Tinting, Coloring and Dispensing

By Mike Agnosta | August 9, 2005

Many people don�t realize that most of the work in painting doesn�t lie in the physical act itself, but in the effort made by manufacturers and suppliers to ensure proper tinting and coloring.

There is always going to be a wife out there who wishes that the color of her walls matched the color of the drapes, and rather than buy new drapes, she's going to want to paint. The challenge in painting a room isn't the physical act of painting, but in the answering of the eternal question of home decoration: what color? A lot more goes into answering this question than most people think.

Most husbands would agree that it is difficult to get his spouse to choose through all of the little samples and color guides to find the perfect shade, hue and finish. But the real challenge, much to the surprise of husbands everywhere, goes into the work done in making sure that the color she chooses is the one that she gets when he opens that can and starts to paint.

If you've seen the tinting process done in a paint store, you know that it doesn't look particularly difficult. In reality, it takes a lot of hard work to make this process look so simple. And it's an extremely crucial undertaking.

Ask any paint manufacturer and they'll tell you that coloring and tinting is extremely important to their business. "It is very important," said Lenora Marshall, vice president of operations and distribution at Tnemec Company, Inc., Kansas City, MO, a producer of high performance coatings for specialized architectural and industrial markets. "Tnemec has 13 distribution centers throughout the country, and each of these facilities has the capability of matching customers samples. Tnemec has invested a great deal of time and money into the development of colorant data for computerized color matching."

Glenn Davis, director of color systems at Duron Paints and Wall Coverings, Beltsville, MD, agrees. "Tinting and dispensing is a vital aspect of our enterprise."

While it goes without saying that customers look for products that will give them great quality for their money, the aesthetic value of the coatings is also extremely important. Color matching and color control are key.

"Over the past several years, the demand for tighter color control has risen dramatically," said Mr. Davis. "In particular for Duron, the demand has escalated due to our contractor-based business. The demand for a higher level of color control for repaints, touch-up quality, decorator requirements, etc., has driven Duron to provide a higher level of color uniformity and control," he said. "Our customers have demanded it and we have met this challenge with tighter specifications and improved color quality test methods."


Equipment and Materials Make the Difference
The two major components that lead to good consistency in a product are equipment and raw materials. In the past, many companies relied on salesmen with exceptional eyes for color detail in the mixing process. While this is still true to some extent, most companies use computers and sophisticated equipment to ensure that each batch comes out just right.

"The technology shift in the past five years has been towards increased automation and computer-based e-business," said John Faulkner, industrial equipment and product manager at Corob North America, Inc., a producer of dispensing equipment.

The trend towards automation has increased the color-matching capabilities of many paint manufacturers, allowing companies to offer faster and more accurate service. Tnemec recently released a new color formula guide and color matching service which it contends, is one of the most comprehensive color offerings in the specialized architectural and industrial market. The color formula guide includes more than 500 standard colors and Tnemec's color matching service includes one-day turnaround in batch sizes ranging from one gallon to 5000 gallons.

"Tnemec color matching accuracy is in the capability range of 95-98%," said Ms. Marshall. "In order to achieve this high level of success, it is imperative that the dispensing equipment has the highest level of repeatability and accuracy. This also requires scheduled quality control checks and maintenance on the dispensing equipment."

For Duron, reliable equipment is a must. "The vast majority of our product is tinted in our stores to various Duron fan decks, color cards, competitive colors and custom match tints," said Mr. Davis. "Consequently, the quality and reliability of the in-store tinting equipment is of the greatest importance in our ability to maintain the high level of color matching quality and reproducibility we demand."

Mr. Faulkner added to the list of important elements in choosing equipment, saying that quality, value and after sales service commitment are always important factors.

With such a great importance placed upon the quality of equipment, it is imperative to maintain a working relationship with equipment manufacturers and to keep abreast of the latest innovations. Yet many manufacturers recognize that upgrading is an expensive endeavor.

"The search for new equipment is a never ending journey," said Mr. Davis. "It is difficult, however, to embark on wholesale conversions to new technology. With the number of existing stores and independent dealers, this would be cost prohibitive."

While it is not possible to convert to new equipment at all stores at once, Mr. Davis said that the key to keeping up with new technology at Duron is integrating new technology into new and remodeled stores. He also stressed that new technology must be compatible with the existing methods of tinting formulations and colorant systems.

According to Ms. Marshall, Tnemec made a major investment in dispensing equipment in 2000. "This equipment is performing well, she said. While Ms. Marshall foresees no need to replace this equipment in the "near future," she is aware of the need to stay in touch with her suppliers. "Tnemec works very closely with the equipment suppliers to ensure that any upgrades or engineering changes that are required are updated on the equipment."

According to Mr. Faulkner, close contact is essential between the paint manufacturer and equipment supplier. Close cooperation offers manufacturers the means to improve productivity today, through new and upgraded equipment, which will translate into improved sales in the future, he said.

Equipment can't do it alone though. Great color matching and tinting ability relies heavily on the raw materials used. "The other part of the equation," said Ms. Marshall, "is the colorants. It is imperative that the colorant suppliers provide products that are controlled tightly for color, color strength and weight per gallon." According to Ms. Marshall, the colorants need to flow well in the dispensing equipment and suppliers must have the resources to work with her company on new technologies. "They must have the re-sources to help us in compatibility studies and be able to provide consistent and accurate quality. In addition, they must have a solid technical staff that can provide dedicated lab time to testing and assisting in data preparation," she said.

Mr. Davis added to the list of requirements for colorant suppliers. "Mass tone color and tint strength control are two of the primary attributes used to evaluate a suitable colorant vendor," he said. "With the tightening of color specifications demanded by the marketplace, strength tolerances of plus or minus two percent are becoming unacceptable. A four percent swing in color tint strength is no longer acceptable. In addition, light fastness, alkali resistance, viscosity and low VOC are essential requirements in the selection of a colorant system. The ability to produce color matches within a larger area of color space is important."

James L. Valukas, president of Accurate Dispersions, a South Holland, IL-based division of Eastman Chemical Company, acknowledged manufacturing cost issues affecting paint companies operating in today's competitive marketplace. "Our customers are looking for competitive cost for value received. This would include a reproducible product that meets the color requirements and physical properties for a specific application. The colorant must be a constant and not a variable in the final application," he said. "Competitive cost also includes providing the customer technical skills for developing new systems and product availability."

The trend in the colorants and tinting business may lean towards technology, but industry insiders are quick to point out that machines and computers can't do everything. "The complex nature of matching metallic colors makes it very difficult for computers to match within Tnemec's tight tolerances," said Ms. Marshall. "This can be accomplished only by expert color technicians with years of color matching experience and exceptional color file data. Sometimes the most sophisticated technology cannot rival expertise and a keen color eye."

New introductions from industry suppliers give further evidence of the importance of tinting and coloring.

Corob offers several dispensers to fit the needs of almost any size paint store. The Banco dispenser is the dispensing solution for small hardware stores, department stores, small home centers and small paint stores, according to the company. This highly compact dispenser is designed for tinting pints to gallons and the occasional five-gallon pail. The Tatocolor offers Corob's traditional accuracy, repeatability and speed in a small footprint automatic dispenser. The Tatocolor is ideal for those locations tinting small to medium paint quantities, according to the company.

Corob's MidiGiant is a high productivity mid-size automatic dispenser, with a roll conveyor and bung hole locator that allows for easy handling of five-gallon pails. It is suited for large hardware stores, home centers and paint stores, according to the company. For demanding applications, Corob's Modula is a flexible and modular automatic dispenser. It holds up to 32 circuits with a maximum of 16 external circuits. It can hold up to 32 internal canisters of different sizes, according to the company. In addition, Modula has high flow pumps and explosion proof versions are available.

Charisma colorants are available from Accurate Dispersions for use in architectural coatings. These products are produced in a highly controlled manufacturing environment and yield consistent color and results, not only in the colorant but also in the coatings system, according to the company.

Degussa's Coatings and Colorants business unit offers transparent UNI-CAL colorants. UNI-CAL 866-1020 red oxide, UNI-CAL 866-1520 transparent brown oxide and UNI-CAL 866-1820 transparent yellow oxide are all designed to provide formulators a high degree of flexibility in color attainment and special effects, according to the company.

Bayer has expanded its colorants portfolio with a number of products that satisfy the high requirements for modern coating systems. Fanchon Fast Yellow Y-5688 is a greenish-yellow pigment with high fastness properties and extremely high tinting strength for use in solid-color and special-effect coatings. Combinations of this product with Bayer inorganic pigments from the Bayferrox and Lightfast families are substitutes for lead-based yellow pigments.

HunterLab offers the ColorQuest XE spectrophotometer that provides high precision at an affordable price. Features include d/8� geometry, automated specular inclusion/exclusion, automated large/small area measurement, double beam optics and a long life xenon lamp. Also available from HunterLab is the ColorFlex, a self-contained color measurement system for quality control. It has a small footprint, built in keypad and LCD display. ColorFlex can be connected to a PC for use with Universal QC software or EasyMatch color formulation software, according to the company.

Disti-Kleen, Inc. offers Disti Color King dispensing equipment. This unit can dispense up to 40 colors and clears with an accuracy up to plus or minus 0.01g, according to the company. Disti-Kleen contends the Color King is a unique system which operates without pumps, which makes it an almost maintenance free color dispensing system.

High-speed dispensers from Charles Ross and Son Company are stocked for fast shipment in several sizes, up to 30 hp. Ross Dispensers include variable speed drives and hydraulic lifts. All models are constructed in stainless steel.

Related Market & Technology:

Related Raw Materials: