water-supply valve assembly 12 and the detergent box assembly 14, and the wash water supplied into the tub 6 is heated by the heater 20 mounted to the lower part of the tub 6. As can be easily understood from the above description, the wash water initially supplied into the tub is cold. Consequently, the wash water is slowly absorbed by the clothes.

[0014] The conventional drum washing machine includes the heater mounting part 6a of the tub 6, which is provided so that the heater 20 is mounted in the tub 6. The heater mounting part 6a is formed at the lower part of the tub 6 in such a manner that the heater mounting part 6a is downwardly extended from the tub 6. Consequently, it is required to provide an additional space necessary for forming the heater mounting part 6a in the tub 6, which complicates construction of the drum washing machine.

[0015] The wash water supplied in the tub 6 is heated by the heater 20. Since the heater 20 is mounted in the heater mounting part 6a of the tub 6, the wash water is also filled in the heater mounting part 6a of the tub 6, and thus the wash water filled in the heater mounting part 6a of the tub 6 is also heated. However, the wash water filled in the heater mounting part 6a of the tub 6 is not used to wash the clothes. Consequently, wash water and electric energy are uselessly wasted. In addition, the detergent is left with the wash water in the heater mounting part 6a of the tub 6, by which the washing efficiency of the drum washing machine is decreased.

[0016] JP 2003-019382 A discloses a washing machine that comprises a main body having a water tank portion, arranged and installed in the main body, a top cover covering the top surface of the washing machine main body and having an opening portion so that laundry can be put into the water tank portion. In addition, a cover is provided for covering the top surface of the top cover.

[0017] The washing machine comprises a pre-washing apparatus including a boiler having heating means and a Jet nozzle for Jetting steam and warm water to the laundry prior to depositing the laundry into the water tank by using a pressure of the steam generated by the boiler when pre-washing laundry so as to remove dirt from a specific part of the laundry like the collar or the sleeves of a shirt prior to the regular washing process.

[0018] To supply water from a water pipe to the boiler, a water supply tube is provided. A valve for controlling on and off of the water supply is arranged in the water supply tube and is controlled by a switch that is turned off when the cover is open and turned on when the cover is closed so that laundry arranged between the cover and the top cover of the main body can be partial cleaned by a pre-washing treatment to remove dirt partially in advance to the regular washing process.

[0019] GB 1 222 227 A discloses a washing machine for washing and spin-drying that comprises a housing in which a rotating drum is arranged. The housing is mounted on a rolling plate which is pivotally Journalled about a horizontal pivoting shaft. The pivoting shaft is constructed as a hollow shaft so that it can serve on the left hand side for supplying steam and on the right hand side for supplying water and detergent from a storage vessel.

[0020] GB 2 348 213 A discloses a washing and drying machine having a sealable enclosure or pressurizable capsule for receiving articles to be washed, rinsed and dried. Heated wash water can be supplied to the capsule by means of a pump via a pipe and a solenoid valve assembly such that the heated water is forced into the enclosure or capsule under high pressure as finely dispersed or defused droplets forming a mist or vapor. In the capsule a pressure greater than atmospheric pressure is maintained to force the wash water into at least the surface if not through and into the very structure of the material from which the articles to be washed are formed, so as to assist the cleaning process.

[0021] JP 04-158 896 A only discloses to heat water in an inner bottom part of a washing tub by means of a heater so that steam can be generated that penetrates upwardly from the outer tub into a washing tub through holes provided in the washing tub.

[0022] GB 799,788 discloses a washing machine having an outer housing or washing tub and a drum rotatably mounted in the tub. Fresh water can be supplied to the washing machine via a valve assembly and a water supply pipe.

[0023] For heating the water in the tub or housing, steam can be supplied into the lower part of the housing, i.e. into that part of the housing that is located below the drum by means of a steam pipe. The steam pipe is connected with a main steam pipe via a throttle valve and a steam valve.

[0024] JP 2002-360 987 discloses a washing and drying machine having a tub disposed in a casing and adapted so that water can be supplied into the tub, a drum rotatably mounted in the tub and adapted so that clothes can be put into the drum and water can be supplied into the drum, a water-supply unit for supplying water into the tub and the drum, and a steam generator connected to the water-supply unit. The water-supply unit comprises a water supply tube connected at one end thereof to the steam generator for supplying water into the steam generator. The water-supply unit is disposed in the casing at one side of the tub. A steam tube has one end connected to the steam generator and the other end disposed in the tub and the drum.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



[0025] The object of the present invention is to provide a steam jet drum washing machine having an improved wash result.

[0026] This object is achieved by the steam jet drum washing machine according to claim 1.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



[0027] The above and other objects, features and other advantages of the present invention will be more clearly understood from the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:

Fig. 1 is a perspective view of a conventional drum washing machine;

Fig. 2 is a side view, in cross section, of the conventional drum washing machine;

Fig. 3 is a perspective view of a steam jet drum washing machine according to a first preferred embodiment of the present invention;

Fig. 4 is a side view, in cross section, of the steam jet drum washing machine according to the first preferred embodiment of the present invention;

Fig. 5 is a perspective view, partially cutaway, of a steam generator of the present invention; and

Fig. 6 is a perspective view of a steam jet drum washing machine according to a second preferred embodiment of the present invention.


DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS



[0028] Now, preferred embodiments of the present invention will be described in detail with reference to the accompanying drawings. In the drawings, the same or similar elements are denoted by the same reference numerals even though they are depicted in different drawings.

[0029] Fig. 3 is a perspective view of a steam jet drum washing machine according to a first preferred embodiment of the present invention, Fig. 4 is a side view, in cross section, of the steam jet drum washing machine according to the first preferred embodiment of the present invention, and Fig. 5 is a perspective view, partially cutaway, of a steam generator of the present invention.

[0030] As shown in Figs. 3 and 4, the steam jet drum washing machine according to the first preferred embodiment of the present invention comprises: a casing 52 forming the exterior of the drum washing machine; a tub 56 disposed in the casing 52 in such a manner that the tub 56 is suspended by means of springs 54 and elastically supported by means of damper assemblies 55; a drum 58 rotatably mounted in the tub 56, in which clothes are put and into which wash water is supplied; a plurality of vanes 58a provided on the inner circumference of the drum 58 for lifting the clothes in the drum 58 as the drum 58 is rotated, the vanes 58a being longitudinally extended parallel to the axis of rotation of the drum 58 and inwardly protruded to a predetermined height while the vanes 58a are uniformly spaced apart from each other; a motor 60 connected to the drum 58 in the rear of the tub 56 for rotating the drum 58; and a steam generator 70 disposed above the tub 56 for heating the wash water to obtain high-temperature and high-pressure steam, which is supplied to the tub 56 and the drum 58.

[0031] The drum washing machine further comprises: a water-supply unit 62 mounted above the tub 56 for supplying wash water into the tub 56 and the drum 58; and a drainage pump assembly 66 mounted below the tub 56 for draining the wash water from the tub 56 and the drum 58. The steam generator 70 is connected to the water-supply unit 62.

[0032] The water-supply unit 62 comprises: a water-supply valve assembly 62a mounted to the rear of the casing 52 for supplying wash water; a detergent box assembly 62b mounted between the water-supply valve assembly 62a and the tub 56 for storing a detergent; a water-supply tube 62c connected between the water-supply valve assembly 62a and the steam generator 70; an auxiliary water-supply tube 62c' connected between the water-supply valve assembly 62a and the detergent box assembly 62b; and a steam tube 62d having one end connected to the steam generator 70 and the other end 62d' disposed in the tub 56 and the drum 58 for supplying the steam into the tub 56 and the drum 58.

[0033] Alternatively, the water-supply unit 62 may comprise the water-supply valve assembly 62a, the water-supply tube 62c, and the steam tube 62d so that the wash water is supplied into the tub 56 and the drum 58 via only the steam generator 70.

[0034] The drum 58 is provided at the inner circumference thereof with a plurality of through-holes 58h, through which the wash water flows between the drum 58 and the tub 56. When the drum 58 is rotated to dewater the clothes, the wash water contained in the clothes is separated from the clothes by means of the centrifugal force of the drum 58. At this time, the wash water separated from the clothes is discharged through the through-holes 58h. The water-supply valve assembly 62 includes a water-supply valve (not shown) so that the water-supply valve assembly 62 supplies wash water into the tub 56 and the drum 58 when the water-supply valve is opened. Similarly, the drainage pump assembly 66 includes a drainage pump (not shown) so that the drainage pump assembly 66 discharges the wash water from the tub 56 and the drum 58 when the drainage pump is operated.

[0035] The water-supply tube 62c is connected between the water-supply valve assembly 62a and the steam generator 70 so that the wash water is supplied into the steam generator 70. The auxiliary water-supply tube 62c' is connected between the water-supply valve assembly 62a and the detergent box assembly 62b so that the wash water is supplied into the detergent box assembly 62b.

[0036] The end 62d' of the steam tube 62d is formed in the shape of a nozzle so that steam is sprayed at a high speed from the end 62d'. The end 62d' of the steam tube 62d penetrates through the upper end of a gasket 57, which is made of rubber, for preventing leakage of water between the tub 56 and the casing 52. Consequently, the steam guided along the steam tube 62d is downwardly sprayed through the end 62d' of the steam tube 62d into the tub 56 and the drum 58.

[0037] The water-supply tube 62c and the steam tube 62d are relatively short by the provision of the steam generator 70. The steam generator 70 is disposed above the tub 56 between the tub 56 and the casing 52 so that repair and inspection of the stem generator 70 can be easily and conveniently conducted.

[0038] As shown in Fig. 5, the steam generator 70 comprises: an airtight pressure container 72 connected at the top end thereof to the water-supply tube 62c and the steam tube 62d and having an inner space for storing wash water defined therein; a heater 74 mounted in the pressure container 72 for heating the wash water stored in the pressure container 72; an inlet valve 76a disposed between the water-supply tube 62c and the pressure container 72 for supplying the wash water into the pressure container 72; and an outlet valve 76b disposed between the steam tube 62d and the pressure container 72 for supplying steam into the steam tube 62d.

[0039] The pressure container 72 comprises an upper container part 72a forming the upper part of the pressure container 72, and a lower container part 72b forming the lower part of the pressure container 72. The upper container part 72a and the lower container part 72b are preferably attached to each other by means of bolts (not shown).

[0040] The inlet valve 76a and the outlet valve 76b are pressure valves that can be opened or closed depending upon the pressure inside the pressure container 72. The inlet valve 76a may be controlled either electrically or mechanically so that the inlet valve 76a is opened when the pressure inside the pressure container 72 is below a predetermined pressure. Similarly, the outlet valve 76b may be controlled either electrically or mechanically so that the inlet valve 76a is opened when the pressure inside the pressure container 72 is over a predetermined pressure.

[0041] The steam generator 70 further comprises: a water level sensor 77 disposed at the upper part of the pressure container 72 for sensing the amount of the wash water stored in the pressure container 72 to control the operation of the inlet valve 76a and the outlet valve 76b; and a temperature sensor 78 disposed at the lower part of the pressure container 72 for sensing the temperature inside the pressure container 72 to control the operation of the heater 74 on the basis of the temperature inside the pressure container 72.

[0042] The water level sensor 77 senses the level of the wash water on the basis of the movement of a float on the wash water. Alternatively, the water level sensor 77 may sense the level of the wash water on the basis of the change in inside pressure of the pressure container 72 when the wash water is supplied into the pressure container 72.

[0043] The heater 74 is horizontally disposed in the lower container part 72b so that heater 74 can be submerged under the wash water even when the wash water is supplied into the pressure container 72 to the minimum water level.

[0044] The heater 74 is preferably formed in the shape of a curved pipe so that the heating surface area is increased. The heater 74 may be overheated while the heater 74 is energized. Consequently, there is preferably provided a safety unit for preventing overheating of the heater 74.

[0045] The safety unit comprises: an automatic pressure switch 79a disposed by the side of the water level sensor 77 for cutting off the supply of electric current to the heater 74 to primarily stop the operation of the heater 74 when the pressure inside the pressure container 72 is over a predetermined pressure; and an automatic temperature switch 79b, such as a thermostat, disposed by the side of the temperature sensor 78 for cutting off the supply of electric current to the heater 74 to secondarily stop the operation of the heater 74 when the temperature inside the pressure container 72 is over a predetermined temperature.

[0046] Additional automatic temperature switches 79b may be disposed for preventing overheating of the heater 74 when the automatic pressure switch 79a is not normally operated or when the pressure container 72 leaks.

[0047] The steam generator 70 further comprises a thermal insulator 75, such as Styrofoam, for shielding the pressure container 72 to prevent thermal energy generated in the pressure container 72 from leaking out of the pressure container 72 when the heater 74 is operated.

[0048] In the steam generator 70 with the above-stated construction, the operation of the heater 74, the inlet valve 76a, and the outlet valve 76b are controlled by a controller (not shown) for controlling the operation of the drum washing machine.

[0049] Fig. 6 is a perspective view of a steam jet drum washing machine according to a second preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0050] The steam jet drum washing machine according to the second preferred embodiment of the present invention is identical to the steam jet drum washing machine according to the first preferred embodiment of the present invention except that the steam generator 70 is disposed below the tub 56 between the tub 56 and the casing 52, as shown in Fig. 6.

[0051] Consequently, the water-supply tube 63c connected between the steam generator 70 and the water-supply valve assembly (not shown) is disposed between one side of the cub 56 and the casing 52. Similarly, the steam tube 63d connected between the steam generator 70 and the tub 56 is disposed between one side of the tub 56 and the casing 52.

[0052] When the steam generator 70 is disposed below the tub 56 as described above, an empty space defined below the tub 56 between the tub 56 and the casing 52 may be used as the installation space for the steam generator 70. Consequently, the total size of the drum washing machine is not increased even though the steam generator 70 is mounted in the drum washing machine.

[0053] The operation of the steam jet drum washing machine with the above-stated construction according to the present invention will now be described.

[0054] When a washing process is performed while clothes are put in the drum 58, the water-supply valve is opened so that a proper amount of wash water is supplied into the tub 56 and the drum 58 depending upon the amount of the clothes. The wash water passes through the auxiliary water-supply tube 62c', and then passes through the detergent box assembly 62b. The wash water having passed through the detergent box assembly 62b is supplied into the tub 56 together with a detergent.

[0055] When the wash water is to be sprayed in a phase of steam according to a user's selection, the wash water passes through the water-supply tube 62c, and is then supplied into the steam generator 70 where the wash water is heated to obtain high-temperature and high-pressure steam. The high-temperature and high-pressure steam generated in the steam generator 70 is sprayed into the tub 56 and the drum 58 via the steam tube 62d.

[0056] Specifically, when the water-supply valve is opened so that the wash water is supplied via the water-supply tube 62c, the wash water is supplied into the pressure container 72 while the inlet valve 76a and the outlet valve 76b are opened. As the wash water is supplied into the pressure container 72, the water level sensor 77 senses the level of the wash water in the pressure container 72.

[0057] At this time, the inlet valve 76a is opened so that the wash water is supplied into the pressure container 72, and the outlet valve 76b is opened so that air is discharged from the pressure container 72.

[0058] When a proper amount of the wash water is supplied into the pressure container 72, the inlet valve 76a and the outlet valve 76b are closed, and simultaneously the heater 74 is operated to heat the wash water so that high-temperature and high-pressure steam is generated.

[0059] Since the heater 74 is operated in the airtight space in the pressure container 72, higher-temperature and higher-pressure steam may be generated as the heater 74 is operated for a longer time.

[0060] At this time, the temperature sensor 78 senses the temperature of the interior of the pressure container 72, and the operation of the heater 74 is controlled on the basis of the sensed temperature so that the heater 74 is not overheated.

[0061] When the temperature sensor 78 is out of order or abnormally operated, the automatic pressure switch 79a and the automatic temperature switch 79b are operated to cut off the supply of electric current to the heater 74 so that overheating of the heater 74 is prevented.

[0062] When the heater 74 is operated, the wash water supplied into the airtight pressure container 72 is heated to generate high-temperature and high-pressure steam. When the temperature sensor 78 senses that the temperature of the interior of the pressure container 72 is over a predetermined pressure, the outlet valve 76b is opened so that the steam passes through the steam tube 62d and is then sprayed into the tub 56 and the drum 58.

[0063] At this time, the steam is sprayed into the tub 56 and the drum 58 through the end 62d' of the steam tube, which is formed in the shape of a nozzle. As a result, the clothes are rapidly soaked.

[0064] When a proper amount of the wash water is supplied into the tub 56 and the drum 58, the water-supply valve is closed, and the motor 60 is operated. When the drum 58 is rotated by operation of the motor 60, the clothes are lifted to a predetermined height by the vanes 58a and then dropped from the vanes 58a. In this way, a washing process is performed.

[0065] After the washing process is finished, the drainage pump is operated so that the wash water is discharged. Subsequently, the motor 60 is rotated at a high speed, and thus the drum 58 is also rotated at a high speed. When the drum 58 is rotated, the wash water contained in the clothes is separated from the clothes by means of the centrifugal force of the drum 58. In this way, an intermittent dewatering process is performed. The water-supply valve is opened again so that wash water is supplied into the tub 56 and the drum 58 to a predetermined level via the auxiliary water-supply tube 62c'. Thereafter, the drum 58 is rotated so that a rinsing process is performed.

[0066] The aforementioned rinsing and intermittent dewatering processes are alternately and repeatedly carried out, and finally a dewatering process is performed. In this way, a process for cleaning the clothes is completed.

[0067] It should be noted that the wash water may be supplied into the steam generator 70 where the wash water is heated to obtain high-temperature and high-pressure steam, and the high-temperature and high-pressure steam may be sprayed into the tub 56 and the drum 58 even when the clothes are washed or rinsed as well as when the wash water is initially supplied into the tub 56 and the drum 58, in order to improve sterilizing and washing efficiencies of the drum washing machine.

[0068] As apparent from the above description, the present invention provides a steam jet drum washing machine characterized in that wash water is supplied into a steam generator where the wash water is heated to obtain high-temperature and high-pressure steam, and the steam is sprayed into a tub and a drum of the drum washing machine, thereby rapidly soaking clothes in the wash water when the wash water is initially supplied into the tub and the drum, saving wash water and electric energy. Furthermore, the wash water is supplied in a phase of high-temperature and high-pressure steam when clothes are washed and rinsed, whereby sterilizing and washing efficiencies of the drum washing machine are improved.


Claims

1. A steam jet drum washing machine comprising:

- a tub (56) disposed in a casing (52) and adapted so that water can be supplied into the tub (56);

- a drum (58) rotatably mounted in the tub (56) and adapted so that clothes can be put into the drum (58) and water can be supplied into the drum (58);

- a water-supply unit (62) for supplying water into the tub (56) and the drum (58); and

- a steam generator (70) connected to the water-supply unit (62) for heating water to obtain high temperature and high-pressure steam;

the water-supply unit (62) comprises:

- a water-supply tube (62c) connected at one end thereof to the steam generator (70) for supplying the water into the steam generator (70); and

- a steam tube (62d) having one end connected to the steam generator (70) and the other end (62d') disposed in the tub (56) and the drum (58);

- wherein

- the water-supply unit is disposed in the casing (52) at one side of the tub (56), and

- the other end (62d') of the steam tube (62d) which is formed in the shape of a nozzle penetrates through the upper end of a gasket (57) for preventing leakage of water between the tub (56) and the casing (52), so that the steam guided along the steam tube (62d) is downwardly sprayed through the end (62d') of the steam tube (62d) into the tub (56) and the drum (58).


 
2. The machine as set forth in claim 1, wherein the water-supply unit (62) further comprises a water-supply valve assembly (62a),

- the water-supply valve assembly (62a) is mounted to the casing (52) for supplying water into the tub (56) and the drum (58); and

- the steam generator (70) is connected to the water-supply valve assembly (62a) to supply water into the steam generator.


 
3. The machine as set forth in claim 1 or 2, wherein the water-supply unit (62) further comprises:

- a detergent box assembly (62) mounted between the water-supply valve assembly (62a) and the tub (56) for storing a detergent; and

- an auxiliary water-supply tube (62c') connected between the water-supply valve assembly (62a) and the detergent box assembly (62b).


 
4. The machine as set forth in claim 1, 2 or 3, wherein the water-supply unit (62) further comprises a water-supply tube (62c) connected between the water-supply valve assembly (62a) and the steam generator (70).
 
5. The machine as set forth in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the steam generator (70) comprises:

- a pressure container (72); and

- a heater (74) mounted in the pressure container (72) for heating the water stored in the pressure container (72).


 
6. The machine as set forth in claim 5, wherein the pressure container (72) is disposed be-tween the water-supply tube (62c) and the steam tube (62d) and connected to the water-supply tube (62c) and the steam tube (62d).
 
7. The machine as set forth in claim 5 or 6, wherein the steam generator further comprises:

- an inlet valve (76a) disposed between the water-supply tube (62c) and the pressure container (72) for supplying the water into the pressure container (72); and

- an outlet valve (76b) disposed between the steam tube (62d) and the pressure container (72) for supplying the steam into the steam tube (62d).


 
8. The machine as set forth in claim 5, 6 or 7, wherein the steam generator (70) further comprises a safety unit for preventing overheating of the heater (74).
 
9. The machine as set forth in claim 5, 6 or 7, wherein the steam generator (70) further comprises a water level sensor (77) for sensing the amount of the water stored in the pressure container (72) to control the operations of the inlet valve (76a) and the outlet valve (76b).
 
10. The machine as set forth in claim 5, 6 or 7, wherein the steam generator (70) further comprises a temperature sensor (78) for sensing the temperature inside the pressure container (72) to control the operation of the heater (74) on the basis of the temperature inside the pressure container (72).
 
11. The machine as set forth in claim 5, 6 or 7, wherein the steam generator (70) further comprises an automatic pressure switch (79a) for stopping the operation of the heater (74) when the pressure inside the pressure container (72) is over a predetermined pressure.
 
12. The machine as set forth in claim 5, 6 or 7, wherein the steam generator (70) further comprises an automatic temperature switch (79b) for stopping the operation of the heater (74) when the temperature inside the pressure container (72) is over a predetermined temperature.
 
13. The machine as set forth in claim 5, 6 or 7, wherein the steam generator (70) further comprises a thermal insulator (72) for shielding the pressure container (72).
 
14. The machine as set forth in claim 5, 6 or 7, wherein the pressure container (72) comprises an upper container part (72a) forming the upper part of the pressure container (72), and a lower container part (72b) forming the lower part of the pressure container (72), the upper container part (72a) and the lower container part (72b) being attached to each other.
 
15. The machine as set forth in claim 5, 6 or 7, wherein the inlet valve (76a) and the outlet valve (76b) are pressure valves that can be opened or closed depending upon the pressure inside the pressure container (72).
 
16. The machine as set forth in claim 5, 6 or 7, wherein the heater (74) is horizontally disposed in the lower part of the pressure container (72) so that the heater (74) can be submerged under the water even when the water is supplied into the pressure container (72) to the minimum water level.
 
17. The machine as set forth in claim 16, wherein the heater (74) is an electric heater formed in the shape of a curved pipe.
 
18. The machine as set forth in anyone of the preceding claims, wherein the steam generator (70) is disposed above the tub (56) between the tub (56) and the casing (52).
 
19. The machine as set forth in anyone of the preceding claims, wherein the steam generator (70) is disposed below the tub (56) between the tub (56) and the casing (52).
 


Ansprüche

1. Dampfstrahl-Trommelwaschmaschine, die umfasst:

- einen Trog (56), der in einem Gehäuse (52) angeordnet und so beschaffen ist, dass dem Trog (56) Wasser zugeführt werden kann;

- eine Trommel (58), die in dem Trog (56) drehbar angebracht und so beschaffen ist, dass die Trommel (58) mit Wäsche beschickt werden kann und der Trommel (58) Wasser zugeführt werden kann;

- eine Wasserzufuhreinheit (62), um dem Trog (56) und der Trommel (58) Wasser zuzuführen; und

- einen Dampferzeuger (70), der mit der Wasserzufuhreinheit (62) verbunden ist, um Wasser zu erhitzen, um Hochtemperatur- und Hochdruck-Dampf zu erhalten;

wobei die Wasserzufuhreinheit (62) umfasst:

- ein Wasserzufuhrrohr (62c), das an einem seiner Enden mit dem Dampferzeuger (70) verbunden ist, um dem Dampferzeuger (70) das Wasser zuzuführen; und

- ein Dampfrohr (62d), wovon ein Ende mit dem Dampferzeuger (70) verbunden ist und das andere Ende (62d') in dem Trog (56) und in der Trommel (58) angeordnet ist;

- wobei

- die Wasserzufuhreinheit in dem Gehäuse (52) auf einer Seite des Trogs (56) angeordnet ist, und

- das andere Ende (62d') des Dampfrohrs (62d), das in Form eine Düse ausgebildet ist, das obere Ende einer Dichtung (57) durchdringt, um das Auslaufen von Wasser zwischen dem Trog (56) und dem Gehäuse (52) zu verhindern, so dass der Dampf, der entlang des Dampfrohrs (62d) nach unten geführt wird, durch das Ende (62d') des Dampfrohrs (62d) in den Trog (56) und in die Trommel (58) gesprüht wird.


 
2. Maschine nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Wasserzufuhreinheit (62) ferner eine Wasserzufuhr-Ventilanordnung (62a) umfasst,

- die Wasserzufuhr-Ventilanordnung (62a) an dem Gehäuse (52) angebracht ist, um dem Trog (56) und der Trommel (58) Wasser zuzuführen; und

- der Dampferzeuger (70) mit der Wasserzufuhr-Ventilanordnung (62a) verbunden ist, um dem Dampferzeuger Wasser zuzuführen.


 
3. Maschine nach Anspruch 1 oder 2, wobei die Wasserzufuhreinheit (62) ferner umfasst:

- eine Waschmittelkasten-Anordnung (62), die zwischen der Wasserzufuhr-Ventilanordnung (62a) und dem Trog (56) angebracht ist, um ein Waschmittel zu speichern; und

- ein zusätzliches Wasserzufuhrrohr (62c'), das zwischen der Wasserzufuhr-Ventilanordnung (62a) und der Waschmittelkasten-Anordnung (62b) angeschlossen ist.


 
4. Maschine nach Anspruch 1, 2 oder 3, wobei die Wasserzufuhreinheit (62) ferner ein Wasserzufuhrrohr (62c') umfasst, das zwischen der Wasserzufuhr-Ventilanordnung (62a) und dem Dampferzeuger (70) angeschlossen ist.
 
5. Maschine nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei der Dampferzeuger (70) umfasst:

- einen Druckbehälter (72); und

- eine Heizeinrichtung (74), die in dem Druckbehälter (72) angebracht ist, um das in dem Druckbehälter (72) gespeicherte Wasser zu erhitzen.


 
6. Maschine nach Anspruch 5, wobei der Druckbehälter (72) zwischen dem Wasserzufuhrrohr (62c) und dem Dampfrohr (62d) angeordnet ist und mit dem Wasserzufuhrrohr (62c) und mit dem Dampfrohr (62d) verbunden ist.
 
7. Maschine nach Anspruch 5 oder 6, wobei der Dampferzeuger ferner umfasst:

- ein Einlassventil (76a), das zwischen dem Wasserzufuhrrohr (62c) und dem Druckbehälter (72) angeordnet ist, um dem Druckbehälter (72) das Wasser zuzuführen; und

- ein Auslassventil (76b), das zwischen dem Dampfrohr (62d) und dem Druckbehälter (72) angeordnet ist, um dem Dampfrohr (62d) den Dampf zuzuführen.


 
8. Maschine nach Anspruch 5, 6 oder 7, wobei der Dampferzeuger (70) ferner eine Sicherheitseinheit umfasst, um eine Überhitzung der Heizeinrichtung (74) zu verhindern.
 
9. Maschine nach Anspruch 5, 6 oder 7, wobei der Dampferzeuger (70) ferner einen Wasserpegelsensor (77) umfasst, um die Menge des in dem Druckbehälter (72) gespeicherten Wassers zu erfassen, um den Betrieb des Einlassventils (76a) und den Betrieb des Auslassventils (76b) zu steuern.
 
10. Maschine nach Anspruch 5, 6 oder 7, wobei der Dampferzeuger (70) ferner einen Temperatursensor (78) umfasst, um die Temperatur in dem Druckbehälter (72) zu erfassen, um den Betrieb der Heizeinrichtung (74) auf der Grundlage der Temperatur in dem Druckbehälter (72) zu steuern.
 
11. Maschine nach Anspruch 5, 6 oder 7, wobei der Dampferzeuger (70) ferner einen automatischen Druckschalter (79a) umfasst, um den Betrieb der Heizeinrichtung (74) anzuhalten, wenn der Druck in dem Behälter (72) über einem vorgegebenen Druck liegt.
 
12. Maschine nach Anspruch 5, 6 oder 7, wobei der Dampferzeuger (70) ferner einen automatischen Temperaturschalter (79b) umfasst, um den Betrieb der Heizeinrichtung (74) anzuhalten, wenn die Temperatur in dem Druckbehälter (72) über einer vorgegebenen Temperatur liegt.
 
13. Maschine nach Anspruch 5, 6 oder 7, wobei der Dampferzeuger (70) ferner einen Wärmeisolator (72) umfasst, um den Druckbehälter (72) abzuschirmen.
 
14. Maschine nach Anspruch 5, 6 oder 7, wobei der Druckbehälter (72) einen oberen Behälterteil (72a), der den oberen Teil des Druckbehälters (72) bildet, und einen unteren Behälterteil (72b), der den unteren Teil des Druckbehälters (72) bildet, umfasst, wobei der obere Behälterteil (72a) und der untere Behälterteil (72b) aneinander befestigt sind.
 
15. Maschine nach Anspruch 5, 6 oder 7, wobei das Einlassventil (76a) und das Auslassventil (76b) Druckventile sind, die in Abhängigkeit vom Druck in dem Druckbehälter (72) geöffnet oder geschlossen werden können.
 
16. Maschine nach Anspruch 5, 6 oder 7, wobei die Heizeinrichtung (74) im unteren Teil des Druckbehälters (72) horizontal angeordnet ist, so dass die Heizeinrichtung (74) im Wasser untergetaucht sein kann, selbst wenn das Wasser dem Druckbehälter (72) bis zu dem minimalen Wasserpegel zugeführt wird.
 
17. Maschine nach Anspruch 16, wobei die Heizeinrichtung (74) eine in Form eines gewendelten Rohrs gebildete elektrische Heizeinrichtung ist.
 
18. Maschine nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei der Dampferzeuger (70) über dem Trog (56) zwischen dem Trog (56) und dem Gehäuse (52) angeordnet ist.
 
19. Maschine nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei der Dampferzeuger (70) unter dem Trog (56) zwischen dem Trog (56) und dem Gehäuse (52) angeordnet ist.
 


Revendications

1. Machine à laver à tambour et à jet de vapeur, comprenant :

- une cuve (56) disposée dans un carter (52) et adaptée de telle manière que de l'eau peut être alimentée dans la cuve (56) ;

- un tambour (58) monté en rotation dans la cuve (56) est adapté de telle façon que du linge peut être placé dans le tambour (58) et que de l'eau peut être alimentée dans le tambour (58) ;

- une unité d'alimentation d'eau (62) pour alimenter de l'eau dans la cuve (56) et le tambour (58) ; et

- un générateur de vapeur (70) connecté à l'unité d'alimentation d'eau (62) pour chauffer de l'eau et obtenir de la vapeur à haute température et haute pression ;

dans laquelle l'unité d'alimentation d'eau (62) comprend :

- un tube d'alimentation d'eau (62c) connecté à l'une de ses extrémités au générateur de vapeur (70) pour alimenter l'eau dans le générateur de vapeur (70) ; et

- un tube de vapeur (62d) ayant une extrémité connectée au générateur de vapeur (70) et l'autre extrémité (62d') disposée dans la cuve (56) et le tambour (58) ;

dans laquelle

- l'unité d'alimentation d'eau est disposée dans le carter (52) sur un côté de la cuve (56) et

- l'autre extrémité (62d') du tube de vapeur (62d) qui est réalisée sous la forme d'une buse pénètre à travers l'extrémité supérieure d'un joint (57) pour empêcher des fuites d'eau entre la cuve (56) et le carter (52), de telle façon que la vapeur guidée le long du tube de vapeur (62d) est pulvérisée à travers l'extrémité (62d') du tube de vapeur (62d) jusque dans la cuve (56) et le tambour (58).


 
2. Machine à laver selon la revendication 1, dans laquelle l'unité d'alimentation d'eau (62) comprend en outre un ensemble de valves d'alimentation d'eau (62a),

- l'ensemble de valves d'alimentation d'eau (62a) est monté sur le carter (52) pour alimenter de l'eau dans la cuve (56) et le tambour (58) ; et

- le générateur de vapeur (70) est connecté à l'ensemble de valves d'alimentation d'eau (62a) pour alimenter de l'eau dans le générateur de vapeur.


 
3. Machine à laver selon la revendication 1 ou 2, dans laquelle l'unité d'alimentation d'eau (62) comprend en outre :

- un ensemble formant boîtier à détergent (62) monté entre l'ensemble de valves d'alimentation d'eau (62a) et la cuve (56) pour stocker un détergent ; et

- un tube d'alimentation d'eau auxiliaire (62c') connecté entre l'ensemble de valves d'alimentation d'eau (62a) et l'ensemble formant boîtier à détergent (62b).


 
4. Machine à laver selon la revendication 1, 2 ou 3, dans laquelle l'unité d'alimentation d'eau (62) comprend en outre un tube d'alimentation d'eau (62c) connecté entre l'ensemble de valves d'alimentation d'eau (62a) et le générateur de vapeur (70).
 
5. Machine à laver selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans laquelle le générateur de vapeur (70) comprend :

- un conteneur sous pression (72) ; et

- un dispositif chauffant (74) monté dans le conteneur sous pression (72) pour chauffer l'eau stockée dans le conteneur sous pression (72).


 
6. Machine à laver selon la revendication 5, dans laquelle le conteneur sous pression (72) est disposé entre le tube d'alimentation d'eau (62c) et le tube de vapeur (62d) et est connecté au tube d'alimentation d'eau (62c) et au tube de vapeur (62d).
 
7. Machine à laver selon la revendication 5 ou 6, dans laquelle le générateur de vapeur comprend en outre :

- une valve d'entrée (76a) disposée entre le tube d'alimentation d'eau (62c) et le conteneur sous pression (72) pour alimenter l'eau dans le conteneur sous pression (72) ; et

- une valve de sortie (76b) disposée entre le tube de vapeur (62d) et le conteneur sous pression (72) pour alimenter la vapeur dans le tube de vapeur (62d).


 
8. Machine à laver selon la revendication 5, 6 ou 7, dans laquelle le générateur de vapeur (70) comprend en outre une unité de sécurité pour empêcher une surchauffe du dispositif chauffant (74).
 
9. Machine à laver selon la revendication 5, 6 ou 7, dans laquelle le générateur de vapeur (70) comprend en outre un capteur de niveau d'eau (77) pour détecter la quantité d'eau stockée dans le conteneur sous pression (72) pour commander le fonctionnement de la valve d'entrée (76a) et de la valve de sortie (76b).
 
10. Machine à laver selon la revendication 5, 6 ou 7, dans laquelle le générateur de vapeur (70) comprend en outre un capteur de température (78) pour détecter la température à l'intérieur du conteneur sous pression (72) afin de commander le fonctionnement du dispositif chauffant (74) en se basant sur la température à l'intérieur du conteneur sous pression (72).
 
11. Machine à laver selon la revendication 5, 6 ou 7, dans lequel le générateur de vapeur (70) comprend en outre un commutateur à pression automatique (79a) pour arrêter le fonctionnement du dispositif chauffant (74) quand la pression à l'intérieur du conteneur sous pression (72) est au-dessus d'une pression prédéterminée.
 
12. Machine à laver selon la revendication 5, 6 ou 7, dans laquelle le générateur de vapeur (70) comprend en outre un commutateur de température automatique (79b) pour arrêter le fonctionnement du dispositif chauffant (74) quand la température à l'intérieur du conteneur sous pression (72) est au-dessus d'une température prédéterminée.
 
13. Machine à laver selon la revendication 5, 6 ou 7, dans laquelle le générateur de vapeur (70) comprend en outre un isolant thermique (72) pour isoler le conteneur sous pression (72).
 
14. Machine à laver selon la revendication 5, 6 ou 7, dans laquelle le conteneur sous pression (72) comprend une partie de conteneur supérieure (72a) formant la partie supérieure du conteneur sous pression (72), et une partie de conteneur inférieure (72b) formant la partie inférieure du conteneur sous pression (72), la partie de conteneur supérieure (72a) et la partie de conteneur inférieure (72b) étant attachées l'une à l'autre.
 
15. Machine à laver selon la revendication 5, 6 ou 7, dans laquelle la valve d'entrée (76a) et la valve de sortie (76b) sont des valves de pression qui peuvent être ouvertes ou fermées en fonction de la pression à l'intérieur du conteneur sous pression (72).
 
16. Machine à laver selon la revendication 5, 6 ou 7, dans laquelle le dispositif chauffant (74) est disposé horizontalement dans la partie inférieure de conteneur sous pression (72), de sorte que le dispositif chauffant (74) peut être submergé sous l'eau même lorsque l'eau est alimentée dans le conteneur sous pression (72) au niveau d'eau minimum.
 
17. Machine à laver selon la revendication 16, dans laquelle le dispositif chauffant (74) est un dispositif chauffant électrique formé sous la forme d'un tube incurvé.
 
18. Machine à laver selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans laquelle le générateur de vapeur (70) est disposé au-dessus de la cuve (56) entre la cuve (56) et le carter (52).
 
19. Machine à laver selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans laquelle le générateur de vapeur (70) est disposé au-dessous de la cuve (56) entre la cuve (56) et le carter (52).
 




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REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description