The man and the vacuum cleaner: James Dyson

James dyson

PM editor-in-chief Alexander Grek (left), Mr. Dyson with his DC-08 vacuum cleaner (center) and editor Yevgeny Bogorad (right)

Dyson does not claim to have invented an iMac, but see for yourself: this completely transparent vacuum cleaner is several years older than Apple's toy

50% of people prefer the DC-07 "standing" vacuum cleaner

Especially for this machine, Dyson developed an artificial finger that pressed each button 10 thousand times

That's how water behaves in Dyson’s “washer”

At the end of November, the great English inventor and designer James Dyson flew to Russia for several hours.

The director of the London Design Museum has become famous for inventing a modern vacuum cleaner that works without a dust bag. At the same time, he managed to break the mass of established stereotypes - about mathematics as the basis for the construction of mechanisms, plastic as a fragile material, design as a beautiful shell and discoveries as the destiny of geniuses. The editors of Popular Mechanics (PM) talked about this and much more with the legendary Englishman.

Who is he?

We will not retell the biography of the inventor in detail: how he studied - first design, then engineering, then traded the results of his inventions, selling the Sea Truck to both Egyptians and Israelis; how he came up with a garden trolley with a ball instead of a wheel; how his partners “threw” him, together with whom he manufactured and sold it.

In 1978, something broke in an old Hoover brand vacuum cleaner. Delving into a damaged mechanism, Dyson marveled at the imperfect design. Trying to get rid of the dust bag, he made his first “cyclone” out of a box of cornflakes. Between this day and the moment the first serial Dyson vacuum cleaner was produced, 15 years passed, during which 5127 (!) Prototypes were manufactured.

The result was a mechanism, the principle of which even modern aerodynamics describes very roughly.

The Dyson vacuum cleaner is remarkable in that it always sucks in air with constant force and does not “spit out” anything at all, unlike other vacuum cleaners. Why is this happening?

In conventional vacuum cleaners, air passes through a special bag, where the dust is filtered off and trapped. The trouble is that, firstly, not all dust is delayed (ask asthmatics!), And secondly, after 10 minutes (that is, after “consuming” about 200 g of dust), the suction power of such vacuum cleaners halves. And it continues to fall as the pores in the bag become clogged. And in the Dyson vacuum cleaner, the suction force does not drop. (The mechanism of action of the “double cyclone” is described in detail in the inset.) The principle of the vacuum cleaner turned out to be so unusual that the shops, fearing to scare away housewives, refused to use the mention in the advertisement that the air speed in the “outer cyclone” reaches 320 km / h, and in the interior it is generally supersonic. Frankly, few people know about supersonic.

World of beautiful things

James Dyson would not become a legend if he only taught the vacuum cleaner to disperse dust to supersonic speeds. For example, he gave plastic a second life. As the Englishman told us, the material was actually killed by engineers who made flat things out of it, and yet the fantastic strength of plastic is manifested only in round shapes. And the forms of Dyson vacuum cleaners are what they need. And as a result - strength.

Once, when Dyson was not yet recognized on the streets, he came to a household appliance store where his products were sold, and asked what vacuum cleaner he would be advised. Recommended some kind of German. He asked: “But Dyson?” In response, he received a completely unexpected: “But he is very fragile!” Then Dyson introduced himself, called the manager and invited everyone to hammer on their brainchild. No matter how hard the staff tried, not a single crack appeared on the body of the vacuum cleaner. Well, the German shattered.

Dyson transparent

Dyson's dust collector is not only plastic and durable, but completely transparent. Its creator was the first to proclaim that well-designed mechanisms are beautiful in their own right and that you don’t need to hide them behind opaque covers without the need - people like to look at them. It is now everywhere you can see transparent home electronics, mobile phones, Swiss watches (the so-called "skeletons"), and 15 years ago it was a revolution.

It is impossible to predict what associations this or that idea will cause for others. Dyson was once asked: “Is your transparent dust bag a tribute to the postmodern design and, in particular, to the Pompidou Center in Paris, which Richard Rogers built?” “No, ” Dyson replied, “the bulb is transparent because it’s clear right away, it’s not time whether to clean it. "

The inventor was frightened that the public would not buy such things for the home - she would be disgusted by looking at the dust. “What do they know, these advertisers and marketers, ” says Dyson. Millions of cars sold clearly testify in favor of the correctness of the inventor's thoughts.

An unpleasant pile of dust that remains after all the other vacuum cleaners, Dyson managed to make the basis of his advertising. This dust provoked endless lawsuits. For example, in France, Electrolux sued Dyson for precisely this. The French judge satisfied the lawsuit, too lazy to listen to the arguments. Then Dyson was invited to visit a popular humorous program in France, so that he showed the very dust that no one could see.

Of course, Dyson’s “vacuum cleaners” were not so much a scandal as a piece of engineering itself. No wonder it is exhibited in almost all world design museums. And James Dyson himself in 1999 was appointed director of the Design Museum in London.

Big business is done by ordinary people

Dyson even built his own business in a completely different way. For example, any of his employees - from a mechanic to a sales director - must always collect a vacuum cleaner with their own hands on the first day at work. This is done so that every employee of the company knows exactly how the structure of what they all create together is arranged. After that, the employee is given a vacuum cleaner so that he can use it at home. But there is no free cheese: if you liked the vacuum cleaner, you will have to pay 20 pounds for it.

Designers are sitting in the same room as the engineers. This is done on purpose: they are constantly in contact when creating a product. Joint creativity is also helped by the complete absence of walls and cabinets in the main working room.

Each employee can submit an idea. For example, Secretary Jackie suggested indicating the support phone number directly on the handle of the vacuum cleaner.

The company never disseminates memoranda: they create an alienation in the team, says Dyson. If he has something to say, he speaks to the employees himself.

Cafe is a separate story. Once Dyson came across an antique shop, which at the same time was also a gourmet restaurant. He talked with the mistress and found out that most of the antique dealers (at least in England and France - he did not say anything about Russia) are gourmets. So the idea was born to attract gourmet antiquaries to create a cafe at Dyson's main enterprise. This restaurant does not resemble ordinary factory canteens. There, all the food is a healthy food, mainly Mediterranean. These are fruit salads, and eggplant in crackers, and steam fish, and violet salad, and fresh cheeses, and carrot-orange soup, and much more.

But no fried fish and potatoes. The first few weeks, new employees are usually surprised, but then they get used to and become apologists for a healthy diet. And before our eyes begin to look better.

Dissimilarity is a quality that Dyson cultivates in his collaborators. Thinking outside the box is the foundation of the whole process. He does not like geniuses: firstly, they are difficult to find, and secondly, they are usually overrated. And all the rest are ordinary people, each of whom may come up with a wonderful idea. Therefore, Dyson is recruiting graduates, they are not yet spoiled by work in ordinary companies and are susceptible to sound ideas. By the way, Bill Gates does the same for the same reason.

All this recalls ideas from some optimistic textbook, right?


Few know about Dyson's vacuum cleaner. And quite a few heard that he also came up with a washing machine. It would seem that something new can be done with the washing machine?

But that's what they said to young Dyson when he tried to realize the idea of ​​his vacuum cleaner! “If such a method existed, Electrolux or Hoover would probably have thought of it!” - the inventor heard these words most often in life.

Dyson noted that hand washing is much more efficient than machine washing: it takes less time, and the result is much better. Studies began, as a result of which it turned out that with a hand wash, the fabric structure is subject to much more sophisticated loads than in a traditional washing machine. Then Dyson came up with a contrarotator.

If the drum of a conventional washing machine is cut across into two cylinders and twisted them in different directions, then inside there will be turbulence, very similar to the movement of water during hand washing. In the Dyson machine, this was done: the drums spin in different directions, each at a speed of 1400 rpm. The result is impressive: the machine erases four times faster than usual. The only thing that we did not understand and what we asked the inventor at the meeting was why the machine is opaque, why the inventor cheated on himself. The answer was simple: at the time of its creation, there was still no transparent material that was strong enough, suppressed vibration and was waterproof.

But now such fantastic material has been found and the feasibility of producing such a machine is being discussed.

And other home appliances

We knew about Dyson's robot vacuum cleaner, but could not see it: the device is in the stage of “home testing”. This means that Dyson's employees go to the homes of the British and offer to use the miracle of technology for a while. Then the experimental subjects are asked what problems they encountered and what they would like from such a vacuum cleaner. And although Dyson was suspiciously taciturn on this subject, we still managed to find out that, unlike the brothers from iRobot and Electolux (about which “PM” wrote in December), Dyson's robot is a full-fledged vacuum cleaner, with and without a “double cyclone” compromises in power. But with the most interesting - navigation systems - everything seems to be still imperfect there. No, he is not as stupid as the American miracle, and he is better oriented than the Trilobite. Just from Dyson we were expecting something revolutionary. A robotic vacuum cleaner just honestly builds a floor plan and cleans all the rooms on the same floor, never going through the same place twice (but a person does this all the time, forgetting where he already went with a brush).

We also asked which household appliance is the most difficult to automate. “Iron, ” Mr. Dyson puzzled us with his answer. “The hardest part is the ironing robot.” As for home robots in general, our idea of ​​them is formed largely by writers whose imagination was so wretched that they did not predict computers and, most importantly, computer networks (only Clark can boast of what the Internet foresaw). As a result, the need for moving robots has disappeared. Now robots are just elements of a home computer system: something picks up smoke, something turns on the radio. Very important will be precisely the mutual “communication” of familiar home appliances.

The article was published in the journal Popular Mechanics (No. 2, February 2003).


Su-57 will receive unique ejection seats
10 crazy Japanese inventions
Hongqi CA72: the first Chinese "member"