The family business Vivapen has been pursuing the development and production of various types of pens for 52 years. While the company was founded by Petra’s father Jože, the work is now spread across three generations. Innovation, managing the product development process, and retail distribution are key to this company’s success. The tools needed for the manufacturing process are made in the company’s own tool shop. They collaborate as a development supplier with a number of companies and pens are mostly sold under their brand names. The company also manufactures roller ball pens, fountain pens, ink eraser corrector pens, and the list goes on.
- Is there still room for innovation in the field of pen development and manufacturing?
We are currently developing our newest pen product NU Pen, and our first piston-fill fountain pen B4 with a built-in piston-filling system, which allows users to pump ink straight from a bottle. There may not be that much room for innovation left with pen design, but there is still plenty of elbow room regarding materials, manufacture, ink feed system, tips made of different materials, printing options, assembly process upgrade options, packaging, etc.
- Which innovations are already available to the British market?
We have been cooperating successfully with the British customers, to whom all our products and innovations are available. Last year our major customer in the United Kingdom, Manuscript Pen Company, was the first and only company given the chance to introduce an innovation to the market, Art Pen or Switch Tips, as it is called by the British, which, as the name implies, switches between ink cartridges with different tips and colours.
- What is the competitive advantage of your ink feed systems expertise?
It is the pen’s heart or engine, which ensures that the writing runs smoothly, and combines knowledge of physics, chemistry, and mechanical engineering. Our pens can successfully withstand temperature differences and air pressure changes. When designing our own ink feed system, we considered the technical characteristics of the ink feed systems of global brands. The main disadvantage of most ink feed systems is that when the fountain pen is filled with ink for the first time, a drop of ink often falls from the pen before the air in the ink channel closes the ink flow path from the ink cartridge. This predominantly happens with ink feed systems whose ink channel is positioned at the opposite side to where the ink enters the feed. The ink channel at the inlet of the ink into the feed channel is very sensitive and allows the ink capillary to be torn and the writing lose to its fluidity when ink is rapidly removed. We decided to position the ink channel right next to the inlet of the ink into the feed channel. This decision was based on the assumption that very low surface tension (approximately 35.0 mN/m) affects the “first drops” of ink when filling the feed channel. That is the consequence of processing the ink feeder with an accelerator, which allows the ink to flow to the tip of the pen within the shortest possible time.
- What is the level of robotisation of manufacturing processes in your company?
In 2016, when we visited the Automatica Fair in Munich, it became clear to us that we would need to shift to a higher gear if we wanted to keep pace with technological development, and in the second half of the year, we established an automation team, which includes experts from all our departments. In less than three years we have built seven fully functional robots and have automated processes to a large extent, although that does not imply that the number of people has been reduced. The number of our employees increases proportionally to the demands and development of our customers and new products.