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Jonesco, a UK manufacturer of storage boxes, fire equipment cabinets and commercial vehicle mudguards has recently started using a RM200QC spectrocolorimeter from X-Rite as part of its quality control process.
“It was clear that we needed to invest in the right technology to raise the bar on our colour quality, rather than rely on the old method of squinting our eyes at samples under different lighting and hope for the best,” said Rob Mayor, Quality Manager for Jonesco. “Now we use CIELAB values to demonstrate exactly how ‘more red or less red’ a product is compared to our standard sample.”
“Before we implemented use of the RM200QC, we effectively had no method of understanding whether the colour of our products were correct during production,” Mayor said.
Most of Jonesco’s products are made via rotational moulding. Typical applications tend to be large, lightweight plastic parts designed to function in harsh environmental conditions.
A major product line for Jonesco is intermediate bulk containers with a capacity of up to 1,000 litres, as well as drum carts, boxes holding salt and sand to be used on icy pavements, fire extinguisher and tool boxes, and pallets. With about 130 employees in the United Kingdom and its distribution facility in Lille, France, Jonesco is a major supplier of mudguards for commercial vehicles.
Without quality control, the product may not always match the custom colour specified by the customer or the standardised palette of more than 40 colours offered by Jonesco that the company is using to build its brand presence.
Another problem can arise when a product has two components, such as a moulded box and moulded lid. “What we find is we have to make the box and lid at different times, using different equipment, yet the two parts have to match in colour,” Mayor said.
“So we are standardising our production controls,” he added. “The RM200QC helps us to verify quickly and accurately that the output of the process is acceptable. If a recipe is incorrect, due to a whole host of reasons, we can make a change to the process much earlier than running 30 or 40 pieces before we discover the error. We can test the parts and then say that if they are in a certain dE range that they are okay to continue manufacturing.”
While the company has only been using the instrument for a few months, Mayor expects that it should help to reduce waste of time, plastic and fuel associated with parts being produced out of specification.
The instrument is also reportedly helping to bring new products to market. When a customer or Jonesco designer provides a premoulded sample for quote, the quality control department can measure its colour and determine how close it is to the branded colours offered by Jonesco or whether a standard recipe needs to be modified.
“In the past, I would not have been able to quantify in any way whether a sample was the same as what we currently offer in our standard colours,” Mayor said. “But with the RM200QC, I can now to quantify if we should use the new polymer mix.”
With a measurement time of about two seconds, the instrument gives results in the form of pass/fail messages, or standard colour difference equations and tolerances, such as delta E, CIELAB, CMC, CIE 94, and CIE 2000.
The RM200QC memory holds 20 standards and up to 350 measurements automatically stamped with time and date and saved as PDF and CSV files that can be downloaded via USB cable so the information can be shared with other stakeholders in a supply chain. Any measurement can be linked with images of test surfaces, text notes, or voice messages and the reports can be output in multiple languages.
X-Rite employs a proprietary camera technology in the RM200QC that illuminates the surface being measured from three different directions while simultaneously recording 27 colour-accurate images in 1.8 seconds, eliminating the shadows and interference inherent to patterned and textured materials and surfaces. With eight different visible illuminations and one ultraviolet illumination, the RM200QC is able to more accurately define the location of a colour in colour space than traditional colourimeters that typically have only three illuminations of red, green and blue light, says X-Rite.
The colour specialist also claims that quality control or quality assurance personnel can be trained “in a matter of minutes” on the operation of the RM200QC. Operators can select between 4mm and 8mm apertures and preview the sample area on the full-colour display, then take a measurement in less than two seconds with the press of a button.