It’s well-known that BASF offers a wide variety of resins and additives for the print and packaging industry, but the history behind them is rarely talked about.
Significant milestones and innovations over the years have led to resins that are easier to apply while offering strong performance and reduced environmental impact. These changes have impacted the printing industry as a whole, establishing BASF as a market leader in innovation.
JONCRYL® resins and dispersions, in particular, are a line of products whose long history and innovations has influenced market-wide sustainability initiatives and performance advancements.
The early days of JONCRYL
JONCRYL was developed by Johnson Polymer in the 1960’s as an answer to demand for an effective water-based floor coating that was also strippable. Chemists soon realized that polymers with these properties could be formulated for use in other industries as well.
“Chemists at Johnson Polymer had the idea to see if similar technologies could be used in printing applications,” explains David Tappa, Technical Manager at BASF. “The JONCRYL polymers were the original binder used for water-based printing inks that enabled the conversion from traditional solvent-borne technologies.”
The chemical properties of these polymers allowed for greater application flexibility on a wider variety of substrates, including paper, with lower VOC emissions.
“If you were printing a water-based printing ink or coating and it were to dry during the printing process, it would readily re-dissolve in itself so you could still print cleanly and have good print quality,” says Tappa. “That quickly became a preferred technology for printing on paper and paperboard.”
Early JONCRYL products were often named with just two digits, including JONCRYL 89, JONCRYL 74 and JONCRYL 77, and these products remain staples in many industries today.
“The story that I was told is that there was a very concerted product development effort for these new waterborne products,” says Tappa. “They were developed very quickly, so some of them were literally named from the notebook page that they were assigned.”
BASF acquired Johnson Polymer in 2006, thereby adding the JONCRYL line of products to its expansive portfolio.
The rise of water-based solutions
JONCRYL products played a significant role in the industry-wide shift to water-based inks and coatings during the 1970’s and 80’s, when more customers started seeking high-performance inks with minimal environmental impact.
Water-based inks and coatings release little or no VOCs and contain fewer harmful chemicals than solvent-based solutions, an important property in the face of ever-tightening regulations and increasing public scrutiny.
“As a market leader in water-based technologies, we're doing everything we can to enable the conversion to water-based inks and coatings,” says Tappa. “In many cases we believe it is the most sustainable process for printing.”
One particularly influential product line is JONCRYL HPD, or high-performance dispersions, formulated for use in preparing pigment dispersions or pigment concentrates. These dispersions were a breakthrough for water-based printing, as they allowed for higher color strength printing inks to be used for high-quality imaging.
“JONCRYL HPD really allowed for higher color strength printing inks,” says Simon Foster, Industry Marketing Manager at BASF. “That’s important for high-resolution printing, so because we've developed these very concentrated, high color strength and stable pigment concentrates, it allowed for the continued improvement in quality and growth of water-based flexography.”
The BASF advantage
The acquisition of Johnson Polymer by BASF allowed for a greater focus on the development of innovative water-based resins and emulsions, spurring the development of new products with more capabilities.
“Our customers value our commitment to the industry,” says Tappa. “I think for some suppliers of water-based polymers, this is seen as more of an opportunistic or adjacent market, whereas the printing and packaging industry is an important part of BASF’s core strategy. This is an area that we continue to invest in and prioritize.”
BASF’s strong market presence also has R&D advantages, thanks to the institutional knowledge from longevity in the industry and the extensive experience held by BASF chemists.
“Just as we have brought innovations to this market in the past, in the more than 50 years that JONCRYLs have been in the market, we're also thinking about what they can do for packaging going forward,” says Foster.
Future innovations in resins
BASF is continually developing and researching advancements for water-based resins and emulsions, with new and exciting products on the horizon, including JONCRYL HPB 1702 and the JONCRYL HPB 4K Series.
“JONCRYL HPB 1702 is an acrylic emulsion for grease resistance,” explains Foster. “This is a component that a customer could use in a formulation to provide grease resistance to a paper or a cardboard package. Currently that performance property is often provided by fluorochemicals.”
Some additional products under the JONCRYL HPB line include water-based emulsions for paper cups, many of which are notoriously unrecyclable due to the plastic coating they contain. JONCRYL HPB 4000 (or 4K)-series products may help solve this problem, as they support formulation of a water-based coating that enables the production of recyclable hot and cold cups.
Innovative solutions such as JONCRYL HPB 4K and JONCRYL HPB 1702 signify BASF’s commitment to the pursuit of effective and sustainable solutions for a wide variety of industries, and a number of effective and environmentally conscious products are planned for the future.
“We want to demonstrate that we as BASF, through our acquisitions and the history of our products, are in this industry for the long-term and will continue to support these important industries,” says Foster. “We're going to continue to make a significant mark on the industry, whether it's on the sustainability front or in more traditional applications, by rethinking and innovating. Always trying to reinvent and redevelop some of our products to make customers more successful.”
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