Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An Erasable Ink Composition

Contributed by Irving J. Arons, Product Technology 1969-1994.

In 1980, following the introduction of an erasable ink ballpoint pen by the Papermate Division of the Gillette Company in 1979, BIC Corporation approached Arthur D. Little to see if we could come up with an erasable pen ink that got around Gillette’s issued patents. Dick Brenneman headed up the case for ADL, and I was a member of the team.

What makes erasable ballpoint pens so different from traditional ballpoint pens is the "ink" -- instead of being made from oils and dyes, it is made of a liquid rubber cement. As you write, the ballpoint rolls on the paper and dispenses the rubber cement ink (the resulting mark is known as a trace). Modern erasable pens work by allowing a ballpoint pen to leave a definite and intense black or colored trace which looks like an ink trace, but is capable of being easily erased shortly after writing (usually up to 10 hours). After that time, the trace will harden and become non-erasable.

Erasable ink generally consists of 15 percent to 45 percent (by weight) natural rubber that is dissolved in a series of volatile organic solvents with varying boiling points.

We held several “idea-generation” sessions and, after much laboratory experimentation, finally found a formula that both worked as a ballpoint pen ink, and got around the Gillette patents. As noted in our issued patent (1), we found that the combination of a block thermoplastic elastomer and an appropriate plasticiser, with a slow evaporating solvent, achieved the goal of laying a mark (trace) on top of the paper that was erasable for a period of time until the solvent vehicle evaporated causing the ink to sink into the substrate (paper) and become permanent.

Thus, the BIC erasable ballpoint pen was born.

1. U.S. Patent No. 4,721,739, Erasable ink compositions, Brenneman; Richard S. (Natick, MA); Drennan; Paul M. (W. Newton, MA); Arons; Irving J. (Peabody, MA); Pincus; Alice H. (Andover, MA); Ramzan; Chaudhary M., January 26, 1988.


lori coocen said...

what about the moon drill and the winshields made for the helicopters in the vietnam was? i thought those were interesting too!
lori : )

Irv Arons said...


Hopefully, I can get the guys and gals that worked on those and other interesting projects to contribute their memories and I'll post them to this blog.

Anonymous said...

I have, what I was told, an experimental hard drive made by Arthur D. Little (circa 1961). This was left to me by a relative and I would like to find the history of it. If you have and info please let me know. Thank You

Irv Arons said...

Dear Anonymous,

I've posted a request for information about your comment on a couple of ADL information boards.

How do I get in touch with you if I get a response?

My email is

Irv Arons

Katy Gryffindor said...

I would just like to ask if the composition of an eraseable pen is the same as a frixion pen today

Irv Arons said...


I have no idea, as I'm not familiar with the "frixion" pen. Don't forget, our work was done in 1980!

Irv Arons