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How they put the ball in a ball-point pen

The heart of a ball-point pen is precision-ground metal ball which transfers fast-drying, oil-based ink onto paper.

The ball is usually made of mild o stainless steel, about 1/32in (1mm) in diameter and ground to an accuracy of a fey millionths of an inch. It may also be made of a compound of tungsten and carboy which is almost as hard as a diamond.

Sometimes the ball is textured, or roughened, so that it can achieve a better grip on the writing surface.

The ball is fitted into a steel or bras housing, designed so that it can rotate in al directions. The tip of the housing is then bent over so that the ball cannot drop out.

The ink is fed from a reservoir to the ball housing through a narrow tube. The ink reservoir must be open to the air, or have hole in it. Otherwise, as the ink level falls partial vacuum would be created preventing the ink from flowing.

Ridges in the metal housing distribute the ink evenly around the ball, so tha when it is moved over a surface it rotate: and draws a line.

The French company BiC sells more than 14 million ball-points a day worldwide. Each pen will produce more than 2 miles (3.5km) of writing if it has a fin( point, or 11/2 miles (2.5km) if it has medium point.

Biro: The ball-point inventor

A sharpened quill (the shaft of a feather) was the standard writing instrument for over 1000 years before the fountain pen was invented in 1884. Then in the 1930s, Ladislao Biro, a Hungarian artist and journalist, invented the ball-point pen in Budapest. He fled when the Second World War broke out, eventually reaching Argentina.

With the help of his brother Georg, a chemist, he perfected the pen and manufactured it in Buenos Aires during the war. In 1944 he sold his interests in the invention to one of his backers who produced the Biro pen for the Allied air forces, because it was not† affected by changes in air pressure. Ladislao Biro disappeared into obscurity, although his name became a household word throughout the world.

The ball - Usually made of steel, the ball (magnified 80 times) is ground to high accuracy.

The socket - Ridges inside the socket in the pen's tip allow ink to spread around the ball.

Ball in place - When the ball is inserted, the edge of the socket is bent over to hold it there.


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