How does ink come out of pens??

 
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1,657 IKU
Posted on May. 15th, 2008

There's a couple types of pens, so I'll explain them seperately...

~ Ball-point or "rollerball" pens:
A ball-point pen is essentially a cone filled with ink with a tiny ball bearing at the end. This ball bearing is held in place so that there can only be a very tiny space around it. Ink, being a viscious liquiod, doesn't like to leak through very small cracks, so it doesn't leak out of the pen. But, ink it also sticky, so it sticks to the surface of the bearing. When the pen is dragged accross the paper it rolls, pulling a very thin layer of ink through with it. The ink then sticks to the paper because it is more porous than the bearing. Ball-point pens start to "dry up" as the ink solidfies and has a harder time passing through the tiny gap around the bearing. This causes the bearing to slide on the paper rather than rotate. This is why wax paper - such as that found on register tape - can "kill" a ball-point pen: the was gets on the bearing causes it to slide instead of roll. The reason you can fix the pen by scribbling on normal paper is because the paper rubs off the wax and gets the bearing rolling, coating it with ink again.

~ Felt-tip pens:
These are sort of like tiny dry-erase markers. The felt tip soaks up the ink from the reservoir behind it. Then, when the felt touches paper, the ink latches onto the paper instead much like it did with the bearing. The now-dry felt soaks ink up from the wet felt, and so on back to the reservoir. This is called "wicking", when a liquid travels through a cloth or fabric. You see the same thing if you put the end of a sheet of cotton in a small pool of water: pretty soon, you'll see the water climbing up the cloth.

~ Pressurized or draw-anywhere pens: (aka "Space Pens")
These function exactly like a standard ball-point pen, except that the reservoir is compressed. This way, no matter what way you hold the pen, the ink is always delivered to the bearing. That's how you can write upside down, in zero-gravity, or even underwater. (Underwater also requires special water-repelling ink, but this is common in most "space pens".)

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103 IKU
Posted on May. 15th, 2008

Ink is a liquid; therefore, depending on its viscosity level the ink will eventually fall through the ball point pen because of gravity.

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98 IKU
Posted on May. 15th, 2008

gravity forces it down as it rolls across the ball bearing surface

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