TheIJC USA’s debut shows potential for further growth

by David Savastano from “Ink World”

With more than 220 participants, 50 tabletops and 42 presentations, TheIJC makes a successful debut in the US.

USATheIJC20180420 1Rooms filled quickly for 42 technical presentations on two tracksFive years ago, The Inkjet Conference (TheIJC) was created by ESMA, the European Specialist Printing Manufacturers Association, along with drupa and sponsored by MS Italy, to highlight the expansion in industrial inkjet printing markets, including ceramics, textiles, ceramics and additive manufacturing. 

After four years of steady growth in Europe, ESMA decided to bring TheIJC to the US, debuting TheIJC USA at the Westin O’Hare, Chicago, IL from April 12-13, 2018. The show’s organizers said that the conference’s results confirmed its decision to expand into North America.

“We were glad to confirm the huge interest from the American inkjet market and at the same time witnessed a significant number of visitors from the Far East,” said Peter Buttiens, ESMA’s CEO. “Whether in Düsseldorf or in Chicago, TheIJC remains a truly international event.

“Having over 220 participants, 50 tabletops and over 40 presentations, is not only a great result for all who joined but also brought us close to the numbers from the inaugural European event in 2014,” Buttiens added. “The two-track format provided enough quality content for our demanding audience, which voted for the Best Speaker Awards – these were awarded to Jo Ann Arceneaux from Allnex and Martin Bailey from Global Graphics Software. TheIJC networking arena turned into a buzzing discussion platform from the very start of the conference.”

“We’ve come to the US because we see that there is a change in the way that inkjet is being used,” added Steve Knight, co-founder of TheIJC. “Now it is changing the way products are manufactured. The largest of these is ceramic tiles, now 80% of it is inkjet-printed. The adoption of inkjet is growing. One of our objectives is bringing together the inkjet community, from software and printheads and inks, and share the common knowledge.”

USATheIJC20180420 250 comapnies showcased their solutions in TheIJC networking arenaTheIJC featured new developments in inks, printheads, software and more. In his talk, “Kodak technology advancements: Expanding the boundaries of digital print,” Dan Denofsky of Kodak said there is room for growth.

“At the end of the day we are printing millions of pages a day on inkjet, but we are not printing trillions,” Denofsky added. “The critical factors inhibiting movement from analog to digital includes cost of print jobs, general issues of print quality (you can’t compromise on print quality and offset is the gold standard), issues with rub resistance, and issues printing on coated papers. There are some markets that have transferred to digital – book printing, transactional documents – but those are uncoated papers.” 

“Our mission is to convert as many pages as we can to digital,” Denofsky added. “We want to reach into packaging, labels, décor and higher end commercial printing. We don’t want to just print short runs and variable data.”

Inks were prominently featured during the conference. Dr Marc Graindourze of Agfa highlighted “Industrial inkjet printing solutions from the perspective of the ink design.” He noted Agfa’s recent sale of its single pass UV inkjet ink technology to Siegwerk, as well as recent Agfa developments.

“Siegwerk will now have our single pass UV inkjet inks for packaging and labels,” said Dr Graindourze. “There are many guidelines for migration sensitive applications such as packaging. Ink is part of a system approach. It is better to have one ink set and do different setups, depending on application, substrate and curing speed.

“UV inkjet offers greater adhesion on a wide variety of substrates and is high contrast,” Dr Graindourze added. “These UV inks are LED curable, and are very durable from adhesion, scratch resistance, solvent resistance. Water-based ink will be the solution for many applications as well, as you have a thin layer after drying. Ink design is a key chemical, engineering and application expertise.”

During his talk on “Aqueous ink solutions for digitally printed packaging”, Sun Chemical’s Brian Fauber discussed Aquacure, his company’s new water-based ink technology.

“Pigmented water-based inks are lower cost but there is a higher amount of work involved, such as curing, corona treatment, plasma treating and primer and overprint varnishes,” Fauber reported. “Energy curable inks don’t need a lot of extra interventions. Aquacure can go just about anywhere you want it to go – décor, publications, commercial print, gift wrap, nonwovens, paper towels and napkins and textiles.”

USATheIJC20180420 3Martin Bailey from Global Graphics Software and Jo Ann Arceneaux from Allnex won the Best Speaker AwardsDaisuke Hamada of Kao Collins discussed “Advances in water-based ink solutions.” “Penetration is the challenge for water-based inkjet inks on film,” Hamada noted. “The weakness of water-based inkjet ink is drying performance in non-absorbent substrates compared to energy curing and solvent-based. Smaller droplet size and faster dot expansion is key to faster drying. The water-based printing solution on films could be achieved by the combination of printhead, drying and inkjet ink technology. Polymer encapsulated pigment dispersions are a good solution for stability not only in the nozzle head but also on substrates. Ink formation can also improve the image quality minimizing color mixing.”

In his talk, “How Innovation of inkjet fluids opens up new opportunities,” Dr Dev Sarma of Inkjet, Inc. noted that his company specializes in continuous inkjet (CIJ) for primary packaging of food, beverage and other products. “Our thermochromic HyperCook ink turns green to blue during a 19-minute retort process, and is ideal for metal cans and plastic pouches,” Dr Sarma reported. “It dries in three seconds or fewer. People are demanding low solvent, low VOC technology. Dye-based inks are mature in the market, leading to low margins.”

“Niche markets are the target growth areas with better margins, including food grade inks, UV LED inks for printing or various print layers, functional coatings applications, printed electronics, MICR, water-based inks for printing on low surface energy substrates like plastics, and direct to garment/textile printing,” added Dr Sarma.

Dr Hamid M. Shirazi of Fujifilm Inkjet Technology closed the session with his talk on “Drivers and requirements for next generation digital textile inks.”

“Drivers for digital printing include sampling and proofing, short runs, inventory management, fast fashion cycles, personalization and customization,” Dr Shirazi said. “Dyes provide color brilliancy but poor lightfastness and require wet post process. Pigments have good lightfastness, dry heat fixation but lower chroma and pop relative to dyes. Customers want to replace reactive and disperse digital ink with pigment to eliminate wet process and waste. The market is looking for a ‘universal textile ink,’ with dye coloration effect with pigment multi-fiber compatibility and lightfastness and simple post process.”

Maciej Bochajczuk, Marketing and Communication Manager for ESMA, said that feedback was “extremely positive.” “The delegates praised both the presentations and the possibility of in-depth discussions with speakers and suppliers during the networking breaks and the evening reception,” Bochajczuk noted. “We saw the conference rooms filled for the high-level quality presentations, and before the event finished we received first requests for the further development of the concept in the USA. We are currently reviewing all participant feedback to schedule the next year’s edition.”

Buttiens said that the debut of the US edition is a clear sign of the growth in inkjet. “Working on TheIJC over the last five years, the growing US interest in inkjet technology became clear to us,” Buttiens reported. “Overall, Europe is still home to advances in inkjet engineering and chemistry, but it looks like it won’t take long for the American market to catch up. TheIJC can only help to stimulate this development by combining the very best from both sides of the Atlantic.”

TheIJC’s fifth annual inkjet conference will be held in Düsseldorf, Germany, from Oct. 16-17, 2018, with free inkjet workshops on Oct. 15th. More information and delegate registration via

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