Most of 2017 went by lusting after Dyson’s home appliances, and getting some real hands-on time with the Supersonic.
This year brought with it an incredible opportunity to visit the brand’s R&D facility and manufacturing unit located in Singapore and experience first hand how they keep themselves busy so our lives can be made easy. While the story where once-upon-a-time, James Dyson was a harrowed customer himself has been told many times over, what remained unseen up till now was the Technology Centre they pride themselves on, tucked away in the neat confines of SouthEast Asia.
The good folks at Dyson rightly pride themselves on being a notch above everyone else when it comes to product design and the brains that are behind it are seated in this very office, located at Singapore. Even their manufacturing unit, which is futuristic in every way is a heavily guarded fortress. Seeing the lab coats in action, the dust-busters at Dyson were more than welcoming in sharing their clean world with us. The machines at the reception area are testament to the fact that they take their three primary categories - floorcare, environmental control and personal care - very, very seriously. The machines are dissected and displayed, for the benefit of anyone who visits to get a sense of all the heavy-duty engineering inside.
THE PHYSICS OF ACOUSTICS
We know Dyson is excellent at sucking up dust, cleaning up the air around you (too bad we live in cities that are so heavily polluted that our inherent survival despite the pollution levels could make for a Harvard case study in evolution and survival) and creating handheld beasts that add to the appeal of the most banal of everyday objects. The Singapore Technology Centre (STC) houses 300 engineers, all busy in the pursuit of perfection, intelligence and the aim of delivering a connected future. Cord free technology has reached peak development and now Dyson engineers keep themselves busy improving current tech and developing things for the future.
The picture here is the Acoustics and Vibrations Lab where Nicklaus Yu, Senior Acoustics and Vibration Engineer introduced us to the workings of the lab. This Semi-anechoic chamber helps in cutting down echoes and measuring the noise levels of their prototypes, bringing them down to acceptable levels by Dyson. The Supersonic and the V10 both measure impeccably for devices that have motors running in excess of a 100000RPM! Dyson follows strict ISO standards in making sure the numbers are credible for the customers. While we were being briefed on the dynamics of the V10 motor — how the air goes through a straight line, reduce separations as it travels through — we missed one minor detail in the midst of this all — the Pure Link fan was running all along — completely without making a sound
PEEP INTO THE FUTURE
Developing intelligent software for future smart home machines is what goes on behind the glass doors of the Future Lab. Complete with a home environment setup — with a couch, bed, and television, the Dyson engineers predict problems from the user’s perspective and solve them before they get in production. It’s set up to study how well the robots can navigate themselves. There are 3D motion capture cameras, barriers to simulate obstacles and engineers are encouraged to explore future opportunities, apply different ideas to existing machines to make smart home devices even smarter.
SINGAPORE ADVANCED MANUFACTURING FACILITY
A short drive away from STC is the Singapore Advanced Manufacturing Facility (SAM). This facility is the reason why they scream their love for automation at the top of their lungs. It’s more of a pledge to automation, really! Once inside, you’d expect a movie-like production process going on. But alas, this place is as far away from traditional expectations of what a manufacturing unit looks like. Firstly, the place is a guarded fortress, where all-things-robotic are guarded for the fear of stolen design, patent or technology. There are very few humans to be found here, more like robotic Oompa Loompas. The ones that are there (800 of them), are assigned mostly to man the stations that do their jobs round the clock, as line relies on robotics to manufacture the high speed electric motors.
Our first stop on the production floor introduced us to more than 300 autonomous robots whose sole job is to assemble the digital motor. This is the first of many steps before which these cordless things of wonder are delivered at your doorstep. This dedication to automation is precisely to avoid any error caused by humans. The size of most parts that go in the tiny little V10 motors is as small as one or two millimetres and the precision required is so high that well calibrated machines have almost zero percent chance of failing. That said, even machines aren’t perfect. At the rotor assembly line, for example, the machine dedicated to checking barcodes on the ceramic shafts (that make the motor lighter and allows it to spin faster) that go into the motor may read the barcode incorrectly and send it to the reject bin. That very well could have been a perfectly good part with just a little dust covering the barcode. The rotors are one of the most important components that differentiate the V10 motor from its predecessors. These tornados on a stick need precision levels that go beyond human capabilities, hence the billion-Dollar investment in advanced autonomous production.