Do You Do Color Right?

This supplement is here to help.

Color. Is it art? Science? Some of both?

On the following pages, we’ve put together three feature stories from some of the sharpest minds in the materials and color industry to try to answer those and other questions. However you define color, one thing’s for sure: it’s everywhere, and if you don’t get it right, you run the risk of wasting a lot of money and maybe even losing a customer or two.

For this suppement, I enjoyed talking to processors about how they manage color. An article here focuses on the efforts of The Haartz Corporation, an Acton, Mass., film processor that’s a Tier II supplier to automotive.

But other processors also shed some light on the art/science of color. One was Silgan Plastics, where Susan Banovic manages the materials analysis lab in Norcross, Ga., and oversees color evaluations for the custom blow molder’s plastics division. “We’re seeing improvements from color suppliers of late in providing higher-quality concentrates that allow us to lower our letdown ratios to reduce costs,” she says. 

Silgan runs millions of pounds of color in virtually every form available, from microbeads to pelletized masterbatch to liquid. It uses the latter exclusively for coloring PET. “To improve economies of scale, we try to push our plants to use preferred suppliers, but sometimes the customer has a preference too,” Banovic says. “Most of our plants have color labs to verify that the color is consistent,” she adds. “We have a thorough understanding of how color works, and how to disperse it properly to avoid any technical issues.”

Economies of scale are also crucial to toy maker Little Tikes in Hudson, Ohio. “Lately I would say quality is a given, it’s all about the economics,” says Gerry Hrdlicka, purchasing manager, whose been a decision-maker in color for decades. “The key for us is to take the rotomolded piece and try to match it with parts made from other processes. The letdown ratios differ from process to process, so if we find we can’t match it exactly we’ll contrast it instead.”

While color matching tends to be a bit more sophisticated now, Hrdlicka recommends taking nothing for granted. “We launched a toy football a while ago, and basically told the color house we wanted the color to be like a chocolate bar. Their first effort was bad. Then their next two efforts were even worse. Turns out the color house was refrigerating the chocolate bar, and over time it was getting lighter and lighter.”

Do you do color right? If not, it’s time to get started