The reengineered Airblade has knocked off 1.1kg of weight and is fitted with Dyson’s latest V4 digital motor: one of the world’s smallest 1600w motors which, using digital pulse technology, can accelerate from 0-90,000rpm in less than 0.7 seconds. But while the innovation behind these designs is impressive, to say the least, what is really interesting is the lengths they go to test the durability of their hand dryers.
There is no substitute for bashing, kicking and abusing machines during development
Nothing is left to chance: after testing the dryers with synthetic hands hundreds of thousands of times they then bring in their strongest colleagues to try and beat up the machines – it’s certainly thorough, if rather unconventional.
Humans Invent spoke to Dyson lead designer, Chris Osborne, to find out what really goes on behind closed doors.
One of our development rigs has a set of representative hands created which were made from resin. This was created to give us a repeatable way of wetting and drying the hand in a controlled environment during development. The rig moves the arm in and out of the machine in the same way each and every time.
Not all of the test rigs use this setup though, most of the life test rigs which we run millions of times use a simple moving paddle that moves in and out of the machine. This tests 20 machines at any one time for between 10 and 12 seconds and this is done 350,000 times on each machine across thousands of prototypes.
Synthetic hands can’t mirror all the nooks and crannies found on a human hand. Each and every little wrinkle conceals tiny amounts of liquid that could vary dry time. And hairy hands cannot be replicated by synthetic hands – hairs have a way of trapping water. Testing real hands allows us to better understand our machines and ensure that they are fine tuned to achieve the dry time that we are aiming for.
Our engineers also douse the machines in chemical concoctions
It is good to use real people when testing because it better simulates the real world environment. Industrial life testing is important as it controls variables and is repeatable, but there is no substitute for bashing, kicking and generally abusing machines during development. This replicates the roughest washroom environment – even notorious pubs and football stadiums.
Our engineers also douse the machines in chemical concoctions to ensure the materials are all up to scratch. These tests allow us to understand more about our machines – we quickly learn if a material isn’t right or if a component is weak. This all feeds back into the development process.
We’ve broken plenty of machines in the prototype phase. That is the point. We test our machines to the limit so that we can understand their weaknesses and learn how to improve them. This means the final machine is built to last and able to withstand the rigours of the washroom environment.
In what other ways is the Airblade rigorously tested?
The inside of the machine is tested just as much as the outside. Our Dyson digital motor V4 is tested to 1500 hours of continual usage. We run whole rows of motors non-stop in our £150m digital motor factory in Singapore. We take this testing to the extreme by running them in -40°c arctic like conditions to 70°c hot and humid tropical atmospheres. This way we know our motor will perform just as well in Australian heat as Manhattan humidity.