issue: August 2005 APPLIANCE Magazine
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by Erin Biesen, Assistant Editor
Worlds are colliding as appliance technology combines with the world of fashion and design to create beautiful, artistic, smart appliances.
Part of the Elica Collection, the Om is a new ventilation hood from Zephyr that offers consumers the opportunity for more creativity in the kitchen by turning ventilation hoods into art.
In a time when home improvement and design TV shows are on the rise, consumers want to style their homes in a way that reflects their personalities. Not only are consumers looking for cutting-edge technology, but they also want something unique and aesthetically appealing.
Electrolux of Stockholm, Sweden, with U.S. headquarters in Augusta, GA, U.S., is just one of the companies that realizes this growing trend and had fashion icon Nicole Miller at the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas, NV, U.S. to help prove this point through a kitchen design she created specifically for the show. According to Electrolux, it selected Ms. Miller because she approaches kitchen design in the same manner as fashion design. Ms. Miller believesthat great design is at the center of every great kitchen, transforming the heart of the home from a utilitarian space into a fabulous place where friends and family congregate and want to linger.
Ms. Miller helped Electrolux release a new line of professional products designed for U.S. consumers who are chefs at heart. A few years ago, the company first started doing research to see what designs consumers wanted, and it was almost an even split between a designer and a professional line. In response, the company decided to satiate the desires of both groups by releasing the Icon™Designer series last year, with plans to release the Icon Professional series in the fourth quarter of this year.
The Professional line includes everything from dishwashers to stoves. The dual-fuel ranges (in 30-, 36-, or 48-in sizes) required Electrolux to do some research. It wanted to know exactly what consumers were looking for, and after comparing competitive units with the company concepts, it created a line of ranges that has a bulkier look and a heavier interior insulation. The research also told the company that U.S. consumers prefer a knob interface as opposed to the digital touch-pad controls. We developed a whole new electronic series of controls for all three dual-fuel ranges that are knob interface, but we still control the oven by full electronics, explains Frank Downing, director of Product and Design for Electrolux.
The features of the dual-fuel ranges include gas cooking surfaces, an electric self-cleaning oven, and six sealed burners with four 17,000 BTU Power Burnersand two 850 to 8,500 BTU Precision Burners. While the technology remains similar to the Icon Designer series, Electrolux says the design of the line is new and innovative. t has a lot more European look and a lot more European feel, but we wanted to blend that in as we were bringing that Electrolux name from Europe to the U.S., says Mr. Downing.
Although known for its nostalgic styling, Aga Ranges uses the latest technology in its cooking appliances. The UK-based manufacturer uses high-tech burners from Italian supplier Sabaf in its new Four Two range cookers. The cookers include one 1.75-kW semi-rapid response burner, two 3-kW rapid response burners, and one 4.5-kW triple-crown ultra rapid response wok burner. An integrated ignition system controls all of the burners. A flame supervision device will cut off the gas supply automatically if the flame goes out.
While many of this years cooking products seem to be focused on aesthetic trends, some are focusing on what seems to be fashionable technology. Whirlpool Corporation (Benton Harbor, MI, U.S.) will release its Velos speed-cook appliance in December 2005. The cooking appliance has a new, larger design and has the ability to grill, bake, and broil like an oven. On the left side of the oven are four convection ports, which keep air moving around the food to achieve the convection cooking mode. It captures the air through the middle, around the heated element, and redistributes the air back into the cavity in four different locations in each corner so you get a very even flow through, says John Hines, Whirlpools product development manager for Microwaves.
Located in the ceiling of the microwave are the quartz and halogen, used in conjunction with microwave energy for speed cooking. It is a sensor-based, cooking system for perfect results that detects the moisture of the food, notes Mr. Hines. A grilling rack is used to obtain the proper browning for grilling in combination with the speed-cook mode.
The turntable has also increased in size along with the general size of the cavity. Whirlpools other microwave products feature a capacity of 1.7 cu ft, whereas the Velos has a capacity of 2.0 cu ft. There was a complete redesign of the interior cavity space and repositioning of components to add 4 in to the turntable size, which can now hold a 9- by 14-in casserole dish. Not to sacrifice design for technology, the door of the appliance is curved and protrudes out in the middle. ve got a curved door that stands out a little in the middle, but still meets the kitchen cabinetry, explains Mr. Hines. Thats how we get our sleek styling and our full-width door on the product.
Whirlpool also showcased a patent-pending concept microwave at K/BIS that drew quite a bit of attention. The microwave has an LCD screen built into the door that allows the user to watch TV and watch their food cook at the same time. Using a remote control, it is possible to switch from the TV show of choice to a mini camera inside the microwave to check on the food. The product is able to cook or function as a speed-cook appliance and in no way did it compromise the cooking performance or did it compromise the TV functionality due to the way they are insulated, explains Melodie Nakhle, associate brand manager for Whirlpool Brand Cooking. The next step is to go out and get some consumer validation as far as which configuration they would like, interfaces, etc.
Also heating up the appliance market this year is the steam oven, which is claimed to be a healthier method of cooking. Sharp of Mahwah, NJ, U.S. released a steam unit that sits on the countertop for easy use. There is a water reservoir that holds tap water, and according to what automatic program or manual choice is selected, the oven will cook with no steam, regular steam, or superheated steam. When the program calls for steam, water travels from the reservoir to the first steam generator. If the user is cooking with regular steam, it would then come into the oven cavity through two portals, one on either side and also openings in the cavitys ceiling. If it calls for superheated steam, then the individual molecules of steam pass into a second steam generator, which forces heat into the molecules. Superheated steam then passes into the cavity, where the heat is ideal for the food being roasted, grilled, or baked. The unstable molecules of the superheated steam seek out the coldest area of the oven, which is the food. As soon as the molecule touches the food, it releases the unstable part of itthe heatand the remaining bi-product is moisture.
So you have the heat penetrating the muscle of meat, poultry, and fish, which melts the fat. When that melts, because all things are cooked on a rack, it will fall below the rack, and you will see it accumulate on the base tray, Joy Daniel, associate director of Product Development, tells APPLIANCE. The bi-product of this superheated steam is water or moisture so the food is infused with the moisture to keep it delicious.
The countertop appliance also has controls for automatic programming and manual settings. The automatic programming allows the user a variety of choices to cook food properly. There is a cookbook that comes with the oven for users who want to experiment on their own.
Combining software technology with appliances, Dacor (Diamond Bar, CA, U.S.) developed the Discovery controller, for several of its new ovens, one of them being the Millennia. The company worked with a software company to create a program that was written from the ground up. The software partner wrote the software, and Dacor did all of the specifications, verification, and testing, which took roughly 2 years to complete. The controller is designed to essentially think for the end-user. When you select the Meat mode, for example, you can then choose Turkey, select its weight, and the oven automatically selects the correct mode and temperature. All you have to do is press start, explains Bob Lewis, vice president of Product Development and Support.
The Linux-based controller has 15 different cooking modes divided by food type, making it easier for the user to keep track of the different settings. The thought process is taken from the consumer and carried out through the software. The controller needs to know the size and type of food, and from there it decides if it needs to heat from the top and the bottom or with or without a fan. To add customization, the company is offering different display colors in the controller. The controller can also store recipe information, including recipe name, temperature, and the time and weight for the next time it is made.
Whirlpool is just one of the companies that has released cooking appliances that combine the new technologies offered with the sleek designs to meet the desires of today's consumers.
Induction cooking is not a new technology by any means. As stated in an article in the February 1972 issue of APPLIANCE, Westinghouse was an early developer of the cooking technology and first demonstrated it in prototype form in 1971. Although just gaining popularity in the U.S. in recent years, induction cooking has been quite popular in Europe for several years. The basic technology behind induction cooking involves a magnetic field generated through a system of coils and ferrous pots and pans, which excite the molecules in the pan, creating friction and heat.
Dennis Roth, director of Engineering at Heartland Appliances notes the long-standing presence of induction in the European cooking industry, but says it is just now receiving a renewed attention in North America. Its been around for many years, and I think what had to be done is a reintroduction to the marketplace to educate the consumers where you are purchasing a superior cooking device and point out the cost savings that the induction cooktops provide, he comments.
Heartland Appliances of Cambridge, Ontario, Canada is releasing its own 36-in induction cooktop in September 2005. (A 30-in model will launch later this year or early 2006.) The 36-in cooktop offers five burners with a larger center burner to fit larger pots. The remaining four burners can all be easily accessed when the center burner is being used. Three of the burners in the cooktop have a turbo feature, which allows for more wattage to pass through the unit, quickly heating up large items, such as a gallon of water.
Wolf Appliance (Madison, WI, U.S.) is venturing into this growing category and will debut its 15-in induction cooktop in the summer of 2005. In addition to the aforementioned features offered by induction cooking, Wolf offers a few unique touches. For example, a universal key will shut down the whole appliance if there is an emergency such as food burning or boiling over. This takes away the thought process a person has to go through to figure out which button goes to which burner in a crisis situation. The user simply pushes the universal key to shut the cooktop down. The software that controls this key also controls the child-lock key. The button needs to be held for about 3 sec to unlock it, decreasing the chances of a child turning on the burners.
Wolf says its induction system also allows for more controllability when the user is cooking compared to other cooking technologies. With glass ceramic and traditional radiant heaters, when the consumer heats up the pan, it heats up the glass also, and it is hard to simmer or melt on the cooktop, notes Doug Swank, Wolfs vice president of Design Engineering. "With induction, all you are heating is the pan, and there is no other outside influences that are really driving the heat."
Although Viking Range Corporation is also releasing 30- and 36-in all-induction units, the Greenwood, MS, U.S.-based company says it realizes that there may still be some hesitation from consumers to buy an all-induction cooktop. As a result, the company is also introducing electric/induction combination models. I wont be surprised if there is not a need for these combination units in the future, but right now there is uncertainty that people have of going all-induction, explains Sue Bailey, Vikings lead product manager for Major Appliances. The other issue is cost, she adds. Induction technology is not cheap, and not all pans work on induction cooktops, so there is the need to purchase ferrous pots and pans.
Vikings hybrid cooktops combine induction with radiant glass ceramic cooking surfaces. The company based the concept on the commercial cooking industry. Ours is unique because of the way we have engineered it using the technology that came from the commercial arena and making that residential, confirms Ms. Bailey. "Also, the wattage that is used is about 3,300 W, whereas other residential manufacturers' induction cooktops are at 2,500 to 2,700 W, which means ours is pulling more power and going to boil water quicker."
In order to offer consumers the highest quality induction technology, Viking looked to the experience of Luxine Inc. (Ratford, VA, U.S.). "The company has been producing induction ranges for over 10 years, Ms. Bailey says. What we know is they have reliability and a long-standing presence out there, and that is why we were drawn to them."
The outdoor grill is perpetually changing. In many cases consumers have outdoor cooking centers that allow consumers to do much more than make hot dogs and hamburgers.
For years, the U.S. has followed European design trends, and now European appliance makers are crossing the ocean to bring their styles to the U.S. directly. DeLonghi (Treviso, Italy) has long been a part of the small appliance segment in the U.S. and is now bringing its knowledge of major cooking appliances from Europe for the first time. The flagship product for the companys cooking line is a 48-in side-by-side range, which DeLonghi says is designed to highlight its long-time focus on design and innovation. Our design is smoother and softer, but at the same time we keep the solidity of the product, explains Roberto Bedin, regional sales manager at DeLonghi.
The design is a little different from DeLonghi, which means a full stainless-steel product that combines simplicity, smooth lines, a square semi-professional look, and at the same time is easy-to-For years, the U.S. has followed European design trends, and now European appliance makers are crossing the ocean to bring their styles to the U.S. directly. DeLonghi (Treviso, Italy) has long been a part of the small appliance segment in the U.S. and is now bringing its knowledge of major cooking appliances from Europe for the first time. The flagship product for the companys cooking line is a 48-in side-by-side range, which DeLonghi says is designed to highlight its long-time focus on design and innovation. Our design is smoother and softer, but at the same time we keep the solidity of the product, explains Roberto Bedin, regional sales manager at DeLonghi.
The design is a little different from DeLonghi, which means a full stainless-steel product that combines simplicity, smooth lines, a square semi-professional look, and at the same time is easy-to-use. It allows the consumer to immediately understand the functionality of the whole product, comments Mr. Bedin. a European, Italian design, which means ergonomic solutions, but also a look that attracts attention.
One important feature of the range is the safety valve on all the gas burners. The valves work as a system, and if the burner goes out, a signal sent to a magnet is interrupted, which tells the unit not to release the flux of gas independently from the main source. Two warming drawers with temperature regulation and mechanical humidity control are located side by side below the self-cleaning, electric ovens. The range comes with two dual burners that allow for simmering from 1,000 to 16,000 BTUs. Two triple-crown burners use 12,000 BTUs, and the final two burners reach 10,000 BTUs.
Ariston, a brand of Italy-based Indesit Company, is also venturing across the ocean and bringing a new line of products to the North American market. Part of the Experience line, the 24-in oven is one of the cooking products that will be released in the first quarter of 2006. The appliance features a stainless-steel touch pad, which works slightly different from glass touch panels. The stainless-steel touch pad senses the pressure of a touch, whereas glass touch panels are triggered by light. Also, the buttons on the stainless-steel touch pad are etched into the metal. The touch stainless steel gives it a different element of design; you dont have so much glass on the oven, says Chris Kaeser, executive vice president of Sales and Marketing.
The technology behind the 24-in oven is similar to a normal-sized oven; however, it reportedly allows for quicker cook times. Since the oven is smaller in size, it can heat up quicker. The oven also offers a variety of cooking modes from the traditional bake and broil to multi-level convection cooking such as convection broil and convection roast. A fast cooking program gives an extra boost in the beginning of certain cycles to speed up cooking time.
The Experience cooking line is based on a style that was launched last year by Indesit under the Ariston brand in Europe. The design intent is the heritage that is built into the brand through designer Makio Hasuike, who has been around the Ariston family brand for over 25 years developing style and image, explains Mr. Kaeser. He also says that Italians are known for their style and design, and Ariston intends to bring this to consumers around the world.
Evolution of the Grill
Reinventing the Grill
Putting a spin on outdoor cooking are grills from Evo (Beaverton, OR, U.S.), which have a circular shape and flat top. Bob Shingler, president and CEO of Evo, says he designed these grills because he missed the sense of community a kitchen offers. In his garage and with the help of his father, he designed the grill and put a patent on it. "What is unique about what we're doing is that we have a circular flat top grill and the heat radiates outwardly so there is no such thing as a hot spot or a cold spot," says Mr. Shingler.
The technology behind the grill involves an intricate burner system. On the Evo Professional Model 30 (pictured), there are two independent burners; the center knob controls the center burner, and the outer knob controls the outer burner. Users can cook flat bread or a pizza by using the center burner and covering the grill creating a convection oven. Another feature of the grill is the slightly convex surface. This lets juices from fatty foods run off to the outside edge, where they collect in a drip pan.
Currently, there are six models total and the newest one, the Evo Companion Model 25, was released at HBPA in January. The grill has the ability to be a larger patio grill or a smaller portable grill. Made of two main parts, the top and the bottom latch together, and the top can be removed from the frame, allowing both parts to stand on their own. The technology behind the products is the same. "The model 25 has one single diffused burner that starts on the outside edge and wraps itself around to the center, so you have a continuous variable temperature from low to high," Mr. Shingler notes. " I added the feature of making it portable, so you can take it with you for tailgating or camping."
Lynx (Commerce, CA, U.S.) released a warming drawer as a new accessory to the outdoor cooking area. Designed for installment into an outdoor island, the product was released in January of this year and was showcased in February at the Hearth, Barbecue, and Patio Association Show (HBPA). The drawer keeps finished food warm at a range of temperatures from 90°F to 220°F (32°C to 104°F). A consumer can keep plates and bread warm at 90°F (32°C) or poultry hot at 220°F (104°C) to ensure that harmful bacteria does not grow. This also allows users to keep food warm as they cook other courses or side dishes.
The drawer features moist and crisp settings to achieve the different textures. "There are essentially two vents on the drawer. When those vents are open, they are giving the drawer the opportunity to breathe, but if you close the vents, the drawer maintains all of the moisture or steam that is generated by the hot food," explains Brian Eskew, marketing manager at Lynx. "If you put chicken breasts, burgers, or filet mignon in the drawer fresh off the grill, all of the moisture and steam that is emitted from those foods is going to be contained inside the drawer so that the food doesn't dry out." Opening the vents for the crisp setting allows the drawer to breathe, letting the drawer keep crisp foods fresh by letting air circulate within the drawer. Mr. Eskew says this is good for foods such as bread so that all the moisture is not locked in.
Steam pans with lids and steam racks are included to keep grilled vegetables warm. The company said that users can prevent vegetables from becoming dry and tough by placing a little water at the bottom of the pan, laying the vegetables on the racks, and closing the lid.
An indicator light lets the user know that the warming drawer is still on. "The warming drawer is something that someone is commonly using when they are in a hurry," ? explains Mr. Eskew. "One of the things that we've done is included a brilliant red lens right above the knob so that when the drawer is in use, you are reminded by the bright light."?
The product is also designed to be used as a towel and bathrobe warmer. The drawer uses a concealed heating element.
Ventilation hoods are becoming a piece of art to hang on the wall instead of just an appliance. Zephyr Ventilation (San Francisco, CA, U.S.) has, in the past, brought European design to the kitchen and will be adding more lines this year. [The kitchen] used to be just a utility room that we produced food in and cooked in, but todays kitchens are becoming the center of the home and the place to connect with friends and family, says Alex Siow, vice president of Marketing for Zephyr. Since the vent hood is usually placed at eye level, the company feels it requires even more design consideration. It should not be an afterthought, Mr. Siow says. it truly is the center of the kitchen, so applying design is important.
The company Elica Collection melds form and function to create innovative focal points in the kitchen. New to the collection is the Om ventilation hood, a model designed specifically with art in mind. We have designed a vertical panel that hangs on the wall, and the whole concept is that it should be treated as a sculptural piece of art that we can display in the kitchen, Mr. Siow says.
The Om is a reverse-silk-screened glass square with a circle located in the center. The area around the circle pulls in the air and smoke that results from cooking and works at 450 cfm. Speed and lighting controls are located behind the glass, which senses the touch and is designed to be easy to clean.
A new feature of the Elica Collection is a remote control that uses radio frequency. This allows the user to activate the ventilation hood from anywhere in the house; the remote does not need to be pointed in the direction of the hood for it to work. Even the remote is a work of art: it is in the shape of a copper pyramid.
Faber (Fabriano, Italy) showcased a new concept ventilation hood, the Imago Media, which featured an LCD screen inside the ventilation hood. A custom system based on a PC structure allows for a variety of uses. There is a WiFi Web camera system that has the capability to connect to other cameras in the house so users can either watch the kids or see who is at the door. The DVD reader inside the computer makes it possible to watch movies while cooking. The end user can also make or receive telephone calls since there is a modem inside of the computer and the PC has a loud speaker and a microphone. Stored recipes can be read directly from the screen in front of the user to make cooking easier.
According to Faber, the hood still has the necessary features of any ventilation hood, and no adjustments had to be made in order to make this possible. There are 10 different levels of suction that can be selected from the menu. A delay setting can be set for as long as desired by the end user and will shut off when that time is up. Keeping the air constantly clean is a 24-hr function that works at a low level of suction. The automatic function uses a sensor that can detect smell and vapor and will turn on and off when necessary. All of these settings and features can be activated through the menus on the LCD touch screen.
A stylish feature included on the model is the lighting system that illuminates the edge of the glass. The lights can be set on different colors or can loop to change colors automatically. The Imago Media is planned for production in Europe in 2006, but is still a concept idea for the U.S. market. Alessandro Fossemo, product manager for the American market explains, Technically it is possible, but we are investigating industrial PCs that can assure reliability and safety for the customer.
Broan (Hartford, WI, U.S.) continues its reputation for creating innovative ventilation hoods with the debut of several new lines. Brian Wellnitz, product manager, notes, There is a growing trend toward people wanting to do things that make the kitchen and the range hood a central focal point instead of being buried in the cabinets. And while design is important to Broan, function is of equal value. Mr. Wellnitz comments, We talk to designers about the fact that there are designs that lend themselves better to certain performance characteristics than others.
Best by Broan, a brand of ventilation hoods from Broan, offers a new Forward Visionâ„¢ line that includes three models. The WM24 is the F.A. Porsche hood that has been an ongoing design process for about 2 years and will be released in mid-August 2005. This product uses a unique aluminum composite skin. The aluminum composite skin is a new technology, and to my knowledge, it is not used for range hoods anywhere else in the world, notes Mr. Wellnitz. Not only does the skin allow us to get those flowing bends, but because it is a composite of aluminum and a filler and another layer of aluminum, it deadens sound and makes it a quieter unit.
The other two hoods were designed by Italian designers that were looking to merge glass and metals with lighting. The WC23, known as the waterfall vent hood, uses a curved green glass that was hand-formed, and the WC26 uses an inclined glass with LED trim lights in the glass.
As design and technology collide, companies are working hard to mold the two together to obtain the beautiful smart appliances that consumers are craving. However, this isnt always an easy task. Mr. Wellnitz notes that it does take a bit of work to translate European styles to the American ways of cooking. In Europe, most cooktops work at 40,000 BTUs, while in the U.S., some designs will work at 70,000, 80,000, or even 90,000 BTUs. They dont have the same functional requirements, but yet we want to achieve those kinds of looks, says Mr. Wellnitz. "We've been able to successfully translate that into the American version so it can work with the American cooking styles.