Asked at the recent PRINTING United Expo what is new with ink manufacturer INX International, Paul Edwards, the company’s vice president, digital division, shared a change in strategy. “We’re making a stronger move toward packaging,” he said. “If you look at trends, you can see the packaging opportunity growing.” For a company that is already firmly planted in the packaging space, that speaks volumes about the opportunity.
Among the company’s growing areas of focus, he said, are metal packaging and direct-to-object printing. INX parent company, Sakata, has strong technology in water-based inkjet, which Edwards says will help INX deliver ink in a way that is environmentally favorable, more recyclable, and safer. He says these enhancements will help, “bring regulatory things under control.”
This change in direction, Edwards says, also includes doing less aftermarket ink production and focusing more on OEM. “The focus is shifting,” he adds. The move, he says, is being driven by customer demand, as is the drive toward sustainability.
While INX has a hardware division, Edwards says the goal of the company is not on building and selling technology. Instead, the company will focus on print engine concepts that seamlessly integrate system design, print heads, and ink performance. From there, he says, INX will look to license these concepts to equipment manufacturers.
Trends in Packaging
The trends Edwards is seeing in the packaging segment are many – each worthy of deeper exploration:
• Digital printing will drive “big growth” in the two-piece can space.
• Further acceleration in the label space.
• The label space being “squeezed” by direct digital in some spaces.
• Some packaging applications (bags, for instance) “flexing” as equipment print width grows.
• Growing use of digital printing for flexible packaging.
• Improvements in inkjet ink migration to avoid direct food contact, even for UV inks. “I see a path,” he adds.
• Improvements in print heads and differentiation of inks will bring improvements moving forward.
• New products including washable inks, barrier coatings to allow increased use of paper-based packaging, security inks. “Pretty interesting,” he says with a smile.
When You Choose, Choose Well
Edwards elaborated on the importance of the ink manufacturer in the equation that brings overall printing success. He said ink companies may be chosen for any or all of a variety of reasons: technology, vision, environmental performance, safety, their “fit” with the customer, or service. Further, he said that for an ink company to bring value to the users of its products, it must be able to anticipate technology, and create a roadmap for success; understand printing systems; and possess “commitment and credential” for environmental impact.
Finally, Edwards highlighted the value of service on behalf of an ink manufacturer – not just to make a good product, but to help their customers be successful. “There is a gap to fill. Analog or digital, we want to keep that customer.”