Clariant Masterbatches wants to help designers and manufacturers add a little color to their products.
The firm launched its global ColorWorks design and technology centers late last year. Now through its new ColorForward initiative, the colorant specialist has created a forecast to help companies tap into future design trends.
``When you're dealing with color in plastics, there's a wealth of information that can either expand [designers'] imaginations or shut them down,'' said Carolyn Sedgwick, ColorWorks business manager in a Sept. 5 telephone interview.
Because Clariant works with molders in a range of industries, it can tap into knowledge garnered from all of those groups.
``That's the benefit of ColorForward coming from Clariant,'' Sedgwick said. ``Our specialty is taking a customer's dream of a color and putting it into products and processes in many different products in many different parts of the world.
``If I go in and talk to a packaging company, they want to know about the hot colors in automotive. An automotive guy now wants to know about fashion. They're all looking at each others' industries for information, and we see across different industries.''
Clariant International Ltd., based in Muttenz, Switzerland, opened its first ColorWorks design offices last year in Singapore and Taiwan. Other sites are set for Frankfurt, Germany; McHenry, Ill.; and Clariant's North American headquarters in Holden, Mass.
With ColorForward, the Clariant Masterbatches unit has identified color and design trends for at least the next 12 months - such as blending casual with elegant to denote interest in mixing contrasting colors. It also notes key colors and how they fit into those trends. Reds, for instance, could range from vibrant hues to a dark brown with a hint of red.
Using the forecast can help a designer find the best way to make an appliance blend into next year's kitchens or stand out from the crowd, Sedgwick said.
Clariant is not the only colorant company providing data to help designers plan their products. Chemical giant DuPont Co. of Wilmington, Del., issues an annual survey on automotive paint colors. But Clariant believes its expertise in plastics allows designers to bring their views into focus.
``Say that someone is working with ABS, for example, which is a cloudy resin,'' Sedgwick said. ``You can't get a translucent color with an ABS, but we can work with them to find something that does work, either by working with the ABS or finding other resins.
``We're not a design house where we look at a color on its own. We look at how colors look within plastic. We see ourselves as facilitators within color.''
And as that facilitator, Clariant also is hoping to get involved earlier in the design process and tie itself closer to new and successful products.
``It's not just about providing a color,'' Sedgwick said. ``We become a part of that world.''