We are often asked about direct drive by people most often in relation to why or whether another washing machine is or is not a direct drive model which usually ends up in us having to explain the differences and sort the facts from fiction.
The hype around direct drive would have you believe that it was the answer to prayers and stops belts snapping or stretching etc. but, the reality is that these are actually very uncommon failures in a modern washing machine, By modern, we mean anything from about 1983 onwards.
A typical direct drive system, compared to a indirect drive is compared like this:
One manufacturer of direct drive washing machines goes so far as to claim that "The surface texture of the drum increases the amount of contact with the fabric. This creates a better washing action and removes more dirt and stains, giving clothes a deeper clean." Huh, how does what method is employed to turn the drum have any effect on the clothing inside it in that way? The answer is, in case you didn't realise, that it cannot and does not.
The marketing goes on to say that; "Sensors detect the weight of the load; adjust the temperature and measure out the correct amount of detergent for the best washing performance. This not only saves you water and energy but also ensures optimum washing performance."
Yes and most other washing machines on the market also have these sorts of sensors, certainly any half reasonable washing machine will have and all upper market models will do, probably more accurate as well. Basically, it's marketing rubbish there is no advantage at all here to be had by using direct drive over indirect drive.
LG sell their direct drive washing machines on the following major points:
Less parts means less trouble, less vibration and less noise
What is failed to be pointed out is that you also need to add additional sensors and that there actually isn't less parts as such, just different ones.
LG’s Direct Drive works without a belt and a pulley to reduce wear and tear and increase durability
Not in our opinion, belts and pulleys on reasonable quality washing machines (which you can get for the same sort of money) are parts that very, very rarely fail. Where they do fail it tends to be through continual overloading etc. and a direct drive system is no less susceptible to failures from the same pattern of use.
The motor is attached directly to the centre of the drum via magnets making it more stable, therefore reducing vibration
Again, not in our experience.
Vibration is caused from improper levelling or a poor installation and bad loading or overloading, not by the motor system employed. It could perhaps be argued that this is the case when you run the washing machine completely empty but, we don't know many customers in the real world that actually do that or, would even want to.
The brush has been removed which dramatically reduces the amount of friction and therefore makes the washing machine extremely quiet
This is true.
Using a brush-less drive motor does substantially reduce noise and also removes a point of failure (carbon brushes) but you can get exactly the same from a conventional induction motor, you don't need to be forced into a direct drive model to have this advantage. However, washing machines with induction motors tend to be more expensive than ones with a brushed motor (just like direct drive models) as they require a more expensive motor and an inverter card to drive the DC motor.
In short, there's a whiff of truth and a lot of marketing hype that doesn't stand up under scrutiny in the direct drive argument.
A direct drive washing machine also has disadvantages. One of which is this:
As you can see the direct drive part is actually quite a chunky affair that stands quite proud of the rear of the washing machine drum.
This, despite claims to the contrary, restricts the depth of the drum on a standard European sized washing machine meaning that the actual "usable" depth of the drum is limited. Where we see this coupled with constant claims of increased drum capacity it makes us wonder about the validity of the claims.
You can also see the additional "hall sensor" that is used additional mounting points and so on. There really aren't less parts as we said earlier, just different ones.
But, for some reason that we cannot seem to fathom or get to the bottom of, direct drive machines seem to suffer from more bearing failures. Quite why that is, we don't know but at a guess, it's got something to do with all that weight on the back of the drum.
One of the big claims for direct drive is that it makes the washing machine more stable but, to be blunt, it isn't true.
It is also fair to say that, despite claims of increased stability that concrete weights are still employed to balance the machine internally. If it were a super duper slam dunk cure then it wouldn't need those you would think but, you'd be wrong.
The part of the wash process that creates the most vibration (and noise) is unsurprisingly the spin cycle where the machine ramps up to pretty high spin speeds and, when you have a bunch of clothes spinning around at those sorts of speed the forces that are in play are pretty big. This will cause the drum to oscillate to some degree and produce vibration. Without finding a way around the laws of physics you cannot avoid this, you can only control it and on more expensive machines you will see better weights, better dampers, better springs to soak up that vibration and make the washing machine more stable and quieter.
On cheap machines poor quality components are used and this leads to higher levels of vibration and noise.
It's common sense really and, direct drive or not has pretty much nothing to do with it. Direct drive certainly offers no quantifiable advantage in this area.
The bottom line is that there is little to no advantage to be gained from having a direct drive washing machine over an indirect drive one.
Despite the claims made for direct drive, under scrutiny, few if any actually stack up and make any sort of actual sense and, to anyone with even a modicum of engineering knowledge in relation to washing machines, it makes no sense at all and actually introduces other issues.
Which is probably the reason that most mainstream manufacturers, despite the technology having been around for a long time, have steered clear of the direct drive system and why not one of the top end manufacturers use it. That pretty much says it all really.