Both fountain pens and ballpoint pens draw ink from ink cartridges that act as reservoirs. Ballpoint pens have pressurized ink cartridges and fountain pens draw the ink with a combination of gravity and capillary action.
For thousands of years, writing with a pen involved frequently dipping it into an inkwell. Inkblots and splatters were common, and the ink cartridge was invented to solve those problems. The first pen with an ink cartridge was designed by Petrache Poenaru, a Romanian inventor who patented his invention in France in 1827. His creation was a success; cartridge pens were mass-produced by the 1880s.
|Early cartridge pens were all fitted with a nib, like the type of pen we now call a fountain pen. Nibs follow the designs used by dip pens; they narrow to a fine tip and are pierced by a “breathing hole” that exchanges air for ink from the cartridge. A considerably thin and easy-flowing ink is needed for nibs to work properly. These types of inks take time to dry, and an entire page can be ruined if it is bumped or smudged while the ink is still wet. Early ink cartridges were refilled as needed, but disposable cartridges replaced the refillable variety by the mid-twentieth-century. Writing with ink pens soon became easy and convenient without the mess! Many early ink cartridges were designed to fit a particular brand of pen, but today most ink cartridges are produced to an international standard and are interchangeable.|
The ballpoint pen was born when László Jozsef Bíró, a Hungarian journalist, observed that newspaper ink dried quickly with very little smudging; he wanted to develop a pen using the same type of ink. However, newspaper ink was too thick to be used with a standard nib, so Bíró continued to experiment and added a tiny ball-bearing at the tip of the ink cartridge. The ball-bearing rotated as the pen was moved along the paper, which then pulled ink from the cartridge and successfully transferred it to the paper. Bíró emigrated to Argentina in 1938 and obtained a patent there in 1943. By that time, ballpoint pens' ink cartridges were pressurized to allow the ink to flow evenly; this made them ideal for high-altitude use and the Royal Air Force began using them in 1944. Ballpoint pens continued to improve their performance as more suitable inks were developed. The chemist Fran Seech developed the “no smear” ink used in the first Papermate pen in 1950.
|By building upon the innovations of his predecessors, Paul C. Fisher developed the perfect ink cartridge system for his “anti-gravity pen.” It contained thixotropic ink, which is semisolid until the movement of the ball-bearing liquefies it. He used nitrogen to pressurize the ink cartridge so that the pen would not require gravity to work. Fisher's pen could write upside-down, underwater, and in extreme heat or cold. Fisher patented the pen in 1965, which was just in time for it to be adopted by the U.S. Space Program. His pen worked fine in zero gravity!|
Without the ground-breaking ideas of inventors like Petrache Poenaru, László Jozsef Bíró, and Paul C. Fisher, convenient pens might not exist. These fellows proved that a pen's ink cartridge can make all the difference. Always make sure that you are getting the best-quality pen for your money!
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