14 December 2022
by Alex Brinded

Pencilling in bacteria resistant stationery

Engineers from the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), UK, have assisted a local start-up with the development of germ-resistant stationery.

A pencil holder and two pencils
© Bio 5

Bio 5 makes stationery products with antimicrobial properties and has secured a deal with one of the UK’s largest suppliers to schools and universities.

They use patented silver biocide technology to imbue products with antimicrobial surface protection that they claim lasts till end-of-life.

The company is manufacturing a triform pencil, a sharpener and eraser combo, and a folding ruler. The AMRC says that the company wanted to bring new products to market, but had limited resources to develop them to a stage where they could be manufactured and marketed. The company turned to AMRC for help.

Its research engineers delivered product development through 3D modelling and prototyping.

Bio 5 Co-founder Alistair Wheately says, 'We did a lot of tweaking of the product and to bring the best possible ergonomic, environmentally-friendly product to the market, but getting everything made here in the UK was a massive challenge as most of production had gone out to the Far East.'

'The models were developed from initial 2D sketches from Bio 5. The AMRC developed a parametric 3D CAD model of each product using PTC Creo software that was refined from client input before developing the models,' according to AMRC Project Manager John Spencer and Design Engineer Valdis Krumins.

The AMRC says that it deliberately chose materials that were as close as possible to the final production polymer. Krumins and Spencer comment, 'The intended manufacturing process for the products is injection moulding and the number of polymers that can be moulded is significantly greater than available for 3D printing. The exact polymer selected for the production components was not available, however, the AMRC has access to a comprehensive materials bank…we were able to select suitable materials for prototyping.

'A series of interim rapid prototypes were produced using a Formlab’s Form 2 printer for review by the client. Once a final design for the products had been signed-off, final 3D-printed prototypes were produced on the same platform in grey resin at a 25µm print resolution, suitable for marketing.'

The centre notes that the designs will not change significantly to scale up to high volume production. 'It is expected that the first production runs will be from rapid tooling, enabling low-volume injection moulded parts to be manufactured without the significant investment required for hard steel tooling,' say Krumins and Spencer. 

Bio 5 supplies its pencils through Amazon and public sector procurement body YPO, and expect its new stationery items to retail at the higher end of the market as they are British made. 

The AMRC is part of the national High Value Manufacturing Catapult network of research centres that provides support to SMEs.


Alex Brinded

Staff Writer