Along with pigments, resins and other important additives, varnishes and vehicles are among the critical components that go into ink formulating. (Photo courtesy of Hexion Specialty Chemicals)
Ink manufacturers rely on their vehicle and varnish suppliers to help provide the critical characteristics that printers seek, whether it is resistance properties, color, gloss, drying speed or countless other properties. Vehicles and varnishes help ensure the final printed product meets the necessary requirements.
Ink companies continue to seek new products with even more enhanced properties, but these come at a cost, considering increases in raw material prices. Vehicle and varnish manufacturers are balancing these new requirements as well as pressures on profitability.
‘Guts’ of the Ink
When it comes to the performance of an ink, vehicles and varnishes play a critical role.
“Polymers enhance the color, stability, gloss, drying speed, resolubility and resistance properties of an ink or coating,” said Rick Krause, business manager for BASF Resins. “They are the ‘guts’ of what holds inks or coatings together. Ink and coating companies capitalize upon their formulating expertise to achieve the right balance of properties and applied cost based upon the portfolio of polymer products we offer.”
“They are the primary building blocks of the ink that determine the ink’s overall performance probably more than any other component, pigment and color notwithstanding,” said Guy Trerotola, market manager, commercial offset for Hexion Specialty Chemicals.
“Oil-based vehicles influence the viscosity, set speed, film hardness, transfer, emulsification properties and other on- and off-press characteristics of printing inks,” added Carol Durgan, tactical marketing manager, Noveon Resins & Polymers. “Ink companies look for gloss, heat resistance, product resistance, rub resistance and other end use properties to enhance and protect packaging.”
“Ink varnishes are ‘vehicles’ for a reason; the vehicle is what conveys the pigment to the printed page,” said Art Lersch, president of Alvar. “Also, the vehicle is the ink component most responsible for the final properties of the printed film. Ink vehicles are the heart of the ink.”
Vehicles and varnishes ultimately play a key role in how well the ink runs on press.
“Most importantly, our customers want better runnability, water balance and trouble-free press runs,” said Dan Delegge, Inksolutions’ vice president, smoke ‘n’ mirrors. “Vehicles and varnishes can promote these qualities.”
“Today’s printers put more demand on ink makers than ever before,” added Jerry Trauth, lab manager, Kustom Group. “Vehicles are the highest percentage raw material in an ink formula, and therefore control most of the physical and application properties. So the pressure is always on the vehicle manufacturer to push the limits of existing technology.”
Vehicle and varnish suppliers are being counted upon to help their customers.
“New products are only one part of the puzzle,” Mr. Trauth noted. “Just as importantly, ink manufacturers expect their vehicle supplier to have product in stock when they need it, and in the right container. They expect you to carry both their high volume products and their one drum a month product. Ink makers expect a technical partner who is an accessible resource they can tap when needed, for formulation or press side assistance, and regulatory or FDA compliance issues. As a vehicle supplier, it’s our responsibility to meet these requirements.”
Mr. Delegge said developing specialty products is proving to be a successful approach.
“The single biggest trend we see is the movement toward specialty products, such as unique overprints, adhesion to plastic, hybrid inks or others, all of which we like to focus on,” said Mr. Delegge.
Mr. Delegge also noted that there are a number of startup ink companies entering the market. “New starter companies are having an impact on us,” Mr. Delegge said.
Vehicles and varnishes can make a major difference in the ink, and that provides significant value.
“Cost effectiveness is what ink and coating companies and their customers continue to seek, but it goes beyond the ‘cost per pound’ trap that so many companies fall into,” said Mr. Krause. “Providing a differentiated product that provides in-use value to reduce the total system cost is what companies really need. Tell me how I can sell more value through better product performance; tell me how I can more cost-effectively service and supply my customer – these are the questions we hear from our customers. We continue to invest in new product development to address enhanced product performance; improved health, handling and regulatory considerations; and effective formulated cost-in-use.”
“Vehicles produce inks that are more forgiving and provide consistent performance under all press conditions, a good value proposition that combines optimum performance with acceptable economics,” Mr. Trerotola added. “Ink makers are not necessarily seeking the least expensive vehicles. Rather, they want vehicles that offer value through trouble-free ink performance, a quantifiable reduction in waste and that make it possible to produce high quality inks that will command a favorable overall return to the ink maker.”
“Every ink company wants to use quality vehicles that deliver good press and finished print properties, and price is always important,” said Mr. Lersch. “At this time, there is a lot of interest in high solids vehicles with fast setting. This is the case in both sheetfed and heatset vehicles. People, especially from the EU, are inquiring about petroleum oil-free formulations.”
There is always going to be a continuous demand for higher-quality vehicles and varnishes.
“Trying to maintain costs while improving product performance is a concern,” Mr. Delegge said. “It’s OK to get performance, but you have to provide value.”
As is the case for virtually every ink ingredient supplier, vehicle and varnish manufacturers continued to face higher prices for raw materials during the past year.
“Oil-based products continued to increase in 2006,” Ms. Durgan said. “All raw materials were impacted by the increase of shipping and transportation costs resulting from increasing oil prices.”
“Raw material prices went up, and so did the price of ink vehicles, driven primarily by higher prices for resins, ink oils and drying oils such as soy and linseed,” Mr. Delegge noted.
“There appears to be more stability in most petrochemical-based raw materials in Q1 2007 than there was in 2006,” Mr. Trerotola said. “Rosin and rosin derivatives are still tight and continue to command peak price levels.”
“Raw material prices rose very significantly in 2006,” Mr. Lersch noted. “It was one of those years when everything was up, oil prices, natural gas prices and both synthetic and agriculturally-derived chemicals. Virtually everything used in printing ink starts from one of those sources. With everything going up at once, there is nowhere to hide increases in costs and we had to adjust our prices accordingly.”
Margins continued to suffer, as manufacturers are unable to completely pass along these higher costs.
“2006 brought a degree of cost stability compared to the dramatic industry-wide increases observed in 2004 and 2005,” Mr. Krause said. “Yet, pressures on profitability remain significant throughout the ink industry and with their raw material suppliers. No company has been able to pass on the entire amount of cost increases – everyone is sharing the pain. If global economic growth continues to be healthy throughout 2007, basic feedstock costs are unlikely to ease. Profitability will continue to be a challenge for the industry in 2007 and beyond.”
There have been some interesting changes in the marketplace. For example, the smaller vehicle and varnish manufacturers have been actively extending their operations. Inksolutions is expanding its Westcoast Inksolutions operations, moving into a new building in the Los Angeles area and adding new equipment to service customers. Kustom Group completed its facility expansion during the second half of 2006, which included increased manufacturing to three shifts.
On the M&A front, Akzo Nobel Resins was acquired by Hexion Specialty Chemicals, while BASF acquired Johnson Polymers, forming BASF Resins.
“2007 will be an exciting year for BASF Resins,” Mr. Krause said. “We expect to introduce a number of new water-based polymer products this year. We will be relocating to our new commercial and technical headquarters in Wyandotte, MI. And we’re learning more about the variety of products, chemistries, and technologies within BASF that we hope to share with the graphic arts marketplace.”
The Coming Year
Vehicle and varnish makers say they anticipate good results in 2007. For example, Mr. Trerotola anticipates continued market contraction in North America and less volatility in the raw material market.
“Economic forecasts continue to point to an easing of growth for the U.S. economy,” Mr. Krause said. “We’re expecting our business to continue to grow steadily throughout 2007.”
“Noveon expects 2007 to be a good year for our vehicle and varnish areas,” Ms. Durgan said. “However, this will most definitely be a result of the continuation of hard work from both our commercial and technical teams, who keep our customers’ needs as a top priority.”
New Vehicles and Varnishes
The following listing includes new products introduced to the ink industry in 2006
112 State Route 89
Washburn, IL 61570
Phone: (309) 248-7523
Fax: (309) 248-7526
Comments: AV-568 is a high structure, low tack heatset vehicle. It is a high-performance vehicle for tab set and insert publication.
Comments: AV-596 is a high quality, high solids heatset vehicle designed for high speed presses and challenging printing conditions.
Comments: AV-700X is 100% solids, no mineral oil formulation, high quality, versatile sheetfed vehicle.
Comments: AV-706 is an ultra fast set, high structure, low tack sheetfed vehicle for premium applications.
• Resin Solutions
Comments: Alvar offers a full line of customized resin solutions that are tailored to the particular requirements of customers.
8310 16th St.
Sturtevant WI 53177-0902
Phone: (800) 231-7868
Fax: (262) 437-3266
Web: www.joncryl.com; www.basf.com
• Joncryl 2037
Comments: Joncryl 2037 is an improved alkaline resistant non-film forming acrylic emulsion that combines improved chemical resistance to household cleaners and alkaline solutions with very good resolubility and easy press clean up.
• Joncryl 2664
Comments: Joncryl 2664 is a film-forming acrylic emulsion for high quality, fine line anilox printing. It enables low viscosity inks with high pigment loading and provides viscosity stability, transfer, adhesion and gloss.
• Joncryl HPD 296
Comments: Joncryl HPD 296 is a high performance dispersion resin solution that enables stable, high solids, low viscosity pigment dispersions for use in inks for fine line anilox printing. It improves shock and storage stability to reduce waste and improve milling efficiency and throughput.
• Joncryl FLX 5000
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, providing a cost effective and environmentally-compliant alternative to solvent-based inks.
• Joncryl HR 1687
Comments: Joncryl HR 1687 is a high performance hot mar resistant emulsion for inks and overprint varnishes. It provides excellent hot mar and scuff resistance for pre-print corrugated applications with very good gloss, heat resistance and high slide angle – all without metallic crosslinkers.
Hexion Specialty Chemicals
8601 95th St.
Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158
Fax: (262) 947-7328
Comments: Mono-Lith is a universal, broad-based compatibility, sheetfed letdown vehicle. Inks made with Mono-Lith have lower structure, less misting than inks with greater structure, better transfer, stable ink/water balance and run trouble-free at all press speeds.
• Mono-Lith FGV and FGV 100
Comments: Mono-Lith FGV and FGV 100 are “Mono-Lith”-style vehicles that take advantage of the press proven benefits of Mono-Lith letdown vehicle while being expressly developed for flushing and dry pigment grinding. Mono-Lith FGV and FGV 100 wet extremely well and produce inks that transfer better, mist less and perform consistently on press with less operator adjustment.
• Terlon 300 Series alkyds
Comments: Terlon 300 Series alkyds are new generation, value line, linseed-based alkyds that provide excellent pigment wetting and hard drying properties.
• Terlon 600 Series alkyds
Comments: Terlon 600 Series alkyds are new generation, value line, soybean-based alkyds that wet pigment well and have been reported to provide higher pigment loads than many conventional alkyds.
800 Estes Ave.
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Phone: (847) 593-5200
Fax: (847) 427-1500
• Complete line of overprint varnishes including:
• S/F Gloss, Satin and Dull OPV
• S/F Perfecting OPV
• S/F Base System
• H/S Gloss and Dull OPV
• H/S Base System
Comments: These new systems are all designed to have excellent reliability and runnability on press as well as offering the traditional characteristics of OPVs.
• UV Hybrid Vehicles
Comments: Inksolutions’ UV hybrid vehicles continue to evolve. These offer greater reliability, and allow hybrid inks to run like conventional inks in terms of water balance and runnability.
• Flushing Vehicles
Comments: Inksolutions’ new flushing vehicles are higher solids and are designed for faster setting.
3 Carbon Way
Richwood, KY 49094
Phone: (859) 485-8600
Fax: (859) 485-2623
• Sheetfed Ink Makers Kit
Comments: The Sheetfed Ink Makers Kit contains a list of Kustom Group’s additives and most popular vehicles on a two-sided laminate handout.
• Kustom Stay Open S.F. Vehicle System
• KB-910 Matte Stock S.F. Gel Vehicle
• New Low Energy H.S. Vehicle System
• KB-3071 S.F. Fast Setting High Gloss OPV
• KB-3083 S.F. Matte OPV
Comments: KB-3083 S.F. Matte OPV offers wet trap gloss of ~5 degrees on most stocks.
• UV Ink Makers Kit
Comments: UV Ink Makers Kit contains a list of Kustom Group’s additives and most popular vehicles on a two-sided laminate handout.
• KS-276 Visco-Elastic UV/Hybrid Gel Vehicle
Comments: KS-276 offers litho-like conventional ink with no misting and no dry additives needed.
• KS-339 UV Photoinitiated Extender for Paper
• KS-343 UV Photoinitiated Extender for Plastic
• KS-345 UV Dispersion Vehicle
9911 Brecksville Road,
Cleveland, OH 44141
Phone: (216) 447-5000
Fax: (216) 447-5238
• Carroll Scientific Ink Additives CC-8707 Shear Stable Heatset Gel Vehicle
Comments: CC-8707 is a heatset gel designed to provide shear stability on the fastest running web presses. Suitable for all heatset web presses – especially for publication work – CC-8707 provides good gloss levels and resists misting at high temperatures. It also promotes stable viscosity at various press speeds.
• Carroll Scientific Ink Additives CC-8933-2 Satin Heatset Overprint Varnish
Comments: CC-8933-2 is a press ready satin finish heatset overprint varnish made to give extra rub-resistance over matte stocks. Offering consistent satin finish properties, CC-8933-2 is fast drying and offers excellent film protection. It is suited for use on all heatset web offset presses – especially for matte cover work. CC-8933-2 gives better protection than standard satin overprint varnishes.
• Carroll Scientific Ink Additives CC-8935 Shear Stable Sheetfed Gel
Comments: CC-8935 is a press stable, dull overprint varnish with excellent film properties, good transfer and extremely low gloss. Suited for use on all heatset web offset presses for high quality commercial printing, CC-8935 promotes film development and resists misting at high press speeds.
• Carroll Scientific Ink Additives CC-7920 and CC-7930 Energy Curable Texturing Dispersions
Comments: CC-7920 and CC-7930 are designed to provide a textured surface when added to energy curable overcoats. These additives are suited for use in most energy curable overprints, recommended at 2% to 6% in coating.
2303 West 18th St.
Chicago, IL 60608
Phone: (312) 2733-5200
Fax: (312) 733-0446
• 5 Star Varnishes
Comments: 5 Star Varnishes are new, light-color, quick-setting formulations in gloss, dull and high rub, and are formulated to meet today’s technology.