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Ballpoint pens are made to order in mass quantities. While each manufacturer makes them slightly differently, the basic steps include ink compounding, metal component formation, plastic component molding, piece assembly, packaging, labeling, and shipping. In advanced shops, pens can go from raw material to finished product in less than five minutes.
Making the ink
• 1 Large batches of ink are made in a designated area of the manufacturing plant. Here workers, known as compounders, follow formula instructions to make batches of ink. Raw materials are poured into the batch tank and thoroughly mixed. Depending on the formula, these batches can be heated and cooled as necessary to help the raw materials combine more quickly. Some of the larger quantity raw materials are pumped and metered directly into the batch tank. These materials are added simply by pressing a button on computerized controls. These controls also regulate the mixing speeds and the heating and cooling rates. Quality control checks are made during different points of ink batching.
Stamping and forming
• 2 While the ink is being made, the metal components of the pen are being constructed. The tungsten carbide balls are typically supplied by outside vendors. Other parts of the pen, such as the point and the body, are made using various molds. First, bands of brass are automatically inserted into stamping machines, which cut out thousands of small discs. The brass discs are next softened and poured into a compression chamber, which consists of a steel ram and a spring-backed ejector plunger. The steel ram presses on the metal, causing the plunger to retract and forcing the metal into a die cast mold. This compresses the metal and forms the various pen pieces. When the ram and plunger return to their original positions, the excess metal is then scraped off and recycled. The die is then opened, and the pen piece is ejected.
• 3 The formed pieces are then cleaned and cut. They are immersed in a bath to remove oils used in the molding process. After they emerge from the bath, the parts are then cut to the dimensions of the specific pen. The pen pieces are next polished by rotating brushes and cleaned again to remove any residual oils. The ball can then be inserted into the point cavity.
Molding the housing
• 4 The plastic components of the pen are constructed simultaneously with the
other pen pieces. They can be produced by either extrusion or injection molding. In each approach, the plastic is supplied as granules or powder and is fed into a large hopper. The extrusion process involves a large spiral screw, which forces the material through a heated chamber, making it a thick, flowing mass. It is then forced through a die, cooled, and cut. Pieces such as the pen body and ink reservoir are made by this method.
• 5 For pieces that have more complex shapes, like caps, ends, and mechanical components, injection molding is used. In this process the plastic is heated, converting it into a liquid that can then be forcibly injected into a mold. After it cools, it solidifies and maintains its shape after the die is opened.
Ink filling and assembly
• 6 After the components are formed, assembly can take place. Typically, the ballpoint is first attached to the ink reservoir. These pieces are then conveyored to injectors, which fill the reservoir with the appropriately colored ink. If a spring is going to be present, it is then placed on the barrel of the reservoir.
Final assembly, packaging, and shipping
• 7 The point and reservoir are then placed inside the main body of the pen. At this stage, other components such as the cap and ends are incorporated. Other finishing steps, such as adding coatings or decorations or performing a final cleaning, are also done. The finished pens are then packaged according to how they will be sold. Single pens can be put into blister packages with cardboard backings. Groups of pens are packed into bags or boxes. These sales units are then put into boxes, stacked on pallets, and shipped to distributors.
The quality of pen components is checked during all manufacturing stages. Since thousands of parts are made each day, inspecting each one is impossible. Consequently, line inspectors take random samples of pen pieces at certain time intervals and check to ensure that they meet set specifications for size, shape, and consistency. The primary testing method is visual inspection, although more rigorous measurements are also made. Various types of measuring equipment are available. Length measurements are made with a vernier caliper, a micrometer, or a microscope. Each of these differ in accuracy and application. To test the condition of surface coatings, an optical flat or surface gauge may be used.
Like the solid pieces of the pens, quality tests are also performed on the liquid batches of ink. After all the ingredients are added to the batch, a sample is taken to the Quality Control (QC) laboratory for testing. Physical characteristics are checked to make sure the batch adheres to the specifications outlined in the formula instructions. The QC group runs tests such as pH determination, viscosity checks, and appearance evaluations. If the batch is found to be "out of spec," adjustments can be made. For instance, colors can be adjusted by adding more dye.
In addition to these specific tests, line inspectors are also posted at each phase of manufacture. They visually inspect the components as they are made and check for things such as inadequately filled ink reservoirs, deformed pens, and incorrectly assembled parts. Random samples of the final product are also tested to ensure a batch of pens writes correctly.
Ballpoint pen technology has improved greatly since the time of Loud's first patented invention. Future research will focus on developing new inks and better designed pens that are more comfortable and longer lasting. Additionally, manufacturers will strive to produce higher quality products at the lowest possible cost. One trend that will continue will be the development of materials and processes which use metals and plastics that have undergone a minimum of processing from their normal state. This should minimize waste, increase production speed, and reduce the final cost of the pens.
Read more: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-3/Ballpoint-Pen.html#ixzz4Ay0s4nfp
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