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Pen Story

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Ballpoint Pen

A ballpoint pen was conceived and developed as a cleaner and more reliable alternative to quill and fountain pens, and it is now the world's most-used writing instrument. Millions are manufactured and sold daily.

The Mechanism

A ballpoint pen dispenses ink over a metal ball at its point, i.e. over a "ball point". The metal commonly used is steel, brass, or tungsten carbide, enabling it to write on rough surfaces-such as wood, coarse wrapping-paper, and other articles.

The ball point delivers the ink to the writing surface while acting as a buffer between the ink in the reservoir and the air outside, preventing the quick-drying ink from drying inside the reservoir. Modern ballpoints are said to have a two-year shelf life, on average.

Origin

László Bíró, a Hungarian newspaper editor frustrated by the amount of time that he wasted filling up fountain pens and cleaning up smudged pages, noticed that inks used in newspaper printing dried quickly, leaving the paper dry and smudge free. He decided to create a pen using the same type of ink.

In 1941, the Bíró brothers and a friend, Juan Jorge Meyne, fled Germany and moved to Argentina, where they formed Bíró Pens of Argentina and filed a new patent in 1943. American entrepreneur Milton Reynolds came across this ballpoint pen during a business trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Recognizing commercial potential, he purchased several ballpoint samples, returned to the United States, and founded Reynolds International Pen Company. Debuting at Gimbels department store in New York City on 29 October 1945, Reynolds Rocket became the first commercially successful ballpoint pen. Reynolds went to great extremes to market the pen, with great success; Gimbel's sold many thousands of pens within one week.

Types of Ballpoint Pens

📌 Oil-Based Ball Pens

Rollerball pens employ the same ballpoint mechanics, but with the use of water-based inks instead of oil-based inks. Compared to oil-based ballpoints, rollerball pens are said to provide more fluid ink-flow, but the water-based inks will blot if held stationary against the writing surface. Water-based inks also are prone to smearing and running, should the writing surface become wet

📌 Roller Ball Pens

Rollerball pens employ the same ballpoint mechanics, but with the use of water-based inks instead of oil-based inks. Compared to oil-based ballpoints, rollerball pens are said to provide more fluid ink-flow, but the water-based inks will blot if held stationary against the writing surface. Water-based inks also are prone to smearing and running, should the writing surface become wet

📌 Gel Pen

A gel pen uses ink in which pigment is suspended in a water-based gel. Because the ink is thick and opaque, it shows up more clearly on dark or slick surfaces than the typical inks used in ballpoint or felt tip pens. The size of the nib or pen tip ranges from 0.18 mm to 1.5 mm.

The Structure

Basic components of all ballpoint pens are universal. Standard components include the freely rotating ball point itself (distributing the ink), a socket holding the ball in place, and a self-contained ink reservoir supplying ink to the ball. Brass, steel, or tungsten carbide are used to manufacture the ball bearing-like points, then housed in a brass socket.

The common ballpoint pen is a product of mass production, with components produced separately on assembly-lines. Basic steps in the manufacturing process include production of ink formulas, molding of metal and plastic components, and assembly

Ball pens as advertisements

Ballpoint pens are sometimes provided free by businesses as a form of advertising—printed with a company's name; a ballpoint pen is a relatively low cost advertisement that is highly effective (customers will use, and therefore see, a pen daily). Businesses and charities include ballpoint pens in direct mail campaigns to increase a customer's interest in the mailing. Ballpoints have also been produced to commemorate events, such as a pen commemorating the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy