Make your mark

12 December 2016

Make your mark

Make your mark

George Ashmore, technical service manager at Siegwerk UK, talks about the latest developments in inks.

How is consumer demand influencing ink innovation for converters?

George Ashmore: In the area of packaging, we’ve seen some demand for special lacquers with paper touch, matt or sandy touch effects driven by the desire of brand owners to create interesting and attractive packaging designs. All these lacquers give substrates a non-plastic look and therefore create an outstanding appearance of a product when competing with others in the supermarket shelves.

We noted an interest in renewable and sustainable solutions including water-based inks with ‘OK compost’ certifications or, for example, a UV OPV for labels based on renewable materials. The latter interest was addressed by a label printer who wanted to create a breakthrough innovation with labels completely consisting of renewable resources – from the substrate to the final coating.


What are the current pressure points converters are feeling when it comes to the inks they use for packaging?

In the packaging market there is a steady increase in regulatory efforts worldwide that is driven by stringent regulations like Swiss ordinance or policies from large global brand owners. Product safety is the most important and challenging aspect in packaging, therefore the demand of migration-optimised ink systems is increasing.

To find economical ways of manufacturing while addressing all safety requirements is one of the biggest challenges for converters nowadays. Switching to a migration-optimised approach might add additional costs to the converting process that are not always recouped by packaging purchasers. New press technologies have pushed productivity to a much higher level and job lengths are getting shorter, which turns the spotlight on alternative printing technologies like digital printing.

Owners with legacy machinery may struggle to compete with owners of new equipment and users of alternative printing systems in terms of their converting costs. In order to set up an economical and efficient manufacturing process, converters also need to keep topics like sustainability and environmental compatibility in mind as creating packaging with a ‘green footprint’ will gain more importance going forward.


How is ink technology helping converters to meet the constant challenges of label legislation?

Globally, you can see a significant demand in food-safe ink solutions driven by a steady increase in regulatory efforts worldwide. This leads to growing interest in all ink technologies (solvent-based, water-based and UV) that are formulated with the right raw materials to fulfil today’s and future food safety standards.

Migration-optimised ink systems is one of the largest growing areas in the ink industry. Today, brand owners and consumers expect safe food packaging that under no circumstances contaminates the packed food or impairs their health. Any migration risk of substances from the outside into the inside of the packaging needs to be limited.


Has the need to be colour accurate shifted over the last few years? Are consumers as sensitive to the colours they associate with the brands they buy?

We haven’t seen a concrete shift but a quite steady increase in the demand for standardisation from brand owners. The consolidation of printers and the formation of more multinational printing groups is also driving the demand for standardised ink formulations.


What does the future of ink development look like? What do converters need to meet the standards of packaging that their customers will be demanding?

There is a growing trend towards short-run demand driven by brand owners desiring regionalisation and personalisation, as well as effect varnishes and special finishing of their product packaging. This trend will drive growth of digital printing technologies in packaging as it enables packaging manufacturers to react even faster to specific customer requirements.

Special effect inks for better differentiation at the supermarket shelves will also drive ink development. In addition, the speed of flexible packaging printing presses continues to increase – up to 2,000 fpm – which also requires new formulation demands on traditional ink technology.

Furthermore, we expect an increasing demand for LED UV curing and low-energy technologies as well as UV ink systems based on renewable resources. Further expansion of LED UV ink applications will enable printers to use these inks for the full range of products.

We also see the trend towards reducing the number of used ink series in order to work more efficiently and economically. Printers are looking for ways to minimise their complexity and become more agile, and they therefore have a strong interest in universal ink systems that help to reduce downtimes via fewer cleaning processes and minimal ink stock requirements.

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