Spectrophotometers Help Control Deodorant and Antiperspirant Stick Color Consistency

For the last thirty-five years, my aunt and uncle have been building a life and love together. By now, their patterns are long established. Settled and in their grooves, they resist any change that might disturb their comfortable routines. The last time I visited was evidence of this; I listened to them argue for a solid hour over a stick of deodorant. My uncle insisted that my aunt bought the wrong stick. My aunt insisted it was the same. My uncle disagreed. My aunt refused to go back to the store. My uncle refused to put on the deodorant. My aunt insisted he use the deodorant because it was the same. My uncle insisted it wasn’t, and that if my aunt wanted him to wear deodorant, she needed to go back to the store to get the right kind. My aunt refused but insisted he wear the deodorant. They repeated these points until it was time for lunch.

 

Deodorants on a shelf
Instead of choosing from dozens of brands every time they go to the store, customers often default to the same deodorant over and over again. Image Credit: Flickr User Clean Wal-Mart (CC BY 2.0)

 

Color Consistency Is Essential to Maintaining Deodorant Brand Loyalty

 

Consistency is important to people purchasing consumable products. Over the course of years of repeated purchases, customers grow accustomed to the particular brand they’re used to purchasing. They know which stick of deodorant they like. Instead of making a new decision every time they go to the store, they choose the same stick over and over again.

 

For deodorant manufacturers, this is a double-edged sword. Cutting one way, this means that brand loyalty will be strong and that customers can recur for decades. Cutting the other way, this means that the product must always be consistent. Changes to the formula of a deodorant or antiperspirant stick will be noticed by consumers. If the product they’re purchasing no longer seems to be the product they like, they may rethink their decision and switch to a different brand.

 

Manufacturers are aware that the color of a stick of solid deodorant is determined by the addition of a few colorants late in the mixing process, and that it has little to do with the efficacy of the product. The average customer, however, only sees the finished product, not the process. To them, a difference in a stick’s color is more noticeable than other changes in formula, and an indicator that other changes may also have occurred. In short, to a customer, two sticks of deodorant that are exactly the same except for color are two entirely different sticks.

 

woman putting on deodorant
Not all customers understand the intricacies of the formulation—or usage—of deodorant & antiperspirant. Image Credit: Flickr User Toby Bradbury (CC BY 2.0)

 

Spectrophotometers Deliver Repeatable Color Quality Control Results

 

So, color consistency is a serious concern for manufacturers of solid deodorants and antiperspirants. That’s why rigorous color quality control and quality assurance processes have been implemented across the industry. In company quality control laboratories, manufacturers test each batch of deodorant with spectrophotometers to ensure that the final color meets standards before it is shipped. They also conduct quality assurance studies using spectrophotometers to ensure that their processes consistently result in correctly colored deodorant.

 

Spectrophotometers are essential instruments for color quality control. By measuring light reflected off opaque substances, such as deodorant, they can generate objective, repeatable reports on that substance’s color. These instruments are significantly more effective than human observers. Human observation is subjective, varying from person to person and from day to day. Humans can also be thrown off by differences in lighting, which spectrophotometers control for with standard illumination settings. Finally, while humans lack specific language for describing small color differences, spectrophotometers generate numerical results. These numerical descriptions allow manufacturers to establish precise tolerances for acceptable deodorant color, that are repeatable across an enterprise and over decades.

 

With over 65 years of experience developing spectrophotometers to measure the color of deodorant and other products, HunterLab intimately understands the industry’s demands. Whether you’re considering upgrading outdated color measurement technology or improving your color quality control process, HunterLab has the experience, tools, and knowledge to help. To learn more, contact the color measurement experts today.

 

Reading the Leaves: Spectrophotometers Can Identify Oxidation Stages of Tea Leaves

I’m from Massachusetts, where we pride ourselves on having started the Revolution. Among the most prominent and colorful of Boston’s escalating acts of disobedience was the Boston Tea Party. Like it is today, tea was huge deal back then. It was consumed on a daily basis by an overwhelming percentage of colonists. In Boston, a thriving port, the importation of tea was big business. So, when the King imposed a hefty new tax on tea, it not only disrupted the lives of everyday colonists, it threatened their livelihoods.

 

In revolt, Bostonians blockaded the harbor and refused to allow the unloading of tea. Dressed as natives, a group of patriots boarded three British ships and dumped around 92,000 pounds of tea into the harbor. These actions energized Boston but angered the King. Tensions rose. Soon, in Lexington, a shot was fired that was heard around the world. The founding of our nation was steeped in tea.

 

Ship in harbour
No taxation without representation! Image Credit: Flickr User Lee Wright (CC BY 2.0)

 

Spectrophotometers Assess the Oxidation of Tea Leaves

 

In today’s world, more than coffee, more than beer, more than Coca-Cola, tea is King (it sure isn’t George III anymore). Having played a major role in global affairs for centuries, tea still thrives as the second most consumed1 beverage in the world, behind water. The resulting enormous volume of tea grown, imported, and processed requires highly efficient processes. Fast, reliable quality control is essential for manufacturers, to keep deliveries on time and up to specification. That’s why manufacturers often rely on spectrophotometers to quickly and accurately assess the color of their tea leaves.

 

Manufacturers measure the color of their leaves because color is indicative of the oxidation stage of a tea leaf. The oxidation of a tea leaf2 indicates of the final properties of a cup of tea, including color, flavor, and caffeine content. This is because all tea is made from the leaves of the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Green tea, black tea, white tea, and red tea are only differentiated by the preparation of the leaf.

 

So, manufacturers can reliably distinguish types and batches of tea leaves by measuring their color. This ensures that their batches have been processed correctly. Finally, it guarantees consistency batch to batch over commodity-scale quantities and decades of production.

 

Without accurate, objective analysis, manufacturers will lose revenue. Batches of tea that fail to meet client standards for consistency and quality can be rejected. Repeated failures can cause clients to begin looking for other manufacturers. Likewise, failing to detect a processing error, such as a mistake in drying temperature or timing, can damage entire batches. It’s unlikely any single error will be harmful to a manufacturer as losing 46 tons of tea, around $1.7 million in today’s dollars, was to the British East India Company. Over years, a manufacturer’s small losses can easily add up to a greater total amount of lost tea than in the Boston Tea Party. To avoid this, manufacturers use spectrophotometric analysis to eliminate measurement errors. It’s easier than going to war.

cups of tea
Different levels of oxidation result in different types of tea. Image Credit: Flickr User H. C. (CC BY 2.0)

 

Instruments Improve on the Human Eye in Tea Leaf Color Quality Control

 

These crucial color assessments are most often performed by instrumental analysis. More ably than the human eye, spectrophotometers assess color by measuring the light reflected from objects. Tea color quality control requires discerning slight differences in color for extended periods of time.  Unlike the human eye, whose objectivity is variable, spectrophotometers perform objective, repeatable measurements based on controllable instrumental variables. As a result, they are more reliable than human observers. For accurate color measurements of tea, we recommend using directional 45°/0° reflectance geometry.

 

Instead of relying on comparisons to printed scales, spectrophotometers allow manufacturers to compare tea leaves to digital tolerance standards. These standards can be programmed into the machine itself. Portable instruments can take many readings each minute, and rapidly determine whether the tea meets standards. These readings can be assessed separately or averaged together. The speed and ease of this method have allowed manufacturers to easily incorporate it into their processes without sacrificing efficiency.

 

HunterLab has been building spectrophotometers for over 65 years. In that time, they have worked extensively with the tea industry, and have developed measurement devices ideally suited to the needs of tea manufacturers. To find the perfect solution or upgrade for your manufacturing process, contact the experts at HunterLab.

  1. “Tea Fact Sheet,” 2017, http://www.teausa.com/14655/tea-fact-sheet
  2. “What Is Oxidation?” 2012, https://www.worldoftea.org/tea-leaves-oxidation/
Coffee Roasters Can Use Spectrophotometers to Determine Color on SCAA Roast Scale

My sense of taste lacks distinction. I get the broad tastes alright—sweet, bitter, savory, sour—but after that, it’s all greek. As a result, I tend to doubt that the differences in flavor the informal sommeliers of my acquaintance swoon over are as strong in the mouth as they are in their minds. So, when my friend told me he could taste the difference between cups of coffee so distinctly that he could match a series of cups to their respective beans, I said, “prove it.” That weekend, we brewed eight cups of coffee from eight different roasters. I kept a bean from each bag for him to match the cup with. After a short sip from each cup down the line, he puzzled for a minute, tried a few cups a second time, then matched the cups to the beans. He got them all right. “How did you do that?” I asked him after I settled the cash side of our wager. He was, of course, only too happy to tell me—at length.

 

coffee beans
The color of coffee gives clues to its flavor profile. Image credit: Flickr user Olle Svensson (CC BY 2.0)

 

The Color of Coffee Can Display its’ Flavor Profile

 

The color of a coffee bean can say a lot. Different colors come from different roast durations. Minute differences in roast can have outsize effects on coffee’s flavor, acidity, body, and aftertaste1  So, determining the exact color of a coffee bean after a roast can tell a manufacturer a great deal about what the coffee will taste like.

 

For the average coffee drinker, telling a coffee’s attributes from the color of its roast is a neat party trick,  It’s a way to show off to their friends that they’ve read about the eight strictly defined SCA color grades, Very Light to Very Dark—a way to build up self-esteem. In short, the stakes are low. For a manufacturer, however, the SCA color grades are their brand. It’s why people buy their coffee. Keeping color consistent is essential to retaining customers. In short, the stakes are high.

 

unroasted coffee beans
Coffee beans are green, and without much flavor, before being roasted. Image Credit: Flickr User Jessica Spengler (CC BY 2.0)

 

 

SCAA Scale Is Used to Classify the Colors of Coffee

 

That’s why coffee roasters rely on the SCCA scale to rate the color of their beans during the production process. By matching the color of a bean to a printed sample, they can determine within a reasonable margin of error whether each batch has been properly roasted.

 

This method has its drawbacks, however. To start, exact color matches are difficult between textured materials. The differences in surface texture of coffee beans and vinyl printouts affect human color perception. Also, human beings are inherently subjective at assessing color. Color perception differs between different observers, or even between the same observer at different times of day. Sample preparation and measurement can cost manufacturers valuable time if they are not done properly. Saving data from tests takes up even more time, as it must be initially recorded and then entered into one or more data storage systems.

 

Spectrophotometers Can Measure Coffee on the Agtron Scale

 

To correct this, many coffee roasters have turned to using the HunterLab ColorFlexEZ Coffee spectrophotometers to determine the color of their roasted beans. These instruments measure color with extreme precision and can be delivered programmed to display their results according to the SCAA scale. HunterLab even invented the HCCI (Hunter Color Coffee Index), with input from roasters worldwide, to improve upon the SCAA scale.  By using instrumental measurement, they eliminate the subjectivity inherent in human observers. The data can be transferred easily from these machines to a central location, such as a hard drive or the cloud. The machines take fast, reliable measurements, and samples can be quickly prepared, and a single measurement can report the SCAA number, Roast Classification, and HCCI number.

 

HunterLab has over 65 years experience developing spectrophotometers for industry use. Working extensively with coffee roasters, we’ve developed the ideal instrumental solution for coffee color analysis, the ColorFlex EZ Coffee Spectrophotometer. To learn more about how the ColorFlex can help keep your roasts consistent, contact the experts at HunterLab today.

 

Color Quality Control for Traffic Signs Can Be Accomplished with Spectrophotometers

My driving habits changed when I got my commercial driver’s license. I started parallel parking like I was shooting pool. I slowed way down. And I started paying much more attention to traffic signs. Large vehicles react more slowly than smaller ones. An accident involving a large vehicle will be more serious. To drive safely, I needed to make decisions well ahead of time. With my attention divided between the condition of my vehicle, other vehicles, pedestrians, road conditions, and navigation, I needed to quickly and easily identify traffic signs. Color differences and reflectivity of signs made this possible. Without them, the roads would be far less safe to drive.

 

yellow signs
Warning signs are color coded to keep motorists safe. Image Credit: Flickr User Jay Galvin (CC BY 2.0)

 

Retroreflective Sheeting for Traffic Signs Must Meet Federal Color Standards

 

For this reason, traffic signs must conform to the standards established by the Federal Highway Administration1 regarding color and reflectivity. So, manufacturers of retroreflective sheeting for traffic signs must meet rigid color control standards. Whether supplying client companies or the next division of a vertically integrated company, color quality control is an essential stage of traffic sign manufacturing.

 

This is a matter of simple dollars and sense. In either case, rejections at delivery costs more than problems corrected on the production floor. Not only are time and materials wasted, but so are delivery costs and the energy needed to run the machinery. For busy shops, the capacity lost to rework comes with an opportunity cost as well. That time could have been used to fill a new, profitable contract.

 

Highway signs
Highway signs must conform to federal color standards. Image Credit: Flickr User Doug Kerr (CC BY 2.0)

 

Spectrophotometers Accomplish Objective Color Assay

 

Fortunately, the color standards do not rely on subjective, human analysis. When it comes to communicating precise differences in the shades of objects, human language lacks the necessary precision. To improve on our imperfect color description abilities, scientists back in the early 1930’s developed a method to correlate the human perception of color to the instrumental measurement of light in terms of the primary colors Red, Green, and Blue.  This allows an instrument to measure reflected light and provide numerical coordinates. As a result, acceptable tolerances for the colors of traffic signs can be objectively quantified.

 

Few people would claim to be able to look at a color and describe it numerically. A spectrophotometer is designed to do exactly that. As each sheet is extruded, spectrophotometric analysis can determine whether or not it will meet color tolerance standards. If sheets that do not meet standards are being produced at a growing rate, despite adherence to established formulas, managers should inspect their process to discover the problem. Doing so can lead to increased efficiency or adjustments in formulas.

 

old stop sign
Looks like someone was in a hurry. Image Credit: Flickr User GizmoDoc (CC BY 2.0)

 

Choosing the Right Instrument for the Job

 

The effects of texture play a large role in spectrophotometric assay. With retroreflective sheeting, the 45/0 geometry is the prescribed method and the ColorFlexEZ has been chosen by many manufacturers to check their production. The ColorFlexEZ has built in the special retroreflective trapezoidal acceptance tolerancing capability.  

 

With over sixty years of industry experience, the technicians at HunterLab have worked extensively in the color measurement of reflective materials. To learn which spectrophotometer would be best for your process, contact the experts at HunterLab today.

 

  1. “STOPsigns and More Product Info,” 2017, http://www.stopsignsandmore.com/t-product-info.aspx
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

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