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issue: May 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

International Appliance Technical Conference 2006
Future Solutions


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by Tim Somheil, Editor

Technology is being developed to keep tech-savvy appliance buyers safe, to save them energy, even give them a little bling.

David Chase, president and publisher of APPLIANCE magazine (left), presented the Dana Chase Memorial Award for Best Paper to authors Delmar “Trey” Morrison (middle), Mark J. Fecke (right) and Yee San Su (not pictured) of Exponent Failure Analysis Associates (Wood Dale, Illinois, U.S.) for their paper, “Spontaneous Combustion Tendency of Household Chemicals and Clothes Dryers.”

Technology gave birth to appliances, makes them work, makes them more usable, and makes them worth owning. Technology gives us the ability to identify environmental issues inherent in appliances, and gives us solutions that are feasible, if not always practical.
But there’s more to the story—much of it exemplified in the presentations made at the 57th International Appliance Technical Conference & Exhibition. Safety continues to be of great importance and the focus of substantial resources. Quality efforts are focusing on turning even subjective testing into highly precise and repeatable processes. There is also the need for new aesthetic designs and news ways to produce them.
The appliance industry may be on the verge of a design reformation of sorts. Change happens, whether we want it to or not. In this industry, technology fosters change that lets users differentiate their products. Technology enables new levels of performance that in turn fuel consumer and regulatory expectations of even higher levels of performance. This makes the pace of technological development a key component of this industry (and most others).
The pace of technological development has picked up dramatically in the digital age. All consumers are aware of that acceleration of that pace and they’ve adapted to it. Electronics and computers are famously quick to innovate. Even the automobile is seeing dramatic changes from the consumer perspective, with hybrid engines offering an affordable alternative to the most basic car component: the internal combustion engine.

Safety Always

Safety issues are always of high concern in the appliance industry, and as appliances get safer, the targets of safety mitigation efforts become harder to pin down. Case in point: the issue of spontaneous combustion of clothes in a clothes dryer. The exact nature of these fires have been difficult to quantify because of the rarity of the event and the fact that the burned dryer contents have often been consumed to such an extent it makes analytical results inconclusive.
Authors Delmar “Trey” Morrison, Mark J. Fecke and Yee San Su of Exponent Failure Analysis Associates addressed the issue in their paper “Spontaneous Combustion Tendency of Household Chemicals and Clothes Dryers.” The authors sought to answer the question: “What conditions and contaminants are necessary for a drum load to self-heat to the point of ignition?”
The authors used the Mackey Test to identify some chemicals with the potential to self-heat in a dryer and lead to spontaneous ignition. These include oils such as vegetable oils, massage oils and drying oils. Other products did self-heat without spontaneously igniting under the test conditions. Importantly, the authors also identified surprising evidence of linseed oil’s potential to self-heat, and noted that the ability of wash detergent to remove the oil from clothing could be quite reduced by cold wash and rinse water temperature. A recommendation of hot-water washing was made in the case of linseed oil. But the successful testing by the Exponent Failure Analysis team identified a number of other variables that have to be taken into account to evaluate the true extent of the danger with relation to specific chemicals. (APPLIANCE magazine will feature the entire paper in our APPLIANCE Engineer section in June 2006.)
Fire safety was also on the minds of conference presenters from The Felters Group (Roebuck, South Carolina, U.S.), in their paper, “New ‘Green’ Fire Retardant Chemistry to Achieve Low Cost Solution When Designing to Any FR Standard in Appliances.” The authors are David Starrett, product manager, appliances; Steve Mitra, design implementation engineer; and John Burns, strategic business unit manager, Sleep-Safe™ Technologies. The company makes use of new chemistries designed to be environmentally friendly and fire retardant, resulting initially in applications in the increasingly strict U.S. standards for fire-resistance in mattresses. Now the chemistries are being offered as sound absorption and vibration dampening materials to the appliance industry.
Felters points to a 2002 National Fire protection Agency (NFPA) study that concluded that appliance-caused fires in the U.S. between 1994 and 1998 were primarily caused by dryers, ovens, dishwashers, and refrigerators. These appliances are insulated for sound abatement, filtration, air sealing, and water absorption, and the materials used for these applications are regulated for fire resistance to different degrees. Felters developed its materials to replace most of these appliance applications while solving a number of concerns. They reduce PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), which are commonly used flame-retardant materials that have come under scrutiny for possible negative impact on human health. The new materials are also designed to create char barriers when contacted by flame, and can even use intumescent chemistries for passive fire protection that can help put out flames. As an added benefit, adding the new chemistries on non-synthetic materials to form sound and insulation materials is said to result in lower cost compared to some currently used materials.

Cordless Power

The future of kitchen appliances may be cordless.
We’re not talking batteries here, but wireless power. David W. Baarman of Access Business Group’s Advanced Technologies business, spoke on the topic in his paper, “Wireless Power for Household Devices.”
As Baarman says at the outset, appliance producers’ quest to make their products ever more convenient and flexible is hampered by some pretty basic limitations—like a power cord. This was one of the limitations his company, which makes residential water purifiers, dealt with during the design of a new-generation water treatment appliance.
“Designing for wet environments with electrical connectors was creating our number one reliability issue,” he says. Reliability issues included corrosion, electrolysis, connector fatigue, plating, and contact pressure.
Inductive coupled power has seen little application in the appliance industry outside of the low-power charge systems of some electric razors and toothbrushes, which must be placed in a direction-orienting cradle to enable wireless charging to occur.
Access saw potential in inductive coupled technology, and developed a system providing power but without such fixed relationships. In other words, the water treatment device did not have to be placed in exactly the right position and alignment on the countertop in order to receive power. Basic breakthroughs that enable this to happen include a system that allows the technology to tune and adjust for spatial flexibility. The company also developed a three-axis secondary coil allowing power transfer in any orientation for greater spatial freedom.
“When communications are added, it enables control loops that allow the wireless device to specify power levels or control curves for precision power control,” Baarman explains. The company also managed to achieve 40 percent lower costs as a result of using the technology in its countertop water treatment appliance. Adversity was the mother of invention: much of the design innovation came from the unique requirements of implementing inductive coupled technology.
The system benefits, aside from lower cost, included higher reliability and easier consumer interface. Access, which has 122 patents granted or pending on the technology, sees great potential for using inductive coupled technology for any countertop appliance. Baarman described hiding the power source in a countertop. A small electric appliance, such as a blender, could be placed on the counter, aligned magnetically and The future of kitchen appliances may be cordless.
We’re not talking batteries here, but wireless power. David W. Baarman of Access Business Group’s Advanced Technologies business, spoke on the topic in his paper, “Wireless Power for Household Devices.”
As Baarman says at the outset, appliance producers’ quest to make their products ever more convenient and flexible is hampered by some pretty basic limitations—like a power cord. This was one of the limitations his company, which makes residential water purifiers, dealt with during the design of a new-generation water treatment appliance.
“Designing for wet environments with electrical connectors was creating our number one reliability issue,” he says. Reliability issues included corrosion, electrolysis, connector fatigue, plating, and contact pressure.
Inductive coupled power has seen little application in the appliance industry outside of the low-power charge systems of some electric razors and toothbrushes, which must be placed in a direction-orienting cradle to enable wireless charging to occur.
Access saw potential in inductive coupled technology, and developed a system providing power but without such fixed relationships. In other words, the water treatment device did not have to be placed in exactly the right position and alignment on the countertop in order to receive power. Basic breakthroughs that enable this to happen include a system that allows the technology to tune and adjust for spatial flexibility. The company also developed a three-axis secondary coil allowing power transfer in any orientation for greater spatial freedom.
“When communications are added, it enables control loops that allow the wireless device to specify power levels or control curves for precision power control,” Baarman explains. The company also managed to achieve 40 percent lower costs as a result of using the technology in its countertop water treatment appliance. Adversity was the mother of invention: much of the design innovation came from the unique requirements of implementing inductive coupled technology.
The system benefits, aside from lower cost, included higher reliability and easier consumer interface. Access, which has 122 patents granted or pending on the technology, sees great potential for using inductive coupled technology for any countertop appliance. Baarman described hiding the power source in a countertop. A small electric appliance, such as a blender, could be placed on the counter, aligned magnetically and The future of kitchen appliances may be cordless.
We’re not talking batteries here, but wireless power. David W. Baarman of Access Business Group’s Advanced Technologies business, spoke on the topic in his paper, “Wireless Power for Household Devices.”
As Baarman says at the outset, appliance producers’ quest to make their products ever more convenient and flexible is hampered by some pretty basic limitations—like a power cord. This was one of the limitations his company, which makes residential water purifiers, dealt with during the design of a new-generation water treatment appliance.
“Designing for wet environments with electrical connectors was creating our number one reliability issue,” he says. Reliability issues included corrosion, electrolysis, connector fatigue, plating, and contact pressure.
Inductive coupled power has seen little application in the appliance industry outside of the low-power charge systems of some electric razors and toothbrushes, which must be placed in a direction-orienting cradle to enable wireless charging to occur.
Access saw potential in inductive coupled technology, and developed a system providing power but without such fixed relationships. In other words, the water treatment device did not have to be placed in exactly the right position and alignment on the countertop in order to receive power. Basic breakthroughs that enable this to happen include a system that allows the technology to tune and adjust for spatial flexibility. The company also developed a three-axis secondary coil allowing power transfer in any orientation for greater spatial freedom.
“When communications are added, it enables control loops that allow the wireless device to specify power levels or control curves for precision power control,” Baarman explains. The company also managed to achieve 40 percent lower costs as a result of using the technology in its countertop water treatment appliance. Adversity was the mother of invention: much of the design innovation came from the unique requirements of implementing inductive coupled technology.
The system benefits, aside from lower cost, included higher reliability and easier consumer interface. Access, which has 122 patents granted or pending on the technology, sees great potential for using inductive coupled technology for any countertop appliance. Baarman described hiding the power source in a countertop. A small electric appliance, such as a blender, could be placed on the counter, aligned magnetically and powered without being plugged in. One inductive coupled power source could potentially be used for a variety of countertop appliances.

Technical Paper Awards of Excellence

The scope of the International Appliance Technical Conference is broad, with more than 40 technical presentations. Other highlights from this year are the winners of technical paper Awards of Excellence. These include:
• Jason Kunio INCE Bd. Cert., application engineer, and Marc Marroquin Great Lakes regional manager, Brüel & Kjær North America Inc. (Norcross, Georgia, U.S.) were recognized for their paper “Using Sound Quality To Improve Your Product.”
• Tom Costello, product manager, of ebm-papst Inc. (Farmington, Connecticut, U.S.) received an award for his paper “The Next Generation of Premix Gas Blowers.”
• Ritesh Tyagi, senior product marketing manager and Bob Chamberlain, senior staff application engineer, Renesas Technology America, Inc. (San Jose, California, U.S.) won for their paper, “Improving Home Appliance Design with LIN Bus Technology.”
• Ramona Saar, director of Standards and Certification for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (Washington, D.C.) won an award for “Test Method for Rating Performance of Portable Room Air Cleaners.”

From Globalization to Localization

Many appliances are sold, scrapped or recycled long before they need repairs great enough to motivate the owner to trade them in. Instead, the owner is seeking something newer-looking, with better features, more capacity, a higher level of energy efficiency, or simply a more current design.
That’s right—appliance buyers may be interested in appliances with bling. Unique aesthetics. Alluring form. All over the world the buyers of appliances are changing their thinking—with the help of good marketing—about the prestige potential of the home and the coolness capability of appliances. Even major appliances can be cool in the same way an iPod or a 50-inch LCD TV or a sliding cell phone can be cool.
And all those products are going to need increasingly individualized aesthetics to stay cool. This was confirmed by the luncheon speaker on the final day of IATC. Paul Hatch, president of TEAMS Design in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., is a specialist in the industrial design of appliances and a member of the Industrial Designers Society of America. He spoke about the future of appliances—including the localization, as opposed to globalization, of design.
When asked about the future possibility of a global appliance—a single appliance design that would satisfy the needs of users worldwide—Hatch suggested the opposite would be true.
“Technologies are allowing for customization during production,” Hatch says, and pointed out that some OEMs are exploring the potential of customization and learning how to offer a wider variety of products.
While historically Europeans have made appliance models with characteristics catering to consumers in the different EU markets, Hatch sees some European OEMs striving to create one model that will be accepted across the continent.
“They’re focusing on the best functionality,” he says. The idea is that, if the appliance is the best in terms of function, it will sell. Perhaps, Hatch suggests, this will not be the best approach. In the U.S., he foresees different appliance products, for example, being offered on the East Coast and West Coast of the U.S.
That customization may come through aesthetics, and Hatch’s opinion is that increased decorative innovation will be the next big trend impacting the appliance market. “Consumers are going to want it and the production possibilities are already there,” he says.
In fact, IATC included just such production possibilities. One presenter was Dietmar Plöbst, authorized officer with
Senoplast Klepsch & Company GmbH (Piesendorf, Austria). The presentation was “The Full Plastic Refrigerator: Developments in Europe Plastic Replaces Steel,” which described how some European OEMs have gone into production of refrigerators constructed of molded-in color sheet plastics. The design flexibilities offered by the system are vast compared to painted metal-cabinet manufacturing systems used by most appliance OEMs. The plastics can be shaped to form bends and curves that would be extremely difficult to form in metal. The plastic sheets themselves can be supplied in small batches from thousands of color possibilities. There are metallic finishes, including finishes to simulate stainless steel, or refrigerators can be made to match special decorating.
What enables this is the flexibility of the vacuum forming and plastic bending system, which can produce very small runs by appliance industry standards. Other advantages are said to come from the small footprint of the refrigerator cabinet forming system, the low capital equipment cost compared to a comparable metal cabinet forming line, and the fact that no painting of parts is needed. The material is provided in ABS/PMMA sheets that are also printable, for an even greater decorative potential.

Pick Up the Pace

Consumers are known to complain about the pace of new product development, especially true when it comes to home electronics. The common refrain has become: Why buy today? They’ll come out with something better in
6 months.
But the refrain is not universal. It’s not even accurate. Despite the fear of quick obsolescence, a lot of consumer electronics products are being sold. Rampant innovation isn’t slowing down most sales; it keeps the product offering dynamic and maintains consumer interest. Because of the technology pace, consumers are buying the product now, and looking forward to buying the latest generation of the product a few years down the line. There is some evidence that this shift in thinking is beginning to transfer to traditionally long-lived products like white goods appliances.
And why not? Just because an appliance is durable enough to keep running for 15 years or 20 years doesn’t mean it makes sense to keep it that long. In fact, when consumers replace a major appliance like a refrigerator the new appliance is usually more energy efficient. The impact can be difficult for an individual consumer to quantify, or even cost-justify, but on the large-scale the energy saving advantages become truly enormous. Energy efficiency is slowly settling into the consumer consciousness.
Factor in the other benefits of newly available technology, and it’s easy to see how appliances coming out next year will be safer and more convenient, and with a new sense of style.

 

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