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Spectrophotometer and Color Measurement Uses

Posted February 23, 2017 by Mike Huda

At X-Rite Pantone, we pride ourselves on our ability to help customers specify, communicate, formulate, and produce consistent color. You’re probably familiar with our major markets, like plastics, industrial coatings, and print & packaging. You may also be aware of the more “common” things we measure, like paint, printed surfaces, and textiles.

But, as you look for the emergency exit on a plane, watch a butterfly float by, or choose the freshest package of cheese from the grocer, do you consider the role of color? Today we’re stepping out of the box to highlight some very unique uses of our spectrophotometers and color management solutions so that you think about color differently.

Farmers use the Munsell Soil Color Chart to evaluate the suitability of soil for crops.

Food & Beverages

Would you buy a package of beef that is brown or tinged with green?

From fish and meat to produce, baked goods, and spices, color is one of the primary indicators of freshness and quality. Our color measuring devices are used in food processing around the world to determine which foods pass USDA standards to make it to store shelves.

The National Cheese Institute dictates very strict standards, and X-Rite food measurement equipment is often used to determine which food products make the cut.

Manufacturers also use our spectrophotometers to determine how long it takes a product to go stale or bad. By taking careful color measurements and tracking quality, they can set accurate expiration dates.

Food is a notoriously difficult thing to measure because it comes in so many shapes, sizes, textures, and levels of transparency. Here are a few of X-Rite’s solutions for evaluating both solid and liquid food items at all stages of the process.

Our instruments are also used in food analysis. To sell orange juice in the U.S., you must use X-Rite equipment and software to specify and classify it based on color. This non-contact MetaVue VS3200 can measure traditionally complex samples like sauces, powders, and spices.

MetaVue VS3200

Historical and Anthropological Studies

Another interesting application for our color measurement technology is historical and anthropological studies. Many museums and universities use X-Rite instrumentation to restore, reproduce, and preserve artwork. By measuring the original color, it can be meticulously matched to the original piece of work so as not to damage or misrepresent the original.

Aerospace Applications

One of the most interesting partnerships I’ve personally worked on is to enhance air and space travel safety. We helped develop special reflectivity panels for docking cargo and human vessels into the International Space Station. We’ve also conducted reflectivity studies for airplane emergencies – not only the color of the doors that are readily apparent under regular light, but also the reflectivity of the cockpit door and emergency lighting in the case of an emergency. We’re very proud of these efforts!

X-Rite helped map the color for different fuel cells to monitor radiation exposure so astronauts remain aware of safety concerns. Here is the commemorative picture that is hanging on the wall at our headquarters in Grand Rapids!


Medical and Dental Prosthetics Applications

Proper color matching is critical when developing prosthetics for tooth, limb and facial replacement, and we partner on many of these medical and dental applications. Think about a replacement tooth. To achieve a perfect match, you need to consider more than just color. Teeth have both color and appearance attributes, and our color measurement technology considers color, gloss, and reflectance aspects for the most precise match. To read how one man is benefitting from color technology, check out our Prosthetics blog.

So much work, both science and art, go into making a perfect representation. The prosthetic is on the left and the real ear is on the right. See how closely and meticulously the color and appearance match?

Bone Repair and Joint Replacement

Most people wouldn’t consider that color plays a role here, since everything happens under the skin… but it does! Screws and pins for various medical procedures are color coded so the surgeons, assistants and nurses use the correct size and length every time. Devices like our Ci64 handheld spectrophotometer are very popular in this market because they get down to very specific spot sizes. Consistency from screw to screw to screw is crucial so surgeons don’t have to think about whether they’re using the right part.

The X-Rite Ci64 is an excellent choice for measuring metallized surfaces.

Plant and Animal Studies

The Plant Tissue Color Chart helps make field guides to identify and classify by color, species, and genus.

Biologists, zoologists, botanists, geologists, and anthropologists all use color measurement in their fields of study. Interesting things that have been studied using X-Rite instrumentation include shellfish and salmon breeding patterns, water suitability for consumption, and animal pelt classification. We’ve even worked with airports on bird population and preservation studies to mitigate collisions between birds and airplanes.

Disability Applications

The United States Americans with Disabilities Act requires that the entrance and exit doors of public, municipal, and government buildings must have a distinct varied reflection so they can be found easily, even by those with vision deficiency. This is called light reflective value, and we had the opportunity to help develop the government guidelines that are in use today. Our instruments also help paint companies achieve light reflective values that meet these government guidelines.

Do you need help measuring a unique surface?

The applications for our instrumentation are almost limitless! Check out our on-demand webinar to learn more, or get in touch to find out how X-Rite technology can help.

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