Getting It Right: Tinting, Coloring & Dispensing

By Christine Esposito | August 10, 2005

When all aspects come together, customers go home happy.

It would be a simpler task if the world were only black and white. But today's paint market-especially when it comes to decorative coatings for interior and exterior application-is all about color and choice. In fact, creating even a simple white has become a critical endeavor, as paint companies offer a bevy of choices. For example, Dunn-Edwards recently launched a new program called the "Many Shades of White," which features 137 different cool and warm variants of the hue. It is these nuances and a wide variety of shade offerings that help paint manufacturers attract and satisfy color-centric customers.

Customers want custom colors when it comes to architectural paint. (Photo: Degussa)
"The primary attribute sold by the paint manufacturer in the decorative market is color," said Robert Poemer, vice president, architectural colorants, Degussa. "It is crucial for the customer to get the color that they want accurately replicated in their home." As color preferences change, coatings must continue to relaunch and enhance their palettes. "New products are always designed so that they can fit into and utilize our color data base," said Colin Gooch, technical director, Resene Paints Ltd., based in New Zealand. "Although a new product may have a dedicated color card they are also immediately available in every color in our color library. This includes our range of high-performance coatings which utilizes a range of industrial tinters custom made to work off the same data base as our architectural tinters."

To match colors that meet customers' fancy, paint companies need compatible colorants that meet today's market requirements as well as reliable equipment to dispense and tint the paint either in the store or at their factory.

POS Tinting Continues To Grow
According Mr. Gooch, Resene is "totally dependent" on its point-of-sale tinting systems. "There is currently no product in our range which does not utilize the system for color production," he said.

In New Zealand, Resene's market, like North America, Scandinavia and Australia, POS systems are the dominant technology. Yet outside these areas, factory-tinted colors are the norm.

But that is changing, according to industry executives. "Consumers, retailers and paint companies are realizing the advantages of POS tinting," said Mr. Poemer. "In particular, customers in Latin America, China and Europe have started to adopt the idea."

As more companies begin to adopt POS tinting, there is a need for in-store equipment that is reliable and simple to operate.

"Nowadays, tinting machines are easy to use. This allows even a non-specialized user to work with them," said Valeria Muzio, managing director at Edel. Her company has created machinery that has guided interfaces to eliminate the risk of mistakes and "forgive human distractions." Guiding users that are less comfortable with POS tinting operations is key in markets just adopting the technology. To help in this area, Italtinto offers the Tintoretto 9002, a compact and fully computerized colorant dispenser which has an active matrix TFT display with touch-screen technology.

Improvements made to user interfaces and the internal workings of dispensing and tinting machinery have been acknowledged by paint makers. "Dispenser manufacturers have, in the main, done an excellent job in improving the accuracy and reproducibility of their equipment," said Mr. Gooch.

Yet, even as machinery becomes more automated, there is a divergence of views when it comes to the type of dispensers used in the marketplace.

"We believe that modern manual machines are as quick and as accurate as computerized machines at a significant cost savings" said Mr. Gooch. "However there are some markets which see manual machines as being in the 'horse and buggy' era and they would suffer loss of credibility if they used manual versions."

Mr. Gooch said that in markets where there is not a "clear mathematical progression in can sizes," computerized systems are a better choice.

Regardless of whether a company chooses manual or automated machinery in their shops and facilities, keeping costs in check and having the machinery in working order are paramount.

Companies such Novaflow Systems, which offers low-cost dispensing and tinting machines like the N20 and N40 for use in small- to medium-sized branch dispensing operations, are focusing on cost reduction. "We are currently developing technology that will offer a lower cost system in conjunction with higher accuracy and better reliability, which will equate to lower overall operating and maintenance costs," said Dan McKenney, vice president, North American sales, Novaflow Systems.

Regarding maintenance, Edel has developed systems that diagnose malfunctions and help users fix problems on their own rather than waiting for a technician.

Simply put, "An out-of order tinting machine means no sales" said Ms. Muzio of Edel.

Colorant Developments
But machinery is only part of the equation. Colorant suppliers are delivering products to paint manufacturers that answer the call for ease of use and compatibility with today's drive towards lower- and no-VOC paint formulations.

"In Europe the trend for APE-free and low/zero-VOC coatings is inevitable. Also color choice and improved accuracy in both decorative and industrial markets is a trend," said Christopher Bradford, marketing manager, water-based coatings worldwide, Elementis Specialties.

Along those lines, Elementis is offering Tint-Ayd WCH, a universal in-shop tinting system for both water- and solventborne systems. Free of both APE and organic solvents, the system goes together with more than 3,000 color formulations (NCS-2, Eurotrend, RAL) and another 7,000 customer specific formulations, according to the company. Elementis Specialties is also offering Tint-Ayd WBF, an industrial waterborne tinting system that is low in VOC, binder-free and compatible with all common industrial waterborne coating systems. The company's Tint-Ayd NV is a solvent- and glycol-free industrial tinting system for both in-store and in-plant applications. A proprietary dispersant package allows it to be used in high-performance waterborne industrial coatings at higher levels without affecting the final film performance. It is compatible with 1K and 2K urethane and epoxy resins systems.

Degussa has also added new colorants that are focused on the shift to "greener" technologies. Its newest products include Colortrend Plus 802, a line of no-VOC, APE-free universal colorants, and Aquatrend Plus 870, no-VOC and APE-free environmentally friendly in-plant colorants.

Putting It All Together
While paint companies rely on their suppliers to deliver reliable colorants and equipment, the onus is on them to put all the pieces together. The paint company must prepare base paint that has precise tinting strength and appropriate tinter acceptance properties, ensure those properties remain stable and make sure the precise amount is filled into each can, according to Mr. Gooch.

"When all of these factors come together in the hands of a well-trained shop assistant, color accuracy results," he said. And that means customers go home happy.

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