How to Avoid Challenges and Maintain Color Consistency in Plastic Plaque Production

Plastic plaques are the basis of industry standards when manufacturing and developing colored plastic products. Quality perception in the plastic industry is significantly impacted by color consistency between product manufacturing and development. In high-volume production, customer satisfaction is dependent on maintaining color consistency and uniformity from the production line to consumer usage.

color consistency plastic spoons
Plastic manufacturing and production depends on advanced color measurement systems to maintain consistency and quality in product development.
Image Source: Flickr user Dave Bleasdale

The process of pressing plastic plaques is necessary for creating a standard for color selection in sample materials. However, maintaining color consistency between pressed samples and raw pellet materials requires the use of advanced technology and color measurement instrumentation. As materials are pressed and heated, it is important to use the right instrumentation to maintain color consistency between each sample and projected product color development. By understanding spectral analysis and utilizing the appropriate geometries and tools, color consistency and consumer satisfaction are attainable.

Understanding the Various Methods of Color Analysis

Plastic plaques represent a variety of hues and variations in polymer color options, and understanding color tolerances and differences are crucial when comparing sample materials to final product color. Variation in color transparencies and thicknesses can alter color perception when developing a sample color baseline. Standardization in color measurement for the development of plastic plaques has been determined by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)1 to establish standard practice and calculation guidelines. These standards are based on specific CIE color scale2 and tristimulus value measurements to ensure color consistency between plaques and raw polymer materials.

color consistency plastic clothes pins
Changes in color and uniformity can occur throughout the various stages of plastic production. Understanding color values and the principles behind color measurement instrumentation takes the guesswork out of developing a consistent line of polymer products.
Image Source: Flickr user tourist_on_earth

Plastic plaques can range from opaque to translucent to even transparent. These variations alter the amount of light that can pass through the sample, requiring different measurement techniques to accurately calculate the color value of the material. For example, opaque plaques block light transmissions, therefore requiring a Directional 45°/0° reflectance instrument or a Diffuse d/8° reflectance instrument to accurately quantify the color measurement for repeatability. This advanced color measurement system provides numeric quantification, which correlates directly to visual perception. Color consistency can be guaranteed in sample materials, rendering colors both repeatable and transferable to other processes in polymer product development.

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Avoiding Challenges in Plastic Plaque Development

Challenges in color consistency and stability are often accounted for in the transition from raw materials to pressed plastic plaque development. Compression molding and heat can both cause changes in the appearance of plastic materials and often affect the Yellow Index measurements in these products. Plastic materials tend to degrade with exposure to heat, resulting in a slightly more yellowish appearance than cut granules or pellet form. It’s important to develop an accurate measurement system to account for these variations and quantify the changes for quality control and color consistency.

color consistency
The ability to quantify color leads to repeatability and a higher level of quality that consumers demand.
Image Source: Flickr user Jeremy Keith

Color values must correspond with visual acceptability in order to meet standardization requirements. Any notable differences in color saturation, hue, or lightness can alter the final product color target and disrupt the quality of the product. The ability to accurately quantify these various dimensions of color requires both advanced instrumentation and expert analysis techniques.

Advanced Color Measurement Paired with Expert Analysis

Advanced color measurement instrumentation takes the guess work out of setting color tolerances and accurately quantifying color values. By utilizing the proper geometric capabilities, color measurement is can both highly accurate and attainable. Today’s spectrophotometers are highly versatile and designed to measure a variety of material attributes. At HunterLab, we specialize in advanced color measurement applications in plastic manufacturing. Our friendly staff offers expert guidance in the selection of instrumentation design specifically to meet your needs. For more information on color measurement for plastic plaques or other polymer products, please contact HunterLab today.

  1. “Plastics Standards,” http://www.astm.org/Standards/plastics-standards.html
  2. “Technical Guides: Color Models,” http://dba.med.sc.edu/price/irf/Adobe_tg/models/ciexyz.html
  • Henri

    Among its plastics customers ISOCOLOR counts leading global companies in the masterbatch application. A huge cost-saver opportunity for the colorant house is to produce the color concentrate at the exact color. The key element here is to optimize your pigment loading, avoid over-pigmentation and with this save a lot of money. Mastering pigment loading start with precise measurement instrumentation provided by HunterLab UltraScan VIS or UltraScan Pro spectrophotometers. Both units have the capability to measure in the 3 modes: opaque, transparent and translucent. Interfaced with ISOMATCH color formulation software these devices provide accurate spectral data to build an efficient pigment file. Sophisticated calculation engines like Multi-flux algorithm and others are used to offer color match results that list recipes taking into consideration opacity, color strength, delta E, metamerism and cost. Once the research center or color lab from the masterbatcher has submitted a color plaque of the color predicted with ISOMATCH and its client has approved it, color matching software is complemented with the ISOBATCH software to control and adjust color during the production.

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