Why are ballpoint pens non refillable, as in refilling specifically the ink rather than replacing the whole cartridge?


It seems the only “refillable ballpoints” I’ve ever come across are refilled using cartridges, but that seems kinda wasteful considering the cartridge itself isn’t recyclable or reusable. Bottle ink seems to be only used for fountain pens. Unless if I’m mistaken, why can’t ballpoints be refilled with ink? Is it not possible to take an ink syringe and bottled oil-based ink and use those to refill the cartridge?

In: 2

The ink paste is very thick and lasts a long time, which makes it cost-effective already. The syringe would have to be unclogged with acetone, and likely cause a mess that cost more to clean if you spill the ink on a table or clothes. It would also be challenging to fill the thin plastic tube without any air bubbles and without diluting the ink to a liquid state.

If you’re selling refill cartridges for your ink pens then you’re probably not too excited about your customers refilling their own ink versus buying more cartridges. That and I don’t think it’s something most of us would be excited to do anyways. When I want to write something, I want to write it now. Not 10 minutes later after I refill my ink pen.

It’s possible, sure, but due to the efficiency of manufacturing in bulk, it’s just simpler to replace the whole cartridge or tube, or even the whole pen.

At work we have cheap ball-point pens available everywhere for use, and in 10 years of working there, the other day was the first time one of those pens reached the point of “used up” / all out of ink. We go through pens, but they just seem to disappear from our area, people probably move them to other areas (dang thieves 😉 ). So replacing the pens has been an issue, whereas refilling them cause they ran out, almost never.

It’s like shoes; you don’t repair or replace the soles when they get worn out, you just get new shoes. It’s unfortunate, but that’s how it is.

The biggest thing is just practicality.

Three ink used in ballpoint pens is very thick and viscous – this is partly how it stays in place in the cartridge however much you shake your pen about.

This also means it is very hard to get into the cartridge – easy enough to to in a manufacturing plant with big bits of automated machinery, but virtually impossible to do on a small personal scale. It just isn’t practical for example to syringe in new ink into a cartridge by hand – and the equipment to allow it would be so expensive as to be uneconomical.

It is also notable that opens are designed as a unit, so the hardware making up the open will be designed to last as long as the ink supply, but not necessarily any longer. Keep refilling a ballpoint and you may eventually have issues with the ball and fittings wearing out too.

As an alternative, fountain pens do use more liquid inks, which are available in both cartridge format for speed and ease of use, but also in bulk formats you can refill yourself.

It would however be nice to see more options for recycling spent ink refills…