Canadian Plastics

Special effects will be commonplace

By Cindy Macdonald, associate editor   

Sunny Maffeo keeps a close eye on color trends for Engelhard Corp. and steers the company's R&D efforts to meet long-range color forecasts. In a recent presentation to color concentrate suppliers and ...

Sunny Maffeo keeps a close eye on color trends for Engelhard Corp. and steers the company’s R&D efforts to meet long-range color forecasts. In a recent presentation to color concentrate suppliers and compounders, she described next year’s color trends with adjectives that sometimes had more to do with fashion shows than shop floors. For example, the Paradise collection of colors is described as “a new playful, less politically-correct attitude towards the environment where invention and imagination redefine the rules of the ecology game.”

In real-world terms, the crux of Maffeo’s presentation is this: The trends for multi-dimensional color are forecast to continue through 2002 and 2003, so expect to be challenged by more iridescent, ethereal, layered and metallic effects for almost all applications.

Some other highlights from Maffeo’s presentation of Engelhard’s color trends forecast for consumer products in 2002-2003:

She predicts a move away from minimalism. “There is no black in the forecast palette. There’s mock black, blue black, granite black, etc., but no black.”


“Undulating color is one of the biggest terms to emerge from the Paris fashion shows.” This refers to colors that shift and move.

A return to femininity will have big influence on homes and fashion.

In practical terms?

For concentrate suppliers, says Maffeo, “Knowing the color trends provides an opportunity for you to help your customers by proactively giving them trend suggestions or helping define their product.”

Also, since many of these special effect formulations take more experimentation to compound and process, Jason Hart of Stochem suggests that companies “could get a head start by ironing out some formulations before the customers demand it.”

The time lag between adoption of colors by different markets is closing, says Maffeo. It used to take two to three years to filter through fashion to cosmetics to consumer and automotive finishes, but that time frame is much tighter now.

Copper and other precious metals

Watch for copper especially among the metallic colors, says Maffeo. There’s a group of colors and effects that she calls “mirages” which encompasses random or ephemeral effects, jewel-like colors, shimmering effects, and metallics.

Fantom Technologies Inc. (Welland, ON) has chosen copper and other pearlescent/metallic finishes for the palette of its WILDCAT line of vacuum cleaners. Clariant Masterbatches Division prepared copper and silver masterbatches for various components, made of a wide range of materials.

“Fantom chose the color, and we converted it to the plastic medium,” explains Yvon Garneau, sales and marketing manager for Clariant. “There are actually two different copper colors in this unit, and many materials: ABS, acetal, polycarbonate, an elastomer and polypropylene.”

“It was difficult to get the intensity of the sparkle. We had to combine multiple pearl and metallic effects in the masterbatch.”

Garneau feels there will be more conversions to this type of pearly, metallic finish. Metallic compounds can sometimes be less likely to meet UL approvals, but since the compounds for Fantom passed UL testing, Garneau feels this will open up some new opportunities for metallic colors.

Colors you’ve never seen before

A new color space in iridescents is opened up by Englehard’s Mearlin Firemist line, says George Iannuzzi of Engelhard. One of the new colors in this line is a unique iridescent turquoise.

Engelhard has also introduced Vegetable Black Olive pigment. This is a black, mica-based effect pigment with champagne undertones. This extends the range of absorption colors possible with mica-based pigments to brown-black shades. Until now, only green, pale gold and russet-red absorption colors were available.

Vegetable Black Olive can be used to shade neutral colors, help make gun metal and silvers, and add an unusually bright face to dark-shade metallic coatings. The pigment has excellent hiding for a mica-based product, so its formulations can contain less-than-normal mica loadings to meet the demands of today’s thinner film builds. It is also suitable for molded products, and exterior grades are available for outdoor applications.

GE Plastics has added Diamond effect to its portfolio of Visualfx engineering thermoplastics, offering designers a glittery, almost jewel-like appearance. Initially, the Diamond effect is available in Lexan polycarbonate and Cycolac ABS resins with single-level concentrations of glass-like glitter, although customized concentrations and different sizes of the Diamond flake will be available in both translucent and opaque resins.

The initial Diamond effect portfolio includes eight colors: clear, white, black, burgundy, blue, translucent blue, translucent green and translucent violet.

Shift into interference mode

GE Plastics’ Visualfx product line also contains the Interference Effects family, which reflect and refract light so that the perceived color appears to change with viewing angle. This “color shift” effect is increasing in popularity.

Afflair Ultra Interference pigments from EM Industries can also be used to create the interference effect. These pigments exhibit considerably higher color intensity than existing interference mica pigments, the company states. The increase in color strength means more styling flexibility because the colors can range from subdued to strong.

Engelhard’s Lumina product line is also capable of creating the color-shift effect.

Other trends: earth tones and gels

Maffeo also predicts we’ll see glistening, varnished, waxed finishes and warm, pigmented natural tones. To achieve earth tones, EM Industries has high lustre pearls, the Afflair Earthtone pigment line. These are available in many shades of bronze, copper and red, which can be transformed into antique metallic colors with the addition of carbon black.

Another group of effects forecast by Maffeo will emphasize pure light, intense colors, layering for a diffused look, gel-like effects and bold transparent effects. As an example of this last trend, she cites an award-winning chair which is made of clear plastic with colorful stripes.CPL

Resin selection reduced coloring problems

Altira Inc. produces crystal-clear bottles with sleek designs and rich, vivid colors for cosmetics and personal care packaging. The company reports that Eastman’s Elegante polymer provided an improvement in color distribution and reduced the crystallization effect commonly found in translucent colors, such as emerald green, cobalt blue and ruby red.


Holland Colours Canada has launched a Custom Color Development concept for PET packaging. The company specializes in PET cosmetic and personal care applications. Using its Holcobatch colorant, Holland Colours can mix and match a customer’s specific color directly on line at the bottle producer’s location.

In as little as four to six hours, Holland Colours can provide a customer with many variations of a base formulation, potentially including transparent, translucent, opaque and pearlescent forms in the final application. Having the person or persons who make the final decision present at the in-plant trials can decrease product development time substantially.


Ampacet has developed a new line of cost-effective color concentrates with lightfast pigments for communications conduit. The concentrates are suitable for buried or aerial applications, are stable for extended periods above ground and demonstrate chemical resistance when buried underground.

“Proper selection of pigment plays a critical role in extending the service life of conduit,” explains Joseph Serbaroli, strategic business manager with Ampacet. Ampacet’s R&D facility in Belgium performed an extensive study on colors for buried conduit, and found that many commonly used pigments turn black in the presence of ammonium sulfide, an element commonly found in soil. Pigments that show resistance to ammonium sulfide can have a stabilizing e
ffect on the formulation as a whole, even if the formulation contains other reactive colors.

Ampacet’s conduit concentrates are super-concentrated, designed for a letdown ratio of 1% in 125 mil thick HDPE pipe or conduit.


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