Published: 20/07/2021


Drawing and writing are the most natural means of visible communication for human beings. And this has been true since the dawn of our presence on this planet. Writing and drawing remain powerful tools of creative expression also today.

To express a thought, exchange an experience, raise one’s spirit and allow others to enter one’s “world”, without time limits, a coded sign or trait – writing – is the most practical means. Paraphrasing Proust, “each of us has a book to write within us”. To do this, different tools have been invented and used over the centuries.

Just think back to rock paintings, or cuneiform writing on clay tablets. The subsequent development of writing is linked to the evolution of a colored fluid, which took the name of ink. It is something we still use today, but which dates back in time. Its evolution has gone through various solutions. Water and resin based mixtures, or wax and resin, black carbon powder, or insect colored fluids. It subsequently evolved further thanks to the use of oil as media, with different grades of viscosity.

The transition to modern oil-based ink is linked to Johann Gutenberg, a German goldsmith and typographer of the 1400s, who in 1450 developed a movable type printing technique for printing more quickly on parchment or paper, with which he created the first printed Bible in the world. The improvement of the fluid is certainly the basis of the evolution of the PEN tool.

The “pen” was originally nothing more than the stem of a plant, an empty straw, or a metallic stiletto. In fact, the pen takes its name from the bird feathers used between 400 and 500 AD. Also in this case, the continuous search for superior performance led to the identification of goose down as the ideal “pen”. Having a better mechanical resistance than the others, it kept the line longer and could be restored (tempered) several times. A technique that is still applied to pencils and pastels today.

An evolutionary step, no less important, is that which happened to the tip of the pen. In fact, it is the most critical part that should collect a certain amount of ink and transfer it to the target substrate. Initially, as we have seen, it was a simple pointed, monolithic element, which over time  became metallic. As far as we know, it was the English journalist James Perry (1756-1821) who made some changes that proved to be substantial for the evolution of this fundamental tool. In fact, he sensed that by modifying the metal tip, which was monolithic, by inserting some cuts and holes, it would become more elastic.

By doing so, he increased the adaptability of the tip to the target support, compensated for the pressure of the hand and better dosed the amount of ink collected by the inkwell. In other words, he created the modern nib that we all know today. At that point the material of the rigid support (the body of the pen), free from the function of a nib, began to evolve in the direction of new more precious or exotic materials (i.e. woods of various origins, ivory, silver, etc.). The elegance of the instrument, which has gradually become a “status symbol”, still pushes today to develop products that are increasingly ergonomically advanced and with high quality finishes.


A fundamental geometric change

In the systematic evolution it is written that the elements tend to become more and more dynamic and the surfaces interactive. The invention of the sphere (mobile) in place of the nib (static), as element of contact with the support and a vehicle for transferring the ink, was a quantum leap in the evolution of this wonderful object of visual communication. Thanks to it, the stylus pen became what we still call today: Biro pen.

This fundamental step is due to the intuition of a Hungarian journalist László Biró (1899-1985). To write his pieces it seems that Biró used the same ink used up to that time for printing. A much denser liquid than traditional ones, more manageable in the distribution on the sheet, as well as quicker to dry. At that point, time became a determining variant.

The sphere was the most elegant (uncompromising) invention he could imagine. The sphere acts as a cap and one side always remains in constant contact with the ink in the container. As it rotates, in a precise location, it carries with it a calibrated veil of ink which it transfers in real time to the paper support. An ageless and always timely invention. The ballpoint pen, or biro pen, is now the most practical and economical tool for handwriting. Despite the technological evolution of writing (keyboard), the pen will remain irreplaceable. Nothing conveys such a complete pleasure as handwriting, in addition to its ease of use.

The gesture of writing is irreplaceable, even the manufacturers of PCs and Tablets have understood this and have included electronic pens in their offer. Facsimiles of pens allow writing and drawing on glass surfaces. The transfer of the sign on digital supports certainly makes the operation of storing and managing the content more practical and easier, but it certainly makes writing less emphatic and devoid of the tactile and olfactory elements offered by both the scent and the consistency of the paper, as also the scent of the ink itself.

For decades, pens have been industrially produced, always keeping up with the times, often integrating new functions. NASA, for example, in the 1960s invested a million dollars to produce a pen capable of writing in all positions, even in zero gravity. The “super pen”, later called Fisher’s pen, was used by astronauts to carry out their manual recordings in space.

Today pens are still prized and appreciated gifts, advertising vehicles and often they are the spokespersons of the best technological developments in the field of materials. Manufacturers are inspired by the most advanced sectors of the industry, both in the choice of materials and in terms of design and additional features (i.e. pens with laser pointers). They always follow the evolutionary trends, therefore not neglecting even the ecological aspects.


Plastic pens

For more than fifty years, polymers have entered all the most advanced industrial segments, including that of pens. An evolution that has seen fossil polymers such as PS, ABS, PC, PA and PP as protagonists, processed with the injection molding technique, in mono or bi-material (i.e. rigid+soft or bi-color), or with the mixed technique of extrusion  (the main body) and injection molding (the accessories).

Following the trend “towards bio”, now progressively popular in many industrial sectors, in the last ten years bio polymers, both biobased and bio-compostable, have also been adopted.

The first organic materials that appeared on the market were actually hybrid products, i.e. fossil materials (PP, PE) loaded with natural materials (wood, cork, hemp, algae, etc.), not always up to expectations and not as a result of a real environmental strategy.

Subsequently, the increased sensitivity of the public towards the environment has led to new biopolymer matrices coming from partially or completely renewable sources (bio-polyesters based on PLA, other materials deriving from fermentation or based on starch) of which the strategy is well defined and aimed at the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly the CO2 and to the reduction of raw material consumptions.

The new European directives about Circular Economy also push more and more in the direction of the reuse of everything that has a relatively short life expectancy or to the recycle of the raw materials used for it.

However, this new European direction is exposing the limits of the “recovery system” of the various nations.

The new bio course focuses on materials obtained from renewable sources (biobased non-compostable and compostable biopolymers) that of course should have performances able to support the function of the final product, to the reuse of exhausted products, or to the virtuous recovery of the raw materials to allow them to be reused possibly for the same product.

The best known forms of recovery for non-degradable fossil and biobased non compostable materials is the grinding and subsequent extrusion to reconvert them in granulate form.

Another solution, less widespread but rapidly developing, will be depolymerization.

As a last option, thanks to the high energy content of fossil products, there is energy recovery. It does not solve the problem of reducing the consumption of raw materials, indicated among the EU objectives, but nevertheless responds to the need of reducing the pollution of the planet’s soil. However, the landfill option has been cancelled.


The compostable bio-based materials by 2Mila-ABM

For about 6 years, following the trend “towards bio” of which 2Mila Srl immediately signaled as unstoppable, the company has included in its injection molding polymers offer, new biodegrdable high performance compounds. Biobased biodegradable and compostable products, made by Artic Biomaterials Oy (ABM Composite – Finland).

ABM’s ArcBioxes derive partially or totally from renewable sources and have a renewable carbon content (green carbon) ranging from 50% to 90%.

These (composite) materials are capable of satisfying the most complex technical, aesthetic and transformation requirements. Without forgetting the regulatory aspects related to the various sectors.

In the table shown here it is possible to identify at a glance the families of ArcBiox materials available. The table highlights the ability of the ArcBiox to meet the needs of CO2  reduction but also, last but not least, it indicates the possible end-of-life path of the final product made with them.

The identification – a priori – of one or more end-of-life paths of the finished product will be an increasingly important and distinctive element to be taken into consideration in the marketing policies of any company producing finished products.


ArcBiox for the pen industry

For the pens and markers sector, ABM has developed a series of specific ArcBiox grades (see table) suitable for injection moulding or extrusion, which are the two most popular technologies for manufacturing these important products.

As we have seen previously, in this world of visual communication tools, there are ancient, albeit functional, gestures.
Tempering is one of them. In the range of ArcBiox products indicated in the table, we find some grades specifically designed to meet this need.
Compostable materials that allow you to keep alive the suggestion of sharpening the tip, by means of the traditional and pencil sharpener.


Circular economy -Fossil

In European strategies for reducing emissions and the need for raw materials, circularity plays an important role, particularly strategic for fossil materials. The use of these materials in future productions will continue to be appreciable as long as they contain an increasing amount of recycled raw material from industrial waste or, even more appreciated, from post-consumption. For the latter solution, the recovery and reuse of post-consumer materials, the existing limits of the collection and recovery systems mentioned earlier do not currently offer ready-to-use solutions. Particularly when the final products require high technical characteristics or rely on a certain level of food quality of the raw material.

The virtuous recovery, the one that allows a true circular economy “from product to product itself”, requires a certain creativity and commitment by all the players in the value chain for the recovery of the parts.

2Mila Srl considers this collaboration necessary and is available for a creative and pro-active discussion between supplier and customer on this important issue.


The attention of 2Mila regarding environmental needs has never diminished, indeed, it continues

For several years 2Mila Srl has been marketing compounds made with fossil raw materials, both virgin and partially recycled (IQ series) based on ABS, PC and PC/ABS alloys, with a variable content of raw materials from industrial waste.

Last June the company obtained the Plastics Second Life mark, for industrial waste and MixEco section, issued by the Italian Institute for Recycling (IIPR), for its new Xvalue ™ Second life family.

The new range of Xvalue™ Second life products currently consists of compounds based on ABS, PC, PC / ABS and PS; with a recycled content from 30% to 90%.

Xvalue™ Second life is not just a new range of products, but a project that aims to find a synthesis between what you want to do and what you can actually do.

Also in this case, as always asserted by 2Mila, the winning key remains the open and constructive dialogue between supplier and customer.


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