CIRI Offers Research Capabilities to the Printing Ink Industry

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 05.28.09

To help fill the need for objective industry-wide research, Northampton Community College formed the Coatings & Ink Research Institute in 2007

Jean Lavelle, CIRI’s assistant director, leads a tour of CIRI’s new facilities during its recent open house.
For any industry, the need for independent laboratory testing is critical, and the printing ink industry is no exception in that regard.

To help fill the need for objective industry-wide research, Northampton Community College (NCC), Bethlehem, PA, formed the Coatings & Ink Research Institute (CIRI) in 2007. NCC took the reins from its neighbor, Lehigh University, which had previously been the home of the National Printing Ink Research Institute (NPIRI) for nearly 60 years before the end of its formal relationship with the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) in 2005.

CIRI, a division of NCC’s Electrotechnology Applications Center (ETAC), was created to provide a center of excellence for printing and coating technology to stimulate industrial growth in the printing, specifically graphic arts and electronics, and wood and metal coating industries.

Thanks to the support of NCC as well as funding from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, a Pennsylvania-based technology-based economic development firm, CIRI has further expanded its capabilities. Most recently, CIRI opened its new 3,400 square foot ink testing facilities at NCC’s Southside Campus, once the home of Bethlehem Steel. CIRI also welcomed the donation of new equipment from Testprint. Lehigh also donated laboratory equipment from its NPIRI facilities to CIRI.

CIRI’s ink laboratories are led by assistant director Jean Lavelle, who has 50 years research experience for NPIRI at Lehigh University prior to joining CIRI. There are 12 members of the staff, including laboratory technician Jo Evelyn Gallagher, who was with NPIRI for 25 years. CIRI will also work with ink industry leaders who will provide assistance, including Robert Bassemir; Dr. Subh Chatterjee and Dr. Mikhail Laksin of IdeOn LLC; Dr. Dene Taylor of Specialty Papers& Films Inc. and Dr. Richard Herman of Lehigh University’s Chemistry Department.

More than 60 attendees were on hand for CIRI’s open house, which featured presentations by industry leaders and a tour of its testing facilities.
To showcase its new capabilities, CIRI recently hosted an open house, featuring a morning session with presentations and tours of the lab in the afternoon.

The presenters included ink industry R&D leaders such as Mr. Bassemir, Dr. Laksin, Jeanette Truncellito of Sun Chemical and Ms. Lavelle. Keith Gonyo of Brown Printing and Dr. Taylor also gave insightful talks about the state of the market.

“I am proud of our program,” Ms. Lavelle said. “This facility is definitely a diamond in NCC’s crown. We couldn’t have asked for better facilities. We have worked our hardest, and the feedback we received from the open house was excellent.”

“CIRI’s goal is to be practical, and help the industry find solutions to its needs,” Dr. Taylor added.

CIRI used the open house as an opportunity to display to more than 60 attendees its vast range of capabilities. In addition to the new testers from Testprint, CIRI has a full range of testing equipment. In terms of printability testers, CIRI has IGT F-1 for flexo and gravure, a Little Joe Letterpress & Offset Printability Tester and Prufbau testers for litho and gravure.

CIRI also has equipment from Bohlin, Haake, Duke and Brookfield, Inkometers, a Comprehensive Abrasion Tester and a Duke Emulsification Tester, among others. Color testing can be done with Datacolor and X-Rite equipment.

To test dispersion, CIRI has a wide assortment, including equipment from Eiger, Cowles and Hoover. For curing analysis, CIRI offers a custom-made Fusion UV unit and an AEB electron beam system, as well as infrared and drying capabilities.

Additionally, the analytical resources of Lehigh University, including electron microscopy and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry equipment, are available to CIRI.

From left, Dr. Mikhail Laksin of IdeOn LLC, John Daugherty of NAPIM and Rich Czarnecki of Superior Printing Ink take a break from the presentations.
CIRI has major plans for the future. It is exploring adding inkjet and printed electronics capabilities, and is considering additional seminars. According to CIRI, it is preparing to obtain the capability for fundamental ink jet test printing. One option is a sophisticated print testing machine capable of depositing UV, solvent and aqueous inks using different heads.

“CIRI has already done work on conductive ink printability and inkjet ink and substrate matching,” Dr. Taylor said. “We can bring our knowledge of how inks work to the development of inks in these fields.”

Ms. Lavelle is definitely looking forward to continuing her research into printing inks. “I feel like I have been so blessed,” Ms. Lavelle concluded. “I love what I am doing, and I want people in the graphic arts to benefit from all that I’ve learned.”

For information on CIRI, check the web at www.northampton.edu/CIRI.

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