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issue: November 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Commercial Foodservice
Revolutionizing the Display Warmer


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by Steve Wichelecki, Assistant Editor

BKI utilized a cutting-edge glass technology to avoid the typical problems that came when designing a new foodservice display case.

In the design of its Multi-Deck Warmer, foodservice equipment provider BKI used Engineered Glass Product’s (EGP) Thermique heated glass to overcome problems inherent to traditional display warmer designs. The glass, manufactured by Marsco Glass Products, LLC, under license from Thermique Technologies, LLC, can be uniformly heated via an invisible conductive coating.

Shelving structures for display warmers are traditionally constructed from either stainless steel or finished aluminum. Within these shelves are serpentine or crisscross heater wires, making a structure that is often bulky or aesthetically unappealing. This structure can also lack uniform temperature profiles, because heat is mostly concentrated where heater wires bond to the shelves. Such constructions may also be inefficient in terms of power consumption.
Foodservice equipment provider BKI hoped to circumvent these engineering disadvantages when it designed its new Multi-Deck Warmer. BKI (Simpsonville, South Carolina, U.S.) wanted to engineer a warmer that would function at around 180°F to 220°F (82°C to 104°C) and achieve a uniform heat profile, and wanted to accomplish this using technology that would not end up being cost-prohibitive. Issues of aesthetics, cleanability and durability were also taken into account.
In 2004 Marsco Glass Products, LLC, a subsidiary of Engineered Glass Products (EGP), was endeavoring to bring its Thermique™ glass to the foodservice industry. This glass, manufactured by Marsco (Chicago, Illinois, U.S.) under license from its sister company Thermique Technologies, LLC, can be uniformly heated via an invisible conductive coating. A sales call alerted BKI to the technology, and the OEM saw that it could certainly be incorporated into the multi-tiered display warmer it was developing. “Jack Brooks (sales representative for Marsco) came in and spoke with us about the heating glass and we pursued it from there. It sounded like a good product for what we were trying to do,” Tod Heintzelman, project engineer for BKI, tells APPLIANCE.
Thermique technology conducts an electrical current across a specially coated pane of tempered glass. The electrical resistance of the glass causes it to heat up uniformly across the entire surface. By coating only one side of the glass, the film creates a transparent, two-dimensional heater surface. The glass reflects heat, so when the coating is energized the heat radiates away from the glass surface, a feature that helps make the product energy efficient. Thermique Technologies has developed a number of control technologies that it says afford precise heat profile or temperature control. The various control modules are UL-approved and based on an electronic switching technology that eliminates the use of transformers or quick controllers.
In employing the Thermique glass, BKI found that it was not necessary to make fundamental alterations to the cabinet itself. Rather, existing warmer shelves were removed from the prototype and Thermique shelves were fashioned to the existing specifications; only minimal restructuring of shelf assembly and rewiring were required.
“Many of our customers choose to use this product because the glass can be cut to just about any size. The structural changes are usually very minimal,” Brooks tells APPLIANCE. The only significant change BKI was obliged to make was the incorporation of a ground fault breaker. This was added to the unit for safety reasons, to cut the circuit in case of shelf damage, the shelves being live electrical circuits.
In the end, the collaboration yielded the Multi-Deck Warmer (MDW). The MDW is a user-friendly product; in most cases the consumer merely plugs in the unit and it is ready for use. BKI says the heated glass technology makes the unit effective, energy efficient, and, because of its illuminated glass shelving, more aesthetically pleasing than a traditional heater cabinet. The MDW has enjoyed good sales and the companies report a failure rate of zero.
Thermique Technologies (Chicago, Illinois, U.S.) has enjoyed a number of awards and accolades. Its heated glass was named one of the best new technologies of 2005 by Popular Science magazine. And a towel warmer, one of the first consumer products to utilize Thermique technology, was voted Best New Bath Product at the 2005 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show, and won a 2005 Good Design™ award from the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture & Design. Marsco Glass Products has the exclusive license to design and manufacture Thermique heated glass products for the foodservice industry.

Suppliers mentioned in this article:
Marsco Glass Products
 

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