Metallic and Special Effect Pigments and Inks

By Kerry Pianoforte, Ink World Associate Editor | 10.24.05

A renewed interest in eye-catching packaging has led to a positive year for the metallic ink market.

EMD Chemicals recently introduced Miraval, a new generation of brilliant glittering pigments, based on calcium aluminum borosilicate platelets.
Metallic ink and pigment manufacturers experienced solid growth in 2004, and anticipate further opportunities for 2005.

“2004 has been a positive year with regard to metallic inks,” said Elise Balsamo, marketing manager, MD-Both. “There is a renewed surge in companies wanting bigger, better and brighter for their printed label, package, brochure, etc. This level of excitement and competitiveness can be seen in the high amount of interest we have seen for MetalFX, which allows printers and designers to create thousands of metallic color shades simultaneously on a five-color press.”

“The actual metallic ink market was less affected by the slowing economy of the past three years than the overall ink market,” said Alexandra Brownfield, business development manger print and paper, EMD Chemicals. “This is due to the fact that most special effect pigments are used for decorative wrapping paper, gift boxes and high-end packaging. These are segments that are less price and volume sensitive than commercial printing.”

“We haven’t seen much change in the ink market based on economic conditions in play so far during 2004,” said Peter Stone, market development manager, inks, Silberline. “There is always pressure to provide better products at lower prices, but this seems always to be the case whether the economy is up or down. Our expectations are that the metallic ink market will remain healthy during 2005.”

One of the biggest issues facing the metallic ink and pigments market is the continuing rising cost of raw materials.

“The surging economy in China has led to rising demand on metal commodities such as copper, steel and aluminum,” said Nick Rink, product manager, graphic arts, MD-Both. “The price of copper alone is almost twice its traditional level. Coupled with the current situation regarding the price of crude oil, it is inevitable that the price of metallic pigments and inks will be on the rise.”

Metallic Enters New Markets
As technology improves, metallic inks are expanding their reach. Metallic inks are not just being used for traditional packaging applications, but are finding use in high-end brochures and advertising.

“As the technology, ease of printing and flexibility of metallic inks has increased over the years, so have the applications,” noted Ms. Balsamo. “We are seeing metallic inks being used as foil board replacements in many consumer product areas by utilizing an ink made with VMPs (vacuum metallized pigments). In general, metallic inks are being used a lot for visually-competitive consumer product segments, like food and beverage and health and beauty.”

“Special effect pigments are mainly used in decorative stationary, greeting cards, wrapping paper, boxes and cosmetic packaging,” said Ms. Brownfield. “However, we are seeing a trend develop where more special effect pigments are being used in commercial printing for invitations, special advertising, company brochures and catalogs.”

“Many of the metallic pigments we provide to the ink market are used in packaging applications for consumer products,” said Mr. Stone. “This has been a traditionally strong market for Silberline and has remained strong through 2004. To a lesser extent, we provide aluminum pigments used in offset printing for publication and advertisement applications.

A continuing challenge facing the metallic ink market is the quest to develop smaller particle size for metallic pigments at a reasonable cost for customers.

“It’s an ongoing challenge to develop ever smaller particle size aluminum pigments with increasing brightness,” said Mr. Stone. “Adding to this challenge is the continual pressure to provide products at lower prices. Other challenges include developing technologies that will allow aluminum pigments to be used in virtually any aqueous ink in a wide range of pH levels with compatibility and resistance to gassing. Similar to this is the challenge of providing aluminum pigments that are stable in one-pack UV cure inks.”

“Some of the greatest challenges are particle size and the high specific density of the particle that can cause settling,” said Ms. Brownfield. “Also, there are restrictions in particle size for certain printing applications, depending on screen, cell or anilox sizes. Preparations such as Pearlprint Litho and paste products like Biflair make it easier and more efficient to use the effect pigments in printing.”

What’s New?
EMD Chemicals recently introduced Miraval, a new generation of brilliant glittering pigments, which are suitable for screen, flexo and offset coating applications, especially in UV inks and coatings for the textile, packaging, toy and electronics industries.

EMD has also expanded its line of Colorstream multi-color effect pigments, a new generation of pigments based on silicone dioxide flakes coated with metal oxides, by adding two new colors: Arctic Fire and Tropic Sunrise.

MD-Both has added a water-based Mirasheen ink to its line of premium silver inks and continue making improvement to existing products in order to maximize the metallic effect.

Silberline has just completed a major re-engineering project in support of its StarBrite vacuum metallized pigment products.

“This puts us in the strongest position as a manufacturer of vacuum metallized pigments for inks since we entered the market,” said Mr. Stone. “StarBrite VMP products are designed to impart exceptional brilliance in first and second surface flexo and gravure printing applications. In addition, we have introduced our Aquavet line of aluminum pigment pellets for aqueous inks and have just introduced our Silvet AD 2000 line of aluminum pigment pellets for solventborne inks designed to offer improved adhesion to polymer and other substrates.”

EMD Chemicals Expands Its Metallic Pigment Offerings
EMD Chemicals has recently added a number of new technologies, including Miraval, a new generation of brilliant glittering pigments that combines silver-white glitter with a colorful rainbow-like highlight. This pigment is the first EMD pigment based on calcium aluminum borosilicate platelets. They are extremely thin and have a very smooth surface. Even low concentrations can create fantastic effects and with its pure white mass tone color and minimal light dispersion, Miraval Magic White is highly transparent and opens up unlimited color styling potential, according to the company.

EMD’s expanded line of Colorstream pigments are based on silcone dioxide flakes coated with metal oxides. "Colorstream pigments are distinguished by color gradations and show most dramatically on dark backgrounds," said Alexandra Brownfield, business development manager print and paper, EMD Chemicals. “We have extended our product line by adding two new colors this past year, Arctive Fire and Tropic Sunrise. Colorstram is suitable for silk-screening and all liquid inks and it call be particularly effective on smooth substrates, such as paper and films packaging as well as for the electronics industries.”

In addition to Miraval and Colorstream, EMD has developed Pearprint Litho S, a new and improved version of easy-to-handle, dust-free pigment preparations for offset inks. The new Iriodin Pearlprint Litho S series includes all additives for a good pigment dispersion and transfer and now offers improved storage stability and printability.

EMD is also working on the expansion and modification of its Minatec series, which are functional effect pigments that can be used for antistatic packaging and labels.

“Recently, we have experienced an increased interest in our functional and decorative products from the paper industry,” said Ms. Brownfield. “This increase is primarily due to new application technology allowing for the use of effect pigment in sizing and coating of paper for the security and decorative paper market.”