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Special Effect Finishes for Plastics

October 03, 2019

Although plastics professionals have been managing color issues in the production workflow for many years, the dynamics are once again changing. From consumer electronics to automotive parts and flexible packaging, a growing number of brands are incorporating special effect finishes into their products.

While metallics, pearlescents, and other complex finishes are beautiful and help brands stand out on the shelf, they also introduce new color management challenges into the manufacturing process. That’s because the way special effect flakes are aligned, the thickness of the plastic, and the viewing angle all contribute to the final appearance of the product.

How do you quantify the amount of “shimmer” in a special effect plastic?

If special effect finishes are leaving you struggling to find the most efficient way to achieve consistent color AND appearance, here are two solutions to help you stay competitive.

1 – Characterize appearance in plastics.

Special effect finishes go beyond just color. When you incorporate appearance characteristics that account for texture, gloss, transparency, and opacity, you also need to implement effective methods that help measure these characteristics accurately; as well as streamline the design to production workflow without compromising overall product quality.

X-Rite’s Total Appearance Capture (TAC™) Ecosystem makes the process easier. This new appearance measurement technology allows customers to capture, communicate and visualize precise digital presentations of physical materials in the virtual world, which results in virtual renderings with the exact optical characteristics as the physical material.
TAC enables an unmatched level of realism and efficiency in digital material capture and 3D design. The technology allows you to accurately and consistently share material appearance information across every step of the product development process to reduce design approval cycles and accelerate time to market.


Let X-Rite experts handle the physical material scanning for you! We can transform your samples into highly accurate digital material data files for use in your 3D rendering applications. Learn more about TAC Services.

Here’s how it works.

Product designers, 3D artists, material specifiers, and marketers can scan in plastic material sample using the TAC7 Scanner. The scanner captures and stores color, texture, gloss and other surface appearance characteristics from a physical material sample as an Appearance Exchange Format (AxF™) file. The AxF file is used to digitally communicate and share appearance related data for use in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Computer-Aided Design (CAD), and state-of-the art rendering applications.

X-Rite developed and released AxF to be a vendor-neutral file-format. It allows the full communication of visual appearance data in a single, editable file that can used across design tools in order to improve the virtualization process. In fact, you may already be using Color eXchange Format (CxF), another vendor-neutral file format that was developed by X-Rite and subsequently adopted as an ISO standard, to communicate color. AxF was developed as a complement to CxF to store both color information and material appearance data.

X-Rite is helping plastics designers and manufacturers go beyond color to address a product’s overall appearance with Total Appearance Capture. But there’s something else you must also consider.


2 – Tighten your inter-instrument agreement.

Disagreements about color accuracy happen all the time, causing expensive delays and rework. One way to avoid this issue is to implement a supply chain workflow that includes tight inter-instrument agreement to eliminate the variation that happens when brands, suppliers, and manufacturers all use different measurement instruments for different parts of the process.

Here’s a scenario we see all of the time: A manufacturer uses a benchtop spectrophotometer to create a “golden sample” to communicate color expectations with the supplier. After creating a production sample, the supplier uses a handheld instrument to ensure it is within tolerance as compared to the golden sample. The sample passes, but is rejected by the manufacturer. What happened?

Had both the supplier and manufacturer been using the same device, they would have been working off a single set of data with tight inter-instrument agreement. This is especially important for special effects, because the ability to deliver consistent measurements is even more difficult when you’re dealing with appearance variables. You can learn more about this very important topic by reading our Understanding Inter-Instrument Agreement blog.

Special Effect Finishes for Plastics MA-5 QC X-Rite Blog

The MA-5 QC can accurately quantify metallic and pearlescent additives and complex colors in plastics for fast color control.

Are you ready to incorporate special effects into your plastics workflow?

Tight inter-instrument agreement coupled with accurate virtualization of both color and appearance are two very effective ways to achieve consistent color. If you’re interested in learning more, get in touch to schedule a TAC demo and discuss the best instruments for your workflow.

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