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How Does An Ice Maker Work?

flake ice made from commercial stainless steel ice maker


Have you ever wondered how a commercial ice maker machine makes so many ice cubes in such a short space of time? Commercial ice makers create large quantities of ice very quickly. So how do they do it?

The Science Behind Ice Makers

One of the most common naturally occurring refrigerants on earth is ice. Synthetic refrigerants are chemical compounds that have the ability to readily absorb or reject heat, whilst undergoing a change of state.

The basic principal of creating ice is fairly straight forward. Remove sufficient heat from water to force a change of state from liquid water to a solid we know as ice. By forcibly transferring heat, we can change both the temperature and the state of a substance and use it to heat or cool something else. Refrigeration is simply a reversible heat transfer system.

The Refrigeration Cycle

A refrigeration compressor draws in and compresses a suitable refrigerant gas. The refrigerant rises in temperature and pressure during compression. From the compressor the high pressure refrigerant passes into a condenser, where it condenses into a high pressure liquid, releasing heat. The high pressure liquid refrigerant then passes through an expansion valve into an evaporator. In passing through the expansion valve, the refrigerant evaporates and becomes a low pressure gas, absorbing heat. The gas then passes back to the compressor to start the cycle again.

The Ice Making Process

In commercial ice machines, water circulates over a cold evaporator, formed as metal trays. Ice cubes are built up in layers as heat is continually removed. Once the ice is thick enough, the ice machine switches to harvest mode. In harvest mode, the evaporator becomes warm enough to defrost the surface of the ice cubes. Ice cubes are then allowed to drop into a storage container beneath the ice machine, ready for use. The ice machine continues it’s cycle of ice making and harvests until the ice storage bin becomes full of ice. Once the ice maker senses the bin is full, it automatically shuts down until ice is removed from the bin. The ice maker then continues the process of making ice.

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