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The History and Benefits of Soy Ink

Soy based inks are the latest advancement in the printing industry. These inks have many advantages over the old petroleum-based inks and are more eco-friendly to boot. So just how did this wonder ink come about, and how does it set itself apart from the traditional inks that it is slowly replacing. Read on to learn the history and benefits of soy ink.

The History of Soy in Ink
In the late seventies, newspaper publishers began to look for an alternative the petroleum-based inks. This search was spurred not by a sense of environmentalism, but by the volatile prices of petroleum at the time. In 1979, the outfit that is currently known as the Newspaper Association of America directed their technical staff to find a suitable alternative to petroleum for use in ink. After years of extensively testing thousands of vegetable oils, the team determined that soy oil was the best choice. In 1987, The Gazette in Iowa ran a test using soy ink for printing their paper. The test was successful, and the commercial viability of soy ink had arrived.

Today, over 10,000 newspapers use at least some soy ink in their printing, and over 90% use soy ink for printing in color. The use of soy ink continues to grow and prices will drop as it does.

The Benefits of Soy Ink
Soy ink provides many benefits over petroleum-based inks. Below the benefits are listed in the categories of cost, environmental, and performance.

As mentioned above, the main reason that newspaper companies switched to soy ink was because it was cheaper. Soy ink is cheaper not only because it does not rely on the volatile prices of the petroleum industry, but also because it requires less pigment and spreads better.

The side benefit of soy ink being cheaper is the environmental and safety benefits. Most importantly, soy ink is not considered a hazardous substance. This is due to the fact that it does not give off any Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). This means that it is easier and safer to work with and dispose of in the printing process. With regards to disposal, soy ink is also biodegradable as well. Soy ink also is easier to de-ink from paper during recycling, which is another environmental benefit.

Soy inks also perform better than petroleum inks in many applications. Because soy oil is more clear than petroleum oil, the pigments that are added to it show through more clearly, and this results in much more vibrant colors while using less pigment. This is the reason most newspapers use soy ink for printing in color. Soy ink also spreads more easily than traditional ink, in some applications ink usage can be reduced by 85%.

The Downsides of Soy Ink
While soy ink is superior to petroleum ink in many ways, it does have some downsides. First, black soy ink is currently about 25% more expensive than black petroleum ink. Second, soy ink takes longer to dry due to the fact that it does not evaporate easily (no VOCs). This issue is being addressed with UV heat curing, but currently, soy ink is a bad choice for glossy and other non-porous papers. Lastly, reliance on a single crop (soy beans) can cause issues in the event of disease or crop die out.

So we see that soy ink has a short and successful history in printing. As more of the technical hurdles are addressed, soy ink will become more and more popular choice for printing. And as the cost of petroleum continues to rise, soy ink will only look more and more viable to the printing industry.

Author bio: Sabina Cao has a B.A. in Journalism and writes on the topics of business, technology, and design. She currently blogs for, who specialize in Dell printer cartridges.

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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