Tuesday, September 9, 2014

iKon DLC Razors - What is this DLC thing?

According to the iKon website: tea stains tend to develop on stainless steel razors, especially machined and unpolished razors. This is due to a reaction between the low grade steel used in the DE blades and the actual stainless steel used in the razors fabrication. Consequently, leaving a blade in a stainless steel razor can result in what looks like rust. iKon DLC coated stainless steel heads prevent this.[1] The Australian Stainless Steel Development Association (ASSDA), defines tea staining simply as the “discoloration of the surface of stainless steel by corrosion. It is a cosmetic issue that does not affect the structural integrity or the lifetime of the material.”[2]

iKon line of DLC Razors

I started to wonder what this Diamond-Like Carbon Material was and what the advantages were. Were there more benefits to just preventing tea staining of stainless steel? … And there was.

DLC is short for Diamond-Like Carbon, a coating that’s applied to the razor head that gives it the black color.  General benefits of Diamond-Like Carbon coatings that have been widely published are high wear resistance, low friction coefficient, high corrosion resistance, and even biocompatibility - characteristics that seem to make for a good coating choice for an object that glides across the skin to remove hair. 

Because of the resistance to wear, hardness, biocompatibility and, low friction coefficient; DLC has a number of commercial applications. Such as use in surgical instruments, automobile parts, fire arms, hard-disks drives, and (of course) razors. Though, it’s not particularly new to the shaving area.  

In 1998, Gillette introduced the Mach3 razor and the blades used (and still appears to still use) DLC coatings. In an article titled “Would You Spend $1.50 For A Razor Blade?” Gillette spent $750 MM in development and tooling (plus an addition $300 MM in advertising marketing) for the Mach 3. Code named “Manx” the Gillette CEO at the time, Alfred Zeien, “… insisted that Manx would have to have a radically new blade edge, too. This edge, known as DLC--for diamond-like carbon coating--is three times stronger than stainless steel and allows Gillette to use much thinner blades.”[3]Also according to the article, the DLC coating also makes the blades last longer too, resulting in the invention of the 'indication strip' ... but that's a different conversation for a different time. 

Blue "Indication" strip at the top of the Mach 3 Blade Cartridge
Not that long ago, iKon released their DLC line of razors.   iKon released a Standard Head, Open Comb, Slant Bar, and OSS with the DLC coated razor heads:

iKon Standard Head: A 3 piece double edge razor with closed comb design. Top cap and base plate fully cover the ends of the razor blade tabs. 

iKon DLC Standard Head Razor

iKon Deluxe Open Comb: The comb is to give more access to stubble and provide a closer shave.
iKon DLC Deluxe Open Comb Razor
iKon Slant Razor:  2nd generation production which incorporates a slightly retooled top cap. The iKon Slant Safety Razor provides a guillotine-type cutting angle for effectively removing stubble. 
iKon DLC Slant Razor pictured with the other iKon DLC razors
iKon OSS Razor:  Originally released in 2011, the OSS is an innovative ‘dual head’ design featuring an open comb on the one side and a closed safety bar on the other.  Rumor has it that OSS stands for “One Side Safety(bar)”, but I haven’t been able to confirm this.

iKon DLC OSS Razor

On his blog, titled “Later On”, Leisureguy wrote a few posts about his experience shaving with the iKon DLC slant razor.  “Comparison shave for iKon DLC slant[4] is one of a few, but there are more posts where he writes about his experience with the iKon DLC slant razor.

Searching the internet for “Diamond-Like Carbon” yielded many in-depth scientific research reports. Since Physics or Materials Engineering was not my field of study, I was in a little over my head with a lot of the information that I had found. But the more I searched, the more interesting the subject of DLC became to me.  Along the way I discovered AZoM.com (i.e. The A to Z of Materials), and their aim “is to become the primary materials information source for the engineering and design community worldwide”. [5] This helped to provide a lot of in depth, as well basic information on Diamond-Like Carbon.  If interested in learning more about DLC, I think that is a good place to start. 


[3] William C. Symonds(1998-04-26) Would You Spend $1.50 For A Razor Blade?

[5] AZoM.com: About AZoM.com

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