Machines run at high pace beyond the protective glass walls and attentive employees in blue-hued overalls check the monitors to ensure everything is under control, while hundreds of coloured toothbrushes move all around – from one robot to another – on almost silent conveyor belts.
We smile – colours are always meaningful, even inside a modern factory. Outside, there’s a green and hilly landscape, which turns to flat and blue at the banks of Lake Constance, around 30 km north-east from here. We are in Degersheim, Switzerland, the place where the CURAPROX toothbrushes are produced – in just the same way that they were 40 years ago…
“Not exactly like they were 40 years ago…” interjects Marco Zavalloni, promptly interrupting our train of thought. He is Managing Director at Curaden, and today has offered to be our guide around the factory. “Yet, it is true that the toothbrush’s design hasn’t changed in 40 years,” he continued, “It was the successful outcome of some long-term research by the designer Noldi Braun, back in 1979. Braun wanted to create something practical and simple, and he managed to design a toothbrush that has now sold more than 300 million pieces.
“But what has changed in all these years is the manufacturing process – before, a lot of things were done by hand; now everything is automated. This also influenced the number of people involved in the manufacturing and their skills.”
“This year we produced 11 million toothbrushes. Next year, we plan to produce 14 million.”
11 people are now working in the factory: qualified and trained employees that can carefully operate all the machines and run the factory, split across two shifts. In 2019, the factory produced 11 million toothbrushes. That means 3,000 toothbrushes per hour or over 50 toothbrushes per minute. Next year, the plan is to produce 14 million toothbrushes. So, Curaden is looking around for competent workers willing to join the factory’s staff.
As we continue our tour, we notice that – given the fact that we are in a factory – it is not very noisy around here. We soon discover that this is true only until you arrive at the moulding pit. Here, the clattering is loud and incessant as the granulate and dye are heated up to 240 degrees and, within just a few seconds, are pressed into the shape of a CURAPROX toothbrush.
“The secrets of our toothbrush? Simple design and special materials.”
While we observe the line of coloured handles cooling down – the cooling process has to be extremely slow so that the brushes don’t shrink or deform in any way – we ask the question that has been in our head for a while.
Marco smiles. “The secret of our toothbrush? I think there are two: simple design and special materials. The toothbrush has an ergonomic handle and the bristles are rounded, so they feel really soft. Traditional brushes usually only have about 500 bristles, whereas our ultrasoft CURAPROX CS5460 toothbrush has 5,460, what makes it so gentle on the gums.
“The bristles are made from a special material we own a patent for – Curen. Most of the toothbrush filaments of other brands are produced from polyamide, which changes the softness because it absorbs water. Our filaments have the same softness all the time – in and out of water.”
In 40 years, the materials haven’t changed either. “If you change the raw materials, the feeling of the toothbrush will change too. We buy and use only clean materials with certifications.”
The factory in Degersheim opened in 2015 – the production moved here from another manufacturer in Switzerland – and manufactures the CURAPROX CS5460, CS3960, CS1560, Curakid and heads of Hydrosonic toothbrushes. In 2019, the production of the CPS prime interdental toothbrushes also began here.
“We think that a big part of our success is also a result of the fact that we produce here, and not somewhere abroad,” concludes Marco with a proud expression on his face, “As they say, Swiss production is famous for being precise and high quality, isn’t it?”
How they are made: Five steps to create a CURAPROX toothbrush
1. Mould and colour
Two hoses lead from the ceiling of the thermoplastic moulding section into the abyss of a machine as large as a van. Here, granulate and dye are heated up to 240 degrees, liquefied and pressed into the colourful shape of the toothbrush. It’s all done in a matter of seconds!
After the cooling down and the embossing, the brushes are ready to move to the next floor.
2. Bristles on
One floor up: here come the bristles. Human eyes can barely keep up with the movements of robots anchoring the bundles of bristles into the 39 tiny holes of the toothbrush head. It takes just 2.5 seconds to fit a single toothbrush head with up to 5,460 bristles.
The material used for the bristles is very special. It’s called Curen, is super gentle to the gums, and Curaden owns a patent for it.
3. Cut and round
It takes three cutting processes to adjust the bristles to the same length. This leaves the bristles’ ends angular however, so the grinding machines then round them so that they won’t injure teeth and gums.
4. … then time for a quality check
Every single toothbrush is checked twice during the manufacturing process. The first control is performed by automatic cameras just after the embossing. If there is any problem, such as a missing colour, the toothbrush is quickly removed from the load.
The second check comes after the cutting and rounding process: cameras and workers check the final toothbrushes and in case there is any bristle coming out, the workers cut the bristle manually.
5. Pack it and done!
Just a little packaging, and the toothbrush is ready to go. The toothbrush is matched with a transparent protection head which is produced by a nearby factory. It is then placed inside a so-called blister, a plastic foil-formed shape, and then finally the carton lid is added to close it, and… it’s ready to brush and clean!
Photography by Piotr Gaska & Jana Gombiková