As Technology Evolves, The Ink Industry Adapts

By David Savastano, Editor | 03.01.14

Over the years, the ink industry has constantly reinvented itself as the needs of their customers changed. The industry was dominated by letterpress ink in the first half of the 20th century; now letterpress printing is a rarity, replaced by offset printing, primarily heatset and coldset.

I mention this because, as The North American Top 20 Report shows, packaging, digital and UV ink markets are clearly growth areas. The publication and newspaper industries have begun to decline, and with it, so have heatset and coldset printing inks.

Meanwhile, packaging flexo and gravure printing has grown, and ink manufacturers are placing greater emphasis on these fields.

In much the same way, screen printing has declined in recent years, with digital printing replacing screen. As a result, digital ink manufacturers have gained ground; in fact, many screen ink specialists saw the trends ahead of time and developed their own inkjet ink capabilities. As inkjet printing improves quality and speed, other markets will be under pressure.

Pigment manufacturers are seeing the increasing interest in packaging, inkjet and UV inks, and are putting additional resources into these markets. As associate editor Bridget Klebaur notes in The Pigment Report, most pigment executives are reporting sales growth in 2013, due to the expansion of these markets. However, there are concerns as well, particularly due to the availability and cost of raw materials as more stringent environmental laws are enforced globally.

Speaking of invention, some ink manufacturers have moved into the field of conductive inks for flexible and printed electronics. As I note in The Growing Market for Conductive Inks, commercialization is progressing in printed electronics, and conductive ink suppliers are finding new ways to meet the needs of end users. This is a challenging technical field, but the potential it offers is seemingly limitless.

As technology changes, the ink industry moves along with its customers. It is the same in any industry; the companies that can bring innovations to the field will have the advantage in the marketplace.