New print systems and applications are driving ink suppliers to innovate.
At INX Digital, vice president of product development Karla Witte credits the increased use of rigid materials as a contributing factor in market growth. She points to larger, faster print systems as creating a need for high-performance UV inks. “Those demands require more gamut, faster cure rates, and a delicate balance between flexibility and a cross-linked surface,” she elaborates.
The need for speed is also figuring into the latest R&D on new inks – especially as print providers embrace UV LED print systems. “Ink-chemistry breakthroughs will have faster curing properties using unique photo initiators that cure faster with current LED lamp assemblies. Today, printheads can fire ink faster than the LED lamps can cure the inks,” says Paul McGovern, marketing and promotions manager for Mimaki USA.
And, no surprise here, as competition among print providers intensifies, they’re looking for ways to reduce costs wherever possible. That’s generating a call for more competitively priced inks, says Rich Dunklee, global marketing segment manager for UV and inkjet inks at Nazdar Ink Technologies. “We see a portion of the market looking for a high-quality alternative to OEM-furnished inks,” he observes. But, they want savings without sacrificing quality. “While a competitive price is important, consumers are finding that having an ink that matches or exceeds the performance of the OEM ink is of equal importance.”
At Bordeaux Digital PrintInk, marketing manager Kineret Muller says there’s increased demand for specialty ink formulations optimized to the capabilities of print providers’ hardware. “Customers are interested in specific solutions, so we are observing a need for dedicated solutions per machine,” she explains. “Changing ink from OEM is an important decision.”
Ink categories on the rise
As far as sales within individual ink categories go, the perspective on trends often depends on the vendor, the breadth of its particular product offerings, and its focus. Where there seems to be the most agreement is in growing interest in those formulations of ink technologies for the future: UV, UV LED, and latex.
“We continue to see significant growth in UV and UV LED, driven by improvements in the equipment in terms of quality, speed, and robustness,” notes Mitchell at Fujifilm