The global market for environmentally friendly (EF) inks was valued at nearly €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 €7.2 billion by 2014, with a CAGR of 4.5 percent in the 2009-14 period.
Based on primary research and expert analysis, The Future of Environmentally Friendly Inks - Market Forecasts to 2014 from Pira International offers a detailed insight into the major trends affecting the environment friendly inks market, breaking it down by printing process, end-use application and geographical region, with quantitative forecasts till 2014 (volume and value). Significantly, 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 (Volatile Organic Compound) 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 environmentally 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 which 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 hence 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, i.e. 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 including:
- Improved raw materials, which have enabled formulation of inks based on renewable content for sustainability, while delivering comparable price and performance;
- Water-based inks replacing solvent;
- Innovative inks, such as Hewlett Packard's (HP) latex inks offering alternative EF solutions to existing product formulations;
- Thermoformable UV inks;
- Sustainable UV inks;
- UV-LED inks for inkjet, flexo and screen processes;
- Radiation drying systems offering faster line speeds, more consistent moisture levels, lower drying temperature (which in turn means less energy usage) and smaller equipment;
- Xenon pulse lamps, solid-state curing systems and UV-LED curing offering advantages over traditional mercury lamps for energy-curing technology;
- The availability of several printing systems incorporating the UV-LED technology for inkjet, flexo and screen processes;
- Variable sleeve offset presses (VSOP), which may help spur the growth of UV/EB (electron beam) curing for offset in flexible packaging.