Look Ma, no hands! (sidebar)

Foam’s the word

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In addition to sunscreen, foam applicators are making other appearances on store shelves. Beginning in January 2000, an angled foam applicator replaces the familiar bristle brush used with Bic’s Wite-Out® correction fluid.

Bic borrowed the idea from foam paintbrushes seen at hardware stores, says Linda Kwong, director of corporate communications for the Milford, CT, company. The push also came from consumers, who complained about the brush fibers’ tendency to spread out, rendering it difficult to make a nice, neat correction, she adds.

Bic worked with foam supplier TMP Technolgies (Buffalo, NY) for nearly a year and a half to develop the new foam applicator. One challenge facing the companies was maintaining the bond between the stem and the angled foam tip for the hundreds of Wite-Out uses per bottle. According to TMP, the bond was achieved through a proprietary hot melt adhesive.

TMP also designed and assembled the equipment necessary to marry the foam tip to the polypropylene stem, which is injection-molded by Bic at its Fountain Inn, SC, plant. Mike Sanok, vice president of sales and marketing for TMP, would divulge little about the machine. He says the stems are loaded in a hopper, and the foam is placed in sheets on the opposite side of the machine. The foam is die-cut, the foam and stem are married, and the completed applicator discharges from the machine into a box. Production of the foam applicator is done at TMP’s facility in Buffalo, NY. The applicators are sent to Bic’s Fountain Inn plant to be automatically assembled into the cap.

When asked about the cost of developing and producing the foam applicator, Kwong simply states that Bic made the investment to improve the quality of the product. “This was done to bring innovation to a product that’s been on the market for many years,” she says. Kwong also hopes the new applicator will invigorate sales.

Wite-Out is available at mass merchandise stores nationwide for $2.15.

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