Color quality plays an important role in plastic products, and technology ensures that color design elements remain consistent with final product results. Color quality analysis has transformed from an art to a science over the past several decades and plastic manufacturers rely on spectrophotometric technology for rapid and precise color determination and evaluation. Advanced spectrophotometric technology is used to develop color tolerances, which lead to a higher efficiency use of materials. This saves both time and money, increasing productivity and profitability, as well as product quality.
Color Specifications and Tolerances
Plastic manufacturers depend on color consistency in their products, so establishing color specifications and tolerances is a must. From one product line to another, uniformity is important and necessary to maintain color quality. Raw materials or plastic pellets are often measured for color before they are extruded in order to maintain a consistent product flow. Meeting color tolerance standards and creating specifications to match particular color design elements is the first step towards manufacturing quality plastic products.
Monitoring color quality from the start and maintaining tolerances throughout the various production phases leads to improved efficiency and reduced material waste. Real-time color quality monitoring keeps calibration systems in check and things running smoothly with little need for user adjustments. Today’s technology is developed to work on-line and is fully automated to measure and quantify color quality specifications, ensuring repeatable results. A strict color tolerance system in plastics helps eliminate material waste, line shutdowns, extensive operator involvement, and product scrap and rework.
Color measurement instrumentation
Today’s color measurement instrumentation is available with a variety of design features and capabilities. In the plastic industry, there are many stages of product development and each one presents its own unique challenges. Extruded plastics, pellets, preforms, plaques, bottles, and even ophthalmic lenses all require specific methods of spectral analysis to maintain color quality. Depending on the shape, size, and level of transparency of each individual product, instrumentation options must adapt to meet the needs and challenges of each specific industry.
- Plastic Pellets: Plastic pellets are characteristically non-uniform in size, therefore instrumentation must account for variations in surface consistency and texture. Pellets are typically translucent and color measurements are best achieved using a 45°/0° design, which most closely resembles the way a sample is seen by the human eye.
- Extruded Plastics: Extruded plastics come in a variety of forms and are used for numerous product applications. Often developed and produced in large volumes, on-line instrumentation provides the fastest and most effective method of color quality monitoring and quantification. Because color consistency is key for meeting quality standards, developing tight specifications and tolerances is crucial.
- Bottles: Plastic bottles are commonly used for food packaging and storage. Color plays an important role in consumer perceptions and choice, therefore it is one of the most important design elements to consider. Plastic bottles can range from transparent to opaque and their unique shape can create challenges in color quantification. Instrumentation must account for all of these variations in order to meet color quality specifications.
- Preforms and Plaques: These plastic products each have their own unique design elements and color quality must be calculated using varying techniques depending on shape, size, and opacity.
- Ophthalmic Lenses: Ophthalmic lenses often utilize polymeric coatings for functionality. These products are unique in their purpose and must be carefully measured for color quality and functionality.
Plastic color measurement options
Polymers and plastics offer a wide variety of uses and come in many different colors, shapes, and sizes. Creating a color measurement system for plastic manufacturing requires tight specifications and tolerances that are tailored to each individual product. At HunterLab we are experts in the various plastic industries and have developed our products to meet the needs and challenges that our customers have expressed. We continue to strive for excellence and new innovations that make color measurement easier and more effective. For more information on using color measurement instrumentation to increase the quality and production of your plastic products, contact HunterLab today.
Mr. Philips has spent the last 30 years in product development and management, technical sales, marketing, and business development in several industries. Today, he is the global market development manager for HunterLab, focused on understanding customer needs, providing appropriate solutions and education, and helping to solve customer color challenges across these industries and cultures.