Photo courtesy of Kustom Group
Ink manufacturers are looking to waxes and additives suppliers to help them improve performance.
Waxes and additives play a crucial role in ink formulation, providing important characteristics for the finished inks. At a time when the economy is sluggish and companies are looking for ways to cut costs while improving performance, waxes and additives manufacturers are playing an important role.
However, waxes and additives suppliers have had their own challenges, beginning with the raw materials they need.
“The wax industry had its challenges in 2012,” said Craig Baudendistel, director of sales for Shamrock Technologies. “Supply and pricing stabilized on many waxes products and PTFE feedstocks. There were a few feedstocks that continued to be tight in supply with continued price escalation.”
Alan Kalmikoff, president of Keim Additec Surface USA, LLC, said that the availability of waxes that were short in 2011 were improved for 2012.
“In particular, Montan wax and PTFE were less tight,” Mr. Kalmikoff said. “Carnauba wax was less so and more expensive in 2012.
“The Montan wax issue is a very interesting one as it is not a renewable resource, yet very popular for its properties and with few options as alternatives,” Mr. Kalmikoff added. “While Montan is basically fossilized plant life, carnauba wax, while similar in chemical structure, does not provide similar properties. Keim Additec has developed alternative polyolefinic materials that have been proven to be effective and successful.”
“Our sales into the North American graphic arts market were steady,” said Rich Czarnecki, technical director at Micro Powders, Inc. “We do see a number of growth opportunities in emerging markets where new and diverse players are entering the industry.”
“Overall, we have seen slow growth on a volume basis in 2012, consistent with the economy,” said Julie Vaughn, vice president of marketing and business development for Emerald Performance Materials. “However, certain product lines have experienced better-than-market growth rates, benefiting from the drive to low VOCs and more environmentally friendly materials.”
“For Kustom Group, the additives market rebounded somewhat in 2012 versus 2011,” said David Aynessazian, vice president sales and marketing, Kustom Group. “At Kustom Group, we consider a product used at a level of less than 5% of a formulation to be an additive. In the past few years a number of market changes have forced ink companies to have to choose from a smaller number of suppliers who are offering a consolidated number of product offerings at a time where the market is asking for ink diversity and value added. This has thrust additives into the spotlight, as they can help to push an ink to perform in a specific way that the printer requires without having to completely reformulate.
“No ink type is immune from a need for an additive regardless of chemistry (oil-based, aqueous or energy cure) or press configuration (flexo, offset, screen, gravure, spindle, pad or inkjet),” Mr. Aynessazian added. “The result is that additives increased because more ink was made in 2012 versus 2011, but also because additives were used to a greater degree in 2012 versus 2011.”
Waxes and additives suppliers have had their share of challenges on the raw material side, and securing availability and managing costs have been essential.
“First, our purchasing group has to stay on top of continual global raw material markets in order to anticipate changes in supply and costs,” Mr. Baudendistel said. “Secondly, we need to keep our customers informed of these market changes so they know what to expect in terms of supply, demand and pricing. I believe Shamrock has done a good job managing both challenges.”
“Costs have remained fairly stable this year,” Mr. Czarnecki said. “We are fortunate to have strong long-term relationships with our major supply partners, and have been able to secure as much material as needed to meet the needs of existing and new customers alike.”
“As additives are only a small portion of the ink and make a huge difference in performance, typically the price pressures on these materials are not as intense as for those materials that encompass the other 95+% of the formulation,” Mr. Aynessazian noted.
“Overall, supply/availability of raw materials is not an issue,” said John Erbeck, market manager - graphic arts for Emerald Performance Materials. “However, certain specialty raw materials that are in short supply are causing longer than normal lead times as well as some spikes in material costs. In those cases, we have worked with our customers to more closely manage the planning process.”
Mr. Aynessazian said that the bigger issue for the additives market lately has been increased regulation, as some raw materials have been forced out of the market.
“Regulations like REACH, Swiss Ordinance, and EUPIA have forced many raw materials out of the market, as the cost of registering and testing some materials is simply too high for the small amount of sales they produce regardless of how unique they are,” Mr. Aynessazian noted. “As a result, even in the additives business, it is necessary to find a way to do more with a smaller stable of chemical choices. To cope, Kustom Group has had to partner with our suppliers in an even greater way to jointly understand the market for a given material and find multiple uses to increase the volume used to help assure a continued supply.”
In talking with manufacturers of waxes and additives, the importance of maximizing performance of inks is of critical importance. Mr. Aynessazian said that Kustom Group sees two trends in the additives market.
“The first trend is toward more ‘green’ products which have lower VOCs, less odor and less objectionable chemicals in them, and secondly, a trend toward products with greater utility for multiple uses in different applications,” Mr. Aynessazian said. “The reemergence of ‘green’ has been driven by packaging print buying companies, who are insisting that the packaging that they are using for their products contain only a specific list of chemicals on them and are lower in residual odor. To comply with these new restrictions, additive makers have to develop new products, which offer similar performance while following these new rules.
“Other additive buyers are pushing to consolidate the number of products that they purchase and the number of suppliers that they deal with as a way of reducing inventory dollars,” Mr. Aynessazian observed. “This is forcing additive producers to look at their products in a new way. We all have to ask ourselves, ‘besides the intended purpose of my product, what else might it be used to do.’ This has caused many to slightly modify products so that other uses may be possible which offers the added utility to the customer that they are looking for.”
Ron Levitt, regional sales leader for Shamrock Technologies, said that ink manufacturers are looking to improve their formulations while keeping an eye on their costs.
“Customers, more than ever, are looking to maximize the performance of their inks while lowering their raw material costs. Shamrock has responded with high performance, lower cost PTFE products such as our new Black Sheep PTFE powder series. We are now ready to introduce dispersions of these powders as well,” said Mr. Levitt.
Mr. Kalmikoff noted that low migration technology has taken a pretty drastic eye on paraffin wax, as Nestle’s has included it as a material to be eliminated.
“There’s a lot of discussion regarding why all paraffin waxes need to be included, but that is the trend for the moment,” Mr. Kalmikoff added. “We are developing new paraffin wax emulsion-free coatings to help our customers move in a different direction.”
“Water-based and energy curable applications continue to show the most customer activity and R&D investment,” Mr. Czarnecki said. “Another trend that we have seen in the last few years is that customers have become smarter about the quality vs. price argument.
“Formulators who switched to lower quality, less well controlled particle size waxes have come to realize that they end up causing more problems for customers who expect the same performance with every batch of ink,” Mr. Czarnecki added. “It ends up being more cost effective for them to utilize higher quality waxes, often at a reduced percentage vs. the lower cost alternatives. Formulators cannot afford to take the risk that lower cost alternatives will give them the consistency and surface properties their customers demand.”
“The overall trend in the industry has changed a lot over the last couple of years, with a shrinking lithographic ink market and competitive expansion in both the offset ink and flexographic ink colorants markets,” Mr. Erbeck said.
“We have also seen that customers continue to focus on solutions that maximize their production efficiency, improve their print quality, and lower VOCs, and they often look at additives as a key part of that solution,” Ms. Vaughn said. “New products need to deliver more than just low or no VOCs. Our focus as a raw material supplier is to develop and supply additives that deliver numerous functional performance benefits.”
Patrick Heraty Jr., market segment manager, coating additives for Evonik Goldschmidt, said that regulatory changes continue to create trends in the ink industry.
“Meeting the requirements of the Swiss Ordinance is becoming more and more important,” Mr. Heraty said. “Preventing migration of ink components, like mineral oil, into the package itself or what it protects is critical. VOC regulations are growing more stringent as well. Even the small amount of VOC from additives used at minute levels can push a formulation out of customer compliance.
The demand for packaging that differentiates products for the consumer market also continues to accelerate. Unique ink technologies help create this kind of packaging
“The switch to electronic media from traditional printed forms is driving the search for new markets for ink manufacturers,” Mr. Heraty added. “The recent announcement that Newsweek will cease production of its printed magazine at year’s end is just the latest example. Evonik-Tego is working closely with our ink partners as they identify new opportunities. We are providing unique solutions that help our partners enter these new markets.”
To meet the needs of the ink industry, waxes and additives manufacturers have developed a wide range of new products during the past year. For example, Shamrock Technologies launched its new Black Sheep line.
“Shamrock introduced our high performance, low cost Black Sheep product line this year,” Mr. Levitt said. “Although darker in color the Black Sheep products provide equal performance to our higher performing SST-3 at great cost reduction.”
Mr. Kalmikoff said Keim Additec Surface will introduce a new wax emulsion where the wax has a specific gravity of 1.0. Enhanced stability is the attraction for this material. Keim-Additec Surface will also be addressing the issues of MVTR, low Cobb values and KIT values from a wax emulsion perspective in 2012.
“With the introduction of several new products this past year, Emerald has sought to bring features which offer valuable benefits to the end user, and also address the need for low VOCs,” Ms. Vaughn said. “For example, we recently introduced Kalama K-FLEX 975P, a patent pending low VOC coalescent with excellent performance characteristics in both ink and OPV applications. Another example is our newest Lucida Colors energy cure dispersions for flexo and offset printing inks were formulated to have both low odor and improved handling, and excellent light stability – a combination not previously available. In the defoamer area, we have several zero-VOC defoamer offerings that offer a range of performance benefits and won’t impact gloss or clarity. Our FOAM BLAST UVD is highly effective in these energy curable systems. FOAM BLAST 295 is specifically designed to provide excellent clarity – a key performance gap in the industry - while control foam in fountain solutions and other graphic arts applications. FOAM BLAST 331E is an excellent choice in applications where broad indirect food contact clearances are needed.”
“Evonik TEGO has introduced several new products recently which are of interest for the printing inks industry,” said Jennifer Turner, marketing manager, coating additives for Evonik Goldschmidt. “TEGO Dispers 688 is a new premium dispersant for matte UV curable printing inks. Processing and productivity can be improved during manufacturing due to the excellent rheological profile. Low thixotropy, low viscosity and good yield points can be seen even with the highest concentrations of matting agents. TEGO Foamex 823 is a high performance defoamer with good compatability for waterborne printing inks. It is easy to incorporate and suitable for many different binders. It is also compliant with the Swiss Ordinance. TEGO Foamex 831 is a silicone-free defoamer concentrate for waterborne printing inks especially for printing packaging. The 100% active matter concentrate is in compliance with the Swiss Ordinance. TEGO Foamex 833 is a silicone- and mineral oil-free defoamer which has excellent compatability, good foam inhibition, fast foam break-down and superior long term efficiency. It is ultra low VOC and is Swiss A list compliant.”
Expectations for The Coming Year
With the added importance in the role of waxes and additives as well as the increased emphasis on environmentally friendly products, suppliers are looking ahead to the upcoming year.
“With the introduction of several new products in 2013, we expect the coming year to be an extremely active one,” Mr. Kalmikoff said.
“We have a positive outlook for 2013, driven by continued reformulation toward low and zero-VOC systems, further expansion in to new market areas and offering materials with more environmentally friendly profiles,” Ms. Vaughn said. “We continue to focus on and be excited about the opportunities in these areas.”
“Our expectations are positive,” said Mr. Heraty. “The technology shift to more environmentally friendly inks mirrors our product portfolio. The demands for more functional inks also fit our line. With the election resolved, no matter who has won, the economic uncertainty that has slowed growth should be eliminated. More announcements of traditional printing being eliminated are inevitable unfortunately. But we do expect the packaging industry to remain strong and drive increases in the business. Digital printing will also continue its growth, offering opportunities for new challenges to conquer and new business to realize.”
“Kustom expects 2013 to be a good year in the additives business versus both 2011 and 2012,” Mr. Aynessazian said. “We offer many unique additive materials that are finding homes in more and more formulations. With the communications revolution that we are experiencing, we are finding that ‘word of mouth’ about the unique products that we have is spreading through social media and various internet communications to places around the world. We are getting contacted through our updated website from potential customers from countries that we had never heard from or visited before. Although sales in 2012 were relatively small outside of North America to these countries, the significant part for us is that we had sales to four other continents, and we believe that this bodes well for future increased sales as it looks like our products work well in many markets.”
“We are looking for continued growth in 2013,” Mr. Levitt said. “A combination of new customers and products should help us attain our goal.”