British engineering marvel, Dyson, is all set to clean up India with its high-tech products

We take an inside look at what makes them tick and suck at the same time

For the most part, Dyson has only occupied a very small sliver of mind space of the Indian elite that has any exposure to international magazines or have accessed one of the many John Lewis stores while in the UK.

But all that’s about to change soon. Best known for its groundbreaking vacuum cleaner technology, Dyson is synonymous with home cleaning products and while it did make its millions in that segment, air purifiers and more recently, a whole new iteration of the hair dryer are poised to take the brand further into new homes and newer markets. India, being one of the key driving forces behind this expansion plan.

 

Separation anxiety

Google ‘Sir James Dyson’ and you’ll be flooded with stories about how he experimented with more than 5000 prototypes before he finally got the Cyclone engine right. What these stories don’t tell you is that virtually every Dyson engineer nowadays is prone to this process of rejection.

Only one of every four research projects gets a nod from Mr. Dyson himself and it has to be a product that solves a problem. The Cyclone engine in the D01 vacuum cleaner solved the problem of choked dust bags and inefficient suction power by separating the dust particles from the air itself, revolutionising vacuum cleaner tech forever.

Since then, Dyson has strived to separate smaller and smaller particles, giving birth to many generations of vacuum cleaners and eventually, the Cinetic Big Ball system now in use. Using ultra high-power motors to create a G-force between 200-500 around small rubber tips, it manages to retain a small footprint and tackle even tinier pieces of dust in the household environment.

 

Spending time with some of the 3000 plus engineers on the campus, it quickly becomes evident that the focus here is to develop and perfect a technology from the ground up, without using any external help from specialist brands. Case in point, the robotic 360 eye vacuum cleaner which uses advanced mapping and navigational electronics, mated to a 360-degree camera developed completely in-house.

All the optics and software required to work with the hardware had to be learnt, first, and then perfected until it became a product that retained the legendary suction power of a Dyson, but with the brains of a Google-Amazon love child. The in-house NPI (New Product Innovation) team is constantly looking at product categories old, new and beyond the realm of current imagination.

Engineers at Dyson swear by the work culture and openness of Sir Dyson to invest in a completely new indulgence without the judgement associated with failure. Millions of pounds are poured into the R&D of these half-baked ideas every week, in the hope that with enough persistence and knowledge, a new generation of consumer appliance will be born.

 

Designing the heart

For all of Dyson’s products, the common thread of performance is the all-important motor. From the X20 motor that spun at 90,000RPM to the new V6 and V8 motors that shreds air at a mind-boggling 1,10,000RPM, all of the motors and the associated electronics are designed and developed in-house that comprises of a team of 200 engineers in the DDM .

But that’s not where it ends. For the new Supersonic hair dryer, there's an engineering team that is dedicated to just designing the sound of the motor as it spins at full bore.

The advantage of having different disciplines of engineering under the same roof? The sound engineer can go back to the motor development team and simply by adding two more blades to the impeller fan, they were able to reduce SPL level by over 3dB and more importantly, keep the annoying whistling sounds beyond the range of human hearing.

It’s details like these that make Dyson different than other consumer appliances brands and true to their motto of solving a real-world problem rather than just making expensive versions of daily use items.

 

The Supersonic’s V9 digital motor is a ground-up design and manages to be small enough to be fitted into the hair dryer’s handle, disrupting the conventional design norm altogether. It is one of the world’s fastest and smallest motors, yet eight times faster and half the weight of conventional hair dryer motors.

The Dyson Airblade hand dryers on the other hand have a motor powerful enough to generate 420mph sheets of air that work like windshield wipers for your wet hands. These advances become apparent once you start understanding the thinking behind each product and the different design and engineering principles that form the basis of everything at Dyson.

 

Product range for India

All three major Dyson product ranges will make it to the Indian market and that includes their range of vacuum cleaners, air purifiers and of course, the Supersonic hair dryer. Air Purifiers are done in typical Dyson fashion and they build on the immensely popular (and copied), Dyson Bladeless fans.

The primary differentiating factor with the purifiers is that they can also be used as cooling and heating fans and along with the patented air multiplier technology, provide an effect that is unlike any other fan that hits you directly with a gust of wind. The Pure Hot+Cool Link purifier fan heater also comes with a partnering app that gives you accurate data on the air quality inside your home.

The little Dyson magic is seen on the remote control as well, which is magnetically stored in place on top of the air purifier when not in use.

 

More than a bag of dust

If like us, you too have a vacuum cleaner that you haven’t used in years, it’s time to look at the V8. Powered by Nickel-Cobalt-Aluminium batteries that last for up to 40 minutes on a single charge, the V8 can easily be affixed to its docking station when done and thanks to the cord-free form factor, it can be used beyond just the usual floor cleaning.

In hand-held mode, it can be used for car cleaning, hard to reach spots high up and anywhere a conventional vacuum hose cannot reach or be trusted with. Of course, being a Dyson, it has to be backed by a powerful motor and the V8 has 115AW of suction power, enough for pesky pet hair to be sucked up from deep pile carpets.

If you prefer the more conventional form factor with a healthy dose of cutting-edge tech, the Cinetic Big Ball series ensure that maximum cleaning power meets hygienic dirt disposal and no toppling over of the canister thanks to the low centre-of-gravity design ethos.

Whichever product you choose, Dyson assures that the products have been tested for every imaginable domestic hazard over a number of years in their labs. Performance deterioration isn’t an option and the 5-year warranty Dyson offers is testimony to endless man-hours that are put into each product’s testing.

For example, 4 tons of ‘test dust’ was used to develop and optimise the Cyclone designs, a 146kg person made to step on the product, it was rammed more than 20,000 times into table legs and obstructions similar to the ones every house will pose and run for 1500kms.

Thinking intuitively and laterally also has other advantages. Case in point the air that is released from Dyson vacuum cleaners goes through a HEPA filter, so not only do you clean the floor, but also get cleaner air in the room while at it!

 

Similarly, for the Supersonic hair dryer, the dedicated team of engineers burnt a hole amounting to 50 million pounds and four years in research time to reinvent the hair dryer and while doing so, went through various hair types from different countries to assess the effects of heat emitted from a dryer.

Yes, there are labs and special robotics formulated to simulate constant combing, drying and fiddling with hair so that a deeper learning is acquired before entering a new product category.

Even the air purifiers undergo an Electro Magnetic Compatibility test to ensure one doesn't cause any unwanted interference with other appliances around your home. After all, breathing clean air shouldn’t come at the cost of watching TV! A special chamber with a steel shell, deep in the bowels of their HQ simulates a completely interference-free zone.

 

A brief chat with Chief Engineer James Dyson reveals that his passion for solving real world problems and bridging the dearth of British engineers in the business has led him to start the Dyson Institute of Technology, a program that will offer a relevant alternative to a traditional university degree while offering wages and experience with actual product development teams.

Making more products has never been the end goal for Dyson, building better products has. And to support that claim, Dyson spends 7 million pounds (GBP) a week in R&D alone and has pledged a billion pounds on battery technology over the long term! It’s no secret after going through just a few of their 129 on-campus labs, that the key driving force behind every Dyson product is the engineering team that shares a singular vision.

 

Coming soon...

India will soon be seeing exclusive Dyson stores that will sell their range of Environmental Control, Floor Care and Personal Care products. There are just a handful of these exclusive stores in the world as of now and for India, Dyson is keen on controlling the experience for new customers and showing them the technology and engineering behind the unique products.

Talks of up to 20 stores all across key locations are on and if the Oxford Street store is anything to go by, customers will be in for a real treat. If Apple can make computers cool again, Dyson can certainly make home appliances desirable and it won’t be long until you’ll be lusting after a V8 too!