Innovation in colour

Images: INX International Ink Co

Off the back of its 2022 Colored by INX Can Design Contest, INX International Ink Co speaks to CanTech International about the success of its Color Perfection programme and key drivers for the company’s innovation in coatings and inks

In 2020, INX International Ink Co started the Colored by INX Can Design Contest. The idea was to champion the efforts of brand owners, metal decorators and those in the creative community who produced a commercial can design using the INX Color Perfection programme. It was also a way to recognise the best-of-the-best finished products as a result of the INX 2-Piece ColorCatalog, long considered by design agencies, creative directors and marketers to be the true Holy Grail of colour selection.

When it was announced on 15 June 2022 that Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland had successfully defended its title from 2021, it made clear several things. First, an independent slate of judges determined their knockout design for TropiCoastal Tropical IPA beer was the best in a strong field of competition. Just as important, it validated the advantages of printing directly on metal and how brands are raising their sustainability profile in the market.

The INX Color Catalog for metal decorating gives brand owners what they need to compete in the market. It consists of the Adobe Digital Color Library, Digital Proofing, Best-in-Class Ink availability and INX University, a free online educational platform. It provides access to pertinent technical material, diagnostic data and professional development courses with beginner to advanced levels.

Sarah Jacks, INX Color Perfection manager, says brand owners and others involved in the beverage can design process now select and approve colour more efficiently. By eliminating the guesswork with more accurate colour representation to meet stringent brand standards, it results in reduced lead times in getting labels to market sooner and greater visual shelf appeal.

“We created the INX Color Catalog with the future in mind. Users can continuously update their existing catalogue of over 600 colour choices without the expense of purchasing a new catalogue,” she explained.

“Improvements and updates to our digital technology is a consistent process. This involves the INX Digital Library and having the capability to produce a single can, a dozen or more with the INX CP800 UV Digital Cylindrical Proofer and Printer. We’re planning to issue a larger update of INX colours in the coming months.”

When Great Lakes Brewing Company won the 2021 Colored By INX Can Design Contest with a unique design for its Crushworthy Lo-Cal Citrus Wheat beer, officials agreed the INX Color Perfection programme was highly beneficial to them.

“The INX Color Catalog was critical for establishing a consistent visual harmony among all our packaging and promotional needs,” said Jameson Campbell, the creative leader of Great Lake’s design team. “It allowed us to sync can and packaging production, which improved not only the design process from a consistency standpoint, but made for an efficient approval process with our suppliers. It gave us those crucial impactful, expressive results we aim for each time we introduce a new brand or package.”

Sustainability serving as a key driver

A growing trend related to sustainability points out how unique metal cans are to recycling. According to information at, aluminium and steel maintain their structural integrity during the process so they can be recycled over and over.

This is especially helpful since most recycled cans are turned into new ones in about 60 days, and the average aluminium beverage can contains 73 per cent recycled content. Making a beverage can from recycled aluminium also reduces energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 per cent compared to using only new aluminium.

This dovetails with INX’s commitment to developing products for a circular economy, with minimal impact on the environment to help consumers, packaging brand owners and customers feel confident in their product choices. This is what led the company to the creation of Coloring a Safe and Sustainable Future, also known as CSSF.

“Our agenda and commitment to colouring a safe and sustainable future guides the way we develop, manufacture and distribute products, as well as how we work with our customers and suppliers,” commented John Hrdlick, INX president and CEO. Citing the value of investing in a circular economy, he added, “we believe with the right focus and R&D capabilities, we can help our customers innovate and achieve their sustainability goals while also delivering greater value to their customers.”

Three specific areas of INX’s CSSF model – process design for the environment, product design for the environment, and social responsibility – improve resource management and drive out waste. This includes ink inventory management that allows the reworking and recycling of used inks. It also supports the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

INXhrc natural-based inks and Genesis GS washable label inks are some new products attributed to the CSSF model. So is the AP EcoCan two-piece metal ink system. Last year, INX became the first ink company in metal decorating to receive a Gold level Material Health Certificate from the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (C2CPII), in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency.

C2CPII helps brand owners with sustainability efforts by determining and validating which sustainable materials, products and systems are safe for the environment and human health. The Gold certification is designated to products that contain absolutely no substances on a banned chemicals list. It served as the catalyst for introducing AP EcoCan, which is ideal for highspeed, two-piece metal decorating and offers low VOCs and BPA-NI, as well as excellent transfer, superb abrasion resistance and lower misting.

Alex Folloso, INX’s director of Metal Technology, said the company was the first to respond to an industry-wide request in February 2021 to discontinue use of Perfluorinated chemicals in all products on a global scale by the end of 2023.

“This chemistry includes Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) wax, also known as Teflon, which is commonly used in inks and coatings as a lubricant. INX has reformulated and implemented PTFE-free ink formulations for various metal decorating applications,” he said. “Can makers continue to push for sustainability and lessening the can’s overall impact on the environment. That helped drive the development of AP EcoCan.”

Folloso divulged that additional new metal decorating products are in the pipeline at INX. “Inks and coatings that provide a tactile effect remain very popular with can makers and brand owners. Coatings that offer a matt and satin finish have also become more common,” he noted, referring to the AP Novar II Gloss and Matte Inks for impact extruded metal as an example.

These inks are formulated as a matt ink with low gloss and excellent ink flow characteristics. Requiring no over varnish, it has exhibited superior press performance with high strength, low misting and improved ink scratch resistance. Folloso indicated additional factors set INX apart from other manufacturers in the metal decorating industry.

“INX University is a free service that more and more customers are starting to take advantage of. No matter what level of metal decorating you are involved with, there is something everyone can benefit from. Another value-added service we offer to all major can makers is our in-plant ink and colour specialists. They work on-site and provide invaluable ink service on a daily basis. This way, can makers benefit from the latest technology and that helps the overall process.”

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