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 = matchmycolor.com
Industry = Chemicals
Press Release Summary = Is matchmycolor.com 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¬mycolor.com 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 matchmycolor.com 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 matchmycolor.com idea is simply this: instead of thousands of companies expensively setting up software and developing colorant databases, they can plug in to matchmycolor.com and share the costs. At the centre of matchmycolor.com (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 begins.
What is the Color Feasibility Service on matchmycolor.com?
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 matchmycolor.com. 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 colors.
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 catalogue.
What is the Color Matching Service on matchmycolor.com?
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 weight.
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 = http://www.matchmycolor.com
Contact Details = SpecialChem 100, rue Petit 75019 - Paris, France phone: 0033172763916 fax: 003317276391600 email: email@example.com