Review: CPMA Conference The Changing Face of the Color Pigments Industry

By Mike Agosta, Ink World Associate Editor | 10.14.09

Approximately 70 members of the Color Pigments Manufacturers Association (CPMA) battled the worst snowstorm of the millennium to travel to Washington D.C. for CPMA’s two-day conference, titled “The Changing Face of the Color Pigments Industry.” Given the horrible travel conditions on the east coast of the U.S., it was amazing that only two attendees cancelled their trips to the event, held Feb. 18-20 at the prestigious Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in the nation’s capital.

Following an opening night cocktail reception and registration session on Feb. 18, the conference program kicked off with a presentation by Hugh Smith, staff consultant at Sun Chemical and conference co-chair along with SteveCamenisch, regulatory services manager at Engelhard Corp. Dr. Smith’s talk traced the journey of the pigments industry in dealing with federal regulation of DCB-containing pigments. According to Dr. Smith, “CPMA should be congratulated for its determination and leadership in DCB research and regulation.”

Regulation was a major theme of the first day, as ensuing presentations covered topics dealing with the changing face of regulations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

Helen Lee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lectured on issues facing pigment manufacturers whose products wind up in and around ingestible products. According to Dr. Lee, before a pigment can be used in association with FDA regulated products, the manufacturer must have pre-market clearance for a color additive and demonstrate a “reasonable certainty of no harm to people through use of a product.” Dr. Lee called on CPMA to help the FDA with its task of ensuring the safety of all food colorants, additives and packaging products.

William T. Waugh, a toxicologist with the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, hosted a presentation and discussion session revolving around the EPA’s new P2 Framework for Pollution Prevention, a program designed to aid chemicals manufacturers in the evaluation and approval of their products.

According to Dr. Waugh, the P2 Framework provides a model of the automated tools used by EPA to evaluate chemicals for industry to use to anticipate and address potential EPA problems with chemicals while the products are still in development. The PBT Profiler will help pigment manufacturers to eliminate persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals before they are fully developed, which will save companies R&D money and regulatory headaches, while lessening the burden on the EPA to test and retest suspect chemicals.

International regulation was not overlooked. Karen Levens, director of the Chemicals Group, Cantox Health Sciences, International, gave a talk on changing governmental structure and regulations in Canada, and Emilio Assam, executive director of Pyosa, S.A. de C.V., spoke on environmental and business developments in Mexico.

The day was broken up by the conference luncheon where Dr. Smith, who is retiring from CPMA and Sun Chemical, received a certificate of appreciation from the association.

A presentation titled “The Changing Face of Color,” given by well-known color consultant Ken Charbonneau, was the highlight of the afternoon session. According to Mr. Charbonneau, considering color today entails a great deal more than hue. “Color today is not just a solid mass,” he said. Luminosity – how light plays against and bounces off a color – is a major factor in today’s trends. This is the reason behind the popularity of metallic shades and pearlescents, said Mr. Charbonneau.

A great deal of a color’s popularity can be explained by the events happening in the world. The Sept. 11 tragedies brought about a shift in color trends, according to Mr. Charbonneau. “Whites, which represent cleanliness, purity and a new beginning, are very popular right now,” he said. “There are needs for colors at certain times. Right now, consumers want more earth-related, ‘real’ colors, which is why there has lately been a rise in browns, beiges, tans and earthy-feeling reds. Brown might even be considered the ‘new black’ of the moment.”

Mr. Charbonneau noted that though color trends continue to get wilder and more bold in fashion, citing the avocado greens and golds that are gaining a popularity not seen since the disco days of the 1970s, outside of fashion, color trends still tend to be slightly more conservative.

“Though the line between fashion and interior design is blurred more than ever before, you must remember that fashion is disposable and fad driven,” he said. “A decorating theme is harder to change. Color trends for design and automotive markets must be longer lasting than they are in fashion.”

The ever-changing shifts in styling trends discussed by Mr. Charbonneau were also touched on in another talk, given by Ed Faulkner, director of communications and regulatory affairs at Sun Chemical Corp., in discussing the number of challenges facing the organic pigments industry. According to Dr. Faulkner, styling shifts are just one of the major factors affecting the organic pigments market. Other factors include global overcapacity, shifting customer bases, the loss of the domestic manufacturing base, declining markets, rising competition, price erosion and rising materials prices.

According to Dr. Faulkner, improved productivity, new business tools, value added products and customer partnerships are essential tools in fighting the number of challenges facing the industry.

The final day of the conference focused less on issues facing the market and more on the new trends, methods and markets driving the pigments industry.

Ivan Joyce, global technology manager, performance pigments and colors at Ferro Corporation, spoke on the recent breakthroughs made with ink jet printing in the ceramic tile market. In the past, screen printing has been the major method of decorating ceramic tiles, but, according to Dr. Joyce, breakthroughs in ink jet technology are allowing printers to turn out mass produced ink jet decorated ceramics that boast photo quality images.

Other talks centered around the uses and growing popularity of special effect pigments, the challenges and opportunities affecting the plastic colorants industry and the increasing demands placed upon pigment manufacturers by the automotive industry.

As a special treat for conference attendees, CPMA arranged for a behind-the-scenes VIP tour of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. In addition to the standard tour given to everyday visitors, CPMA members were able to go down on the press floor and witness the actual production of U.S. paper currency.

All in all, the 2003 CPMA Color Pigments Conference proved an informative and fun way to keep up to speed on the major issues affecting the pigments industry. “I’ve been with CPMA for many years and run many of these conferences, and I truly believe this one was one of the best, if not the best I’ve ever been a part of,” said Dr. Smith.

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