Online color management - Is this the future of color matching, formulation and feasibility services

Released on = May 19, 2006, 3:16 am

Press Release Author =

Industry = Chemicals

Press Release Summary = Is just another website? In this article
the author assesses the functionality, value and practicality of a new
internet-based system that claims to give you the right color, at the right price,
for the right application.

Press Release Body = match¬ is an online color management service that
aims to provide a comprehensive color development platform, comprising of matching,
feasibility and formulation services, to aid specifiers, suppliers and manufacturers
involved in color matters.

And color does matter. For branding, product differentiation, shelf appeal, fashion
and style - color is crucial. Selecting the right color to make the product say what
you want to say is hard enough but that is only the start. The color has to work
with paints, coatings, inks, plastics, metals, paper, card, film, internet and TV.
It has to work with the processes that serve those different disciplines. And color
has to work worldwide. Many brands and products are global now. Near enough is no
longer good enough where color is concerned.

The rationale behind is that for all its benefits, in-house color
formulation is a significant expense. Creating, main¬taining and updating a colorant
database can be costly. The outcome is that many small and medium color formulators
do not have color-matching systems. As a result, it slows down the development
process and it can lead to major problems; for example, when designers and OEMs
learn far too late that their color con¬cepts cannot be made.

So the idea is simply this: instead of thousands of companies
expensively setting up software and developing colorant databases, they can plug in
to and share the costs. At the centre of (known as
MMC) is a universal colorant database coupled with a \'best-in-class\' on-line
color-matching engine. The MMC engine is based on a sophisticated multi-flux
mathematical model.

SpecialChem launched MMC in June as a service-only platform. There are no colorants
or other products for sale; only color services and these are paid for by registered
users on a basis of service, time and seats. The service covers industries such as
paints & coatings, inks & graphic arts, as well as many plastic applications.

Let\'s turn to look at the two key MMC tools for color feasibility and color
matching. When a design team settles on a color it is because it means something in
its vision of the product, the market and the zeitgeist. The chosen color may meet
all of those needs perfectly but can it be reproduced in the chosen plastics
material? Will the colorants stand up to the processing temperatures? Are they
compatible with any special needs, like food contact, for example? In other words,
is that color feasible in this product? That is the first thing we need to know and
we need to know from day one, not a couple of days before production com¬missioning

What is the Color Feasibility Service on

The \'Color Feasibility\' service can give designers the answer moments after making
that first color concept decision. It means, too, that manufacturers can double
check the moment they receive the order, and settle any difficulties long before
they become problems.

The color feasibility service involves a four ¬step process. The first thing is to
select your target color and there are six ways of doing that. You can select from
color catalogues in the MMC library, which includes a number of industry-standard
color catalogues and trend books. Alternatively, you can retrieve a color that you
have previously stored on the system. The four other ways of selecting your target
color involve color data. Firstly, you can measure your color with a
spectrophotometer and transfer the defining data electronically to
The system supports a wide range of spectrophotometers by X-Rite, Datacolor,
Minolta, GretagMacbeth and Hunterlab. Secondly, you can enter the color data
manually by typing in 31 values of reflectance data, or pasting them from a
spreadsheet. Thirdly, you can enter the 'LAB' or 'LCH' values and visualise the
corresponding target color on your computer screen. Lastly, and for those of you
familiar with color palette creation, MMC allows you to import your personalised
color palette directly onto MMC.

One problem here is your own screen. Are you seeing exactly the color MMC thinks you
are seeing? It is odds on you are not. To overcome color miscommunication MMC
recently teamed up with color-industry powerhouse GretagMacbeth to provide solutions
to consistently communicate and control color across devices, industries, processes
and locations.

The data-based ways of entering a target color are precise because they eliminate
any worries about the characteristics of the computer monitor. For example, the
plastics part may have to match a color sample pro¬vided by the client. In this
case, you can see the color with your own eyes and define it unambiguously by
measuring it with a spec¬trophotometer. MMC provides plug-and-play support for
spectrophotometers and allows you to specify the color over black and white to
define color transparency if needed.

Having defined your target color you are then able to customise your own feasibility
limits, or otherwise select the default limits. Defining your personalised
feasibility limits involves adjusting the tolerance limits, which are defined as a
plus or minus distance in L*a*b* space, for the color difference of the feasible

Step two involves defining the application simply by clicking on drop-down lists in
combo boxes. You can specify other requirements from similar combo boxes covering
matters such as food contact approval, light fastness, weathering and heat
resistance. These choices are context sensitive; they vary according to the chosen
generic material. What lies behind these choices is an expert system that limits the
final color recipes to those colorants that meet your selection of requirements.

The next step involves the feasibility check. MMC cal¬culates feasibility in a few
seconds. My first three trials were all unfeasible; MMC told me that the target
color could not be achieved. This was an eye-opener for me; a dramatic demonstration
of just how valuable the feasibility check can be. When your color is feasible you
see a much more detailed screen with a table showing the best five feasible colors
under illumination by daylight, incandescent or fluorescent lighting. The table uses
a green-yellow-red traffic light indicator to show whether each feasible color is
ok, borderline or failing under each of the illuminants. Here MMC provides the
colorimetric data for the feasible color based on CIE and CMC values. You can
generate a spectral curve chart to compare the reflectance of the target and
feasible colors, and you can export the full colorimetric data of a feasible color
to a spreadsheet where you can save it.

Another option available is to email the colorimetric data to a client, colleague or
supplier, which comes attached in an excel spreadsheet. Depending on the
application, a further optional step is to order a physical color sample. Both of
these capabilities constitute failsafe mechanisms for communicating color and
resolve any color error introduced by your monitor when choosing from a color

What is the Color Matching Service on

The other key tool in MMC is \'Color match¬ing\'. It works in a similar way to
feasibility but the aim this time is to create a detailed, opti¬mised and costed
recipe for the color. Again it is a four-step process. Application selection is
identical but is backed up by a new screen for selecting ingredients. Here you can
select the black and white pigments and polymer binder you want to work with. On the
next screen you select colorants. You can work with the entire library or select and
save a subset for your own needs. You can also input your own colorant prices.

The ways to select your target color selection are identical to the color
feasibility service. One click starts the color matching process. Now the results
screen shows the ten best recipes with costs if you entered ingredient prices
earlier. As before, you get colorimetric data for each recipe and a color comparison
against the target color but you will also see a detailed recipe tabulation giving
the grade, sup¬plier and the concentration of each ingredient by percentage or

MMC also provides a \'correct recipe\' function where you can refine the color recipe
against the color data of an actual sample made with that recipe. The system
recalculates to provide a corrected color overlay and a new tabulation of the
amended recipe.

Who will want to use MMC?

The service is aimed at designers and OEMs who need to know early on whether a
concept is feasible; at formulators without color matching systems; at formulators
who want to cut costs or use a globally available and constantly updated system; at
colorant manufacturers who need to provide recipes against target colors; at anyone
who needs rapid and accurate physical color samples.

The justification is that a web-based resource with the costs shared between the
users should be much cheaper and certainly much less oner¬ous than an in-house
system. To work with MMC all you need is a pc with an internet con¬nection, internet
explorer 6 or higher, and sun java 1.5.o or higher. To that you can optionally add
one of the many spectrophotometers sup¬ported by MMC.

Web Site =

Contact Details = SpecialChem
100, rue Petit
75019 - Paris, France
phone: 0033172763916
fax: 003317276391600

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