COOL NEW PRODUCTS:
Refrigerator Designers Focus on Features
April 15, 1999
Traditional fridge designs have become a thing of the past. (Mitsubishi Electric Corp.)
Domestic appliances, such as refrigerators and washing machines, are often called "mature products." Unlike computers and audio equipment, which are constantly evolving technologically, domestic appliances are generally thought to have developed about far as they can go. In Japan, however, shifting priorities and the country's technological prowess are combining to produce exciting new domestic appliances. Among these, refrigerators in particular have been changing drastically since the early 1990s.
Four Key Features Drive Development
Improvements in ease of use have also been striking. Some of the biggest improvements have been changes to the layout of refrigerator compartments. Traditionally, refrigerators have generally had the freezer compartment on top, the refrigerator compartment in the middle, and the vegetable compartment on the bottom. In 1990, however, after noting an increase in freezer use, Toshiba Corp. came out with a new model that had the refrigerator compartment on top, the freezer compartment in the middle, and the vegetable compartment on the bottom. Placing the freezer at waist height made it easier to get to frozen foods. This was a big hit with consumers, and instantly became the standard style.
Then in 1996, Hitachi Ltd. came out with a model that had the refrigerator compartment on top, the vegetable compartment in the middle, and the freezer compartment on the bottom. This new layout made it possible to get to items in the vegetable compartment--the second-most used after the refrigerator--without bending over. This also caught on with consumers, and is becoming one of Japan's most popular refrigerator styles.
Emphasis Shifts to Adjustable Temperatures
Mitsubishi Electric Corp., meanwhile, in spring 1999 began selling a refrigerator with a new "soft freeze" function that will keep food at about -7 degrees Celsius (19 degrees Fahrenheit). Freezers are normally kept at about -18 degrees Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit), but at -7 degrees Celsius food can be cut with a knife without being defrosted. Mitsubishi makes use of special proprietary technology that does not simply raise the temperature of the freezer but rather ensures that food is kept at just the right temperature so that it can be cut cleanly with a knife.
More Innovations in the Works
Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.