“Typically 70 percent of an offset ink is varnish,” said Chris Halvorsen, global market manager – commercial for Hexion Specialty Chemicals. “The vehicle is used to disperse or flush pigment and used in the letdown phase in the ink making phase. Vehicles are designed to provide the desired film forming properties, drying and setting properties of the printing ink. They provide the rheological and physical properties required for sharp printing properties required for high speed offset printing.”
“Ink companies look for gloss, heat-resistance, water-resistance, product- resistance, rub-resistance and other end use properties to enhance and protect packaging,” said Carol Durgan, graphic arts marketing manager for Lubrizol Advanced Materials, Inc. “Vehicles and varnishes impact the resistance properties, transfer, drying speed, rub and other on- and off-press characteristics.”
“Polymers enhance the color, stability, gloss, drying speed, resolubility and resistance properties of an ink or coating,” said Rick Krause, printing and packaging business manager for BASF Resins. “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.”
“Vehicles control all the physical and chemical characteristics of an ink other than its color,” said B. David Aynessazian, vice president, sales and marketing, Kustom Group and director, technical service and marketing, Resinall Europe bvba. “It is the binder that fastens the pigment particle to the substrate. It is the media that allows the ink to flow through the printing press and places the pigment particle on just the right spot on the substrate that is desired. There would be no printing without ink vehicles.”
The role of vehicles and varnishes is a critical one, and suppliers are listening closely to what ink manufacturers are seeking. Meanwhile, higher prices for raw materials are a fact of life, adding to the challenges for vehicle and varnish manufacturers.
It should be no surprise that price increases are impacting vehicle and varnish suppliers. It’s not just crude oil, which is hovering near $100 per barrel; even the vegetable oils such as linseed and soybean are on the rise.
“Polymer products continued to increase in 2007,” said Ms. Durgan. “All raw materials were impacted by the increase of shipping and transportation costs, resulting from increasing oil prices.”
“Many of the building block raw materials have experienced price increases,” Mr. Halvorsen reported. “Vegetable oils have increased dramatically over the past several months. Petroleum distillates continue to follow the path of crude oil and are expected to remain at a high level. Key specialty chemicals used to make performance offset resins have increased as a result of increasing cost of crude and methanol, including DCPD, paraformaldehyde, nonyl phenol and maleic anhydride.”
“Pricing concerns in 2008 will revolve around drying oils; linseed oil prices have nearly doubled, and soybean oil is following suit, and that impacts virtually every vehicle in one fashion or another,” said Dan Delegge, vice president, smoke ’n’ mirrors at Inksolutions.
“Raw material increases are eroding the bottom line,” said David Allison of W-R Industries. “Increases are coming from all raw material suppliers. We expect raw materials to continue to escalate. Some are warranted; many are not.”
Mr. Aynessazian said that ink vehicle manufactures historically have learned to balance raw materials to achieve a technically acceptable product while having it be cost effective. However, higher costs across the board have left no less expensive alternatives.
“In the past, this was done by using vegetable-based products at times where petroleum products were high in price and/or using rosin-based resins when petroleum prices were high or visa versa,” Mr. Aynessazian said. “Unfortunately, in the last 18 months there has been the ‘perfect storm’ for raw material prices where all raw materials have risen, leaving no alternative raw materials to be used to lower costs. In this environment there is no choice but to raise prices.”
Mr. Aynessazian doesn’t see much relief in sight, either.
“If projections for the future are to be believed, we are only at the beginning of this cycle, with costs continuing to rise for the foreseeable future,” he noted. “We believe that the vehicle manufacturers and ink manufacturers have done an excellent job in being responsible to the industry and passing along only a very small part of the increases that have been felt so far. Although the commodity producers are raising prices almost constantly, we have also witnessed industry responsibility in timing of price increases to the market so that to make the inevitable increases be as orderly as possible, helping the customer be able to plan their futures with some degree of certainty. Lastly, this has caused us to be much more cognizant of what base chemicals are used by our suppliers and have a better understanding of what influences their costs. Today it is not good enough to know your raw materials but you must know the full supply chain leading to your products.”
Ultimately, profitability is suffering, as no one has been able to pass along the total cost increases.
“Pressures on profitability remain significant throughout the ink industry and with their raw material suppliers,” Mr. Krause said. “No company has been able to pass on the entire amount of cost increases – everyone is sharing the pain. Transportation and energy costs also continue to increase; 2008 has started with crude oil ranging from $90 to $100 per barrel, compared to $55 to $65 per barrel at the beginning of 2007 – roughly a 58 percent increase. Natural gas is also elevated from a year ago. Many of these rising feedstock costs are still working through the supply and value chains. If economic conditions remain healthy in 2008, basic feedstock costs are unlikely to ease. Profitability will continue to be a challenge for the industry in 2008 and beyond.”
With all that vehicles and varnishes impart into inks, Mr. Halvorsen noted that ink makers look for vehicles that can address as many demands as possible.
“Ink makers look for products that have excellent compatibility with other ingredients and can be used with a wide variety of flush colors or dry pigments,” said Mr. Halvorsen. “Ink makers rely on the vehicle to meet the setting and oxidative needs on various grades of coated and uncoated papers and non porous substrates. On press rheological and fountain solution stability are very important. Reliability and consistency over a broader range of press conditions is of value to ink formulators.”
“Ink vehicles are looked at in two ways by ink makers, chemically and physically,” said Mr. Aynessazian. “Both are equally important to the ink maker. Chemically, the ink vehicle must have the proper balance of solubility and compatibility to wet the pigment particle and yet not too much to cause misting and dot gain. Chemically, the ink vehicle must have proper water balance to emulsify with water so as to take it to the printing plate in the lithographic process but not too much so as to dilute the ink and its print density.
“When looked at for its physical characteristics, ink vehicles must also strike up a balance,” Mr. Aynessazian said. “They must be a balance of flow and structure. They must have enough flow to transfer through the roller train of a printing press but not too much flow or they will mist and have dot gain. The ink vehicles must have just the right balance of set speed, making it set fast enough on the substrate so the sheets can be handled quickly after they are printed but not too fast or they will make the ink dry on the rollers of the printing press. Ink vehicles are all about giving ink the balance that it needs.”
Mr. Krause said that cost effectiveness is what ink and coating companies continue to seek because of price pressure from their customers. However, that doesn’t necessarily translate to the lowest price.
“But more and more customers are beginning to realize that in-use value and total cost is what needs to be assessed, not simply the price per pound,” Mr. Krause added. “A higher performing product that provides higher in-use value to reduce the total system cost is what companies really need. 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 hear from our customers. We continue to invest in new product development to address enhanced product performance; improved health and safety considerations; and effective formulated cost-in-use.”
Expectations for 2008
With all of this in mind, 2008 looks to be a flat year at best.
“We believe that 2008 will be a flattish year and a year when we all must better understand globalization and how it affects all of us,” said Mr. Aynessazian. “There will be good news and bad news in 2008. The good news is that it is an election year which has historically increased a demand for print. Unfortunately, print continues to move off-shore. We continue to see the domestic industry move toward UV. The print that is staying domestic is that which must be received by the print buyer very quickly and UV fits this requirement.
“Through most of 2007 the U.S. dollar has been weak,” Mr. Aynessazian added. “A result of this has been to allow U.S. manufacturers to compete better against the rest of the world. This has slowed the migration of print offshore although it has not eliminated it. We do not see much of a change in the U.S. dollar in 2008. Again unfortunately, the weak U.S. dollar means that raw materials purchased offshore are even higher in price due to the exchange rate with foreign currencies.”
“Economic forecasts continue to point to an easing of growth for the U.S. economy,” Mr. Krause noted. “We’re expecting our business to continue to grow steadily throughout 2008. For BASF Resins, 2007 has been an exciting year, and we look forward to the opportunities of 2008. We successfully relocated our commercial and technical center to Wyandotte, MI. And we continue to develop new products and applications for the graphic arts industry from the wealth of chemistries and technologies that BASF is known for.”
“We see the need for greater efficiencies throughout the ink development and manufacturing process,” Mr. Halvorsen said. “During 2008, we will need to deal with record high raw materials and continued regulatory requirements, including REACH objectives.”
“Ink manufacturers are seeking ingredients that allow them to make their products ‘greener’ or higher in solids, which requires using drying oils and ester solvents,’ Mr. Delegge said.
Ms. Durgan noted that Lubrizol has been active in R&D, developing its Carboset 2636 styrene-acrylic-vinyl co-polymer emulsion, Carbobond 2862 copolymer that can be formulated as a blister pack coating to seal properly up to 20-25ºF lower than typical waterborne technology and is within 10-15ºF of solvent-based systems, and Carboset 2921, a soft emulsion that exhibits early water-resistance, ice crinkle, high stability with other acrylics and low-foaming properties that adheres to a wide range of films.
“Lubrizol expects 2008 to be a good year for our vehicle and varnish areas,” Ms. Durgan said. “However, this will most definitely be a result of the continuation of hard work from both our commercial and technical teams, who keep our customers’ needs as a top priority.”
New Vehicles and Varnishes
The following listing includes new products introduced to the ink industry in 2007.
Accu-Chem Industries, Inc.
901 Greenleaf Ave.
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Phone: (847) 718-9254
Fax: (847) 439-9324
• Bull’s Eye 100% Solids Gloss Vehicle for Porous and Non-Porous Substrates (Plastics)
Comments: Bull’s Eye 100% Solids Gloss Vehicle is tough and non-yellowing.
• Bull’s Eye Dull OPV 2710 Strike Thru Dull
Comments: Bull’s Eye Dull OPV 2710 is ideal for UV and water-based coatings.
1609 Biddle Ave.
Wyandotte, MI 48192
Phone: (800) 231-7868
• Joncryl LMV 7010
Comments: Joncryl LMV 7010 is a low press maintenance colloidal emulsion for corrugated packaging inks. It eliminates the use of organic amines to gain pH and viscosity stability on press. Now it is possible to formulate cost effective, low maintenance inks for corrugated packaging that do not rely on organic amines or press side additives to maintain on-press stability.
• Joncryl 642
Comments: Joncryl 642 is a general- purpose colloidal solution designed as a letdown vehicle for corrugated inks. It reduces the cost of standard corrugated inks without compromising color strength or on-press performance.
• Joncryl HPD 296
Comments: Joncryl HPD 296 is a high performance dispersion resin solution that enables stable, high solids, low viscosity pigment dispersions. It enables high strength, low viscosity dispersions for use in inks for fine line anilox printing; improves shock and storage stability to reduce waste and improve milling efficiency and throughput.
• Joncryl FLX 5000
Comments: Joncryl FLX 5000 is a self-crosslinking emulsion with excellent press resolubility that rivals solvent-based ink performance on polyethylene film. It develops excellent rub, wet crinkle and deep freeze resistance and adhesion to polyolefin films providing a cost effective and environmentally-compliant alternative to solvent-based inks.
Hexion Specialty Chemicals
8601 95th St.
Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158
Phone: (800) 852-9837
Fax: (262) 947-7328
• Cinergi 2149 and Cinergi 2150 Comments: Cinergi 2149 and Cinergi 2150 are sheetfed vehicle systems providing low polarity properties, improving on press performance by widening the water window and providing rheological stability in the lithographic process and press stability.
• Uroset 1000
Comments: Uroset 1000 is a pigment dispersion vehicle useful in both heatset and sheetfed applications where the need is for higher pigment loading and for softer bodied dispersions. Uroset 1000 provides fast durable film forming properties, improved gloss, transfer and leveling properties in most systems.
• Terlon 310 and Terlon 610
Comments: Terlon 310 and Terlon 610 are new alkyd systems which enhance pigment wetting and improves the color development, speeding up the flushing process. Terlon 310 series is linseed-based and the Terlon 610 series is soya-based. These new alkyds oxidize faster in thin film systems.
• Webvar 3085
Comments: Webvar 3085 is a recent development for the high speed web offset market. The Webvar 3085 provides a new level of performance with compelling economics. This new vehicle provides excellent flow properties with very low tendency to mist and high press speeds.
• Miraglaze 8720
Comments: Miraglaze 8720 is a press ready heatset overprint varnish that provides excellent gloss, energy efficient and outstanding abrasion resistance.
• Miraglaze 8661
Comments: Miraglaze 8661 is a cost effective, hard drying workhorse gloss overprint varnish that yields excellent gloss, good rub, and fast drying and is imprintable with most applications.
3 Carbon Way
Richwood, KY 41094
(859) 485-8600/Fax: (859) 485-2623
• KS-209 – UV Gelled Vehicle for Plastic Substrates
Comments: KS-209 was developed to allow UV ink makers to manufacture UV inks for a wide variety of plastic substrates while maintaining excellent litho performance, cure speed and mist control. KS-209 has low cured crosslink density allowing for a very flexible cured film. KS-209 has an excellent gel structure which eliminates the needs for dry additives in UV inks for plastic ,which yields an ink with better through cure with minimal misting at relatively low photoinitiator content.
• KS-276 – Low Tack UV Gelled Vehicle
Comments: This product allows UV ink makers to manufacture UV inks in the same manner as they do Oil-based offset inks by use of pigment dispersion and gelled Letback. KS-276 has excellent litho performance, cure speed, mist control and high gloss. KS-276 can be used to make inks for paper, paperboard and some plastics.
• KS-286 – High Potency Liquid Photoinitiator Compound
Comments: KS-286 allows UV ink makers to manufacture UV inks without the use of dry powdered photointiators. This easy to use liquid is designed for use in UV lithographic inks using standard organic and selected carbon black pigments. Use of KS-286 allows formulating flexibility for a wide variety of substrates, and raw material consolidation for the UV ink maker.
• KS-364 – UV Pigment Dispersion Vehicle
KS-364 is recommended for dispersing pigment for UV lithographic and flexographic inks. KS-364 allows for high pigment loadings while producing a pigment concentrate that cures quickly and can be used to make inks for a wide variety of substrates.
• KS-565 – UV Litho Gloss Overprint
Comments: KS-565 is recommended as UV lithographic overprint where high gloss is needed in a spot application. KS-565 has excellent litho performance, fast cure speed and very good mist control with usually high gloss. KS-565 can be used on paper, paperboard and some plastics.
Lubrizol Advanced Materials, Inc.
9911 Brecksville Road
Cleveland, OH 44141
Phone: (216) 447-5000
Fax: (216) 447-5238
• Carroll Scientific Ink Additives CC-8510 Sheetfed Texture Primer for UV
Comments: CC-8510 is a sheetfed primer that is designed to give energy curable coatings a textured finish. It provides fast setting, excellent texturing and excellent tack stability properties. CC-8510 primer is recommended for use where a dull energy curable texture is desired.
• Carroll Scientific Ink Additives CC-8547 Asian Phenolic Resin Solution
Comments: CC-8547 resin solution provides improved gloss and setting properties in sheetfed inks. It provides high gloss, fast set, zero VOC and improved film integrity and is recommended for sheetfed flushing and grinding applications.
• Carroll Scientific Ink Additives CC-8934 Heatset Dull Overprint Varnish and CC-8938 Heatset Satin Overprint Varnish
Comments: CC-8934 is a press-stable dull OPV and CC-8398 is a press-stable satin OPV, both offering excellent film properties, good transfer and extremely low gloss. These OPVs are suited for use on all heatset web offset presses for high-quality commercial printing, promoting film development, resisting misting at high press speeds, offering good transfer and low gloss.
W-R Industries, Inc.
2303 West 18th St.
Chicago, IL 60608
Phone: (312) 733-5200
Fax: (312) 733-0446
• Dull effect varnishes suitable for U.V and water based coatings
• Hybrid Varnish Systems.