The narrow slit in fountain pen nibs allows the ink to flow to the point, but needs to be precisely cut in order for the nib to work. The manual system was responsible for both inconsistent Quality and Health and Safety issues (RSI); the challenge was to investigate precision cutting techniques and automate the process.
An initial feasibility study looked at different ways to produce a cut of the right quality. It quickly eliminated some technologies, including laser cutting, with the result that the project teams could focus the design around a single technique. It was concluded that using a blade was still the most effective method.
To accurately replicate the precise work done by the skilled workers, we created an innovative air-bearing guidance system, which allows the blade to run at higher speeds while maintaining complete control of the pressure on the blade and its speed and depth of cutting.
The machine also incorporates an integral blade changing system, as the blades need to be changed due to wear every few hours to ensure maximum efficiency.
The whole system is controlled to ensure that every slit is cut to the pen maker’s precise criteria, even taking account of blade wear and adjusting the cutting mechanism accordingly.
Each of the three machines produce a total of six million pen nibs every year – the equivalent of one every second. The Health and Safety aspects associated with RSI have been eliminated and a high quality product is delivered consistently.