Thursday, February 22, 2007

Me and My Dyson

I have just one more junk post before getting back to the important issue of Renaissance engineers. It's my vacuum cleaner.

There two aspects of my life that seem to foil the good intentions of most vacuum cleaners. I have a large long-haired dog (a Belgian Groenendael to be exact) and some sort of tightly woven Berber rugs that just trap lint and hair. Most vacuum cleaners don't cut it. The Dyson does. I'm not sure if my success is due to the Dyson's suction--which is prolific--or due to the very effective beater bar design.

What I like most about the Dyson is its engineering. It's a great product. It not only does what it's supposed to but it makes standard operation and maintenance a joy. Emptying the cannister is a snap and even cleaning and replacing the filter is quite straight forward.

The Dyson does, however, require some more detailed maintenance. The Groenendael fur, for example, tends to choke the beater bar and eventually works its way into the belt drive. This common event has burned the belts out of other vacuums but the Dyson has a clutch which will free-wheel the beater. The noise is terrific but nothing breaks. Every so often I have to cut the fur off the beater bar. Other designs would send me scurrying for some odd-ball screwdriver design (why doesn't everyone just use Robertson?). The Dyson, however, is very accommodating to the most common of impromptu fastener removers: the penny. Anticipating that users will likely be using coins to remove components from the device is just good engineering.

Other people have criticized Dyson designs because they don't feel like premium brands. They're not heavy; they don't contain a variety of ornate cast and forged metal pieces; they don't belong in a Victorian museum of the future nor in an exhibit of advanced Soviet technology. They are light and made of plastic. But this design also reveals some engineering brilliance. The vacuum is great and commands premium prices but I suspect that there is tremendous margin room. Not only is the thing designed to do what it is supposed to but it is designed to weather the price wars of inevitable fast followers... although patent protection seems to be doing a good job.


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