PolyOne Corp. (Booth S1832) wants to take its color compound customers into new dimensions with OnColor, a virtual color technology system the Cleveland firm will introduce at NPE 2003.
Specifically, those would be the second and third dimensions, as shown in OnColor's two- and three-dimensional technology. Both resulted from a three-year effort between PolyOne's color unit and Integrated Color Solutions, a technology firm in Greenville, S.C.
The result is a cutting-edge software system that incorporates the thousands of colors in PolyOne's catalog with three-dimensional imaging that allows customers to see what products made with those colors - ranging from bottles to toy ray guns - would look like on store shelves and in other settings.
PolyOne will rely on feedback it receives at NPE to decide what direction it will take with the OnColor program.
Options include licensing the technology or providing customers with the software needed to run the program, PolyOne color product design and commercialization manager Tracy Phillips said in a recent interview at PolyOne's offices in Avon Lake.
``There's been a lot of interest in [OnColor] as a prototyping tool,'' she said. ``Every color you can create with pigments or dyes can be duplicated here.''
The system runs the 2-D quality control and product history system alongside 3-D product imaging on a pair of large Theater monitor screens made by Apple Computer. The screens can show 2 million pixels per square inch and incorporate 128 bytes per pixel for a massive amount of color detail. The technology powering the system is 3.6 million times faster than that used to animate dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park movies, according to PolyOne color technology technical leader Scott Russell.
``This system started out as an internal tool, then we realized the possibilities it could have with 3-D objects,'' Russell said.
``Take something like a shampoo bottle,'' he explained. ``Ordinarily, it would take six to nine months to design a new one. It would require 50-100 color matches and we'd have to try to interpret all sorts of descriptive terms - like warmer, friendlier - that we hear from the customer. Now we can do that same work in a few weeks.
``Most of this type of matching now is done with a physical sample out of a color book, or by a customer asking us to match a color they've found in part of a magazine or a piece of fruit or something like that. [OnColor] is a unique, radical departure.''
The OnColor system even can create virtual labels and show a customer how the label would look when curved around a bottle. Viewing colors under different light sources - direct sunlight vs. fluorescent light, for example - is possible via the software as well.
The system also can meet rigorous critical match standards. A common acceptance level for critical color matches - which are matches that go beyond what's visible to the eye alone - is 0.4. A major automaker working with PolyOne requires a critical match level of 0.1. By comparison, the OnColor system can provide match levels as low as 0.08.
PolyOne is beta-testing OnColor with about 15 customers at its design centers. A commercial decision on the project should be made by the end of the year.
If successful, OnColor might help revive the fortunes of PolyOne's plastic colors and compounds unit, which is PolyOne's largest business unit. Globally, plastics colors and compounds brought in about 52 percent of PolyOne's $2.5 billion sales total in 2002, even though sales of those products in North America dropped 9 percent. PolyOne is one of North America's three-largest makers of color compounds and concentrates.
PolyOne's color business recently was reorganized to focus on separate markets - such as automotive and appliances - rather than taking a product family to a variety of markets.
``Color is a significant growth engine for the company as a whole,'' said Tom Bolger, vice president and general manager of the color and additive masterbatch group.''