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High Performance Pigments



Ink jet and flexible packaging are two of the strongest growth areas for ink manufacturers, and HPPs are an essential ingredient in many of the most successful applications.



By David Savastano, Ink World Editor



Published October 21, 2005
Related Searches: flexo water-based pigments offset
 
By David Savastano
Editor

Photo by Andy Teng.
While the ink industry waits for clear signs that the printing industry has turned the corner, there have been areas that have generated strong growth in recent years despite the downturn in the U.S. economy. In particular, the flexible packaging industry has done extremely well.

It should come as little surprise that the inks being used on these packages, whether they are stand-up and retort pouches or shrink sleeves, require excellent performance characteristics. This makes the selection of pigments increasingly important, and have provided opportunities for high performance pigments (HPP).

HPPs, such as phthalocyanines, quinacridones, dipyrrolopyrrole, perylene and carbazole violet, provide excellent resistance of weather, chemicals and light while providing high color strength, heat stability and low migration. HPPs are estimated to make up nearly one-quarter of the $4.2 billion pigment market. It is growing much faster than conventional pigments, and as printing ink requirements become more complex, HPP sales are poised to continue to grow in the coming years.

Growth During The Past Year
While the past year brought mixed results in the conventional pigment market, high performance pigment sales were fairly strong.

“The HPP market fared reasonably well in printing inks,” said David Dugan, sales/key accounts manager, BU printing industries at Clariant Corporation. The special characteristics these pigments bring to the customer are not yet being copied to a great extent by the ‘non-traditional’ suppliers, and ink manufacturers/printers are trying to respond to the designers’ demands for better and more unique graphics for packaging inks.”

“Overall, the HPP market performed quite well, better than the ink market as a whole,” said Christopher Bridge, regional marketing manager-Americas, imaging and inks business line, coating effects segment for Ciba Specialty Chemicals. “The market for this type of pigment grows steadily, as applications become more demanding in both performance and environmental impact, and users look for solutions which have a wider area of application.”

Digital inks are another major growth area for ink manufacturers, and HPPs are playing a significant role there as well.

“HPPs in the ink industry have done well over the last year,” said Edwin Faulkner, director – product management and communications, Sun Chemical Corp. Performance Pigments. “This is due to the rapid growth in digital inks and toners, where the HPPs are predominantly used.”

Uses for HPPs
While HPPs are most commonly used in automobile and housing applications, HPPs are found in virtually every segment of printing, although their usage is more likely in higher-margin segments.

“All printing processes use high performance pigments to some extent, though the participation of offset is much lower than for overall printing – the usual substrate, paper, is often limiting the end application,” Mr. Bridge said.

“The main areas are for outdoor use, such as signs, decals for transportation, fertilizer bags, or filling station forecourt items, or indoor applications where some extra degree of light permanence is necessary, such as wall and floor coverings,” Mr. Bridge said.

“A significant and growing use for these pigments, and easily dispersible forms of them, is in wide format ink jet inks for outdoor signage, decals and advertising,” Mr. Bridge said. “These are often replacing screen inks in such applications. Flexo printing is used for fertilizer bags. Gravure printing is common for wall and floor coverings. Offset printing is used for special high-end applications which may require chemical resistance or lack of migration, mainly in labels, or where the substrate is not paper – certain credit cards or metal decoration.”

HPPS and the Packaging Market
The proliferation of flexible packaging onto the supermarket shelves has been good news for consumers, who can now heat foods in retort pouches and reseal packages to keep foods fresh. Considering how much packaging has changed even in recent years, it should come as no surprise that ink manufacturers and their pigment suppliers have had to develop cutting-edge products.

“As mixing schemes become more common, HPPs offer a performance level which allows their use over a wide variety of end uses,” Mr. Bridge said. “As the market size grows, prices become lower as costs are driven down, and they replace lower performing products. An obvious case is that in violets, where some years ago pigments based on basic dye complex salts were often used, but now Pigment Violet 23 types are used instead. In red/magenta, the same trend is taking place slowly.”

“We see HPPs being utilized in most packaging ink types,” Mr. Dugan said. “Depending upon the needs for lightfastness, chemical resistance, heat resistance or special visual effects, any ink type is a candidate for HPP products.”

One example of a key application for HPPs is fertilizer bags.

“As packaging becomes more sophisticated and more important as a marketing/sales tool, the demands for HPPs increase, particularly due to lightfastness demands being placed on packaging,” Mr. Dugan said. “More color is being utilized in packaging that would not, in the past, have been multi-color. One example that comes to mind is the fertilizer bag. The ink used on the bag requires pigments that can stand up to outdoor storage and exposure to harsh chemicals.”

“It is clear that there have been traditional uses for HPP in packaging – for example, fertilizer bags,” Mr. Bridge said. “Three key forces drive their increased use – environmental impact, performance guarantee, cost changes.”

Perhaps the most obvious example are the retort pouches, which have to withstand high heat and cannot migrate into the food. HPPs have done quite well in this segment.

“The newest area for HPPs is in packaging gravure inks for high temperature retort pouches for food packaging,” said Chris Whiston, marketing manager, Toyo Color America. “The necessary properties are heat stability and migration resistance.”

“As packaging becomes more sophisticated and more important as a marketing/sales tool, the demands for HPPs increase, particularly due to lightfastness demands being placed on packaging,” Mr. Dugan said. “More color is being utilized in packaging that would not, in the past, have been multi-color. One example that comes to mind is the fertilizer bag. The ink used on the bag requires pigments that can stand up to outdoor storage and exposure to harsh chemicals.”

Ink jet is another excellent area for HPPs.

“HPPs are used in both traditional inks along with digital inks and toner,” Mr. Faulkner said. “In traditional inks, they are used where their light stability is an important attribute such as outdoor signage. They are the predominant type of pigments used in the digital area because of all their stability properties.”

New Products
As ink companies formulate the new products their customers need, HPP manufacturers are developing new products that will provide the necessary characteristics.

Mr. Dugan said that Clariant is introducing four new DPP pigments, with samples available now. These include Hostaperm Red D2G 70 (PR 254), Hostaperm Red D3G 70 (PR 254), Hostaperm Rubine D3B (PR 264) and Hostaperm Rubine D3B WD (PR 264). He added that commercial production is scheduled to be on-line in the fourth quarter of 2004.

“While these products are originally intended for automotive and industrial coatings, they certainly have some potential in high performance inks,” Mr. Dugan said. “We also have introduced improvements to existing pigments that are widely used in the decorative laminating industry for woodgrain printing. Novoperm Scarlet 4RF-01 is one such product.”

Sun Chemical Corp. Performance Pigments also offers a variety of new products, including Pigment Yellow 139 Fanchon Yellow 139 (279-5700); Pigment Yellow 139 (Fanchon Yellow 139 (279-5740); Pigment Red 202 Quindo Magenta 202 (228-6725) and Pigment Violet 19 Quindo Violet 19 (228-6902).

“We have a number of newer products designed to perform well in both paste and liquid inks,” Mr. Faulkner said. “These products offer the ink maker a wider choice of products with excellent light stability.”

Mr. Bridge said Ciba Specialty Chemicals has introduced a number of key HPPS this year, including Cromophtal, Violet GL, a high strength, high transparency, red-shade violet with excellent rheology and stability in solvent-based inks; Cromophtal, Violet GM, a high strength, high transparency, blue-shade violet with excellent rheology and stability in solvent-based inks; Cromophtal, Jet Yellow 8GT, a high performance green shade yellow, with high chroma and color strength, with small particle size and narrow size distribution, for water-based ink jet inks; and Cromophtal, Jet Magenta DMQ, a high performance magenta pigment, also designed for water-based ink jet inks, with small particle size and narrow size distribution.

Mr. Whiston said that Toyo Color America has continued to develop and improve its production facilities.

“Transfer of Toyo’s Pigment Violet 23 technology to our Mexico manufacturing location is completed,” Mr. Whiston said. “Quality and consistency have been approved by our customers and also by the original Toyo Research Center in Fuji. Toyo is now able to provide economic incentives to our customers along with the continued Toyo reputation for performance and environmental integrity.”

The Future for HPPs
As has been the case in recent years, HPPs continue to find greater usage in the ink industry.

As applications that utilize HPPs continue to emerge, pigment companies are using their R&D resources to develop new products that will allow ink companies to meet future demand.

Considering the excellent growth rates in areas such as flexible packaging and digital technologies, the potential for HPPs is likely to continue to be strong in the future.



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