The biennial RadTech Europe Conference and Exhibition is a mainstay on the radiation curing industry’s calendar, across a wide range of downstream markets -- from printing and packaging to flooring, automotive, electronics, and consumer goods. 2013 was no exception. Around 400 delegates from the world of radiation curing converged on Basel’s Congress Centre last October, to explore the event’s headline theme: ‘UV/EB – growing through innovation’. The event was an opportunity to learn about what is new in the scientific arena, in regulatory and health and safety concerns, and in innovation across a broad spectrum of applications.
RadTech Europe 13 was not only the thirteenth such annual event, but also the opportunity to celebrate RadTech Europe’s 25 years as the professional pan-European association promoting the use of UV/EB curing technology for inks, coatings, and adhesives. ‘Curing’, says RadTech Europe President David Helsby, ’is a process in the manufacture of many products, and a key factor in finishing that makes fit-for-purpose goods’. The association’s high visibility within the industries it serves is, he adds, ‘a reflection of our exceptionally strong, expert membership, and of the committed volunteer teams that constitute our board, and the conference programme committee.
Current market profile for energy curing
With supply and demand of crude acrylic acid now very close, new capacity needs to be identified to keep the industry on track. In 2010, it represented 1.9% of the global coatings market, projected to grow by the end of 2013 to 3% and 3.9% in 2014. The Asia-Pacific region commands the major market share – 5.4%. Worldwide, usage is mostly in industrial coatings (44%), with OP lacquers a 21% share, electronics applications 19%, and printing inks 12%.
In Europe, it is the German-speaking countries – Germany, Austria, and Switzerland – that command by far the largest market share overall, 40%. In terms of end-use markets, wood coating is by far the most important, representing 38% of usage, with OP lacquers and printing inks in joint second place with 22% of the market.
According to The Global Radiation Cured Products Industry market report, produced by Kusumgar, Nerlfi & Growney, Inc. in the spring of 2013, the current market trends include ‘new applications such as inkjet, field applied floor coatings, and water-based UV could stimulate growth beyond modest growth prospects.'
There is also a current incursion of UV LED into traditional UV lamp territory – expected to grow at a CAGR of 43% through 2017, and new developments in 3D technology – once seen as prototyping, now often seen as OEM manufacture’.
Beyond these trends there is an exciting list of applications for radiation curing taken from RadTech Europe’s innovation sessions – which included such tasks as marble repair on and offsite; cosmetic fingernail decoration; repairs to car windscreens; dental curing tasks; textiles and clothing; inkjetted solar panels; membrane panels; and the production of contact lenses.
In the graphic arts markets, there are differences in predicted growth rates. Between 2011 and 2016, mainstream packaging use will grow at an estimated 24%, but UV inkjet print for labels and flexible packaging will see an estimated 250% growth over the same period.
Environmental considerations are as strong in the market for printing inks as elsewhere, and of all the environmentally-friendly ink technologies, UV inks are the fastest growing. UV inkjet inks are a major global growth opportunity, accelerating to an estimated 38% of the total market by 2017.
In industrial coatings, a geographical growth to the east of Europe is evidenced, alongside significant technology shifts reflecting increased emphasis on energy costs, weatherability and corrosion resistance, among other factors, and increased interest in water-based UV and EB systems.
Regulations and compliance
Regulatory and compliance requirements, from REACH and the Swiss and German ordinances to brand owner compliances and restrictions on components such as solvents and BPA create challenges for all curing systems – but radiation curing is well placed to meet them.
The real threats to the industry, today and tomorrow, are being described as ‘The Unpredictables’: volatility in crude oil and raw materials prices and availability, as well as in freight and interest rates, and fluctuations in currency and stock markets.
Specialist parallel conference sessions
The conference programme covered twelve specialist parallel sessions covering well over 90 well attended technical sessions. All proceedings of the RadTech Europe conference can be obtained in the online Knowledge Center of RadTech Europe (www.radtech-europe.com). The proceedings are included as articles and can be search by title, author and/or industry. RTE members can download the articles for free, non members pay a small amount per article.
RadTech Europe 13 combined outstanding networking opportunities across the whole supply chain and a formal conference agenda that unquestionably answered the chosen theme – growth through innovation.