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Controlling the Color and Appearance of Durable Goods

Posted February 20, 2020 by X-Rite Color

Appearance is more than just color. It’s an all-inclusive look at everything inherent to an object, including texture, gloss, transparency, translucency, and special effects like sparkle and shimmer. When viewed from different angles or under different lighting conditions, appearance effects can change our perception of color. That's why it’s important to control both color and appearance throughout design and development. 

Durable goods brands use appearance effects to capture consumer attention. Since these products are often assembled using parts with different textures and micro-surface elements, appearance affects make color control much more difficult. If the product components don't match once assembled – under every possible lighting condition – the product will fail inspection and be scrapped or sent to a discount store shelf.


 Controlling the Color and Appearance of Durable Goods X-Rite BlogControlling Color and Appearance for Durable Goods X-Rite Blog

How would you communicate both color and appearance of this blue swatch so a supplier can accurately and consistently produce it? 

Controlling appearance is more complex than controlling color. To get parts with various appearance characteristics to match, durable goods brands need to use the right digital tools at the right times. Here's how X-Rite and Pantone are helping to transform the design and production workflow to capture and depict appearance.

Helping Brand Owners Communicate Color and Appearance for Durable Goods

Many durable goods brands rely on handcrafted prototypes to communicate and approve color and appearance. Although prototypes are more accurate than photographs, they are time-consuming to build, expensive to ship across global manufacturing workflows, and add a significant amount of time to review cycles. They also leave room for human error during measurement and visual evaluation.

Here's how durable goods brands can communicate detailed color and appearance descriptions in a way that enables suppliers to execute against them. 

1. Virtual Designs and Prototypes 

Virtual representations are an accurate and economical way to specify, design, and communicate appearance. They help brands expedite color development by using the proper mix of physical and digital tools to specify and communicate design intent and achievability.  

3D CAD systems with photo-realistic rendering solutions save money, reduce waste, shorten review cycles, and stay ahead of color trends. Using digital color data ensures color consistency and repeatability across the workflow, eliminates the variability that occurs when relying solely on physical standards, and reduces the back and forth between design, color and production teams by using the right tools to communicate achievability on specified materials.

2. Virtual Appearance 

Our Total Appearance Capture (TAC) Ecosystem digitally captures both color and appearance on material swatches. Brands can create virtual libraries of complex materials and manage samples with a single digital material library. Designers can use these digital material samples to “construct” virtual products and render accurate 3D prototypes that have the same visual appearance characteristics as their physical counterparts.

Controlling the Color and Appearance of Durable Goods X-Rite Blog 

Part of the TAC ecosystem, the Virtual Light Booth offers an immersive 3D visualization to evaluate material appearance under multiple light sources and accurately compare digital and physical materials in an immersive mixed reality environment. Watch this video to learn more.

Using virtual representations during the design phase can help identify metamerism, streamline back and forth during reviews and approvals, eliminate the time and waste of physical prototypes, and set the stage for a color-accurate production process. Contact our team of Appearance Experts to ask questions or request a TAC demo.

3. Handoff to Production

Once the design is approved, the challenge turns to ensuring high quality color and consistency throughout production. .

Helping Manufacturers Ensure Consistent Color for Durable Goods Across the Supply Chain 

A typical durable goods production workflow requires a lot of back and forth between the brand color specifier and the supply chain, tracking submits and approvals from different vendors across the globe. Utilizing digital color with integrated color management solutions builds a more sustainable process and helps manufacturers get up to color fast and maintain it.

1.  Spectral Color Data

Using a spectrophotometer, brands can capture a precise spectral value and digitally communicate it to everyone involved in the workflow. Suppliers can enter the target spectral value and an acceptable tolerance into the spectrophotometer, then measure samples throughout production to ensure color stays in tolerance. Watch how a sphere spectrophotometer can quickly measure durable goods and compare color to a preset tolerance:

A sphere or multi-angle spectrophotometer is preferred for durable goods because it can capture color and appearance on textured, metallic, optically brightened, and special effect finishes. We offer both handheld and benchtop versions.

2.  Computer-Aided Formulation

Many consumer goods use innovative bases, transparency, and special effects, making color formulation a challenge. Color iMatch formulation software can select cost-reducing parameters, such as lowest cost or fewest colorants, and determine the best formula for each application. It works with legacy databases and “learns” what works well so formulators can work faster and smarter as time goes on. This blog explains more about Color iMatch’s improved formulation engine.  

3.  Color Quality Control

Color iQC software helps brands communicate color data and monitor color quality across sites.

  • Brand colorists can enter digital color data to establish a color standard and communicate it across the supply chain.
  • Quality control professionals can monitor color quality in real time, demonstrate color accuracy, and reduce rejects.
  • Brand owners can validate performance and track trends to share with customers and suppliers. 

NetProfiler is a quality-assurance software that profiles, optimizes, and verifies all measurement devices are calibrated and performing as they should, giving our customers piece of mind that they will deliver repeatable and consistent color. 

pantone color of the year 2020 espresso machine4.  Visual Evaluation

When used properly, spectrophotometers and color management software can tell you if colors are within tolerance. However, someone must visually evaluate these parts – next to each other and under different light sources – to make sure they are ready to ship. Check out our Science of Visual Evaluation blog to learn more.

The SpectraLight QC light booth offers seven state-of-the-art light sources, more than any other on the market. It includes CIE Daylight, Cool White Fluorescent, Incandescent “A” & 2300K/Horizon, UVA, and two more fluorescent types (choice of U30, U35, TL83, and TL84), as well as an optional LED option. With SpectraLight QC, brand owners can create and share profiles across the supply chain and report and trace unit settings, lamp performance, operator certifications, and other features to ensure standardization. 

5.  An End-to-End Workflow

Using spectrophotometers, software, and controlled lighting, durable goods brands can efficiently formulate master standards, optimize the use of dyes, reuse leftover materials, and reduce approval cycles, as well as continuously monitor color throughout the production workflow.

Discover More

To learn more about how X-Rite solutions can help durable goods brands shorten time to market, reduce waste and rework, and build a more sustainable process, check out our How to Achieve the PANTONE® Color of the Year 2020 on Durable Goods and Consumer Electronics blog or get in touch for personalized assistance.

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