Why does the vacuum cleaning innovator Dyson have 350 engineers on staff?
The company won't say but they all aren't working on the vacuums, said Andy Samways, an engineer at the British company in an impromptu meeting at The Cool Products Expo at Stanford University. All Samways would say is that the company is looking at different types of inventions and products.
In the past few years, Dyson has become a worldwide brand with its cyclone vacuum cleaner. Founder and inventor James Dyson wasn't happy with his home vacuum cleaner, which lost power as the bag filled up. One day, he saw an industrial wood chipper, which operated on a cyclone principle: the wood chips got sucked into a whirling cylinder and then sank down because wood is heavier than air. Because they sink, the wood chips don't impede airflow.
"It is the same principle as a centrifuge," Samways said. Dyson then built 5,000 prototypes before coming up with his first vacuum, the Dyson Cyclone, in 1993. It was a big hit in Europe.
Since then, the company has adapted its basic vacuum for different markets. In Japan, for instance, the company makes a small one that looks like a ball with a telescopic handle. It takes up less space. The Japanese version also does not come with an on-off switch that you step on.
"They don't turn things on with their feet in Japan," Samways said. This model of the vacuum also contains a more efficient electric motor than earlier versions, he said.
The vacuum wasn't the first product out of Dyson the person. Before getting into vacuums, he designed a Sea Truck, a boat for transporting cargo, and the Ball Barrow, a wheelbarrow with a ball for the front wheel. The ball is also now incorporated into the vacuums.