I have been involved with diaper manufacturing for most of my professional life, almost three decades now. After being responsible for the manufacturing of close to one billion diapers every year, one of my biggest personal challenges was to watch my own father, who lost his mobility after a stroke, end up in a wheelchair for many years of his senior life. It is quite ironic, that me being a diaper professional, I had no idea how to deal with this situation. I felt clueless about how to solve the every day challenges imposed to those, like my father, who have lost their ability to walk and are in need of an urgent solution, a different kind of solution than that required by active adults.
Many people without mobility are urinary incontinent, however most people who experience limited movement are not necessarily incontinent. The problem is that it is not possible for them to go to the bathroom, so most times they end up with the need to wear an adult brief or wet their clothes or bed sheets. If they choose to wear an adult brief, by the way, they are unable to change by themselves. This is the same problem experienced by all bedridden people, independently if they stay at home or if they stay at the institutions. Why is it that modern commercial briefs fall short and are not able to meet these special needs?
One of the many problems with the commercial products available today is that they are often left over prolonged periods of time on the users. Having wetness in contact with the skin for prolonged periods of time results in irritated skin and sometimes even skin maceration or other skin diseases. The lack of mobility is already a challenge to any skin, but having the skin wet all the time poses a much larger challenge. Another critical problem with these disposable products is the cold feeling of having the urine collected in close proximity to the skin, which a few minutes after the insult, brings the urine to near room temperature, making briefs quite uncomfortable to the warm skin. This is specially bad during cold nights, making it difficult to sleep or rest, and even more difficult while using breathable diapers that may allow for some evaporation, resulting in a lower temperature. Another problem is the bad smell of the urine collected inside the diaper.
Another critical problem experienced by bedridden and wheelchair patients is the dependency to have to wait for a nurse or a caregiver to find the time to change the diaper, or worse yet, to have to wake someone in the middle of the night to ask for help in order to change the wet diaper. This is morally depressing and it is easy to imagine how it lowers the dignity of those who experience this condition.
Consider now the possibility of allowing the user to dry by themselves using a simple push button whenever they wish.There is clearly a need to solve all these critical problems that are currently not solved with any of the commercial briefs available today. These include the need to avoid the wetness near the skin to benefit skin health as much a possible; the need to avoid the cold feeling of the urine near the body for better rest and comfort; and the feeling of independence that the they can achieve by enabling a diaper user to dry on command. I’m not talking about using a permanent diaper that is worn throughout whole day but a “disposable” product that is changed as frequently as a diaper today--but that is a better fit to the needs of the patient.
Connecting the dots: A story of product innovation and perseverance
About six years ago, my friend Virginio Marconato came up with the excellent idea of extracting liquids from a diaper using the capillary phenomena exerted by the absorbent fibers while being compressed under vacuum. It was like connecting a catheter to the diaper instead of the urethra. The concept worked so well that we were able to extract more than 90% of the urine insulted. With lots of work and after two years of trial and error with prototypes, we together invented a vacuum dry diaper system and showed this invention with a working prototype to the general public at the IDEA show in Miami four years ago. I visited several diaper companies all over the world without a single success or sale. What happened? It was a great concept; unfortunately it was not so simple to manufacture or to implement in a diaper machine. It needed a special liquid sensitive valve. In addition, the invention was presented to the wrong crowd. Clearly diaper manufacturers were not interested at all in changing their equipment or changing their present thinking models. We learned the hard way that they were not our best clients for this particular product.
What has changed since then? Well, the commercial launch of the Pee Tweet, a Huggies product sold in Brazil last year. The Pee Tweet is a product that uses a humidity sensor to detect urine, and it made us think of a much better solution. We registered a provisional patent for the use of a temperature sensor instead of a humidity sensor that can monitor small temperature gradients from the outside surface of the diaper, so the sensing device is never contaminated. For this same reason, it is reusable. The new solution solved many problems experienced in our opinion by the Pee Tweet. For one it was easy to control how much liquid was required in the diaper before a tweet signal is produced. Plus it was sensitive enough to produce tweet signals for several insults as desired, to match the signal to the capacity of the diaper so the trigger could be reset for a second insult if needed. This temperature sensor invention allowed us to automatize our liquid extraction system by connecting it to a suction pump to end up with an extremely simple solution for the extraction of urine in disposable diapers, and in fact convert them into disposable toilettes.
What is the Disposable Personal Toilette?
The Disposable Personal Toilette (DPT) is a fresh new idea that will create a disruption to the adult incontinence care industry for all the people without mobility who use adult briefs. It is by itself one of the largest shares of the disposable diaper today. It is a disposable diaper like no other the industry has ever seen. Our DPT will dry by itself automatically, according to the trigger of a temperature sensor located just outside of the backsheet of the diaper; and it also adds the convenience for the user for extra dryness with a simple push button, while he/she waits for the diaper to be changed by the caregiver. The urine is extracted from the diaper to the WC or to a sealed container, providing not only a dry environment for the skin and also removing most of the smell of urine. This is also extremely convenient for those that need exact diuresis by medical prescription in order to keep accurate daily records of the volume of urine, without the need to weigh a diaper in a scale.
How does the DPT work? When the user insults the diaper with urine, it will wick the absorbent pad inside the diaper until it reaches the wireless or wired temperature-sensing transmitter (just like an active RFID wireless sensor). This sensor is placed in a way so it is touching the outside of the backsheet. It may be held in place using an elastic belt with a hook and loop fastener or other means. A wireless receiver is monitoring the temperature of the backsheet and as soon as it complies with the desired temperature set point (a temperature gradient going up), it will close an electrical circuit that will turn on a suction pump. The suction pump is connected to a suction means inside the absorbent core using a flexible hose. The hose is flexible but strong enough to resist collapse from the vacuum. Because the fibers are wet and under mechanical compression, they create an effective seal with the suction point that helps prevent the entrance of air bubbles, forcing the movement of the liquid by capillarity. Urine begins to be extracted from the diaper and collected in an optional reservoir, or directly discharged to the WC. After an optional timer integrated in the wireless receiver has elapsed, the pump shuts down completing a urine extraction cycle. The system remains in stand by waiting for a new cycle. As the temperature of the backsheet goes down, the pump does not start as it is programmed to detect temperature gradients going up, not going down. It is also possible to start a urine extraction cycle using a manual push button that produces the same effect as the detection of the urine by the temperature-sensing transmitter. After a suitable time or after a few urine extraction cycles, the diaper is removed and discarded and replaced with a new fresh diaper.
What are the advantages over traditional disposable briefs?
• Improved skin health, the diaper can be drier than any commercial brief of today.
• Simple diuresis in case prescription requires monitoring urine`s daily volume.
• No more smell, without the need of masking it with perfume or enzyme control.
• Improved dignity and more independence to the diaper user
• Similar costs to current solutions, no need to pay more for all these benefits.
• More ecological than commercial briefs, with lower carbon footprint.
What is next? The DPT is in constant evolution. Just in the last two months we had the need to add 4 provisional patents. We are planning to four a new upgraded DPT prototype (not covered in this article description), a product that will surely impress all attendees at next month’s INDEX. It will be on April 9 at the “DDN Goes Live”, an event sponsored by Palexpo.
The new DPT will work without the need for any major diaper machine modifications. It is a great invention, not only for all the bedridden, but also for those companies who will benefit from a new market that requires the use of more nonwovens, as well as the use of fluff pulp.
About the author
Carlos Richer is the principal at Richer Investment. He is a diaper industry consultant with 28 years experience in diaper manufacturing and is also the owner of The Disposable Diaper Network group at LinkedIn.
1. When the user insults the diaper with urine, it will wick the absorbent pad inside the diaper until it reaches the wireless temperature-sensing transmitter 15.
2. This sensor is placed so it is touching the pad, outside of the backsheet.
3. A wireless receiver 18 is monitoring the temperature of the backsheet and as soon as it complies with the desired set point (a temperature gradient), it will close an electrical circuit that will turn on the suction pump 19.
4. The suction pump 19 is connected to a suction means inside the absorbent core 17 using a flexible hose 16. The hose is flexible but strong enough to resist collapse from the vacuum.
5. Because the fibers are wet and under compression, they create an effective seal with the suction point that helps prevent the entrance of air bubbles, forcing the movement of the liquid by capillarity and liquid extraction to start.
6. Urine begins to be extracted from the diaper and collected in an optional reservoir 20 or directly discharged to the WC, 22.
7. After an optional timer integrated in the wireless receiver has elapsed, for example three minutes, the pump shuts down completing a urine extraction cycle.
8. The system remains in stand by waiting for a new cycle (a new temperature pulse).
9. It is also possible to start a urine extraction cycle using a manual push button that produces the same effect as the detection of the temperature-sensing transmitter.
10. After a suitable time or after a few urine extraction cycles, the diaper is removed and discarded and replaced with a new diaper. We suggest four to six DPTs per day.