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All-soy ink splashes into print.

All-Soy Ink Splashes Into Print

Think about the telltale signs of reading the morning newspaper. Yes, we're talking about black, messy ink that rubs off on your hands. It could be a thing of the past thanks to new inks made with a 100-percent soybean oil base developed by ARS scientists in Peoria, Illinois.

Chemist Sevim Erhan expects a wide and immediate use of both black and color soybean oil inks because "not only can they be made at a lower cost than petroleum-based inks, but the soy oil gives perfect penetration of the pigments into newsprint. It's this penetration that keeps the ink on the paper where it belongs," she says.

Blending an ink from soybean oil was tackled by the American Newspaper Publishers Association (ANPA) in the early 1980's.

ANPA's goal, which has not entirely been met, is to provide an ink with a stable price and one that is derived mainly from a renewable resource. To this end, they began experimenting with several ink formulations that were partly soy oil and partly petroleum products.

By 1985, ANPA developed a newsprint ink made from a soybean oil, petroleum, and carbon black pigment. But the hybrid ANPA ink which was about 30 percent soy oil cost 70 percent more than conventional petroleum inks - a bleak fact that kept it from being widely used.

Hybrid color inks, on the other hand, have been more readily accepted by the industry because they have proven cost competitive with traditional ink. Erhan explains that the cost of making colored soy inks is more compatible because the price is based more on the cost of the pigment than on the oil, and with soy oil in the base, the pigments go further.

Interest in the hybrid ANPA soybean color ink has grown so much that about a third of ANPA's members have already switched to partial soy-based color inks.

Erhan overcame the costliness of black and color soybean ink by formulating a lighter color vehicle to reduce the amount of pigment used and by displacing a more expensive petroleum resin. This should lower the cost of 100 percent soybean ink by making it go further.

Another reason Erhan expects her 100 percent soy-oil formulation to be adopted quickly by newspaper publishers is that the ink is completely compatible with newspaper printing presses now in use. No special or additional equipment would be needed to make the switch.

In 1987, an Iowa paper - the Cedar Rapids Gazette - was one of the first newspapers to do a press run using the ANPA-approved soy ink, both black and another color. "The test was so successful that we decided to completely convert to the soy color inks," says Lon Myers, director of operations for the Gazette. "We reduced the density of the black soy ink to compensate for the [remaining] ruboff problem that occurs. We're waiting for the word that a soy oil ink is available that won't smudge on your hands," he adds.

Myers also says that the cost of black soy ink is a consideration many newspaper publishers would face before they would make a switch from petroleum-based black ink formulations.

The secret of using natural oils to make inks was known as early as 2500 B.C., when the Egyptians and Chinese made inks from such things as berries, bark, linseed oil, and soot.

Richard Dunkle, director of ARS' National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, says that it is not surprising that the discovery and development of a cost-competitive soy oil ink should come from the Peoria labs. "Scientists here have been seeking new, commercial uses for agricultural crops for more than 50 years," he says.

Currently, production of the ANPA soy-based ink uses 5 to 10 million bushels of soybeans yearly. "The total potential, if all printers converted to 100-percent soy ink, could be about 100 million bushels," says Stu Ellis, Director of Domestic Marketing Programs for the American Soybean Association.

The two largest soybean-producing states promote use of soybean-oil-based inks. In Illinois, all state-funded printing must be done exclusively with soy oil inks. Two of Iowa's publications - the Iowa Farmer Today and the Cedar Rapids Gazette - were among the first to switch to partial soyoil inks.

Ink for every use - from money to paper grocery bags to business forms - requires a formula specifically developed for that use.

Erhan's ink formulations are easily adjustable to meet various needs. She says, "the ink formulas we've developed have a wide range of viscosity and tackiness." They should be a boon to printers looking for a quality ink and an easier clean-up. These factors are important considerations when making an ink to meet the demands of printers, each with slightly different needs.

Marvin Bagby, research leader in the Oil Chemical Research Unit, stresses the need to make products from renewable resources. "Our goal is to expand the market for agricultural crops in the 1990's," he says.

Erhan and Bagby have applied for a patent on the 100-percent soyoil ink and the process for making several formulas. Under a formal cooperative agreement with ARS, Flint Ink Corporation in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has agreed to do a study comparing the new ink with conventional printing ink.

Besides Illinois, six other states - Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin - have legislation passed or pending that requires use of soy ink on all printing jobs contracted by the state.

PHOTO : Soybean oil (left) gives a much lighter color vehicle for ink than a petroleum-based formula (right). (K-3617-6)

PHOTO : Chemists Sevim Erhan and Marvin Bagby check the density of type printed with all-soy ink. (K3999-12)

PHOTO : Chemist Sevim Erhan tests trapping capabilities - the ability to print a wet ink film over previously printed ink - of her experimental soy inks on the "Little Joe" printing press. (K-3997-16)
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Title Annotation:ink that is made from 100% soybean oil
Author:Cooke, Linda
Publication:Agricultural Research
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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