The recently introduced MA-T spectrophotometer from X-Rite
Fig 1. Example of textural images showing variation in color of sparkles
X-Rite is so convinced of the added value of these color calibrated pictures that they make them publicly available through an open data format and accompanying tools. Every researcher in the private sector and universities will have a unique opportunity to perform analysis on their own images.
Fig 2. Example from BASF Magic Collection showing extreme color flop and texture
Displaying effect coatings on screen is difficult but helps some businesses like the Car Refinish body shops to get an indication of the repaired color. The colored sparkle feature of the MA-T’s will help companies to high fidelity images of complex effect colors on screen.
Where do the X-Rite MA-T spectrophotometers have a challenge?
I see two aspects of the MA-T spectrophotometers that could form a challenge for a successful introduction:
Form factor: Compared to the BYK-mac the MA-T instruments clearly have a somewhat different form factor which is caused by the different optical components. At first sight, the MA-T instruments look a bit bulkier although it is actually similar in volume and weight. Practice however, will show that it’s easy to get used to the instrument because the MA-T gives a firm grip as the casing material is completely anti-slip. An important practical aspect of portable measuring instruments. Indicators on the screen showing an image of the measuring spot and the three pressure sensors also help to take proper measurements.
Fig 3. Form factor comparison of BYK-mac and MA-T
Color Performance: We had insight in the color performance values i.e. spectral information and calculated color values. Repeatability and reproducibility of the BYK-mac are slightly better, but given the large variations in spectral reflectance values of colors in the automotive industry, the differences in reproducibility do not seem to be a big issue. In other words, the reflectance variations over a single effect color panel are many times higher than the differences in reproducibility. The article of Erik Kirchner and Jyotsna Ravi: “Setting Tolerances on Color and Texture for Automotive Coatings”, Color Research and Application gives more background on required tolerance levels.
What are the compatibility aspects?
I expect the MA-T instruments to measure virtually the same color and texture difference values between a standard and a sample as the BYK-mac. Although the geometries to measure sparkle in the MA-T spectrophotometers differs from those used in the BYK-mac there is a good correlation. In addition, as mentioned earlier the market is waiting for an instrument that measures sparkle in a more reproducible and consistent way.
In general, for companies already using multi angle color measuring equipment, it is important to consider compatibility issues when they want to switch to other instruments. In case of full compatibly a hard switch is straightforward but in the case of complex measuring equipment like the BYK-mac and the MA-T this is more complex.
The difficulty to switch will depend on the specific customer processes.
For QC in OEM Automotive (car manufacturers) the huge amount of information coming from the MA-T instruments will help them to set better tolerances. Because the number of colors for OEM manufacturers is limited, a vectorial shift can help to compensate for the systematic reflectance differences between instruments made with the current equipment (like BYK-mac) and the new MA-T instruments.
For quality control of paint batches switching to the MA-T instruments will be less problematic. QC of paint batches is always associated with shifting white and sometimes black paint color standards. Setting new standard levels can be done based on the last delivered color batches. Together with the fact that the currently used tolerances can be deployed, the transfer process can be done relatively quickly. And of course, it is not a bad idea to start with a clean slate for QC paint batches anyway.
For automotive paint companies, the easiest way to switch would be to rebuild the established databases. This is difficult but not impossible. Where automotive coating colors degraded over time in the past, they are today very stable with modern coatings. Therefore, building new databases is a matter of remeasuring panels. If well-organized this is a manageable activity. Of course, the panels should be available, which in my experience is not always the case.
We should realize that a new era of color digitization started taking advanced machines like the MA-T spectrophotometers into account in combination with big data machine learning algorithms which are hungry for independent and complete information about color. In addition, processes like dosing, mixing, spraying and measuring are more and more automated. It is no longer enough to simply perform measurements for procedures like quality control and color measurement. Automation and learning from analyzing data is the new way to improve processes.
About the author:
Roel Gottenbos: is an experienced color research manager and developer of game changing color tools. He helps companies to improve their color processes from raw material to end product. Within Color Technology Consultancy Roel has the privilege to work together with Erik van Biemen who is as passionate and knowledgeable about color.