Actively Cooled Totes

Image of Primaira-engineered gen 2 actively cooled totes

Figure 2: Primaira-Engineered Gen. 2 Totes

Figure 1: Gen. 1 Tote

Primaira is partnered with Phononic in designing and manufacturing actively cooled refrigerator and freezer totes. These totes utilize Phononic’s proprietary thermoelectric cooling as a replacement for the traditional refrigeration cycle. Thermoelectrics are capable of both heating and cooling a space using no refrigerants. Being a fraction of the total weight of a vapor compression refrigerator, this tote is inherently mobile. The totes reduce the time, space, and labor required in the online food ordering process. Keep an eye out for them at grocery stores, grocery fulfillment centers, and fast-food chains.

Primaira’s partnership began after Phononic launched Generation 1 of the tote. Based on customer and designer feedback on Gen. 1, the R&D team at Primaira helped Phononic in developing the specifications for the next generation. Primaira provided theoretical analysis, hands-on experimentation, modeling, and simulation to support this effort.

Primaira’s Design Process

Primaira utilized its expertise in low-cost manufacturing and high-performance thermal systems to craft a second generation tote platform. This revision significantly reduced tote weight, minimized power consumption, and maximized usable cabinet space all while keeping the cost lower than Gen 1 tote.

Designing actively cooled totes is a challenge. Some of the innovations developed in this process consisted of:

  • Substituting expensive & heavy injection molded plastics for thin sheet metal parts
  • Increasing the insulation and the cabinet volume without changing the overall footprint
  • Rearranging cooling assembly to reduce power draw without altering any key components
  • Improving internal air flow to ensure uniform temperature distribution
  • Developing novel electrical contacts and docks to allow for easy plugging/unplugging that can be done by a human or robot
  • Designing custom hinges that allow for bi-directional lid opening and removal

Throughout the development process Primaira carried out a rigorous cycle of component design and verification. Every subsystem was subject to in-depth review, failure analysis, regulation compliance, and testing.

Manufacturing & the Product Launch Center

Figure 3: Heat Exchanger Testing Station in PLC

In the early prototyping stages of development, Primaira made an investment in its Product Launch Center (PLC). This facility greatly increased the company’s ability to fabricate and assemble products like the totes in much higher quantities. The facility includes machinery such as custom polyurethane foaming rigs for insulation filling and specialized testing equipment for thermoelectric components. The PLC has carefully laid out assembly lines to maximize product output. The facility made Primaira a clear standout option to manufacture the first few hundred totes in Phononic’s production plan.

Manufacturing operations at the PLC are accelerating as of January 2024. Phononic looks to fulfill product demonstrations and early orders from customers before initiating a wider product launch.