How Retractable Pens Work

[Bill Hammack], aka the [EngineerGuy] is at it again, this time explaining how retractable ballpoint pens work.

pen-thumbIn this excellent video, he describes the simple (but remarkably sophisticated) engineering of the mechanism that allows a pen to pop the ballpoint mechanism out, then back in again. It is a great example of how to illustrate and explain a complex concept, much like his videos on how the CCD sensor of your camera works.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the video is an off the cuff observation he makes, though. The Parker company, who first developed the retractable mechanism, were worried that this new design might flop. So they didn’t put the distinctive Parker arrow clip onto the pen until a few years later, when the pen was a big seller. It seems that while some engineering problems are easy to solve, short-sighted accountants are a harder problem.

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[Engineerguy] explains how a CCD works

[Bill] is back with another fantastic video explaining a piece of intriguing hardware. This time, he’s explaining how a CCD works. For many of us, these things are part of our daily life, but aside from the fact that they capture an image, we don’t put much thought into them. [Bill] ¬†breaks things down in a way that we really enjoy. Fast paced and detailed, yet simple enough for even non-engineers to follow. This time, however, he’s also promoting his companion book which includes tons more information, not only on the construction and function of these ideas, but the underlying scientific principles.

The book, called Eight Amazing Engineering Stories, covers the following items:

  • Digital camera imagers
  • tiny accelerometers
  • atomic clocks
  • enriched uranium
  • batteries
  • microwave ovens
  • lasers
  • anodized¬†metals

We’re excited about the book and it looks like they’ve worked really hard to deliver a quality product. Great job guys.