RadTech Looks at Sustainability, Market and More During Final Day

By David Savastano, Editor | 03.20.20

Conference focused on the growth of UV, UV LED and EB technologies in key segments, including graphic arts and paint and coatings.

Amid the difficult times with COVID-19, RadTech International North America, The Association for Ultraviolet and Electron Beam Technologies, recently completed its biennial show, RadTech UV+EB 2020, at Disney Coronado Springs in Orlando, FL. The conference focused on the growth of energy curing technologies (UV, UV LED and EB) in key markets like paint and coatings, graphic arts, 3D printing and industrial applications.

RadTech’s Mickey Fortune said that RadTech 2020 did as well as could be expected, in spite of the Coronavirus.

“The elephant in the room was certainly the Coronavirus, but with our Disney resort partners, we took precautions, and were gratified to see so many people join us in Orlando for the conference—most of our sessions were full, and exhibitors typically seemed satisfied that the ‘right’ customers attended,” Fortune noted. “This included several end users from Fortune 100 companies. Orlando seemed to be a popular choice for our attendees, and is a leading candidate for our 2022 event.”

Fortune pointed out that RadTech 2020 was the first event where RadTech partnered with the International Ultraviolet Association, and the synergies became obvious at the event between the two groups.

“Panel discussions on the show floor presented the latest trends in UV+EB technology such as Food Applications, 3D Printing, Inkjet, Flexible Packaging and Lightweighting with UV+EB materials, plus we offered a discussion on the use of UV disinfection to address the coronavirus. UV LEDs were once again prominent at the event, and we also saw more interest in electron beam technology, and in fact, our best paper and best student paper for the event involved electron beam curing,” he added.

“A few years ago, some thought that market opportunities for UV+EB technology may have plateaued,” Fortune added. “This event further confirms that while that may have seemed the case years ago, fast advancing UV+EB technologies have changed the playing field, this as a result of the rapid development of UV LEDs which are opening new markets and development work, new UV+EB curable materials, 3D printing, inkjet, more efficient EB, and industry 4.0 tools applied to our processes. There has probably never been so much new development of our technology as we see today—evidenced by the increasing popularity of our RadLaunch innovation accelerator for start-ups.”

Sustainability and UV/EB

The closing day opened with a variety of topics, with Sustainability & Regulatory an important segment. Brigitte Lindner, RAHN USA Corp., began the session with “Regulatory Landscape for UV/EB Printing Inks in Europe.”

“There are many different kinds of inventories – REACH, Switzerland, Turkey, Eurasia,” Lindner said. “In the US, you have TSCA, Canada and a bunch of state regulations, so it isn’t very different.”

Lindner noted that impurities and residuals are relevant for compliance.

“You need to know your market and know the requirements – inventory classification, SDS label applications and regulations, and also know your supply chain,” Lindner added. “Does my supplier have the necessary registrations? We all expect some activity with the German ink audience. There is a huge difference between industry requirements that stakeholder polices – EuPIA, Nestle and others – which are much more strict. This is a problem for companies located in Europe that have to follow these guidelines.”

Marcia Kinter of SGIA followed with “Moving Forward: A Look at How the Regulatory Climate Impacts Change.” Kinter noted the difference with the linear approach (make-use-discard) and the circular approach (make-reuse-recycle). 

“The nexus of sustainability and compliance is merging,” Kinter said. “Customers send a scorecard, and they want to know what is in our products. They are looking at the toxics. They are looking at their products’ end-of-life strategies.”

Kinter noted that brands want to know about recyclability, and the use of alternative of “sustainable” substances.

“The generation that is now buying products for the brands want to do good, and are driving the hard questions. Ultimately, the customer wants transparency. If you give the ink industry an SDS, they want more information. Printers are being held accountable by their customers, and they will hold their suppliers accountable,” Kinter said.

In terms of California’s Proposition 65’s new warning requirements ,” Kinter said that printers are pushing back these requests to ink and other chemical manufacturers. “We are seeing more interest in products for children, like ink systems on toys,” she added.

Kinter also discussed inadvertent PCBs in ink systems, which is a water effluent issue.

“It is leading to further discussions by other states on similar policies,” KInter said. “There’s no test that goes down to that level. There is no risk-based assessment taking place. Washington state is looking for alternatives to pigments in printing inks. There are also state mandated recycling initiatives like Maine, Washington state and California.”

Rita Loof of RadTech discussed “Regulatory Development for UV/EB from the West Coast.”

Loof focused on state regulations, such as those from the California Air Resources Board , adding that most UV/EB operations are exempt from permit.

“A big box retailer got an $8 million settlement related to VOCs in architectural coatings,” Loof reported. “SCAQMD is suing a paint company for $50 million. UV/EB can help compliance. Supercompliant materials (eg, UV and EB cured material), typically dry/cure more quickly, using less energy than conventional materials. The good news is that the California Senate awarded a resolution recognizing UV/EB technology as pollution prevention processes.

“UV/EB is Best Available Control Technology (BACT), and generates no secondary pollutants (NOx, SOx, CO, greenhouse gases),” Loof concluded.

"Responsible Care Considerations for Sustainable Development in Radiation Cure Markets,” presented by Vivien Clayton of Sartomer Americas, concluded the session.

“Proper definition and identification are required when discussing low migration,” added Clayton..

Next up was a panel on “Defining Sustainability with UV & EB Technology.” I chaired the panel, which included Kinter, George Fuchs of NAPIM and David Biro of Sun Chemical, and we looked at the complex issues surrounding sustainability.

“Sustainability is a major topic in virtually every industry worldwide, and it is growing in interest,” I noted at the beginning. “It is an all-encompassing topic, covering areas as diverse as employee safety, manufacturing efficiency, use of renewable materials, conserving energy and water, to recycling, compostability and more. Topics like Circular Economy and Cradle-to-Cradle production are common today.”

In the afternoon, RadTech 2020 provided a Global Market Overview, with RadTech North America president Eileen Weber of allnex and Paul Kelly of RadTech Europe and Luxsit Ltd. providing the “North American Market Overview” and “Europe Market Overview,” respectively.

Weber said that the UV/EB industry is estimated to grow by 3.7% in 2019, 4.6% in 2020 and 5% in the next three years. The North American market accounts for 26%, Asia 38%, EU 27% and  ROW 9%

“We’ve had continuous growth for the past 20 years with UV/EB formulated products,” Weber added. “Inks are 22%, and OPV 5. Highest expected growth by volume is 3D printing. By equipment type, conventional UV is 74%, LED 15%, EB 6%, and dual cure/hybrid cure 5%. Advances include UV LEDs, better UV technology overall, better adhesion and sustainable materials. Needs include better photoinitiators for UV LED, standardized regulations, improved weatherability and sustainability.”

Kelly noted that the wood coating is largest market at 39%  followed by printing inks at 19%.

“The most important driver to increase use of UV/EB is becoming more cost effective, followed by physical properties and productivity. Environmental footprint is fourth,” he noted. “New UV installations are up the most. :

Kelly also warned about COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is not the flu and we don’t know much about it,” said Kelly. “Public reaction could allow the disease to spread more quickly and widely, or it could create higher costs. This could be long-lasting. It’s now growing exponentially. It could directly affect production, disrupt supply chain and markets, and have a financial impact on firms.”