Dyson is synonymous with innovation—there are few other companies out there so doggedly committed to rethinking things, and fewer yet that do it so audaciously. But as it’s developed its bagless vacuums and bladeless fans, Dyson has been tirelessly refining another invention, one that’s far less glamorous than its consumer products but in some cases essential to the company’s success. It’s called the Dyson digital motor, and now the company’s spending $80 million on a factory dedicated to making them.
Dyson’s latest product, the Airblade Tap, is a $1,500 faucet that washes hands and then dries them with a 420 mph blast of air. It’s an impressive piece of restroom-streamlining hardware that took three years and 3,300 prototypes to perfect. But it wouldn’t have been possible without version 4.0 of the Dyson digital motor, which was, all told, an even greater undertaking, costing some $42 million and spanning seven years of development.
It’s one of the smallest, quietest high-powered motors in the world, accelerating from zero to 92,000 rpm in less than 0.7 seconds, thanks to its super-efficient electromagnet-based design. Previous versions helped make the company’s cordless vacuums possible, and I’m sure the mad scientists at the Dyson labs have plans for the new one that extend far beyond bathroom sinks.
The company’s new factory, Dyson West Park, will be located in Singapore and will feature an automated production line of 55 robots, capable of pumping out 4 million of the motors a year. In a statement accompanying the announcement, James Dyson says that his engineers spent a year scouring the globe for the very best robotic equipment. "Building a complex motor with minute tolerances requires the precision of a fully automated production line," he explains. "There is no room for error." But always room for improvement.