Washroom equipment design occupies a fraught middle ground between the needs of the user, the customer, and the service provider. Often the user is neglected in favour of a multitude of wants and needs along the supply chain.
One of the great things about designing for washrooms is the small but relentless impact that it has on such a broad section of the population. Public/Commercial washrooms are one of those unfortunate necessities in life - absolutely no-one has ever wanted, given the choice, to use one. The great opportunity as a designer is to provide small improvements which will affect many people on a daily basis.
As the first in a range of new equipment developments, the design language needed to be translatable to a wide variety of shapes and sizes, square, round, wide and tall. The form needed to be warm but confident . Brushed stainless and clean geometric shapes may be timeless, but within the confines of a washroom cubicle there is a very fine line between minimalism and jailhouse aesthetics.
Detail: Cover Hinges
With such a centralised hinge position, the depth of the hinge arm becomes an issue when drafted. Even with a very thin edge at its extent, the thickness at the front surface junction becomes unworkable. Adding the boxed form to the blade mounting area and utilising the already necessary sliding core allowed for dramatically reducing the relative depth of the hinge and allowing a clean front surface to be maintained. The temptation to use part line trickery to secure the blades needed to balanced with a critical need to avoid any sharp or intruding surfaces in the tissue delivery area.
Here I was able to utilise an existing assembly our manufacturer previously designed and used in their own products. The lock is shallow enough to fit between the arcs of the tissue rolls without impacting the height of the dispenser. Balancing the connecting wall thicknesses and connecting the housing directly to the flow path of the back surface, the entire lock casing is undetectable on the outside surface.
Tissue cutting methods fall into two categories: Worse than nothing, or unnecessarily sharp. The common successful thread is to utilise the part line to create a sharp edge. The part line option is risky however, particularly when a glass fill is used to increase the lifespan of the precious edge - Tissue is surprisingly abrasive over a period of miles and miles of paper. Two objectives were clear - a durable blade which wouldn't slice open fingers when a micron deep slither of flashing slipped past the QA team.
Detail: A Soft Edge
I began experimenting with a theory that friction alone could be used to simply brake and tear the tissue, using various compounds of rubber and silicone strips and tubes to test the effectiveness. It wasn't to be, the tissue had the same abrasive effect on the material, as well as the loose fibre dust acting as a lubricant. Lower shore grades were predictably more successful but the long term risk was too big. After further exploration of the blade profile however, I discovered that the material of the blade didn't matter. Whilst the status quo was to head for a glass filled nylon, we went the other way, utilising a relatively firm TPU to create a unique blade. A combination of the flex and surface friction work with the blade profile to create a clean and consistent cut, be it 1PLY, 2PLY or even perforated tissue, but never fingers. With a goal to create a point of difference, but also a consistency in operation, the blade became a focal and unique selling point for the dispenser.
Moving back to the blade form I looked at various serration profiles and found the deeper the amplitude, the more consistent the cut. Using basic materials it appeared the actual edge of the blade had only a small effect on the cutting action, rather stopping the tissue from moving sideways under tension was the trick. The JTRX blade uses a continuous waveform profile from end to end creating a noticeably smoother visual appeal than a standard rounded angular tooth. The blade curves backwards at each end to create a hook and allow a clean cut even when the dispenser is mounted forward or behind the user. A lot of effort was put into adjusting the waveform to continue a clean profile around these corners without pinching the teeth as they converged. The teeth curve inwards to compensate for the flexible TPU material, the unbalanced inside/outside surface lengths providing strength and allowing the teeth to puncture the tissue before bending too far outwards. The inward curve also softens the overall dispenser look and provides a less aggressive profile from the user perspective.