Micro Measurements: The Waste Not, Want Not Approach to Quantifying Color

Nearly every industry around the world uses measurement in one form or another. From quantity to quality, measurements must be consistent and accurate to promote productivity and profit. However, when dealing with a limited supply of materials, the use of micro measurement is where the real challenges begin. Whether you are trying to eliminate wasted product, are dealing with rare or valuable materials, or simply do not have excess materials on hand, accurate micro measurement is essential when needing to quantify data using only minimal sample amounts.

Magnified color sample micro measurement
Spectrophotometry is the most advanced form of measurement for small-to-micro samples.
Image Source: Flickr user Surian Soosay

The ability to measure color in production has significantly reduced costs related to waste and product rejection, and greatly improved efficiency and productivity of business operations. Colorimetrics and spectrophotometers provide the microscopic configurations that are needed to measure a variety of materials. Pills and drug reagents, paper, plastics, paint, foods, and more all rely on color technology for meeting strict industry guidelines and quantifying color for consistency and product quality. Small palm-top instruments have even been developed for portability and micro measurement capabilities to meet a variety of needs in the industrial marketplace.

Taking a closer look

Science and manufacturing are both dependent on measurement capabilities that reach further than human perception. Some of the tiniest molecular particles that were once invisible to the human eye are now a reality through the use of microscopic technology. However, the real breakthrough in micro measurement was through the use of light to accurately calculate even the tiniest particles in substances and quantify them consistently.

magnified plant micro measurement
Spectral reflectance technology provides a close up look at color through highly accurate measurement of even the smallest samples.
Image Source: Flickr user Bartosch Salmanski

Colorimetric technology marked a breakthrough in measurement capabilities. We measure distance with a ruler and weight with a scale, but the ability to measure color opened a new realm of possibilities. Using the advanced capabilities of the human eye, scientists were able to define the three components of color vision using the primary color receptors (red, green, and blue).  As new technology emerged, scientists went beyond these three basic color components with the development of the spectrophotometer. This new technology had the ability to surpass the primary range of colors and include multiple sensors to separate a single beam of light into reflected or transmitted light. The ability to measure spectral reflectance created a highly accurate application of color measurement in production and quality control. This became particularly useful when dealing with micro measurements and small sample sizes.

Industrial application of micro measurements

Versatility is the most common function required when it comes to the practical applications of colorimetry. Variations in samples can include consistency, transparency, shape, and size, but one of the most difficult challenges in spectrophotometry is getting accurate and consistent color measurements when your sample size or abundance is limited. This can be a common challenge for manufacturers, and when a product is very expensive or in short supply it is even more important to use the smallest sample possible for color measurement.

red liquid in test tube micro measurement
The ability to consistently measure small amounts of material and give accurate color data can present challenges.
Image Source: Flickr user Horia Varlan

The ability to accurately quantify micro measurements is dependent on specialized spectrophotometric accessories. Repeatability of the measurement method is critical for color discrimination, especially when dealing with ultra-small sample sizes. Spectrophotometers have been developed that use only a small percentage of the sample amount compared to that used by traditional spectrophotometers. With this type of instrumentation, the port opening must be specialized in order to match the sample size and eliminate any background interference. Instrumentation versatility should also account for variations in sample types from solids to powders to even transparent liquids when dealing with micro measurement sample quantities.

Providing a solution

There are a number of uses for micro measurement and spectrophotometry within several manufacturing and private industries. These applications can range from forensic measurement and DNA samples to high end industrial fields that require a minimalist use of materials and a more efficient mode of measurement technology. Whatever your measurement needs, HunterLab offers color measurement solutions for the even the most challenging sample types. Contact HunterLab and learn how leading edge color technology can help you overcome all of your challenges today.

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