By Keith Hendren
The Dyson brand is known for three things. First of all, their CEO is a knight. Secondly, they’ve figured out how to make a real dynamo of a high-speed motor. Number three, because that motor is small, they’ve been able to shove it into a whole host of radical-looking vacuum cleaners, dustbusters and other things that suck. By the look of these things, they must end up being used as props in the play wars of dirty kids everywhere—look at one of their products from 10 feet away and tell me you see a vacuum and not a ray gun. But if you had recently surveyed all the weapons in Dyson’s arsenal, the one air-related object obviously missing was the common household fan…until now.
The newish line of Air Multiplier™ Dyson house fans and heaters are based on the novel (read: patentable) replacement of the typical large-diameter fan blade with a high-speed impeller in the base of the product. Air is pulled in through perforated base vents, up past the brushless DC motor and coupled impeller, pushed into the collimating ring and then extruded pasta-style out through an annular slit that directs the air to its final target. There’s nothing else like it on the market—not even close. That’s generally either a sterling of mark innovation, or an indicator of a widely-missed target.
Beyond the unique form factor, Dyson claims many unique design benefits. You can just picture the marketing group sitting around an early prototype. “So, the air that comes out—it’s smooth, right? Yeah, we can sell that.” Because if there’s one thing that enrages me, it’s when the air from my fan is choppy. It must have been the same group that came up with the name “air multiplier.” Believe me, Dyson is not violating the law of conservation of matter with this thing. They simply relocated the fan blade, made it smaller and spun it much faster (a.k.a louder). In fans, I actually prefer an inverse and more elegant tactic: make it bigger, and spin it slower. (Check out the aptly-named Big Ass Fans if you haven’t seem them before.)
I think Dyson would have been better off just claiming, “Looks cool, huh?” Instead, they rely on pseudo-engineering and marketing jargon. It reminds me of the innumerable industrial design portfolios I’ve seen with sketches of bicycles and motorcycles and other-cycles without hubs in the middle of the wheels. Wouldn’t it be awesome to just grab the edge of the wheel and create a bitchin’ new side profile? Besides the overly generous use of Ockham’s razor, it’s an egregiously blind eye to basic mechanics–next time you see someone walking with crutches, suggest they only hold on with their armpits. I’m a big fan of companies taking chances on new form factors, wedding good engineering to distinct design, but they need to stay honest—not every update is a reinvention of the wheel.