Direct drive washing machines

Direct Drive - Fisher & Paykel’s legacy of innovation

From the early beginnings in the 1980s, Fisher and Paykel Technologies saw an opportunity to create a simple, reliable, and easy-to-manufacture drive system that would benefit the lives of consumers.​

By taking a systems-level view of the entire washing machine and considering customer pain points as well as manufacturing efficiencies, we questioned how we could create a revolutionary new drive system.  

The realisation for innovation: 

  • The current system was complex, bulky, and inefficient.​
  • We knew that innovation comes from people who live and breathe the product day after day.​
  • To deliver exponential value rather than incrementally improve product features, we needed a holistic approach to solve problems in radically new ways.​

What if we could eliminate the belt drive system and replace it with a pancake style motor, providing more efficiency and reliability? Enter the concept for Direct Drive– to radically simplify the product design and reduce the number of components - making it more reliable and price-competitive.​ This ideology was formulated into a plan, resulting in the birth of the Direct Drive system in washing machines.  

The Gentle Annie™ and Direct Drive

The Gentle Annie™ was introduced in 1985 as the world’s first washing machine with an electronically controlled brushless direct current motor - created by our own inventive problem solvers who challenged conventional appliance design and production systems. ​It would be the first washing machine with an electronic inverter.  

In 1992 with the introduction of SmartDrive™, the Gentle Annie™ would be driven by a Direct Drive motor. The motor was fundamental to the development of the world’s first gearbox and belt free washing machine. With fewer moving parts, the machine was much more reliable, quiet, and with a smart control system, could sense each load for optimal performance and had water saving efficiency.  

The Gentle Annie™ with SmartDrive™ technology changed the game for the better. Our team went beyond just designing a better washing machine feature, to reinventing the approach to traditional manufacturing processes. 

The approach to Direct Drive:​  

  • From identifying the need for a reliable and simplified system, to making manufacturing much easier, resulting in a better solution for the consumer, not just a new feature.​​
  • Utilising our engineering know-how and developing a system for manufacturing the motor in high volumes by moulding in plastic (which was able to incorporate many features) was revolutionary in the industry.​​
  • The concept for F&P's direct drive expanded into front loader washing machines and is sold globally into other applications, truly revolutionising the motor industry.​

This purposeful technology - created to improve the manufacturing and development of the system as well as to improve consumers’ lives, sparked the innovation culture that has been in the DNA of Fisher & Paykel Technologies ever since. ​

“Our washing machine in concept mechanically and electrically was basically very simple compared to anything that was made overseas, hence it made it very competitive.”

- Keith Ferguson, DD co-designer and inventor.

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About our Direct Drive motors

Our direct drive motors are designed to be efficient, quiet, and reliable. With over 30 years' experience in magnetic design and electric drive development, we design and manufacture direct drive motors of world-leading quality.

We have improved on our direct drive motor concept and this continuous improvement has led to optimal use of materials – promising high efficiency, low noise, and sophisticated variable speed capability.

Fisher & Paykel Technologies’ Direct Drive motors provide:

  • A cost-optimised solution: integrated and tailored to a specific application for best product performance.
  • Increased efficiency: the power is not wasted in friction (from the belt, chain, or gearboxes, among other components).
  • Reduced noise: being simpler, a direct-drive mechanism has fewer parts which could vibrate, and the overall noise emission is generally reduced.
  • Longer lifetimes: fewer moving parts also means fewer parts prone to failure. Failures in other systems are usually caused by aging of the components (such as a stretched belt) or stress.
  • Faster and precise positioning: Field-Oriented Control (also known as Vector control) allows feedback for precise angular position sensing.

Using our proprietary tools, we can customise our direct drive motors to fit unique specifications, requirements, and needs, creating an optimal drive solution. They can be used in a wide range of products including washing machines, fans & blowers, water pumps, hydraulic pumps, ceiling fans, and industrial mixers.

Fisher & Paykel Technologies partners with businesses who need customised smart drive systems. We help you design, build & manufacture solutions that deliver value to your customers.


From identifying a need, to using user centred design, through to developing a world-class direct drive system, Fisher & Paykel Technologies has continually improved the motor concept and refined the direct drive system. More than 30 years of innovation, technology and insights have helped create and improve a product that not only revolutionised the industry, but set a new standard of motor technology, not only in washing machines, but many other everyday home and commercial products.


Rob Keating

Rob is a content creator and copywriter for Fisher & Paykel Technologies. His work includes the Knowledge Hub, email, website and social media copy, along with customer communications.
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October 5, 2022
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