When it comes to formulating inks, resins play a critical role. Resin suppliers reported that 2012 saw improvements in sales, and they are optimistic that 2013 will continue this trend.
“We predominately serve packaging ink manufacturers, where there remained a sense of stability in 2012, compared to slight and continued declines in publication and commercial printing,” said Rick Krause, business director, printing and packaging – North America at BASF.
“Hydrite has focused and will always focus on developing new products with input from our customers, with feedback from our customers,” said Terry Chomniak, director of sales - process organics for Hydrite Chemical. “We have seen our business gradually increase over the past 12 to 18 months, especially in the water-borne packaging inks and OPV market. Recovery has been slow since 2010 and 2011, but it has been consistently improving.”
“The resin market is stable but very competitive,” said Jason Huang, manager, Yuen Liang Industrial & Co. Ltd. “From our point of view, ink markets have very good potential for us.”
“The overall market was much improved in 2012, especially when compared to the lows of 2008, 2009 and 2010,” said Steve Reiser, vice president sales and marketing, Specialty Polymers, Inc. “We serve several different ink markets and all showed increases last year. Market recovery is slow but steady. In 2013, we are continuing to see the market recover.”
“Currently, business is steady and competition is strong,” said Matt Grodd of Kane International Corporation. “Most resin suppliers are aggressively pursuing existing opportunities with competitive prices. Many international companies are pursuing domestic opportunities as well.”
Ink Industry Needs
What do ink manufacturers look for when they purchase resins? Resin suppliers reported that new products and price controls are two of the topics they hear from their customers.
“Ink manufacturers as well as raw material suppliers need to be cognizant of the new packaging designs and the new technology being used to transfer the ink to the substrate,” Mr. Chomniak said. “Hydrite is working to introduce new products that will provide better resistance properties as well as better runnability and print speeds.”
“Their main concerns are stable price support, better quality supply, sufficient quantity offer and technical discussion/exchange,” Mr. Huang said.
“There are two things we are hearing from our customers” Mr. Reiser said. “First, they want to lower the costs of their resins, but need the same performance. Everyone in the industry has seen their margins get squeezed and they are under pressure to manage all their costs, including the cost of their resins. Secondly, they are looking for new resins to meet their specific product performance goals. The ink market continues to diversify, requiring products with different performance characteristics. Customers are finding off the shelf products don’t provide the needed performance. We are seeing an increase in the number of customer requests for special resins, designed specifically for their unique requirements.”
“There is ongoing pressure to improve performance of nitrocellulose modifying resins to equal the higher performing non-nitrocellulose systems,” Mr. Grodd said. “Customers expect exceptional value with low prices. There is a customer movement in the PU market for higher solids resins without changing viscosity. There is also an increasing demand to grind various types of pigments in polyurethane resins.”
“Improved cost-in-use continues to be a recurring theme from our customers, printers and converters,” Mr. Krause said. “Performance balanced with value is also very critical. The continued evolution of food packaging requirements, health, safety and environmental standards and international regulatory compliance places an ever-greater need for us to support our customers.”
Much like their customers is the ink industry, resin suppliers have had their own challenges from raw materials, although the situation seems to have stabilized somewhat during the past year.
“Acrylate producers continued to raise prices in Q4 2012 and Q1 2013 due to increase cost of feed stocks especially, seasonal demand and high capacity utilization rates,” Mr. Chomniak said. “The market has continued to see benzene increase, most recently coming off an all-time record high in January. Benzene is expected to increase throughout the remainder of 2013 continuing to drive up the cost of styrene.”
“The availability of acrylates should continue to remain steady, albeit subject to some seasonal and competing demand in paint and coating, adhesive and construction applications,” said Mr. Krause. “Resin raw materials remain available, although costs continue to be susceptible to the volatility of feedstock cost changes or interim supply-demand imbalances. Tall oil fatty acid (TOFA) demand continues to migrate toward higher value end-use applications, which adds pressure to polyamide costs. TOFA is a co-product of rosin production where demand is improving. Therefore, we anticipate polyamide availability to improve in 2013 compared to 2012."
“We have strong partnerships with some key raw material supplier,” Mr. Huang said. “From market feedback, the price trend of raw material keeps increasing.”
“We definitely saw a lot more price stability in 2012, which was a relief,” Mr. Reiser said. “Over the past few years, everyone in the industry has struggled with the volatility of raw material prices. Managing the ups and downs of raw material prices takes significant resources, and we would rather spend our resources developing new opportunities with our customers. Going into 2013, things are pretty balanced. Unless there is a plant issue with an upstream supplier, we do not anticipate raw material shortages or the price volatility we experienced in 2010 and 2011.”
“Supply of raw materials has improved; however, pricing hasn’t decreased,” Mr. Grodd noted. “IPDI (isophorone diisocyanate) and IPDA (isophorone diamine) have been more available, which is crucial to the high end polyurethane resin market. Propylene oxide based polyols availability is good, but pricing has increased.”
Major Challenges for Resin Suppliers
Resin manufacturers noted that the need to develop new technologies is a key challenge. Mr. Reiser said that the biggest challenge for the resin industry is the lack of product innovation.
“New technologies typically bring a higher value to the customer,” Mr. Reiser said. “As the ink market looks for unique applications, the demand for new technologies will grow.
“Over the past few years, the industry has experienced a great deal of consolidation,” Mr. Reiser added. “As a result, there are fewer raw material suppliers and fewer choices. In addition, through plant and product rationalization, raw material suppliers have taken products off the market. When a raw material goes away, significant effort goes into product reformulation.”
“We continue to place an emphasis on improving our industry alignment with our customers, providing them a broad portfolio of resins, pigments and formulating additives,” said Mr. Krause. “We continue to invest in new product development to support the innovation efforts of our customers.”
“BASF continues to support the packaging ink market through new resin developments,” added Rick Grandke, BASF's printing and packaging industry manager.
“The main challenges of resin industry are to satisfy different quality requirements from each customers and to assist each customer,” Mr. Huang said. “We keep various sources of raw materials to control our cost well.”
Mr. Chomniak noted that regulatory concerns are a challenge for resin suppliers.
“The resin industry, like our ink and coating customer base, is addressing the requirements and challenges presented by the implementation of GHS,” Mr. Chomniak said. “As with all issues related to regulatory compliance and safety, there will be time, training and cost considerations to meet and we are addressing with several in-house initiatives.”
Expectations for the Resin Market
Resin manufacturers are looking forward to the upcoming year, as they develop new products for the market.
“Hydrite is looking to grow our graphic arts business in 2013 and into 2014 by developing new products, by listening to our customers and meeting the needs of their customers, the printers,” Mr. Chomniak said. “Not only are we developing and promoting our new HydriPrint product line, we are investing in our plant to meet our projected growth.”
“We are seeing more and more requests from customers to develop products that meet their specific needs,” Mr. Reiser said. “Over the past few years, Specialty Polymers has expanded both the sales and technical group and these folks enjoy working closely with our customers to understand their application and performance requirements.”
“We expect to see continued and modest improvement in packaging ink and overprint varnish demand, particularly if consumer confidence and spending continue to improve,” Mr. Krause concluded.
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•Joncryl LMV 7014
Comments: Corrugated ink applications can now take advantage of the successful Joncryl LMV product line with Joncryl LMV 7014. This cost-effective colloidal emulsion provides corrugated ink formulation with clean printing and is easy to maintain on press.
Comments: Joncryl 633 opaque emulsion reduces the amount of TiO2 needed to achieve bright whites on corrugated substrates, as well as, enhances the brightness of lightly colored inks on natural kraft substrates.
•Laroflex HS 9000
Comments: Laroflex HS 9000, a novel ink resin introduced at the 2012 NPIRI conference, enables formulators the ability to design higher opacity whites and stronger, high solids laminating inks with high bond strengths on a wide range of substrates and adhesive combinations.
•Joncryl FLX 5200
Comments: Joncryl FLX 5200 water-based lamination ink vehicle combines good press resolubility and printability with excellent bonds to polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene substrates using either solvent-less or water-based adhesives.
Comments: Joncryl 2136 is a metallic ink vehicle enables the formulation of brilliant metallic inks with very good shelf stability.
•Joncryl FLX 5100
Comments: Also coming in 2013, Joncryl FLX 5100 high performance emulsion, in conjunction with Joncryl FLX CL1 crosslinker, will offer water-based ink manufacturers a 2-pack ink system with very good potlife for outdoor bag and label applications.
Hydrite Chemical Co.
300 N. Patrick Blvd.
Brookfield WI 53045
Phone: (262) 792-2362
• HydriPrint 170
Comments: HydriPrint 170 is a sodium hydroxide neutralized high Tg emulsion polymer for use in low odor high gloss inks and overprints.
• HydriPrint 180
Comments: HydriPrint 180 is a hard, self-crosslinking acrylic emulsion offering excellent alcohol and solvent resistance for coatings.
• HydriPrint 775
Comments: HydriPrint 775 is a hard, film-forming emulsion offering fast dry, good resolubility and excellent transfer for flexo and gravure inks on paper and paperboard.
• HydriPrint 368
Comments: HydriPrint 368 is a hard, high opacity polymer for corrugated inks with high transfer, fast dry and good rub resistance.