But how are all these materials from all over the world turned into a pen? Through a specialized manufacturing process in France where millions of pens are created every day.
INJECTION MOLDED BARRELS
The polystyrene barrels are injection molded in a specially made mold. This process that involves heating up raw pellets of their polystyrene up in a hopper and using an auger to force them molten plastic into a form. After a rapid cooling,the mold opens up and ejection pins knock the barrels out of the mold before filling back up with molten plastic again. (How Do They Do It: Cristal Ballpoint Pen, 2011)
INJECTION MOLDED CAPS AND EXTRUDED TUBES
The polypropeylene caps go through a similar injection molding process, albeit at different temperatures and pressure levels. Meanwhile, the polypropylene ink tube is extruded through a die, just like a child would do with playdough. It is then filled with ink that has been tested for proper viscosity and color. (Bic Group, 2014)
The brass tips are stamped out of sheets of raw brass. A high speed, high impact industrial press can stamp out hundreds of tips per minute and uses its incredible pressure to do so with great accuracy and efficiency.
PRESSED AND HONED BALLPOINTS
The most demanding process however is the manufacture of the ballpoint tips. Rough tungsten carbide balls are molded from raw metal powder and fed into a shaping machine. Using a abrasive paste, the balls are honed into perfect spheres at a micron level of precision. If even 1 in 5000 ballpoints are imperfect, the whole lot is discarded.
Once passing inspection, the ballpoints are joined to the stamped brass tip and assembled to the body of the pen. At the end of the assembly line, they are gathered into boxes of 6, 18, and 36 to be shipped out around the world.
This process includes several stages that have a negative effect on the environment including the heating of plastics, the waste created by imperfect ballpoints, and excess material from stamping brass. Some of this waste is recycled or reclaimed while some of it must be discarded. Making manufacturing a more efficient system is the goal of Bic’s industrial engineers.