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]

111 thoughts on “It has blades: Dyson’s little white lie

  1. It is irrelevant if the internals use a turbine or a tribe of flatulent gnomes. The end result is moving air without the big, finger chopping, EXPOSED blades. Ergo…bladeless.

    Nobody bitches that their “wireless” keyboard actually contains wires on the inside.

  2. grovenstien: I love my Dyson. Haven’t found a vacuum that can deal with pet hair like it can. It will literally suck to the ground and clean rugs leaving no hair behind. (I have the ANIMAL version) Never had a suction issue yet.

    The handheld Root 6 also pushes so much air, it works as a great way to start charcoal BBQs :D (even though now when I use it, it smells like BBQ thanks to the filter. But who doesn’t want a BBQ scented vacuum ;)

    TJ said, “Nobody bitches that their “wireless” keyboard actually contains wires on the inside.”

    QFT! The blades aren’t doing the “amplification”, its the jets and ring.

  3. My first thought was how well it would propel things through that little vortex. Could make cubicle time more enjoyable if one could lob ping pong balls into it or something and smack people in the head with them at the office.

    If you were really bored you could fit a 2-liter bottle or something on it and make an auto-feeder, and servo guided directional control might be nice, along with fire button of course. We could connect it to an old Atari joystick.

    I’m not sure how long you’d keep your cubicle assaulting everyone with ping pong balls, but it would be a riot. On that note I’m going back to WoW. =P

  4. “fins have rows of tiny holes to reduce the friction” (Thanks Concino)

    Blocked by dust after use…

    Although given their background I would have thought they must have considered the effects of dust – manual cleaning?

  5. A. You are talking about the product, good or bad, the marketing worked. Its on awebsite in which it has no reason to be on.

    B. Monster Cables! I read further up…don’t get me started on those pieces of junk. I worked for an electrical retailer whilst at Uni, and had a whole days training fromMonster Cables on how to fleece thick consumers and charge £50GBP for a scart lead (don’t get me started on scart leads either!).

  6. Really, everyone is bashing the marketing… That’s missing the point yet somehow falling on your sword.

    Seriously, it’s in the patent ;) Marketing people regurgitating what’s in the patent isn’t marketing shenanigans.

  7. Ignoring the irritating marketing aspect of it, would it still work in rectangular form?

    I could see this being an amazing thing to build into a window frame in your house. You would get airflow into the house without blocking your view and the turbine could be hidden in the surrounding wall.

    Even with this particular model, hanging it upside down from a bracket in front of a window would get you pretty close, albeit for a hefty price.

  8. TJ: “It is irrelevant if the internals use a turbine or a tribe of flatulent gnomes. The end result is moving air without the big, finger chopping, EXPOSED blades. Ergo…bladeless.

    Nobody bitches that their “wireless” keyboard actually contains wires on the inside.”

    With that line of reasoning you could conclude that a fan-cooled computer is bladeless because you can’t see the fans. Okay, then air conditioners are bladeless too, right?

  9. I won’t enter the pointeless blades debate, but one thing is that large, slow rotating blades are replaced by a fast turbine … with the high frequency noise that comes with it. It’s much more inconvenient than the low frequency hum of a standard fan.

  10. just put a mac on one end.. since mac’s suck, it would stand to reason that it would gain better air flow with the mac on one side, pushing the air.. the best thing about it is, there would be no need to plug in the mac for the air to flow, since mac’s suck even when when no power is supplied to it…. my apologies to anyone at hackaday who uses macs.

  11. The reason it’s expensive is not because it is marketing, or a “bladeless fan”. It is expensive for the same reason that BMWs, Mercedes, and those kinds of things are expensive; R&D and name brands. The guy says that it took YEARS to do the research and development. They have to get the money back somehow.

  12. or were the 350 engineers used to get the centrifugal turbine drum to work? wtf?
    get soupcan
    eat soup
    cut slots
    bend slots into ‘fins’to cause drag
    spin can
    drag causes air inside to spin too
    give air only 1 place to go, through ejector ring.

  13. Two comments:

    1. Coanda effect anyone?


    Quote from Coanda’s original patent”

    “It is an observed fact that when a stream or sheet of fluid issues through a suitable orifice, into another fluid, it will carry along with it a portion of the surrounding fluid, if its velocity is sufficient. In particular, if a sheet of gas at high velocity issues into an atmosphere of another gas of any kind, this will produce, at the point of discharge of the said sheet of gas, a suction effect, thus drawing forward the adjacent gas.”

    Dyson is simply exploiting this to drag air into the annular ring. Coanda’s orginal patent (1936) must have run out years ago so time for someone to pick up on the idea again.

    2. Mitsubish Jet Towel

    Dyson’s previous “invention” was a hand dryer that is a copy of the Mitsubishi Jet Towel that has been around in Japan for at least a decade. Now Dyson’s overpriced copy is turning up around the world as a revolutionary new type of hand dryer.

    Seems like clever marketing and high prices can convince people what’s old is new again.

  14. Just seems like with equal power consumption a bladed fan would be more efficient. Also I don’t recall anyone whining about wind buffetting… Thank god for people who solve problems I didn’t know I had.

    He is also solving the problem of me having too much money in my pocket. Doing all of this at the same time. What a nice guy.

    Now I could see a use for personal wind tunnel tests but would I pay that much money or just build one if I need a personal wind tunnel?

  15. Turbochargers do not use blades. They use an a centrifugal impeller and an impulse turbine.
    They may look like blades but calling them blades is like my mother calling the games for the Atari 2600 tapes. They may look like blades but they work in a very different way than a bladed fan/propeller does.

  16. This is nothing new. Exxair makes material handling “conveyors” that use the same principle (and execution, basically). We were using them 10+years ago! They use compressed air, but the fan inside the “Bladeless” Dyson fan does the same thing.

  17. It uses an impeller in a closed housing much the same way as the water pump on your old car or, like others have said, the same way a turbocharger or supercharger forces air into your engine.

    it seems unreasonable to call them ‘bladeless’ only because they know the consumer is thinking “oh, no unsafe moving parts.” and in supporting the consumer’s misunderstanding, they become complicit in creating the false beliefs in the first place.

    I think it’s a tacky thought for a tacky product that will no doubt turn up in the Sharper Image catalog very soon.

  18. Dyson; solutions to mundane problems that don’t really need solving.

    It’d be different if there wasn’t a certain “snake oil” feel to many of their marketing efforts.

    Next up a 5 wheeled shopping trolly, the extra wheel prevents drift using a titanium coated rare element bearing adopted from the aero-space industry and is encased in a Teflon sphere to accentuate its existence and make it look like you’re getting something for the money.

  19. Honestly, does anyone *care* if their marketing is slightly sleezy? I mean, the comment about the wireless keyboard is a perfect analogy; in truth, wireless keyboards really do have wires inside them, just like computers and this product really do have bladed air impellers/fans.

    But like the original poster said, people don’t bitch about wireless keyboards not being truly wireless; all people care about is that they don’t have the one wire they always see in other keyboards. Just like no ones going to really care that there’s an air impeller inside the base of this thing if it ever catches on (doubtful as that may seem).

  20. And if you do a bit more “Do a bit more research” @Concino you discover that it employs the Coanda effect, known since c1800.

    If there is anything that really pisses me of about this, it’s the totally unfounded sneering claim to originality.

    “fins have rows of tiny holes to reduce the friction”. Again, this is old hat and done in most (all?) gas turbines where cooling air is injected into the boundry layer to keep the hot combustion gasses from actually touching the blades (again employing the Coanda effect).

    “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.”

    Three hundred and fugging fifty *strict* engineers (fishnets and whips optional)?!?! (That’s a “Goldilocks” number that ain’t gonna fly here!) But not, it would seem, an engineer actually *employed* by Dyson. In fact someone who was long dead before Dyson was ever thought of.

    And not one of those 350 dancing engineers had access to, or thought to use, Google while developing their annular venturi? (ipso facto: the average Hack-a-day-er is smarter than 350 ginger beers?)

    Dyson calls the actual air mover in the base an “impeller” and it is only a matter of semantics if you call the foils of an impeller “blades” or not.

    So the resulting air flow isn’t turbulent? Really? Sorry, perhaps LESS turbulent? For a greater distance from the device? Even if true, does this optimise personal cooling effect?

    The most interesting part of this “hack” is reminding us of some basic fluid dynamics, and giving us an object illustration of what marketing puffery does to basic science.

  21. Well, I’m not calling bullshit on this – mostly because it relies on the venturi effect to move air that isn’t moved by the turbine in the base of the unit. In essence, the turbine may only move 1 cubic foot per second, but the venturi effect may in fact cause 10 cubic feet per minute to actually move through the ring.

    Look it up.

  22. I wonder why no one has noticed that the hand dryer is ‘certified hygienic by NSF by protocol NSF P335’ which was developed by an ‘expert panel’ that included a Dyson Rep.

    I know that many people would not be happy to know that thier overpriced organic coffee or tea from starbucks/whoever is certified by an ‘expert panel’ that includes an Employee of starbucks.

    Also, they need to clear up that it is 15x more VOLUME, not velocity.

    I would like to have it upside down and sideways on the wall and have a contest to see who can make a basket with a crumpled paper ball. Could be interesting, if only for a minute.

  23. /me shakes his head.

    First off, understand that marketing is all about making a product sound new and exciting to separate it from the other products in its class, mostly by stating that it does the same type of job, only better in some respect, whether by performing a particular function better than the rest, or introducing an altogether new feature. When writing ad copy, Reality and Truth are given a glance now and then, mostly for liability reasons, and, let’s face it, even /American/ judges would be hard pressed to accept a lawsuit over calling it ‘bladeless’.

    James Dyson is a marketer, through and through, and, when he describes this new fan as ‘bladeless’, he is talking to consumers that don’t really care /how/ the job gets done, as long as it gets done; there are no big fan blades to be seen, therefore it is ‘bladeless’. Period. End of story, as far as Joe Consumer is concerned. Any engineers or engineer wannabes that cry foul are doing it to a captive audience: themselves. None of the rest of us /care/ if what actually /causes/ 1/16th of the eventual airflow to get moving are called ‘blades’ or ‘fins’ or ‘perforated, aerodynamically curved whosamawhachits’.

    What /I/, and most people with a business-like outlook are concerned about, is ‘is it worth the cost in the long run’? I have no problem whatsoever with a high initial cost, if a product is worth it. They mention brushless DC motors, which I know are a fair bit more expensive than the regular kind. It also looks pretty well engineered, which costs a *lot* in terms of hours. It’s also a ‘Dyson’ product, which automatically means a certain percentage in price boost. Fine. I can understand how all of that helps to inflate the price, but what I want to know is more basic:

    What is the maximum CFM I can expect?
    How does that CFM compare with regular fans of a similar size?
    How does that CFM compare with regular fans of a similar cost?
    What is the db/CFM profile (i.e. How noisy is it?)
    What is the life expectancy?
    What are the warranty terms?

    Those are the questions that I need answered before I can decide if it is worth the money.

  24. While I have no doubt they spent years researching and tweaking the design, it actually looks really, really easy to manufacture. I predict that within 2-3 years, a far east asian manufacturing company will have cloned the design and we will see similar knockoffs being sold for $40 at walmart. Sadly, patent infringement means nothing to some companies.

  25. Had a DYSON rep show me one of these running, It was nothing special at all. I was not surprised at the price either, all their stuff is over priced rubbish. This fan was very, very noisey i asked him to turn it down he said it was on the lowest setting, i laughed. When it was on high it was unbearable. I cant see how you clean the insides of it when you get dust ect in side. NOT good for allegy suferers. And it was very easy to knock over, due to its small foot print. oh well if only a practical engineer had some in put.

  26. yep, expensive rubbish. saw one on display at harvey norman store for 400 AUD. didn’t feel any air multiplication, only price multiplication. i reckon it’s got a 10cm blade fan inside, because that’s what the breeze feels like.
    it’s also fairly loud.
    am so gonna laugh at any suckers that buy it

  27. A “thrust augmentor” is basically a semi-gear reduction for flowing air.

    I used to work for Dyson in 2000 as the Regional Sales Manager for the north of England.

    Their products are brilliant, no denying it, but I found that a lot of people would rather save a £100 and buy a Vax :/.

    I remedied this and increased sales by 36% by re-training staff to give white lies like this – not big ones, but saying ‘it gives you 30% more suction than a Vax rather than 10%.

    Also, Dysons can lose suction because all vacuums do.


    Jakk – Your fellow Technoholic :D

  28. Dude, White lies? Claiming it increase sucktion 30% when it only increases it 10? That is not a white lie, that is a straight up fraud, and i’m sure 100% illegal.

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