Pigment industry executives discuss how pigments play a role in the ink industry’s drive for sustainability.
The ink industry is always looking for ways to improve sustainability. Pigments typically make up the largest percentage of an ink formulation. While it is difficult to make a 100% sustainable pigment, pigment manufacturers do incorporate some sustainable materials in their products while also improving their manufacturing process.
Rachel Li, segment marketing manager for FUJIFILM Ink Solutions Group, noted that pigmented inkjet technology is the best in terms of environmental impact for textile manufacturing.
“In textile, Fujifilm is supporting the drive for pigment ink technology as a process that has lower environmental impact than dye-based printing which is currently the most popular digital process,” said Li. “Dye uses more water and energy throughout the manufacturing and printing processes. Advances in ink technology will be the main factor to enable pigment inks to further expand their application range in fashion textiles: to achieve better softness and color vibrancy.
Li also observed that in commercial printing, Fujifilm believes inkjet pigment inks are a more sustainable solution compared to dye.
“In packaging, ink formulations need to be compatible with more sustainable and recyclable substrates like polyolefins and polyesters,” Li added. “Lower energy (lower heat) drying allows thinner materials to be used. For pigment to be a suitable replacement technology, high functionality inks are required, and the quality of the pigment dispersion is critical to enabling this. As a dispersion supplier, Fujifilm is working with its customers to enable advances in pigment ink technology and in its own inks. The high stability of Fujifilm’s RxD dispersions gives the ink formulator the widest formulation window to work with, allowing the choice of a wide variety of components to enable ink performance, reduced ink usage, compatibility with sustainable materials, or to use more sustainable components in the formulation.”
Pravin Chaudhary, CEO – special projects for Pidilite, noted that sustainability is a topic gaining high prominence in every discussion with global ink manufacturers.
“Pigment making is highly natural resource intensive,” said Chaudhary. “Governments around the world are tightening regulations with regards to air and water pollution. In India, sustainability reporting is mandatory in financial reports. Pidilite took many initiatives in moving dependance from fossil fuel to renewable energy, units are ZLD (zero liquid discharge), and we are first among many companies to publish sustainability reports certified by external auditors, while also practicing good human resource management.
“All these initiatives form a strong foundation to support our customers in reducing their carbon footprint,” Chaudhary added. “From time to time, ink manufacturers request pigment modifications to reduce impurities which are harmful for the end user. Pidilite has been the front runner in closely working with them and offering products which meet ever demanding regulations.”
“To make a pigment that is 100% sustainable is very difficult if the requirement for cost, performance, shade, color strength etc. is being viewed as unchangeable, in other words, if we can’t drift from these standards,” said Mike Rester, market segment manager, printing at Heubach Group. “We do incorporate some portions of sustainable materials, for instance in our quinacridone chemistries. Heubach’s quinacridone pigments can be partially made with bio-based raw materials while maintaining the same high quality and performance. The usage of bio-based raw materials reduces CO2 emissions by up to 33%.
“Another way we are making an impact is energy consumption,” Rester added. “By changing our process steps to lower this demand, the treatment and handling of wastewater by responsible use of resources means continuously reducing the volume of waste and increasing the treatment and recycling rate.”
“As a California-based manufacturer, we are subject to strict air quality rules and continuously look to ways to reduce our carbon footprint further,” said Darren Bianchi, president of Brilliant Color. “We evaluate new raw materials and keep working to make manufacturing more energy efficient.”
Suzana Rupcic, head of global segment management merchant inks, color materials, Sun Chemical, observed that the pigment market is expanding its sustainability goals and requirements industry wide.
“Pigment manufacturers are looking for ways to make their products more sustainable, whether it be substituting more eco-friendly ingredients, or sourcing from suppliers who can demonstrate their sustainability efforts,” Rupcic noted. “There is a clear demand for sustainable products. To keep up with customer needs, manufacturers must modify the way they develop pigments.
“At Sun Chemical, we offer a variety of sustainable pigments that provide answers for compostability in package printing or sensitive applications to protect human health,” Rupcic added. “The right pigment chemistry supports a product’s overall compliance with compost purity limits. The printing ink, including the pigment, which remains on surface of a compostable package must stay within the EN 13432 regulation limits. Relevant components include, for example, volatile matter, heavy metal, and fluorine. Benefiting from our long-term experience with purity limits for sensitive applications like food contact materials or toys, we have built a comprehensive pigment portfolio that complies with the highest purity standards to support a sustainable future.”
Mark Ryan, marketing manager for Shepherd Color, said that Shepherd Color is proactively looking at sourcing, production, and pigment properties for ways to increase sustainability in a broad sense.
“We are also working with customers to address their specific sustainability metrics and goals by participating in third-party audits and rating programs,” Ryan noted. “Sustainability can mean different things to different entities. At our most basic level we are a company that invests energy to make new chemicals with beneficial properties. We need to ensure that these are good investments.”
“Orion takes sustainability very seriously,” said Carlos Hernandez, marketing manager, Coatings & Printing Systems Americas for Orion Engineered Carbons. “We have announced our ambition to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. As our CEO Corning Painter said, climate change presents an existential threat to our industry, but also an opportunity for companies like Orion to develop innovative solutions to our challenges.
Hernandez noted that Orion has been working with different approaches to tackle these opportunities, specifically for the printing industry, by developing “green” carbon black.
“Renewable oil, which is already technically feasible, will be an important feedstock,” Hernandez added. “Using renewable oil as a feedstock is one of the most capital-efficient means of decarbonizing the production process within the confines of the currently visible technology trends. However, there are several challenges along the road to fully substituting renewable oil for fossil fuels in carbon black production.”
Tim Polgar, sales manager for Liberty Specialty Chemicals, noted that Liberty Specialty Chemicals works with its customers to fulfill their requirements based upon their forecasting.
“Liberty Specialty Chemicals carries a buffer amount of inventory to iensure we can handle the peaks of new or un-forecasted business,” Polgar added. “This business model that we have in place have proven results that we can guarantee customers sustainability.”
Phillip Myles of Colourscapes reported that sustainability is a concern, especially for the larger ink makers, as the last years have shown continuity of supply is no longer guaranteed.
“The ink makers see sustainability as both the product’s availability, and its ongoing compliance to regulations,” Myles added.
Neil Hersh, head of marketing and technical services for Eckart America Corporation, noted that sustainability is a broad topic, encompassing many aspects such as climate neutral (CO2 emissions), recycling (sorting, de-inking), bio-based raw materials and more.
“There needs to be close collaboration throughout the entire supply chain, including effect pigment suppliers, ink manufacturers, printers, and brand owners to better understand the market needs, as well as for conducting tests to have data for making claims and for validating specific outcomes,” Hersh said.
Author: Ink World Magazine