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In appearance and mechanical detail, this first machine was not unlike the front loading automatic washers produced today. Although it included many of today's basic features, the machine lacked any drum suspension and therefore had to be anchored to the floor to prevent "walking". Because of the components required, the machine was also very expensive. For instance, the Bendix Home Laundry Service Manual published November 1, shows that the drum speed change was facilitated by a 2-speed gearbox built to a heavy duty standard not unlike a car automatic gearbox, albeit at a smaller size.

The timer was also probably fairly costly, because miniature electric motors were expensive to produce. Early automatic washing machines were usually connected to a water supply via temporary slip-on connectors to sink taps. Later, permanent connections to both the hot and cold water supplies became the norm, as dedicated laundry water hookups became common. Most modern front-loading European machines now only have a cold water connection called "cold fill" and rely completely on internal electric heaters to raise the water temperature.

Many of the early automatic machines had coin-in-the-slot facilities and were installed in the basement laundry rooms of apartment houses. After the attack on Pearl Harbor , US domestic washer production was suspended for the duration of World War II in favor of manufacturing war material. However, numerous US appliance manufacturers were given permission to undertake the research and development of washers during the war years.

Many took the opportunity to develop automatic machines, realizing that these represented the future for the industry. A large number of US manufacturers introduced competing automatic machines mainly of the top-loading type in the late s and early s. This machine had many of the features that are incorporated into modern machines. Another early form of automatic washing machine manufactured by The Hoover Company used cartridges to program different wash cycles.

This system, called the "Keymatic", used plastic cartridges with key-like slots and ridges around the edges. The cartridge was inserted into a slot on the machine and a mechanical reader operated the machine accordingly. Several manufacturers produced semi-automatic machines, requiring the user to intervene at one or two points in the wash cycle. A common semi-automatic type available from Hoover in the UK until at least the s included two tubs: one with an agitator or impeller for washing, plus another smaller tub for water extraction or centrifugal rinsing.

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Since their introduction, automatic washing machines have relied on electromechanical timers to sequence the washing and extraction process. Electromechanical timers consist of a series of cams on a common shaft driven by a small electric motor via a reduction gearbox. At the appropriate time in the wash cycle, each cam actuates a switch to engage or disengage a particular part of the machinery for example, the drain pump motor. One of the first was invented in by Winston L. Shelton and Gresham N.

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Jennings, then both General Electric engineers. The device was granted US Patent On the early electromechanical timers, the motor ran at a constant speed throughout the wash cycle, although it was possible for the user to truncate parts of the program by manually advancing the control dial. However, by the s demand for greater flexibility in the wash cycle led to the introduction of more sophisticated electrical timers to supplement the electromechanical timer.

These newer timers enabled greater variation in functions such as the wash time. With this arrangement, the electric timer motor is periodically switched off to permit the clothing to soak, and is only re-energized just prior to a micro-switch being engaged or disengaged for the next stage of the process. Fully electronic timers did not become widespread until decades later.

Despite the high cost of automatic washers, manufacturers had difficulty in meeting the demand.

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In the UK and in most of Europe, electric washing machines did not become popular until the s. This was largely because of the economic impact of World War II on the consumer market, which did not properly recover until the late s. The early electric washers were single-tub, wringer-type machines, as fully automatic washing machines were extremely expensive. During the s, twin tub machines briefly became very popular, helped by the low price of the Rolls Razor washers.

Some machines had the ability to pump used wash water into a separate tub for temporary storage, and to later pump it back for re-use. This was done not to save water or soap, but because heated water was expensive and time-consuming to produce. Automatic washing machines did not become dominant in the UK until well into the s and by then were almost exclusively of the front-loader design.

However, since the s electronic control of motor speed has become a common feature on the more expensive models. Over time manufacturers of automatic washers have gone to great lengths to reduce cost. For instance, expensive gearboxes are no longer required, since motor speed can be controlled electronically. Some models can be controlled via WiFi. Even on some expensive washers, the outer drum of front loading machines is often but not always made of plastic it can also be made out of metal but this is expensive.

This makes changing the main bearings difficult , as the plastic drum usually cannot be separated into two halves to enable the inner drum to be removed to gain access to the bearing.

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Some manufacturers have taken steps to reduce vibration emanating from their washers, by means of reducing or controlling motor speeds, using hydraulic suspensions instead of spring suspensions, and having freely moving steel balls contained inside a ring mounted on both the front and back sides of the drum in order to counter the weight of the clothes and reduce vibration. Some machines, since [35] now use a direct drive motor, a low aspect ratio device, where the stator assembly is attached to the rear of the outer drum, whilst the co-axial rotor is mounted on the shaft of the inner drum.

Since, other manufacturers have followed suit.

Some washing machines with this type of motor come with 10 or even 20 year warranties, but only for the motor itself. The rotor is connected to the inner tub through its center.

It can be made out of metal or plastic. In the early s, upmarket machines incorporated microcontrollers for the timing process. These proved reliable and cost-effective, so many cheaper machines now also incorporate microcontrollers rather than electromechanical timers. Since the s, some machines have touch panel displays, full color or color displays, or touch sensitive control panels. In , Staber Industries released the System washing machine, which is the only top-loading, horizontal-axis washer to be manufactured in the United States.

The hexagonal tub spins like a front-loading machine, using only about one third as much water as conventional top-loaders. This factor has led to an Energy Star rating for its high efficiency. This washing machine uses a computer-controlled system to determine certain factors such as load size and automatically adjusts the wash cycle to match. It also used a mixed system of washing, first with the "Eco-Active" wash, using a low level of recirculated water being sprayed on the load followed by a more traditional style wash.

The SmartDrive also included direct drive brushless DC electric motor , which simplified the bowl and agitator drive by doing away with the need for a gearbox system. In , the British inventor James Dyson launched the CR01 ContraRotator , a type of washing machine with two cylinders rotating in opposite directions. It was claimed that this design reduced the wash time and produced cleaner washing than a single cylinder machine.

However, neither of the ContraRotator machines are now in production as they were too expensive to manufacture. They were discontinued in Patent USB2 , U. Patent US , U. Patent USB1 , U. Patent USD In , Whirlpool Corporation introduced the Calypso, the first vertical-axis high efficiency washing machine to be top-loading. A washplate in the bottom of the tub nutated a special wobbling motion to bounce, shake, and toss the laundry around. Simultaneously, water containing detergent was sprayed on to the laundry.

The machine proved to be good at cleaning, but gained a bad reputation due to frequent breakdowns and destruction of laundry. The washer was recalled with a class-action lawsuit [70] and pulled off the market.

In , Maytag introduced their top-loading Neptune washer. Instead of an agitator, the machine had two washplates, perpendicular to each other and at a 45 degree angle from the bottom of the tub.


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The machine would fill with only a small amount of water and the two washplates would tumble the load within it, mimicking the action of a front-loading washer in a vertical axis design. It also reused and disinfected rinse water. In , the University of Leeds created a concept washing machine that uses only a cup less than ml of water and 20 kg of re-usable plastic beads to carry out a full wash.

As such, it could save billions of liters of water each year. The concept is being developed as the Xeros Washing Machine. Approximately in , eco indicators were introduced, capable of predicting the energy demand based on the customer settings in terms of program and temperature. Around and , some manufacturers [81] [82] [83] namely Samsung and LG Electronics offered washers and dryers that either have a top loading washer and dryer built on top of a front loading washer and dryer respectively in Samsung washers and dryers or offer users an optional top loading washer that can be installed under a washer or dryer for LG washers and dryers Both manufacturers have also introduced front loading washers allowing users to add items after a wash cycle has started, [84] [85] and Samsung has also introduced top loading washers with a built in sink [86] and a detergent dispenser that claims to leave no residue on the dispenser itself.

In IFA , [87] Samsung released the QDrive, a front loading washer similar to the Dyson ContraRotator but instead of 2 counterrotating drums, the QDrive has a single drum with a counterrotating impeller mounted on the back of the drum. The top loading, vertical axis cloth washer, is the dominant design in the United States and Canada. This design places the clothes in a vertically mounted perforated basket that is contained within a water-retaining tub, with a finned water-pumping agitator in the center of the bottom of the basket. Clothes are loaded through the top of the machine, which is usually but not always covered with a hinged door.

During the wash cycle, the outer tub is filled with water sufficient to fully immerse and suspend the clothing freely in the basket. The movement of the agitator pushes water outward between the paddles towards the edge of the tub. The water then moves outward, up the sides of the basket, towards the center, and then down towards the agitator to repeat the process, in a circulation pattern similar to the shape of a torus. The agitator direction is periodically reversed, because continuous motion in one direction would just lead to the water spinning around the basket with the agitator rather than the water being pumped in the torus-shaped motion.

Some washers supplement the water-pumping action of the agitator with a large rotating screw on the shaft above the agitator, to help move water downwards in the center of the basket. Since the agitator and the drum are separate and distinct in a top-loading washing machine, the mechanism of a top-loader is inherently more complicated than a front-loading machine.

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