LEATHERHEAD, UK - The global market for environment-friendly (EF) inks was valued at nearly EUR 5.8 billion in 2009, according to a new study by Pira International. Experiencing good growth, the global EF inks market is projected to reach almost EUR 7.2 billion by 2014, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.5 percent in the 2009-14 period.
Based on primary research and expert analysis, “The Future of Environment Friendly Inks – Market Forecasts to 2014” offers a detailed insight into the major trends affecting the environment-friendly ink market, breaking it down by printing process, end-use application and geographical region, with quantitative forecasts until 2014 (volume and value). The study also provides in-depth coverage of the key technology developments impacting the EF inks market and seeks to identify the emerging niche opportunities for EF ink and equipment suppliers.
The study defines EF inks as those containing the highest quantity of bio-derived, renewable raw materials available for the particular ink technology, along with the lowest possible VOC levels. As such, the term EF inks denotes the broad spectrum of inks used in most of the major printing processes, within which several categories qualify as environment friendly, i.e. aqueous or water based, energy curable, and paste inks based on low-VOC oils or vegetable oils.
There are inks used in the inkjet process that are termed eco-solvent, mild-solvent and bio-solvent inks. These contain fewer VOC emissions than the aggressive or true solvent inks but are still toxic and are not considered to be environmentally friendly. For obvious reasons, water-based and UV inkjet are EF alternatives.
EF inks are not new to the printing ink industry. When governmental legislation began to tighten in the 1990s to limit toxic emissions into the air, ink manufacturers began to offer alternatives to printers to comply with such regulations. The use of recovery and afterburners added cost. Moreover, there was concern about toluene residues in gravure printed publications. Water-based inks were introduced in the liquid ink area, and paste inks based on renewable resources, particularly vegetable-based oils such as soy oil, were offered on the paste ink side. Currently, there is increasing focus on the environmental impact of printing inks, but even more there is a move towards sustainability, using renewable resources for ink formulation.
According to Pira International, significant developments have taken place in the EF and sustainable inks industry in recent times. Improved raw materials have enabled formulation of inks based on renewable content for sustainability, while delivering comparable price and performance. Innovative inks, such as Hewlett Packard’s latex inks are offering alternative EF solutions to existing product formulations. Radiation drying systems are offering faster line speeds, more consistent moisture levels, smaller equipment, and lower drying temperature, which means less energy use. Xenon pulse lamps, solid-state curing systems and UV-LED curing are offering advantages over traditional mercury lamps for energy-curing technology. Additionally, the availability of several printing systems incorporating UV-LED technology and variable-sleeve offset presses are impacting the industry.
Analyzing the EF ink market by printing process, Pira International asserts that inkjet will witness the highest growth in the 2009-14 period, with a CAGR of 10 percent, both in volume and value terms. Having become the dominant printing process in the signage area and causing a sharp decline in screen printing, inkjet is already being extensively used in print areas such as office forms, having already penetrated the label printing market. Using water-based inks on porous substrates, inkjet relies heavily on UV for non-absorbent substrates and is expected to show continued growth, despite increased activity in the sphere of hybrid inks. The other printing processes discussed in the study include offset, flexo, gravure and screen.
With EF inks now used in most end-use applications, Pira International states that in some areas such as narrow web flexo, corrugated board or textiles, virtually all the inks used are environmentally friendly, either water-based or UV or a combination of both. There are two notable application exceptions: magazines, since these are mainly printed using either heatset offset or publication gravure, where the process precludes using EF inks; and vehicle wraps in inkjet, for which UV inkjet inks currently lack the needed flexibility. Additionally, a large segment of flexible packaging still uses solvent-based inks, and this trend is expected to continue for some time.
In the developed regions where the printing industry is mature and is not slated for significant growth, EF inks are already being used extensively, but their growth rates are higher than conventional inks, with UV inks still growing at a rapid pace especially in North America. In some instances, there has also been a transition from the usage of water-based flexo inks to UV flexo usage.
In the emerging markets of Asia, South America and Eastern Europe, Pira predicts growth in printing and packaging, with some of this growth also forecast to be in EF inks, depending on the end-use application. In these markets UV and UV inkjet is expanding rapidly. However, with no strict environmental legislation currently in place, there is not much pressure to switch to EF or sustainable inks. Sources suggest that this trend could possibly change if China, the largest country in terms of printing, implements stricter laws. For the present, there are still large quantities of solvent-based inks and paste inks based on petroleum being used in the printing industry, with a perceptible shift towards the usage of a larger number of EF products.
In common with equipment suppliers in other areas of the manufacturing sector, the printing ink industry is seeking to move towards sustainability. According to Pira, this move is not only a tremendous challenge for companies along the supply chain, it also offers tremendous opportunities. Research and development is facilitating the continual development of new and innovative products capable of delivering both the price and performance needed, while effectively reducing VOC emission and using renewable sources.
Pira International projects that as environmental regulations tighten, the need for EF and sustainable inks will increase. A potential area of opportunity, particularly for energy-cured inks, is in food packaging. With the FDA-issued food contact notification (FCN) 772, the groundwork has been laid for energy-cured technologies to move into the area of food packaging, long the domain of solvent-based inks.
Analyzing the global EF ink market by ink type, Pira International forecasts the highest growth rate for UV inks, which is predicted to witness a CAGR of nearly 7 percent in the 2009-14 period, and grow from nearly EUR 1.28 billion value in 2009 to more than EUR 2 billion in 2014. Other areas of opportunity for the future are shrink sleeves, thermoformable inks, innovative sheet-fed inks with low migration for food packaging, point-of-sale displays, and decorative printing substrates like glass and printed electronics.
“The Future of Environment Friendly Inks – Market Forecasts to 2014” is available now. For more information, visit www.pira-international.com/Business-Intelligence/Home.aspx.