A pure, white sapphire blade razor. Sharper than any other blade on the planet (80 atoms at the tip) and more than 100x as durable.
About this project
Zafirro is the biggest advance in razor blade technology in more than a half century. When we started working on Zafirro our goal was to utilize the most significant technological advances in material sciences and nanotechnology to create better blades. We wanted a blade that was sharper than anything on the market, but more importantly, we wanted a blade that lasted much, much longer.
Sapphire is one of the hardest and most durable substances on the planet – second only to diamond in terms of innate hardness. As a result, Zafirro’s sapphire blades stay sharp for a long, long time.
Sapphire’s unique material properties also make it possible to get the tip sharper than any other blades in the world today– more than 10X sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel, or about 80 atoms at the tip. That’s about 5,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. It took the right material and years of work with semiconductor manufacturers to achieve sharpening on this atomic scale. The image above shows one of our blades magnified by a scanning electron microscope (SEM).
According to the EPA, 2 billion razor blades go into landfills each year in the United States alone. The disposable razor is quite possibly the most wasteful product in your bathroom. Because sapphire is so much harder than steel, the blades last much longer. Currently our blades last about 6-12 months. However, we strongly believe that we can increase that to several years or more in the not-too-distant-future.
Replacement cartridges will sell for less than $39. We won’t know exactly how low we can price them until we have some idea about volume. But, in contrast to “the razor blade model” that exists today, we plan to make very little margin on the replacement cartridges. Sapphire blades are still comparatively very expensive to make, but our hope is that over the next few years we can simultaneously reduce blade costs and significantly extend blade life, ultimately making annual razor blade costs much lower than what most people pay today. In the lab, we’ve demonstrated the potential for our blades to last 3-5 years, but it will take some time before we are able to deliver that in a real-world setting.
Billions of people on the planet use a razor every day. But when was the last time you saw one and thought, “Wow, that’s a beautiful product”? Or even one that you thought looked well-made? Most razors are usually cheap plastic in neon orange, pink, or green, and at best look like a low-quality kid’s toy.
We wanted to create a razor that is exceptionally well-made, a pleasure to use, and one of the most beautiful products you own. Ideally, the kind of product that could be handed down, like a nice watch. We spent years working with designers making dozens of adjustments to try to achieve that goal.
It is possible that we are biased, but we don’t believe there has ever been a better present in the history of mankind than a Zafirro Z2. No one has one, everyone can use one, and it’s an incredibly unique, thoughtful, and awe-inspiring gift.
It took us more than four years of R&D, with dozens of hurdles, potholes, and missteps along the way, but we were finally able to make the first Zafirro in 2011.
Unfortunately, at that point there was no way for us to make a sapphire blade razor for anything less than an astronomical price. So, we decided to fully embraced that reality and went absolutely all-out on our first model. We decided to make the handle out of iridium, the hardest metal on the planet, typically only used in things like rocket engine nozzles.
That led to our first product, the Zafirro Iridium, the $100,000 razor. Within a year we launched our second product, the $18,000 Zafirro Gold.
As we hoped, Zafirro’s initial launch generated an incredible amount of press. It was a lot of fun to get that kind of exposure for the product. However, we knew that we would not have a meaningful impact on the industry until we could get our costs down to our target price of $299 retail or less.
Sapphire’s use as a component in high-tech products like advanced solar panels, LEDs and the iPhone 6 has helped drive prices down. We’ve also found new suppliers and worked with existing suppliers to optimize the manufacturing process. It took another four years of R&D and trial and error, but we finally have a path forward that reduces costs to the point where our goal is achievable if we manufacture at high volumes.
We’re huge Kickstarter fans. We feel that the new channel Kickstarter has created for millions of entrepreneurs, developers, and designers to bring their ideas to life is world-changing. Their recent decision to become a B Corp punctuates who they are and what they stand for, and we are incredibly excited to be involved in even a very small way.
Utilizing Kickstarter’s platform also allows us to do two very important things:
1. To see whether the world is as excited about Zafirro as we are. Are enough people willing to buy the product to make it a viable business.
2. To help fund all the investments we need to make in the manufacturing process. This will allow us to take Zafirro from essentially a bespoke product, available to only a very small number of people, and make it available to the world. Manufacturing a Zafirro Z2 at or below our target price.
In the six months since our last Kickstarter campaign we’ve made good progress with manufacturing partners on capacity, quality and cost. Our production process has some commonality with the high tech/semiconductor industry, and we hope to get some of the cost savings and quality improvements that occur consistently over time in that industry. The most meaningful result will be blades that last longer and are less expensive.
We’ve passed on all cost savings (and then some) to be able to meaningfully reduce the prices of the razor and replacement cartridges for this campaign. Our goal is to do everything possible to hit our funding target.
Risks and challenges
We have no doubt we can make the razor because we’ve been making and selling them to customers since 2011. However, much higher volumes at much lower costs will require us to invest in different manufacturing processes, and our experience is that these sorts of changes always take longer and cost more than planned, so the biggest risk is that our delivery timelines will need to be extended. Our goal is to get these out before Christmas, but if we run into high-volume manufacturing setup delays, it might take much longer.
The second risk is to the current aesthetic of the handle design. In order to manufacture in high volumes, we might have to make modifications to the design for the high volume production runs. We love the current design, and are going to do everything possible not to change it at all, but anticipating possible alterations that might be required we’ve talked to some of the most admired designers in the world, and all have been excited about working on the product. So, if we do have to do a bit of redesign for higher volume manufacturing, we’ve got a plan in place to make sure it’s a great design (an iPhone 7 instead of a 6).