All Posts By

Greg Stehn

Benchtop or portable: Which spectrophotometer is best?

Spectrophotometers are color measurement devices used to specify and communicate color and monitor accuracy throughout production. There are spectrophotometers to measure just about anything, from liquids and plastics to paper, metal and fabrics. Brand owners, designers, lab techs and quality control professionals rely on them to ensure color remains consistent, from the time it’s specified until final quality check, in just about every industry.

This Ci7800 benchtop spectrophotometer is measuring a fabric swatch.

Spectrophotometers come in many shapes and sizes. There’s the practical, convenient portable spectrophotometer, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and travel around the lab for on-site quality checks. Then there’s the larger benchtop device, standing ready to measure the most precise color for the most accurate specifications and tolerances.

Which is right for your color workflow?

Since benchtops are generally more expensive, many are left wondering if the investment is worth it. Today we’re comparing how portable and benchtop spectrophotometers perform in common color measurement scenarios so you can decide which is best for your needs.

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Why is coil coating so difficult?

Recently, we published an article about measuring color inline. Coil coating is one area where inline color measurement is very effective for achieving the most cost benefit by focusing on speed, quality, and accuracy.

The coil coating process has been around for more than 30 years, allowing companies to produce durable and attractive products. However, to achieve cost benefit, the focus must be on speed, quality and accuracy. Coil coating gives manufacturers a way to paint the metal while it is still in sheet form. This is important, because trying to paint metal after it has been formed into parts makes it difficult to achieve a uniform coating.

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The coil coating process is fast, and mistakes must be caught immediately to avoid expensive waste. X-Rite’s Coil Coating Inline Color Measurement System incorporates the ERX50 or the TeleFlash® 445 Inline Spectrophotometer and the GlossFlash 6060 Inline Gloss Meter to help manufacturers ensure color and gloss quality and consistency, real-time, during each step of the process.

Today we’ll explore the coil coating process and learn how an inline system can help achieve quality and accuracy.

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What does it mean to measure color “Inline?”

X-Rite’s inline color measurement solutions help industries manage color as the product is being made. Inline systems monitor products as they are produced and alert operators as soon as color begins to move out-of-spec so corrections can be made before the product is wasted.

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The TeleFlash445 spectrophotometer mounted on a traversing beam is automatically measuring the left, middle and right side of this sheet during production.

Each X-Rite inline color measurement system uses a non-contact spectrophotometer and ESWin software. Depending on the application and needs, a system may include a moving frame or robotic arm to position the spectro. Although they work as standalone units, X-Rite’s inline solutions can communicate with process control systems to provide color measurement data, or dye pump controls for real time Closed Loop Color Corrections. A system may also receive signals about events such as reel/sheet changes, machine stops or meter counts. Networked data allows you to share color standards and measurements among systems and at different locations.

Today we’ll look at how industries such as paper, textiles, plastics, glass and automotive are using X-Rite’s inline measurement solutions.

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Controlling OBAs in Manufacturing

From laundry soap to paper to socks, it seems that manufacturers everywhere are trying to achieve the brightest whites, and consumers are certainly buying in. These companies use chemical dyes called OBAs to make their whites “whiter” and stay ahead of the competition.

OBA stands for optical brightening agent. You may also have heard it called FWA (Fluorescent Whitening Agent), optical brightener, fluorescent dye, or even just whitener. An optical brightening agent is a special type of dye that is used in paper, packaging, textiles, plastics, paints and coatings, and liquids.

Concentrated OBAs are actually dark yellow. When working properly, they absorb a portion of the invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays from the light source and reemit that energy as visible blue light. This phenomenon, called fluorescence, causes the total visible reflected light from a sample to increase, particularly in the blue range, to give the product a brighter, whiter appearance.

xrite light spectrum chart

It’s a great visual trick, but OBAs can pose a problem for manufacturers. Although materials and fabrics that use OBAs look similar in production, those same products may look much different under other lighting conditions such as the store, daylight, or household bulbs.

Today we’ll look at some of the ways manufacturers measure, evaluate and control OBAs in their products.

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