Waxes and additives play an important role in formulating inks, particularly as ink manufacturers look for ways to bring the most value to their customers. For suppliers of waxes and additives, this requires striking a balance between innovation and raw material cost and supply concerns.
“The wax and additives industry faced many challenges in 2011,” said Craig Baudendistel, director of sales for Shamrock Technologies. “Raw material prices continued to increase across the board, and in some cases, dramatically. Cost increases were mainly due to the ongoing tight and even short market for many feedstocks including PTFE, polyethylene and Fischer Tropsch waxes.”
“The 2011 market continued to be a challenging environment, especially in terms of raw material availability and rising costs,” said David Seline, Americas marketing manager - graphic arts for Lubrizol Advanced Materials. “Suppliers as a rule had difficulty in getting price increases to cover increases in costs.”
“Waxes in 2011 experienced some shortages, including montan wax and PTFE,” said Alan Kalmikoff, president of Keim Additec Surface USA LLC. “Raw material costs continued upward, particularly in the first half of 2011.”
“As far as the additives industry goes, 2011 was another challenging year with minimal growth, and even negligible growth in some sectors,” said Shauna McAuliffe, marketing specialist for Air Products. “Overall, one of the major challenges of the additives industry continued to be escalating raw material costs and availability.”
According to Patrick Heraty Jr., market segment manager – raphic arts, Evonik Goldschmidt Corporation, Evonik Goldschmidt has seen continued strength in the additives market in 2011. “Business rebounded in late 2009 and has remained strong since then,” Mr. Heraty added.
“Overall sales of our additives were good in 2011; most notably, the first half of the year was strong,” said Julie Vaughn, vice president, marketing and business development for Emerald Performance Materials.
Raw materials remain a huge concern throughout the ink industry supply chain, and waxes and additives manufacturers are also facing their own challenges over the availability and costs of raw materials. Ms. Vaughn noted that during 2011, raw material prices increased more than expected as base building block chemicals such as benzene, ethylene and propylene experienced a step change in cost compared with 2010.
“Overall, availability was not an issue,” Ms. Vaughn added. “However, everyone in the supply is closely managing production and inventory, so any strong improvement in demand will likely result in additional upward price pressure in 2012.”
“The first half of 2011, feedstock prices for polymers continued to rise and some monomers had supply issues,” Mr. Seline noted. “Obtaining long term supply agreements has helped some, but we continue to face headwinds in this area as feedstock companies are hesitant to commit to long term fixed pricing.”
“The greatest issues extend to ultimate raw material suppliers of waxes such as Honeywell, Clariant and BASF, whose availability of materials seemed to be at their max capacity, and their willingness to support a particular market segment seemed to be based on where the revenue streams were maximized as well.” Mr. Kalmikoff said. “Keim Additec Surface has mitigated some of these costs by developing capabilities to produce certain grades of PE waxes for internal consumption.”
According to Jennifer Turner, marketing manager, Evonik Goldschmidt Corporation, the majority of raw material costs have increased since January 2011.
“We continue to monitor the supply situation, and we have ongoing projects to optimize production processes,” Ms. Turner noted. “To help our customers cope, we provide novel solutions by offering additives which have higher efficiency and multifunctionality and can reduce total additive content.”
“Raw materials across the board increased during the course of 2011, primarily due to material shortages, capacity constraints, and the consolidation and rationalization of raw material supply,” Ms. McAuliffe said. “In some way, the ink industry, even more than others, has been hardest hit by raw material price increases (pigments, resins and additives), so rising material costs and raw material availability will remain a concern and challenge for the industry. In order to help customers meet these challenges, Air Products has worked with key raw materials suppliers and completed several major initiatives to optimize manufacturing and supply chain efficiencies, which has allowed us to mitigate pricing actions throughout the course of 2011.”
Mr. Baudendistel said that raw material availability and pricing continues to be a major issue.
“Shamrock is presently experiencing tightness in supply, and in some cases shortages in a number of key raw material feedstocks including PTFE, Fischer Tropsch and some polyethylene wax products,” Mr. Baudendistel said. “We are seeing signs of a possible stabilization in prices with PTFE, but have had no decreases in feedstock pricing. Fischer Tropsch wax continues to be short.
“Shamrock is working closely with our customers and suppliers to help mitigate the impact of these shortage situations,” Mr. Baudendistel added. “Due to this collaboration, we have been able to keep our customers supplied during this time of shortage. Tighter inventory management, increased operational efficiencies, strategic purchasing and improved forecasting practices have become imperative to make sure we have the products available when and where our customers need them.”
Strengthening production capabilities and offering a variety of products are ways that suppliers of waxes and additives are working with their customers to control costs.
“Over the past few years, we have not only developed new products, but we’ve invested in the modernization of our process capabilities,” said Chris Halvorsen, global marketing manager at Lawter, Inc. “It’s more difficult and resource-intensive to establish new platforms, and that includes our customers as well. Additives which enhance and bridge gaps in performance offer formulators the opportunity to respond to niche opportunities.”
“As suppliers continue to consolidate, require minimum order quantity and offer limited container choices, Kustom offers another option,” said Jerry Trauth, R&D lab manager at Kustom Group. “Our capabilities allow us to bring value by offering a one-stop shopping approach that helps our customers combine their raw material purchases.”
“Ink manufacturers are looking for products that can maintain or improve current performance at lower usage levels,” Mr. Baudendistel said. “At Shamrock Technologies, we continue to emphasize new product development based on our customers’ needs. We also continue to improve our manufacturing processes, thereby lowering costs and helping to help absorb some of the continuing escalation of raw material prices.”
Trends in Waxes and Additives
Mr. Baudendistel said ink manufacturers are looking for products that can maintain or improve current performance at lower usage levels.
“At Shamrock Technologies, we continue to emphasize new product development based on our customers' needs,” Mr. Baudendistel said. “Our strong customer focus has helped us remain committed to developing products that deliver value-added performance advantages. We also continue to improve our manufacturing processes, thereby lowering costs and helping to help absorb some of the continuing escalation of raw material prices.”
“Many customers are reverting to price buying,” Mr. Seline said. “We are promoting and marketing ‘value’ in purchasing by systematically defining true costs and the value of our products and services. We are also identifying areas that will promote operational success while pursuing innovation and sustainability.”
Regulatory issues are an important concern for ink manufacturers and their suppliers.
“Product regulatory issues, such as VOCs and APEO and food-contact clearances, continue to influence the design and selection of raw materials being used,” Ms. Vaughn said. “We have found that as the VOCs in many formulations decrease, foam control, film formation and other performance characteristics can become a challenge. Emerald has focused on developing new low/no VOC APEO-free defoamers and coalescents to address this need. Likewise, Emerald has active development programs in its dyes and dispersions product lines.”
“We see several trends impacting the ink industry,” Mr. Heraty said. “The strongest is of course regulatory. With a demand for more environmentally friendly products from their customer base, our ink customers have asked us for more ‘green’ and renewable resource-based products. The regulatory trend is also global in nature. More and more we are being asked for products that have Swiss Ordinance, Plastics Regulations, REACh, AICS, etc. compliance. These requests are coming from both multinational and domestic customers.
“Evonik-Tego has responded in several ways to these regulatory challenges,” Mr. Heraty continued. “We have dedicated resources within our regulatory group to help our customers obtain the necessary compliance information quickly. Our R&D teams review compliance requirements when developing our next generation of products to insure maximum global compliance. In many cases, we have introduced or are currently developing replacement products that meet these global compliance needs.
“Another major trend is to increase speed,” Mr. Heraty added. “Converters are pushing for higher printing speeds. This in turn requires inks that deaerate, wet and level faster than their predecessors.”
Consolidation is another area of interest.
“From a packaging ink perspective, consolidation of ink companies continues with the most recent activity of American Ink's purchase of Graphic Sciences,” Mr. Kalmikoff noted. “Even in the face of rising costs and limits on availability for the past two years, demands for lower priced alternatives continue.”
New Product Launches
As ink manufacturers work to meet the needs of printers, waxes and additives play a critical role in new formulations. To meet the needs of ink companies, suppliers have developed new products across the board.
“We have launched several new sheetfed wax compounds this year in the LubriPrint product line,” Mr. Seline said. “The first, LubriPrint SF-285, is focused on improving turn-around time (faster setting and drying time) while maintaining excellent abrasion. The second, LubriPrint SF-300, is targeted for food packaging and exhibits outstanding stability and migration properties.”
“Keim Additec Surface announced in 2011 the development of Ultralube E-850, a new high performance PE wax emulsion whose particle size distribution allows for much lower usage levels providing higher gloss readings with excellent rub and slip properties,” Mr. Kalmikoff said.
Shamrock introduced a number of products for ink applications in 2011. CERASPERSE 442 is a synergistic blend of PTFE and wax designed to maximize rub and slip performance in cost sensitive, heat-set ink applications. AQUAFLON MG, a high solids dispersion of a proprietary mix of wax and PTFE that features very small average particle size and tightly controlled particle size distribution. This combination ensures maximum rub and slip performance in water-based flexographic and gravure inks, as well as in thin film can coating applications. CERALUBE 432 is a proprietary carnauba-based additive for water-based flexographic and gravure inks. CERALUBE 432 is designed to provide rub and slip performance with minimal impact on clarity and gloss.
Lawter launched a series of new waxes and additives. Optilith 2112 is a blanket transfer additive and transfer aid. Optilith 4920 A is a Lawter water-fighting compound, and is a low viscosity, low VOC additive that effectively reduces water pick-up in flushes and lithographic inks. Stirinol 98 A is an improved multi-purpose heatset compound providing a multitude of benefits, enhancing the overall performance of the ink. Flexonic 4104 A is an aqueous PTFE dispersion promoting a high degree of mar, abrasion and high temperature resistance. This product is designed to provide flexographic ink systems more durability on paper-based substrates.
Ms. Vaughn said that Emerald Performance Materials has been particularly active in product development over the past year.
“In the foam control area, we have launched FOAM BLAST 295, a low VOC/ APEO-free defoamer specifically designed for fountain solutions,” Ms. Vaughn said. “The product exhibits superior clarity as well as a 50% improvement in defoaming characteristics over other leading products on the market. We recently launched FOAM BLAST 4201, a 0-VOC/APEO-free defoamer for OPVs, graphic arts and coatings applications. This product is extremely efficient at low doses and is especially effective to combat foam over time, while maintaining gloss. Emerald’s innovation continues with new low odor and low VOC coalescent technology, which has shown great promise versus glycol ethers and phthalate esters. We will be presenting a paper on this new technology at the upcoming Waterborne Symposium, which will include data on improved performance properties such as adhesion to films, rub resistance, gloss and solvent and water resistance.”
Ms. McAuliffe noted that Air Products recently launched Carbowet 300 surfactant for resinated pigment dispersions at the 2011 NPIRI Technical Conference.
“Carbowet 300 surfactant is an ethoxylated nonionic pigment grind aid and wetting agent,” Ms. McAuliffe said. “Carbowet 300 surfactant is a multifunctional surfactant that offers improved dispersion and viscosity stability in resinated pigment dispersions for waterborne coatings, inks and adhesives systems. Carbowet 300 surfactant provides improved color stability and color acceptance for enhanced rub-up as well as emulsification in a wide range of applications and polymer systems. APE-free and zero VOC, this material also offers a variety of FDA compliances and is readily biodegradable.”
Evonik introduced two new products of note geared toward the ink industry. TEGO Twin 4100 is a new multifunctional additive that tackles difficult substrate wetting, defoaming, and compatibility issues. TEGO Twin 4100 further extends siloxane additive technology to provide waterborne ink formulators with excellent wetting on difficult substrates such as foils, films, and plastics. It also provides excellent defoaming and compatibility. TEGO Twin 4100 demonstrates superior anti-cratering performance due to the multifunctional additives’ extraordinary surface tension reduction. The TEGO Wet 240 is a new generation of super-wetting agent. It is designed for use in waterborne systems that are applied over very difficult to wet substrates.
BYK USA, Inc. launched BYK-1719, a glycol- and VOC-free defoamer for waterborne inks and overprint varnishes. It contains 100% active substance. The high efficiency aspect provides spontaneous defoaming at low dose levels. It also provides deaeration during the manufacture of highly filled pigment concentrates. BYK-1791 is an aromatic-free polymeric defoamer for UV, solvent-based and solvent-free systems. BYK-1791 is mineral oil- and silicone-free. It exhibits an optimum balance between defoaming efficiency and low cratering tendency.
Kustom Group’s R&D team was active throughout 2011. Among its new offerings for oil-based inks are KB-750, an additive for any litho ink system that will provide lubrication of the ink on the plate and blanket cylinders. Kentucky Lube is useful in preventing piling and picking problems on press. It also can be used to reduce misting by allowing you to increase tack without picking. KB-767 was developed as a replacement to dry additives in all oleoresinous inks. KB-767 controls misting, tightens the body, and is easily stirred into inks. It also can be used to convert conventional inks into waterless inks.
Kustom Group’s KB-785 is a highly efficient compound developed to reduce offsetting and improve scuff resistance of sheetfed litho inks. KB-791 Water Block Water Pickup Reducer is very efficient in reducing water pickup when measured by Duke ink-water emulsification tester. KB-724 is a liquid BHT solution cut in soya bean oil, and can be used to prevent skin in the container or ink duct. KB-780 Hydroquinone-type anti-skinning additive promotes stay open on the rollers overnight (or longer), with little effect on thin film drying properties.
KB-144 Non-Yellowing Drier Compound is a highly effective drier compound which imparts both top and through dry to ink or oil-based overprint varnish. KB-144 is an excellent choice for any formulation where yellowing is an issue. KB-145 Moisture Activated Drier reacts with the fountain solution and releases oxygen, which accelerates oxidative dry on press, and is ideal for boosting drying on plastics/nonporous substrates. KB-746 Gelled Linseed Oil and KB-783 Gelled 52 Oil reduce tack and misting with minimal effect on ink structure.
Kustom Group has formulated new additives for UV/EB inks. KS-279 Polymerization Inhibitor is recommended as an in-container polymerization inhibitor for UV-curable materials. KS-717 is a slip additive for UV ink systems.
KS-384a dispersant additive, is recommended as an additive to reduce thixotropy and increase flow in UV-curable flexographic, dry offset, and lithographic inks.
In terms of photoinitiator compounds, Kustom Group offers KS-246, a photoinitiator for white inks that is a blend of selected photoinitiators with broad cure response and excellent light color and non-yellowing properties.KS-286 High Potency Photoinitiator is a blend of selected photoinitiators with broad cure response recommended for use in dark color and thicker film UV litho and flexo inks. KS-203 is a photoinitiator compound formulated with good economics, and balanced top/thru cure recommended for use in UV-curable lithographic inks. Its high structure will not lower final ink tack or viscosity.
Kustom Group also introduced a series of Gelled Monomers (KS-207 Gelled TRPGDA; KS-237 Gelled EOTMPTA; KS-239 Gelled HDODA; and KS- 294 Gelled TMPTA) that reduce tack and misting with minimal effect on ink structure.
Expectations for the Coming Year
Waxes and additives manufacturers anticipate that 2012 will see further challenges, but are still optimistic moving forward.
“We expect 2012 to be a year of stabilization, in terms of raw material availability and prices,” Mr. Baudendistel said. “Initial outlook seems to indicate a slowing economy, given the current debt situation with Greece weighing down on Europe, the high unemployment in the U.S., and the forecasted slower growth in China. Global production output is expected to be lower than in 2011, with continued shifts in the market segments, in particular from the conventional offset inks towards digital.”
“We expect challenges in the raw material market to persist as we continue to promote ‘value’ solutions that offer both innovation and operational excellence,” Mr. Seline said.
“We move into 2012 with expectations of a slow growth U.S. economy, fear of continued global recession and a national election in November,” said Mr. Kalmikoff. “We predict business to be similar to that of this past year and hope that a pick-up in the economy translates into more ink usage. Availability of raw materials should be somewhat similar to 2011, and prices can be expected to go up yet again if the major sources of PE wax are at full capacity even during this slower economy.”
“We hope to see the positive trends continue,” Mr. Heraty said. “Although GDP growth is projected to be low, the challenges our customers face require innovative solutions. This will foster continued new product development among our customer base.”
Ms. Vaughn said that Emerald is poised for growth in 2012 as a result of the new products in its pipeline, which fill a need in the market for more environmentally friendly alternatives which demonstrate performance advantages to the traditional additives. “These new products will drive increased sales in markets such as U.S. and Europe, which are otherwise experiencing tepid growth,” Ms. Vaughn added.
“There are positive indicators for growth going forward in the graphic arts segment,” Ms. McAuliffe concluded. “We expect potential for an upbeat year, with the caveat that raw material supply and pricing issues could constrain growth and provide continued challenges to the industry."