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Guidelines for Color Management

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Guidelines for Color Matching

The determination of appearance used to be the domain of art departments and visual evaluation.  However, in the modern world, there are more perfected ways of doing this evaluation; the importance of this perfection is understood by professionals in every field of industry.             

A more perfected evaluation has become necessary because a standard of excellence has come to be expected from any successful product line.  A core component of this standard of excellence is producing a product that is both impeccable and consistent in its appearance.  The perfection of these factors show the overall quality of a product line, and transitively the quality of the business itself.  Beyond this, effectively determining color properties in advance helps to bypass expensive consistency mistakes which can result in ruined production runs and unpresentable products.

Due to these factors, color management is one of the most crucial factors of product quality control, and using accurate and dependable instrumentation is the only way to assure that costly mishaps do not occur in the production process.  Now, there are a variation of instruments which are sold to accomplish this end, but many are lacking crucial aspects which can create long term savings.  Below are some tips for choosing the best color management instrumentation for your purposes;

1.      Instruments which are intuitive accelerate the learning process: When an instrument is more intuitive it means two things; first, there is less time and money required to train and retrain personnel.  This can initially decrease spending on training, but it is also important to note that retraining may need to occur multiple times in the instruments lifetime due to changing employees, and so these savings can be realized a multitude of times.  Secondly, there is quicker usage when employing the instruments, resulting in an expedited production process.

2.      Ensure repeatability in your instruments: Some instruments are more accurate than others, and this can make a crucial difference in consistency throughout multiple production runs.  The most important factor to look for is close-tolerance repeatability (the ability of an instrument to measure color in a consistent manner).  This consistency is measured in delta E difference, which is a measure of the total change in color.  When the delta E measurement varies from measurement to measurement when operating on the same test material, then the instrument is not very consistent, nor is it reliable to be used in the production process as it creates liability for an inconsistent and useless final product.  For reference, regard repeatability within the + / - 0.05 delta E range as acceptable.

3.      Ensure reproducibility in your instruments: Reproducibility is one of the core components of the scientific method, it is the ability of an entire experiment to be reproduced by the same tester or by an independent party.  In terms of color management, reproducibility is tested for by measuring the same test material with a multitude of instruments.  This allows the user to determine any deviation between devices.  This factor is important for any business employing multiple color measurement instruments because it ensures that divergences in color do not occur because of divergent measurements between instruments.  For reference, regard reproducibility within the + / - 0.5 delta E range as acceptable.

4.      Ensure adequate measurement area in your instruments: Inadequate measurement area can cause inaccurate measurements due to the effects of dispersion, or the breaking up of waves based on their frequencies.  It is important to have an adequate measurement area for the products you plan to test in order to avoid errors invited by this effect.

5.      Opt for instruments that are capable of performing speedy and consecutive measurements: If you need to measure color on a larger scale, say, in an assembly line scenario, then you will need an instrument which can perform speedy and consecutive measurements as this greatly reduces time and cost in the production process.  Many instruments also include a pass/fail mode in which certain specifications can be loaded onto the device so that each measurement will automatically pass or fail based on the recording taken.  This feature expedites the color test process greatly, and also allows the instrumentation to be operated by less experienced employees.

6.      Opt for instrumentation with built-in statistical capabilities: In any speedy measurement scenario, built in statistical capabilities are a necessity because they allow for useful data to be collected in a very quick manner.  These statistical capabilities include standard deviation and average, among many other more specified statistics.

7.      Determine if a portable instrument would suit your needs: LED illumination allows for measurement accuracy that was once only possible in bench top instruments in smaller, portable devices.  Portable instrumentation brings accurate color measurement to the field as well as the production floor, this means that samples do not need to be sent from the production floor to the color lab for testing, but can be checked accurately on the spot.

8.      Pay attention to durability: This aspect is especially important for portable instruments.  Keep in mind where the instrument will be used when making a decision on what to buy as it will be handled by multiple people and will need to stand up to whatever environment it is used in.  It is recommended that warranty information is checked before purchase as well.

9.      Consider Software: Software is important because the data collected with your instrument will end up on a computer at some point, and software that easily interacts with commonly used programs such as Microsoft Excel or Access will be much more simple and accessible for both your internal operation and those of whatever external party the information is being shared with.

Paying close attention to these guidelines will ensure that you end up with the right instrumentation to manage color for your customers, your suppliers, and your business. 


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