Feature

Opposing forces shape testing equipment design

Manufacturers are doing an admirable job responding to the competing demands for testing and color matching equipment that is easier to use but capable of doing more than ever before.


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June 1, 2001 by Cindy Macdonald, associate editor



While becoming more technically advanced, testing and color matching instruments are also becoming simpler to use. Manufacturers have recognized the need for portable instruments that are optimized for use by personnel other than lab technicians.

They are addressing these issues, brought on by the need for shop-floor quality assessments, by simplifying functions; by using and integrating more familiar software tools from the PC environment; and by automating functions to minimize the effect of operator error.

“We have found that most clients want a simple, stable product which can send data to Microsoft Excel for further analysis,” says Gordon Howes of Folio Instruments. “Expensive software packages which perform functions most clients do not need are becoming a thing of the past.”

Folio represents Byk Gardner, which recently introduced a new portable instrument for measuring overall appearance. The Colorguide Gloss is a spectrophotometer that measures color specular included and gloss at 60 degrees at the same time. The Colorguide unit uses LED light sources and a patented calibration procedure. This combination, says Howes, provides an instrument with the lowest instrument-to-instrument error and the best repeatability of any portable on the market. Colorguide’s software package permits downloading to Excel.

Color-Tec has also developed spectrophotometers and colorimeters based on LED technology, which it says contributes to low-cost, rugged and dependable portable color instruments. For first time users, the PCM model is easy to set up and operate as a stand-alone instrument, yet experienced users can have a high level of data control and flexibility.

With X-Rite’s new 964/962 spectrophotometers, users can download color standards from their PCs, and then upload measurement readings for convenient off-line review and analysis. The units can collate multiple color standards by project. Also, the 964 unit adds up to six lines of programmed sequence of specific steps to walk customers through the color measurement process.

Hunterlab’s Universal Software Version 4.0 incorporates a word description of color difference to aid users. The software also includes all widely used color scales, observer functions, illuminants and spectral data. The user can set up their own format for printing data and plots, copy and paste to a spreadsheet, and search for the closest match.

Packing more into a portable

Minolta has introduced what it says is the world’s first hand-held spectrophotometer which performs instant and simultaneous color measurements using adjusted, included, or excluded UV and specular (gloss) compensation.

The CM-2600d has two unique features that distinguish it from other portable spectrophotometers. The unit measures both specular included and specular excluded (SCI/SCE) components simultaneously, giving users the advantage of accuracy and speed by eliminating multiple measurement and the time required to change the set-up.

The other unique feature is the CM-2600d’s ability to provide simultaneous and precise adjustment of the UV component when measuring samples which contain fluorescing dyes, pigments and optical brighteners. This feature eliminates mechanical positioning of UV cut-off filters and the need for multiple measurements.

Testing machines aim to be simple, yet flexible

The new Chatillon LXRPlus materials tester from Ametek Lloyd Instruments uses sophisticated electronics to test a wide variety of materials, yet the company states it can be operated by even the most inexperience user. The LXRPlus has a Plug-and-Play feature that reduces the possibility of error by automatically identifying accessories that are connected to it, such as a load cell or extensometer. It also has new “creep” and “relaxation” programs to accompany tensile, compression, flexural and cycling modes, allowing it to perform a greater number of tests.

Shimadzu’s EZTest is a compact material tester that can fit on a desktop and be used in either the shop floor or the laboratory. The versatile machine can analyze the physical properties of a variety of small parts, including medical and electronics components. Two capacities are available: 10 N and 500 N. Maximum stroke is 500 mm, and load accuracy is +/- 1% of indicated value.

To accommodate a wide range of operators, Tinius Olsen has developed three levels of software functionality. Its Test Navigator software for data acquisition and closed loop control of universal testing machines comes in Basic, Standard or Plus configurations. The Basic package includes a user-friendly graphic interface, a Wizard for creating or modifying test settings, built-in recall, an advanced help system, SQL Server 7 database interface and a device to accept inputs from micrometers, calipers and scales.

Tarlin Scientific Inc. has improved its NBS Smoke Density Chamber to provide increased accuracy and sample throughput, and to facilitate operation. A full-width door provides easy access to the chamber’s interior. Smoke density and temperature are displayed digitally.

For the packaging industry, Dynisco Polymer Test has introduced the Hot Tack Heatsealer, an automated tester capable of four tests related to the strength of a heat seal during product packaging. The Model HTH2 can test hot tack, ultimate strength, heatsealing and peel strength. It is said to be the most comprehensive tester of its kind on the market, and the only one to meet ASTM F 1921-98 method A.


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