Regulatory Issues, New Technologies are Focus of 2016 NPIRI Technical Conference

By David Savastano, Editor | 11.21.16

Attendees learn about latest regulatory rules for inks and food packaging, as well as growth areas such as digital inks.

With an eye on important areas such as regulatory concerns for food packaging and the growth of digital and UV printing, this year’s National Printing Ink Research Institute’s (NPIRI) Technical Conference put a major focus on these issues and more.

The 2016 NPIRI Technical Conference, held by the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM), clearly met the interests of ink manufacturers and suppliers, drawing more than 200 attendees, a significant increase over the past few years and the highest number of attendees in nearly a decade. The conference was held Oct. 25-27 at the Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Hotel and Conference Center in Oak Brook, IL. The large number of ink company personnel attending the conference was particularly noteworthy to NAPIM’s leaders.

“We had more than 200 registrants, which is the highest attendance since the mid-1990s, with more than 40% from ink companies,” said John Copeland, NAPIM executive director. “That is an unheard-of percentage. We’ve had excellent reviews on the content and the speakers.”

“We are really pleased with the conference program this year and most happy with the ratio between ink manufacturers and suppliers,” George Fuchs, NAPIM’s director, regulatory affairs and technology, added. “This is the highest level in at least 15 years, with 47% of attendees coming from ink manufacturers.

“We had a great conference, with tremendous turnout, more than we imagined,” noted NPIRI president Jerry Napiecek of Colorcon, No-Tox Products. “The number of people coming here from ink companies is growing.”

After a Short Course on Color, NPIRI’s opening session began with a keynote address by Tak O’Haru, a former ink company senior executive, who offered an inspiring talk about during Japan’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami and Operation Tomodachi, the rescue and recovery efforts afterward.

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck near Japan. A tsunami that reached as high as 133 feet struck northeast Japan, traveling as far as six miles inland. As a result, 15, 824 died, with more than 3,800 people missing. The US military immediately mobilized to help Japan.

“Operation Tomodachi was one of the greatest, most respectful actions ever taken,” O’Haru said. “In 10 minutes, the US formed a team, and two days later, US Navy ships arrived. It was unbelievable how fast they got there.

“There were 24,000 US soldiers, who rebuilt the airport and provided medical support,” O’Haru added. “Companies also helped out. AT&T allowed free calls to Japan, and Comcast gave free access to Japanese TV. The Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Chicago raised $1.2 million in two weeks. We realized the true meaning of friendship.”

Catherine Nielsen of Keller and Heckman covered the topic of differences between US and European food packaging regulations.
“There are different legal requirements regarding the use of printing inks in food packaging between the US and Europe,” said Nielsen. “There is no single list to look at. Printing inks are not subject to harmonized standards. Some brand owners like Nestle and Kraft have more rigorous standards than the laws dictate.”

Steven Sides of the American Coatings Association discussed the role of industry associations in innovation. “Paints and inks are not worlds apart, and the language of science allows us to understand each other and learn from each other,” said Sides.  

Braden Sutphin Ink CEO Jim Leitch and Inksolutions VP of sales John Jilek Jr. provided the State of the Industry report, noting that areas such as healthcare costs and business conditions are a growing concern. “Rising health care costs and unfavorable business conditions, such as taxes and government regulations, are major concerns of manufacturers,” Leitch reported.

Christian Maus of Evonik was up next, with his talk on “A Fundamental Study of the Influence of Dispersants, Their Concentrations and Grinding Parameters to Inkjet Related Parameters of Particle Size, Stability and Color Development of Pigments and Dyes.” Maus’ talk received this year’s NPIRI Lecture Award. “The digital printing market is taking off,” said Maus.

“Inkjet inks have completely taken over the ceramic tile market, the digital textile market is growing rapidly, and the packaging market is interesting for inkjet.”

He noted that pigment particle size is a key component of a successful inkjet ink. “Pigments are the heart of the inkjet ink,” Maus said. “Particle size impacts color strength, as the smaller the particle size, the color strength increases. However, the smaller the particle size, the less stability it has, and the more dispersant that is needed.”

A Supplier Showcase, including speakers from Allnex, Solvay, Eastman, Keim Additec, BASF, Shamrock Technologies, BYK, Pantone and Air Products, as well as an Exhibitors’ Reception, closed the first day’s schedule.

Technical and Regulatory Matters

NPIRI’s second day featured two specific session, beginning with the morning Technical Session. Mike Libby of SAPPI discussed trends in paper, noting that direct mail and catalogs are effective means for reaching consumers.

“Direct mail response remains above those for digital channels, and research shows they are more preferred by consumers,” Libby reported. “Land’s End’s sales dropped $100 million when they decided to go away from catalogs. They conducted research, and found that 75% of online sales occurred when the customer had the printed piece in hand.”

Steve Simpson of PhotoType gave a talk on color management, an important topic for brand owners.

“Brand owners have expectations of color consistency across a brand,” Simpson said. “A piece may be reverse printed by gravure, placed in a carton printed by offset and then have a shrink sleeve printed with flexo. The brand owner wants the whole family to match. Spot colors are the brand equity of a brand owner, and some spot colors are bound by law.”

Veronika Lovell, Sun Chemical North American Inks, analyzed the ability to measure the brilliance of metallic inks. “Inks that contain metallic pigments enhance package appearance by the mirror-like visual effects they produce, especially if the appearance is similar to the metallized substrates,” Lovell said.

BASF’s Charlie Hsu offered insights on the selection of raw materials for digital inks. “The key challenge for inkjet printing is speed,” Hsu reported. “Amino acrylates AA-4 provide the fastest cure speeds.” Susan Bailey of IGM Resins closed the Technical Session with her presentation on low energy LED curing.

Penn Color’s Rich Johnson began the afternoon Regulatory Session with an update on REACH. In REACH, registration of all materials above one metric ton in the EU will be due by June 1, 2018. “There are 9,472 substances already registered, with 45,373 dossiers submitted,” Johnson noted.

Johnson said that certain companies are asking for new regulations on key ingredients. “France has filed for titanium dioxide by inhalation as a carcinogen category 1,” said Johnson. “There is no incidence of carcinogenicity. Will it be authorized or restricted?”

OSHA’s Saundra Harris then explained to NPIRI attendees the new E-Reporting rules. “Effective Jan. 1, 2017, employers will be required to electronically submit injury and illness data,” Harris said. “You should have a written policy in place.”

Keller and Heckman’s Kathryn Skaggs updated attendees on FMSA and FSVP, and Sun Chemical’s Gregory Pace gave a talk on NAPIM’s new Food Packaging Guidance Document, which will soon be issued.

“This is broad scope guidance for inks and coatings intended for non-direct food contact printing applications,” Pace said. “The Swiss Ordnance list has approved packaging ink materials with known migration limits tied to consumer safety. CPGs have specifications on packaging materials and printing ink guidelines and exclusion lists. Ink companies must understand the impact of adulteration caused by lack of controls in our ink and coating manufacturing, and inks must be formulated with raw materials known to be acceptable for the packaging end use.”

Skaggs then covered California’s Proposition 65 developments, which was adopted in 1986 by ballot initiative.

“Prop 65 prohibits knowingly discharging or releasing a listed chemical into water or land that passes to a source of drinking water in California, or knowingly exposing an individual to a listed chemical without giving a prior warning in consumer products, workplace or the environment,” said Skaggs. “It requires the state to publish and update a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. The list now contains approximately 950 chemicals.”

As for updates in chemicals, lead and cadmium are highly targeted, and styrene was listed as a carcinogen in April 2016, effective in April 2017. Vinyl acetate is now being considered. BPA was listed a female reproductive toxicant effective May 11, 2016, and OEHHA permitted a point-of-sale sign rather than pull all of the cans off the store shelves.

“Basically it was a reasonable action that they had to take,” Skaggs said. “They didn’t want to take all of these canned foods off of the shelves. The concern was that retailers and manufacturers might have pulled all canned food off of shelves due to liability concerns.”

During its award banquet, NAPIM presented the prestigious Technical Achievement Award to Dr. Kumar Menon of Sun Chemical and the Technical Associate Member Service Award to Dr. Jo Ann Arceneaux of Allnex.

Dr. Menon is technical manager, screen inks and industrial at Sun Chemical. Dr. Arceneaux is manager radcure technical service and business development at Allnex.

In addition, NPIRI announced its new officers for 2017-18. Dan DeLegge of Inksolutions in the new president; Dr. Juanita Parris of Sun Chemical is VP; Pete Notti of Ink Systems is the secretary.

Napiecek added that NPIRI’s summer course will be heading to a new home next summer.

“Our summer course has been at Fox Valley for the last 14 years, but they are dropping their graphic arts courses, so we are proud to announce that our summer course will be held next July at Clemson,” Napiecek said.

New Technologies

As has been the case for the past few years, NPIRI’s Technical Conference closed with a session on new technologies. This year, NAPIM gathered talks centered on topics ranging from inkjet, liquid barrier polymers and drupa to new press technologies and printed electronics.

Jim Lambert of INX International Ink Co. opened the session with an entertaining look at inkjet technologies. He shared a number of samples, from labels and shrink sleeves to cans, showing the capabilities of inkjet printing on many substrates.

“Inkjet printers can be engineered to print on a wide variety of substrates,” Lambert said. “At 1200 dpi, it is now competitive with offset quality.”

Lambert used the changes in the billboard market as an example of how digital printing has expanded in the market.

“In the early 1990s, billboards were still painted by hand,” Lambert observed. “In the mid-1990s, silk screening was used to produce billboards. Automated airbrush technology was next, and was nine dots per inch. In 2005, fully automated digital systems produced complete billboards as well as wraps. The market conversion was literally 13 to 15 years from complete analog to complete digital.”

Gary Deeter of BASF was up next with his talk on “Novel Liquid Barrier Polymers to Enable Paperboard Recycling.” I gave the next talk, titled “drupa Update,” a discussion of drupa 2016, including trends in printing, ink and new technologies such as digital textile printing, 3D printing and printed electronics.

“New technologies will drive the future of printing, and ink manufacturers will need to be right there with their printer customers,” I concluded.

Walter Chmura of KBA followed with “KBA - Trends and Directions in Print Technology,” discussing the new presses that KBA has developed.

“KBA spent €12 million for drupa, and we sold more equipment in 2016 than in 2000,” Chmura said. “drupa exceeded our sales goals.”

Hybrid technologies are a major opportunity for KBA, as it is partnering with Xerox and HP on new presses.

“The VariJET 106 Powered by Xerox features Xerox’s inkjet technology,” Chmura said. “It is modular, and is a unique hybrid technology for the folding carton industry. RotaJET and Corrugraph are our collaborations with HP.”

Erika Rebrosova of Sun Chemical closed the 2016 NPIRI Technical Conference with her talk on printed electronics, titled “Silver is the New Orange.” Rebrosova noted that printing has been used for electronics for many years, but it’s been limited to mainly screenprinting of polymer thick film inks.

“The main markets are inks for printed circuit boards, the solar market and printed electronics,” Rebrosova said. “Conductive ink is a $2.3 billion market, dominated by front side silver paste for solar metallization, followed by printed bezels for touch screens. It is dominated by screenprinting, with inkjet quite popular for prototyping. We are starting to see more interest in flexo.”

New applications are starting to emerge in printed electronics.

“Membrane switches are well established, and touch switches are gaining momentum,” Rebrosova observed. “Other key markets include structural electronics such as molded interconnects and 3D antennas, in-mold electronics, high speed printing on labels or packaging for tracking security and identification, wearables, energy harvesting and the Internet of Things (IoT).

“The industry needs to develop practical applications – this is a key to success,” Rebrosova concluded. “Core competency, early engagement with the value chain, and commitment to support and service are also key.”