Spectrophotometers Improve Efficiency and Color Consistency in Precast Concrete Manufacturing


Posted on January 18, 2018

Concrete is renowned for its remarkable strength and durability, affordability, and low maintenance requirements, making it ideally suited for use in a virtually endless variety of applications. From parking garages to railroad ties, agricultural products to retaining walls, concrete’s extraordinary versatility makes it “the most used man-made material in the world.”1  However, the appeal of concrete doesn’t simply lie in its practicality; it can also have significant aesthetic appeal. Homeowners turn to concrete to beautify their properties, whether via intricate modular paving, cutting-edge countertops, or contemporary exteriors. Meanwhile, designers are increasingly using concrete in aesthetically innovative ways to enhance the appearance of public spaces and shape our experiences of the world around us.

This broad appeal comes in part from the fact that concrete, particularly precast concrete, can be manufactured in an infinite variety of colors. Whether a customer is looking to create a bold new public building or simply update their kitchen, precast concrete manufacturers can use color to help them achieve their perfect look. However, with so many variables at play, achieving the ideal hue can be a challenge, and objective color measurement is necessary to develop manufacturing processes that will result in your desired appearance. As such, spectrophotometers are playing an increasingly vital role in the production of precast concretes.

Variables Impacting Precast Concrete Color

Whether creating custom components or mass-producing concrete product, the primary benefit of precast concrete over cast-in-place concrete is predictability. “Since precast is manufactured in a controlled casting environment it is easier to control the mix, placement, and curing,” explains the Concrete Network. “Quality can be controlled and monitored much more easily.”2 This control extends to color; creating concretes in a factory environment enhances your ability to carefully monitor each stage of production in order to achieve your desired final result. As such, precasting is typically the preferred method of production when color is a top priority.

However, while precast concretes are manufactured in stable environments, their final colors are influenced by a wide variety of factors, including:

  • Cement color
  • Aggregate type and processing
  • Pigment type
  • Pigment ratio
  • Finishing (sandblasting, acid etching, etc.)

With such a large variety of variables impacting the final appearance of the concrete, each component must be carefully monitored in order to observe its impact on the color of the concrete and, ultimately, create your ideal hue. Spectrophotometric instrumentation allows you to easily identify the relationship between these variables and the final appearance of your products in order to create the best possible formula for your concrete products.

Spectrophotometric Analysis Improves Formulation

Spectrophotometers are essential tools for manufacturers of precast concrete, whether you’re looking to create custom color matches or ensure consistency in the production of existing hues. Unlike the human viewer, spectrophotometers can capture objective color data accurately and precisely and distill that data into numerical values, allowing for the highest level of insight into color behavior.

One of the greatest advantages of spectrophotometric technology is the way it facilitates formulation. The variables inherent to precast concrete production means that there are virtually endless material and process combinations that can impact the final appearance of your product. Modern spectrophotometers come paired with advanced color measurement software packages, like HunterLab’s EasyMatch QC, that allow you to easily correlate material and process variables with color outcomes, providing a blueprint for how to move toward the result you want and improving the efficiency of the formulation process.

To optimize the aesthetic longevity of your precast concretes, you may also wish to observe how the color of your product responds to environmental stressors. Factors such as UV exposure, temperature variation, rain, and pollution can all have a detrimental impact on the color of your products.3 Using spectrophotometric color measurement, you can analyze how these factors impact color quality, allowing you to rework your formula to correct for any unwanted color changes and improve color durability.

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