It Has Blades: Dyson’s Little White Lie


‘There’s a sucker born every minute” -P.T. Barnum

This morning we’ve been having a heated discussion at the Hack a Day offices (read: legion of doom) over Dyson’s new offering, a “bladeless fan”. At first this seemed extremely exciting, but how is the air being moved? We were hoping for a device operating via ionic wind but that’s simply not the case. Some of us think the bladeless claim is an outright lie, others understand it from a marketing stance, but we all agree: a fan with blades is still moving the air.

Dyson’s own information page states that “an energy efficient brushless motor” draws the air in with similar technology used in “superchargers and jet engines”, both of which use blades! The fan blades are in the base of this unit, they take in air and blow it out the ring. Just because you can’t see a fan, can we call our computers bladeless, or an air conditioner bladeless?

Enter the P.T. Barnum reference. Known as a man who could sell anything, his legacy lives on in the Dyson corporation. At 200 british pounds (~$320) for a ten inch desk fan, what are you getting that’s better than a traditional fan?  The design supposedly amplifies the air movement fifteen times, but we’re skeptical about that figure as there’s no energy-saving claim to go along with such an incredible power boost. One thing is certain, you will NOT get a fan without blades for your sterling… just one with hidden blades plus a huge marketing campaign.

[Thanks Gareth]

112 thoughts on “It Has Blades: Dyson’s Little White Lie

  1. What about their vacuums. They advertised for vacuums without ‘suction’, but as far as i know, they did suck the dirt up too, the ‘suction’ was just generated different then on a regular vacuum… I have not see them use the term ‘no suction’ in a while now… Another lie?

    1. Suction is as fictitious as centrifugal force. Air pressure pushes. In physics, you have pushes and pulls. You cannot pull air like you can pull a rope because there is too little intermolecular attraction. You can, though, have suckers. As P. T. Barnum observed, there is one born a minute.

      1. You are doubting that a motor can produce a lower point of pressure than the surrounding atmosphere? In general terms thats whats happening, the fan blades are pushing air out of a sealed container, that causes lower pressure to form at the backside of the fan or inlet, air then will be sucked into to the sealed chamber just as it was pushed out of that same chamber by the opposite side of the fan. Its overcoming the normal air pressure that surrounds us, whats positive on the blowing side is relative (negative) to the air it has displaced. You can say the air is being pushed into the void if you want but there’s no mistaking the fact that air is moving there because the fan created a lower pressure than the surrounding pressure it is placed in. Lower pressure allows air to move into an area, of course, higher pressure blown into an unsealed chamber has very little affect on our atmospheric pressure since it disperses into such a vast area. Basically air would never move if there was no lower pressure areas created, air always moves from higher pressure to lower. Whether you look at it as filling a void (being sucked into the lower pressure zone or being pushed by the higher pressure is like saying the glass is half full or its half empty.

  2. Well, some turbochargers use Tesla turbines, I think, which are in fact bladeless… I definitely don’t know any jet engines that use them, though. At least not for propulsion. I think some might use Tesla turbines as bleed-air power generators, but I don’t know that for sure.

    There’s also not enough information on the site to determine whether or not they’re using a bladeless turbine. I suspect we won’t settle this conclusively until someone does a teardown.

    The rest of it does look rather clever, though. I’m curious whether it actually works as well as claimed.

  3. I love this debate – it’s an awesome way to separate the smart from the clever. Clever notice the discrepancy between the claim and the reality, and point it out. Smart people notice the difference, but understand that it is of no consequence.

  4. ‘There’s a sucker born every minute” -P.T. Barnum

    Actually ‘There’s a sucker born every minute’ was a description of P.T. Barnum’s ability. It was a description of him not by him.

    SnortSnort Nerd

  5. Clever notice the discrepancy between the claim and the reality, and point it out. Clever dick people notice the difference, but understand that it is of no consequence.
    Smart people know that it is far more expensive but no better than a regular deskfan.

  6. see “thrust augmentor” which is basically a gear reduction for flowing air. mass flow remains the same. the fan pushes out low volume high speed, once it hits exits the ring, the shape changes the output to high volume low speed.

    and i agree, this article is a waste of time
    1) not a hack
    2) more a plug than anything else
    3) dyson products are akin to monster cables – all marketing

  7. Hey while everyone else is using larger quieter fans, lets use a smaller fan with airflow restriction! make up for the shortcomings with marketing!

    its a shame because i liked the stand up vacuum (although the 3 minute battery handheld one kind of “sucked”.)

  8. My mini-rant in Google Reader this morning as broadcast to a few of my pals: “This isn’t a fan with no blades. It’s a fan with blades hidden in the base that’s attempting to use the Venturi effect to make up for the inefficiency of burying the blades where they are prone to trap allergens and can’t be easily wiped down with a rag.”

    Boo hiss, once again, Dyson. You are not at the forefront of any kind of research or technology. You are, and will likely remain a snake-oil salesman that manages to hawk your sleek, over-priced gear via specialty stores full of suckers looking for home gadgets they do not need.

  9. This is really a minor lie. In comparison to most of the advertising world it is so small as to be meaningless. No exposed blades is all that is actually relevant to the consumer. Save your ire. Now charging >$300 for a table fan?

    BTW peterf1972: I think they advertised that their vacuums did not LOOSE suction and a lot of people misheard that as USE.

  10. Does Dyson actually claim it is bladeless, or was that claim only made by the author at

    I read on Dyson’s site that the fan doesn’t need “fast-spinning blades.” That doesn’t preclude the possibility of the fan having slow-spinning blades. It sounds to me like that is what they have. A slow fan with large blades would be quieter and impart as much energy to the air as a small fast fan. The air’s velocity is then increased by their clever design.

    While Dyson’s description might be a tad misleading, I don’t think they told an outright fib.

  11. A bladeless fan… Ha Ha, that contradicts itself.
    whats a fan without blades? I have no clue, besides that it is physically impossible for it to be a fan.

    But alas some people will say COOOL.

  12. I am completely fine with them calling it a bladeless fan. I think it’s great that they’ve found a way to move air and make it somewhat safer. Who cares. It looks nice and if it works, great.

  13. Hahaha! Seriously… this is pretty neat, they should have just marketed it as “mystery wind hoop” and then people wouldn’t be crying about it being an overpriced desk fan. This belongs on a shelf with the floating pen and newton’s cradle.

    Personally I think it would be super fun to sit behind it and throw crumpled up pieces of paper through the hoop… or cats.

    I could mount it to the back of my chair and insert my head into the hoop and be super cool all day too. Quick, somebody get one of these and OVERCLOCK IT TO 20x AIR MAGNIFICATON!!

  14. Aw come on guys – its a fan, it blows, has no blades (the air for the ‘amplifier’ could be drawn from anythings, compressor, turbine, tesla turbine), basically its a fancy variant of venturi vacuum pump (the one you stick onto a tap, and by running water it sucks, its called an aspirator right?). I like the concept, but marketing guys foobared big, oh and 200 pounds for a fan ?

  15. Do a bit more research guys: They do admit that they use “fins” on their brush-less motor:

    From here:

    Air Multiplier™ technology development

    Electric fans hadn’t changed since they were invented in 1882. Different materials, new buttons and the addition of grilles, but still the same problem – the blades chop the air before it hits you. That’s why they cause unpleasant buffeting. Take the blades out, and the buffeting stops. But how can a fan work without blades?

    Dyson engineers started with pressurised air, forcing it through narrow apertures to create jets. But they needed it to be more powerful to work in a fan. The breakthrough came when they noticed that accelerating air over a ramp amplified it by 10 – 20 times, drawing in surrounding air through processes known as inducement and entrainment. Hundreds of iterative tests revealed the ideal ramp angle, aperture width and loop amplifier dimensions.

    Then came the problem of air intake – the motor had to suck in more than 20 litres of air per second to generate a powerful enough jet. A 3D impellor was required. Its nine asymmetrically-aligned fins have rows of tiny holes to reduce the friction caused by colliding high and low air pressure – birds of prey balance air pressure around their wings in a similar way.

    The smoothness of the resulting airflow was tested and proved using an optical technique called Laser Doppler Anemometry. Millions of tiny particles projected by the fan reflect thousands of readings a second, plotting air speed and direction.

    One engineer had the original idea. But it took every discipline from Dyson’s 350-strong team of engineers and scientists to develop Air Multiplier™ technology.

  16. The breakthrough came when they noticed that accelerating air over a ramp amplified it by 10 – 20 times, drawing in surrounding air through processes known as inducement and entrainment. Hundreds of iterative tests revealed the ideal ramp angle, aperture width and loop amplifier dimensions.

    Hahahaha excuse me while I look back at 30 years of air amplifier technology looking almost exactly like dyson’s “fan”.

    The 15x figure is about right for an air amp, and it’s a neat use of existing technology, but the dyson page is so full of bullshit you couldn’t clear it with a piss multiplier.

    BTW, feeding pressurised propane through an air amplifier nets a high speed mix that is perfectly proportioned for combustion. If you catch my drift.

  17. Forgot… Applicable EU patent documentation:

    Trying to track down USPTO docs. EU documentation makes the claim: “The fan provides an arrangement producing an air current and a flow of cooling air created without requiring a bladed fan i.e. air flow is created by a bladeless fan.”

    Regardless, I can still appreciate the design and wish I did it first (regardless of how well such flow principles are understood)

  18. Dyson might be run by a bunch of carnies, but I own a Dyson Allergy/Animal vacuum and it is seriously the best vacuum I’ve ever owned, and I’ve owned a lot of vacuums. It gets used frequently with two cats in the house and it helps immensely with my allergies. Just sayin’ it’s not all bad.

  19. It may have blades, it may be based on old principles, but I’d think the lack of pinch points from an exposed fan would be a huge advantage for people with young children.

  20. The 3d is deceptive. You can see the spiral oriented pockets “buffets” of air, but what looks like a cylinder full of air is just a thin ring of wind that has less power than bladed fan inside.

  21. I really want to see how this works. I’ve accepted the fact that it’s just harder to see the blades but it still looks pretty damn cool, too expen$ive for me, but could it be recreated cheaply?

  22. I agree, this thing better not be anywhere near as loud as either of my dyson vacuums. They are like freaking jet engines. Even the small handheld Root6 is noisy as heck.

    Wonder the power draw on this fan.

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