The Benefits of On-Line Spectrophotometers for Plastics Manufacturers


Posted on February 1, 2018

Plastics have changed the course of human history. From cars, to film, to electrification, plastics have been essential to the development of revolutionary products and have shaped the way we live, work, and play.1 Renowned for their durability, longevity, and versatility, plastics are now integrated into a virtually endless number of industrial and consumer goods.

Part of what makes plastics so attractive has been their ability to take on a broad spectrum of hues. Indeed, the color of plastics is vital to ensuring both aesthetic appeal and practical functionality.2  As such, color accuracy and consistency are among the most important aspects of plastic manufacturing, and spectrophotometers must therefore play a central role in the production process. However, just as plastics themselves have advanced over the years, so too have spectrophotometric technologies. While spectrophotometric color measurement of plastics was once only possible via period manual sampling, on-line instruments are now revolutionizing how color is monitored within the production line. The benefits of on-line spectrophotometers include not only a higher level of quality control, but also improved efficiency of manufacturing and reduced production costs.

Of course, not all on-line spectrophotometers are created equal. HunterLab’s SpectraTrend HT represents the most advanced on-line instrumentation available, offering unmatched versatility and performance in a user-friendly design. By combining continuous, non-contact color assessment with integrated height measurement, the SpectraTrend HT allows you to capture reliable color data from even non-uniform and textured samples without manual sample prep. As such, this innovative spectrophotometer provides solutions to a number of important color challenges faced by the plastics industry, paving the way for better color quality control and enhanced manufacturing practices.

Enhanced Product Quality

Maintaining color consistency in plastics can be a difficult process, and color variation may arise from multiple variables. As such, instrumental color measurement is essential to ensuring color accuracy and consistency both within and between batches. Unfortunately, time interval-based quality control runs the risk of missing out-of-spec product and allowing such products to be released into the marketplace. Additionally, such methods have often required precise sample preparation, particularly of textured and non-uniform samples, leaving room for operator inconsistency and error.

The SpectraTrend HT offers real-time monitoring that ensures color is behaving according to expectation at critical points in the production process. Because this process is digitized and automated, the human element is removed, eliminating the risk of operator variation and significantly increasing reliability of measurement. By alerting operators to unwanted color variation instantly, out-of-spec product can be automatically contained downstream, preventing it from reaching customers. This ensures that only the highest quality products enter the marketplace, thus preserving brand reputation and customer satisfaction.

Reduced Color Changeover Time

Spectrophotometers have been instrumental in improving the color changeover process by identifying when new colors come into spec. However, historically this process has also relied on manual, time interval-based testing. Unfortunately, this method typically causes operators to miss the precise moment of successful changeover, resulting in unnecessary scrap and lost production time.

The SpectraTrend HT, however, replaces time interval-based testing with continuous monitoring, instantly identifying the last good piece of the old color and the first good piece of the new color. This level of precision can reduce color changeover time and scrap by 50% or more. At a moment when just-in-time manufacturing is becoming standard practice, a more efficient color changeover process can have a significant impact on production speed, accuracy, and the bottom line.

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