“While we have seen another year of double digit growth in the European and overseas markets, the environment in North America proved to be more difficult,” said Marcel Gatti, vice president energy curing, Rahn Group. “The downturn in the U.S. economy and the weakening dollar has created a highly competitive market, especially in the second half of 2007, where even smaller volumes were battled for with high intensity. Nevertheless, going into 2008 we remain optimistic for UV/EB market as a whole, as it continues to benefit from above average growth rates over other technologies due to ever increasing penetration into new applications. We are also benefiting from an increased awareness for total converting costs and productivity gains versus a simple kg by kg cost comparison between conventional and UV/EB materials.”
“The radiation curing industry has generally followed the economy,” said Patrick Saab, market manager radcure graphics, Americas, Cytec. “For growth, our expectations are the technology will continue penetrating into conventional/solventborne printing methods.”
“We expect to see a 6 to 8 percent increase in UV over the next several years,” said Joe Leon, general manager for Bomar Specialties.
Key growth markets include UV flexo and UV inkjet.
“We see the demand for digital inks growing at the expense of screen inks,” Mr. Saab said. “Also, in food packaging we see a shift to flexible packaging from rigid packaging. With this change, there are new challenges for inks and coatings which will require more functionality along with shelf appeal for the packaging.”
“Flexo remains a major growth market where radiation curing has come to be a dominating industry standard,” said Mr. Gatti. “Increasing demand for packaging and labeling from less developed market areas will support this trend for the years to come. Although still considerably smaller in total volume, UV inkjet printing is developing to be the next major UV application in graphic arts.”
Raw Material Costs
As has been the case for the last several years, raw material price increases continue to negatively impact the market. The challenge remains to be whether these prices increases can be passed along to their customers.
“The prices of raw materials keep escalating largely because of the cost pressures from feedstocks,” said Mr. Saab. “Generally, our customers have understood what’s driving price increases.”
“Raw material prices have seen major increases over the last 12 months,” said Mr. Gatti “The reasons for this are were known: increases in the basic raw materials, rising energy and transportation costs, as well as adverse currency exchange rate fluctuations for Asian-sourced materials. Through long-term relations along the whole supply chain, we have been able to mitigate some of these influences for a long time, but we just recently had to announce price increases for Q2 2008 across the whole product portfolio. Looking at the margin pressure that ink and coatings manufacturers have been facing for quite some time now, it is clear that such announcements are not well received by our customers. But obviously most of them are very familiar with these developments on the macro scale and had to announced increases themselves. For some products the concern tends to move even more towards supply security rather than pricing alone.”
“Despite accelerated restructuring efforts, Clariant has not been able to any longer compensate for the significant raw material and energy prices increases by cost saving,” said Chris Patterson, technical marketing, pigments and additives division, Clariant. “The cost increases have been partly passed on in order to remain a reliable, predictable and accountable supplier. Clariant will continue to monitor cost developments carefully and respond with appropriate measures, accordingly.”
“Price increases are never welcomed, but the increases have been generally accepted due to widely publicized inceases in oil, which directly affect most raw materials used in inks,” Mr. Leon noted.
In addition to rising raw material costs, supply shortages are another concern in the market.
“A challenge will continue to be supply issues in some product categories,” said Mr. Gatti. “There are also no signs that the upwards price pressure will go away anytime soon. We should also not forget that for basic raw materials, such as acrylic acid, our industry is competing with other, more dominant applications. There are many other examples where production capabilities of major players such as Dow, Perstrop, Daicel and others have not always been able to keep up with increasing demand.”
Additional Challenges Facing the UV/EB Ink Market
There are a number of other challenges facing the UV/EB ink market. Environmental regulations, and more specifically REACH in Europe, has been a major concern. “Another concern could be the economic development of the larger European markets as well as the upcoming regulatory burden that the REACH regulation will put on everybody,” said Marcel Gatti, vice president e nergy curing, Rahn Group. “These challenges need to be overcome by diligent planning, close communication with all supply chain partners, product innovations that make use of other raw materials and increasing production efficiency.”
“One huge hurdle facing the European graphic arts industry as a whole will be the forthcoming implementation of REACH legislation,” said Harald Boner, technical marketing, pigments and additives division, Clariant “While it is difficult to assess the final outcome from this complex legislative undertaking we are fortunate to have a dedicated, highly skilled ESHA group (environmental, safety, health assurance) to help steer Clariant and our customers through the ‘rough sea.”
Educating customers on the misconception that using UV/EB is cost prohibitive is another challenge. “The most difficult challenge is overcoming the mis-perception about the initial high cost of UV/EB technology, and the resistance to change,” said Patrick Saab, market manager radcure graphics, Americas, Cytec.
UV/EB raw material suppliers are also being challenged to develop technically innovaitve products to keep up with this high-paced market. “Technically the continuing push for increased print fidelity using higher screen aniloxes demands inks with high pigment loading and good flow/low viscosity,” said Tomonori Okazaki, technical marketing, pigments and additives division, Clariant. “Our existing P-series products help meet those needs and we continue to expand our offerings in this area. Recent introductions include PGRL-07 – A new PY 13 with superb flow, transparency and gloss. The standard process colorant in Europe has the advantage of being tinctorially stronger and more lightfast than PY14. Also, due to be introduced in 2008 a new redder shade carbazole violet P-RR (PV23) and a new phthalo blue PBFS-02 (PB 15.4) both with enhanced flow properties for flexographic inks.”
As the push for lower VOCs and tighter environmetnal regulations continues, UV/EB technolgoies will continue to enjoy growth. “The trend towards VOC-free or low VOC systems is still very strong and obviously UV/EB is in on of the top spots to profit from this development as well as from increasing economic/tax incentives around the world,” Mr. Ozazaki added. “Another interesting area for the future could be the use of renewable raw materials from natural sources to be used in UV curable resins.”
“UV and EB chemistries are perceived as environmentally friendly technologies and increased environmental awareness or the part of the consumer is likely to increase demand for such products,” said Chris Patterson, technical marketing, pigments and additives division, Clariant. “While there is little evidence to suggest that radiation cured inks have a lower ‘carbon footprint’ than their solvent or aqueous counterparts, this does not mean that they cannot be used in products with improved ecological characteristics. The primary environmental benefit for such technologies is likely to arise from ‘source reduction initiatives,’ for example, the replacement secondary webs in laminated structures or the use of radiation cured inks as the laminating adhesive in multiweb constructions.”
5200 Blazer Parkway
Dublin, OH 43017
Tel: (614) 790-3333; (800) 322-6580
• Arocure RPS-9049 and RPS-9043 UV-Curable Pressure Sensitive Adhesives
Comments: Arocure adhesives are a screen-printable liquid adhesive that provides an effective replacement to traditional transfer tape adhesives.
Bomar Specialties Co.
51 Greenwoods Road
Torrington, CT 06790
Phone: (860) 626-7006
Fax: (860) 626-7043
Comments: BR-36411AA improves adhesions to low surface energy surfaces such as PE in inks.
Comments: BE Series polyester acrylates are ideal for improved pigment wet out and percentage of pigment for master batchings of inks.
Comments: BMA-222 offes improved abrasion resistance for OPVs.
Clariant International AG
Pigments & Additives Division,
CH-4132 Muttenz, Switzerland
• Permanent Yellow P-GRL 07 (P.Y. 13)
• PV Fast Red D3G (P.R. 254)
• Hostaperm Blue P-BFS 02 (P.B. 15:4)
• Hostaperm Violet P-RR LV 3562 (P.V. 23)
• Permanent Rubine P-L5B 01 (PR 57.1)
• Permanent Carmine P-FBB 04 (PR 184)
Comments: All of the new pigments mentioned above have passed a comprehensive evaluation in Clariant’s UV flexo and UV offset printing ink testing systems. They exhibit.very good storage stability at elevated temperature, high color strength and gloss, high transparency combined with very low viscosity and good flow properties.
1950 Lake Park Drive
Smyrna, GA 30080
Phone: (678) 255-4651
Fax: (678) 255-4746
• Ebecryl LEO Resins
Comments: Cytec introduced five new ,Ebecryl LEO Resins which give low extractables, low odor and low taste transfer, along with printability, to products used in food packaging and in other applications where minimal odor is essential, such as tobacco and digital printing applications. The new resins comply with EU food packaging legislative, and are designed for flexo and litho inks and OPVs.
• Ebecryl 3420
Comments: A versatile UV curable resin, Ebecryl 3420 helps formulators address new and existing challenges of today’s printing methods. UV offset inks produced with Ebecryl 3420 exhibit enhanced ink-water balance and low misting. Ebecryl 3420 can also be used to produce UV flexo inks with good flow, high gloss and high reactivity.
8050 Zurich, Switzerland
• Genomer 3611
Comments: Genomer 3611 is a fatty acid modified polyester hexacrylate. It is recommended where high reactivity and good pigment wetting are required. Genomer 3611 is used as grinding vehicle in printing inks and also contributes to lithographic behavior when used as an additive.
• Genomer 4217
Comments: Genomer 4217 is an aromatic urethane diarylate. It is recommended where adhesion and flexibility are required.
• Genomer 4425
Comments: Genomer 4425 is a low viscosity, aliphatic urethane tetraacrylate. It is recommended where adhesion, low yellowing, exterior durability and low viscosity are required.
• Genomer 7227
Comments: Genomer 7227 is a uniquely alkyd based intermediate specifically developed for the use in UV hybrid offset inks and standard UV offset inks. It has high compatibility with monomers and oliogmers, a non-acrylate odor, improves offset behavior and does not swell standard rubber rollers and blankets.