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The Pininfarina Cambiano inkless pen stylishly combines wood, aluminum and a special metal alloy to allow the writer to sketch infinite lines. (Pininfarina)

This Inkless Pen Lets You Write Forever

A renowned design firm has unveiled a pen with a special metal alloy that creates permanent markings without running dry

smithsonian.com

Certain household items are constant reminders that nothing lasts forever. I’m talking about dulled razor blades, ink cartridges that end up costing way more than the printer itself and, of course, pens.

But, that notion may have to be revised a bit now that Italian design firm Pininfarina, creators of some of the world's most iconic car designs for companies like Ferrari and Fiat, has recently debuted a writing tool that supposedly never has to be replaced. On the surface, it looks to be a vanity item for the status conscious. One of the firm's previous models, the Limited Edition Visconti, sells for $1,895. However, for a much more reasonable price point of about $120, buyers can purchase the new hand-crafted writing instrument with an elegent aluminium and wood exterior. The 4.EVER Pininfarina Cambiano's biggest selling point, obviously, is an innovative writing tip that allows users to sketch or handwrite “indefinitely.”

The notion of "indefinitely" in this case simply means that since the pen technically doesn't use ink, there aren't any cartridges to refill. Instead, the special material Pininfarina uses is something called ethergraf, a patented metallic alloy developed by Italian household manufacturer Chic Trading. The company, which collaborated with Pininfarina on the project, already showcases the technology in its original Napkin 4.EVER line of pens

“The process involved is based on the principle of oxidation,” explains Davide Fabi, head of special projects at the Napkin division. “The writing tip oxidizes the paper, a trait that only casually resembles that of a pencil.”

You can think of oxidization as the same process that turns newspapers yellow over time. Contact between the pen and paper alters the writing surface, but not the tool. In that sense, the claim that the the pen can be used to draw infinite lines is somewhat analogous, at least in principle, to how a touchscreen stylus works. And though the tip does wear out over time, Fabi assures that the effect is so microscopic and gradual that users won’t even notice. 

Curiously, there are a number of outlets hawking metal alloy-tipped pens that seem to work similarly. Jac Zagoory Designs, for instance, lists a pen called the Beta Inkless for $27.95. But when pressed about the 4.EVER Pininfarina Cambiano's distinction, Fabi insists that while these other pens can transfer toxic materials such as lead, ethergraf pens don't contain graphite, lead or anything known to be hazardous. “Ethergraf is an alloy obtained from different metals that are safe," he points out. “The continuous research of our R&D brings our company to achieve rapid developments and improvements in this regard.”

As a bonus, the special edition Pininfarina pen comes with a notebook with paper made from powdered rock rather than wood, so that the pages have better integrity and water-resistance. Interested buyers can place orders in April 2014, at the earliest.

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About Tuan C. Nguyen
Tuan C. Nguyen

Tuan C. Nguyen is a Silicon Valley-based journalist specializing in technology, health, design and innovation. His work has appeared in ABCNews.com, NBCNews.com, FoxNews.com, CBS' SmartPlanet and LiveScience.

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