Long Bay and Belmont Hill, Tortola, BVI
RADIUS was founded on the Caribbean island of Tortola. James O'Halloran and Kevin Foley were architects who were fascinated by the idea of a functional and enjoyable toothbrush. They were appalled at the small head, hard toothbrushes of the day.
Research indicates that the major problem in oral hygiene is that of compliance -people don't use toothbrushes for long enough and tend to keep their toothbrush for too long. Dentists believe that with diligence - teeth and gums could be perfectly maintained for a lifetime. The average
brushing time is from 31 to 65 seconds, depending on age or sex. The average toothbrush is thrown away after 10 months.
RADIUS aimed to make the toothbrush comfortable,
enjoyable and effective. With a mass of very soft bristles, a large head area for low pressure brushing and a comfortable handle, this toothbrush would let you brush lightly and accurately.
RADIUS Original Toothbrush
The Original Toothbrush was designed in early 1982 and was followed by a lengthy gestation period that lasted until late 1983. The partners moved themselves and families from Tortola to Manhattan for final product development.
The final design had 5,500 very thin bristles (about 2/3 the thickness of an Oral B 40 and four times more bristles). It came in right or left handed versions and the body of the toothbrush was made of cellulose, a plant based plastic.
The design was revolutionary - nobody had ever thought of using very fine filaments or of using a large head to lower pressure on the gums. The idea of actually making a handle that responded to the right and left orientation of the world's population was regarded as scandalous. This design did not fit into one of those little slots that toothbrushes were sold from - that had been the main determinant
of the shape of a toothbrush for 50 years.
The head was an organic oval shape - the tufts of bristles arranged so that they did not line up in parallel - this meant that they did not repetitively track along the gum line and cause cervical erosion. In 1982 all other toothbrushes had rectangular heads – but by 1992, all had followed RADIUS into oval heads.
RADIUS was established in a loft building in New York's Flatiron District, with a subcontractor in Leominster, Mass. making the brushes. We began selling to design stores, pharmacies and mail order catalogs.
In early 1984 RADIUS Toothbrush won the "e;Accent on Design"e; award for the most innovative use of design. Sales to specialty stores increased and the company became well established.
A fan club developed, Sting called to find out
where he could pick up a RADIUS on a US tour, Whoopi Goldberg talked about us on TV, Robert Redford wouldn't be without his, Jane Fonda had several in each of her several houses and Cher refused to give up hers to an artist seeking to incorporate it in a painting of her.
Independent pharmacies, first in New York, later throughout the country became big customers - giving RADIUS a view of larger markets. Health Food stores became very strong accounts. Brookstone, an upmarket mall retailer, selling elegant tools and appliances, was a major customer through these years. Norm Thompson, the large Oregon based mail order catalog company was a staunch supporter of our company.
Show me the Deep End! - Manufacturing in Kutztown
By 1988, James and Kevin wanted to control their own manufacturing and bought Beck’s Mill in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. The 20,000 square foot mill, built in 1863, was restored into a very beautiful workplace, where all RADIUS toothbrushes are manufactured.
All through the New York years, we had been unhappy about other people making our toothbrush.Eventually this was the principal force that drove us to Kutztown and to manufacture our own products.
Machines were bought, bristling equipment installed, a variety of English and Belgian mechanics were sent over to tune and set up these machines. James became No. 1 manufacturing guru - RADIUS was in the manufacturing business and controlled its own destiny.
This decision was serendipitous – making toothbrushes is very complicated, knowledge of the process, viewed from the design standpoint, helps in creating new and
innovative solutions to the age-old problem of cleaning your teeth. Without this background we would not have been able to develop the SCUBA, Intelligent or Folding toothbrushes. The travel cases, a sizeable part of our business, came from the packaging research that we did in our own factory. We have become very energy conscious as a company, decisions on machine type have repercussions on energy use – our most recent machines use one quarter of the energy of the first generation. We have reduced water consumption by a factor of 20 in the last five years.
Beck's Feed Mill, Kutztown, PA (c. 1930)
The SCUBA Toothbrush
The original idea for this product came from fascination with injection molded rubber. This material is bendy and non-slip, two qualities that are perfect for a toothbrush. In 1988 when we
developed SCUBA, nobody was using rubber in toothbrushes (today 80% of toothbrushes use rubber).
SCUBA has a very bendy neck, it lets you know that you are applying too much pressure when you brush. The non-slip material reduces the
amount of pressure needed to hold the handle and makes it very comfortable to use. An updated version of this brush now incorporates hexagonal tuft holes, hexagonal bristles and a much thinner head - an example of the translation of learned experience into product improvements.
Fisher-Price Children’s Toothbrushes
In 1999 Fisher-Price approached us with the concept of joint development of toothbrush line for children. We used their research facilities and clinical psychologists to analyze the needs of children and their parents. From this research we developed a linked group of three toothbrush designs. These allow parents to brush their children’s teeth more skillfully and eventually to move the brushing across to the child. Each brush uses different
bristle thickness and height to modulate the impact of bristles on sensitive gum tissue.
Baby brush is for six months through two years – with ultra soft 0.003” dia, bristle and very short height.
Little People brush is for toddlers and is a learning/beginner
toothbrush – 0.004” dia. bristle and short height.
Rescue Hero (boys) and Jazz (girls) toothbrushes are for three years up to seven – 0.005” dia. Bristles and regular height. Rubber grips to make brushing simpler and safer.
The Original and SCUBA have a design that lets you brush for longer – but many people find the head is too large. The challenge was to create a toothbrush that was smaller in area and bristle count but that still delivered long brushing times. The answer was in using electronics.
The Intelligent has the two features that can make dramatic improvements in the condition of your teeth and gums.
Two minute timer – beeps and blinks every
30 sec up to two minutes. Dentists recommend brushing for two minutes twice a day. The national US brushing times are between 31 and 65 seconds depending on sex and age.
180 use wear meter (approximately three months) – it lets you know when to change the bristles. The average toothbrush is changed every ten months. Worn bristles lose over 80% of their cleaning ability and reduce the effectiveness of brushing.
Because we now had a toothbrush that would
only last three months we needed to make the head as small and light as possible – the replaceable head weighs one fifth of the weight of a standard toothbrush and is discarded after use – remember that it does the same work as a standard toothbrush, which also should be discarded after three months. The patented radial bristling reduces the size of the brush head, making brushing in tight spaces much more comfortable.
The handle has three tiny button batteries imbedded inside. They last two to three years. RADIUS has teamed up with Big Green Box to create a recycling program that strips out the batteries and reclaims the material. We offer a $1.00 coupon to everybody who recycles to us.
Travel and Personal Care Cases - Organizer
The idea for this group of products came from a buyer, who suggested that we leverage our expertise in making non-throw away packaging into a permanent range of travel and storage cases. We began with toothbrush, razor, and soap and have added condom case, compact tampon case, and full tampon case since.
They have a simple design with a highly effective locking tab,
to prevent opening in transit. The scalloped base increases drying area and has four high points to diminish dampness. The polypropylene material is 100% recyclable – after many years of solid service. The hinges are guaranteed for 2 million openings. The cases are made on high efficiency molding machines that consume one quarter of the power of traditional machines.
The Organizer is for all the miscellaneous knickknacks of our lives – supplements, jewelry, hobby stuff, office accessories, travel stuff, personal care, first aid – it is incredibly strong and durable, the locking pin keeps it closed on the roughest journeys. Made of the same polypropylene as the cases, 100% recyclable and will serve loyally for years.
The Folding Toothbrush is ultra-light and folds into a 2” dia. disc. The entire toothbrush weighs only 0.3 oz and is perfect for travel,
handbag, briefcase or a hiking trip and of course, no climber on Mount Everest will be without one. In production in 2006.
We try to make our product design and their packaging part of a continuous project. We describe more fully under Environment how we have attempted to make sense out of the needs to protect a product during shipping and in its sales location. Source reduction is a major philosophical component of our design approach.
Products are designed to last longer.
Where products (such as the Intelligent brush head) are have relatively short lives, we make them as small and as light as possible.
Packaging – an unavoidable millstone – can be
re-used, as in a travel case - or is very light and recyclable.
We work with our major customers to reduce all shipping materials.
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