Leaving a mark: long lasting and resistant markers

A new range of resistant markers draw on Pilot’s history of innovation to last in the toughest conditions.

The humble swish and block logo of the Pilot Pen corporation probably sits quietly upon one of many pens in a jar or box at home. Being makers of durable and reliable pens for 100 years, the company is a ubiquitous presence in stationary drawers and pencil cases around the world.

The need for quick and efficient communication does not only exist in homes and offices – manufacturing enterprises require tools that can clearly and reliably communicate a message or provide an indicator. Even in the age of smart factories and automated manufacturing, markers still have a role to play in industrial processes.

Knowing this, Pilot set out to make a pen that could be used in the most demanding of environments. From their headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, the designers of what has become
the ever-present household item, the Pilot pen, decided to create a marker that would be just as universal in industrial settings.

As John Johnston, marketing manager at Pilot Pen Australia, describes, the process of developing the new range of permanent markers, the SCA-400 and the SCA-100, began by identifying what users in manufacturing settings would require. “Pilot sat down to say, ‘How can we deliver a superior product at a very good price to attack the commercial end of the market?’ and they went through all the problems that people have, from surface adhesion to cap off life, to being visible, to wearing out, and they tried to address all of those and deliver a superior product at a much cheaper price.”

The resulting product stays true to Pilot’s core brand values and history as a company that seeks to innovate and provide an unrivalled solution. Established in 1918 by Ryosuke Namiki, a professor at a Japanese naval college, the company is in its 100th year and the occasion has encouraged the company to return to what makes their brand distinct.

“It’s our 100th year, so, we’re making a big statement about technology. In the past, I think we undersold what we’ve done. Then, we just focussed on our pens without talking about the great technology that’s inside and what really makes them very special; the inks and the technology,” said Johnston.

The company’s previous innovations with ink include the development of Frixion erasable ink. Used by Toshiba in their photocopy machines, Frixion ink is thermo-sensitive and allows a piece of paper to be printed and erased up to 10 times. The amount of thought and innovation that has gone into producing inks has always meant that the qualities contained within each pen are unique.

In designing the permanent markers, all of the technological advances that Pilot has made in the past 100 years were distilled into the pen. Demonstrating the company’s competency in developing new inks, the SCA-100 and SCA-400 both write with the company’s controlled surface properties (CSP) ink.

A new type of ink developed by Pilot, the CSP ink is resistant to the elements and can be applied in areas where other inks wouldn’t stick. “There’s a lot of technology around the ink, and for Pilot, it’s all about what is inside that counts,” said Johnston.

The ink inside the SCA-100 and SCA-400 is particularly exceptional because it will not dry out, even if the cap is left off a marker for 24 hours. Allowing users to get on with the job and not worry about replacing a minor tool such as a pen, the 24-hour cap off life was especially designed for industrial customers, noted Johnston.

“You can use it all day – typically in a manufacturing environment or as a tradie out on the road – and if you leave the cap off you can keep writing with it.”

The adhesive qualities of the ink are also what make the SCA-100 and SCA-400 stand apart. The pen can write on surfaces that may have a slick covering of oil or grease and, due to the vibrancy of the ink’s colour, the marker’s writing can be read even in low light conditions and from a significant distance.

The combination of all of these qualities in the one pen comes down to Pilot’s commitment to end user satisfaction. The company invested $100 million to automate its four factories in Japan. Opened in 2016, Johnston described these new facilities as being essential to the production of the new range of permanent markers. “We had a commitment to grow in the industrial area, to create a really good quality product and deliver it at a very attractive price. And automating our production facilities allows us to do that as well as ensure the product meets consumers’ expectations,” said Johnston.

Across the four production facilities that Pilot runs in Japan, the company is implementing innovations such as reusing waste stock and fabricating with recycled materials such as plastics from bottles.

“We’re about end user satisfaction,” said Johnston. “With 100 years of history behind us, we believe that in another 100 years, we will still be here and still be creating great products.”