Demand drives new products and refinements, as ink producers court expanded opportunities.
John Kaiser, product marketing manager for inkjet inks at Fujifilm North America Corporation’s Graphic Systems Division, sees stable pricing with increased demand in some ink categories. “There continues to be digital ink growth at the expense of screen and offset, with UV digital again leading the way,” he says. “Digital ink demand at current customers is up over last year for both OEM and aftermarket printers.”
EFI also agrees that it’s a good year for UV: “We’re realizing significant growth with UV and LED inks”, reports Stephen J. Emery, senior director for the ink business at EFI. “Year over year, we’re experiencing over 30-percent volume growth with these inks. The majority of our customers are using more ink despite what seems to be a slow economy.”
He sees diminished demand for of solvent inks as print providers transition to UV and LED. “Overall, the digital printing print providers are always looking to reduce their cost per square foot/meter, [and] increase throughput and yield,” Emery notes. “In assessing these items, one has to look at the whole system to understand the total throughput and benefits and not just look at one component in isolation.” For instance, he notes LED-cured inks now enable EFI customers to work with traditionally difficult materials, such as thin films.
And, adds Emery, the white ink that’s available for EFI’s superwide printers, the Vutek family and the Jetrion 4900, mean more print options in more versatile print systems, he says. He describes white ink as “a feature that former screenprinters expect and that offset-litho printers moving to digital now appreciate because they can work with non-white materials including clear and metallic foils.”
Not that other types of inks aren’t viable in today’s market.
“We continue to see strong demand for solvent inks in price-sensitive regions,” says Inx Digital International president Ken Kisner. “North America and Europe have become more open-minded to using branded alternative supplies.” OEM brands, in response, he says “are introducing secondary lines or re-establishing their channels to become more competitive.” Consequently, Inx Digital is working closely with its OEM partners on product launches to bring new value to the market, with what he says will be “new and exciting special effects or with a new value proposition.”