While the UV/EB industry has felt the effect of the global economic downturn, UV and EB raw material suppliers report that overall growth remains on track as radiation curing continues to gain adoption in numerous segments, driven by environmental and performance benefits.
Jo Grosemans, global marketing manager, Radcure, for Cytec Industries, said that in general, 2008 was a challenging year because of unprecedented raw material fluctuations.
“Cost has become increasingly important to our customers,” Mr. Grosemans noted. “As a result, Cytec has taken measures to become more cost efficient and has absorbed much of the increase in raw materials as possible. However, we believe that due to the many challenges the global world economy is facing, the printing market will suffer for a certain amount of time. Beyond the economy, we predict more and more emphasis on greener technologies.”
“The market environment has been difficult throughout the whole year, especially in the North American markets with overall volumes declining in the double digits,” said Marcel Gatti, CEO of Rahn AG. “Europe fared reasonably well during the first half of the year, but beginning Q3 and especially in Q4 of 2008, we have seen a sudden slowdown in all markets with companies reducing production and inventories. The outlook currently is very uncertain as consumer sentiment remains low. While some segments such as graphic arts are expected to be holding up pretty well, construction-related applications such as wood coatings are expected to be depressed for quite some time to come. Also within the graphic arts segment, we believe the screen printing sector will be suffering most, both from the economic slowdown and the substitution through digital printing, while flexo and offset are not affected that dramatically. Ultimately, the overall performance of the UV/EB industry will also heavily rely on the further adoption of the technology by the end-users and new applications that will emerge.”
Radiation-curable technologies are enjoying growth even in these difficult times, in markets ranging from conventional to digital printing and even in newer fields such as printed electronics.
“UV inkjet on roll-to-roll substrates and UV flexo and UV/EB litho inks in flexible packaging markets are showing the most growth potential within the radiation inks market,” Mr. Goodrich said.
“Cytec sees major growth opportunities in flexible packaging,” Mr. Grosemanssaid. “We have seen many major equipment advancements in flexo as well in litho. The fastest growing technology is digital, where we see growth opportunities in 100 percent UV and low viscosity water-based UV chemistries.”
“Flexo printing and therein especially low migration inks for food packaging are growth drivers,” Mr. Gatti said. “Other areas of interest are digital printing and conductive inks.”
Raw Material Pricing
One piece of good news for ink manufacturers is that pricing of raw materials seems to have stabilized.
“In the first weeks of 2009 we have seen a decline in photoinitiator pricing,” Mr. Gatti said. “Also, reactive diluents and certain commodity oligomers, where acrylic acid is a major cost factor, have seen lower pricing compared to 2008. Specialities remain more or less steady.”
Mr. Grosemans said that the raw material situation is complex to predict. “Due to the economic environment, pricing is based on demand and supply of raw materials and some major suppliers have shut down capacities, have taken furloughs, etc.,” he said. “Additionally, alternative raw materials derived from green sources have been fluctuating heavily because of oil prices, demand and supply of some of those which are influenced by higher margin final markets, increased food demand, weather conditions, etc.”
Promoting ‘Green’ Chemistries
Environmental aspects ofUV and EB have long been one of the key advantages of radiation curing, and the recent drive toward “greener” solutions is ideal for UV and EB.
Mr. Grosemans said that Cytec believes UV technology has many “green” benefits, such as, energy savings, reduced VOCs and lower environmental footprint, lower carbon footprint vs. solvent based inks, and lower transportation costs ,since UV systems are in general 100% solids vs. conventional water- and solvent-based systems ranging from 20-50% solids.
“The interest in sustainability is enhanced by consumer demand for increased renewable content in resins and inks,” Mr. Grosemans added. “We see interest in the market for water-based UV inks and varnishes to replace potentially solvent-based systems. The goal of these systems is a lower environmental footprint. These systems can help bridging the performance gap between water-based and solvent-based inks used today.”
“It needs to be emphasized over and over again that radiation curing is an inherently ‘green’ technology since it produces literally zero VOC during conversion and the energy consumption for curing is considerably lower compared to other technologies,” Mr. Gatti noted. “On top of that, there are some interesting raw materials based on natural resources that are suitable for radiation curing. We are currently in the middle of a development program and will come up with a new approaches of how to use regrowing raw materials in radiation curing.”
“Overall, the use of radiation-cured inks, coatings and adhesives consumes less energy than alternative technologies,” Mr. Goodrich said. “The curing process for UV/EB systems uses less energy, as well as the transportation of liquid formulations and the storage of converted goods. Traditionally, most acrylate raw materials have been based on oil-derived feedstocks but there is movement within the industry to use more naturally derived backbones.”
New UV/EB Raw Materials
The following listing includes new products introduced to the ink industry last year.
5 Garret Mountain Plaza
Woodland Park, NJ 07424
Phone: (973) 357-3100
Fax: (973) 357-3050
Comments: A series of Bioligomer products were launched in July 2008. They include EBECRYL 5601, 5610, 5801, 5820, 5821 and 5822. The Bioligomers offer high renewable content for various printing technologies.
• EBECRYL LEO resins
Comments: EBECRYL LEO resins offer low odor and low migration properties for food packaging applications. These products are produced under GMP process meeting the legal requirements specified by European government. The products will include EBECRYL LEO 10501, 10502, 10551, 10552, 10553, 10601 and 10801.
• EBECRYL 889
Comments: EBECRYL 889 is a resin specifically developed for UV publication offering newspaper printers opportunities to utilize their presses more by being able to make commercial inserts.
• EBECRYL 8808
Comments: EBECRYL 8808 is an undiluted aliphatic urethane diacrylate which provides extended formulating latitude with excellent durability, toughness and weatherability for screen ink applications.
• EBECRYL 888
Comments: EBECRYL 888 provides good adhesion, high flexibility and excellent ink receptivity on difficult substrates like polyester film and plasticized PVC used in flexo or gravure. It can also promote adhesion on substrates where additives have migrated to the substrate surface over time.
• EBECRYL 3420
Comments: EBECRYL 3420 is a low viscosity, modified epoxy acrylate with good pigment wetting properties for UV offset and flexo applications, especially with carbon black pigments.
• EBECRYL 303
Comments: EBECRYL 303 is a diluted polymeric resin in 1,6-hexanediol diacrylate (HDODA) designed to provide improved adhesion of inks and coatings on plastic substrates at low formulation viscosities.
Phone: +41 44 315 42 00
Fax: +41 44 315 42 65
• GENOMER 6052/TM
Comments: GENOMER 6052/TM is a chlorinated polyester resin in TMPTA, designed for use in radically curable inks, coatings and adhesives. GENOMER 6052/TM is especially recommended for UV inks where excellent adhesion to difficult substrates is required. It provides good lithographic behavior and pigment wetting properties.
• GENORAD 22
Comments: GENORAD 22 is the latest complement to the RAHN-product portfolio of GENORAD in-can stabilizers. Low viscosity GENORAD 22 is specially designed for use in UV inkjet inks and coating formulations. .
Sartomer Company, Inc.
502 Thomas Jones Way
Exton, PA 19341
Phone: (800) SARTOMER
Fax: (610) 363-4140
Comments: CN9024 is an aliphatic urethane acrylate that offers low viscosity and yields a tough film upon free radical polymerization. The oligomer can be used in a number of radiation curing applications, including inks, coatings and adhesives.
Comments: CN2207 is a polyester acrylate designed for UV/EB lithographic and dry offset inks. The product boasts the proper rheology, pigment wetting and water balance needed for high-speed sheet and web presses.