Color Quality Control for Traffic Signs Can Be Accomplished with Spectrophotometers

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Posted on April 27, 2017

My driving habits changed when I got my commercial driver’s license. I started parallel parking like I was shooting pool. I slowed way down. And I started paying much more attention to traffic signs. Large vehicles react more slowly than smaller ones. An accident involving a large vehicle will be more serious. To drive safely, I needed to make decisions well ahead of time. With my attention divided between the condition of my vehicle, other vehicles, pedestrians, road conditions, and navigation, I needed to quickly and easily identify traffic signs. Color differences and reflectivity of signs made this possible. Without them, the roads would be far less safe to drive.

Retroreflective Sheeting for Traffic Signs Must Meet Federal Color Standards

For this reason, traffic signs must conform to the standards established by the Federal Highway Administration1 regarding color and reflectivity. So, manufacturers of retroreflective sheeting for traffic signs must meet rigid color control standards. Whether supplying client companies or the next division of a vertically integrated company, color quality control is an essential stage of traffic sign manufacturing.

This is a matter of simple dollars and sense. In either case, rejections at delivery costs more than problems corrected on the production floor. Not only are time and materials wasted, but so are delivery costs and the energy needed to run the machinery. For busy shops, the capacity lost to rework comes with an opportunity cost as well. That time could have been used to fill a new, profitable contract.

Spectrophotometers Accomplish Objective Color Assay 

Fortunately, the color standards do not rely on subjective, human analysis. When it comes to communicating precise differences in the shades of objects, human language lacks the necessary precision. To improve on our imperfect color description abilities, scientists back in the early 1930’s developed a method to correlate the human perception of color to the instrumental measurement of light in terms of the primary colors Red, Green, and Blue.  This allows an instrument to measure reflected light and provide numerical coordinates. As a result, acceptable tolerances for the colors of traffic signs can be objectively quantified.

Few people would claim to be able to look at a color and describe it numerically. A spectrophotometer is designed to do exactly that. As each sheet is extruded, spectrophotometric analysis can determine whether or not it will meet color tolerance standards. If sheets that do not meet standards are being produced at a growing rate, despite adherence to established formulas, managers should inspect their process to discover the problem. Doing so can lead to increased efficiency or adjustments in formulas.

Full article with photos available here:

https://www.hunterlab.com/blog/color-plastics/color-quality-control-traffic-signs-can-accomplished-spectrophotometers/

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