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Color is Key: Getting Color Right in Powder Coatings

A version of this article originally appeared in Products Finishing Magazine.

What is Color Management, How Does it Work, and Why is it Important to the Powder Coating Supply Chain?

Color is an important factor in many sectors of the paint and coatings industry, but especially for powder coatings, which are applied as dry powder and typically create a harder, tougher finish than conventional liquid paint. Powder continues to steadily grow in popularity, representing around 13% of global coating segments, which has led to an increased demand for color matching.

The color development process can be time-consuming and sometimes difficult, especially when miscalculations occur. Due to the complexity of the color matching process, color management plays a critical role in the powder coating industry. This is where software for digital color solutions (like colorimeters and spectrophotometers), formulation, and quality control come into play.

Intro to Color Management

Color management refers to the solutions that measure, analyze, communicate, and assess color data. Leveraging digital color management solutions helps manufacturers reduce time and effort spent on formulation and color control, eliminate costly errors, and deliver quality products in the most efficient way possible. Different color management products are tailored to different industry requirements, but the goal of most solutions is to measure, formulate, and evaluate color to create and communicate objective color data.

Utilizing color management technology, including hardware and software, is crucial to delivering color accuracy while guaranteeing performance. However, developing a color for powder coating takes significantly more time than in other segments of the coatings industry. For example, developing a color in architectural coatings takes only minutes. Manufacturers dispense a colorants into a base, mix, shake, and apply at the point of sale. If the color is wrong, it can easily be corrected right in the store by adding colorant to the existing batch. In powder coatings, on the other hand, a large amount of time is dedicated to getting color right. On a laboratory scale, developing just one color can take over an hour. One must weigh dry material, create a premix, extrude the premix and so on. It is a lengthy process and if the color is incorrect, this entire process needs to restart. Going back to correct the color is not possible because powder coatings are manufactured in factories and shipped ready to apply. Because of the lack of room for error, speed and accuracy are extremely important for powder coatings manufacturers. It is crucial that colors are correct and gain approval from the customer the first time around.

Most large color labs have color management equipment already, but some smaller companies are still assessing color visually. Visual color evaluation is subjective and can lead to errors, especially when factors such as metamerism, heat, and humidity aren’t easily accounted for without the help of digital softwares that allow you to predict and visualize color outputs before even going to production.

Digitalization is Key

Throughout the powder coatings supply chain, the use of digital standards and color management technology is becoming more common. Without computerized color solutions, companies cannot be responsive to the market or maintain quality color delivery – and it could take days before a manufacturer realizes they cannot deliver on a customer’s specified color. With digital tools, if the manufacturer does not have the appropriate raw materials on hand they will know immediately, allowing them time to reformulate and saving the headache of wasted materials and effort.

Advancements in digital technology have also streamlined digital color communication throughout the supply chain. A digitalized database that can be used between manufacturing locations and provides accurate, data-driven formula predictions enables organizations to optimize formulas not only for color accuracy, but for cost, ingredients, and certain additives as well – all while communicating this information seamlessly and objectively.

Large powder coatings manufacturers have different factories and labs around the world. For efficiency purposes, these companies strive to balance workload by moving production from one factory to another. Companies do not want to spend time repeatedly matching the same colors at different sites, so centralizing color matching and communication is key. All factories and labs need access to this core data, something that is possible via a digitalized database. This also helps users quickly shift production from one location to another with greater ease.

Evolving Needs of the Powder Coatings Industry

Technology continues to evolve to meet the needs of the powder coatings industry. With the introduction of sophisticated portable color measurement devices, companies are now able to measure color and immediately receive a match in a fan deck that is within the given structure of the product. From there, potential customers can receive projected job costs from manufacturers, which in turn enables higher sales volume.

The color-matching process in powder coatings is complex, which is why digital color management plays such a critical role in the industry. Digital color management enables higher accuracy of formula predictions and ideally, factories can go straight from those predictions to manufacturing with little to no error, ultimately saving time, money, materials, and resources. Digital color management gives powder coatings manufacturers confidence in their color quality – from supplier to customer.

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Bring Ideas to Life with Color Management

When data meets color, inspiration meets results.