Fan gets a FAN

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Dan Neil

WITH his com­pany’s var­i­ous cy­clonic giz­mos — track-ball vacuum clean­ers and wall-mounted hand dry­ers and the like — in­dus­trial de­signer and in­ven­tor James Dyson has emerged as the peo­ple’s aero­dy­nam­i­cist, a tamer of vor­texes and lam­i­nar flow, the Edi­son of air.

Fa­mil­iar to Amer­i­can con­sumers from his role as com­pany pitch­man, the hand­some and ter­ri­bly rich English­man is prob­a­bly best known for the com­pany’s “dual cy­clone” upright vacuum, in which Dyson takes ev­i­dent pride.

But with Dyson’s new Air Mul­ti­plier — a high­tech re-imag­in­ing of the com­mon house­hold fan that seems to charm a breeze out of empty space — the man has se­cured a place in what­ever in­dus­trial de­sign mu­seum you care to name. It func­tions beau­ti­fully and looks great too. This thing is flat-out bril­liant.

You, of course, want to know how it works. The base of the unit con­tains a high-power fan — an im­peller, tech­ni­cally. Pres­sur­ized air is then forced through a nar­row cir­cu­lar slit (1.3 mil­lime­ters) at the back edge of the de­vice’s dis­tinc­tive hoop. This struc­ture is es­sen­tially an an­nu­lar wing, or bar­rel-shaped air­foil.

As the jet of air flows over the in­ner di­am­e­ter, it ac­cel­er­ates across the sur­face, then be­gins to tum­ble into wafts of pil­lowy tur­bu­lence. This ac­cel­er­ated cylin­der “en­trains” sur­round­ing air so that the vol­ume of air that’s ul­ti­mately moved is 15 times the vol­ume orig­i­nally moved by the im­peller. Got all that? Or you could just say it’s magic. There are many things about the Air Mul­ti­plier that are de­light­ful. First, the per­sonal elec­tric fan has re­mained rel­a­tively un­changed since the late 19th cen­tury, and be­fore that you’d have to go back to the Hit­tites, slaves and palm fronds. You have to give Dyson full marks for so boldly recon­cep­tu­al­iz­ing some­thing so fa­mil­iar and func­tional. This is the prover­bial bet­ter mouse­trap.

Sec­ond, you just know some lit­tle kid, mar­veling over the mys­ter­ies of ap­plied fluid dy­nam­ics, will even­tu­ally be­come a great physi­cist all be­cause his folks put an Air Mul­ti­plier in his nurs­ery.

And speak­ing of lit­tle kids, which I have, point No. 3: There is no way lit­tle fin­gers or tongues can get diced up in the Dyson fan.

The Air Mul­ti­plier does all the usual fan tricks. It os­cil­lates 90 de­grees on its swivel­ing base, as well as tilts up and down through a range of about 30 de­grees. A vari­able speed knob al­lows users to se­lect air­flow vol­ume, any­thing be­tween gen­tle breeze and kite weather.

But let’s not kid our­selves. The Dyson Air Mul­ti­plier is not so su­pe­rior that peo­ple would spend $300 or more just to keep cool. No, peo­ple will buy the Air Mul­ti­plier to be cool.

Here too it can help, be­cause the thing is sim­ply lovely: fu­tur­is­tic, sleek, vaguely enig­matic, like a table­top an­tenna to the af­ter­life. The 12inch model I tested ($329) had the dark char­coal­col­ored plas­tic hous­ing (also avail­able in white and sil­ver) with a buff cobalt fin­ish on the air­foil sur­face.

My only tweak to the de­sign might be to find a way to dial a cou­ple of deci­bels out of the tur­bine’s op­er­a­tion. That said, the de­vice I tested was a pre­pro­duc­tion unit; the units just hit­ting store shelves now might be a lit­tle qui­eter.

Frankly, I’ve thought Dyson’s epony­mous vac­u­ums were a lit­tle silly with form and a lit­tle light on func­tion (and Con­sumer Re­ports agrees with me).

But the Air Mul­ti­plier has made me — dare I say it? — a fan.

— Los An­ge­les Times.

James Dyson is the Edi­son of air.

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