Throughout his 30-plus years in the industry, Rich Czarnecki has made his mark on both the ink and wax industries. However, his joining the ink industry was almost accidental.
“When I graduated from Rutgers with my BA in chemistry, the industry was in a slump,” Czarnecki said. “It took me about a year before a guy named Tony Cappuccio called me up and asked me to come in for an interview at Converters Ink. All I knew about ink was that it comes out of your pen, and I was happy to get an entry-level job in any chemical company.
“I vividly remember hating the first few months there; my original career vision was working in some ivory tower like Hoffman-LaRoche, and here I was with ink on my hands,” he added. “But as I learned more about the industry and gained more comfort with the technology, I was hooked.”
He began his career at Converters Ink in 1983, and held leadership positions on the technical side at Zeneca Inks, Sun Chemical and Superior Printing Ink before joining Micro Powders in 2011 as its technical director.
“From the earliest days of my career, I have been a person who likes to organize and document things,” Czarnecki said. “At Converters Ink, I created and chaired a team to establish formal written QC test methods. Prior to that, everything was in people’s heads. We also took a bare-bones analytical lab and built it into a sophisticated and productive department with new staff and new instrumentation that had never been used at Converters.”
Converters Ink was acquired by ICI in 1985, becoming ICI (later Zeneca) Specialty Inks, which was then purchased by Sun Chemical in 1996. He initially directed all research and product development activities for solvent- and water-based flexo and gravure laminating inks. Following that, he is credited with leading development, commercialization and marketing activities for solvent-based, water-based, oleoresinous and energy curable polymers for use in global graphic arts product lines for Sun Chemical.
“At Zeneca Inks, I founded and chaired their first Marketing Panel, which was a joint technical/marketing group that managed projects, launches, etc.,” he noted. “And then when Sun Chemical acquired the Zeneca Inks group, I was asked to take over as director for Al Kveglis, who was retiring as the leader of the resin lab. We built what later became known as the Polymer Technology and Engineering group into a market-focused synthesis and scale-up team that commercialized a number of important and patented technologies for Sun, especially in the area of solvent- and water-based polyurethanes for liquid inks.”
Czarnecki has long been an active participant in trade associations. A longtime supporter of NAPIM and the National Printing Ink Research Institute (NPIRI), Czarnecki served as president of the NPIRI Board of Directors from 2010-11 and vice president from 2008-10. He was the conference chair for the 2009 NPIRI Technical Conference and has received three awards for posters and lectures during previous conferences.
Czarnecki is a member of ASTM committees D01.56 (Printing Inks) and D01.37 (Printing Ink Vehicles) (1998 – present), serving as chairman of ASTM committee D01.37 (Printing Ink Vehicles) from 2007 – 2012.
He is a member of the American Chemical Society, American Coatings Association, RadTech, TAPPI and ASTM, and presented talks at the FFTA’s Flexo Forum and GAA conferences. The author of seven patents and numerous published articles on ink technology; he also was an important member of Ink World’s Editorial Advisory Board.
Czarnecki pointed to a number of mentors throughout his career who influenced his growth in the industry.
“My mentor at Converters Ink was Allan Anderson, basically the chief scientist and an unsung hero of the early days of water-based flexo ink technology,” Czarnecki said. “We were true pioneers back then; nobody had products as good as ours. Allan had an inquisitive nature, infinite patience and an amazing knowledge of chemistry. He taught me practically everything I know about polymer science.
“Leon Triberti and Bill Bulmer, both of whom were at one point president of Converters, let me wear many hats and thus grow my career as I got involved in EH&S, marketing, technical service and spent a lot of their money on expensive new analytical equipment,” he added. “At Zeneca, Jerry Feig inspired me with his leadership and unsurpassed people skills. And at Sun, the late John Rooney was my champion as I reinvigorated the polymer science laboratory in Carlstadt.”
Outside of work, Czarnecki enjoys many hobbies, including cooking and traveling.
“It is no coincidence that, as a chemist by education and career, I love to cook,” he said. “Many of my chemistry colleagues have the same hobby; cooking and chemistry are so much alike. I also enjoy traveling with my wife Cindy and my two children, Kyle and Julia. We have been known to apologize for taking so many vacations, but the memories that we have of our many trips are priceless, especially the nearly three-week odyssey through Europe that we took last summer.”
Czarnecki said he is deeply honored to receive the Pioneer Award.
“It is gratifying to be honored as a printing ink pioneer after spending almost 30 years of my career working for ink companies,” he said. “And even more gratifying is that Warren Pushaw, who retired in April as the former president and technical director of Micro Powders, nominated me for the award. Warren was actually an inkie in his early days as was his father, so we are kindred spirits. I’m only sorry that I didn’t spend more time in my career working for him. He is an icon in the wax technology field, and I hope to live up to his high standards of innovation, quality, and customer satisfaction at Micro Powders.”