Dyson — the company that makes those bagless vacuum cleaners, bladeless fans and a high-tech hair dryer — isn’t situated in Silicon Valley or even in London. No, their headquarters is in the countryside. In Malmesbury to be exact, among the historical Cotswold countryside. On the bottom left, you’ll spy an Austin Mini that’s been sawn right in half. There’s a story behind that ...
Dyson engineers gave this half-sawn 1961 Austin Mini to Sir James Dyson for his 60th birthday. Dyson collects engineering marvels like other people collect art pieces, as both historical and inspirational artifacts. The Mini represents a breakthrough in car design, by mounting the engine transversely and setting the gearbox down in the sump, its engineers significantly reduced the size of the car while freeing up 80 percent of the space for passengers and seats.
This massive Harrier jump jet is parked right opposite the main lobby, and it’s the first thing you’ll see as you step out of your taxi. The British-designed aircraft from the 1960s represents another quantum leap in design engineering, with its ability to take off and land both horizontally and vertically.
This vehicle is one of James Dyson’s own. The Sea Truck is a high-speed watercraft that can carry and land, well, whatever you’d like. Dyson contributed to the design while he was still a student in the 1970s.
Dyson HQ was designed by WilkinsonEyre, the same architectural firm behind Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. The low-slung buildings were consciously designed not to overwhelm the surrounding countryside, but to gently “float” above the tree line.
Dyson’s latest product, the Supersonic hair dryer, takes pride of place in the main lobby. Released earlier this year, it packs Dyson’s smallest ever digital motor, and took four years plus £50 million to develop. It could very well be the best hair dryer in the world.
Dyson is best known for its cyclone vacuum cleaners, all of which fill the front lobby. Besides one of every model, special edition color ways are also on display. The fourth one from the left looks like it’s been inspired by the G1 Optimus Prime.
In 1978, James Dyson was frustrated with the performance of his bagged vacuum cleaner. After seeing how a giant cyclone at a local sawmill separated sawdust from the air, he wondered if he could make a new kind of cyclonic vacuum cleaner. It took him five years and 5,127 failed prototypes before he ended up with this — the first working cyclonic vacuum cleaner in the world.
Dyson was deep in debt after working on his vacuum cleaner for five years, so even after he succeeded with prototype 5,128 he couldn’t bring it to market. No company in the UK wanted to do it either, because the bagless vacuum would compete with their own bagged vacuums.
So Dyson licensed his technology to Japanese manufacturer Apex, which came out with this bright pink ‘G-Force’ vacuum in Japan. It was quite the success there and even won the 1991 International Design Fair prize. Dyson used the money he made from the G-Force to eventually release the DC01 under his own name.
Dyson’s very own DC01 was launched in 1993, and the new Dyson vacuum (counting the G-Force) broke with conventional vacuums in a few ways.
They were the first bag-less vacuum cleaners on the market, instead of sifting dust into a bag through a filter, they harnessed the power of cyclones to separate dust and air. They also featured clear canister bins, a first for vacuum cleaners, which didn’t hide all the nasty things it sucked up.
Having a clear bin was quite the controversial decision then, but James Dyson insisted, wanting people to see how effective the vacuum was. And it became a popular feature — perhaps seeing how much dirt they’d swept up gave its users a sense of accomplishment.
The 360 Eye is Dyson’s first robot vacuum cleaner, and the company actually worked on it for 18 years before deeming it good enough to go to market. One of the reasons it took so long was because James Dyson shelved the sensor-based navigation technology they’d been working on in favor of a new vision system. That’s why the robot is named the ‘360 Eye,’ the camera on top of the robot creates a panoramic view of its surroundings to create a cleaning pattern.
This glass table in one of the Dyson meeting rooms is also an engineering feat - it has no feet, and is entirely suspended by wires.
The Supersonic hair dryer is Dyson’s newest product and took four years to develop. Dyson was meticulous about getting it right, its team researched over 1,000 miles of human hair to understand the science of hair drying, spent over 275 hours studying how real people dried their hair, and worked with professional stylists for two years to understand what they needed from a hair dryer.
In 2015, Dyson bought his son’s lighting company, Jake Dyson Products. This is one of Jake Dyson’s inventions, the Cu-Beam down-light. Designed for the office, the ceiling mounted light uses LEDs to evenly illuminate the working space, and heat pipes dissipate heat away from the LEDs and into the wings.
This is another Jake Dyson invention; the CSYS Task Light. Eight LEDs provide light for up to 144,000 hours, with heat pipes drawing heat away from the LEDs and dissipated through the aluminum horizontal arm. The Light is ridiculously smooth and easy to position, using what Dyson calls 3 Axis Glide motion. You can literally use a single fingertip to slide the arm up, down and around.
Dyson recently expanded their headquarters, with 129 new advanced research and collaboration spaces. The new D9 building is one of them, it houses Dyson’s New Product Innovation and Research teams. The exterior is designed like a giant mirror, it reflects the beautiful English countryside surrounding it, and keeps its secrets safe from prying eyes.
A magnificent 1960 English Electric Lightning Jet hangs fully restored in the new Lightning cafe. The companies who spearheaded the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony orchestrated the installation of the aircraft, which is suspended using only three connections to the roof. Imagine having coffee right under that beast!
In the pick-up lab, Dyson tests how well its vacuum cleaners sweep up all manner of dust and debris, including dog food (far right canister). The assortment of dust in the lab is enough to make any dust connoisseur swoon (if there’s even such a thing).
These may not look like much, but they’re the beating heart of every Dyson success. Dyson’s motors power all of Dyson’s products, from the vacuum cleaners to the bladeless fans to the hair dryer.
The V9 digital motor used in the Supersonic hair dryer is Dyson’s smallest motor yet. It’s cut from a single piece of aerospace-grade aluminum, and made right here in Singapore. The 13 impeller blades spin at up to 110,000rpm, generating 3.5kPa of pressure.
It’s impossible for most to visit Dyson’s HQ in Malmesbury, but if you’re ever in Oxford Street, London, you can visit the Dyson Demo store and try out their products. You can even try getting your hair washed and blow dried with the Supersonic hair dryer. This is Dyson’s first Demo store in the UK, but there are Dyson Demo stores around the world, from Japan to China to Russia.