by Fred Shockey
November 4, 2010
In the interest of creating increased understanding, I ask the following question.
Why is color concentrate often an afterthought?
What do I mean by asking this question? Please allow me to explain.
Very often project engineers, marketing gurus, product managers, shop owners and others involved with the new product cycle are heavy into the analysis of the product development cycle. Sometimes so heavily, they forget to consider color concentrate and its potential impact on their product ideation.
Ideation, modeling, decision making, project launch, material selection, tool building, marketing, sampling and product launch are some of the large steps of the product development cycle. But there's another key factor that should be considered sooner rather than later.
If color concentrate is not considered early enough in the product development cycle, unexpected limitations can arise.
Experience has taught me that some of the early hopes of product developers are dashed against the rocks because of waves of color disappointment. In our day isn't everything possible? Be careful with those who promise everything without delivering.
Material selection is often considered before tool building because of shrink factors and cost modeling, however, color is frequently left out of this consideration. At least by those who haven't experience the following disappointment: not being able to match the exact color desired.
Plain and simple - some colors are not attainable in certain resin systems and product configurations.
Temperature, molding conditions, material selection, certification requirements, product life cycle, environmental exposure and several other factors influence the final color concentrate selection.
A classic example is some sort of legislation specifying a certain color for identification purposes with little or no application engineering. In other words, they didn't think about the material and color concentrate before they picked their pretty, bright color.
This causes consternation on the part of all involved in the product cycle.
Another painful example is the "recreation" phenomenon. For whatever reason, marketing wizards will pull a "crazy Ivan" like in the Hunt for Red October and suddenly turn around 180 degrees without notice. They can leave molders stuck with inventory and an impossible pallette to attain. Yes, we want the marketers to have new colors, but let us help you expand the pallette with the wisdom of our expertise.
Something else to consider is shrinkage. Certain pigment systems cause shrinkage and others do not. Shrink can influence product cost given that it influences the molding cycle. So, some colors don't work with some plastics in certain heat profiles and configurations.
Be sure to include color concentrate development early in your product's life.
Use color, use it early and use it often. Color sells!