Focus: Sustainable Hygiene Products Packaging
Period: Winter Semester 2019/2020
Mentor: Prof. Detlef Rhein
Laminar is a Reusable Toothpaste Tube* that that can be infinitely refilled with your favorite toothpaste. Bringing toothpaste packaging higher on the sustainability hierarchy while also making it more accessible.
*Designed and developed as a semester project during my Master's studies in Industrial Medical Design.
Over a billion plastic toothpaste tubes are thrown each year, many of them reaching their way into the ocean. Some companies are setting goals to use recyclable plastic by 2025, but there is no guarantee any of it will be recycled; hence why toothpaste tubes must get higher on the sustainability hierarchy and become reusable.
As a believer that sustainable solutions should come with little to no compromises, Laminar aims to replace the convenience of traditional plastic toothpaste tubes with the benefits of saving money, being accessible to a broader demographic, and offering a more premium experience.
The tube design mimics how traditional syringe functions; once emptied, You take your tube to any Refill Station at your local drug store, plug it into the machine, and fill it with your favorite toothpaste.
Furthermore, an optional Wall Mount allows people with grip problems such as the elderly and individuals with contractures to easily dispense toothpaste.
Laminar tubes are sold empty next to their refill stations at drug stores. Once purchased, the customer is guided through visuals to remove the packaging and plug the tube into the refill station to get 75ml of their favorite toothpaste. This interaction teaches the user how to refill when the tube depletes. With a small investment fee upfront, customers can expect reduced prices as there is no packaging/transportation cost. A single user can cut down waste by about 12 plastic tubes per year.
The tube consists of four pieces, a molded and pressed glass tube, a machine milled aluminum plunger and cap, and an injection-molded rubber top for the plunger. All of which are both fluoride and dishwasher safe. The three holes in the plunger not only cut down on material and weight, but they also accommodate smaller hands and different grips. Clear tubes and frosted tubes are both available with either a standard plunger or a foldable plunger aimed for travelers.
Some of the initial concepts were based on cosmetic and hygiene products packaging. However, after experimenting, it was quickly evident that the viscosity and volume of toothpaste won't work with alternative designs such as the airless pump traditionally used for soap and lotion.
Laminar measures 10cm when fully pressed (empty), and around 17cm when extended (full). The average toothpaste tube length is 18cm, the outer diameter measures at 40mm, and the inner diameter at 36mm. The tube can hold up to 75ml of toothpaste, which is the current toothpaste tube standard.
Prototyping custom glass tubes was the hardest challenge. Pressing glass tubes was possible, but only if ordered in large quantities. Glass blowing the tubes was not possible due to intricate detail, so the prototype had to be made from Plexiglas. Due to limited metal milling tools, the prototype plunger, cap, and nozzle were made of carbon fiber 3D prints. Consulting factories have influenced some of the design decisions, further ensuring the possibility of mass production.
Throughout the development of the prototype, I kept looking for a way to make the plunger foldable. The idea was to make Laminar easily fit inside small hygiene bags while traveling. After many failed iterations, I finally noticed the cable chain carriers on the 3D printers, perfect inspiration for a foldable plunger.
The three holes on the plunger are designed to accommodate for different grips and smaller hands. However, it was integral to expand the accessibility aspect to accommodate weaker grips, such as individuals with Contracture Deformity of their hands and the elderly.
The production challenges mentioned above heavily influenced the final choice of the prototype's materials. As you can see, the original decision of materials, glass, and aluminum had to be abandoned for their 3D printed counterparts.
A showcase of the possible grips.
Laminar Clear / Laminar Frosted
The packaging is reduced to a paper ribbon that is held with the cap screwed over the nozzle. The packaging paper goes along the tube and extends through the shaft to the front of the tube.
Laminar Clear + Foldable Plunger
Laminar's Reusable Toothpaste Tube is only one element in a whole ecosystem that aims to change how we think about toothpaste. It's an opportunity to bring about a more sustainable yet more affordable approach while reconsidering how we might make daily tasks more accessible to the people who need it most.
Here's a poster in case you forgot what I'm talking about ;P
Thank you for taking the time to check my project :D
Feel free to pop me a message if you want to learn more, or if you have a cool project you want me to work on!
Don't forget to brush your teeth and keep smiling!