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NPIRI Annual Technical Conference Examines Latest Trends

By David Savastano | 10.04.13

Each year, the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers’ (NAPIM) annual National Printing Ink Research Institute (NPIRI) Technical Conference looks at the latest trends, bringing attendees information they need to prepare for what lies ahead.
The 2013 NPIRI Technical Conference, held from Oct. 2-4 at the Hilton Chicago – Indian Lakes Resort, is continuing that tradition. Covering major fields such packaging, regulations and new technologies, the NPIRI Technical Conference is supplying its attendees with key information and insights.

The Oct. 2 Opening Session began with Jeff Wettersten of Karstedt Partners, who gave the Keynote Address on “Packaging: Evaluation of Vertical Markets and Key Applications.”

“The packaging industry is in the midst of a major transformation,” Mr. Wattersten said. “Digital printing is a disruptive technology, and the money invested into digital by major companies is fantastic.”

Mr. Wattersten said that on the ink side, UV is doing particularly well. “We are seeing increased use of UV inks in offset and flexo,” he noted.

Brad Bergey, executive director of NAPIM, recapped the economic situation in 2012 with his report on the “State of the Industry.” While the member companies that NAPIM surveyed reported sales were up 0.9%, volume decreased 3.5%. EBIT came in at 1.2%, up from 0.4% in 2011.

Diane Parisi of Flint Group then offered her insights into the raw material market in her annual talk on “Printing Ink Raw Materials Supply Update.”

“In 2012, raw material costs stabilized, but at high levels,” Ms. Parisi said.

However, 2013 is another story. In particular, crude oil, gum rosin, titanium dioxide, nitrocellulose and pigments are of concern. For example, in 2011, gum rosin prices soared to $3,510 per metric ton, but retreated to $1,520 in 2012. Now it is $2,350, and it could go higher.

“Gum rosin stocks are relatively low for this time of year, which is very reminiscent of 2011,” Ms. Parisi said.

In the titanium dioxide market, there is consolidation, as Huntsman acquired Rockwood's Sachtleben brand of TiO2. In nitrocellulose, the TNC plant fire and the possible decision by Hagedorn to leave the market will lead to an 11% decrease in capacity. In both cases, demand exceeds supply. Pigments are a major challenge.

“We have seen pigments and intermediates increase in price from India and China, due to stronger environmental enforcement,” Ms. Parisi said.

“There has been significant 3Q developments in crude oil, gum rosin and pigments,” Ms. Parisi concluded. “The supply base continues to consolidate, and environmental regulations and European legislation will have effects.”

The second day of NPIRI’s Technical Conference separated into two concurrent sessions. The first looked at recent developments, while the second track covered regulatory matters.

Track 1 opened with Evonik Industries’ Charles Douglas, who presented the NPIRI Lecture Series winning presentation, “Silica Nanoparticle Composites for Optically Transparent UV-Curable Hybrid Formulations. Mr. Douglas reported that synergistic effects can occur by combining free radical and cationic curing, which may offer advantages.

“Applications for scratch abrasion resistant coatings include electronics, automotive, cell phones, touch pads, optics and solar cells,” Mr. Douglas said.

“Silica nanocomposities are highly transparent, low viscosity and don’t show sedimentation,” Mr. Douglas added. “They have a 20nm particle size, and there is no dispersion technology required, as they are stir-in.”

Rick Pomeranka of Printron discussed “Available Printing Plate Options and How They Affect The Print Image Discussion,” a presentation on available print plate options. Flint Group’s Grant Shouldice was next with “Advances in Energy Curable Printing Inks for Alternative Energy Source,” a look at alternative sources of light energy, including LED and HW (high wave), and their market potential.

Brett Beauregard, Huntsman, offered insights into “TIO2 Selection Criteria,” providing examples of how the need for specific characteristics leads to different grades of TiO2. Track 1 closed with a presentation by Charlie Hsu of BASF. Mr. Hsu discussed “A Chemical Resistant, Two-Pack Water-Based Ink System.”

“The market needs an ink that is safer to handle and has a longer pot life,” Mr. Hsu noted. “We are developing a low toxicity carbodiimide crosslinker to replace polyaziridine in water-based ink systems, and then designing an emulsion polymer specifically for PCDI crosslinkers.”

Track 2 focused on regulatory matters. Catherine Nielsen of Keller and Heckman opened the session with her talk on “Food Packaging Regulations and the Printing Ink Manufacturer.” Ms. Nielsen offered insights into the regulatory environments of the U.S. and Europe, which is particularly challenging as there are overall standards.

“There is no harmonized legislation in the European Union regarding packaging inks,” Ms. Nielsen noted. “Companies have to look up individual member states, the Swiss Ordinance and the pending German ordinance.”

While Switzerland is not an EU member, its laws on packaging and inks are the present standard that brand owners expect suppliers to follow. Nestle has even stiffer requirements.

“The Swiss Ordinance is only legally binding in Switzerland, but compliance is often a customer requirement,” Ms. Nielsen observed. “Nestle eliminates even more substances.”

Jim Huang of Bemis discussed the often-confusing regulatory world in his talk on “Food Safety in the Flexible Supply Chain – A Regulatory Perspective,” including the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and the Global Food Safety Initiative.

Presently, there are standards being offered by the government, trade associations and individual companies such as Nestle and Pepsico. Even if a company is certified by one group, that certification does not apply to others.

“It would make sense if there was a harmonized standard,” Mr. Huang said.

Industry groups are trying to standardize the issue. Mr. Huang discussed Project Passport, a collaborative effort to address the acute need to streamline supplier verification. He also had complimentary words to say about EuPIA’s standards, which requires ink manufacturers to provide printers with a list of ingredients in their inks..

“EuPIA’s Statement of Composition for the European converting industry is worthy of adaptation in the U.S.,” he noted.

“Regulatory Update for Ink Manufacturers,” by Cheryl Falvey, Crowell & Moring LLP; “Sustainability Drivers,” by Jeff Wooster, Dow Chemical Company; and “GHS Implementation 2013,” presented by Jon Hellerstein of MWV, concluded Track 2.

The second day concluded with the annual Golf Outing, Reception & Awards Dinner in conjunction with NAPIM’s Open Board Dinner. During the dinner, NAPIM presented the prestigious Technical Achievement Award to Gerald Napiecek of Colorcon, No-Tox Products, and Technical Associate Member Service Award to Greg Webb of Mead Westvaco.

Mr. Napiecek is area technical manager for Colorcon, No-Tox Products, as well as serving as vice president of NPIRI Board of Directors. He has been a major contributor in the development of FDA compliant inks and coatings for the food, pharmaceutical and medical industries, as well as a dedicated supporter of NAPIM.

Mr. Webb is the product development manager, publication ink resins at MeadWestvaco. Prior to joining Mead Westvaco 14 years ago, Mr. Webb was branch manager/chemist at Hostmann-Steinberg from 1997-99, and branch manager/operations manager and chemist and senior varnish chemist at Flint Ink from 1986 to 1997.