Electric toilet paper dispenser ready to roll

The Associated Press

A year in the works, an electronic tissue dispenser is being rolled out to the masses by Kimberly-Clark Professional as it seeks to capture more of the $1 billion US away-from-home toilet paper market.

The company believes most people will be satisfied with five sheets — and use 20 per cent less toilet paper.
Kimberly-Clark turned to focus groups and years of internal research to determine just how much is right.

Americans typically use twice as much toilet paper as Europeans — as much as an arm's length each pull, Kimberly-Clark's Richard Thorne says. The company decided the best length is about 20 inches — or precisely five standard toilet paper squares, though the machine can also be adjusted to churn out 40 or 60 centimetres.

Roswell-based Kimberly-Clark Professional, a unit of Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark Corp., hopes dispensers like the one at the office will one day fit in with the automatic toilets, faucets and paper towel machines that have become a norm in many other office and institutional bathrooms.

"The one part of the room where there's not an automatic option is toilet tissue," says Thorne.

When one of the two motion sensors is activated, the device's battery-powered motor automatically dispenses a predetermined amount of toilet paper. The machine isn't completely automated. Each also comes with a suite of "security" features in case the machine malfunctions.

There's an emergency feed button, and a manual feed roller lets the users pull the roll around if the motor breaks down or the four D-size batteries run out. There's also an option for a "rescue roll" on one side of the machine just in case the old-fashioned way is preferred.

"This is probably the most personal experience you can have. We didn't want to get any frustrations," Thorne says. "None of us like to touch things they think someone before them has touched."
The devices cost about $30 US apiece for the plastic variety, and $55 US if cased in stainless steel.