The entire printing ink supply chain has had its share of challenges in recent years, and the pigment industry is no exception. Raw material costs have increased dramatically, and some major ingredients have been scarce. Pigment makers resorted to price increases, although these do not come close to covering the higher costs they are facing.
Still, pigment industry leaders say that 2011 was an improvement. In The Pigment Report, the executives I spoke with said that they are optimistic that these sales gains will continue in 2012. They believe that the raw material situation has stabilized for the most part, and if the economy continues to show some growth, their business will gain as well.
These thoughts are common throughout the ink industry. In the North American Top 20 Report, leading printing ink executives note that while sales improved somewhat in 2011 and raw materials price increases slowed and became less volatile, margins still suffered.
As is the case in North America, European ink industry leaders report the same dynamics in play, with the added challenge of certain countries in Europe facing serious economic troubles. European editor Sean Milmo reports on the issues that are concerning ink manufacturers in Europe in The European Ink Report.
There are still opportunities for companies to develop innovative technology. Conductive inks are a growing field, as new printed electronics (PE) applications make their move toward the market. In time, there will be opportunities for printing such diverse products as solar cells, OLED displays, sensors, batteries and much more. To learn more about the inks that are being developed for PE, please see my article on The Conductive Ink Market, as well as our website dedicated to the growing field of printed electronics, www.printedelectronicsnow.com.
Looking at 2012 and beyond, it would seem that the ink industry is in transition. New technologies continue to make headway –conductive inks, digital technologies, energy curing and others –while some traditional segments are suffering declines. For ink manufacturers and their suppliers, developing innovative new technologies is the key to moving forward in these challenging times.
Ink World Editor