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Vacuum Cleaners and Hand Dryers at the Museum

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James Dyson was back in Quebec to present his new projects in person and to mark the donation of one of his prototypes to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

It is rare to find items that are both widely distributed for sale and exhibited in a museum. Yet, one such example is the Dyson vacuum cleaner, which has captured 25% of the Canadian market in just two years. The Dysons are already in many design museums, but Diane Charbonneau, curator of decorative arts at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, chose a prototype of the DC24 in addition to the finished object.

She explains that few museums take prototypes, but she finds them important, as they are part of the creative gesture, especially since James Dyson puts a lot of work into the object. She says that there are more than 5,000 prototypes! What she also finds interesting is that it is produced through the increasingly used fast-prototyping technology, which enables you to quickly give shape to an object in a durable material.

James Dyson, always careful about the meaning of the word "design", puts this museum recognition into perspective. To him, it is flattering and an honour, but above all, it is an example to inspire other engineers and designers. Dyson would never call this a form of art because he feels that it is not. He suggests that this is the road to improving people's lives. He constantly reminds us that the aim of design is never to create a product, that technology and engineering are always predominant.

It is the one message that he never stopped repeating to industrial design students who came to meet him. Everything he takes on, all his new projects, be it his school of design innovation or the contest sponsored by his foundation, are focused around this thought.

Dyson also revealed the Canadian finalists of his foundation's design contest, one of which will receive $5,000 and compete at the international level, where the winner will be awarded £10,000. Three projects were selected: a one-hand bicycle-braking device that can be adapted to a standard bicycle; a snow brush that works with heat generated by the user's movement without a battery or charger (electromagnetic induction system); and a medical syringe that is less frightening for children.

In terms of new products, the latest Dysons are even better than before. The DC23 Stowaway has a cluster of 14 small cyclones (instead of 7 in the other models) and a three-stage central separator that provide more power and the ability to separate even more dust and finer particles from the air. This process is the heart of Dyson's invention, much more than the bagless system, which has become the new leitmotif of all vacuum cleaner manufacturers. James Dyson recalls that his goal was not to make a bagless vacuum cleaner, but rather to make one that would never lose its suction power. He states that this technology is theirs exclusively and that others can try as they might, this is what sets Dyson apart from the competition.

In his opinion, the DC24 is an ultra-light, ultra-compact vertical vacuum cleaner (a little over 5 kilos), which, in terms of power, has no cause to envy the larger ones. It sits on a ball, so it is very easy to handle. One ball contains the motor, while a second one drives the brush. Dyson explains that the ball completely changes the dynamics of the object and that the entire design had to be revised. He likes people to see the technology within the object and uses colour, for example, to highlight it. The important elements, the dust separators and the ball, stand out in yellow.  

Thanks to ongoing research, invention patents filed on a daily basis, rigorous endurance testing and unrivalled communication, the Dyson Company is the leader of the vacuum cleaner world. And now, with its Airblade, it is going after the hand dryer market. Note to the curious, there is an Airblade premiering in the ladies' rooms at the museum (on the third floor). The hands are not dried by heat, but rather by a powerful air stream that switches on automatically. It is hygienic and practical and doesn't dry out the skin.