Fatal factory explosion leads to pigment, initiator shortage

A factory explosion in China in which almost 80 people died has led to a shortage of raw materials used in publication ink manufacture.

Flint Ink says the deadly explosion at Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical in March is severely impacting the global raw material supply chain, including materials used in publication and UV printing inks.

The March explosion spread to adjacent facilities, causing nearly 80 deaths, injuring hundreds of people and forcing thousands of evacuations of nearby areas. The Chinese government has shut-down the industrial park, as well as others nearby for investigations and safety inspections.

"Our hearts go out to the loved ones of those hurt or killed," says Michael Podd, chief procurement officer of Flint Group's CPS Inks business.

Flint Group Packaging procurement vice president Arno de Grootsays thousands of factories have already been shut down. "Government investigations and safety inspections will impact the total chemical industry in China and will not be limited to the province where the catastrophic accident happened."

The closures affect companies that supply materials for photoinitiators and for red and yellow pigments. Podd says the shortage will not affect ink supply for Flint, which has preferred status with partner suppliers which help minimise supply chain disruptions.

Customers will enjoy uninterrupted supply of inks, but Podd says raw materials will come at a higher cost. Reopen dates for the shuttered raw material facilities remain unknown.

• Meanwhile, US-based News&Tech has reported (quoting the local News-Enterprise) that Flint Group is laying off 81 workers at its plant in Eliza­bethtown, Kentucky. It says a March 27 letter to the state Division of Workforce Develop­ment, Melanie Caple, in human resources with Flint Group, said that the layoffs involved 68 production people, nine workers from admin and support and four in management. The layoffs are permanent, according to the letter, and are set for on or around June 30. Flint said the cuts were linked to the company's move to discontinue the making of in-house pigments, adding that structural decline in publication printing ink had led to shrinking demand.