A first-time entrepreneur approached us with an idea to create a disruptive new product personal-care product. Her extensive experience in the travel market gave her broad insight into potential routes for market exploitation. The ingenious proposal led us on the path to developing the world’s first pre-pasted, organic, biodegradable toothbrush.
The product itself, originally intended for the air-passenger transport industry, is a disposable, lightweight, small-format toothbrush. It was intended to be pre-pasted and ready to use in broader travel applications. Its development was particularly pertinent as airlines were coming under increased pressure from internal and external stakeholders to reduce carbon emissions and reduce or eliminate single use, non-recyclables from their operations. It was also understood that emerging legislation was likely play a part in change of corporate behaviour, with increased taxation on commercial landfill, and new standards governing the disposal of hydrocarbon derived plastics.
The products core differentiator was to be in the ground up consideration of carbon footprint, sustainability, and lifecycle. As such a completely compostable product was proposed which minimised the use of hydrocarbons and had a considered end-of-life strategy. The sustainability ethos would be holistic, extending to processing, manufacturing, packaging, colorants, print, sealing and distribution.
As the product was intended for worldwide distribution, careful consideration also had to be made of diverse religious and cultural requirements, including the elimination of animal-based products and other additives which could render it unsuitable for certain groups.
The process of development was blank-page with current assumptions about materials and processing suspended, in favour of a research-led developmental approach.
We engaged with an extensive range of material suppliers with green credentials and reviewed the suitability of each offering. Once suitable materials had been identified we commissioned pilot tooling to determine the most appropriate material that would allow the suitable stiffness of the bristles and body.
Once the most suitable material was chosen a production tool was commissioned and the toothbrushes are now being produced.
The UK design and manufactured Zerobrush that dissolves in cold water is about to be launched into the market! The work we undertook as part of the process included:
• Ergonomics and anthropometric study including assessment of grip and usability for intended user group.
• Industrial design, aesthetic design, styling and visualisation.
• Detailed A-surface modelling to ensure a high-fidelity and manufacturable output.
• Rapid prototyping to asses form, fit and function and usability.
• Logo and brand design to capture the sustainable ethos of the product.
• Prototype tooling to prove the feasibility of the proposed material technology.
• Moulding optimisation to ensure correct filling, material use, ejection and surface quality.
• The engagement of a patent attorney, support in principal claim generation and the supply of supporting images and descriptions.
• Sourcing of sustainable packaging options.
• Successful funding from Innovate UK.
Amy Murphy, CEOZerobrush