Lord Byron, the English poet, politician and one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement once said, "A drop of ink may make a million think." The ink, a humble creation by the Ancient Egyptians and Chinese centuries ago is an often overlooked part of our everyday lives. With the advent of technology, our use of ink has been greatly reduced while the humble ink remains an indelible part of our everyday working lives as we continue printing and writing. Kaolin, talc, ground calcium carbonate and precipitated calcium carbonate are some of the typical minerals used in Inks. Imerys remains a key supplier to the ink industry and a partner in providing solutions for this less visible but important market.
Driven by China, India and a host of fast-growing countries in the South-East Asian region, Asia Pacific has become the world’s largest market for printing ink with an estimated sales of $7.5 billion annually. The region is also a cluster of the ink industry, with world famous ink producers such as DIC, Tokyo Ink all headquartered in Japan with a strong presence across the region. Another key player, Hubergroup, is the sixth-largest ink global supplier also known as the largest ink manufacturer in India.
The ink market has a number of ink variants like offset, flexo and gravure inks. Offset ink forms a sizable share of the market (approx ~40%). It is a highly viscous, paste-like ink which is used in packaging, magazine, newspapers and brochures. It is one of the most popular ink types in Asia Pacific with many formulations being developed in China and Japan, the market leaders in the region. The most popular mineral used for off-set ink is specialty precipitated calcium carbonate in its coated form. It works as an extender, reducing the overall formulation cost and extending the desired properties of the final product. Specialty PCC provides higher gloss, better colour strength (vs GCC), low abrasion and good rheology control.
Fatty acid coating and rosin coating are the main formulation types in APAC. Rosin, or sometimes better known as gum rosin is a solid form of resin obtained from pines and other plants. It consists of various resin acids and has good compatibility with organic materials. Main regions of production include Indonesia, Southern China, Vietnam and Mexico. The origins of how rosin started becoming a commonplace coating for PCC in Japanese formulations is still murky but one contributing factor is the ease of access to rosin supply sources within Asia Pacific. Performance wise, rosin coated PCC is also able to improve transparency, gloss and compatibility with other organic materials in the formulation.
Given the regional market demand for this type of coating, Imerys' sales team in APAC decided to take steps to address this gap in the portfolio. A tolling partner in east Asia with a long history producing consistent quality PCC was identified and commercial discussions kicked off. Samples were produced and tested at a few customers. Initial failure of the grade at end customers led to some process improvements to make an improved version and soon enough, Socal® R11 was born. Since then, this product has been commercialized at several customers in the Asia Pacific region.
Even with the general downward trend of printing and writing materials worldwide, our teams in Asia are optimistic that they can grow this business. With this complementary product in our portfolio we can now offer ink formulators a one-stop-shop solution for their mineral needs.