With all of the shifts that have occurred in the printing industry, including consolidation and serious concerns over the state of the publication side of the business, there still are areas of strength and opportunity.
In particular, the packaging printing and packaging ink fields remain reasonably strong.
Within packaging, there are niches that are enjoying solid growth. Notably, energy curing continues to make gains, as converters and brand owners alike look toward ultraviolet (UV) and electron beam (EB) technologies for performance and environmental benefits. They are counting on their ink and coatings suppliers to develop innovative technologies and offer excellent service.
However, the recession has taken its toll on printing ink manufacturers as well, as consolidation of companies and branches as well as personnel reductions have limited the support available for printers.
As a result, while it is a challenging time to be a start-up company, there are also opportunities.
Bill Mahon, president of Benchmark Coating Solutions, Elk Grove Village, IL, believes that the time is right for a new UV/EB coatings manufacturer. Benchmark Coating Solutions is focusing its efforts on the coatings side of the business, working with narrow web, label, sheetfed and packaging printers and supplying in-line and off-line coatings. Mr. Mahon is also working on a full line of coatings compatible with the various toner- and inkjet-based systems that are on the market today.
“We cover the gamut of printing, from the narrow web and packaging printer to the commercial printer,” Mr. Mahon said.
A former technical director at Handschy Industries, Mr. Mahon has worked on energy curing for more than 20 years, including Sun Chemical, UCB Radcure (now Cytec Industries) and Craig Adhesives & Coatings.
He opened Benchmark Coating Solutions’ doors on Jan. 1 of this year, with an eye toward filling the gaps in service that are occurring, particularly for smaller customers.
“The trend in the ink industry has been for consolidation, and as companies become bigger and bigger, smaller customers are being neglected,” Mr. Mahon said. “There is a vacuum, as there is a need for a company that caters to the smaller customer, that can support the customer while delivering customized solutions.
“Converters are running leaner now,” Mr. Mahon continued. “They need an ink and coatings supplier who has the expertise with formulating ink, as well as a strong understanding of curing equipment and presses.”
Mr. Mahon noted that the UV/EB coatings market continues to expand.
“UV and EB remain a growth area,” Mr. Mahon said. “They are certainly a technology that is seen as a preferred choice, due to their environmental benefits, ease of use and functionality. UV and EB give converters a good option, and even in a shrinking ink market, energy curing remans a bright light.”
Mr. Mahon said the company’s initial geographic focus will be the greater Chicago area. “There is plenty of business within a day’s drive in this area,” he said.
Considering the fact that Benchmark Coating Solutions has only been open for less than four months, Mr. Mahon said the company is enjoying a very good start.
“It’s promising,” Mr. Mahon said. “We’re getting a decent reaction from the market, and we are on target for our first-year goals.”