APPLIANCE magazine traveled to New York City on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2003, to be on-hand as Maytag introduced its latest innovation in laundry - the Neptune Drying Center (DC) - at a special presentation.
The Neptune DC pairs a traditional tumble dryer with an innovative upper drying cabinet. The appliance not only dries clothes, it is also said to minimize shrinkage, speed up the drying process, reduce wrinkles, eliminate odors, and refresh clothing - all in one product design. According to Maytag, the multi-purpose format, which fits in approximately the same floor space as a standard dryer, responds to consumers' cries for better garment care from their dryers.
Tony Hair, director of Product Management, told APPLIANCE that after more than 25 consumer research panels, Maytag decided to introduce a product that answered the demands for a gentle, reliable, and convenient way to dry, air-dry, and refresh odor-filled or wrinkled clothing.
Maytag engineered a unique drying cabinet that is attached to the top of its Neptune tumble dryer. The cabinet features removable shelves made out of window screen that allow consumers to flat dry clothing such as sweaters. A moving hanger rod, which sits above the shelves, allows for air drying of delicate or cotton clothing and has been engineered to release wrinkles by simulating the wind used in traditional outdoor line drying. The unit interior even features an area that is long enough for users to air-dry pants.
A refillable steam bottle, housed in a compartment next to the tumble dryer, gives consumers the ability to release wrinkles and/or refresh clothing. Internal cabinet vents blow air and steam in varying directions for complete drying. There is also a place for adding dryer sheets if consumers want to add fragrance while steaming.
Maytag says the cabinet design eliminates the “crunchy” feeling many pieces of clothing get after air- or flat-drying, while speeding up the drying process. A sweater, the company claims, can be air-dried in 3 hours in the Neptune DC, compared to the usual 16 hours.
The steam also works to refresh clothing and can get rid of odors, explained Julie Bundy, manager of Consumer Science and Information. “The water molecules attach to the odor molecules and remove them from the garment,” she told APPLIANCE at the Sept. 18 event.
Two Blowers & Two Heating Elements
Ms. Bundy explained that the multi-function product only uses one vent and one power cord, but does utilize two blowers and two heating elements. The appliance's digital control panel is divided - one half controls the tumble dryer and the other half controls the drying cabinet.
Other product features include side-by-side doors with hooks on the inside to hang hard-to-dry items such as hats and gym shoes. A storage area located on either side of the appliance houses the removable shelves. The unit also comes with Maytag-designed hangers said to eliminate the hanger marks often left in shirts and pants.
While some laundry appliances currently on the market perform similar functions, Maytag says this is the first effort to offer consumers a space-saving solution for their many laundry tasks. “Consumers don’t want five appliances to just do their laundry,” said Jill Spiekerman, a company spokeswoman. “This gives them one product to do all of their drying tasks.”
Creating Value At The High End
Bill Beer, president of Maytag Appliance, addressed the strategy behind this new innovation. "The Neptune washer was introduced in 1997 and created its own premium laundry category," said Mr. Beer. "It's our intention to continue to focus on creating value across all laundry categories, but particularly at the high end."
The Thursday event attended by APPLIANCE magazine, was the first public unveiling of the Neptune DC. A second presentation, held Friday, Sept. 19, gave the financial community its first look at the new laundry product.
The unit is expected to be available to U.S. consumers by the end of 2003. A retail price is expected to be about U.S. $1,200.