In terms of geography, there was no region where the printing industry was immune from the recession. North America and Europe were particularly hard hit, and even the Asia-Pacific region, which has had the strongest results in recent years, was slowed down by the economic downturn.
China, which has been the driver for much of that growth, was impacted by the economy, as exports declined. In my article on the Chinese ink market, beginning on page 19, executives from many of the leading international ink companies that have established extensive operations in China discuss what their companies saw during the past year.
Generally speaking, the export market was impacted as consumers worldwide reduced their spending. Meanwhile, China’s domestic market also suffered a slowdown. However, there appears to be good news on the horizon for ink manufacturers in China, with signs that the Chinese printing industry is rebounding, according to the ink executives.
When it comes to market segments, the packaging ink market has been relatively flat, which is a lot better than what appears to be happening on the publication side. In my report on packaging inks, which starts on page 23, executives noted that there were specific segments that are doing well, notably in food packaging. Flexible packaging and folding carton were among the highlights, and developing environmentally friendly products remains an area of much interest.
One segment for inks that is clearly on the upswing is the conductive ink market. The printed electronics market shows tremendous potential, with applications ranging from organic photovoltaics and printed batteries to organic light emitting diodes (OLED). As commercial production begins and companies begin to adapt roll-to-roll production processes, the need for conductive inks is growing.
There are plenty of companies large and small alike making inroads in the conductive ink field, and one company that is making its mark is Plextronics, Inc., a Pittsburgh, PA-based ink producer. Its most recent collaboration is with OLED producer Novaled AG, and their advances may bode well for the OLED market. For more information, please see my article on specialty inks beginning on page 27.