Inside Dyson: Design, development and the retail sell (Part One)

By Claire Reilly

With the recent launch of Dyson’s new DC44 Digital Slim Animal handstick vacuum cleaner, the British company has updated its technology and offered retailers an innovative new product to sell to consumers. had the opportunity to speak to Dyson engineer, Nichola Sheargold, who was intimately involved in creating the new machine. In part one of this feature, Sheargold speaks about the small changes that have been made to make a bid difference on the living room floor. What has been your involvement with the development of the DC44?

Nichola Sheargold: I started on the project when I came into Dyson as a graduate a year and a half ago.  When we started, we knew that we were using the Dyson digital motor and we were looking at new battery technology which gave us a lot more power and more efficiency out of the motor. That meant that we could do quite a lot with the floor tools, which is really my big part of this project.

Because we’ve got this new technology, we’ve been able to put 100 per cent more power into the cleaner head, which means that you get much more pick up and much more penetration into the carpets and you’re able to clean a lot more efficiently.

C: How have the changes in the mechanics affected the design?

NS: When we started off, we looked at conventional machines and all the weight was in the bottom – when you’re trying to lift them up stairs or you want to do something a bit higher up, it’s really impossible. So by looking at a lever principle, we’ve moved the motor and the battery right into the start point of the lever, right where your hand is.

If you’re trying to do a cobweb or something, the idea is that you can move along the floor and, because all the weight is near your hand, it’s really easy to then swing the vacuum up. It really came from us trying to make it easier for people, especially if you only have a flat or a small home and you don’t want a big upright machine in the cupboard. It’s really quick and it doesn’t make cleaning as much hassle.

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C: What is your advice to retailers selling the DC44 on the retail floor? What features should they sell?

NS: The key thing is our four key technologies. The Dyson digital motor is really small and lightweight and really efficient. And then we’ve got the new battery technology which means that we get 20 minutes of run time but it doesn’t fade. A lot of other competitors have longer run times but the performance really drops off, but we’re really picking up in that whole 20 minutes.

The cyclone technology has also shrunk. So what works in our big machines, we’ve condensed it but it still works just as well. We haven’t compromised. And the anti-static carbon fibre on our brush bar is a really good step for pick up on hard floors, which means we get fine dust and the nylon gets all the dirt out of the carpets. So four points: motor, battery, cyclone, floor tool.

C: Where to now after the DC44?

N: The steps that we’ve made with the motors and batteries, we’re constantly developing, we’re not the sort of company that sits back and relaxes and thinks, ‘Well we’ve done a really good job there’. We’re not that at all. We do something and we make it as good as we can, and then maybe the next situation we’ll be trying to develop that further. Are there any more technologies outside that can influence that? Can we make improvements? We’re really trying to keep going. We never stop and say that it’s done.

Dyson engineer, Nichola Sheargold.

Next week: Inside Dyson's design studio and how each product is made and tested.

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