India to clock blanket sales of USD 55 million - The Noel DCunha Sunday Column

This is the number Stratview Research’s study of the printing blanket has to show . The study of the printing blankets market over the trend period of 2013 to 2018 and the forecast period of 2019 to 2024 has estimated that the global demand for printing blanket will reach USD 855.6-million in 2024.

In this Sunday Column, PrintWeek shares excerpts, plus talks to Indian blanket suppliers and looks at how to maximise the blanket’s potential

24 Nov 2019 | By Noel D'Cunha

India is the third-largest market in the Asia-Pacific region after China and Japan. India will clock an annual sales of USD 55 million in 2024. This means the highest growth during 2019-2024. Stratview Research, in its latest published report, has forecasted that the global demand for printing blankets will reach USD 855.6 million in 2024. 

Organic growth of the offset printing market, expanding the packaging industry, growing advertising industry, and increased focus towards the development of eco-friendly blankets are the major factors, catapulting the growth of printing blankets market.

Stratview Research, in its latest published report, has forecasted that the global demand for printing blankets will reach US$ 855.6 million in 2024. Organic growth of the offset printing market, expanding the packaging industry, growing advertising industry, and increased focus towards the development of eco-friendly blankets are the major factors, catapulting the growth of printing blankets market.

The report has analysed the demand patterns for different regions as well. According to the report, Asia-Pacific is the largest as well the fastest-growing market having a share of over 40% in the global demand, driven by significant economic development in the region, increasing disposable income, surging demand for flexible and easy to carry packaging, and vastly expanded print media industry. China and India are the growth engines of the region’s market, propelled by huge consumer base, significant economic growth, and consistent supply chain.

India, which is the third largest market in Asia-Pacific region after China and Japan, will clock an annual sales of USD 55 million in 2024, witnessing the highest growth during 2019-2024.

Suresh Shah, Suresh Shah, managing director at Nulith Graphics, estimates the present annual blanket sale in India to be around USD 35-million. Among the blanket players, Vishal Ladda, director at Vishal Print Trader, whose products range from inks, varnish, plates, press room chemicals from Varn, Cow and Day rubber blankets with converting unit, Policrom underpacking and varnishing plates, shared his numbers. “Our total turnover in 2019 was Rs 81-crore out of which blanket was about Rs 18-cr,” he says.

Market trend

According to Ladda digitisation is a boon, but it has also brought in a lot of negative effects on the printing industry directly or indirectly.

Ladda says, “People have moved to e-versions of newspapers, magazines, brochures, etc. So if our presses don't print, what would we supply as a printing consumable distributor? Therefore, we have seen a slowdown in commercial and web offset sector in the past two three years. We have also observed an upward trend in packaging because things are changing rapidly in this sector. We all buy goods which have a great packaging and it’s sustainable. Packaging speaks about the product and that's the reason why packaging is growing at faster than any other sector in the printing industry.” 

Printing blanket is an imperative part of the offset printing process as it is the final point of contact between the printed substrate and press. The main function of the blanket is to transfer the inked image from the plate to the substrate in the most efficient manner. The substrate may vary from paper to aluminium sheet to textile to any other substrates, such as plastics and metals.

In early days, blankets were made from pure rubber that gave a much superior quality of image than lithographic plates used at that time, but it had its drawbacks. In the 1930s, the origination of synthetic rubber eliminated the problems inherent from the pure rubber, previously used. Today, the blankets are made by using different synthetic rubbers to increase their resistance.

The primary synthetic rubber used today are Buna N, Neoprene, along with NVR (Nitrile Rubber), and EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer Rubber) to increase the durability of the blanket. In order to provide additional strength to the blanket, a backing with either fabric or metal is provided.

The supply chain of this market comprises raw material suppliers, printing blankets manufacturers, distributors, and end-users. Some of the key players in the printing blankets market have been profiled in the report. These are: Trelleborg AB, Continental AG (ContiTech), Flint Group, Fujikura Composites, Kinyosha, Meiji Rubber and Chemical, Habasit AG, Birkan GmbH, CNI Xinyuan (Airdot), and Shanghai Chen Jie Printing Material.  

Global industry statistics

Stratview Research’s report looks at the segment-wise current market condition, and offers an estimation about future growths.

Based on the blanket type, the market is segmented into conventional printing blankets, UV printing blankets, combination printing blankets, and others. Conventional printing blanket is likely to remain the most dominant blanket type in the market over the next five years. High-quality print at a very competitive price is the major factor behind the dominance of conventional blankets. UV printing blanket is likely to expand at the highest rate over the same period, driven by its ability to resist the UV inks and helps in UV printing.

Shah of Nulith Graphics says, coating blanket is a product to look out for. Rubber or polymer top layer with polyester back coating blankets are most suitable for UV and water-based coating. “It can be easily cut on the plotter or achieve a perfect spot coating.”

In terms of region, Asia-Pacific is projected to remain the largest as well the fastest-growing market during the forecast period, driven by significant economic development in the region, increasing disposable income, surging demand for flexible and easy to carry packaging, and vastly expanded print media industry. China and India are the growth engines of the region’s market, propelled by huge consumer base, significant economic growth, and consistent supply chain. Availability of vast raw material sources, expanding the industrial sector, and readily available customer base are some of the factors, strengthening the eco-system of the Asia-Pacific’s printing blankets market.

Europe and North America are the other major markets for printing blankets, primarily driven by the packaging industry. Increasing demand for flexible and easy to carry packaging, rising concern towards the use of plastics in the packaging industry, and significant investment towards sustainable product development are the major factors, driving the growth of the North American and European printing blankets market. Increasing digitalisation in these regions is acting as a major constraint towards the growth of the printing blankets market as it is severely impacting the stature of the newspaper and commercial print media industry.

Blanket Gyaan

  •  Know why you need your blanket. For example, I met a converter who needed gloss level to be maintained throughout the run. Be precise, what type of gloss you require. Do you want a 60-point gloss or a 50-point gloss? Also find out through trials how well the blanket transfers the gloss.

    In this situation, we are talking about two things. One is printing blanket doing coating or varnishing or a coating plate doing the job of coating or varnishing.  “The coating blanket is the best technology to transfer the best coating thickness to give you the correct gloss on the substrate.  There are two types of coating plate – rubber with polyester and TPU with polyester,” says Maniraju Bora, director for sales and technical (SWA) at Trelleborg India.
  • I met a converter who needed a blanket to have a decent release on to the sheet and the blanket to be flexible as well, so that they can run both UV and water-based. But to be able to run on both UV and conventional the technology needs a hybrid blanket which will suit both, says Bora.  “The release of the blanket can be different for conventional and UV (printing on only porous material and printing on both porous and non porous material).  Yes, substrate release is an important factor when considering the blanket,” he says.
  • If you are running two or three sizes of presses for carton work, then ensure the blankets come pre-cut to fit those presses. Do remember: getting the blankets the right size is just the first of the changes to be made when switching blanket supplier. However, with today’s mature technology and barring systems available, we are able to get the right size and the right barring, adds Bora.  “You can adhere to the drawing given by the machine manufacturer or you can take a sample from the user.
  • Running blankets with UV chemistry can sometimes lead to issues, with the image area of the blanket peeling off. UV blankets are tenacious.  Therefore you will need a good blanket to run UV printing and also a good wash to clean the blanket. Check which blanket cleaner you are deploying. It should always be horses for courses.
  • Blankets are not always about blanket properties. After the cutting, the next step is peeling back from the cut areas to leave the impression area for the varnish. How well the blanket strips is a crucial factor in the end product quality of the coating. Stripping is crucial. It will determine the quality of print finishing.
  • Some printers we know have reported in excess of 800,000 impressions coating with UV varnish; some have said the plastic-back products are capable of more than 12 repeats.