Printing inks: “Sustainability is currently the driving force

Ray Verderber, technical manager at Eckart America Corporation, addresses drivers and challenges for printing inks.

We spoke to Ray Verderber

What factors are driving current R&D for printing inks?

Ray Verderber: Sustainability is currently the driving force influencing how R&D is conducted for printing inks. When it comes to sustainability, it is a very broad topic, including recycling, carbon footprint, bio-degradable and environmentally friendly ingredients. For example, consumer product companies expect the supply chain to deliver sustainable solutions aimed at improving recycling rates. To meet these needs researchers are developing formulations that allow for easier recovery of plastic and paper-based substrates.

How significant are water-based printing inks and what are their drawbacks?

Verderber: Water-borne inks continue to be a significant portion of the overall ink market. The extreme weather last winter and ongoing supply-chain issues have had a severe impact on the ability of manufacturers to provide consistent supply, resulting in shortages of feedstocks used to make acrylic and urethane polymers, for example.

One of the drawbacks with water-based inks is the energy needed for drying them, especially on film substrates. Another concern is that the majority of the water-borne polymers today are derived from petroleum feedstocks, while formulators are looking for more sustainable solutions such as water-borne polymers that contain higher levels of bio-based carbon.

What are the prospects for packaging printing compared to publication printing?

Verderber: Publication printing will continue to contract since the communication of information in this segment is ideal for digital alternatives. Packaging printing will continue to grow as it plays a valuable role in how products and merchandise are brought to market, providing protection, brand identity and shelf appeal for consumer product companies.

Packaging printing will develop further through offering more than just product protection and distribution, including information and functionality. Research is being conducted that could embed the packaged product with information that would communicate, for example, at a sorting and recycling facility, whether the package is indeed recyclable.

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