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issue: August 2007 APPLIANCE Magazine

Control Panels & Displays
Innovative Control and a Sleek Fit


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by Jill Russell, Contributing Editor

Maytag put an innovative control on a new Jenn-Air glass cooktop for RV and hotel/motel markets.

The 22-in. Jenn-Air–branded glass cooktop was designed for the RV and hotel markets and features a 6-in., 1200-W element and one 8-in., 2000-W element.

Ralph Gwaltney, senior project engineer for Maytag, part of Whirlpool Corp., explains how a development team at the Cleveland, TN, cooking facility spotted a opening in the market for RV-type cooking appliances.  The company decided the market showed promise due to a lack of product in the segment, and a new product development project was green-lighted.

“Some product lines were already available on the market and the decision was made to make ours a direct replacement so we could easily move into the market. We wanted to create a UL-listed, better performing, drop-in replacement for a market segment that had very few players,” Gwaltney says.

The appliance maker got in contact with supplier Schott Home Tech America to discuss control and display options. The appliance maker defined the project, and the two companies agreed that Schott would be a partner throughout the design process, including during the design for manufacturability phases and marketing support.

“The customer was designing a knob-type–controlled two-burner cooktop for the RV market, but they wanted a more upscale touch control cooktop for the RV and extended-stay-type hotel environments,” explains Ken Such, general manager for electronics controls for Schott Home Tech North America.

Nonfunctional prototypes were manu­factured first, and then it was determined that the final version of the cooktop would feature a through-glass touch control. The control was already used on the OEM’s  30- and 36-in. cooktops, but it needed to be reduced in size to fit the RV-type, two-element cooktop, which was to measure only 22.75 × 12.75 × 2.875 in. “We could make the operation exactly the same, giving design continuity to the entire product line,” Such explains.

Although the project largely centered on miniaturizing an existing control component, a few design hiccups did occur. One in particular involved the positioning of the user interface. The display was located in the lower right-hand corner of the cooktop, which could be aligned horizontally or vertically. To accommodate this, Such explains, a triangular control panel design was developed.

The end result was a two-element glass cooktop ideal for RV, boat, and hotel installation. Each burner has an individual-select on and off touch pad. Each burner is then adjusted by a power bar that allows the user to control the power level of the burner by sliding a finger across the glass from left to right.

“Selecting the appropriate power level is fast and easy,” Such tells APPLIANCE. “The user does not have to press and hold a single key to increase or decrease the power level as they do in other user interface designs.”

Schott Home Tech says the final cooktop passed the appliance maker’s testing criteria and received a five out of five in every category—the first such product to do so.

Both Whirlpool and Schott say the relationship was a positive one.  The cooktop is on the market and the two companies continue to work together. 

Suppliers mentioned in this article:
Schott Home Tech North America
 

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