It might seem like a case of over-engineering, but there's no denying the thin pieces of lead used in mechanical pencils are prone to easily breaking. So instead of rolling our eyes at Zebra Co.'s new DelGuard pencils, which actually feature shock absorbers and retractable shields to prevent lead from breaking, we should be championing their innovation.

Hidden inside the tip of the DelGuard mechanical pencil are two separate springs. One serves as a shock absorber while the pencil is being used vertically, retracting the lead just enough so it won't snap. And the other is used to extend and retract a metal sleeve which reinforces the lead while the pencil is being used on an angle. Available in six colors when they go on sale in Japan early next year, they'll certainly be more expensive than your standard HB2 pencil, but possibly worth every penny if they eliminate the frustrations of shattered lead. [Zebra Co. via Nikkei Technology]