Vehicles and Varnishes

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 10.25.05

Although there generally were signs of improvement in 2004, vehicle and varnish suppliers are watching raw material pricing and profitability closely in 2005.

For vehicle and varnish manufacturers, like so many suppliers of key raw materials, early last year seems like many years ago. At this time last year, there were concerns about raw material pricing, particularly oil and energy costs. At the time, the price of crude oil was in the mid-$30s.

The past year has seen crude oil prices skyrocket, with most recent prices hitting the high-$40s. As a result, vehicle and varnish manufacturers are facing pricing pressures on products ranging from oils and intermediates to monomers, which they have to pass along to their customers in the ink industry.

“Raw materials are still under upward price pressures,” said Dan DeLegge, vice president of Inksolutions LLC. “We expect that raw material costs should stabilize, but this is very difficult to predict. Any continued upward movement of raw material costs will result in higher vehicle prices. The effects of linseed, oil and many other intermediates have pushed cost to record highs.”

“The most recent trends continue to be pricing pressures on ink to the printer with continuing raw material price increases,” said Jim Volz, Kustom Group’s vice president of technology and marketing.

“It’s been a very difficult time during the latter half of 2004, with spiraling raw materials costs and shortages in key monomers across our technology range,” said Michelle Moss, industry manager, adhesives and graphic arts at NeoResins. “As a result of this situation, like with all resins supplies, NeoResins sought to increase its prices to our customers.”

Still, the reality is that suppliers haven’t been able to recover all of their costs.

“As a supplier to the ink industry, we have only been able to pass on a portion of the increases we received last year,” said Phil Runge, product manager resins and vehicles at Lawter International Inc. “Those price increases have held up pretty well, but are only a drop in the bucket compared to the total costs incurred. We are currently seeing a slowdown in the rate of increases from our vendors, but increases are still being announced. Major sources of DCPD, pentaerythritol and paraformaldehyde have all announced in the last two to four weeks. These are major components of resins that will translate to increased vehicle costs. It’s still much too early to predict how 2005 is going to shake out for pricing stability.”

Availability is another critical issue, as there are shortages of key raw materials.

“Raw material costs and availability remain significant issues for the entire industry,” said Rick Krause, marketing director, printing and packaging, Americas for Johnson Polymer. “Supplying our customers and their growth has been our paramount objective, and we have secured multiple and global sources of strategic raw materials for 2005 – but that has come at an unavoidable cost which we have had to pass on to our customers through ongoing price increases. The entire ink industry is facing similar situations across all product and raw material categories. And while there have been periodic respites from month-to-month volatility, companies’ raw material cost structures are fundamentally higher than they were eight to 15 months ago – and most experts expect this to remain the case throughout 2005.”

“Pretty much every raw material used in a vehicle has gone up, including all the resin types, ink oils to vegetable oils, especially linseed oil,” said John Schultz, commercial director, Akzo Nobel Ink & Adhesive Resins. “We have been fortunate that supply of the raw materials is solid due to contracts and relationships we have developed over the years.”

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Recent Trends
As prices increase, ink manufacturers are looking closely at performance, and providing value is essential for suppliers.

“Ink companies continue to seek in-use value either through differentiable product performance or improved cost effectiveness,” said Mr. Krause. “This goes beyond the fallacy of the ‘cost per pound’ mentality. Tell me how I can sell more value through better product performance; tell me how I can more cost effectively service and supply my customer – these are the questions we all hear from our customers. We continue to invest in new product development to address enhanced product performance, improved health, handling and regulatory considerations and effective formulated cost-in-use.”

“The most important feature in ink vehicle development is reliability,” said Mr. DeLegge. “Ink makers understand that ink which runs trouble-free and predictable means value. They want ink vehicles that are designed for trouble-free production and trouble-free press runs. Cost is important but value comes from more than just an invoice price. Ink makers know there is value and cost in servicing their inks on press. Inks made with reliable and predictable performance provide value to the ink maker and their customer, the printer.”

“Price remains critical as always yet for sheetfed, value still plays a role,” said Mr. Schultz. “We have seen outstanding sales and feedback on our ‘PRT’ system that is not low cost on a dollar per pound basis but delivers excellent value.”

“Faced with increased pressure of raw material price increases, ink companies are looking for low cost, stable supply of products,” said Dr. Iuliana Nita, marketing specialist, resins and polymers, inks at Noveon, Inc. “Low residuals, low odor and versatility are also requirements for ink vehicles.”

While pressure on pricing continues to be the major trend, there are other areas of interest, such as packaging and press performance.

“The packaging market continues to show the most growth, although there are concerns with health and environmental aspects,” said Ms. Moss. “Hence, NeoResins’ latest product introductions across our technologies are focused increasingly on food contact compliances, reduced odor via reduction of residual free monomer levels, elimination of organic tin and tin salts and moving away from aromatic isocyantes.”

“Most of the issues we are seeing are directly related to press performance improvements and cost,” said Mr. Runge. “We are being asked for lower cost materials to help mitigate the unusual raw material increases we all experienced last year. We are being asked for products that shorten press make-ready times, set faster and print evenly under a variety of conditions to speed throughput in the press room and to reduce waste. We are also seeing a real trend towards the consolidation of ink formulas which places more demands upon the resins and vehicles used in those formulas.”

“The demand for faster inks has increased,” Mr. Delegge said. “Printers need to turn over sheetfed jobs faster. This must be accomplished with the reliability noted. This also relates to value for the ink maker as they provide a more advanced product that increases the output of their printers.”

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Expectations for 2005
What can ink manufacturers anticipate in 2005? For starters, there is no doubt there will be further raw material issues.

“We remain optimistic that the industry recovery we observed in 2004 will continue into 2005, although it may be tempered slightly,” Mr. Krause said. “In the face of constant raw material cost pressures within a competitive industry, profitability has to be a critical concern.”

“Raw material costs and supply will remain difficult in the coming first quarter and possibly beyond,” Ms. Moss said.

“We expect to see a strong demand from the printing market with continuing pricing pressures,” Mr. Volz said.

Companies will also be developing new products for the ink industry.

“Inksolutions is ideally set-up to work closely with customers to develop value-added vehicle and ink systems,” Mr. Delegge said. “This effort will result in another excellent growth year for Inksolutions. The printing industry as a whole should see some growth vs. 2004. We continue to see increasing demand for specialty products that provide value-added benefits to ink makers.”

“NeoResins remains optimistic with a view to continued growth of its resin products into the liquid inks and OPV markets, specifically for packaging applications,” Ms. Moss said. “We have significant resources in our R&T developments and will continue with new product introductions.”

“In 2004, Noveon merged with Lubrizol in an outstanding business combination,” Dr. Nita said. “The merger will give greater access to channels to key growth segments in the graphic arts industry. Thus, Noveon will provide a broader product line, broader application participation, enhanced global coverage and accelerated technology cross-fertilization. Our customers will benefit from stability of ownership and commitment to the graphic arts industry.”

All in all, suppliers are optimistic that 2005 will be a strong year.

“So far the economy looks solid and we forecast growth in 2005,” Mr. Schultz said. “It is good to see many of the ink manufacturers announcing price increases as many of the base raw materials have gone up and stayed up.”

“We feel that 2005 is going to be a good year for the demand of our products,” Mr. Runge said. “The uncertainty we experienced in 2004 for raw material pricing and ink demand appears to be stabilizing and the market appears to be more robust than the early part of 2004.

“However, we have all learned a lesson,” Mr. Runge added. “Some of the complacency we all enjoyed in the market prior to the turmoil of 2004 is now gone. Lawter International will continue to aggressively develop both process and formula technologies that are designed to reduce costs while providing the exacting standards required by today’s ink makers. We will also continue to build upon the gains in product and supply chain quality that have been achieved over the past couple of years. Additionally, we are talking more and more to our customers about global technology and product platforms. We are uniquely positioned in our industry to provide consistent chemistries around the globe and are looking to grow with our multi-national customers as they strive for global standards.”

As 2005 moves forward, vehicle and varnish manufacturers will continue to balance raw material prices while providing value for their customers in the ink industry.

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New Vehicles and Varnishes
The following listing includes new products introduced to the ink industry in 2004.

Akzo Nobel Ink & Adhesive Resins
21625 Oak St.
Matteson, IL 60443
Phone: (708) 481-8900
Fax: (708) 481-7904
Web: www.akzonobel.com
E-mail: john.schultz@akzonobel-iar.com

New Products:

Paradigm 3000
Comments: Paradigm 3000 is a cutting edge wetting technology for flush and dry grind.
Comments: AKU550 is a hybrid UV vehicle with excellent press performance and clean up.
Comments: PRT2067 is a less gelled version of the Pacific Rim Technology, and is used in flush and dry grind.

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Carroll Scientific
9550 W. 55th St.
McCook, IL 60525
Phone: (708) 579-8000
Fax: (708) 579-0735
Web: www.carrollsci.com
E-mail: sales@carrollsci.com

New Products:

Comments: CC-4939 is a satin sheetfed overprint designed to provide good rub, transfer and flow.
Comments: CC-4478 is a hybrid sheetfed UV grinding vehicle.
Comments: CC-8517 is a sheetfed undercoat designed to improve printability on non-porous substrates.
Comments: CC-4984 is a heatset overprint designed for reduced yellowing.
Comments: CC-8704 is a heatset shear indexing gel designed to resist viscosity reduction due to shear, producing more flow at low shear yet less dot gain on press.
Comments: CC-8555 is an emulsified heatset vehicle designed to reduce VOCs by 20% in the finished ink.

Ink Solutions LLC
800 Estes Ave.
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Phone: (847) 427-2200
Fax: (847) 427-1500
E-mail: jjilek0217@aol.com

New Products:

Comments: SA-1125 is an ink water balance additive used to work with water rather than against water.
Comments: SV-1124 is a sheetfed high rub gloss OPV.
Comments: SV-1081 is a sheetfed structured gel vehicle for letdown gel and reliable press stability.
Comments: HV-1093 is a heatset gloss OPV base, and is a high gloss, non-yellowing base system.
Comments: HV-1078 is a heatset gel vehicle for reliable high-speed inks, and offers trouble-free press reliability.

Johnson Polymer
8310 16th St.
Sturtevant, WI 53177-0902
Phone: (800) 231-7868
Fax: (800) 437-3266
Web: www.johnsonpolymer.com
E-mail: americas@ johnsonpolymer.com

New Products:

Joncryl LMV 7051
Comments: Joncryl LMV 7051 is a high-gloss non-film-forming emulsion, an extension of the Joncryl LMV 7000 series of polymers for low maintenance and pH stable inks on press.
Joncryl 2635
Comments: Joncryl 2635 is a film-forming polymer for metallic ink and printable electronic applications, providing excellent stability and extended shelf-life.
Joncryl 636
Comments: Joncryl 636 is a highly opaque non-film-forming polymer, providing enhanced color brightness with excellent drying and resolubility.
Joncryl 1655
Comments: Joncryl 1655 is a no-ammonia-odor non-film-forming emulsion for ink and overprint varnishes, providing high gloss, fast drying and excellent resolubility.

Kustom Group
3 Carbon Way
Richwood, KY 41094
Phone: (859) 485-8600
Fax: (859) 485-2623.
Web: www.kustomgroup.com
E-mail: info@kustomgroup.com

New Products:

Comments: KB-3083 is a sheetfed matte overprint varnish with a gloss reading of less than 5 when wet trapped over ink. This varnish also has fast setting and dry times with excellent litho properties.
Comments: KB-3071 all purpose sheetfed overprint varnish has a great combination of fast setting, oxidative dry and high gloss.
KS-271 and KS-276
Comments: UV litho ink vehicle systems KS-271 and 276 have been formulated to have excellent litho properties to rival oil-based systems. This system works well for sheetfed or web printing applications.
Comments: KS-332 UV litho vehicle is ideal for plastic substrates.
Comments: KS-621 flexible UV coating is designed for excellent adhesion to sheetfed or heatset inks in offline coating applications.
Comments: KS-579 UV hybrid gloss coating has excellent gloss retention and cure response over hybrid inks.

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Lawter International Inc.
8601 95th St.
Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158
Phone: (262) 947-7300
Fax: (262) 947-7328
Web: www.lawter.com

New Products:

Cinergi SKX II
Comments: Cinergi SKX II is the next generation of Lawter’s proven performance, stay open, sheetfed gel vehicles. Cinergi SKX II provides excellent wetting and hold out, extended stay open time, stable rheology and shelf life.
Comments: LV30 is a urethane alkyd that provides an extremely tough film and unique wetting due to the urethane polymer component. As a vehicle modifier or alkyd replacement, LV30 significantly improves gloss and film forming properties. LV30 is ideal for improving gloss and leafing in metallic inks.
Comments: LV2466 is a 100% NV, quickset flushing and free flow let down vehicle. The low mist and fast setting performance characteristics make LV 2466 an excellent tool for sheetfed applications that need a low mist assist.
Floralith 60
Comments: Floralith 60 is a mineral distillate-free sheetfed vehicle based on phenol- and formaldehyde-free resins. This vehicle is based on highly structured resins and without the use of gelling agents. The inks based on Floralith 60 give low misting and have fast set speed, good gloss and good lithographic behavior. Floralith 60 can be used in single varnish units (grinding and letdown in one vehicle).
Miraglaze 2048
Comments: Miraglaze 2048 is a best-in-class overprint varnish. All needs for an excellent overprint are combined in one vehicle: high gloss, low yellowing, fast set speed, high rub, good lithographic behavior, excellent hold-out, good oxidative drying and to be applied wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry.
Excelith EU
Comments: Excelith EU is a sheetfed letdown vehicle with high gloss, fast set speed, fast drying speed, excellent lithographic behavior and low misting. Excelith EU is 90% non-VOC and not based on ester solvents. The use of high structured, low polarity resins give this varnish excellent water balance properties.

NeoResins Inc.
730 Main St.
Wilmington, MA 01887
Phone: (978) 658-6600
Fax: (978) 657-7978
Web: www.neoresins.com
E-mail: michelle.moss@neoresins.com

New Products:

NeoCryl A-2090 Family
Comments: NeoCryl A-2090 Family are surfactant-free acrylic-styrene emulsions, designed for food contact and low odor applications. The family consists of four grades: NeoCryl A-2091, NeoCryl A-2092, NeoCryl A-2095 and NeoCryl A-2099, which vary in Tg for the formulation of inks and OPV for application onto paper, board and plastic substrates.
NeoRez R-1010
Comments: NeoRez R-1010 is a co-solvent-free soft feel urethane dispersion for OPV applications onto paper, board and plastic substrates. Soft feel offers a luxurious touch for packaging materials.
NeoRez U-397
Comments: NeoRez U-397 is a slow-solvent OH functional elastomeric urethane for sole-binder lamination inks and OPV formulation. It is free of organic tin and TDI aromatic isocyanate.

Noveon Inc.
9911 Brecksville Rd.
Cleveland, OH 44141
Phone: (216) 447-5000
Fax: (216) 447-5238
Web: www.noveoncoatings.com
E-mail: iuliana.nita@noveoninc.com

New Products:

Carboset GA-2832
Comments: Carboset GA-2832 is an acrylic copolymer emulsion that combines high gloss and water resistance with excellent application rheology. It is a low residual, low odor product.
Carboset GA-2794
Comments: Carboset GA-2794 is an acrylic emulsion designed for use in paper printing applications. It is used for news and corrugated ink systems.

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The Roles of Vehicles

Vehicle systems have been described as the “backbone” and “guts” of the ink, and its role in printing ink systems is a crucial one.

“The vehicle carries the pigment, controls the flow of the ink or varnish on the press, and, after drying, binds the pigment to the substrate,” Dr. Nita said. “Vehicles also control the film properties of dried ink, such as gloss and rub resistance.”

“Polymers – whether they be in resin form, solution form, or emulsion form – enhance the color, stability, gloss, drying speed, resolubility and resistance properties of an ink or coating,” Mr. Krause said. “They are the ‘guts’ of what holds an ink or coating together. Ink and coating companies capitalize upon their formulating expertise to achieve the right balance of properties and applied cost based upon the portfolio of polymer products we offer.”

“The press performance of an ink is mostly determined by the vehicle system – it requires a balance of the resins, alkyds, and oils combined,” Mr. Runge said. “These performance parameters are influenced by additives, but there is a limit to what additives can do. So, as our customers prepare ink formulas that deliver the press attributes required by printers, vehicle formulation is key to success. This is true whether ink makers are preparing their own vehicle or purchasing a formulated product. One of Lawter International's strengths is that our vehicle and resin chemists are separated by mere feet. If a vehicle chemist cannot get the performance attributes he needs from available products, he can directly interact with a resin chemist to have a resin adjusted or create a new one. These technical interactions are vital as ink makers are becoming more and more sophisticated in their response to new challenges.”

Vehicle manufacturers work closely with ink formulators to develop products that will provide the needed characteristics.

“Vehicles from the past were independently developed by vehicle manufactures and sold for higher gloss, faster set and extreme rub resistance, for example,” Mr. Delegge said. “Today ink makers can work with us to develop the entire system from pigment wetting to the final letdown vehicle. The ink maker works with us from start to finish. This provides the ink maker with the knowledge of all the raw materials and how they work in his system. They now have the ability to quickly understand and correctly respond to press issues. This provides value to the ink maker and the printer alike. Less down time and greater printing reliability all generated from cooperative vehicle development with ink makers directly. Ink vehicles developed this way are more focused and more successful than trying to mix and match various vehicles to achieve a target result on press.”

Related Raw Materials: