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October 20, 2009

You’ve heard the story, usually told by James Dyson in his own dulcet tones: After five years and thousands of prototypes, the furniture designer-turned-engineer invented the first bagless dual-cyclonic vacuum cleaner. But less known is that, despite the machine’s superior technology, Dyson couldn’t find a manufacturer or distributor for it. So he created his own manufacturing facility, followed by a research center, which has since generated over a thousand patents for the company.

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dyson james portrait

The latest fruit of that work is the Dyson Air Multiplier fan, the first advance in the air-blowing-product technology in 125 years. The bladeless machine pulls air up from its base; forces it through a loop amplifier, which accelerates its speed; then expels it, multiplying the air’s effect by a factor of 15. To mark the launch, I spoke with Dyson about the fan and the thinking behind it. Dyson’s cell phone dropped the call twice during our conversation—leading the inventor to joke that mobile devices might be the next area that the company moves into.

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