Keeping the Golden Gate Bridge Golden: How Paint Suppliers for Bridges Keep Colors Consistent


Posted on November 21, 2017

It’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that the Golden Gate Bridge is painted from end to end each year. In fact, the only time it was ever painted end to end is the first time it was ever painted, nearly a century ago. Since then, there has been touch-ups and maintenance painting, as well as a 30-yr project to remove and replace lead-based paint that ran from 1965 to 1995.1. However, even these regular touch-ups require a full-time painting staff and, of course, tons of paint. The story is the same for most of the bridges in the United States. Initially and on an ongoing basis, enormous volumes of paint are required to prevent corrosion and to keep the bridge looking trim, rain or shine.

The Golden Gate Bridge is notable for its span, but also its color. The particular shade of orange used is immediately recognizable and only one large suspension bridge in the world boasts a similar color: the 25 de Abril bridge connecting Lisbon, Portugal to Almada. While few other bridges are painted similarly to the Golden Gate Bridge, most other bridges are painted with the same attention to detail. That is to say, that each bridge is its own color as distinctly as the Golden Gate is orange. Naturally, this presents an opportunity for paint makers. The supplier who mixes orange for the Golden Gate Bridge enjoys a steady revenue stream from the ongoing maintenance. Paint manufacturers able to consistently produce paintthat meets the color specifications of bridges stand to benefit from a constant flow of revenue.

Spectrophotometers Ensure Paint Color Consistency

The best way to ensure paint color consistency is to employ spectrophotometers as part of the quality assurance process. These instruments are the most accurate and effective way to measure color as part of an industrial application, like paint production. Small enough to fit on a benchtop and fast enough to measure multiple samples per minute, reflectance spectrophotometers assess the color of opaque liquids and solids by measuring reflected light. This makes them an ideal instrument for rapidly determining whether paint batches meet color specifications.

Spectrophotometers are a significant improvement over other color quality assurance options, especially human observers. When it comes to distinguishing between slight differences in shade on a consistent basis over the course of years, the human eye and human brain cannot match the objective quality of the spectrophotometer. Depending on the observer, the time of day, the person’s mood, the ambient quality of light in the room, and the state of the comparison sample, human observers may make color identification errors. Needless to say, these errors can be costly, as paint is wasted and rework is made necessary.

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