Color Process Automation Technology: Advanced Methods in Plastic Manufacturing

Plastics manufacturing is a complex, multi-step process that moves at rapid speeds to create high product yields. Maintaining color quality and consistency throughout the manufacturing processes can be difficult, but advancements in color process automation technology offer continual monitoring for real-time identification of color changes. Continual monitoring, from pellet colors and extruded plastics to pre-formed products, allows for automatic adjustments to be set, creating a more efficient and cost-effective process stream. New technology provides affordable options in color process measurement using smaller self-contained instrumentation that can easily adapt to any production line.

plastic shopping carts color process
Plastic is a versatile product that is used for many different applications. Developing a system for plastic color monitoring ensures product consistency and quality.
Image Source: Flickr user Polycart

Color process automation technologies (cPAT)

Spectrophotometric technology offers the most advanced method of color measurement and is widely used in plastics manufacturing. Improvements in technology measure more than just color; manufacturers are now also able to account for differences in texture, shape, size, gloss, and haze. For plastics manufacturers, utilizing this technology and combining it with a color process automation system creates the most state-of-the-art methods for color monitoring and quality control (QC).

Color process automation technology (cPAT) is a unique method of color measurement that uses the latest spectral technology while providing real-time color measurements. Data is collected directly from the process stream and provides data from a closed-loop color monitoring system. This form of color process technology provides instant and continual feedback and is superior to the traditional time-interval methods of evaluation, which does not provide sufficient data for real-time adjustment processes. Color process automation technology allows adjustments to be made throughout production and occur simultaneously with the manufacturing process. These methods are ideal for today’s plastic extrusion color processes, where information on baseline improvements can save both time and money.

vinyl siding color process
From extruded plastics to molded plastic products, cPAT offers the latest in color measurement technology and ensure color quality and consistency in final product outcomes.
Image Source: Flickr user Dave Fischer

Improving costs and efficiency

Today’s color process measurement systems are fully integrated, allowing for precise workflow monitoring and improved quality control (QC). The ability to provide real-time, quantifiable results allows manufacturers to set defined parameters and predict potential variations and changes in final color outcomes. According to the online article “Best Practices and Solution Tools to Automate Color Quality Control in Plastic Extrusion Processing”, “Color Process Automation Technology (cPAT) introduces best practices and solution tools to help plastics manufacturers achieve greater performance by moving from a philosophy of time-interval based color QC to a more dynamic approach of continuous monitoring, closed-loop color control, and automated defect containment. Color process automation technology allows organizations to measure, analyze, control and document the color of extruded plastic in real-time through the measurement of Critical Color Process Parameters (CCPP) which affect Critical Color Quality Attributes (CCQA).”

car parts color process
Color process monitoring is the most efficient method of evaluation to ensure exact color matching and consistency. These traits are extremely important for high yield production and development.
Image Source: Flickr user Steven Depolo

Color process automation allows plastics manufacturers to control the entire production process from start to finish, increasing both efficiency and production while reducing costs overall. Real-time data and feedback lead to improvements in product yields, higher levels of operating efficiency, and a reduction in wasted materials. These improvements not only benefit profitability, but lead to a more environmentally friendly approach, as less waste is created and energy costs are reduced. These traits are all highly desirable in a competitive market and create a win-win situation for everyone.

Leading innovators of technology

Color process automation technology is the latest and most efficient method of color measurement. Combined with advanced spectrophotometric technology, these systems can be designed to meet a specific set  of color standards and initiate immediate changes in production where needed. By saving time and materials, manufacturers can keep up with high demands without compromising quality. HunterLab is a leader in color process automation and technology. Our instrumentation is designed to work directly with in-line product development systems and provides continuous performance monitoring to ensure color quality control. Our unique spectrophotometric instrumentation is highly adaptable to a variety of materials, textures, and surface qualities and accounts for these attributes when generating data. This allows for the most precise and efficient method of color process analysis. For more information on cPAT technology and in-line color measurement instrumentation options, contact HunterLab today.

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