In many ways, the spectrophotometer is the heart of your color management system. You’ve considered the features necessary for your particular application and have selected a quality instrument from a reputable supplier. But what happens after spectrophotometers are set up? Ensuring you get the most out of your color measurement instrument is an ongoing process.
If your business requires the most accurate, repeatable results possible, here are a few tips to consider.
- Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance and testing recommendations.
This includes regular professional service to ensure the integrating sphere coating of your spectrophotometer meets reflectance guidelines, and the instrument operates within specifications.
- Maintain consistent environmental conditions
- Temperature: The spectrophotometer should be operated in a temperature-controlled environment based on your specific application and manufacturer guidelines.If your samples are affected by temperature, we recommend using a conditioning chamber to control this.
- Atmosphere: As with temperature, it’s recommended to have stable humidity. You should also operate your spectrophotometer in a clean environment where the air is free from chemicals, including smoke.
- Recalibrate frequently: Even if the manufacturer only recommends that you calibrate your spectrophotometer daily, consider recalibrating every 2 to 4 hours – and immediately before particularly important jobs. This will reduce the chance of drift errors due to fluctuations in temperature, light source, or other factors.
- Maintain calibration standards carefully: The photometric scale of the spectrophotometer is calibrated to its standards. For successful results, the black and white calibration standards need to remain clean and undamaged. The white tile needs to be handled and cleaned gently, and dust or dirt in the black trap needs to be cleaned with compressed air. Read our post on storing, using and cleaning your calibration tiles to learn more.
- Prepare and measure samples correctly: This will vary by industry, so it’s best to consult your user guide or contact our team with questions about your specific application. As an example, here are some guidelines for sample preparation and measurement in the textile industry:
- Samples that aren’t opaque need to be folded, wound, or stacked – depending upon the material – so measurements aren’t affected by background colors showing through.
- Samples with directional orientations must be carefully measured to avoid errors. Either always situate the samples using the same orientation, or take measurements at four orientations 90 degrees apart and average the results.
- Samples with irregular colors need to be measured multiple times. Move the sample between each measurement and average the data.
- Use the largest possible viewing area: This will help average any color variations throughout the sample.
- Be consistent: To minimize color inconsistency while specifying or producing color, it is critical that the color measuring instruments used throughout your organization as well as your global supply chain produce compatible results. This compatibility is often referred to as “inter-instrument agreement” (IIA). Spectrophotometers with excellent inter-instrument agreement produce color measurement data that can be shared throughout the global color development process. Having this consistency throughout your supply chain can avoid costly color inconsistencies.
The spectrophotometer is a precision instrument designed to measure colors within a particular range of tolerances. Follow best practices to ensure the best possible results –within the capabilities of your instrument.
The tips we suggest require time and attention. Your industry, your business model, and your specific requirements will determine which suggestions are most important for your company to implement. For questions about operating your spectrophotometer, please don’t hesitate to contact our team here.