Canadian Plastics

A World of Colours

By Mark Stephen, Managing Editor   

M ost of us probably remember the so-called colour wheel from grade school, a circle showing relationships between primary, secondary, and complementary colours.

Most of us probably remember the so-called colour wheel from grade school, a circle showing relationships between primary, secondary, and complementary colours.

When it comes to plastics processing, however, achieving the precise shade of colour demanded by a customer requires far more than a simple wheel.

The good news is that suppliers of colour matching equipment are making developments in colour matching software, particularly relating to optimizing and facilitating colour formulation within a global enterprise.

“Five years ago, customers wanted single systems,” said Richard Knapp, product manager for industrial software with X-Rite Inc. “Today, demand tends to be for multiple systems sharing data, or a global online system. The trend is moving away from stand-alone systems towards centralized control, and then managing and controlling the decisions relating to colouring from this central location.”



At the K-2007 show in October, Datacolor introduced its MatchPigment 1.2 solution system, designed to provide precise colour formulation and easy-to-use interface that makes sharing information faster and more secure.

According to Datacolor, enhancements include data security that enables customers and suppliers to collaborate efficiently through global supply chains. “Administrators control access to data, including standards, batches, formulas and jobs, and assign security access parameters to users and user groups to create, modify and delete data,” the company said.

At the heart of the system is a virtual colour lab appearing in a single window, enabling users to try multiple scenarios before committing raw materials or production resources. Each MatchPigment product also includes a compatible version of Datacolor’s Tools quality control system, which offers a full complement of colour quality control and analysis functions, allowing customers to create colour measurement files and share data with other company products.

Additionally, the MatchPigment sys- tem is designed to support customers’ efforts to cut disposal and inventory costs by reworking overruns, leftovers and returns; cut administration time and expenses by enabling continuous data backup, undelete functionality, advanced data filtering and cross-folder data viewing; and reduce colour adjustment errors and eliminate overflow.

Ciba Color Services also used the K-2007 show to introduce its Colibri colour formulation software. The Colibri 3.2 system allows for the measurement of transparent samples, as well as correction of samples of unknown origin. The system can be fully integrated with common Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, allowing for time and cost savings. “Colibri colour-formulation systems are continuously and rapidly upgraded to better fit industry- specific requirements,” said Sonia Megert-Marshall, global head of Ciba Color Services.

In addition to the colour matching software, Ciba provides software support, she continued, as well as associated services including advice on pigment preparation and colour measurement. The company also has a distribution agreement with Konica Minolta for marketing the Colibri system, which allows customers to combine the software with Konica Minolta’s colour measurement instrumentation.


X-Rite Inc. recently made available an online edition of its Color iMatch colour formulation software. “The Color iMatch online version has been designed for companies to use in a global distributed environment, which is becoming a common demand in our industry,” said X-Rite’s Richard Knapp. “We have a number of customers who are large masterbatch customers, who have more than 50 or 60 locations around the world, all working from a centralized database doing colour formulations 24/7.”

The online edition offers companies the ability to centralize control over their colour data, while also sharing — or not sharing — information with different locations throughout the world. “Processors want to be able to disseminate colour data, but they also want a mechanism in the software whereby a local group accessing that central server can only see the data relevant to their own operation,” said Knapp. “iMatch provides this type of control; a particular plant will have access only to a subset of data, while the head office has access to the entire database.”

Another feature of the iMatch online edition, Knapp continued, relates to different locations and areas that might have regulations in place forbidding use of a certain colourant, or forbidding different colourants associated with certain processes. “With this software, a customer can define rules that will automatically select the proper sets of colourants for different applications, and for different geographic regions if necessary,” he explained.

Customer requirements for installing the iMatch online edition are minimal. “The company has to have an online server with proper configurations; beyond that, the software can be installed and configured in half a day,” Knapp said. “X-Rite will also remotely applicate the system. Once the customer has it set up in their environment, we can assist them online by logging onto their system, provided they give us a login code.”


Talking about spectrophotometers…

High-performance benchtop system

The UltraScan VIS from HunterLab is a high-performance colour measurement spectrophotometer that measures the full range of human colour perception, in laboratory and production environments. It measures both reflected and transmitted colour, as well as transmission haze, and meets CIE, ASTM and USP guidelines for accurate colour measurement.

UltraScan VIS uses diffuse/8 geometry with automated specular component inclusion/exclusion; and also features two sizes of sample measurement areas with automated lens change.

The unit comes with EasyMatch QC software and Easymatch Formulation software.

HunterLab (Reston, Va.);; 703-471-6870

Fisher Scientific Ltd. (Ottawa, Ont.);; 613-226-3273

Lightweight spectrophotometer with wireless communication and colour LCD screen

The CM-700d/600d from Konica Minolta is a spectrophotometer that has achieved a much more compact and lightweight body while retaining the sophisticated functions of conventional models by utilizing the company’s original optical design and signal processing technologies.

The unit allows easy and accurate colour measurement in various sites and occasions, with an easy-to-read colour LCD screen designed for intuitive recognition of measurement results.

Konica Minolta (Ramsey, N. J.);; 201-236-4300

Folio Instruments (Kitchener, Ont.);; 519-748-4612


Affordable, in-line spectrophotometer

The new Vericolor Spectro spectrophotometer from X-Rite provides accurate colourmetric measurements under demanding factory environments for less than US$20,000.

The unit can provide real-time or continuous data that matches lab quality accuracy; measure colour at a distance of 10 cm (+/-5mm) from the test surface; read colours accurately in a shop floor environment with fluctuating temperatures, vibration, high humidity and variable lighting conditions; measure accurately without frequent calibration; and measure the colour of products with varied textures.

When programmed to take regular and frequent measurements, the Vericolor Spectro can reduce scrap and rework by providing an immediate signal when a process is making parts outside o
f specifications.

X-Rite Inc. (Grandville, Mich.);; 616-534-7663

Manutrol Inc. (Montreal, Que.); 877-626-8876 (Mississauga, Ont.); 877-626-8876


Resource List

Ciba Color Services (Mississauga, Ont.);; 905-812-7280

Datacolor (Lawrenceville, N. J.);; 609-924-2189

Prism Instruments (Pickering, Ont.);; 888-717-7476

X-Rite Inc. (Grandville, Mich.);; 616-534-7663

Manutrol Inc. (Montreal, Que.); 877-626-8876(Mississauga, Ont.); 877-626-8876


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