How to Choose the Right Nib


How to Choose the Right Nib


By Chris Mordi

3 minute read

You know the saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”?

It applies to more than just meeting people. In this case it’s about people meeting and using your product for the first time.

When it comes to valve-actuated fluid dispensing pens, the first impression falls on the nib – that little bundle of polyester or acrylic fibers at the top of the pen whose job it is to get a fluid out of a tube and onto whatever surface it is designed to write on.

How do you know you’re getting the right nib for the dispensing pen that you’re bringing to market? Or, for that matter, are you sure you have the right nib on the pen you already have on the market?

Let’s quickly answer those questions.


Fluid Check

Everything revolves around the type of fluid you’re putting through the nib.
Fluids are broken down into three types: water-based, solvent-based and petroleum-based.

Different fluid bases interact with nibs in different ways, creating the need for several nib materials.

One of those is polyester, and this works with all types of water-based fluids. Acrylic nibs work best with solvent- or petroleum-based fluids.

This is important because some chemicals cause a nib to swell, making it – and the pen – inoperable.

“You push the nib down when it is swelling and it won’t close. So if it won’t close what happens? The liquid just keeps flowing. You’ll have what we call a leaker,” said Bob Forschler, executive director at FLOCON, INC.

The ultimate swell check happens when you send an amount of your fluid to your nib supplier.

“Give me enough fluid to make 50 pens. I will put them in the lab and live-test them,” Forschler said.

In addition to the fluid, he suggests sending along your SDS documents. “We’ll give that to our engineers and they’ll be able to tell me, ‘Yeah [this chemical] will cause a problem,’” he said.

Forschler also highly recommends that you ask your supplier for their nibs so you can test them yourself.

For those who already have a product on the market and are starting to experience problems, Forschler said to find out whether that product’s fluid has been changed. He recalled a customer who suddenly had issues with swelling nibs. It was found that the customer slightly shifted the chemical ratio in the original fluid just enough to cause the change.



Making a Choice

Coarse. Fine. High-flow. Low-flow. Chisel point. Taper-down point. You have to make a choice on how you want that nib to dispense your fluid - exact and pin-point accurate or free-flowing and broad to cover sizable areas.

Electronics manufacturers use flux dispensing pens to put a fluid in small spaces. They will use a pencil-point nib.

Automotive touch up paint pens and adhesive removing pens often call for a chisel point nib.

“You can turn it on it’s side and get a thin line, or you can turn it to get the width of the chisel, and have a thicker [line], Forschler said.

Products like paint pens for use in industrial settings or on construction sites are using a bullet point nib because it covers a wide variety of applications and is more durable than nibs with a fine point, he said.

The density of the fibers in the nib are another determinant of how a fluid will flow out of the pen.

Loosely packed fibers give a nib a coarse feel and appearance. Fluid will flow quickly through this kind of nib. Tightly packed fibers will make the nib look almost like a piece of smooth plastic. This type of nib better controls the flow of fluid for more accurate and measured dispensing.


Know Your Grind

In today’s coffee culture, a lot of us know how we like our coffee ground. It makes a difference in taste because of how water flows over it and through the filter.

The same principle holds true when choosing the best nib for paint pens.

Paints include pigments that are ground into a powder and added to a base fluid. Different pigment grinds give paints different textures.

“If you don’t grind the pigments fine enough, they will be chunky. If it’s chunky, it’s not going to want to flow through the nib,” said Forschler.

He said the same holds true with metallic paints.

“The flakes will stick up the nib. Everything will dry out, and it won’t work,” Forschler said. “Again, it all depends on the grind.”

“There’s more to them than meets eye” when it comes to choosing a nib, Forschler said. “Everything is a balance.”

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