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Pen cases in cartoon, OBM designs advance

Makers are concentrating on licensed and proprietary child-friendly styles and prints.

China suppliers of pen cases are increasing production of cartoon-themed models to keep pace with heightened demand for novelty pieces. This trend caters to the line’s target market made up mostly of schoolchildren, although aesthetically modest versions for older users are also available.

Pencil box
This pencil box from Winbo has a 2-layer inner rack that folds and extends.

The youthful motifs are apparent in patterns and shapes. Images of characters from Disney and Warner Bros. remain popular.

Winbo Industrial Co. Ltd has the license to use Tom & Jerry on designs. The manufacturer offers 24 models in the series. Several of its latest releases boast surfaces with lenticular artwork providing a 3D effect. The feature raises prices by 10 percent.

Although most makers cannot incorporate copyrighted materials freely in their items, a few suppliers secure permission under OEM contracts after passing factory inspections by clients.

The facilities of Dongguan Hengjia Metal Co. Ltd and Winbo meet Disney’s requirements. The former maintained one designer and accepted only OEM orders in 2009. Last year, the manufacturer added four team members to start working on ODM models. Some of the latest releases have a Christmas motif. Pieces for older students lean toward mature prints.

Several companies, including Winbo, also develop their own styles. The enterprise has introduced original cartoons such as Beni Bear. The character is presented performing activities, including playing, taking the bus and engaging in sports.

Winbo offers 18 models in this theme, of which the BB60113 shows three versions of Beni Bear welcoming guests to a countryside, the Parthenon and Thailand’s Wat Phra Kaew. Images of the places serve as background to each variation.

Ningbo Johnshen Stationery Co. Ltd offers items under the in-house Memoris-Precious, Keyroad and Ideasworks brands. These comprise regular school supplies, and novelty and office models, respectively. The second trademark represents the most number of pencil bag series, including science exploration, scenery, extreme sports and ocean, which can have more than 10 designs each. Under the collection for boys featuring rough styles are strength and sports motifs with box and shoe patterns. The selection targeted at girls is composed of fashion accessories, flower and car themes. The first highlights purse and sunglass patterns.

Increasing automation
Pencil boxes
Pencil bags
Product gallery

Pencil bag
This canvas pencil bag from Ningbo Johnshen has silkscreened designs.
Increasing automation

Many suppliers are turning to automation to cope with the recent labor shortage. This measure increases productivity and precision as well.

Dongguan Hengjia, a specialist in tin plate items such as pencil boxes, has added four self-operating stamping lines, each with three to 10 machines linked together via a conveyor belt. The move has reduced the required number of employees from 16 to two, and raised efficiency by 20 percent. It also helps prevent injuries at the workplace.

Winbo, meanwhile, shifted priorities from tin plate to plastic models because it believes the latter material is safer to manufacture and provides more room for automation. Besides the manpower deficit, the supplier points to the younger labor pool rejecting the hazardous processing of tin plate.

The maker has since introduced fully self-operating plastic-injection machines, and eight- to 16-cavity molds, increasing efficiency threefold.

Winbo now offers tin plate designs only on request, reducing the selection’s share from 70 to 30 percent of the company’s total pencil box yield.

Pencil box
This pencil box from Dongguan Hengjia has CMYK-printed images.
Pencil boxes

Models made of tin plate and plastic dominate China’s output in this category.

Suppliers employ the first material, usually with a thickness of 0.23mm. The majority of items based on this have single or double layers. Between the two, the latter configuration is priced 100 percent higher and has a removable upper deck.

Makers also offer cases in more complicated structures. For instance, Winbo’s BB60103 model boasts three holders and two lids. There is a cavity at the top that can also accommodate writing instruments. This part has its own linked cover. Meanwhile, the interior middle tray is detachable.

Like Richforth Ltd, the company offers pieces with a foldable 2-layer inner rack. This extends and retracts upon opening and closing the pencil box.

Hinged lids are mostly used for tin plate options. A number of models boast top-and-bottom or sliding covers. Winbo’s version of the former comes with buckle closures on both ends.

As for items made of plastic, suppliers typically utilize different variants of the input. For instance, a product may feature a PP lid with a transparent PVC surface, an ABS body and PS accessories. Many of such designs have one or two layers with multiple compartments for small stationery. Pen holder flaps are widely used in these cases.

Compared with tin plate variants, more plastic versions come with accessories, including sharpeners, mirrors and combs. They have individual divisions in the pencil boxes to hold them.

The TJ60143 model from Winbo is an option with a rectangular lidded cavity on the main cover to accommodate the last two inclusions. This design adds 5 percent to regular prices.

Regardless of material, rectangular versions are the most common, but many releases are in novelty configurations.

Car-themed variants are the best-sellers. An example is Richforth’s RL-TB001 model. There are also similar pieces from Dongguan Hengjia. Such nontraditional contours push up quotes by 2 percent.

Patterns on pencil boxes are often CMYK-printed. Some have 3D effects, especially on lids, through the use of lenticular pictures. Designs can likewise be embossed, increasing prices by 1 or 2 percent.

Pencil bags

Products from China come in compact and expandable configurations, with the former having sides sewn together. The latter versions can be enlarged or come in tube form. The elongated models may have triangular, round or square sides, and EVA or nonwoven fabric lining to hold the shape.

Prices range from $0.30 to $1. Compact designs go for up to $0.50, while expandable options start at this rate.

Bar-shaped items, which are typical of pieces intended for schoolchildren, dominate the country’s output in the line.

Several versions for older students and office workers double as file bags. Such nonexpandable releases come in square contours and are mainly exported to the US.

Ningbo Johnshen has similar designs featuring perforated spines that enable fastening with organizers or binders.

Most pieces, regardless of structure, have one or two compartments. Some options for filing boast more. One such model from the company combines a pen holder, a section for glasses, and transparent and opaque pouches.

Pencil bags come in various materials, including jacquard, check and flax. Canvas, PVC and PU leather, and 210 to 600d oxford are likewise commonly used.

The last fabric is the least expensive, while PU leather costs the most. Finished items in such inputs but with similar other specifications can differ in price by up to 60 percent. Further, this type of synthetic animal skin, together with PVC alternatives, adds 30 percent to quotes when complying with EU and US standards. Products made of azo-free textiles are $0.10 or $0.20 higher than those without certification. Material nontoxicity also affects prices.

As for closures, zippers are employed the most. Utilizing YKK options raises quotes by $0.20 or $0.30. Other models have buttons instead.

Pattern application is commonly via silk-screening. Suppliers use the heat-transfer method on upscale pieces for better results. The latter technique pushes up prices by 1 percent.

CMYK offset-printed PVC surfaces are likewise available on oxford designs. This provides precise colors and faster processing. Although the procedure is costlier than silk-screening, it does not affect final quotes because the benefits of higher production efficiency balance the adjustment.

Ningbo Johnshen is one of the suppliers adopting the more expensive surface treatment.

Besides printing, embroidery and appliqué are employed, especially on fabrics with thick threads such as jacquard and check. Silk-screening is not suitable for these textiles due to the resultant lack of colorfastness.

Pencil box
Product gallery

Dongguan Hengjia Metal Co. Ltd

Model: HJ-099
MOQ: 5,000 pieces
Delivery: 20 days
Description: Pencil box made of 0.23mm-thick tin plate; CMYK printing; two layers; 215x70x30mm

Pencil box

Dongguan Hengjia Metal Co. Ltd

Model: HJ-103
MOQ: 5,000 pieces
Delivery: 20 days
Description: Pencil box made of 0.23mm-thick tin plate; CMYK printing; 166x83x55mm

Cylindrical pencil bag

Ningbo Johnshen Stationery Co. Ltd

Model: KR970554
MOQ: 3,000 pieces
Delivery: 45 days
Description: Cylindrical pencil bag; canvas; silk-screened; 230x75mm

Pencil box

Richforth Ltd

Model: RL-TB002
MOQ: 5,000 pieces
Delivery: 30 days
Description: Pencil box made of 0.23mm-thick tin plate; with foldable 2-layer inner rack

Pencil box

Winbo Industrial Co. Ltd

Model: TJ60024
MOQ: 288 pieces
Delivery: 15 days
Description: Pencil box made of 0.23mm-thick tin plate; CMYK-printed blue, red or black background; top and bottom lids with buckles on both ends; removable upper layer; 223x91x29.5mm

Pencil box

Winbo Industrial Co. Ltd

Model: TJ60144-2
MOQ: 192 pieces
Delivery: 15 days
Description: Pencil box made of 0.23mm-thick tin plate; CMYK-printed blue, yellow or green background; 2-layer plastic inner rack extends and folds automatically with hinged lid; with plastic bookstand on top deck; 213x91x43mm

Note:This article was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.

All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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