Resins are the workhorses of the printing inks industry. Used to control viscosity, offer abrasion resistance, increase pigment adhesion, add waterproofing capabilities, and more, resins allow inks manufacturers to increase their product ranges and capabilities. In short, they are critical, and the market for them is increasing.
According to “Ink Resins Market by Type (Modified Rosins, Hydrocarbon, Cellulose, Acrylic, Polyamide, Polyurethane), by Technology (Oil, Solvent, Water, UV), by Application (Printing & Publication, Flexible Packaging, Corrugated Cardboards) – Global Forecasts to 2019,” a 2015 report by Markets and Markets, the global ink resin market was valued at $2.64 billion in 2013, and is expected to rise to $3.46 billion in 2019. The primary driver for this growth is the packaging market.
Resins suppliers report solid growth in 2015, and believe there is reason to be optimistic through 2016. Katherine Grisson, industry marketing manager at BASF, said that resins used in packaging inks and overprint varnishes were steady in 2015, “although there was a noticeable softening toward the end of last year with US economy only growing 0.7% between October and December. 2016 has started steadily with growing optimism of increased economic growth, where the printing market for packaging is estimated to experience growth in 2016 with emphasis in the flexible Packaging and functional coatings packaging segments,” Grisson said.
Grisson added that BASF continued to see growth within the flexible packaging market in 2016, as well as greater demand for innovative solvent- and water-based products.
“In 2016, BASF plans to launch several new solvent-based products under the Versamid PUR brand to support the growing market needs while continuing to strengthen our water-based portfolio Joncryl product line,” she said. “In addition, BASF is continuing to enable conversion to more sustainable water based inks for flexible packaging with new developments in the Joncryl FLX series.”
Matt Grodd, business and operations at Kane International Corporation, said that his company has seen growth in flexible film packaging for the food packaging market. He added that “it has been the most consistent and largest growing market within the ink industry.”
Hydrite Chemical Co., a supplier for the water-based ink and coatings markets, continues to see growth in the packaging sector, according to Terry Chomniak, director of sales.
“Specialty performance inks across all sectors including corrugated, narrow web and gravure continue to do well,” he added.
Given the explosive growth in Asia, especially China, there are other areas of growth there. Haibo Xu, national sales and marketing manager at Pioneer Chemicals, Ltd., said that there is increased demand for “water-based inks in cigarette packaging due to new VOC requirements in China.”
RAW MATERIALS AND MARKET CHALLENGES
Raw material cost is a primary concern for resins manufacturers, and though many believe it is stabilizing, there is some apprehension about it staying that way.
Over the past year, raw material prices have been fairly stable compared to years past, according to Grodd. “However, there is a growing concern that base raw material producers will be looking to drive prices up on some key isocyanates and polyols used to produce polyurethane resins,” he said.
Grodd added that the greatest challenge that resin suppliers and specifically polyurethane resin suppliers face is to be able to continue to produce superior technology at a competitive price.
“Additionally, with all the consolidation we’ve seen in the ink industry, often times your customers are also your competitors, which always complicates things. We expect to continue our growth in becoming a premier resin supplier to the solvent-borne ink industry, and as our sales grow we will continue to keep a focus on new technological innovations,” he said.
While there were no significant raw material sourcing issues and lower oil prices in 2015, Chomniak said that Hydrite saw a “gradual improvement and stabilization in the market.”
“However, we are keeping a watchful eye on styrene prices with scheduled shutdowns and tightness in the market,” he said.
Challenges specific to the resin market, Chomniak said, include the commoditization of technology that helps drive the performance improvements demanded by the ink and coating industry. Hydrite is looking beyond current technology platforms that are the basis of today’s resins for furthering differentiation in the market.
“Hydrite is looking to grow in 2016 by offering assistance to solve our customer’s needs by developing new products rather than offering an off-the-shelf commodity type product,” he said.
BASF’s Grisson said that industry consolidation continues to be a challenge, along with complying with regulations and meeting sustainable concerns for brand owners.
“However, innovation cannot be forgotten and BASF will continue to offer quality and excellence in customer service along with high performance new products to meet the needs of the industry challenges,” she said.
In terms of coming expectations, Grisson said that the industry will continue to experience a contraction in printing inks consumed in publishing due to the continued global growth in electronic media.
“The industry will also continue to experience growth in the flexible packaging market segment as three main drivers continue to stand out in the flexible packaging market: cost, compliance/sustainability and performance. BASF keeps these drivers in mind as we bring new products to the marketplace. Flexible packaging will continue to grow as it replaces traditional materials such as glass jars and metal cans to address lower cost packaging, lighter weight and a lower carbon footprint for production,” she added.
Leading resins manufacturers are frequently introducing new technologies to the market. What follows is information on these new innovations from select manufacturers, in their own words.
– Joncryl FLX 5000-A: Noted for its good resolubility and printability while still having good water and heat resistance, Joncryl FLX 5000-A is used in medium duty surface film printing (LDPE and OPP substrates) in applications like shopping bags and bread bags and also on the outside of PE coated paper applications like paper cups.
– Joncryl FLX 5100 and Joncryl FLX CL1 offers the printer a safer handling alternative to polyaziridine cross-linked systems. The Joncryl FLX two-pack ink system gives excellent resistance properties along with very good printability and resolubility at a resistance level for outdoor bags and high resistance labels.
– Joncryl FLX 5026 has been launched in Europe to replace Joncryl FLX 5025. The performance of Joncryl FLX 5026-A is further improved over Joncryl FLX 5025, providing an optimized resistance-resolubility balance compared to the existing surface print products. This product is targeting white surface print inks, where the excellent heat seal resistance properties of Joncryl FLX 5026-A make it very suitable for dry food packaging on OPP films. Joncryl FLX 5026-A is also suitable for inks printed on PE coated board for cups and liquid food packaging.
– HydriPrint 382HV: A hard, high solids, non film-forming emulsion with ultra fast dry for high speed gravure printing.
– HydriPrint 980: A superior gloss, film forming overprint vehicle.
Pioneer Chemical’s newly developed products include:
– G A-003, an acrylic resin for powder coating.
– BM701C, a binder resin for adhesives, negative Tg, high MW resin without any solvents.
– MG-4-G, an acrylic resins for PU hot melt resins.
– BM57, a solid acrylic-styrene resin for concrete coating.
– MB-256, a universal pigment dispersion resin.