The Bladeless Fan
From the makers of the $400+ vacuum with the big ball, comes the $300+ bladeless fan! Inventor James Dyson unveiled his latest product earlier this week. While the design aesthetic has garnered universal praise, the main focus has been on the audacious price given the times. Will people pay $300 for a 10″ oscillating fan? Dyson has already found success in delivering high-end products in a tough economic environment. His pricey upright vacuum cleaner debuted in 1993 at the height of a recession. They have since sold more than 31 million units with more than half of that volume achieved in the past three years.
Electric fans haven’t changed since they were invented in 1882. Different materials, new buttons and the addition of grills, but still the same problem – the blades chop the air before it hits you. That’s why they cause unpleasant buffeting. The solution? Take the blades out, and the buffeting stops. But how can a fan work without blades?
Dyson engineers started with pressurized 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 (think of an airplane wing). Hundreds of iterative tests revealed the ideal ramp angle, aperture width and loop amplifier dimensions.
Example of an impeller
Then came the problem of air intake – the motor had to suck in more than 20 liters (5.3 gallons) of air per second to generate a powerful enough jet. A 3D impeller 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. So in the most technical sense, the fan still has blades, they’re just completely enclosed.
- No blades makes it the safest fan on the market
- Light and easy to move and adjust
- Easy to clean
- Very expensive
- Surprisingly loud at higher speeds (think of an Xbox360 cooling down)
- Dead zone in the middle when hand is placed very close
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