Every January, Ink World publishes our annual U.S. Ink Directory, a comprehensive listing of more than 200 U.S. ink manufacturers, their major products and key contacts. It provides the industry with a look at how companies are faring, and also whether there has been significant consolidation.
Over the years, there has been a change in the types of ink companies that appear in the U.S. Ink Directory. Today, there are numerous digital and UV ink manufacturers, while there are certainly fewer conventional ink companies. That makes sense.
The publication and sheetfed printing industry has struggled in recent years. The economic downturn that started in 2008 hurt these printers, which, in turn, impacted ink manufacturers and their suppliers. Raw material pricing dramatically increased as availability of key ingredients became a challenge. The growth of the Internet changed how people gathered information.
One would think there would be plenty of consolidation throughout the printing supply chain, and for the most part, this has been true, particularly among printers themselves. Yet the ink industry seems to have largely avoided M&As.
There are probably quite a few root causes for the lack of acquisitions in the ink industry. Margins have been depressed due to the inability of ink companies to pass along the full brunt of the higher raw material prices, making the industry less attractive for outsiders while limiting cash flow for ink manufacturers themselves. With the publication and commercial printing markets undergoing upheaval, the ink companies supplying them are facing their own challenges.
Interestingly, conductive inks are another area that was not applicable when our U.S. Ink Directory debuted in 1997. In recent years, major ink manufacturers such as Sun Chemical, Toyo Ink and DuPont have moved into this field, as have many start-ups that are now growing.
This growth coincides with the commercialization of printed electronics applications. As I note in my article, “Printed Electronics: The Year in Review,” there are now products reaching consumers in the marketplace. In particular, my article includes five breakthrough products that are worth following in the years ahead.
Ink World Editor