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How Does an Ice Maker Work

How Does an Ice Maker Work

Ice, no longer a luxury, is now an indispensable commodity at home, or at any commercial activity. I have always found chilled crystalline ice cubes to be interesting, which led me on the quest to understand how an ice maker works. Here is what I found out.
Anuja Marathe Kanhere
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
Each time I fill my glass with ice cubes, I am reminded of Frederic Tudor or the Ice King who started exporting ice to tropical regions of America and Asia way back in the 1800s. At that time, ice slabs were a rare commodity and a form of attraction in the tropical regions. However, times have changed and ice is now freely available to everyone around the world thanks to refrigeration. At home, all we need to do is fill the ice tray with clean water and set it in the refrigerator to freeze. Once done, we just need to twist the ice cube maker and out falls a heap of fresh ice. But how would it work, when a huge number of ice cubes were needed for commercial purposes, say in restaurants? Naturally, it would be tedious to fill the ice trays with water after each use. But modern technology has answers to every problem. Here is how an automatic ice maker works.
The Apparatus
✔ A normal ice maker usually contains a solenoid electromagnetic valve, a refrigeration unit, a heating coil, ice cutting blades, and an ice collection bin.
✔ In case the ice maker dispenses flaked ice, there is an inbuilt ice crusher within the ice making machine.
✔ Similarly, if the ice maker dispenses small ice cubes, there are bound to be mechanized rotating blades within the machine that can cut the ice into small equal proportioned ice cubes.
✔ Sometimes, an industrial ice maker which makes thick slabs of ice may be equipped with devices that help measure the volume of water collected so that the ice slabs are of the desired thickness.
✔ Modern ice makers are also equipped with a water purification device that helps separate impurities from the water flowing in, so that you get ice made from pure and safe water. Also, water devoid of impurities is likely to freeze faster.
The Making of Ice
✔ The process of making ice starts with the flow of electric charge towards the solenoid electromagnetic valve. On account of electromagnetism, the valve opens up for a short span of 7 to 8 seconds during which water gushes into the ice maker from the attached water pipe. The valve system is programmed such that it will remain open as long as the volume of water in the ice maker reaches the full capacity of the ice making molds.
✔ As soon as the ice maker fills with water, the refrigeration process gets activated. The ice maker is fitted with a thermostat that starts reducing the temperature of water gradually until it slips down to a temperature as low as 9° F. This is the temperature where the water gets frozen into long ice pieces. Thereafter, the electrical switch for refrigeration goes off.
✔ In a normal case, ice is likely to get stuck on the internal surface of the ice maker. If the ice cubes are to be ejected smoothly from the ice maker, they need to be heated slightly. For this purpose, the ice maker is usually fitted with a heating coil at the base just below the external surface of the ice maker. This coil starts getting heated as soon as the ice is frozen. The warmness generated by the coil separates the ice cube from the ice maker's surface.
✔ At the very same time, the spinning gear within the ice maker pushes the ice towards the ice cutting blades. Here, the sharp blades cut the long ice pieces into small-sized ice cubes while they are pushed out of the ice maker and into the ice collection bin.
✔ If an ice maker is equipped with a crusher, so that the ice pieces can be crushed into flakes before they are actually dispensed into the ice collection bin.
A typical ice maker can produce ice cubes in a duration of 60 to 75 minutes. However, this duration is likely to vary with the freezing capacity of the ice maker, the humidity of the room where the ice maker is placed, and the purity of the water. You may even opt for refrigerators that have an inbuilt ice maker that automatically refreshes the supply of ice as and when it is needed. Naturally, you will need to clean the ice maker regularly to keep it functioning smoothly. With a well maintained compressor, thermostat, and purifier, along with plentiful supply of water, your ice maker will churn out as much ice as you desire for years together!