Painting safer world

Painting a safer world with organic pigments

9:39 AM, 8th November 2016
The changing preference by customers is forcing the ink and dye industry to change its manufacturing tactics and bring in new technological advances to meet the global demand.
The changing preference by customers is forcing the ink and dye industry to change its manufacturing tactics and bring in new technological advances to meet the global demand.

What would life be without colours! From clothes to walls, to food and even its packet, colour is an integral part of our lives. Riding on this market demand is the ink and dye industry, which simply won’t fade away from growth prospects. However, this industry is seeing some of the most challenging transformations of all times.

By Debarati Das

Nowadays the global dye industry is facing some of the biggest challenges of all times - demand for organic pigments, stringent rules over food and food packaging colours, drastic fall of the print industry, are just the beginning of the list. And although, colours wouldn’t fade away from the face of the world, stern protests from all quarters of the society for safe dyes and pigments has led the industry with just one solution - Evolve!

These challenges are simply bringing out the best from the global dye makers. With new technology and ideas in place, the world is about to get a fresh coat of colour on it!

Market Dynamics - From West to East

The ink and dye industry is an integral part of a huge gamut of industries including textiles, leather, plastics, paints, printing, pharmaceuticals, food, food packaging to name a few.

The global market of dyes and organic pigments is expected to witness a growth of 6 percent per year to be valued at $19.5 billion in 2019, as per Freedonia Group report. However, while the growth in the west is slowly becoming stagnant, the new age growth story of ink and dye is being written in Asia.

The global dye manufacturing industry was originally dominated by suppliers from Europe namely UK, Switzerland, Germany but it is now shifting to Asia. Experts suggest that while China will remain the dominant player in the market, India, Bangladesh and Vietnam will also witness rapid growth in the coming years. The shift is predominantly due to lower costs of production, growing prominence of global textile industry and the rise in consumer spending ability of the middle class in the Asia Pacific.

Textile alone accounted for over half of world dye and organic pigment demand in 2014, and the radical rise of demand for textiles witnessed in China and India will further amplify the demand for dyes. Furthermore, consumer preferences for new, unusual textile colours, which are environment-friendly will give rise to higher value products in the industry.

The strong growth in construction activities will boost demand in paints and coatings with a special preference for expensive, higher value paints. According to reports, North America will witness strong growths in paints and coatings applications due to rising construction expenditures. North America has also become a huge consumer of organic pigments, while in Asia-Pacific iron oxides usage dominates the regional consumption with rising growth potential of carbon black pigments. The usage of pigments is seeing a strong growth in paints and varnishes globally followed by plastics. Rising awareness about health issues related to dyes has also brought about a demand for environment friendly, safe and organic pigments.

Challenging Market Segments

While the ink and dye industry has witnessed adequate growth opportunities, this sector is also facing its share of challenges. The drastic fall in the global printing industry and the trend towards e-books and papers has subsequently led to the downslide of inks industry.

Furthermore, the global fluctuation in automobile industry and frequent slowdowns in this sector has pulled the reins of the fast advances in the paints and coatings industry.

Trends in Technological Advances

The changing preference by customers is forcing the ink and dye industry to change its manufacturing tactics and bring in new technological advances to meet the global demand.

Printing Technologies:

The drastic decline in the overall printing industry due to a closure of newspaper printing, rise of e-books and advertisers increasingly using other media to reach consumers has majorly affected the printing ink market. However, this decline has made way for new technological developments and increasing demand for digital inks. The growth of digital printing has brought in new demands on the pigments with specific requirements like a quality of dispersion, viscosity and consistency.

Energy curing technology: To meet this demand, there has been significant growth of energy curing technologies, which gave rise to alternative ink types, such as ultraviolet (UV) and electron beam (EB) inks. Energy curing technologies have also been growing in popularity due to their utility, eco-friendly standing, viscosity stability & compatibility and usefulness in a wide range of applications. Unlike other methods of curing, exposure to light is comparably non-hazardous and typically less expensive than conventional coatings.

UV inks consist of chemicals, which dry more or less instantly when exposed to ultraviolet light. They can be used on a greater variety of substrates like plastics, vinyl, foil, paperboard, and other speciality substrates and offer increased health and safety for press operators and the environment. EB curing is similar to UV- the ink contains fluid oligomers and monomers that, when exposed to a beam of high-energy electrons, release free radicals that cause the polymerization (or curing) of the ink.

“The EB process opens the door for printing on thin films and foils. Ebeam should also offer advantages for companies wanting to print low migration labels and packaging for food applications,” said Kristin Adams, marketing manager for Collins Inkjet Corporation.

The primary advantage of EB curing inks is that they don’t require photo initiators, as the electron beam is powerful enough to start the polymerization process. Due to this, EB inks are less expensive, clean up with water rather than solvents, are low-migration, and are safe & non-toxic, which makes them ideal for food and pharmaceutical packaging, especially thin films and foils.


According to Research and Markets report, the global dyestuff for a textile market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.67 percent over the period 2015-2019. The dyestuff is used to colour a wide range of textile fibres such as polyester fibres, nylon fibres, acrylic fibres, and other fibres. Polyester fibre is the most widely used variety of textile fibre and is the largest product segment of the global dyestuff market for textile fibres. The rising demand from the end-user industries such as home textiles, apparels, automotive textiles, and other textiles is also accelerating the growth in this industry.

In a textile segment, disperse and reactive dyes is commonly used to colour polyester and cotton, respectively which represent nearly half of total world dye demand. China manufactures and exports disperse dyes in large quantities. Similarly, India is one of the biggest producers of reactive dyes in the world.

Waterless technologies:

Environmental concerns are driving the textile industry to change its manufacturing tactics. Dye manufacturers use large amount of water and chemicals in its processes, releasing the wastewater into the sea, polluting the environment.

To address this issue, waterless dyeing technologies are being developed and deployed to reduce pollution. The use of water is cut to near-zero, significantly diminishing the pollution. The decreased use of chemicals for dyeing will increase the speed of dyeing cycles, leading to less energy consumption. This, in turn, will reduce the cost of textile dyes propelling the market growth.

Many emerging economies are gradually switching to dyeing textiles with liquefied carbon dioxide instead of water to address the water issue. Nano-ecological dyeing is also an emerging concept, to bring in ‘the sustainability’ factor.

The concept of AirDye technology, which makes use of air instead of water in textile dyeing, is also quickly picking up pace in the developing countries. This method consumes 95 percent less water and up to 86 percent less energy as compared to the traditional dyeing methods.

Eco-friendly dyes:

There is also an increase in the demand for natural dyes or eco-friendly dyes. Vendors are focusing on shifting from chemical dye manufacturing to value-added offerings. A sharp fall in the current market offering such as distinct basic dyes, direct, mordant, vat dyes and reactive & disperse dyes is expected in the near future making way for natural dyes.

Synthetic dye also has adverse effects on the health of people and the environment due to which emerging economies are shifting to natural dyes instead. Several developed countries have imposed a ban on the import of synthetic dyes. Use of azo dyes is banned in developing countries like India owing to its environmental and health impacts.

All these factors have led to the use of dyes made out of Cochineal dactylopius, Indigofera tinctora, Haematoxylum campechianum, Rubia tinctorum, Maclura pomifera, Punica granatum, Schinopsis lorentzii, Reseda luteola, etc.

Food and Food Packaging:

While printing industry has seen a downturn, it is seeing hike in demand in packaging industry, especially food & pharmaceutical packaging. However, global awareness about food safety has increased the scrutiny over the colours and pigments used not just in food products but also in food packaging. Studies have shown that certain components, even those in indirect contact, may migrate into the food or beverage under certain conditions. As a result, certain mineral oil saturated and aromatic components used in printing inks have been identified as an area of growing concern. This has led to various measures to eliminate undesirable migration of ink into food. Factors like package design, material selection in ink, adhesive and coating formulations, and use of recycled paper and paperboard are being brought under additional scrutiny.

The rise in FDA regulations in most countries has also forced more and more companies to comply with the global standards and regulations. There is a greater demand for higher quality and more consistent pigments that are colour stable, viscosity stable, compatible with a wide range of resin systems, and print on a wide variety of substrates.

This has led to the growth of a wider variety of colours and special effect pigments and increased the need for a wider selection of pigment colour index types and special mica and metallic pigments.

It has been found that the potential for ink migration into the packaging is less with aqueous inks, driving the packaging ink trend toward aqueous inks. Organic pigments and extensive range of FDA approved pigments are increasingly being used by the industry.

“In the packaging ink market segment, the trend in the market is moving toward functional and sensory packaging. The packaging market faces different challenges than other market segments, such as low migration, the push toward smaller package size, recyclability and other efforts to reduce the impact of packaging on the environment,” said Peter O’Loughlin, director of marketing for performance pigments, Sun Chemical.

“These trends in the packaging inks market have resulted in a greater demand for higher quality and more consistent pigments that are both colour stable and viscosity stable, compatible with a wide range of resin systems, and print on a wide variety of substrates,” he added.

Eco friendly/Organic pigments:

Organic pigments will witness an overall growth in the market share due to the general shift in market preference towards eco-friendly and safe manufacturing. Printing inks, coatings, plastics, textiles, construction are some of the industry with is witnessing a drastic shift towards organic pigments globally.

“Our customers are increasingly looking for pigments and resins that can be used in environmentally-friendly waterborne systems and maintain the same performance requirements as solvent-borne systems,” said Mehran Yazdani, president, Sun Chemical Advanced Materials.

These transformations are revolutionizing ink and dyes used in various day-to-day applications and products. And with these changes, this world is moving towards being colorful, bright, yet a safer place to live in.

Reality Checks

The unprecedented growth of the global dye industry has gone through the following reality checks:

Environmental/Health Awareness: The grave implications of chemical dyes have triggered the demand for environment friendly natural dyes and organic pigments. The movement started with the banning of Azo dyes in most parts of the world.

Need for R&D: The industry needs financial investments and support from government and trade organizations to uplift a country’s dye industry by bringing in new technologies and path-breaking researches.

Handling the problem of plenty: With the shift of the global industry to the East, countries like China and India have dramatically increased their production capacity. However, the governments need to be prepared to handle the overcapacity and price volatility due to the sudden production outburst and price volatility.

Product quality V/s competitive prices: Factors that sustain the fierce competition are high quality products with competitive pricing. This can only be achieved by high-end technology and research to stay in sync with global demands. Low-cost production and labour cost should not lead to inferior product quality.

Stringent regulations: Governments need to play a bigger role in the growth of the dye manufacturing industry by making rules and regulations which support the industry to spread its wings within and outside the country.

© Chemical Today Magazine


See the Story Coverage in Chemical Today magazine (Pg 24)



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