Saturday, July 2, 2016

Retractable Pen

The retractable pen is an interesting little device. You press a button, and the tip comes out. Press it again, and it does the opposite: the tip disappears back inside. How can the same action lead to different results?

In this post, I'm including a CGI animation I created using Blender. I actually modeled this pen in early 2012 (a little over 4 years ago); I recently fixed it up and re-rendered it.

A retractable pen has 5 main parts:
1. Frame
2. Thruster
3. Ink cartridge
4. Spring
5. Cam (a special mechanical piece; 1 or more is used)

The basic design is for the cam to rotate each time the pen clicker is pressed; the rotation allows for a pin (built into the frame) to slide into a different slot. Different slots have different lengths, and depending on the length of the slot, the ink cartridge will extend by a different amount.

There are many ways to work out the details, and the animation I created shows only one possibility. Of course, the design of the pen in the animation would not function well; the pin would snap off right away. I designed it this way to make it easier to see the mechanism; a stronger pin would obstruct the view.

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