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FLEXO Magazine : May 2012
Technologies & Techniques White Ink, Opacity and Cost Why Titanium Dioxide is a Material To Be scrutinized By Michael impastato Hyper-activity in the ink and coating raw material mar- kets extended throughout 2011. It was a year where nearly every class of raw material was impacted by price increases. No other material saw more cost pres- sure than titanium dioxide (TiO2). TiO2 costs increased 40-50 percent in 2011 and are continuing to increase in 2012. By the end of the year, TiO2 could be nearly double the cost it was just a couple of years ago. This pigment is used in almost all white inks. It is the pigment that produces the white color and the ingredient in the white ink that provides the opacity. Since the industry has seen large increases in the cost of TiO2–as well as white ink—there have been questions about what can be done to mitigate the cost impact. A printer often purchases white ink for its opacity attribute. In fact, one could look at this as buying opacity instead of ink. The higher the opacity the more value delivered. WHAT’S THE SECRET? The refractive indices of the pigment and the medium, the particle size and distribution of the pigment, the propor- tion of pigment in the vehicle, as well as the thickness of the applied film all influence an ink’s hiding strength, or opacity. When we go to the paint store and buy white paint it contains some TiO2 A SIGNIFICANT SUBSTANCE • Titanium dioxide, used in almost all white inks, is not only the pigment that produces the white color, but it is also the ingredient in the white ink that provides the opacity • The cost of titanium dioxide increased 40-50 percent in 2011. By the end of 2012, the pigment could be nearly double the cost it was just a few years ago • White ink has always carried the lowest cost of any ink. While this still may be the case, white ink has an increasingly larger cost impact • Because there is no alternative for titanium dioxide, the industry must work to minimize the cost impact through effective procurement, sourcing and mea- surement • Large and small printers alike must track opacity closely—it can dramatically alter the amount of white ink used and consequently impact costs 30 FLeXO May 2012 www.flexography.org Titanium Dioxide in its raw form (inset and below) is an essential ingredient in white ink manufacturing (above). Photos: Flint group.