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In 1974, James Dyson bought a Hoover Junior vacuum cleaner, which became clogged quickly and lost suction over time. Frustrated, Dyson emptied the bag to try to restore the suction but this had no effect. On opening the bag to investigate, he noticed a layer of dust inside, clogging the fine material mesh.
Later on, Dyson was working on his ballbarrow at a previous company he had founded (but no longer entirely owned) where a large vacuum system was used to contain the fusion bonded epoxy coating that was sprayed on the wheelbarrow arms as a powder coating. Dyson found the system inefficient, and was told by equipment manufacturers that giant cyclone systems were better. Centrifugal separators are a typical method of collecting dirt, dust and debris in industrial settings. Such methods usually were not applied on a smaller scale because of the higher cost. He knew sawmills used this type of equipment, and investigated by visiting a local sawmill in dark of night and taking measurements. He then built a 30-foot model for the ballbarrow factory. While constructing this at home, Dyson realized the function of the cyclone was to extract dust without clogging. Wondering if this could be applied at a smaller scale to a home vacuum, he constructed a cardboard and Scotch tape model, connected it to his Hoover with its bag removed, and found it worked satisfactorily.
The directors of the ballbarrow company thought if a better vacuum was possible, Hoover or Electrolux would have invented it. Dyson was undeterred, and was kicked out of his company. Jeremy Fry provided 49% of the investment for cyclonic vacuum development, and the rest came from a loan. In the shed behind his house, Dyson developed 5,127 prototype designs between 1979 and 1984. The first prototype vacuum cleaner, a red and blue machine, brought Dyson little success, as he struggled to find a licensee for his machine in the UK and America. Manufacturing companies such as Hoover did not want to license the design, probably because the vacuum bag market was worth $500m so Dyson was a threat to their profits.