Additives play a critical role in the formulation and production of inks, helping to impart the necessary characteristics the ink needs, whether it is to run more smoothly on press or to protect the finished product. These additives come in many forms, whether it is waxes, surfactants, defoamers or countless other products.
It may not take a lot of a particular additive to improve an ink, but the right ingredient can make a major difference. Working closely with ink customers on their needs is the surest way to succeed in this market.
“We have experienced growth in the graphic arts side of our business,” said Craig Baudendistel, director of sales at Shamrock Technologies. “Shamrock continues to work closely with our current as well as potential customers as to develop value added products and solutions to meet industry needs. Our Product Marketing Center (PMC) and Product Development Laboratories (PDL) have played a key role in this growth.”
Jerry Trauth, product manager ink applications at Kustom Group, said that all inks can use additives.
“An additive, when used correctly and at the proper percentage, can be the last part of the puzzle that helps push an ink to perform in a specific way that the printer requires without having to completely reformulate,” Trauth said. “No ink type is immune from a need for an additive regardless of chemistry (oil-based, aqueous or energy cure) or press configuration (flexo, offset, screen, gravure, spindle, pad or inkjet).”
Trauth noted that in general, Kustom Group has seen modest but steady growth in its additives business, “We attribute this to our product mix and ability to offer products and technical service in three distinct chemistries, including UV/EB, aqueous and oil-base,” Trauth said. “Our customers continue to take advantage of Kustom’s ability to offer one-stop shopping for all chemistries, including specialty additives along with any of their staple raw materials that they use everyday. They rely on Kustom for smaller quantities of just about any ink or coating raw material they need. This has been a valuable asset in helping our customers keep shipping and inventory expenses down.“
Understandably, additive suppliers are finding better opportunities in the growth markets for inks, such as packaging and inkjet.
“Growth in the graphic arts markets for Keim Additec Surface on a global business has been fairly stable,” said Alan Kalmikoff, president, Keim Additec Surface USA, LLC. “We are strictly a supplier of water-based products for the flexo, gravure and OPV markets.”
“We continue to see growth in markets such as inkjet and food packaging,” said Jennifer Turner, marketing manager, coating additives for Evonik. “This isn’t surprising. as these are also the segments which are growing within the industry.”
“As far as the additives industry goes, 2013 was another challenging year with minimal growth – and even negligible growth in some sectors of the inks market,” said Shauna McAuliffe, marketing manager, for Air Products. “The inks industry continues to be impacted by underlying market weakness and an ongoing shift to digital media.”
“We have experienced sizable growth in the graphic arts side of our business in part due to new products launched in the last 18 months,” said John McAllister, director of sales, United States and Canada at Micro Powders, Inc. “Our customers have been very pleased with the problem solving tools we have given them, and this is reflected in our sales.”
Growth Areas for Additives
Much like their ink manufacturing customers, additive suppliers are reporting growth in a number of ink segments, most notably in UV, flexible packaging and inkjet. McAuliffe said that Air Products continues to see growth in packaging, and in particular with flexible film substrates, inkjet inks and other non-traditional inks such as energy curable, metallic and digital inks.
“Air Products recently launched a number of new products to help our customers effectively and efficiently select the right additive to meet their formulation and performance needs,” McAuliffe said.
“Shamrock has experienced growth in a number of areas. We have seen substantial growth in our UV products area as well as for continued growth in flexible packaging,” said Baudendistel. “Our relationships are extremely important in capturing growth opportunities for both our customers as well as for Shamrock. Constant communication is necessary to obtain customer needs, then developing value-added products and innovative solutions. This type of communication and problem solving ideas is a win-win for both parties.”
“For Kustom Group, our primary focus is on products and services for the packaging ink and coating market,” said Trauth. “Specifically, Nestle compliant and low migration products, as well as products, which must be produced with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Earlier this year Kustom Group confirmed its commitment to this market with the construction of its new separate building for the sole purpose of manufacturing GMP type products. The ink raw materials, overprints and coatings made in this facility will serve markets such as food packaging, pharmaceutical packaging, personal care packaging and medical device packaging. We have also seen tremendous growth for our specialty coatings and overprints. Kustom’s specialty coatings line includes products such as soft feel, sandy feel, pearlescent, glitter and angle dependent pigments.”
“The overprint varnish market continues to grow for Micro Powders, as we are able to offer our customers more product choices for gloss control, surface protection and tactile properties,” said McAllister.
“We support our customers with joint projects and product developments, which address environmental and food contact status regulations such as Swiss A,” Turner said. “Global registrations of products also continue to be of key importance as customers have product platforms that span various regions.”
Major Challenges for Additives Manufacturers
Additives manufacturers are being asked to by their customers to solve a variety of problems. Baudendistel said that a major challenge for Shamrock is continuing to develop new and innovative products that assist our customers to be successful in their markets.
“We must also continue to think outside the box to develop new sourcing arrangements for key raw materials as well as improved manufacturing processes for improved cost benefits,” Baudendistel added.
Trauth said that Kustom Group helps its customers by offering additives that solve technical problems with products that meet the various regulatory legislations worldwide, or end-use restrictions such as low migration and Nestle compliance.
“Kustom has made a commitment to better understand and keep up with the various restrictions and requirements to be another resource to our customers in that regard,” said Trauth.
Turner also noted regulatory concerns. “Given recent announcements regarding potential overhaul of TSCA, we will adapt our regulatory platform as necessary to meet any new changes,” Turner noted.
“Rising costs are always a challenge for any raw material supplier; however, we work to try to mitigate those increases through production efficiencies,” McAllister said.
Raw Material Concerns
Raw material prices and availability have stabilized for the most part, although there remain concerns.
“Rosin resin and ink oil prices have increased, although UV and some of the other raw materials seem stable but slightly higher versus previous years,” said Trauth. “Reduced capacity and suppliers simply carrying less inventory is a frequent occurrence that has to be dealt with on a regular basis. Kustom continues to pursue customer and supplier partnerships to help offset these conditions.”
“Areas of concern regarding raw materials are more biased towards potential price increases from basic suppliers and less about availability of materials,” Kalmikoff said.
“The raw material picture is pretty good right now,” McAllister said. “However, things can change pretty quickly so we are always keeping on top of the latest developments to ensure that our supply remains strong.”
“Raw materials were relatively stable in terms of cost and availability during the course of 2013, although underlying market conditions and continued focus on cost containment and reduction continue to make rising material costs and raw material availability a concern and challenge for the industry,” McAuliffe said.
Additives suppliers anticipate that 2014 will bring some growth to the companies. Trauth said that Kustom expects 2014 to be a good year in the additives business.
“We offer many unique additive materials that are finding homes in more and more formulations,” said Trauth. “Export has the most potential for growth.”
“Food packaging is still a growth market for us, and as our products are differentiated from our competitors, we expect to continue to be leaders in this area,” said Kalmikoff.
“We are optimistic that we will continue to see an economic recovery that will have a positive impact on the printing inks market,” Turner said. “Our customers continue to develop innovative products to meet their customers’ needs, and we help them by providing next generation technology.”
“We are very excited about the coming year,” McAllister said. “Our business is growing, and we have introduced several new wax additives that have garnered much interest by the graphic arts market.”
McAuliffe believes that growth in packaging and non-traditional markets will offset the challenges in the publication segment.
“We anticipate marginal growth in 2014 in the inks segment,” McAuliffe said. “We expect continued growth in packaging and other non-traditional inks such as energy curable, metallic and digital inks, but continued challenges in the areas of publications due to ongoing shift from print to digital media. We also anticipate more moderate growth in emerging markets, in particular Latin America and Asia, along with a somewhat constrained growth in more established regions.”
Ron Levitt, regional sales leader for Shamrock Technologies, said that 2014 has started out well for Shamrock, and the company expects this trend to continue.
“It will take cooperation and ingenuity between Shamrock, our suppliers and ultimately our customers to accomplish our growth objectives,” Levitt noted.