Appliances Show Their Sensitive Side

Sept. 22, 1999
Fresh designs for personal-care appliances provide dynamic solutions to hygiene and grooming needs.

Recently developed personal- care appliances offer more convenience, intelligence, and responsiveness than ever before. This is accomplished through creative engineering, such as application of sensors and angle adjustments. By providing dynamic response to heat and pressure, higher comfort levels are reached. For instance, the development of reactive bristles for plaque removers and blades for shavers adds an element of comfort. By beefing up motors or using more efficient designs, grooming tasks are often completed more quickly and/or more thoroughly. In response to highly competitive marketplace, manufacturers were hesitant to reveal details concerning their recent developments, but share the basic concepts.

The Sensor Care hairdryer from Philips Electronics North America Corp., Stamford, Conn., automatically optimizes airflow and temperature to match hair wetness. An infrared sensor determines the condition of the hair during drying, and the temperature adjusts to protect hair from overdrying. A colorcoded indicator on the dryer signals the temperature of the air stream and the status of the hair (wet, damp, or dry).

With most hairdryers, carrying on a conversation while blow drying is difficult because of the noise. With the El Paso, Tex.-based Helen of Troy LP’s line of hairdryers, the sound level on a 1,875-W dryer is dropped low enough to talk or listen to a radio, the company says. One Helen of Troy model, the Vidal Sassoon Quiet Styler, generates more than 15 db less noise than typical full-size 1,875-W hairdryers, according to an independent lab.

The hairdryer’s noise level depends on the fan, motor, and the way the air passes through the dryer, says Product Manager Jack Potts. The Quiet Styler uses a turbo design, meaning air enters it from the rear rather than the side. Particular attention also must be paid to the blade angles.

“It’s not really one single item. It’s really a lot of things in combination at the same time to help reduce the noise,” says Potts. The exact parameters of the fan blades, airflow, and motor are proprietary. Research is underway to further decrease the noise level of dryers.

Cutting-edge shavers break through with new blades and ergonomics for a closer, faster, more comfortable shave. For example, the Quadra Action shaver from Norelco Consumer Products Co., Stamford, Conn., uses a new razor head that combines slots to catch and cut longer hairs with holes to catch and cut short stubble. Norelco engineers also managed to reduce noise and vibration on the electric shaver.

At Remington Products Co. LLC, Bridgeport, Conn., designers added more blades to the MicroFlex rotary electric shaver to make shaving faster. It has 60% more slots and 33% more cutting blades than the previous model. To power those blades a 75% stronger motor was added.

Another Remington shaving advance is featured on the Smooth & Silky Body Contour shaver for women, which is set for release in October. Its two flexing microfoils independently rock side-to-side to hug contours. While the microfoils take care of shorter hair, two-sided trimmers cut longer hair while shaving in either direction. The trimmers have three positions to cut longer hair, very short hair, and a combination of short and long hair. The wet/dry shaver has an 8,500-rpm motor for faster shaving.

Advantage razors from Norelco are the first to feature built-in lotion dispensers. Lotion is secreted at the razor heads giving the lubrication of a wet-blade shave but not the nicks and cuts. Lotion cartridges are produced by Nivea. The shaver is available with two or three heads.

In its newest electric plaque remover, the 3D, Braun Inc., Woburn, Mass., uses a brush head that pulses back and forth to break up plaque and also oscillates to wipe away loosened plaque.

“During development we found that the continuous rotation of the brush tended to drive it to one side, causing it to rub against the gums and palate. That was why we developed the oscillating brush,” says Peter Hartwein, 3D designer. Ergonomic studies show that a toothbrush is turned 30 times on average during each brushing. In response, Braun and Oral-B laboratories, Belmont, Calif., designed the plaque remover’s handle with an almost circular cross section.

To further help users, the 3D’s sensors monitor brushing pressure. When more than the recommended amount of pressure is applied, the device shuts off. The plaque remover has a timer that signals when the recommended brushing time of 2 min has passed.

The cup-shaped brush head holds several different bristle types. Crimped bristles that give way under pressure have a soft feel. When these bristles compress, they let longer, stiffer bristles reach between teeth and below the gum line. And the brush neck is angled 3° to help reach back teeth.

Convenience and portability were the goals in developing the first combination cordless water jet and plaque remover, the BioCare System, from Krups North America Inc., Closter, N.J. To convert the device to a water jet, the handle connects to a slim, portable water tank instantly activating it. A nozzle snaps into the top of the tank/handle unit. The jet runs at 1,800 pulses/min. The plaque remover operates at a 110° rotation angle so each bristle covers more tooth surface area than do bristles on other oscillating plaque removers. This lets the device rely less on speed and more on thorough coverage to remove heavy plaque build-up and stains. For convenience, a dual charger base allows for international use.

© 2010 Penton Media, Inc.

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