Industry News, Coatings, Inks
For ink formulators, there are lots of factors to consider when selecting raw materials, and resins are at the top of the list. Depending upon the type of ink, resins impart their own particular characteristics to the finished formulation.
The ink resin market is sizable, and it is growing. Pallavi Gaikwad, team lead Chemicals & Materials for Verified Market Research, reported that the ink resins market size was valued at USD $3.076 billion in 2021, and is projected to reach USD $4.65 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 4.6% from 2023 to 2030. ResearchandMarkets reports that the global ink resin market is expected to grow from $3.53 billion in 2021 to $3.74 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.88%.
Nicholas Scheinkonig, applications manager for Lubrizol, reported that the resin market has been doing well, particularly in digital printing.
“In terms of digital printing, the role of the resin has never been so important as users want to print digitally in an ever-widening range of applications,” Scheinkonig said. “The move to more sustainable offerings centered around water-based ink technology lends itself to companies such as Lubrizol who can leverage knowledge and expertise in the more traditional areas of print to develop digital specific solutions for customers.
Gene Cassidy, senior manager, corporate accounts & customer service, North American Research Center for Lawter, noted that the graphic arts market remains one of Lawter’s most important market segments.
“The packaging ink market has been fairly robust the past several years experiencing GDP type growth most years,” Cassidy reported. “The publication and commercial ink markets have not done as well and we continue to see reduced demand in those markets. Of the markets we serve, we believe that packaging inks have the most growth potential.”
Scheinkonig sees packaging being a strong growth market for digital printing.
“From a digital ink perspective, Lubrizol sees high growth areas centered around the packaging market – from labels to corrugate board, folding carton, and potentially flexible packaging in the future,” said Scheinkonig. ‘The digital UV label market did exceptionally well during the pandemic but moving forward, we expect to see the fastest growth from water-based digital corrugate inks as converters continue to explore the benefits of digital printing.”
The raw material situation for resins has become more stable, but it isn’t all the way there yet. Gaikwad noted that organizations representing the printing ink industry in different parts of the world have detailed the uncertain and challenging state of supply chain affairs the industry faces in the transition to 2023.
“The European Printing Inks Association, taking a lead, highlighted the fact that the coronavirus pandemic has created collective conditions similar to the factors needed for a perfect storm. A combination of different factors is now considered to have a significant impact on the entire supply chain,” said Gaikwad.
“Most economists and supply chain experts agree that the global economy has recently experienced unprecedented supply chain volatility. Product demand continues to outstrip supply, and as a result, the global availability of raw materials and cargo has been heavily impacted.
“This situation caused by the global pandemic, which continues to cause production shutdowns in many countries, was first exacerbated by the home-bound consumer base buying more items than usual and outside the peak season. Second, a global economic recovery at essentially the same time around the world accelerated this increase. This situation is expected to come out and normalize soon, but for now, it remains in distress,” Gaikwad reported.
“Lubrizol believes this has somewhat stabilized, although it’s certainly not perfect or anywhere close to pre-pandemic activities,” Scheinkonig noted. “Some of the key building blocks used in PUD manufacture, namely isocyanates, were very tight and still remain a concern.”
“Overall, our raw material supply situation as improved substantially since the global supply chain disruptions began in mid-2021,” Cassidy noted. “That said, there is still a supply/demand imbalance with respect to tall oil rosin, but improved availability of other rosin sources has helped mitigate that imbalance. Going forward, we feel that the supply of our rosin derivatives is on solid footing.”
The Ink Industry and Sustainability
Sustainability comes up in virtually every raw material discussion, and resins are certainly no exception.
“This is a good question, and there is no doubt that this needs to be a partnership in order that resin suppliers can develop the right products,” Scheinkonig observed. “The key topics in terms of digital printing and more specifically water-based digital inks are going to be around drying, compliance, de-inking and ultimately recyclability of the final printed article.
“The challenge for resin suppliers and ink manufacturers is being able to develop ink systems and solutions that have reduced complexity (removal of stages), which result in lower energy consumption (drying) while also maintaining the performance,” Scheinkonig added. “More durable inks or those that don’t require an OPV, for example (removing complexity), would in theory be more difficult to de-ink, and there lies our challenge.”
Cassidy pointed out that the primary ink markets Lawter serves are publication, commercial, and packaging, and discussed the interest in eco-friendly resins in each of those markets.
“We have seen growth in the use of rosin resins in the packaging ink markets due primarily to increased demand for bio-renewable and sustainable products,” Cassidy said. “Consequently, many of our new product developments have been tailored for that market. Some of our more recent developments are bio-based resins for barrier coatings and bio-renewable resins designed as alternatives to petroleum-based resins.
“Demand for more eco-friendly resins in the publication and commercial ink markets has also been high,” Cassidy added. “We have had very good success in those markets developing more eco-friendly resins, such as phenol-free alternatives to conventional phenolic modified rosin esters and Prop 65 compliant resins.”
Gaikwad noted that there is a huge interest in sustainability throughout the industrial world.
“It’s no wonder the resin industry is looking for ways to be more sustainable, both for environmental and financial reasons,” said Gaikwad. “Simply put, brand owners and their customers expect greener approaches, and the ability to save energy and be more efficient has financial benefits. It becomes a mutually beneficial solution.
“According to regulatory organizations, the carbon footprint of printed materials is generally used as a measure of the environmental impact of printing inks and other packaging materials,” Gaikwad added. “According to some studies carried out by them and printing ink manufacturers, it is concluded that the share of printing ink in the carbon footprint of the printed object ranges from 1% to 3% of the total carbon footprint of the printed object. Several factors responsible for these differences are the types of printing inks, substrates used, printing processes, and the number of items printed.
Gaikwad pointed out that when sourcing raw materials, ink companies are increasingly asking their suppliers for sustainable approaches. The topic of sustainability and the use of green products, as well as the growing dependence on sustainable resources and energy, is becoming an increasingly common issue.
“High bio-renewable resource content often comes up in conversations between ink manufacturers and suppliers,” Gaikwad observed. “For example, solvent printing inks based on aromatic hydrocarbons pose several risks to the environment because they release large amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere. In addition, reducers used in printing inks are difficult to recover. With environmental protection in mind, printing industry regulations have recently forced printing processes to resort to aromatic hydrocarbon-free printing inks.
“Sustainability is not just a term, but a prevailing challenge that will most certainly reshape the printing and packaging industry in the future,” Gaikwad concluded. “Supply chain manufacturers not only express a huge interest in sustainability but also strive to achieve it. CEOs of major manufacturers must say that all members of the supply chain work together to ensure sustainability.”