The Resin Report
Higher raw material prices, led by crude oil, continue to impact resin manufacturers, but the surge in new product development is helping to drive sales growth.
By David Savastano
As has been the case throughout the ink industry supply chain, the rising price of crude oil has had a
Photo courtesy of Flint Group.
For resin suppliers, the last year has brought mixed results, as they have had to contend with higher costs, in most cases by issuing their own price increases. Meanwhile, resin manufacturers are successfully developing new products to meet the increased interest in environmentally friendly technologies, as well as products that will help ink manufacturers deliver more value to their customers.
The Past Year for
The Resin Industry
In spite of the higher raw material prices that continued to plague the industry in the past year, resin manufacturers had solid years in 2007
“Lubrizol did well in 2007,” said Carol Durgan, marketing manager graphic arts, Lubrizol Advanced Materials, Resins and Polymers. “We introduced several new products during the year and look forward to another successful year in 2008.” Ms. Durgan noted that she continues to see the small and mid-size companies growing stronger in the market and gaining strength.
“We are doing pretty well,” said John Smith, president of Arez International’s North American operations, adding that the Asia-Pacific market is enjoying strong growth.
“Volume-wise, DSM NeoResins has seen a healthy growth in our business,” said Ivo Lansbergen, global business director adhesives and graphic arts. “Turnover did also grow, but not entirely in-line with the volumes due to the weakening dollar. Demand is still very healthy especially for our water-based acrylics and solvent-based urethane product lines.”
Rick Krause, printing and packaging business manager for BASF Resins, said that 2007 was an exciting year of change for BASF Resins, with the completion of its technical and commercial relocation to Wyandotte MI, but higher costs are a major challenge.
“We were pleased with our steady and continued growth of water-based Joncryl products in 2007,” Mr. Krause noted. “However, 2007 was a challenging year for the ink and resin industry. Pressures on profitability remain significant throughout the ink industry and with their raw material suppliers. Transportation and energy costs continued to increase. Many of these rising costs are still working through the supply and value chain.”
Chris Halvorsen, global marketing manager – commercial for the ink resins business unit at Hexion Specialty Chemicals, said that 2007 was a difficult year in terms of market demand and raw material trends.” The print markets, especially catalog, magazine and direct mail, were soft which unfavorably affected an already difficult environment,” Mr. Halvorsen said.
Bob Clinger, director of sales at Neville Chemical, also noted that 2007 was a challenging year due to wild fluctuations in raw material costs that made costs difficult to manage. “While volumes to the ink industry remained flat, margins were squeezed as most customers focused on low cost materials and their overall reluctance to accept the increases that we need to pass on,” Mr. Clinger said.
Price and Supply
Higher crude oil prices are affecting the entire ink industry supply chain, and resin prices are certainly impacted by higher oil costs. Aside from resins, other key ingredient prices are rising fast. For example, phenols and gum rosin prices are increasing.
“Continued pressure on raw material pricing will be a challenge for the industry,” Ms. Durgan said. “We are trying to keep our raw material cost in-line.”
“Raw material costs continue to increase due to several factors,” said Mr. Krause. “Crude oil is now regularly over $100 per barrel compared to $60 per barrel in early 2007. Natural gas is also elevated from a year ago. There is ongoing price volatility in upward cost pressures on many commodity groups and feedstocks.”
Mr. Halvorsen noted that raw materials have and continue to be on the rise. “The past year has been no less challenging than the prior three years,” Mr. Halvorsen said. “We aren’t dealing with shortage of raw materials, but we’re continually having to pay more for specialty chemicals. The only consistency in the raw material market right now is its volatility.
“Our raw materials are one or two steps removed from the refinery where price change notifications are in line with oil,” Mr. Halvorsen added. “Margins on most products do not allow for much lag time so when raw materials rise, it’s very important to take appropriate measures.”
“All of our raw material costs are rooted in petroleum,” said Mr. Clinger. “As the price of a barrel of oil increases, so do raw material costs. In the second half of 2007, the market experienced significant increases for all petroleum-based materials and, unfortunately, surging oil and gasoline prices have topped record levels. The near term outlook for softening prices isn’t positive as global demand for energy continues to explode in developing regions.”
“As far as supply goes, most raw materials appear to be in adequate supply in North America,” Mr. Clinger said. “Changes in cracker feed slates, operating rates and maintenance turnarounds – planned or otherwise – are things that we always watch carefully. Today’s biggest concern is the volatility of raw materials, ink solvents and vegetable oil prices. As these prices change in the market, we need to keep our sourcing strategies flexible as our customers are looking to take advantage of the most cost effective materials to make their products.”
“Raw materials are still on the rise indeed, especially ethanol prices in the U.S., which have gone up considerably,” said Mr. Lansbergen. “As long as oil prices are going up further, raw material prices will be on a upward pressure. Other than the continuous raw material price increases, there are no major concerns from a supply/availability perspective.”
Customers and resin manufacturers alike are fully aware that many key ingredient prices are rising, although there has been hesitation by some companies to raise prices.
“The market has not as yet reflected these cost increases,” Mr. Smith said. “Our customers know that we, and they, should have higher prices, but it seems some companies are in fear of raising their prices and are instead choosing to absorb these costs.”
While resin manufacturers have tried to hold prices down for their customers, it has become a necessity to pass along some of the higher costs.
“We have been able to pass on the majority of the raw material cost increases to our customers,” Mr. Lansbergen added. “DSM NeoResins has kept our prices stable for a long time, but was forced to increase prices by the end of Q4 and Q1 to recover some of the margins lost.”
“Like the entire ink industry, resin suppliers continue to face ongoing raw material cost volatility and increases,” said Mr. Krause. “Profitability levels are such that raw material suppliers and ink manufactures must share and pass along these cost increases to insure ongoing material availability.”
“Everyone wants stability and no surprises,” Mr. Smith said. “We at Arez are very conscious of this and strive to provide the best we can for our customers in this regard.”
Mr. Clinger said that while Neville Chemical has been successful in raising its prices in most cases in other areas the company has to do better.
“The real challenge is keeping up with the constant raw material and solvent price changes,” Mr. Clinger said. “Margins to the ink market are just too thin to make mistakes. We have worked hard over the last several years to reflect our increasing raw material costs to the market. Most of our customers understand what’s happening in the petroleum markets and our need for price increases. At the same time, we understand that our customers are having the same challenges passing on increases in resin – along with every other raw material – through the supply chain. However, both resin manufacturers and ink makers must get these costs passed on if we are to continue to provide value to our customers and shareholders.”
Aside from higher raw material costs, resin companies are facing plenty of challenges, beginning with environmental concerns and regulations.
“Managing the cost of raw materials is one of the great challenges,” Mr. Halvorsen said. “Regulatory issues such as REACH will require time and resources. Coordinating production capacities to meet the current demands is critical to the success of our business.”
“The challenges of tomorrow – lower cost in use, VOC emissions, biodegradability and reduced carbon footprint – will require a change of the industry from a focus on operational excellence (including cost reductions) and consolidation to innovation,” said Mr. Lansbergen. “DSM NeoResins is convinced that not before long there will be greater emphasis on innovation and is anticipating this by break-through new products. With the R&D and manufacturing capabilities of DSM, DSM NeoResins is well positioned to come up with solutions for the future.”
“We see several major challenges ahead,” Mr. Clinger said. “The two most daunting and discussed concerns are the economy and energy prices. In broad terms, economic growth determines demand for our products and energy prices have a tremendous influence on the feedstocks used to make our products. On both fronts, there appear to be dark clouds. Additionally, we must take a variety of environmental challenges – REACH, green chemistry, consumer packaging demands, etc – and find ways to make them opportunities for our business and our customers’ businesses.
"We also must be keenly aware of the challenges ahead for ink manufacturers that they face in dealing with the changing demand for print," Mr. Clinger added. "The rapid increase in ink raw materials will not help to slow the transition from print to alternate forms of communication media. We’ve spent the last several years restructuring our company and are leaner and more efficient than ever. We’ve spent capital in areas that give us additional capacity in key products while at the same time preparing us to meet and exceed new stringent environmental regulations.”
The Importance of R&D
For resin manufacturers, the ability to develop new products is key to delivering value to customers.
“Our customers have been very pleased with our product performance, consistency and speed of innovation,” Mr. Smith said. “We have no hierarchy, so we can make a decision and go with it.”
“R&D is the key to everything,” Mr. Clinger noted. “After years of process improvement and debottlenecking, most of us have pretty much squeezed as much cost out of our operations as possible without significant new capital investment. Without continued investment in R&D, we will have a harder time in delivering value to our customers. Our customers are pushing us for lower cost materials and we believe that the focus has to be on new products with higher performance that provide an overall lower cost of ownership in ink formulations – not necessarily cheaper resins. We’re doing several things process-wise to help deliver these new resins and continue to look in new places for raw materials to help us get there.”
“Bringing new products to the market is essential, we believe, not only for DSM but for the entire value chain,” Mr. Lansbergen said. “Only by introduction of new products, the value chain will be able to answer the challenges of tomorrow, challenges like lower cost in use, VOC emissions, biodegradability and reduced carbon footprints. These trends are universal although the focus might differ by region. One important trend developing in Asia is the focus on food safety and all required steps needed to get to U.S. and European standards.”
Mr. Krause said that BASF Resins continues to develop technologies specifically for the ink industry.
"BASF’s successful line of Joncryl HPD High Performance Dispersion resins are a result of our continued focus on the needs of the water-based ink and pigment dispersion industry” said Mr. Krause. “Our Joncryl LMV line of low maintenance ink vehicles allow our customers to meet the industry need for printing inks that can improve press productivity and reduce manufacturing costs. Joncryl FLX 5000 demonstrates our ongoing commitment to provide VOC compliant and sustainable water-based alternatives to solvent-based film printing.”
Mr. Halvorsen said that Hexion is putting R&D efforts into environmentally friendly products.
“We see the need for more eco-friendly products that enable the ink and printing industry to meet market demands for cleaner, more renewable and sustainable processes,” Mr. Halvorsen said. “Much of the development will come through process improvements.”
New Resin Products
The following listing includes resin products introduced to the printing ink industry in the past year.
16 East Main St.
Mendham, NJ 07945
Phone: (973) 543-6900
Fax: (973) 543-6997
• Phenol hydrocarbon resin/PMH series
Comments: Arez International has developed a series of phenol hydrocarbon hybrids, which offer high speed press stability, and is also developing a series of sheetfed-specific resins, which Arez International believes will interest the market.
1609 Biddle Ave.
• Joncryl FLX 5000
Wyandotte MI 48192
Phone: (800) 231-7868
Fax: (800) 437-3266
• Joncryl HPD 296
Comments: Joncryl HPD 296 is a high performance dispersion resin solution that enables stable, high solids, low viscosity pigment dispersions. It achieves high strength, low viscosity dispersions for use in inks for fine line anilox printing; improves shock and storage stability to reduce waste and improve milling efficiency and throughput.
Comments: Joncryl FLX 5000 is a self-crosslinking emulsion with excellent press resolubility that rivals solvent-based ink performance on polyethylene film. It develops excellent rub, wet crinkle and deep freeze resistance and adhesion to polyolefin films with a cost-effective and environmentally-compliant alternative to solvent-based inks.
• Joncryl LMV 7010
Comments: Joncryl LMV 7010 is a low press maintenance colloidal emulsion for corrugated packaging inks. It eliminates the use of organic amines to gain pH and viscosity stability on press. Now it is possible to formulate cost-effective, low maintenance inks for corrugated packaging that do not rely on organic amines or press side additives to maintain on-press stability.
• Joncryl 642
Comments: Joncryl 642 is a general- purpose colloidal solution designed as a letdown vehicle for corrugated inks. It reduces the cost of standard corrugated inks without compromising color strength or on-press performance.
P.O. Box 123
5140 AC Waalwijk
Phone: +31 (0)416 - 689 911
Fax: +31 (0)416 - 689 922
• NeoRez U-471
Comments: NeoRez U-471 is an elastomeric aliphatic (mild) solvent-based urethane suitable for printing using flexographic or gravure printing on a wide range of packaging film substrates. It can be used to formulate inks which pass sterilization and pasteurization treatments. It is non-yellowing and has increased alcohol tolerance compared to aromatic urethanes, making it even more suitable for flexographic printing applications.
• NeoCryl FL-717
Comments: NeoCryl FL-717 is a water-based acrylic dispersion developed as a heat-sealable coating for application onto OPP packaging film.
It has a neutral pH, with low odor and is ideally suitable for food packaging. It can also be applied as a topcoat to improve surface, appearance and printability with solvent, water-based and UV inks.
• NeoRez R-1010
Comments: NeoRez R-1010 is ideal for use for a special soft feel effect coating
on printing substrates or as an overprint varnish. In combination with alkaline soluble resins, NeoRez R-1010 results in outstanding print performance with enhanced soft feel that can be used as an overprint varnish. The good chemical resistance can further be enhanced by using crosslinker such as CX-100 or suitable isocyanates. The soft feel and matting properties of NeoRez R-1010 make it best suited for use in special effect coatings like luxury goods.
• NeoCryl A-1125
Comments: NeoCryl A-1125 is ideal for use in flexo and gravure printing on non-absorbent substrates. It can be used as the sole binder; however, its main application is as a print modifier for acrylic dispersions. It is suitable for heavy duty bags, carrier bags and high quality flexible substrate applications, as well as a pigment grinding resin for most organic and inorganic pigments.
Hexion Specialty Chemicals
8601 95th St.
Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158
Phone: (800) 852-9837
Fax: (281) 205-2550
• Petro-Rez 815, 840 and 860
Comments: Hexion has responded to recent napthalene regulation by introducing Petro-Rez 815, 840 and 860. These new hydrocarbon resin formulations meet requirements for low napthalene content while exhibiting good pigment wetting and low shear flow properties.
• Alpha-Rez Hybrid Resin
Comments: Hexion’s Alpha-Rez Hybrid resin is designed for high-speed web offset printing where press stability and fountain solution stability are critical. Alpha-Rez Hybrid is a structured resin and performs well in low tack inks where misting and rheological problems tend to occur.
Lubrizol Advanced Materials, Inc.
9911 Brecksville Road
Cleveland, OH 44141
Phone: (216) 447-5000
Fax: (216) 447-5238
• Carboset GA 2921
Comments: Carboset GA-2921 is an acrylic copolymer emulsion designed for use in printing on films, foil and where the use of a softer emulsion would be appropriate. Carboset GA- 2921 adheres to a wide variety of films, including treated polyethylene (shopping bags and frozen food bags), treated or coated polypropylene (confectionary wraps and bakery packaging) and treated polyester. Properly formulated inks and overprint varnishes utilizing Carboset GA-2921 will exhibit excellent adhesion, gloss, water resistance and “ice crinkle.”
Neville Chemical Company
2800 Neville Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15225
Phone: (412) 777-4202
Fax: (412) 777-4268
• EV-27-111 and EV-27-196
Comments: Neville has developed a new series of hydrocarbon resins having a unique low molecular weight to high softening point profile. EV-27-111 and EV-27-196 are the initial commercially available resins in this new series. These resins exhibit low solution viscosity to provide VOC improvement, light colors and have broad solubility with a wide variety of ink solvents and excellent compatibility with alkyds. They are ideal for enhanced pigment wetting in dry grind dispersions and flushing vehicles. They also serve well as inert co-resins in gelled letdown vehicles for both heatset and sheetfed ink systems.
Rohm and Haas
100 Independence Mall West
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: (800) FOR RESN
• Morcryl 410 and Morcryl 460 Plus
Comments: These two new solution resins are designed to maximize grind efficiency at high pigment to binder ratios of 6/1 or greater. Both work well with problematic pigments while maintaining excellent viscosity stability and compatibility with both conventional and neutral pH letdowns. Morcryl 460 Plus, based on the next generation neutral pH chemistry, can also enable the formulator to make high strength dispersions with excellent gloss, improved resolubility and transfer.