James Dyson’s greatest inventions
Few British designers can claim to have had as much impact on the cleanliness of our homes as Sir James Dyson – but the man’s achievements go far beyond hard-sucking, bagless vacuum cleaners.
Join us as we take a stroll through 40 years of Dyson’s most significant, most innovative products.
ROTORK SEA TRUCK (EARLY 1970S)
While still a student at the Royal College of Art, James Dyson spent part of his time working for British manufacturing company Rotork. Aged just 23 he designed the Sea Truck, a fibreglass boat able to carry a load of up to three tons. It was used by the military as a landing craft, as well as by the oil and construction industries.
After seeing a wheelbarrow get stuck in muddy ground, Dyson was inspired to create this: with its wide plastic ball wheel and plastic hopper, the Ballbarrow was far stabler and lighter than a traditional wheelbarrow – a boon on uneven or wet ground. Something of a design classic – and the ball would play a (quite literally) pivotal role in many of his later designs.
KLEENEZE ROTORK CYCLON 1000A (1983)
Dyson had been prototyping vacuum cleaner designs since 1978, and five years later his former employers at Rotork funded the first production model: the Cyclon 1000A. Manufactured by Zanussi and distributed by Kleeneze, the Cyclon was extremely expensive for its time (the equivalent of well over US$2,000 today) and only 500 were made.
The design was also manufactured under license by Japanese company Apex and sold as the “G-Force”. It was a success in the Far East, and the revenue enabled Dyson to set up his own company.
DYSON DA001/DC01 (1993)
A decade after the Cyclon came the DA001 (quickly renamed the DC01), the first vacuum cleaner sold under the Dyson name and, to put it mildly, a real game-changer (despite being a very similar design to the Cyclon). Dyson’s patented Dual Cyclone technology gave the DC01 huge suction power compared to its rivals (90 airwatts, to be precise) and dispensed with the bag for the first time – although this brilliant tech came at a premium price. Given the money James Dyson had invested, and the 5,127 prototypes he created before finalising the design, the price was justified.
DYSON DC02 (1995)
Dyson’s first cylinder cleaner, the DC02 had a shape that allowed it to sit easily on stairs. It featured the same Dual Cyclone motor as the DC01.
DYSON CR01 CONTRAROTATOR (2000)
The CR01 was another groundbreaking product: the first washing machine to feature two counter-rotating drums. This setup meant it replicated the action of hand-washing clothes, keeping the laundry constantly manipulated and flexed and allowing detergent to penetrate the fabric more effectively. Despite this, Dyson’s washing machine business proved unprofitable and a few years later, the company stopped building them.
DYSON DC07 (2001)
The first of Dyson’s vacuum cleaners to come with Root Cyclone technology, which improved the Dual Cyclone engine by adding more cyclone chambers. This gave it 280 airwatts of suction power. The DC07 was the first model to be sold in the US.
DYSON DC06 (2004)
Dyson has been working on a robotic vacuum cleaner for seemingly forever – but has never put it into production. James Dyson claims that the DC06 worked fantastically well thanks to an amazing complement of electronic brains and more suction power than rivals, but its 70 sensors and three on-board computers meant it was also fantastically expensive to build – it would have cost something like US$5,000. The company put the project on ice, with James Dyson saying he wouldn’t build a cheap robotic vacuum that didn’t work as well as the pricey prototypes.
But Dyson isn’t done with robots: the firm just announced that it will be putting US$8 million into a joint robotics lab with Imperial College London, which will be used to develop better vision systems for domestic robots that can adapt to changes in real time and enable them to navigate our homes in a more intelligent way. Dyson believes that programmed and pre-ordained navigation won’t cut it in the dynamic modern home, and that this new lab will allow them to create a more intelligent system of domestic helpers.
DYSON DC15 “THE BALL” (2005)
Dyson revisited his 30 year-old Ballbarrow design for the DC15, an upright that replaced the front wheels with a single large, wide ball. This allowed the vacuum to be steered around your floor with far less effort, and has become a standard feature on both upright and cylindrical Dyson cleaners since.
DYSON DC16 (2006)
The company’s first battery-powered, handheld model, the DC16 weighed just 1.5kg and delivered 36 airwatts of suction from its dinky Root Cyclone engine. Variants designed for pet hair and in-car use were also released.
DYSON AIRBLADE (2006)
Dyson’s air-moving expertise wasn’t to be restricted to vacuum cleaners, and in 2006 it was applied to commercial hand dryers with the Airblade. Rather than using a wide stream of heated air to dry your sodden mitts, it produces a single layer of cool air moving at a speed of 400mph that dries hands in 10 seconds. Dyson says the Airblade uses less electricity than its competitors as well as working far more quickly, while the cooler air doesn’t increase bacteria to the same degree as traditional dryers.
In 2013, Dyson squeezed Airblade tech into a water tap, allowing people to wash and then dry their hands at the basin.
DYSON AIR MULTIPLIER (2009)
A bladeless fan that moves 27 litres of air per second without the possibility of chopping off your fingers. How? By forcing air through a fine circular aperture, causing its velocity to increase and to drag the air at the centre of the circle with it. The principal behind the Air Multiplier was revisited in 2011’s Dyson Hot fan heater, which added a thermostat and could work as both a cooling fan and a room heater.
DYSON DC56 HARD (2013)
The company’s latest model is a battery-powered handheld designed for cleaning hard floors. It works in a similar way to the DC16, but a long attachment adds replaceable wet wipes which shine your tiles or floorboards while the Cyclone engine sucks up dirt.
DYSON CINETIC (2014)
The present-day Dyson doesn’t just dispense with the bag – it’s killed the filter too. Why? Because it’s a right pain to clean, and it’s prone to clogging (and thus reducing suction), says Dyson.
Fine, flexible tips on the ends of the Cinetic’s cyclone chambers oscillate during vacuuming, which prevents dust from sticking to them and ensures that they remain clear and unblocked at all times. So, in that ‘never loses suction’ claim, never theoretically really does mean never. Clever stuff.