China is developing a more environmentally-friendly pen tip that is lead-free, according to Taiyuan Iron and Steel (Group), or TISCO, based in Taiyuan, Shanxi province. The group recently announced that it has finally developed its own pen tips, ending China's long-time reliance on imported pieces.
Special microelements must be added to liquid steel to make a quality tip that is able to write continuously for at least 800 meters, but the formula had long been a trade secret kept by foreign manufacturers, leaving imports as the only option for Chinese pen makers, explained Li Jianmin, technology director of TISCO. Li said the development team conducted numerous experiments, adjusting parameters to find the ideal formula.
Domestic enterprises are reportedly starting to use the pen tips produced by TISCO, which meet international quality standards and are priced lower than their imported counterparts. The domestic tips are expected to replace the imports within two years.
Last November, an industry standard on steel pen tips, drafted by TISCO, was approved by CMSI, China's national steel standards committee, to spur innovation. Besides technical difficulties, the idea that manufacturing pen tips would cost more than simply importing them was another reason why Chinese iron and steel enterprises did not make pen tips in the past, reports stated.
China's current domestic consumption of pen tips is just 100 to 150 million tons, yielding a total market volume of less than 200 million RMB ($29 million). However, the cost of R&D is relatively high -- a situation about which Chinese enterprises are less enthusiastic.
Nevertheless, Li believes that TISCO has the capability to control costs and yield a profit.