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Technology 'inches' forward at Oral-B

Oral-B concludes three-year project to develop new brush and creative preprinted package structure. Inks, thermoforming, materials handling, package closing systems all gain in new developments.
The package for Oral-B Laboratories? new CrossAction toothbrush (above) is as interesting as the product inside. It?s probably tThe package for Oral-B Laboratories? new CrossAction toothbrush (above) is as interesting as the product inside. It?s probably tAfter the brushes and inserts are loaded into the clamshells, the sealing system cycles to a station for mechanical clamshell clOral-B's patented cold-plug forming permits three areas on the top of the clamshell tobe printed and thermoformed into contouredIn Oral-B's Iowa City plant, the filling and sealing system employs robotics to load clamshells into fixtures and later to load

The company naturally is excited about the brush. So enthusiastic in fact that the suggested retail price is $4.99. Marketing experts say this is about 50% more costly than other premium toothbrushes. While the company is clearly the sales leader in the manual toothbrush category how big are the bets on this model?

First Oral-B's Iowa City IA plant constructed a 60-sq' addition dedicated exclusively to the manufacture and packaging of CrossAction. In addition it has invested heavily in automating package forming and its filling and sealing line. Second one of its suppliers on the project CCL Label (Itasca IL) invested $2 million in a new printing press to produce the sheetstock for the new package. Finally by the end of '98 Oral-B had already been awarded no fewer than 22 patents on both the brush and the package. Six of these so far are on the package alone.

What makes the package so interesting? First it's a transparent blister clamshell for a product category that usually uses blisters and either cards or film backs. Second the 20-mil polyvinyl chloride clamshell is completely preprinted; there are no add-on labels. To accomplish this Oral-B and suppliers had to develop special "stretchable" inks that could hold color even after thermoforming.

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Third to allow preprinting of even the UPC code Oral-B had to perfect cold-forming or more precisely a combination of hot and cold thermoforming. This meant unusual machine and tooling technology from Sencorp a DT Industries Co. (Hyannis MA).

Fourth to accommodate retailers' existing merchandising environments the package could be no wider than 1" exactly the same width as