Milling and mixing are important processes for ink manufacturers, with challenges including maintaining the quality of products while remaining competitive in the market. For milling and mixing equipment manufacturers, it is important to develop and deliver new quality products.
Adrian Spillman, market segment manager, specialty battery applications for Buhler Switzerland, said that ink costs are a key driver for capital investments.
“Ink industries are continuously under pressure to reduce ink costs,” Spillman said. “Equipment must be developed to provide solutions on every process step in order to increase efficiency and reduce costs. However, with increasing capacities at each plant location, synchronization and adaptation of each step is crucial. There is a huge potential for efficient production, increased product quality and lower operating costs.”
Spillman noted that production volumes for most types of liquid inks, especially UV inks, have increased. “On the other hand, more paste applications for traditional offset printing inks are declining,” he added. “Therefore, the expenditures are shifting within the segments but a recovery of the industry was clearly visible in 2013. We also expect a slight growth for 2014.”
Dave Peterson, president of EMI Mills, said that purchases of equipment in the ink industry remained similar to that of 2012. “I expect 2014 to follow suit as the ink industry consolidates and adapts to the changing marketplace and world competition,” Peterson said, adding that EMI Mills is seeing growth in the inkjet and nano type dispersions markets.
Cathy Strahan of Myers Engineering Inc. said that Myers saw an increase in activity at the planning stages. “Sales were slightly higher than those of 2012,” Strahan said. “Due to the increase in quotation and planning activity, we are expecting 2014 to have an increase in equipment sales. It seems to imply that production increases are on the board.”
Ink Manufacturers’ Needs
Ink makers have a variety of needs. Spillman said that cost drivers in production are raw material, energy and water consumption, setup of the equipment and labor costs, traceability and quality control as well as building and property expenses.
“A particular issue is poor raw material quality,” he added. “Manufacturers are looking for equipment that is able to compensate in order to deliver a consistent, high-quality product.”
Strahan said that ink makers seek better product grind in faster periods of time, which will improve their bottom line.
“Of course, we work closely to improve blade configurations and equipment geometry to meet needs,” Strahan said. “Fast and flexible tinting stations increase their users success as well. Though we are batch mixing creators, we have designed and manufactured multiple small batch tinting stations that can offer a highly flexible operating station handling multiple colors quickly.”
In order to reduce process steps and increase efficiency, Buhler introduced standardized production systems combining homogenizing, mixing, pre-dispersing and downstream fine grinding with two machines – the new inline disperser Dispernator and the MicroMedia X high-performance bead mill line.
Strahan said that Myers Engineering launched a new mini vacuum mixer, which isn’t normally ink related, but the design and flexibility of this mini power worker helps define formulation standards at the lab level.
EMI Mills introduced its Laboratory & Pilot Scale Dispersers/Mixers, which contain inverter driven variable speed AC motors allowing the user to process low to high viscosity fluid dispersions in both water or solvent based applications. The EMI mixer is available with standard or explosion proof controls and data collection, manual or electric lifts. In addition, a rotor stator can be attached to the mixer.
Charles Ross & Son Company launched its Large Capacity Dual-Shaft Mixers, which deliver a balance of bulk flow agitation and high speed dispersion required for viscous pastes, gels, suspensions, slurries and emulsions. These mixers feature two independently driven agitators that run at different speeds, imparting varying levels of shear and ensuring adequate turnover over a wide viscosity range. Production models are offered in many standard sizes up to 4,000 gallons capacity.
For more on the milling and mixing market, including growth segments, please see the online version at www.inkworldmagazine.com.