3D printing is most often used for product development applications, a crucial tool to understand the look and feel of an item before it hits the market. That was the case for a new menstrual cup from Bermudian podcaster, author, and entrepreneur Gayneté Jones. This January, Jones founded the latest of her many business ventures: fem healthcare brand Best, Periodt. 3D printing played an integral part of the development of the brand’s final product.
When one gets their period each month, they typically have a variety of choices as to which feminine hygiene product to use, from sanitary napkins (pads) and tampons to period underwear and menstrual cups. Some even prefer free bleeding.
Jones had the idea for Best Periodt menstrual cups after talking with some podcast guests who owned a product-development business. She was thinking about product ideas that could actually solve a real world problem, and when she got her period the next day, she had her aha moment.
The founder and CEO said, “I’ve known for a while now that menstrual cups are healthier solutions for our body and the planet, and that they save you money as they’re reusable, however, I just couldn’t find one that I was satisfied with – and I’ve tried dozens. The cups I’ve tried in the past didn’t have enough capacity for heavy flow days and come with a cheap, lint-producing cotton carrying bag that I hated,” she continued. “Black women on average have heavier periods and are 2-3 times more likely to have fibroids. Because of this, I wanted to ensure my cups held more than the popular brands on the market. The Best Periodt Size 2 cup can hold up to 8 regular pads worth of blood.”
A brief explanation might be in order here. Instead of absorbing blood like pads and tampons do, menstrual cups actually collect it, and once you remove the cup—taking care to keep it upright—simply dump the contents into the toilet, rinse it out, wash your hands, and reinsert it. The Best Periodt website says that you can use the same cup for two years before getting a new one. So, it’s definitely a more sustainable option, and a more cost-effective one as well, especially when you consider the pink tax, also known as gender price discrimination.
In addition to holding more blood than others on the market and 86-ing the bags in favor of a cuter, more hygienic silicone carrying case, Jones says that the Best Periodt cup is also the first fem healthcare product made by a Bermudian. And it is already available at several island businesses, though the online shop ships from a warehouse in the US.
The Best Periodt cup is FDA-registered and OB/GYN-approved, and created in an ISO 13485 environment with medical-grade, biocompatible silicone. Jones built the business and launched the product during COVID, which was challenging to say the least.
“There were many stressors working with a US manufacturer to bring my vision to life during a pandemic,” she said. “At one point back in August, the factory shut down because of COVID exposure. While everyone ended up testing negative at the facility and they were back up and running a week later, that pushed the project behind as their whole schedule was thrown off.”
Jones wanted to create a unique solution for period care, instead of adding her brand to an existing product, or white-labeling. So, she worked with a female engineer who specializes in medical devices to create the Best Periodt menstrual cup. They first developed a prototype, and then a 3D printed prototype, before creating a physical sample.
I was able to get in touch with Jones via email to ask some questions about the 3D printing used in the product development of the Best Periodt cups. I wanted to know if what it was used to create had been a model, or a functional prototype, and why they had decided to use 3D printing, rather than a different type of manufacturing technology.
“The elastomeric 3D printed prototype was used to get a ‘look’ and ‘feel’ of the product design of the cup,” Jones told me. “The 3D printed prototype allows for rapid design development through multiple design changes, without the expense of manufacturing prototype tooling and molding of each design change. Utilizing 3D printing allowed for the design process to be a little quicker.”
Since 3D printing worked so well for the prototype, I asked Jones why it wasn’t used to create the end product, or even a physical sample.
In response to why the company doesn’t “consider function with 3D printing,” Jones replied, “3D printing also has limitations of feature geometry and size. The limitations result in an unreliable 3D printed component, where LSR injection molding is superior. Silicone 3D prints are available but very expensive ($600/part) with very loose tolerances with a rough finish – so not really a good option for cups at this point.”
As we know from the 3D printing of sex toys, material choice and post-processing are extremely important when dealing with a device that will come in contact with, or be inserted into, the body, so her reasoning makes a lot of sense to me.
Jones created Best Periodt cups in order to offer a better solution to users.
“For a product that’s so intimate, I want it to truly assist users to have their best period and for it to be the best, periodt,” she stated. “Many don’t realize that the cotton used in tampons and pads are often treated with toxic, hormone-altering chemicals and tampons have been known to mess with the body’s PH, cause dryness and create micro-tears in the vaginal walls. The goal though is never to scare someone away from their current period care, but rather to introduce them to the benefits of a Best Periodt cup as an alternative solution. Menstrual cups save time on changes, money in the long run and help out the environment.”
Speaking of helping the environment, zero plastic is used in the packaging of Best Periodt menstrual cups, which also don’t use any chemicals or colorants. Jones also wanted to give back through her business endeavor, which is why one dollar from the sale of every Best Periodt cup is donated to an anti-child trafficking charity that users annually choose.
“There is also an option on our site to donate a cup to menstruators in need as period poverty is a real issue everywhere,” she explained.
“It was important for us to have a giveback component from the start – there are so many worthy causes and we wanted to do our part.”
As I mentioned early on in this story, 3D printing wasn’t used to make the final product here, for what seem like good reasons. But Best, Periodt isn’t the only product that Jones and her team have up their sleeves, and who knows, maybe they’ll circle back and use the technology to help with more product development in the future.
“The menstrual cup is just the beginning for us,” Jones said. “This isn’t just a product launch to me, I see it as the genesis of a mega brand. A mega brand that will transform period experiences for the better, for menstruators around the world. We are actually in the sampling process for our second product launching in Q3. Because we have been listening to our audience on our Instagram page @best.periodt from the start, we already know where to go next.”
(Images courtesy of Best, Periodt)
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