By: Ronn Cort
November 30, 2012
The thermoplastic manufacturing process has always included aesthetics to some degree. But in the past decade, the worlds of design and plastic manufacturing are intersecting more powerfully than ever before — and with exciting results for industries including aviation and rail interiors, medical parts and retail environments. Designers, technicians and engineers are collaborating earlier, more frequently and more closely to create products that realize designers’ visions while meeting stringent regulatory requirements. That drives more business for industry and provides refined environments for end users.
Historically, color and special effects such as luminosity and texture were used exclusively for high-end applications that merited their hefty price tag. Color choices were even more limited for aviation, where there were few choices that met regulatory requirements. Recent advances in thermoplastic sheet manufacturing have empowered some manufacturers to provide virtually limitless custom color matching for fully compliant materials ideal for highly regulated industries.
Working on color with designers forms close relationships and shortens the color and product creation cycle. Typically, designers have a color or color palette in mind early in a project and strict brand guidelines to follow and complement. The custom color process can begin with something as simple as matching a fabric swatch or as challenging as capturing the feeling of an existing environment. When designers are present at the beginning and witness the color engineering process, they can respond to the colors “in the moment” and through many iterations. This can reduce a weekslong process into one or two days — saving time and money for everyone.
Color is emotional and experiential. Both art and science are required to achieve just the right one or combination of many. Subtle differences can alter mood during a long-haul flight or make retail shoppers more comfortable, stay longer and purchase more. Color can soothe a claustrophobic patient in an MRI machine and elevate brand experience and loyalty. It can make the difference between a beautiful environment and a sterile one. The inspiring wealth of choices is ever-expanding and includes translucents and pearlescents, rich mattes and vibrant undertones.
Revolution in design
Color is even more powerful when combined with texture and translucency. New technologies have made these possible.
Pressure forming allows manufacturers to selectively texture surfaces on a single formed part — making it easier to add depth and functionality or to reinforce branding with embedded logos.
As thermoplastic manufacturers, it is our responsibility to continue pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve through collaboration with designers, creating solutions for previously impossible challenges. In working together more closely, we create partnerships that deliver innovative solutions that advance the industries we serve.
Cort is president of specialty sheet maker Kydex LLC in Bloomsburg, Pa.