Everything I Know About TPEs I Learned from the Toothbrush

In the latest installment of INsights, IDSA Ambassador Teknor Apex points to—of all things—toothbrush design, to show how TPEs (thermoplastic elastomers) combined with ergonomics, can improve your product design.

"Human factors—defined as the study of how people interact physically and psychologically with their environment, products and services—are a big reason why designers love TPEs," says Elizabeth Ponte of Teknor Apex. "When it comes to human factors or ergonomics, TPEs have had a tremendous impact on everything from power tools to surgical instruments, adding new functionality to hand-held products in addition to their hallmark soft-touch grip."

The application of TPEs in toothbrush design has captured Four Reasons why TPEs may enhance your next project:

  1. Ergonomics: Grips for Hands Big and Small

If you have a really well-designed toothbrush, you know that the way it fits into the shape of your hand is critical—and the comforting feel of the overmolded TPE grip adds a lot. This grip provides sensory stimulation and improves the grasp, which is important in designing brushes for small children, who are just learning to brush, or adults with physical limitations. The non-slip grip works even when wet, which is excellent when those tiny hands are covered in slippery toothpaste foam.

  1. Improved Functionality: Value-Add

A TPE grip also adds functionality to the brush, allowing improved cleaning motion with less pressure, which is less damaging to tooth enamel. What’s even more interesting is that advancements in toothbrush design have led to TPEs playing a more integral role in oral health with the invention of TPE bristles. These compliment the traditional nylon bristles in regulating pressure on teeth, removing stains and even stimulating the gums. This new design is gentler on tooth enamel and gums, especially attractive for folks with sensitive teeth.

        3. Aesthetics: Consumer Desire

If you are designing toothbrushes for kids (especially the kind who need convincing to participate in their own dental hygiene), you know the singular importance of toothbrush color.  Also for families sharing a bathroom, colorability is a huge selling point.  TPEs are easily colorable, including custom tones.

     4. Vibration Reduction: Electric Toothbrushes

Let’s face it:  you want an electric toothbrush for cleansing vibrations at the tooth—not in the hand. TPEs can play a strong role in achieving vibration dampening via energy absorption at the grip. And obviously because of where a toothbrush is used, using materials made from FDA-compliant, food-safe ingredients is a key factor for choosing TPEs in toothbrush design.

Now that you’ve read more about toothbrush design than you ever expected, skim back at the boldface terms in this INsights. Did you notice? Those boldface terms are universal factors for any kind of smart product design—and TPEs deliver all of them.

Questions? Email tpe@teknorapex.com; call 401.725.8000; or go to www.teknorapex.com. Read more about IDSA Ambassadors.