The Inkjet Report

By Kerry Pianoforte, Ink World Associate Editor | 08.06.12

The inkjet printing industry has fared rather well over the past year

Photo courtesy of Bordeaux Digital PrintInk.
The inkjet printing industry has fared rather well over the past year, and inkjet ink manufacturers Ink World interviewed have reported growth and optimism for the coming year.

SunJet, the inkjet division of Sun Chemical, enjoyed strong growth in the past year, and widened its product and technology portfolio to meet the demands of existing and emerging markets.

“We have seen continued growth in wide and super-wide formats in the graphics market,” said Peter Saunders, global sales and marketing manager, Sun Chemical. “Narrow web and label opportunities have increased as digital press capabilities are being realized. Imprinting and personalized print applications have grown in all geographies, and we have seen deployment of systems designed for commercial print and publication markets using aqueous ink technology. We have been able to capitalize on our vertically integrated strengths in aqueous and non-aqueous inkjet applications that leverage our technical expertise in pigments, dispersions, polymers and formulation chemistry know-how, combined with our understanding of print applications.”

Bordeaux Digital PrintInk has seen excellent growth during 2012, and its debut at drupa 2012 was a big success. Bordeaux reported that it is achieving continued sales growth through the launch of new applications and technologies, expansion of its global network with the addition of new resellers, and many new business and OEM opportunities seeking customer-focused ink solutions for a variety of inkjet applications.

“A major factor driving our strong performance was the development of numerous product innovations including ink formulations for the latest ink technologies and solutions,” said Dror Mualem, vice president sales and marketing, Bordeaux Digital PrintInk Ltd. “Bordeaux’s product lines include mild and eco-solvent formulations that reduce the impact on the environment and provide a healthier and safer work environment because they are composed of softer solvents.

“As far as quality goes, the latest eco-solvent version has improved wetting properties, which ensures better film formation, especially on coated substrates,” Mr. Mualem added. “Furthermore, our revolutionary water-based Latex ink, launched at drupa, is an environmentally friendly ink based on water, compatible with drop-on-demand piezo printheads, which enables drying at much lower heat avoiding creases to substrates. Bordeaux has also achieved major developments in UV-curable and UV LED Inks for most UV LED printers, including super flexible ink with up to 250% elongation.”

Photo courtesy of INX Digital.
Ken Kisner, president of INX Digital International, said that digital technologies are making headway into industrial markets.

“In the past year, we saw an explosion of inkjet into the industrial markets, including the tile, textile and packaging industries,” said Mr. Kisner. “The continued saturation of UV technology into the graphic arts markets has led to more competitive pricing for the end user.”

Digital printing technologies continue to make inroads into conventional printing markets.

“Inkjet printing applications are advancing,” said Crystal Ceynowa, marketing administrator, InkJet Inc. “In many cases, inkjet technology is directly responsible for the decline of traditional printing methods. InkJet, Inc has been a major third-party supplier of marking inks for more than 20 years. As we have continued to demonstrate that our inks are superior to OEM fluids, but at a significantly lower cost, we have experienced steady growth. In addition to our fluids business, we are in our second year as a provider of HP-based marking printers. While many competitive products have been available for several years, our U2 Printer System has experienced excellent growth since its introduction in 2011.

“Our goal was to offer a series of ‘bullet proof’ printers, along with a portfolio of highly durable inks for corrugated, pharmaceutical and food marking,” Ms. Ceynowa added. “Our excellent sales growth suggests that we are meeting that goal.”

“2011 was a significant improvement over 2010 for Nazdar, in which we enjoyed growth in all product sectors and all geographies,” said Richard Bowles, vice president and general manager at Nazdar.

“Inkjet printing, with its wide range of applications did well: highlights have been transactional, ceramic and label,” said Friedrich Goldner, director of marketing and new business development, Marabu GmbH & Co. KG. “In respect to wide and super-wide format, water-based, mild solvent, and UV-curable inks continue to show good growth rates.

“At Marabu, inkjet inks are on a steady growth path,” Mr. Goldner noted. “We have put a lot of effort to increase our product portfolio significantly over the last two years in all technologies, such as mild solvent, UV-curable and water-based, and this pays off now. We do see more and more industrial applications coming on board. There our strengths, having inks, primers and coatings, offer a tremendous advantage.”

Many inkjet ink makers were on hand at drupa 2012 to display their latest innovations. Inkjet ink manufacturers and their equipment partners have worked together to develop complete solutions for their inkjet ink needs.

During drupa, Bordeaux reported that the company drew a lot of attention among every sector of the printing industry, including OEM printer manufacturers, multi-billion dollar companies seeking focused solutions for specific challenges and fellow ink manufacturers seeking cooperations.

“I expect the coming months will pose a challenge for Bordeaux to optimize the Latex ink technology and to efficiently customize our technology to the needs of the many visitors at our drupa stand, who came seeking high quality ink solutions for digital printing needs as well as specific solutions to local needs in the international markets,” said Mr. Mualem.

LED Technology

LED curing is another strong area for inkjet. Due to the environmental and economicbenefits of LED curing, LED, or light emitting diodes, has made significant inroads in inkjet. LED curing offers users a number of advantages. Curing occurs at lower temperature, and there is no release of ozone. The equipment takes up a smaller footprint, and the bulbs have a longer lifetime.

LED technology is becoming widely used for curing UV inks used for color inkjet applications.

“LED curing continues to grow,” said Mr. Kisner. “It is beginning to be accepted into the narrow web market, as well as into the super wide and wide format markets.”

“Since LED curing does not produce the heat created by traditional mercury lamps, the media is not subjected to the distortions that heat curing can produce,” said Ms. Ceynowa. “UV inks can also be used to print on a wide range of media, including plastics, wood, glass, etc. As UV inks and LED curing systems become more affordable, they will be welcome replacements for some marking applications.They also open the door for color marking.”

According to Mr. Mualem, there is a growing demand for UV LED curable ink from customers seeing high quality and environmentally friendly printing solutions.

“Bordeaux offers UV LED ink with substantial elongation properties, suitable for a broad range of applications that are expanding continuously and a very wide variety of printers,” he added. “LED technology opens up many new possibilities for new applications in digital printing, especially in terms of energy consumption in comparison to other light sources. These inks are similar to standard UV-curable inks but are optimized to the longer wavelengths of the LED.”

“When we are asked about LED curing, we always state that SunJet was one of the first ink companies to recognize the potential benefits to customers of inks which have the ability to cure with UV LED lamps,” said Mr. Saunders. “As lamp and ink technology have advanced, we have developed a series of graphic inks which fully cure with LED UV exposure. We also have inks for imprinting applications, which use exclusively LED lamps in single pass. In narrow web applications, we have inks that are tuned to either use LED lamps to ‘pin’ drops, for print quality optimization, or can be fully cured with correctly selected lamps. The SunJet UV LED inks are part of the Crystal and EtiJet product ranges.”

In 2011, Nazdar worked with Phoseon Technology and Kammann Printing Equipment to produce LED UV curing screen printing inks that reduce energy consumption 40% and dramatically improves production. “Also, because of the reduced heat generated by the LED curing, printers can screen print on a wider variety of substrates,” said Mr. Bowles.

According to Mr. Goldner, more and more inkjet machines are using LED for full cure, especially the smaller UV systems and single-pass systems for labels.

“As the power of the LED curing units continues to rise, we will also see more and more machines being equipped with it,” said Mr. Goldner. “We believe LED will have a significant market share within the next three to five years, but not only in inkjet; we have just introduced Ultrapack LEDC, a screen printing ink series for container and flatbed label.”

Opportunities for Inkjet

Digital printing continues to gain ground in more conventional printing markets, such as packaging, as well as in smaller specialty markets like glass and wood décor.

The use of inkjet marking for pharmaceutical, food, cosmetics and many other packaged products is expanding rapidly, according to Ms. Ceynowa. “This growth is in addition to the more traditional container, corrugated and pallet marking applications that InkJet, Inc has supported for many years,” she added.

“Regarding packaging automation, digital printing solutions are rapidly modernizing all aspects of packaging,” said Ms. Ceynowa. “This is especially true when technologies can be combined to create a total packaging line solution. Both our low-cost U2 Printers and our configurable higher-end printers can be easily integrated and networked with other inline systems. This means that customers are achieving faster production speeds, less waste and lower costs.”

According to Mr. Bowles, many of Nazdar’s customers continued to make both production and quality improvements to their operations.

“Specialty graphic printers are focused on digital inkjet UV technology and internationally there are still many solvent screen printing companies that are converting to UV curable inks,” he said.
“We see companies replacing older hard solvent printers with UV machines, most of them being hybrid UV machines for both rigid and flexible media,” said Mr. Goldner. “Mild solvent printers are enjoying continuous growth and printers request more and more the new options such as metallic silver. Another ongoing trend are sublimation inks; even here at drupa, we had a lot of companies asking for it, e.g. for soft signage applications.

Sun Chemical reports that inkjet is growing in all markets, even in well-established sectors such as wide format graphics.

“Variable data markets in China, for instance, are seeing tremendous growth due to the need for supply chain traceability,” said Mr. Saunders. “If we talk about future opportunities, packaging applications and commercial print markets are a real focus for us in ink technology and for our partners in hardware development. Both of these areas require UV inks and aqueous inks depending on the end applications, and maybe even hybrids of the two in some cases.”

Nazdar continues to see excellent growth in UV inkjet inks in all graphic printing industries.

“The sign industry has embraced and incorporated flatbed UV printers over the last few years,” said Mr. Bowles.

“Ink technology wise, inkjet going through the whole range: UV-curable, mild solvent and water-based inks,” said Mr. Goldner. “We see strong growth over the next years in transactional, textile, ceramics, labels and in specialty applications like glass and wood décor.”

The wide-format digital inkjet market constantly faces different challenges as faster printers and new technologies are launched.

“Continued growth is predicted in this field during the next five years, especially in products that reduce adverse impact on human health and the environment,” said Mr. Mualem. “Bordeaux invested in recent years in development of latex ink, a high end water-based ink. This unique ink has all the advantages of water-based inks and many of the advantages solvent-based inks. It is water-based with no impact on human health or the environment, yet it is lightfast and durable for outdoor signage as well. Furthermore, latex ink enables drying at much lower heat, avoiding creases to substrates.”

“Inkjet is truly a print technology revolution,” said Mr. Kisner. “We are seeing inkjet use penetrate into the lithography, offset and gravure markets as well as the pad and screen markets.”

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