Ice machine technology basically gets down to two types: cube ice machines, which use a harvest cycle to periodically dump ice cubes into storage bins, and flakers, which use an auger to steadily produce flaked ice. The first type of ice is most commonly used in drinks, the second for display cases.

A popular topic is common problems with ice machines. Most of those problems relate to water quality, so all types of filter systems are talked about and debated.

A second situation relates to where ice machines are placed. They are often put next to the deep fryers in fast food restaurants, or in the warmest area of a hotel hallway. Both are bad locales for efficient ice making.

Next on the list is the ongoing debate over “back to the basics” vs. “the most advanced diagnostics in the industry today.” This, of course, relates to the electronics in the equipment. Manufacturers seem to shift in one direction or the other as the next generation of units come out.

But now a new technology is starting to make an impact. It uses a constantly rotating horizontal evaporator drum, which is partially submerged in water. The cooling mechanism within the evaporator adheres a thin layer of water to the exterior of the evaporator. As the turning motion continues, the water turns to ice. At the apex of the drum is a stationary blade, which constantly shears the ice, creating a flaked-like ice used in display cases.

The technology has been shown by one company over the past six years at two major refrigeration shows in the United States — Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and National Restaurant Association (NRA). A larger number of companies show related technology in Europe at the IKK Expo.

In fact, the technology started in Europe, where use of ice is strictly for practical reasons. Cube machines are virtually nonexistent, as ice is rarely, if ever, served in drinks. But flake-like ice is as crucial there as in the United States. It is used in the shipment of such fresh products as fish. It is also used for display cases, including those in numerous open-air markets.

Rotating evaporator technology for ice making is coming from Europe and starting to make a greater presence in the United States. At the most recent NRA show, a manufacturer with a high profile in the U.S. showed the technology, as did several companies with a primary presence in Europe. And it was present at the most recent AHR Expo in Atlantic City this past January.

It is beyond the scope of this column to describe how it works in detail, much less offer service tips, but future issues of The News will discuss the systems in more detail. For now, be aware that cubers and flakers have a new neighbor.

Powell is refrigeration editor. He can be reached at 847-622-7260; 847-622-7266 (fax); or (e-mail).

Publication date: 03/04/2002