The Future of Printing Inks

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 10.07.09

The Metro New York Printing Ink Association hosts panel of ink industry leaders

The state of printing ink clubs is not an optimistic one. In the past year alone, the Atlanta, Cincinnati and Los Angeles ink clubs have virtually gone out of existence.

However, the Metro New York Printing Ink Association (MNYPIA) is thriving quite nicely. Last year, the MNYPIA was created from the merger of the New York Printing Ink and Pigments Club and New York Printing Ink Manufacturers Association, both of which were struggling.

MNYPIA has successfully integrated the members of the two clubs and brought in a dedicated group of new leaders, putting together a strong, viable ink club in the New York area.

So far, the club has successfully hosted a tour of a printing plant, a tour of Pantone and a golf tournament. On Oct. 30, the MNYPIA held its most ambitious project yet: a panel discussion on “The Future of Printing Inks,” co-hosted by the Association of Graphic Communications (AGC), at the Landmark in East Rutherford, NJ. On hand for the panel were four ink industry leaders. It was an evening full of camaraderie and important information for all to consider.

The Panel

Nearly 100 people attended the discussion, which was moderated by Michael Graff, senior vice president, Sandy Alexander, Inc.

‘The turnout is terrific,” said Mr. Graff. “Obviously, people are interested, and it’s a very good panel. Ink is a major component, and there are a lot of misunderstandings. Ink can make or break a job. The correct use of ink can create an outstanding job.”

The first member of the panel to speak was Stephen Simpson, senior vice president and chief technical officer at Superior Printing Ink, who discussed sheetfed inks.

“Conventional sheetfed will continue to reinvent itself to meet the challenges of the new millennium,” Mr. Simpson said. “Everything we’ve done is to increase the operating window.”

Mr. Simpson concluded that there is strong opportunity for sheetfed inks. “We need more versatile inks for all substrates and imaging surfaces,” he said.

Next up was James Sutphin, regional sales manager, Micro Inks, who discussed the heatset market from a sales perspective. He noted that in the past decade, heatset ink volume has risen 11.5 percent, while sales have increased 6.9 percent.
“Dollars are not exactly keeping up,” Mr. Sutphin said. “Heatset is a mature industry, although it is alive and well. You have to have better control of your supply chain to be profitable.”

Mr. Sutphin said that key trends include the consolidation of small- and medium-sized printers and the emphasis on customer and technical service, which leads to the need for ink companies to have branch offices.

Next, Len DiLeo, UV manager, Kohl & Madden Printing Inks, discussed the growth of energy-cured inks, noting that the sales growth of UV inks and coatings market has risen from $153M in 1995 to $321M in 2000. Projections place sales at $448M in 2005.

“The future of UV looks very bright,” Mr. DiLeo said. “The cost of UV is going to start to come down. The inks are solvent-free, the ink remains wet until exposure to UV light, it has instant cure and can achieve better quality. It’s a technology that protects the environment.”

Mr. DiLeo said that hybrid inks, a blend of conventional and UV ink, shows great potential, but electron beam (EB) still remains slow.

“The hybrid ink market will begin to grow,” Mr. DiLeo said. “One advantage is that you don’t have to put so much money to change a press over. EB curing is a limited area, due to the cost and maintenance of equipment.”

Ken Ferguson, technical director, Van Son Holland Ink Corporation, concluded the panel discussion by discussing the growing digital and digital duplicator markets.

Mr. Ferguson broke up digital inks into three categories: the small desktop ink jet inks; large format ink jet inks and digital duplicator inks. “Small format is driven by the market now, while large format is growing,” Mr. Ferguson said. “We see increasing performance requirements, as the inks are used on a wide range of substrates and utilize a wide variety of processing such as UV. They are also being exposed to complex chemical solutions, for example to provide better fade resistance or more color strength. We see more color being introduced in digital duplicators. We see that printheads have the promise of higher frequency and speed. We see the percentage of process colors increasing on short runs, and UV curable ink jet inks making an impact.”

MNYPIA officials were delighted by both the panel’s discussion and the turnout, and anticipate even better things from the club in 2002.

“We had a great turnout,” said Michael Brice, COO of Superior Printing Ink and president of the MNYPIA. “We’re definitely going on the right path, and we’re excited about what we’re going to do next year.”

All of this bodes well for the fledgling club, and the metropolitan New York area ink industry as well.