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Soy lighter vehicle than petroleum as ink vehicle

Soybean Market Could Triple, Thanks to More Soy Oil in Offset Printing Inks

By Linda McGraw
March 3, 1998

When Agricultural Research Service chemist Sevim Erhan moved to Illinois in 1988, she personalized her license plate with "INK 26." When her daughter was born in 1995, the baby was the first in the United States to mark her footprints in soybean ink on her birth certificate. Now another legacy awaits Erhan's daughter: books and magazines printed with soybean oil ink developed by her mother, who leads ARS oil chemical research in Peoria, Ill.

ARS and Erhan have patented the ink formulation for both heat-set and sheet-fed offset printing. Marvin O. Bagby, now retired from ARS, was a co-inventor of the ink formulations.

Ink for every use--from printing money to paper grocery bags--requires a special formula. Heat-set web printing is used to produce books and magazines. The potential market for heat-set web printing is about 423 million pounds of ink. Sheet-fed offset printing in the United States takes another 100 million pounds of ink. A previously ARS-patented soy ink formula for newspapers has a market potential of 500 million pounds.

Currently, non-food uses for soybeans amount to only 300 million pounds. Altogether, ARS' soy ink technology could triple the non-food market for U.S. soybeans.

The American Soybean Association requires a minimum of 7 percent soy oil in the formula for an ink manufacturer to use the ASA soy seal on a product's container. The ARS ink formulation for heat-set web offset printing contains more than 50 percent soy oil in the formula.

Soy ink's benefits to consumers: it won't rub off on their hands, and it means a safer environment. For the printing industry, the soybean-based ink vehicle permits faster and less-expensive clean-up. The ARS soy oil ink breaks down five times faster than petroleum-based commercial inks.

Scientific contact: Sevim Erhan, ARS-USDA, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, 1815 N. University Street, Peoria, IL 61604, phone (309) 681-6531, fax (309) 681-6340,

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