Siemens AG Diverse Innovation: Waste Water Treatment, Medical Images and Wind Turbines

By Steve Brachmann
June 19, 2013

The German-based multinational conglomerate Siemens AG is a major developer of electronics for a number of industries, including medical equipment, energy systems, consumer appliances and many diverse areas of electrical engineering. Recently, Siemens was awarded major electrical infrastructure contracts in Brazil, which will be hosting the 2014 World Cup.

As a multinational corporation, Siemens AG is a frequent applicant at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. This week’s Companies We Follow series takes a look at Siemens’ recent applications and patent awards in the fields of consumer and medical electronics. One application we feature involves a safer system of extinguishing fires within a machine dryer. Another application describes a home heat pump that would conserve thermal energy from appliance wastewater. Siemens’ medical subsidiary, Siemens Medical Solutions, has also been awarded a USPTO patent to protect a system of fixing misalignments in angiograms.

Other documents we look at feature improvements to electrical systems. Another application improves smart metering systems that have resulted in improper appliance functioning for dishwashers and washing machines. Lastly, we look at a Siemens patent that improves systems of protecting wind turbine components from lightning strikes.

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Tumble Dryer Having a Fire Extinguishing System
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130139404

Tumble dryers are commonly used in households or laundromats to dry clothes by forcing a warm air current through a rolling drum that tumbles the clothes, causing them to dry more quickly and evenly. Although they are constructed to reduce the risks of a fire breaking out, a blockage in an air channel or the presence of extremely fine lint could cause a fire to ignite. Although tumble dryers often have methods of extinguishing fires, they typically exist outside of the drum which has ignited and are dependent upon the dryer’s power supply

This patent application, filed by Siemens AG, would improve current systems of fire extinguishers within tumble dryers by containing the extinguishing substance within the rolling drum of the tumble dryer. The extinguishing substance is contained within a drum paddle, a fixture which tumble dryers often contain to agitate the clothing while operating. If a fire were to break out in the drum, the drum paddles would release the substance and put out the fire without needing to be propelled into the drum.

Claim 1 of this patent application would provide Siemens AG protections over:

“A tumble dryer, comprising: a drum having an interior for holding laundry items; at least one container received in the interior of the drum, said at least one container has a cavity filled with an extinguishing medium; and at least one release device arranged in a cavity wall of the container for the extinguishing medium, said release device being activated in the event of a fire starting or having started in the drum to thereby provide an opening to the cavity of the container.”

Device for Preparing Hot Water by Recovering Heat from Waste Water
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130145788

Various household appliances can create hot water which is discarded after use, such as a dishwasher, washing machine or shower. Some household heat pumps can retain the thermal energy given off by this water by running it through a compressor that initiates a saturated steam circulation process. However, modes of operation are typically inefficient and a lot of thermal energy is lost during the process.

Siemens AG has developed a system of retaining thermal energy in a hot water reservoir so as to heat water for later use. The design for the heat recovery system outlined in this patent application calls for better insulation and thermal contacts for the pipes that run between the compressor and hot water reservoir to reduce the thermal energy lost. According to the patent application, the insulation could be coated with aluminum, which would help reflect infrared radiant heat back into the hot water reservoir.

As Claim 11 (Claims 1 through 10 cancelled) states, Siemens AG wants to protect:

“A device for preparing hot water by recovering heat from waste water, said device comprising: a heat pump comprising a compressor and an evaporator; a hot water reservoir supplied with thermal energy by the evaporator of the heat pump above the compressor; and a heat pipe thermally connecting the hot water reservoir to the compressor of the heat pump to dissipate waste heat produced during operation of the compressor to the hot water reservoir.”

Arrangement for Directing a Lightning Current within a Wind Turbine
U.S. Patent No. 8461452

Wind turbines are intentionally exposed to the elements so as to draw as much energy from the available wind as possible. However, by being left exposed to extreme weather, wind turbines must be constructed to deal with intense electrical charges caused by lightning strikes. Wind turbines are already designed to divert the electrical current away from rotor and other components which could sustain damage.

The USPTO recently awarded Siemens AG a patent for a newly designed system of directing electrical charges from lighting strikes away from wind turbine components. The new configuration uses contact elements to bridge electrical connections between protective components so as to ground the electrical charge. The component parts of this system are smaller than previous designs, allowing for more space within the turbine and better access when maintenance must be done.

[Companies-6]

Claim 1 of this patent provides Siemens AG protections over:

“An arrangement for directing a lightning current within a wind turbine, comprising: a first component and a second component, one of the two components is arranged moveably in relation to the other; a guideway at least partly integrated in the first component; a contact element arranged to electrically connect the first component to the second component in order to direct a lightning current within the wind turbine; wherein the contact element has a first end and a second end; wherein the first end is pressed onto the second component to form a sliding contact; wherein the contact element is guided moveably by the guideway, and wherein the second end is connected to a fastening element of the first component via a current conducting spring element.”

Method and Device for Controlling a Domestic Appliance, using Smart Metering
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130145565

Smart metering systems have been developed to promote efficient electricity consumption across electrical grids. These systems analyze electrical load demands placed on a grid by the houses and other buildings that draw energy from the grid. With smart metering, a home electrical grid could draw less power from the main grid in response to peak electricity demand hours or price fluctuations throughout the day. However, this reduction in energy consumption can greatly affect the capabilities of appliances that are operating, like a dishwasher or washing machine.

This patent application would give Siemens AG the right to protect a method for maintaining the operating power of certain appliances when a home’s electrical grid reduces its power consumption. Appliances that use soap to wash clothing and dishes must maintain certain operating temperatures and running times so that soaps and other cleansers can work properly. This new system would record cleaning operations in these devices and, if the charge is reduced below an inoperable level, the cleaning process is paused until the smart metering system increases the energy available to the appliance.

Claim 16 (Claims 1 though 15 cancelled) of this patent application would protect:

“A method for controlling a domestic appliance constructed to perform a cleaning process and connected within an individual household to at least one electric mains grid implemented as an intelligent system capable of detecting measured power consumption according to different consumption tariffs and according to information about an availability of a currently applicable consumption tariff or according to a switch-off condition for preventing peak loads in the mains grid, the method comprising the steps of: a) when an inexpensive consumption tariff is available, starting an intended operation of the domestic appliance and continuously recording a history of the cleaning process, b) when an inexpensive consumption tariff is not available or the switch-off condition for preventing peak loads in the mains grid is met, preventing start of the intended operation of the domestic appliance or interrupting a previously started operation, and c) when information about an inexpensive consumption tariff is available, resuming the intended operation of the domestic appliance, and adding at least one component of a detergent depending on the recorded history of the cleaning process.”

System for Comparison of Medical Images
U.S. Patent No. 8463012

Angiography is a procedure that provides medical imaging of patients by introducing a contrast agent into a patient’s body for taking images of blood vessels or organs. The contrast agent is injected into the body and allowed to flow through the natural vessels to view blockages or other issues. The X-rayed images of the contrast agent are compared against silhouette images that have already been taken of the patient. Inconsistencies in the angiographic image and silhouette image, due to patient shifting during procedures, can result in an improper diagnosis.

Siemens AG has earned the right to protect a system that provides better comparing images for angiograms that prevents against misalignment. This system takes multiple sequential images during an angiogram. An image processing unit would analyze the angiographic images for any misalignment between that and the silhouette images, and then corrects any misalignment between the images.

As Claim 1 explains, Siemens AG has been given the right to protect:

“A system for automatically processing different medical image sequences facilitating comparison of the sequences in adjacent respective display areas for use in Angiography or another medical procedure, comprising: an imaging system for storing first and second sets of data at different stages of a treatment procedure representing corresponding first and second image sequences individually comprising a plurality of temporally sequential individual images of vessels of a portion of patient anatomy, said sequential individual images encompassing introduction of a contrast agent into patient vessels; an image data processor for, identifying first and second mask images of said first and second image sequences respectively as images preceding introduction of contrast agent, determining a translational shift between said first and second mask images and transforming data representing individual images of at least one of the first image sequence and the second image sequence in response to the determined translational shift to reduce mis-alignment of said individual images of said first image sequence relative to said individual images of said second image sequence; and a display for presenting first and second image sequences corrected for mis-alignment, in substantially adjacent display areas to facilitate user comparison.”

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

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