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‘Critical’ shortage in ink raw materials

Wednesday, 01 August 2018
By Graham Osborne
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Ink prices look certain to rise once again, with leading global supplier Sun Chemical warning that some raw materials are now at such critically low levels that it’s being forced to use “alternative materials” as substitutes.

“We’d need do all the trials and testing to make sure any substitutes were compliant with NICNAS”:  Ian Johns, MD DIC ANZ.

In the latest round of price hikes just last month, Sun increased its UV and electron beam inks by 4%-6%, Flint Group announced a 6% price increase in its offset inks and coatings, BASF raised global prices for bismuth pigments by 15%, and German manufacturer Hubergroup increased its ink prices by 6%-8%.

In an update to customers this week, Sun Chemical CMO Felipe Mellado says the ongoing shortage of raw materials could result in supply disruption for at least the next two to three months.

“Unfortunately, the manufacturing and supply of this feedstock has been further delayed due to inspections still ongoing regarding compliance with Chinese environmental regulations,” says Mellado. “Furthermore, this supply disruption is impacting several photoinitiators beyond our initial communication.

“This means that supplies of these photoinitiators are now at critically low levels globally, which is impacting our ability to manufacture and supply inks to our customers on a timely basis. We do not anticipate the situation will be resolved soon. In fact, we expect the supply shortage will be a reality for at least the next two to three months. This is an industry-wide shortage affecting all UV ink manufacturers.

Mellado says Sun Chemical has been forced to substitute “alternative materials” to cope with the supply shortages.

“As the world’s leading ink supplier, we continue to secure all volume available in the market as well as continue to work on qualifying suitable alternative materials,” he says. “To manage materials effectively, it will continue to be necessary to offer inks formulated with alternative materials at short notice. You will be advised when this is the case. We will need your collaboration to validate these inks rapidly to maintain service levels to the best of our ability. We will make our best attempts to supply inks within the same specification and performance characteristics. Furthermore, we may also need to limit orders in excess of historical consumption. This situation is increasing the cost of remaining photoinitiator materials significantly and alternative materials are also affected.”

Sun Chemical is a member of the DIC group, a leading producer of printing inks, coatings and supplies, pigments, polymers, liquid compounds, solid compounds, and application materials.

Ian Johns, managing director of DIC Australia/DIC New Zealand, says any substitute raw materials coming into Australia would need to comply with the Federal Government’s strict National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS). “We’d need do all the trials and testing to make sure any substitutes were compliant with NICNAS and that they performed equally as well, with no detriment to product performance.”

DIC ANZ raised its prices earlier this year and more rises are on the way. “There are quite a few areas of critical shortages and that’s been going on for some time now,” says Johns. “A lot of it is being driven by China where they’ve closed down many raw materials manufacturers and put a lot of pressure on the supply of pigments. Cost is something we have to keep an eye on. We predict that over the next six months, we are going to have to consider another rise in prices.”

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