So what are these guys doing differently then?
Over the years, since Lupe started working on this project, we’ve been asked a similar question over and over again by prospective customers and investors: how have you managed to come up with this (the suction intensifier) when all the competitors, with all their bigger resources and time, haven’t?
It’s a fair question! So I thought I would take the time to explain a little more about why this is so (I take it as known that the founders of Lupe used to work in R&D (Research and Development) at Dyson).
In any field of R&D, whether it's biology, engineering or chemistry, there is a low hit rate of success. R&D, by its nature of pushing boundaries, is risky, and risky means low chance of success in any given project. The skill of the people involved in an R&D department is to get to the nub of what will make an idea as successful or not as quickly as possible. This kind of pragmatism isn’t that common in technical fields- inquisitive minds like to be inquisitive to understand as much as they can about a discovery, not try and ‘kill’ an idea as quickly as they can for commercial reasons! If it can’t be ‘killed’…. it’s a winner.
When it comes to vacuum cleaners, firstly its worth saying before Dyson came along, there weren't huge amounts of R&D money being spent on R&D: the company really did change things in that respect (and others). And then if you remember what I said above about R&D being risky, out of 10 ideas that may get worked on, maybe 1 or less is viable.
And out of that 1 in 10 that makes it for preliminary selection onto a product, it will then meet a Design/Project Manager concerned about cost and timing of their product development, and therefore risk averse (understandably), and trying to de-risk their project by not keeping it on the product all the way to launch. (And its worth saying this is where one must give respect to Sir James Dyson that he always advocated going down the more challenging route as a fundamental Modus Operandi).
So really it’s an uphill battle bringing something from scratch to market, and of all that large investment in R&D that a company like Dyson makes, the vast (vast) majority does not make it to product that is launched.
It should also be remembered that different brands have different priorities of what they want to improve (in the way that Ferrari may be interested in performance over fuel economy, and Volkswagen fuel economy over performance) So of that select group of projects that do make it to product, they will be focused on what helps the brand's product pitch best.
Companies of all sizes use paper pen and pencil!
When it comes to cordless there has been a lot of attention on motor efficiency and power, and battery capacity in recent years. Quite right too: getting the most out of the best battery you can makes a lot of sense! Those developments feel great when you put your hand on and off a loose hose/tube as a suction ‘test’, but actually what is important for outstanding dust pickup is to transfer that suction usefully to the floor….and this hasn’t received a lot of attention to date. This is where the approach Lupe has taken comes in- our Suction Intensifier technology works because we make a huge amount more use of the suction available- at the cleaner head. This is what we call ‘useful suction’ and this is where we shine.
I’m sorry to say, actually, the inherent efficiency of motors and capacity of batteries hasn’t really increased in the last few years. Have you noticed cordless vacuums from competitors getting gradually larger, (as well as items like smartphones)? The best thing about the suction intensifier is that it will make any motor/battery combination more efficient. So when those advancements in motors and battery chemistry do arrive, it will still give a significant uplift.
Couple this with the ability to update the battery and motor on the pure cordless, and this is where we see the strength of our proposition. The competitors simply haven’t been thinking in this way and making innovations in other areas.
This doesn’t mean any of it was easy! It just explains how small teams can do big things- and going into that more for Lupe will be the subject of a future blog post.
3D printing has made it a lot easier for smaller companies and makers to product professional prototype parts
There are also some great open source engineering tools for things like strength calculations (Lupe was also fortunate Pablo had background in this area of work)