Color Measurement Helps Oral Care Products Promote Adherence

color measurement oral care

Oral care manufacturers are using color in innovative ways to promote adherence and improve user health. Image Source: Unsplash user Lesly B. Juarez

Oral care is one of the oldest and most fundamental parts of healthcare. While many aspects of modern hygiene are relatively new, people have used oral care products since ancient times. “Egyptians are believed to have started using a paste to clean their teeth around 5000BC,” explains Colgate. “Ancient toothpastes were used to treat some of the same concerns we have today–keeping teeth and gums clean, whitening teeth, and freshening breath.”1 Toothbrushes arrived later, around 3500-3000BC, “when the Babylonians and the Egyptians made a brush by fraying the ends of a twig.” Even interdental cleaning devices acted as primitive flossing instruments in ancient times.

Despite this long history of oral care products, it has only been relatively recently that toothbrushes, toothpastes, and flosses have come to resemble the products that we know today. In fact, mass-produced iterations of these products all emerged just over a century ago in the late 1800s, ushering in new oral hygiene standards and facilitating improved self-care. Since that time, oral care products have continued to improve as scientific knowledge regarding pathogenic influences on oral health has grown. As a result, people are now keeping their natural teeth longer than ever before and commercial oral care products have become household essentials.

But despite widespread availability of affordable oral care instruments, adherence and motivation still remain challenges.2 According to the Delta Dental Oral Health and Well-Being Survey, 30% of Americans fail to brush their teeth twice a day.3 and only 25% of Americans floss daily. Those who do brush often don’t brush long enough or change out their toothbrushes often enough. These factors help explain why nearly half of American adults have some form of periodontal disease.4 “[A]s Americans live longer and retain more of their natural teeth, periodontal disease may take on more prominence in the oral health of the U.S. adult population,” says Paul Eke, MPH, PhD, and CDC epidemiologist. “Maintaining good periodontal health is important to the overall health and well-being of our aging population.”

In order to promote adherence, manufacturers of oral hygiene products are now developing new products that both attract customers and encourage use. Color plays a central role in many of these innovative developments, making spectrophotometric color analysis more essential than ever before.

color measurement oral care

A new generation of colorful oral care products is replacing the standard whites of the past. Image Source: Pexels user Pietro Jeng

Using Color to Reimagine Oral Care

“When I opened the mailer to reveal four small boxes in the colors of the tropics, I let out an audible ‘Ahhh!’” says Cheryl Wischhover. “My reaction was immediate and visceral. Was it a beautiful makeup palette? A sublime new fragrance? Nope, it was dental floss. Cocofloss, to be precise.”5

Cocofloss is part of a growing market of upscale oral care products that take everyday hygiene essentials and reimagine them as pieces of beautiful design. Inspired by the waters around Turks and Caicos, the color of Cocosfloss is perhaps its greatest asset. As Wischhover says, “Personal care is arguably the last frontier of good design, but that’s definitely changing. Startups like Cocosfloss [are] offering truly attractive products for a process—scraping biofilm off your teeth— that’s anything but.”

But Cocosfloss was developed not just as a way of cashing in on growing public appetite for aesthetically beautiful products; rather, it was created to help people re-frame their relationship with flossing and promote adherence. “We wanted to repaint floss and change the way people think and feel about it,” explains Catherine Cu, an artist who partnered with her dentist sister to found the company in 2015. “People think flossing is so gross, so we wanted to build a new association [with it].” The sisters believe this new association will help people change their habits and ultimately enjoy better oral health.

Flashy new startups aren’t the only ones capitalizing on color to create more attractive oral care products. In recent years, established manufacturers have released a variety of oral care products that marry form and function, with color acting as a central feature. Waterpik, for example, revealed its Aquarius Designer Series that allows you to choose from a range of colors to “bring beauty to both their surroundings and to the people who use them.”6 Meanwhile, Sonicare has expanded its color range to include rose gold, pink, and amethyst options, making its renowned electric toothbrushes stunning features rather than something to hide away in the medicine cabinet. Not only do these colors help a manufacturer’s products stand out from the pack, they may also promote adherence by increasing psychological appeal.

Practical Applications of Color to Promote Adherence

Of course, the potential for color to facilitate adherence doesn’t just lie in pure aesthetic appeal; for years, color has been used to communicate important information to help people use dental care products more effectively. Color changing bristles, for example, indicate when it’s time to swap out your old toothbrush for a new one. Color-changing toothpastes transform their hue as you brush to encourage proper brushing duration.7 Dental disclosing tablets use color to reveal the dental plaque that remains after brushing, allowing users to see what they have missed and improved their technique. By harnessing the power of color to communicate important information, these products empower consumers to make better choices regarding their health and well-being.

color measurement oral care

Spectrophotometers are essential for monitoring color in oral care products to increase appeal. Image Source: Flickr user Electric Teeth

Spectrophotometric Color Measurement of Oral Care Products

The central role color plays in modern oral care products demands that manufacturers integrate the highest level of color quality control within their production processes. Whether color is used for aesthetic or functional purposes, spectrophotometers are the ideal solution for monitoring the color of all types of oral care products to ensure accurate coloration.

Spectrophotometers are designed to mimic the way the human eye sees color while removing the subjectivity and inherent unreliability of human sight. By distilling color information to objective data, oral care manufacturers are able to gain vital insight into color quality at every stage of the manufacturing process. These instruments can be used to create color formulas and monitor both raw ingredients and finished products to ensure end-to-end color control. When the color of the product is designed to change through use, spectrophotometric analysis also allows for precise evaluation of color behavior in real life conditions to ensure efficacy.

The versatile nature of spectrophotometers means that they are appropriate for measuring the color of all material types, including metals, plastics, films, and pharmaceuticals. As such, they can be used in the development and production of a complete range of oral care products and facilitate color matching in products comprised of disparate materials. When color is an integral part of user adherence, this is vital in order to allow the product to reach its full potential.

HunterLab Quality

HunterLab has been a pioneer in spectrophotometric color measurement for over 60 years. Today we offer a comprehensive line-up of portable, benchtop, and in-line instruments that can be easily integrated in laboratory and factory environments. Combined with our EasyMatch QC software, HunterLab spectrophotometers give you unprecedented color insight and control, allowing you to create the highest quality products possible. Contact us to learn more about our renowned products and world-class customer support services.

  1. “History of Toothbrushes and Toothpastes”, https://www.colgateprofessional.com/patient-education/articles/history-of-toothbrushes-and-toothpastes
  2. “The History of Oral Hygiene Products: How Far Have We Come in 6000 Years?”, October 1997 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9643227
  3. “Survey Finds Shortcomings in Oral Health Habits”, October 20, 2014, http://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2014-archive/october/survey-finds-shortcomings-in-oral-health-habits
  4. “CDC: Half of American Adults Have Periodontal Disease”, September 2012, https://www.perio.org/consumer/cdc-study.htm
  5. “An Era of Elevated Oral Care is Upon Us”, April 20, 2017, https://www.racked.com/2017/4/20/15293264/quip-cocofloss-fancy-dental-floss-toothbrushes
  6. “Waterpik Makes Oral Care Beautiful With Upscale Designer Colors”, November 3, 2014, https://www.waterpik.com/news-press/designer-color-waterpik-water-flosser/
  7. “Motivation to Brush for Two Minutes”, March 11, 2016, http://www.nature.com/bdj/journal/v220/n5/full/sj.bdj.2016.193.html?foxtrotcallback=true

Spectrophotometers Help Improve Color Fastness in Construction Paper

color fastness construction paper color

In an increasingly paperless society, construction paper still holds its own. Image Source: Pexels user Pixabay

Paper was once called white gold. Its ubiquitous nature and seemingly endless demand fueled the pulp and paper industry around the globe as various paper forms became everyday essentials. But as the age of computers dawned, Frederick Wilfrid Lancaster’s concept of the paperless society, first imagined in the late 1970s, began to materialize. Computers were thrilling; data from 60 reams of paper could be stored on a 700 MB drive, facilitating data access and data portability while sidestepping concerns regarding deforestation. As TS Viswanathan, Managing Director of paper product company Subramaniam Brothers, writes, “In the 1990s, production of paper in the US in writing and printing grade was around 90 million tons, which has dipped to around 60 million tons; it is continuing to decline.”1

And, yet, even as computers—in their many forms—come to largely supplant written forms of communication and data storage, there is something special about paper. “Paper is literally like a character in our life story, but it’s a character we haven’t paid a lot of attention to,” says Todd Stone, creative director with Carmer-Krasselt, an advertising agency that recently produced a series of TV ads promoting the benefits of paper. “When we see it and notice it, its ubiquity becomes apparent, but its importance becomes apparent too.”2 Thomas Ehrlich and Ernestine Fu agree. “Paper allows complete creative freedom; there is unrestrained creative potential with a sheet of blank paper that we find liberating.”3

Indeed, there are some forms of paper that cannot be replicated by electronic simulacra. Chief among these is construction paper, which has no digital equivalent. With its unique texture and an endless array of colors, construction paper continues to offer possibilities for work and play computers cannot. But the production of construction paper can now benefit from modern, computer-based color measurement technologies to optimize color fastness and appeal in an increasingly paperless society.

color fastness construction paper

Construction paper has played an essential role in everything from great works of art to classroom Valentine’s Day celebrations. Image Source: Pexels user Pixabay

The History of Construction Paper

Paper dates back thousands of years, but construction paper is a relatively recent development. In the late 1800s, the emergence of artificial dyes allowed for the production of vibrant “engine colored” papers, which mixed color into the pulp of the paper.4 Unlike coated papers, construction paper allowed for integrated, uniform coloration that could not be rubbed off. Its sturdy construction meant that the paper could be folded, perforated, and embroidered, making it ideal for children’s arts and crafts project while also acting as an integral part of elementary color theory in classrooms across the country.

However, children were not the only or even primary users of construction paper. These papers opened up new possibilities for artists who were previously limited to a restricted range of naturally-dyed papers that suffered from lack of diversity and vibrancy. Construction paper soon became a popular medium for both amateur and professional artists alike, with everyone from Gertrude Green to Chagall to Jackson Pollack using the material in their work in some way.

Color Challenges in Construction Paper

While the appeal of construction paper lies largely in its wide range of brilliant colors, those colors are inherently unstable. This can be readily observed in the dramatic color shifts of Ilya Bolotowsky’s collages, which obscure the artist’s intent, as well as the faded homemade Valentine’s Day cards of childhood. This color degradation is the result of UV interaction with the dyes as well as oxidized yellowing of lignin in the paper itself.

Although some artists intentionally seek out this color change, for most it acts as a barrier to construction paper use. As such, paper manufacturers have sought to improve color fastness in a number of ways, including the use of sulphite pulp and acid-free processing. Today, some manufacturers offer both “regular” construction paper made of groundwood pulp and more expensive “fade resistant” sulphite papers designed to appeal to those who want to minimize color shifts over time.

color fastness construction paper

Spectrophotometric color measurement allows paper manufacturers to perfect color resistance efforts. Image Source: Pexels user Pixabay

Improving Permanence with Color Measurement Technologies

Spectrophotometers play an essential role in the production of all types of paper by allowing for continuous color analysis at all stages of the production process. The color of raw materials and final products can be easily captured and distilled to objective data to ensure they fall into accepted color tolerances and produce papers that meet your standards. This data can be communicated across manufacturing facilities to ensure color consistency regardless of geographical location. For products whose primary source of appeal is color itself, this is a central component of product quality control.

Today’s sophisticated color measurement technologies are also vital for the development of improved color fastness in construction paper. Spectrophotometers give you the ability to determine the efficacy of fade-resistant efforts with the highest degree of precision. By taking baseline measurements and comparing them to measurements taken after varying lengths of UV exposure, you can closely monitor color behavior in response to environmental stressors and accurately quantify color shifts. This data can be correlated with process variables such as pulp and dye types as well as processing methods, allowing you to isolate and evaluate the impact of each variable. This data can then be used to improve fade resistance and produce papers that hold increased appeal for consumers.

HunterLab Innovation

HunterLab has been a pioneer in color measurement technologies for over 60 years. Today we offer a comprehensive line-up of portable, benchtop, and inline spectrophotometers developed for the needs of our customers in the paper industry. Our instruments give you the ability to monitor color behavior throughout the production process and alert you to unwanted color variations immediately, giving you the opportunity to take swift corrective action. Combining our spectrophotometers with customizable color measurement software also gives you all the tools you need to evaluate new processes as you seek to improve your products and optimize appeal. Contact us to learn more about our renowned instruments and let us help you perfect your manufacturing practices.

  1. “Writing on the Wall for Paper Industry”, http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/indian-paper-industry-in-crisis/article9288555.ece
  2. “Take Note: The Paper Industry is Planning a Big Comeback”, July 29, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/paper-or-pixels-after-years-of-decline-the-paper-industry-tries-to-win-back-consumers-hearts/2015/07/29/c942d6f0-3213-11e5-97ae-30a30cca95d7_story.html?utm_term=.56b375744d63
  3. “The ‘Paperless Society’’ is Far from Paperless”, September 24, 2014, https://www.forbes.com/sites/ehrlichfu/2014/09/24/the-paperless-society-is-far-from-paperless/#5c40a6637088
  4. “Construction Paper: A Brief History of Impermanence”, 1997, http://cool.conservation-us.org/coolaic/sg/bpg/annual/v16/bp16-07.html

Monitoring Japanese Soy Sauce Color via Spectrophotometry

The versatility of Japanese soy sauces is helping to expand the global soy sauce market. Image Source: Unsplash user Kuba Boski

“My mother always kept a gallon of Kikkoman Soy Sauce in the kitchen cubby,” writes Jenny Lee-Adrian. Whether preparing marinades, dipping sauces, or fried rice, the Kikkoman was an ever-present part of cooking in Lee-Adrian’s household. It wasn’t until years later, when she began cooking for herself that she realized there was a world of Japanese soy sauces out there beyond her mother’s beloved Kikkoman and these sauces can “vary wildly in flavor, texture, and appearance.”1

Indeed, as Florence Fabricant wrote over 20 years ago, “Soy sauce has many personalities. Its saltiness can vary from breathtakingly intense to mellow and muted. Its consistency ranges from watery to viscous.”2 This diversity makes Japanese soy sauces ideally suited for a broad variety of uses, whether you’re looking for a dark saishikomi or a light usukuchi. The varied usability of soy sauces combined with an increased propensity of consumers to eat at home and a growing body of research confirming the health benefits of soy help to explain why the soy sauce market is forecasted to increase significantly in the coming years.3

As the soy sauce market expands and consumers become more informed about soy sauce options, manufacturers must remain vigilant in monitoring the quality of their products to ensure they meet both industry and customer standards. As such, integrating spectrophotometric color measurement is an increasingly vital part of soy sauce production, even for those companies using time-honored, traditional methods of manufacturing.

soy sauce color
The colors of Japanese soy sauces can vary drastically owing to their raw ingredients and processing methods. Image Source: Flickr user Hiroyuki Ishizawa

The Creation of Soy Sauce Color

Soy sauces come by their color in a variety of ways. Many American manufacturers, for example, eschew traditional manufacturing methods in favor of “mixing soy protein with water, corn syrup, salt, and caramel color.” This produces a harsh and unappealing products that have little in common with fine soy sauces produced by Japanese companies. The highest quality soy sauces, on the other hand, use no artificial colorants. Instead, their trademark hues are entirely the natural result of traditional ingredients and fermentation-based processing methods. According to Kikkoman, one of the most renowned producers of soy sauce in the world:

The superb color unique to soy sauce is the result of the Maillard Reaction, which begins two or three months after brewing starts. In this reaction, glucose and other sugars combine with amino acids to produce a brown pigment called melanoidin. which gives soy sauce its beautiful color.4  

In other words, soy sauce grows darker as oxidation occurs, which means that manufacturers must carefully monitor processing to reach the desired level of coloration naturally, without resorting to artificial colorants. Although raw ingredient ratios and processing methods vary depending on the type of soy sauce being produced, the Maillard reaction is a primary component of color production in all soy sauce types.

Soy Sauce Color as an Indication of Quality and Usability

The Maillard reaction, however, doesn’t just affect color; it also has a significant impact on taste and aroma. As such, color in high-quality soy sauces isn’t simply a matter of aesthetics, but also acts as an important indicator of overall quality and usability. In fact, color is so important that it is perhaps the most important criteria used by the Japanese Soy Sauce Association to determine soy sauce grade.

Soy sauce grade and color have a deep impact on consumer perception, saleability, and product use. While koikuchi, a darkly colored sauce, is by far the most popular soy sauce in Japan, the lighter-colored usukuchi sauce is preferred by many in the Kyoto region. As Makiko Itoh points out, “In traditional Kyo-ryori (Kyoto cuisine), which has its origins in refined imperial court cooking, dark colored koikuchi soy sauce is considered déclassé and ruins the flavor and appearance of food.”5 Manufacturers must adjust their processing methods to achieve the precise kind and quality of soy sauce they are seeking, whether they are looking to produce tamari, which gives dishes a “burnished reddish-brown color and shine” or shiro, which adds flavor but not color.

soy sauce color
Spectrophotometers allow for the highest level of soy sauce color measurement to ensure products meet industry and consumer standards. Image Source: Flickr user McPig

Measuring the Color of Soy Sauce

The critical role soy sauce color plays in grading, appeal, and usability means that manufacturers must employ strict color measurement protocols to ensure that the products they produce are correctly processed for their particular purpose.  While instrumental color measurement is valuable for the manufacture of all types of soy sauce, it can be particularly vital in the production of light and extra light sauces, which must be produced in “extremely controlled” conditions to ensure “color is not deepened.”6

Spectrophotometers offer an ideal solution for color measurement challenges by distilling color information to objective data via sophisticated spectral analysis. These instruments also allow for precise, in-house color grading of soy sauces to ensure that each batch conforms to both industry color standards and your own color tolerances. By monitoring color behavior at every part of production, spectrophotometers can easily confirm that the product is progressing as expected regardless of raw ingredients or processing method used. If out-of-spec color variation occurs, spectral data may be used to identify production problems and locate the source of the issue. As such, manufacturers are able to rapidly isolate production faults and take appropriate action to correct processing.

HunterLab Quality

HunterLab has been a leader in color measurement technology for over 60 years. Today, we offer a comprehensive line-up of portable, benchtop, and in-line spectrophotometers designed for the unique needs of the food industry. We also provide specialized accessories, such as small path length cells to facilitate accurate measurement of very dark chromatic samples like soy sauce, which may be unsuitable for larger path lengths. Contact us to learn more about our renowned products and world-class customer service and let us help you select the right tools for your color measurement needs.

  1. “Do You Know Your Soy Sauces?”, http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/03/do-you-know-your-soy-sauces-japanese-chinese-indonesian-differences.html
  2. “Taking the Measure of Soy Sauces, to Compare the Tastes,” February 16, 1994, http://www.nytimes.com/1994/02/16/garden/taking-the-measure-of-soy-sauces-to-compare-the-tastes.html
  3. “Global Soy Sauce Market: Trends & Opportunities (2015-2019), September 24, 2015, http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-soy-sauce-market-trends–opportunities-2015-2019-300148925.html
  4. “Features of Kikkoman Soy Sauce”, http://www.kikkoman.eu/consumer/kikkoman-quality/quality-of-soy-sauce/features-of-kikkoman-soy-sauce/
  5. “Basics: Japanese Soy Sauce: All You Need to Know (And Then Some)”, August 2012, http://justhungry.com/handbook/just-hungry-handbooks/basics-japanese-soy-sauce-all-you-need-know
  6. “The Draft of the Revised Quality Labelling Standard of Soy Sauce (Shoyu), http://www.inmetro.gov.br/barreirastecnicas/pontofocal/..%5Cpontofocal%5Ctextos%5Cregulamentos%5CJPN_106.doc\

Spectrophotometers Facilitate Color Harmony in Car Interiors

color harmony car interior

Creating color harmony in car interiors is essential to optimizing aesthetic appeal. Image Source: Unsplash user Sean DuBois

In today’s rapidly evolving automotive industry, consumers are given options few ever dreamed of only a few years ago. Cars are now the sites of some of the most innovative technologies available. They are bringing performance and safety to extraordinary new heights and even transforming what we imagine cars to be. While we marvel at unprecedented performance and are comforted by advances in safety, aesthetics remain a critical component of automotive appeal. In fact, a 2014 study by AutoTrader on how consumers choose new cars found that it was “appearance more than anything else that appealed to participants.”1

Color harmony in car interiors may not be the first thing consumers think of when considering the aesthetic appeal. In fact, interior color matching is largely taken for granted precisely because car manufacturers have become so successful at achieving it. But when interior car components don’t match, consumers notice. Not only does this disrupt aesthetic appeal, it can also call into question the overall quality of the car; if a manufacturer has failed to get the basics right, what else have they missed? As such, it is imperative to seek out the best possible color measurement tools to ensure accurate color matching.

color harmony car interior

With hundreds of parts manufactured around the globe, ensuring color harmony can be challenging. Image Source: Unsplash user Nathan Lindahl

The Challenges of Color Harmony in Car Interiors

Creating color harmony in car interiors may be a fundamental building block in the manufacturing process, but it isn’t easy. A car interior is made up of hundreds of different parts that must co-exist in an aesthetically pleasing fashion and any one of which is vulnerable to unwanted color variation. These parts are also comprised of a wide variety of different materials, from smooth, glossy plastics to textured leathers to smooth wood, all of which has its own unique geometric properties that impact how color is experienced. Because components sit right alongside each other within cars, color mismatch quickly becomes evident.

Another major challenge to ensuring color harmony is the nature of the modern car industry itself. “The rapid globalization of industrial supply chains has created an urgent need to efficiently qualify materials at a variety of manufacturing sites across the world,” says Diane Geisler.

For example, a car may receive its headliner from a plant in Mexico, the leather trim for the seat from Turkey and the vinyl for the dashboard from the United States. All of these components must have the same color appearance to achieve the interior harmony intended by the designer and valued by the consumer.2  

Relying on visual assessment to determine color harmony is never an adequate color quality control method owing to its inherent variation. As noted in Plastics, visual assessment is “extremely subjective, as color vision deficiencies, mood, lighting, or even social pressure can affect perceptions of whether a color is acceptable or not.”3 And in global supply chains, where color information must be communicated across operators and manufacturing sites, reliance on visual assessment is simply impossible.

color harmony car interior

Spectrophotometers offer the best solution for the color measurement challenges inherent in today’s automotive industry. Image Source: Flickr user Land Rover MENA

Instrumental Solutions for Creating Color Harmony

In light of the challenges inherent to creating color harmony in car interiors, integrating objective color measurement throughout production is essential to ensuring correct and consistent coloration. Ken Phillips, market development manager at HunterLab, explains, “Color measurement is an aspect of quality assurance and quality control used to detect the presence or absence of color, to quantify a product’s color in ‘color space,’ and to compare a product color to that of a known standard for ‘pass/fail’ purposes during incoming raw material QC and during production.”

While modern cars are technological marvels in themselves, automotive color measurement requires the use of some of the most advanced technologies available to ensure accurate color matching. Spectrophotometers offer the highest level of quality control for truly objective color measurement. The sophisticated optical geometries of these instruments allow you to capture both color and appearance data to monitor overall color harmony even in the presence of vastly different materials. The data obtained by spectrophotometric analysis provides a universal language that makes it possible to create color standards, monitor color behavior, and communicate color information across sites, operators, and materials.

Spectrophotometric data, however, doesn’t just allow you to measure the color of automotive components in isolation; they also give you the information you need to improve the quality and efficiency of your manufacturing process. “In the past, the goal of color measurement was narrow in focus, basically that of understanding the color properties of a particular sample or product and its difference when compared to a standard,” says Phillips.

Today it is about understanding a process that the process can be improved. The ability to collect data at multiple points throughout a workflow, and share that data with an organization or supply chain where it can be acted on is critical in helping companies improve their processes, reduce operating costs, improve efficiencies, and improve stakeholder and shareholder value.

In other words, spectrophotometers give you the data you need to analyze your manufacturing process around the globe to find areas of vulnerability and take corrective action. In an economic environment that requires increased agility, flexibility, and efficiency, this is essential for minimizing waste while enhancing overall quality.

HunterLab Innovation

HunterLab has been a leader in the field of color measurement for over 60 years. Today we offer a comprehensive line-up of portable, benchtop, and in-line spectrophotometers that has been developed in response to the needs of our customers in the automotive industry. Combined with our customizable software packages, HunterLab instruments offer the highest level of color quality control available today and provide innovative solutions to even the most vexing color measurement challenges. Contact us to learn more about our renowned products and world-class customer support services.

  1. “Desire Trumps Need for Car Buyers: Research”, January 27, 2015, http://www.ctvnews.ca/autos/desire-trumps-need-for-car-buyers-research-1.2207596
  2. “The Future of Color Measurement”, October 2, 2014, http://www.qualitymag.com/articles/92181-the-future-of-color-measurement
  3. “Find the Keys that Drive In-Vehicle Color Harmony”, 2016, http://www.plastics.gl/automotive/find-the-keys-that-drive-in-vehicle-color-harmony/

Measuring the Color Stabilizing Effects of Antimicrobial Textile Treatments

antimicrobial textile

Antimicrobial textile treatments can prevent unsightly discoloration caused by interactions between bacteria and perspiration. Image Source: Unsplash user Michael

Two years ago, the MIT Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group, New Balance, and The Royal College of Art teamed up to do something remarkable; make bacteria attractive. The cohort designed a line of clothing  – called Second Skin – infused with the bacillus subtilis natto bacterium. Wired Magazine explains that the natto bacterium “expand and contract depending on the amount of humidity in the air – the more humidity present, the bigger the bacteria get.”1 This expansion opens up air vents within the clothing, allowing for increased breathability as the wearer becomes active and perspires. “By printing natto cells onto a biofilm, then printing that biofilm onto spandex fabric, scientists can control exactly how the fabric will behave,” says Anna Green of Mental Floss.2 The result is a lineup of garments as innovative as they are beautiful.

But as forward-thinking as Second Skin is, most microbes found on clothing aren’t quite as useful. In fact, they can be dangerous, as fabrics act as a convenient transportation service for dangerous microbes like Staphylococcus, which can lead to a number of serious illnesses in both humans and animals. But even benign living organisms found on textiles can have undesirable effects like unsightly discoloration, including underarm yellowing and the infamous ring-around-the-collar. As such, a growing number of clothing manufacturers are now introducing antimicrobial treatments to their textiles, minimizing or eliminating bacterial proliferation. Spectrophotometers are playing a vital role in the development of these new antimicrobial technologies, helping to protect health and safety while minimizing unwanted color shifts.

antimicrobial textile

Antimicrobial textile treatments are particularly valuable for the healthcare environments to protect health and safety. Image Source: Pexels user Pixabay

The Growth of Antimicrobial Textile Treatments

The interactions between bacteria, textiles, and the human body can lead to unappealing discoloration in all types of fabrics and garments. While antimicrobial treatments are particularly valuable in healthcare environments, even everyday consumers stand to benefit from improved antimicrobial technologies. This is especially true when it comes to clothing regularly exposed to heat, humidity, and perspiration. “Sweat is normally colorless but might turn a yellowish color due to interaction with bacteria on your clothing,” explains Katherine Mariaca of Livestrong. 3 As such, athletic apparel, socks, and underwear are often at the forefront of antimicrobial textile innovations. In fact, antimicrobial treatments are now a standard feature in high end sportswear products, as consumers seek higher quality items that will resist undesirable color shifts and odors.

Evaluating the Performance of Antimicrobial Textile Treatment in Use

The majority of antimicrobial textile treatments are solutions applied to fabrics after the dyeing process is complete to “control the growth of microbes by various mechanisms ranging from preventing cell reproduction, blocking of enzymes, reaction with the cell membrane to the destruction of the cell walls and poisoning the cell from within.”4 The minimization or elimination of microbial growth means that there is nothing for perspiration and other environmental factors to interact with in order to cause discoloration, effectively stabilizing textile color and extending the life of the garment. These treatments must be safe and durable, standing up to washing, drying, and everyday wear without disrupting aesthetic quality.

While measuring the number and kind of microbes found in antimicrobial textiles is the primary mode of efficacy investigation, a separate evaluation process must occur to determine the color stabilization effects of antimicrobial treatments. Spectrophotometers are ideal instruments for this evaluation process, owing to their ability to accurately capture color data of all fabric types using objective parameters that go beyond the unreliable human eye. By spectrophotometrically measuring the color of the textile after exposure to environmental stressors such as heat, humidity, perspiration, and laundering and comparing it to a baseline measurement, you can identify and quantify color shifts. This information can then be used to fine-tune formulations and optimize color stabilizing effects.

antimicrobial textile

Antimicrobial textile treatments can cause undesirable color shifts, particularly yellowing in white and light-colored fabrics. Image Source: Pexels user jumbopic.com

Evaluating the Effects of Antimicrobial Treatments on New Textiles

Although the purpose of antimicrobial treatments is partially to prevent discoloration when the garment is in use, they can also cause inherent color shifts upon production, particularly in white and light-colored garments. Silver-based treatments are known for yellowing, for example, compromising aesthetic appeal in individual garments while potentially causing color disharmony within a clothing line. This is especially true when the line is comprised of a number of different fabric types, which may interact with the treatment in different ways.

Spectrophotometers allow you to precisely monitor color behavior caused by the introduction of antimicrobial textile treatments to determine which treatments are best suited for your purposes. Certain types of antimicrobial treatment may require additional stabilizing agents to counteract the yellowing effects of the primary agent. For example, researchers employed a spectrophotometer to determine that chitosan (CS) and montmorillonite-dihydroxy ethylene urea (MDEU) “increased the whiteness index values of cotton fabrics treated with KSF containing different silver concentrations.”5 1,2,3,4-butanetetracarboxylic acid (BTCA) has also been found to prevent color variation in cotton fabrics treated with colloidal nano silver.6 Such findings are invaluable to perfecting treatment processes and creating textiles that perform aesthetically as well as they do functionally. Because spectrophotometers allow you to accurately correlate process variables with color behavior, you can easily tailor formulations to meet your exact requirements.

HunterLab Innovation

HunterLab has been at the forefront of color measurement innovation for over 60 years. Today, we offer a comprehensive lineup of portable, benchtop, and in-line spectrophotometers to suit the unique needs of the textile industry. When combined with our customizable color software packages, our instruments offer the highest level of insight into textile color behavior possible, allowing you to perfect formulations and processes. Contact us to learn more about our renowned technologies and let us help you select the right spectrophotometer for your purposes.

  1. “This Living Clothing Morphs When You Sweat”, October 28, 2015, https://www.wired.com/2015/10/this-living-clothing-morphs-when-you-sweat/
  2. “Living Clothing That Responds To Your Sweat”, October 30, 2015, http://mentalfloss.com/article/70575/living-clothing-responds-your-sweat
  3. “What Are the Causes of Yellow Perspiration?” March 3, 2017, http://www.livestrong.com/article/107724-causes-yellow-perspiration/
  4. “Antimicrobial Performance of Cotton Finished with Triclosan, Silver and Chitosan”, August 27, 2015, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s40691-015-0040-y
  5. “Development of Antimicrobial Cotton Fabric Using Bionanocomposites”, December 2013, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10570-013-0057-6
  6. “Durable Antibacterial and Cross-Linking Cotton with Collodial Silver Nanoparticles and Butane Tetracarboxylic Axid Without Yellowing”, January 2012, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0927776511005388?via%3Dihub

The Evolution of Paint Color Trends and Why Color Measurement Matters

paint color measurement

In the world of paint, vibrant new shades are replacing neutrals. Image Source: Unsplash user William Felker

In the past decade, home design blogs have been a virtual sea of greys, whites, and blacks. But recently, something started changing. From pink walls to deep jewel-toned kitchen cabinetry, color is coming back to the world of home decoration.

If a quick scroll through Apartment Therapy doesn’t convince you, perhaps Sherwin Williams’s National Paint Week Color Psychology Study will. Released earlier this year, the study reveals that a full 58% of Americans “say that more vibrant colors should be used throughout the home rather than just neutral tones.”1 Not only can this move away from neutrals liven up your living space, it can actually affect how you feel. “Homeowners shouldn’t stress when trying new colors, and many will likely find it a worthwhile endeavor,” says Dr. Sally Augustin, a color psychology expert at Design with Science. “Vibrant colors can have positive psychological effects. Emerald greens can be energizing, seeing red can give us a boost of strength, and yellow can provide a sense of warmth.”

Of course, the process of picking a paint color is a little more complicated than that; after all, consumers want colors that look as good as they make them feel, and what looks good is constantly evolving. The paint color trends that were all the rage fifteen years ago now look tired and dull. Meanwhile, we may currently have little interest in the shades we’ll be clamoring for in five years. But there was a time when those taupe walls were the height of sophistication and there will probably be a time when we want nothing more than Pantone’s Color of the Year 2022 on our walls.

paint color measurement

The evolution of paint color trends is driven by both organic and carefully planned processes. Image Source: Pexels user Pixabay

The Evolution of Paint Color Trends

We live in a time when interest in home decoration has reached fever pitch and the latest home fashions can spread across the globe in hours thanks to social media. In this environment, it’s critical for paint manufacturers to stay on top of paint color trends.

So how do these trends develop? The process is both wonderfully organic and carefully planned. One of the greatest influences is the Color Marketing Group (CMG), “a non-profit that helps pick and predict paint colors.”2 Throughout the year, CMG members participate in a series of workshops to discuss the evolution of color trends around the world. They then select a variety of colors they believe will rise in popularity and bestow the title Pantone Color of the Year on the most important hue. As James Bartlett writes in The Los Angeles Times, “politics, pop culture, spots, technology, and social issues can influence the selection of colors.”

The CMG color picks provide vital direction to industries and companies across the globe, helping them choose exciting and marketable hues for their products. And chief among these is the paint industry.

Spectrophotometers allow you to perfect paint formulations. Image Source: Pexels user Tookapic

The Role of Spectrophotometers

For the paint industry, putting color trends into practice isn’t simply a matter of promoting existing shades. Rather, many paint manufacturers develop new color palettes both in response to changing trends and to drive them. This is a critical part of establishing yourself as a leader in the field and staying relevant in a competitive market. But the process of developing new paint colors isn’t as simple as it may seem; it requires a sophisticated understanding of color theory and the use of cutting-edge technologies to create the perfect blends. Perhaps the most important tool available for this process is the spectrophotometer.

Spectrophotometers measure color the way the eye sees it, only better. These instruments are ideal for analyzing the color of pigments, bases, draw downs, and finished products to ensure that each component and stage of the paint creation process  is accounted for. By distilling hues to objective spectral data, operators are able to obtain a precise understanding of color quality and behavior. This data can be used to analyze new hues, identify color matches, determine paint opacity, and perfect formulations.

As each ingredient is added to a mix, the spectrophotometer will monitor how the color is affected and alert you when the paint hits your desired hue, allowing you to develop the ideal recipe. The advanced technology of spectrophotometers means that you are able to capture the precise information you need regardless of geometric attributes like gloss, ensuring that your coloration stays accurate across your full range of finishes.

Once each formula has been perfected, the data set provided by spectrophotometric analysis serves as an instrumental part of ongoing production of both components and finished product. By measuring each batch against the standard, you can quickly determine whether the color falls inside your tolerance range and accept or reject the product. The data can also be used to color match paint chips and promotional materials as well as analyze paints mixed in retail environments. This ensures consistency and allows you to only release the best products into the marketplace. At a time when consumers are on the hunt for very specific shades, this is essential to making sure what they see is what they get.

HunterLab Quality

HunterLab has been a leader in the field of color measurement for over 60 years. Today we offer a comprehensive range of portable, benchtop, and in-line spectrophotometers that can be easily integrated into laboratory, manufacturing, and retail environments. Combined with our customizable software packages, our instruments provide you with the highest level of color quality control available on the market today. Contact us to learn more about our innovative line-up and let us help you develop the next generation of paint colors.

  1. “Americans Say They’re Ready for More Vibrant Colors, But Many May Still Play it Safe With Neutrals”, May 10, 2017, http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/americans-say-theyre-ready-for-more-vibrant-colors-but-many-may-still-play-it-safe-with-neutrals-300455211.html
  2. “How, Exactly”, Does a ‘Color of the Year’ Get Chosen?”, December 2, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/home/la-hm-how-pantone-chose-color-of-the-year-20151202-story.html

Perfecting Natural Textile Dyes Using Spectral Analysis

The marriage of technology and time-honored tradition is helping manufacturers perfect environmentally-friendly, natural textile dyes. Image Source: Unsplash user drmakete lab

 

Technological advances have changed the way we live, work, and play. From smartphones to self-driving cars, scientific advances are quickly opening up new possibilities we could not have imagined only a few decades ago. And, yet, despite the proliferation of the man-made and artificial, we are simultaneously witnessing growing interest in a return to time-honored manufacturing using natural materials. In the world of textiles, the trend toward plant-based dyes marks a profound shift in approach and process.

Since the late 1800s, man-made pigmentation sources have eclipsed natural dyes in popularity owing to their ostensibly superior qualities. But as a research cohort from Kumaruguru College of Technology writes the International Journal for Scientific Research & Development, “Environment-friendly dyes are recently enjoying a resurgence in popularity because of concerns with the carcinogenic, mutagenic, and sensitizing characteristics of many synthetic dyes.”1 According to Georgia Kalivas, who teaches in the textile department at the Fashion Institute of Technology, “the byproducts of industrial dyeing include aromatic solvents, formaldehyde, chlorine bleach, and heavy metal salts.”2. Not only can these synthetic components affect human health, but they can impact entire ecosystems via effluent produced by the textile industry, leading to significant environmental deterioration. Now, a growing number of manufacturers, big and small, are investigating the use of plant materials to create safe, beautiful dyes.

But the turn towards natural textile dyes doesn’t mean eschewing technology. Rather, a marriage between technology and the natural world is helping to perfect the creation of plant-based pigments and dyeing practices to help them compete with synthetic versions. Spectrophotometers, in particular, are playing a critical role in guiding researchers and textile manufacturers as they seek to improve environmentally responsible dye quality and performance.

Spectral analysis is playing an instrumental role in exploring and expanding the possibilities of plant-based dyes. Image Source: Unsplash user Nafinia Putra

Using Spectrophotometry to Expand the Color Palette

One of the primary shortcomings of natural dyes tends to be their limited color palette in comparison to synthetic dyes. In order to make natural textile dyes an attractive alternative to synthetic versions, manufacturers must find dye sources and processing techniques that compensate for this shortcoming.

While there is a broad array of traditional plant-based dyes, their color range and intensity is often not able to compete with man-made pigmentation. Additionally, as natural dyes fell out of favor, much of the knowledge regarding plant-based sources and processes has been lost due to lack of documentation and practice. As such, researchers are now looking to discover and rediscover dye sources that expand the possibilities of natural palettes and achieve a greater intensity of color. Spectral analysis is allowing experts to precisely quantify how different dyes behave and distil color quality to objective data to tailor dye formulations in ways that can approximate the qualities of synthetic dyes. The researchers at Kumaraguru, for example, employed spectrophotometry to investigate the behavior of dyes derived from forest trees to identify absorbance levels and determine how to create the most intense hues through plant-based pigmentation, a significant step toward replacing harmful dyes with eco-friendly versions.

Of course, dyes affect different types of fabrics in different ways; the material that produces a vibrant hue in wools can look muddy in a cotton textile due to the nature of the fibers. As such, it is imperative to analyze color in the precise textile type or range of textile types for which it is intended. The sophisticated optical geometries and integrated height measurement capabilities of modern spectrophotometers ensure accurate color measurement in all varieties of textile by accounting for variables such as texture and sheen.

The interaction between dyes and mordants can have a significant impact on color levelness and fastness. Image Source: Flickr user photographerpandora

Evaluating Mordants to Improve Color and Color Fastness

The raw dyes themselves, however, are only one part of the equation. An equally important factor in the creation of natural dyeing processes is the use – or absence – of mordants. As Joan Marks wrote over four decades ago, “Even though the same [dye] formula is repeated, colors vary because different mordants may be used.”3

Mordants are nothing new; they have been used for at least 4,000 years to alter textile color, promote color levelness, and improve color fastness, another traditional weakness of natural dyes. What is new, however, is the use of spectrophotometry to analyze the impact of mordants on various natural dyes and fabrics to optimize color uniformity, intensity, and fastness. In a study published in Sustainable Chemical Processes in 2015, for example, researchers employed spectral analysis to discover that “un-mordanted samples dyed in mango and guava leaves extracts showed excellent levelness quality while the un-mordanted ones dyed in henna leaves showed good levelness quality.”4 Additionally, “among the mordanted samples the levelness quality was comparatively better in case of alum mordanted dyed samples and the average ΔE value was increased gradually when moved from alum to tin and finally to ferrous sulphate.”

These findings are significant in that the researchers were able to objectively correlated textile color behavior based on multiple variables to determine best practices for each dye source. Providing reliable, repeatable data allows textile manufacturers to better select their own processing methods to ensure that their fabrics look and perform the way you want them to. This includes not only initial color quality but color fastness and longevity, which can easily be evaluated using spectral data. By providing a blueprint for the art of natural textile dyeing, it is possible that we will see plant-based dye use supplant synthetic dyes to a meaningful degree in the future, helping to protect both humans and the world around us.

Insert Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5eXxCG99ZM

 

HunterLab Innovation

HunterLab has been a leader in the field of spectral analysis for over 60 years. Today, we offer the highest quality lineup of color measurement tools available to help our customers in the textile industry refine their practices. With a complete range of portable, benchtop, and inline spectrophotometers to choose from, you can easily integrate the objective color analysis at any point in your research and development or manufacturing process. By combining our renowned instruments with our customizable software packages, you can truly take your color quality control protocols to new heights. Contact us to learn more about the possibilities of color measurement and let us help you select the perfect instrument for your purposes.

  1. “Extraction of Natural Dyes from Forest Tress and their Application in Textiles”, 2013, http://www.academia.edu/6801880/Extraction_of_Natural_Dyes_from_Forest_Trees_and_their_Application_in_Textiles
  2. “Colors of the Caldron: A New Generation Discovers Grow-It-Yourself Dyes”, April 4, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/05/garden/a-new-generation-discovers-grow-it-yourself-dyes.html
  3. “Natural Dyes from Plants”, November 3, 1979, http://www.nytimes.com/1974/11/03/archives/natural-dyes-from-plants-natural-dyes-from-nuts-and-leaves.html
  4. “Study on the Color Levelness of Silk Fabric Dyed with Vegetable Dyes”, December 2015, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s40508-015-0038-1

Color Measurement in Treated Sportswear: Spectrophotometers Lead the Way to Innovation

Sportswear sales are quickly eclipsing more traditional varieties of apparel. Image Source: Unsplash user Scott Webb

The early 2000s were the era of premium jeans. Popularized by celebrities like Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, and Kanye West, premium denim brands popped up by the dozen, offering a plethora of washes and cuts. Even in the face of recession, companies like True Religion, 7 For All Mankind, and Hudson proliferated despite high prices, as consumers clamored to get their hands on an endless array of $300 pairs. Then something changed. Sales declined, shuttering what were once some of the most desirable denim brands on the planet and leaving others in uncertain futures.

What accounts for this market decline? The answer lies in sportswear. “Buyers are increasingly filling their closets with yoga pants and leggings, which they’re wearing not just to the gym, but also to run errands and meet up with friends,” says Abha Bhattarai in the Toronto Star. “True Religion’s $319 skinny jeans have been replaced by Lululemon’s $98 yoga pants.”1 Indeed, as brands like Rock & Republic filed for bankruptcy, purveyors of athletic wear saw generous increases in sales. In 2016, “sales of sportswear outpaced all other categories for the third year in a row, increasing just under 7% in 2016 and ‘causing growth in other categories to look rather tame in comparison.’”.2.

As the sportswear market grows, so too does competition. As Allied Market research notes, brands like Under Armour, Nike, and Lululemon are having to step up their game to maintain presence. “Partnerships and acquisitions are prime growth strategies adopted by these companies to sustain the intense competition in the market,” notes Allied Market Research.3 One of the most fundamental strategies, however, is the consistent production of high-quality products paired with new technologies that increase appeal to buyers. And spectrophotometers are playing a prime role.

Innovations like anti-microbial and UV-protectant fabric additives are becoming vital components of sportswear. Image Source: Pexels user Mabel Amber

New and Novel Fabric Treatments

Athletic wear doesn’t just have to look good, it has to perform. With this in mind, sportswear manufacturers are introducing new and novel products that go beyond traditional apparel to give consumers clothing that does double-duty both during workouts and everyday activities. Two of the most important features to emerge from this new area of athletic textiles are anti-microbial and UV-protecting fabric finishing additives.

“Anti-microbial treatments […] can make clothing – including smelly socks – permanently germ-free,” says Jeff McMahon.4 Using spray on solutions, these treatments inhibit the growth of bacteria, rendering them permanently germ-free and making them ideal for use in hospital and other healthcare settings. But manufacturers of athletic wear have quickly realized the potential of antimicrobial treatments in their own products, as the absence of bacteria minimizes or eliminates the undesirable smells so often associated with sportswear products. “Dirt and body oils are difficult to remove and can leave your activewear smelling funky after only a few washes,” explains Melissa Fehr, a sportswear designer in London.5 As such, antimicrobial solutions are highly attractive components of sports apparel and are currently employed by athletic wear giants like Lululemon as well as smaller upstarts.

But anti-microbial additives aren’t the only fabric treatment taking the sportswear world by storm. With widespread concern about UV ray exposure and the emergence of better technologies, interest in UV-protectant clothing as risen sharply in recent years, particularly in the athletic apparel intended for outdoor use. “Sun-safe clothing has come a long way since the scratchy garments introduced in the 1990s,” said Adriana Barton in The Globe and Mail. “Manufacturers used to rely on tight weaves to block out the sun’s rays. [But] today’s sun-protective sportswear is more breathable, lightweight, and stylish. Garment makers use a combination of special dyes, minerals or chemical treatments to increase an item’s ultraviolet-protection factor or UPF.”6 Built-in UV protection allows users to spend considerable amounts of time participating in sports activities without having to worry about sun damage, whether their concern is sunburn, premature aging, or skin cancer. As such, these fabrics are essential for many consumers and an invaluable part of many sportswear lines.

Spectrophotometers allow for accurate measurement of textile colors, allowing manufacturers to account for textile treatments. Image Source: Pexels user Scott Webb

Color Measurement of Treated Sportswear

As sportswear grows in popularity, color quality and variety are of utmost importance to attract consumers. These colors must not only be appealing, but consistent in order to fortify brand identity and desirability. However, the anti-microbial and UV-protectant chemicals added to modern sports apparel complicate the color creation process, as they may alter the color quality produced by untreated formulations. As such, it is imperative to carefully measure the color of treated fabrics to ensure accuracy and consistency.

Spectrophotometers are ideally suited to monitor textile colors owing to their sophisticated optical geometries and objective distillation of chromatic data. Regardless of fabric texture and finish, spectrophotometers are able to capture vital information regarding color quality and behavior to facilitate color matching and ensure consistency. This data may be used to identify the precise impact of fabric additives and treatments, allowing manufacturers to tailor recipes and account for color shifts.

The user-friendly designs of today’s spectrophotometers allow operators to conduct precise color analysis without extensive training or laborious and time-consuming sample preparation. As such, sportswear companies are able to easily integrate color measurement in their quality control protocols at critical phases of production, ensuring that all products released into the marketplace are accurately colored. This is particularly important when color is an integral part of brand identity, as it ensures consistency and easy recognizability.

HunterLab Innovation

For over 60 years, HunterLab has helped clothing manufacturers obtain accurate data regarding the color of their products to heighten the quality and facilitate innovation. Today, we offer a versatile range of handheld, benchtop, and inline spectrophotometers to ensure precise spectral analysis in any environment. These instruments represent the highest level of color measurement technology available on the market today, which is why 7 of the world’s top ten unwoven fabric manufacturers choose HunterLab products. Contact us to learn more about our spectrophotometers, customizable software packages, and world-class customer service.

  1. “Pricey Jean Manufacturers Going Bankrupt”, July 10, 2017, https://www.thestar.com/business/2017/07/10/pricey-jean-manufacturers-going-bankrupt.html
  2. “Sportswear is Carrying the Global Apparel Industry”, January 23, 2017, https://qz.com/889672/sportswear-is-carrying-the-global-apparel-industry/
  3. Sports Apparel Market by End User (Men, Women, Kids) and Mode of Sale (Retail stores, Supermarkets, Brand outlets, Discount stores, Online stores) – Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2014 – 2020”, October 2015, https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/sports-apparel-market
  4. “New Antibacterial Clothing: Secret Ingredient Revealed”, July 9, 2011, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2011/07/09/new-antibacterial-clothing-secret-ingredient-revealed/#3974c5153250
  5. “A Guide to Activewear Fabrics”, https://www.seamwork.com/issues/2015/01/a-guide-to-activewear-fabrics
  6. “Save Your Skin with Sun-Protective Clothing”, June 3, 2016, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/save-your-skin-with-sun-protective-clothing/article30257991/

Perfecting the Color of Plastic Playground Equipment

playground equipment
Plastic playground equipment comes in a broad variety of colors to create vibrant plays paces for families. Image Source: Flickr user Frances Gonzales

I can tell it’s summer by the sounds I hear from my window. Ecstatic with summer vacation excitement, children laugh and shriek at the playground next to my house, running, swinging, and climbing themselves into exhaustion. To me, it is the soundtrack to a season full of lazy days and late night swimming

The playground was built a year ago, replacing worn and discolored plastic parts with new, brightly colored components. The result is a wonderland of swings, jungle gyms, and slides, still looking fresh out of the box. But while countless families are now enjoying this new addition to our community, few are aware of the complex processes that must take place in order to create and preserve the vibrant colors of plastic playground equipment.

 

The Benefits of Plastic Playground Equipment

Playground equipment can be built using a wide variety of materials, from wood to steel, rope to rubber. Plastics, however, are amongst the most forgiving materials, providing relatively soft surfaces, rounded edges, and no risk of splinters.1 As such, playgrounds are increasingly integrating plastic components in their designs, allowing for improved safety and comfort. For the environmentally conscious, recycled plastics are particularly popular choices.

But the benefits of plastic playground equipment is also aesthetic; available in a virtually endless range of colors, plastics allow for the creation of vivid and beautiful spaces for kids to play and explore. Creating those colors, however, can bring unique challenges.  

Precise blends of pigments and color-protecting additives create the perfect colors for modern playground equipment. Image Source: Unsplash user Joel Filipe

 

Creating Masterbatch Color Formulations

Creating colored plastics is a multi-step process that begins with the correct formulation of masterbatches, the additives that give plastics their color. For playground equipment that will be exposed to the elements, this depends not only on the correct selection of pigments, but the appropriate integration of components such as light fast pigments and UV stabilizers to ensure longevity.2 These additives can impact the final appearance of plastic and this impact must be accounted for during formulation.

Evaluating the color quality of masterbatches is difficult when relying on the human eye alone due the variations in color vision and lack of objective descriptors. In order to ensure that each masterbatch produces the desired color, plastics manufacturers must rely on cutting-edge color measurement technologies of spectrophotometers. These instruments allows you to objectively quantify color data and create a universal language of color that may be used across operators and locations. As Tony Bestall, Director of Silvergate Plastics writes:

The spectrophotometer can measure the color of a physical sample and also be used to check the accuracy of a color match. Not only does it identify precise coordinates on a spectrum of over twenty million colors, but it can store specific references and data, including industry standard RAL and Pantone references. More color references can be added as they are created, thereby building a comprehensive library of accurate formulations or recipes from which to match a color.

Spectrophotometers produce accurate and precise spectral data from individual pigments as well as final blends for complete end-to-end masterbatch quality control. Once a formulation has been perfected, plaques can then be created for color matching purposes.

 

Monitoring the Plastic Production Process

Masterbatch production is of course only the first step in the creation of colored plastics; there are many factors influencing the color of finished plastic products and multiple points of vulnerability within the production chain. Chief among these is correct masterbatch use. As Bestall explains, “When masterbatch is approved for sale, post quality control, it will be within specification and supplied at a recommended ‘use at percentage’ that will exhibit a color that is very close to the original standard.” It is vital that this use at percentage is adhered to in order to produce the desired color and avoid unwanted color variation.

But even if the correct proportion of masterbatch to polymer is obtained, incorrect coloration may still occur for a number of reasons. The most common cause is poor distribution, or insufficient mixing of the masterbatch into the polymer. This is typically the result of “static build-up within the processing equipment,” resulting in restricted flow that ultimately leads to color variation and streaking. Other potential causes for inaccurate coloration include faulty raw materials and processing errors during extrusion and molding.  

Because plastics are vulnerable to undesirable color variation at several phases in the production process, it is essential that spectrophotometric color analysis is integrated throughout the production chain. This allows for total quality control at each stage of production by continuously monitoring color behavior at critical points of manufacturing and giving you the opportunity to take rapid corrective action should unwanted color variation occur.

Polymer and texture variations can present significant challenges for color matching. Image Source: Flickr user Steffen Kjær Larsen

 

Color Matching Plastic Playground Equipment

Playground designers typically rely on a number of multiple polymer types to create different components of a playground that form a cohesive whole. This use of multiple polymers introduces new difficulties, as each plastic has unique qualities that impact color behavior both at the point of production and over time.3 Spectrophotometers are essential to observing color behavior in various polymer types and identifying correctly or incorrectly matched components. When incorrect coloration is detected, the data collected from the spectrophotometric analysis can be used to finetune process variables impacting the final appearance of the plastic and ensure a correct match.

Texture variation also produces challenges to the color matching process; even if two components are produced using the same masterbatch, polymer, and extrusion process, they may appear unmatched due to differences in texture. Smooth, glossy surfaces, for example, often appear to have more intense coloration than matte, heavily textured surfaces Since the visual appearance can change as the gloss or the texture of the plastic varies it is important to measure the total color. This is best done using a sphere Spectrophotometers such as the HunterLab UltraScanVis or UltraScanPro. As such, you are able to produce exact color matches regardless of polymer and surface variation.

 

HunterLab Innovation

HunterLab has been a leader in color measurement technologies for over 60 years. Our renowned line-up of spectrophotometers has been developed in response to our customers in the plastics industry, allowing us to offer the finest instruments for your unique needs. Whether you are in the first stages of masterbatch development, analyzing the effects of UV exposure on plastic components, or performing QC checks on completed products prior to shipping, we have the tools you need to ensure the highest level of quality control. Contact us to learn more about our innovative technologies and let us help you select the perfect spectrophotometer.

  1. “Outdoor Play: Designing, Building, and Remodeling Playgrounds for Young Children”, http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=65
  2. “Understanding Colour Variation and How it Occurs”, June 5, 2017, http://www.britishplastics.co.uk/blogs/guest-blog/understanding-colour-variation-and-how-it-occurs/
  3. “Colour Matching and Colour Theory”, October 29, 2013, https://www.slideshare.net/SiddharthaRoy11/mr-siddhartha-roy-colour-matching-and-colour-theory

Using Spectrophotometry to Measure the Impact of Fruits and Vegetables on Skin Tone

Spectrophotometers have played an essential role in the evaluation of fruits and vegetables for decades. Now, spectrophotometers are promoting increased produce intake. Image Source: Unsplash user Mike Dorner

As early as the 1920s, scientists have used color-based evaluation systems to determine the quality of fruits and vegetables. The first attempts were rudimentary, employing the manual use of Munsell color matching disks and other methodologies reliant on visual analysis.1 Such approaches were inherently subjective, dependent on the error-prone human eye, limiting their accuracy. But with the introduction of spectral analysis, that changed. Suddenly, there was an objective way of measuring color, one that allowed researchers to precisely categorize the quality of fruits and vegetables via spectral reflectance values rather than unreliable human sight.

Today, spectrophotometers are employed by fruit and vegetable producers all over the world to evaluate both the appearance and the constitution of produce. These sophisticated instruments allow for the highest level of quality control to ensure only the most appealing products enter the marketplace. Additionally, the captured data guides horticultural practices and protects public health and safety.

But while spectrophotometers have led to the production of more consistent and visually appealing produce, this has yet to translate into increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Now, researchers want to change that.

Despite ample evidence that that fruits and vegetables provide important health benefits, intake remains low. Image Source: Unsplash user Sven Scheuermeier

Inadequate Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are invaluable parts of a healthy diet, promoting cardiovascular health, lowering disease risk, and aiding digestion.2 There is even evidence that “eating a diet rich in fruits [and vegetables] can actually prevent the onset of clinical depression.”3 As a result, the US federal dietary guidelines recommend people eat 2-3 cups of vegetables per day and 1.5-2 cups of fruit in order to main good health.

But most of us aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables to experience these benefits, despite ostensible growing interest in healthier lifestyle habits. According to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “87 percent of Americans don’t meet recommendations for fruit consumption and 91 percent don’t meet recommendations for vegetable consumption.”4  This inadequate fruit and vegetable intake can have a profound impact, damaging both physical and mental health. Spurred by these findings, public health officials are now working to promote higher fruit and vegetable consumption, primarily via nutritional education targeted at schoolchildren. “Better dietary practices earlier in life might lead to better practices later,” the researchers note. “Increased attention to food environments in multiple settings, including childcare [and schools] might help improve fruit and vegetable intake, and thus help prevent chronic disease.”

 

Increasing the Appeal of Fruits and Vegetables for Young Women

Researchers in Australia, however, are taking a different route. Rather than touting the physical health benefits of fruits and vegetables to children, they want to appeal to vanity in order to promote fruit and vegetable consumption amongst Caucasian women age 18-34, who have amongst the lowest adult produce intakes. “Recent evidence has shown that young women are motivated to change their health behaviors based on improving their appearance and looking good rather than health concerns,” they write. “Appearance-based interventions focusing on other health risk behaviors (smoking and sun exposure) in young adults have been successful in motivating behavior change.”5

But the researchers didn’t focus on the effects of fruits and vegetables on weight or weight loss, as one might expect. Rather, they were interested in the effects of fruit and vegetable consumption on skin color:

A recent appearance-based intervention displaying the effects of fruit and vegetable intake on participants own facial skin color found that this approach motivated increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Interventions that focus on appearance could be a novel way of motivating young women to improve […] fruit and vegetable intakes.

In other words, we may have been going about things the wrong way; rather than focusing on long-term health benefits, young women are driven by a desire for immediate aesthetic improvement.

Spectrophotometers allow for the accurate, noninvasive measurement of skin tone. Image Source: Unsplash user Anna Sastre

Spectrophotometric Measurement of Skin Color

In order to determine how various fruits and vegetables impact skin color, the researchers used spectrophotometric instrumentation to measure reflectance values. This non-invasive method optical method allows for accurate determination of color to precisely correlate produce constitution with changes in skin tone, demonstrating the potential for novel uses of spectrophotometers to promote better public health.

The data revealed that higher fruit and vegetable intakes were strongly associated with skin color, particularly skin yellowness. This yellowness has been found to be perceived as more desirable than other skin colors in Caucasian women.6 “In the adjusted regression model, for every additional serving of combined fruit and vegetables per day there was an increased 0.8 units in overall skin yellowness and 1.0 units in unexposed skin yellowness,” the authors note. Produce with high levels of lutein/zeaxanthin were particularly strongly associated with skin yellowness, possibly due to their relatively high bioavailability. Although the raw data difference may appear to be small, it is “perceived as a visible increase in the appearance of skin as healthy and attractive.”

The authors acknowledge that more research is needed to determine whether “the observed effects could be used as a tool to motivate young women to change their dietary behavior.” However, the success of other public health campaigns in appealing to vanity suggests that such strategies could prove to be valuable in the promotion of increased fruit and vegetable intake.

 

HunterLab Innovation
HunterLab has been a pioneer in the field of color measurement for over 60 years. Today, we offer a comprehensive line-up of portable, benchtop, and online spectrophotometers to suit the diverse needs of our customers. From the food industry to the medical research community, our instruments offer the highest level of accuracy, precision, and flexibility for a broad variety of applications. Coupled with our customizable software packages, you can gain unprecedented insight into color quality and behavior. Contact us to learn more about our renowned products and customer support services and let us help you select the perfect instrument for your purposes.

  1. “Applications in Analysis of Fruits and Vegetables”, http://baesil.engineering.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/61/2015/06/Slaughter_Abbott_NIR_Review.pdf
  2. “Consequences of Not Eating Fruits & Vegetables”, http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/consequences-not-eating-fruits-vegetables-6202.html
  3. “Your Mental Health Suffers When You Don’t Eat Enough Fruits and Vegetables”, September 22, 2015, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1X03jVaDMIU0KWZY2ZV-XxHaLqFto_crEcOxcYPkzXRo/edit
  4. “Most Americans Still Don’t Eat Their Fruits & Veggies”, July 9, 2015, https://www.livescience.com/51500-fruit-vegetable-consumption-united-states.html
  5. Fruit, Vegetable and Dietary Carotenoid Intakes Explain Variation in Skin-Color in Young Caucasian Women: A Cross-Sectional Study”, July 15, 2015, http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/7/5251/htm#B5-nutrients-07-05251
  6. “Make Your Face Look As Healthy As Possible”, May 19, 2017, https://hmri.org.au/news-article/make-your-face-look-healthy-possible

Measuring the Color of Chocolate Sweetens Appeal in a Changing Market

The changing chocolate marketplace is raising the bar for quality and opening up opportunities for experimentation. Image Source: Pexels user Kaboompics

Late last month, chocolate lovers received welcome news: a new study published in Heart revealed that chocolate reduces the risk of developing atrial fibrillation, a common form of heart arrhythmia.1 By examining data from the Danish Diet, Cancer and Healthy study, researchers found that people who consumed 1-3 servings of chocolate once a month had a 10% lower rate of new atrial fibrillation diagnosis than those who ate less than one serving a month. What’s more, the rate of diagnosis reduced “17% for one weekly serving, 20% for two to six weekly servings, and 14% for one or additional daily servings.”[“Chocolate May Reduce Risk of Developing Common Heart Arrhythmia”, May 24, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatter/2017/05/24/chocolate-may-help-reduce-risk-of-developing-common-heart-arrhythmia/#6fbea37e3faa]

 

These findings add to a growing body of research suggesting that chocolate has the potential to protect cardiovascular health. Although most research thus far has focused on dark chocolate, the new study included both dark and milk chocolate. This follows data published in 2015 indicating that any type of chocolate reduces the risk of heart disease.2  And while doctors aren’t entirely sure why chocolate appears to benefit heart health, but they do have guesses. As Dr. Howard LeWine, chief medical editor of Harvard Health Publications, says, “It may be related to flavonoids, a type of antioxidant produced by plants. Flavonoids have been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and fight cell damage.”3

 

This new recognition of the health benefits of chocolate also has clear benefits for the chocolate industry, allowing for new product and marketing opportunities and changing the way the public perceives sweet treats. Dark chocolate is already outpacing milk in terms of growth, attributed largely to growing awareness of its impact on cardiovascular health. But Katrina Markoff of artisan chocolatier Vosges Chocolate believes there’s more to the story. “Dark chocolate has health benefits and that is a source of appeal, but I also believe people’s palettes are really becoming more sophisticated,” she says. “There is more awareness and curiosity about milk and dark and even different specific varietals.”4 Indeed, the high-end chocolate market has exploded in recent years, spurring major players like Nestle to develop premium offerings while also opening up the door for a niche bean-to-bar industry.

 

In this changing environment, there is more pressure on both industry old-timers and newcomers to produce chocolates of the highest quality. At the same time, public acceptance of new and novel products means there is also plenty of room for experimentation. And whether you are refining traditional treats or inventing new concoctions, measuring the color of chocolate is now more important than ever before.

The color of chocolate gives consumers important clues about taste and quality. Image Source: Pexels user Pixabay

The Importance of Chocolate Color

The color of chocolate is essential to its appeal. After all, chocolate is so strongly associated with a color but the word itself suggests a hue. But, of course, chocolate comes in a broad range of shades, from creamy whites to the darkest browns. The exact shade of each batch is determined both by its raw ingredients and its processing and each chocolatier has different standards for what they want their chocolates to look like. Because consumer expectations of taste and quality are strongly shaped by chocolate color, monitoring this variable is essential to producing the most appealing products.

 

While high-quality chocolate may come in a variety of shades, there is one color phenomenon that must be avoided: fat bloom. The development of this white layer is “not only visually unappealing but also impacts the flavor and textural qualities, which are important determinants of consumer preference.”5 Fat bloom may be the result of processing errors, recipe design, temperature fluctuations, or poor important to understand when and why it is occurring to hone in on the problem and implement corrective action.” Continuous color monitoring is vital to identifying the presence of fat bloom as early as possible as well as determining its cause.

 

Spectrophotometrically measuring the color of chocolate provides the greatest level of insight into product color and appearance. Image Source: Pexels user Markus Spiske

 

Measuring the Color of Chocolate Spectrophotometrically

So how do you measure the color of chocolate? Using the sophisticated technology of spectrophotometers. These remarkable instruments allow you to collect precise data about chocolate color behavior throughout the production process. The color of raw ingredients and finished products may be analyzed with the highest degree of accuracy regardless of material form; the color of liquids, powders, and solids can be easily captured and recorded.

 

Using the data provided by spectrophotometric measurements, you can create the standard to which you want products to conform and set your personal tolerance parameters.  Subsequent batches will then be compared to this data, automatically alerting you to any color variations that fall outside your chosen tolerance. This instant feedback gives you the opportunity for early intervention when undesirable coloration is detected. Not only does this allow you to contain the defective product, but it can also provide invaluable clues regarding recipe faults, processing errors, and potential contamination. This is particularly true when spectrophotometers are integrated throughout the production process, monitoring color at each stage of manufacturing, as well as analyzing the color behavior of finished and stored chocolates. At a time when cocoa supply is tightening and prices are predicted to surge, being able to quickly take corrective action and minimize waste is an important step toward stabilizing costs.6

 

HunterLab Quality
In today’s changing chocolate marketplace, quality is more important than ever. Seeking out the most advanced color measurement technologies is vital to ensuring that your products are of the highest caliber to optimize consumer appeal. At HunterLab, we understand that color can make or break food products, which is why we offer a comprehensive range of spectrophotometers designed with the unique needs of the food industry in mind. Our user-friendly portable, benchtop, and in-line instruments allow you to easily integrate sophisticated color measurement tools throughout your production process in a way that makes sense for you. Contact us to learn more about our renowned spectrophotometers, customizable software packages, and world-class customer service and let us help you choose the right instruments for your needs.

  1. “Chocolate Intake and Risk of Clinically Apparent Atrial Fibrillation: The Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study”, May 23, 2017, http://heart.bmj.com/content/early/2017/05/01/heartjnl-2016-310357.info
  2. “Habitual Chocolate Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Among Healthy Men and Women”, June 15, 2017, http://heart.bmj.com/content/early/2015/05/20/heartjnl-2014-307050
  3. “Sweet Dreams: Eating Chocolate Prevents Heart Disease”, June 17, 2015, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sweet-dreams-eating-chocolate-prevents-heart-disease-201506168087
  4. “Top 3 Ways the Chocolate Industry is Changing”, January 13, 2017, https://smartasset.com/insights/top-3-ways-the-chocolate-industry-is-changing
  5. “Chocolate Fat Bloom”, April 2013, http://www.blommer.com/_documents/Chocolate-Fat-Bloom-article.pdf
  6. “The End of Cheap Chocolate? Cocoa Futures Surge Most on Record“, May 30, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-30/the-end-of-cheap-chocolate-cocoa-futures-surge-most-on-record
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