The production line of ballpoint pen nib [Photo: Shanxi television]
With an annual production of 40 billion ballpoint pens, Chinese ballpoint pen companies could finally end its total dependence on imports of high standard steel for pen nib as breakthrough technology on the part has been proven a success.
Beifa, a leading stationery brand in China, is testing out some pen refills made with "pen nib steel" for the sixth round. The refills have to be capable of writing 800 meters without a break under the same writing angle to pass the test.
Some other stationery brands like TrueColor have also started using the steel in their products.
The steel is likely to replace imported materials completely in two years.
Currently, more than 40 billion ballpoint pens are produced in China annually by more than 3,000 companies and 200,000 workers.
The secret "pen nib steel"
A ballpoint is composed of a ball and a ball seat. The latter is the difficult part to produce, as the seat can only be made out of steel that is easy to cut while resistant to cracking while being processed.
The core technique in producing such high-standard steel has been an industry secret only known to a small number of countries, including Japan and Switzerland.
China has to pay 15 million US dollars every year to import more than 1,000 tonnes of such steel for production.
But the situation is expected to change following China's Shanxi Taigang Stainless Steel Co. figured out the production technique of " the pen nib steel" four months ago - that is, five years after the country initiated a ballpoint project, with Taigang as the leading participant.
Wang Huimian, a senior engineer with Taigang, said micro-elements are essential in turning raw steel into "pen nib steel" with perfect performance. To work out the right proportion of different elements, Wang said Taigang's research team has conducted a massive number of experiments as they had no examples to follow or refer to.
After repeated failures, the company finally achieved success in a test in September 2016 and later produced the first batch of pen nib steel with a diameter of 2.3 mm.