One of my biggest pet peeves has got to be hand dryers in public restrooms. For starters, there’s never enough of them and if you don’t manage to get to one right away, you’re standing there, wet hands dripping, awkwardly waiting your turn. At that point, most people opt for the wipe-hands-on-pants move and call it a day. Nobody wants to contribute to the unnecessary killing of trees, but using ordinary paper towels is quicker and beats waiting around.
James Dyson, inventor of the famed Dyson vacuum cleaner, thinks he has a solution. His latest creation is the Dyson Airblade Tap hand dryer, a sink faucet with built-in hand dryers that allow users to wash and dry hands without leaving the sink.
The Airblade Tap is a minimalist, steel faucet tube with two smaller tubes extended on either side. You place your hands underneath the center tube and infrared sensors know to dispense water. To dry your hands, move one to either side and air blasts out at 420 mph. Dyson claims the Airblade Tap will dry your hands in 14 seconds. The sensors that control the release of water and air are separate from each other and programmed so that they’re never on at the same time.
Dyson engineers spent seven years developing the digital motor that runs the Airblade Tap and managed to create one with a significantly smaller form factor than previous versions. Marcus Hartley, head engineer, explained that air first gets sucked through an air filter at a rate of 30 liters per second, travels through the motor, up a pressurized hose and then enters multiple tubes within the tap, exiting either to the left or right “branch” in the form of a sheet, to physically strip water off hands.
“We actually have some very precise, very fast-moving air to make sure that we get that kind of indentation in your hand, it actually scrapes the water off your hand. You want to push the water down and across into the sink,” noted Hartley.
Other improvements include the use of Helmholtz silencers, which cut down on the noise created by the device’s motor and air pumps.
The Dyson Airblade Tap is slated to appear over the next few months at airports in New York, Miami and Seattle and commercial businesses such as Universal Studios in Orlando and Jack in the Box restaurants.
While it remains to be seen how well the hand dryers do in real-life settings, Dyson’s engineers are betting your trips to the bathroom will be quicker (at least the hand-drying part) and consumers will experience the shortest possible dry time.
“That’s what all these products are about … you walk away with a dry hand,” Hartley said. “That’s the best thing, really.”