Though 2008 is less than a quarter over, color specialists at BASF Corp. already are working on the firm's 2009 lineup of colors for plastic products.
Elsewhere in the color kingdom, Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corp. has developed a massive computer database to simplify color selection for its customers. Representatives from both BASF and Ciba spoke at Thermoplastic Concentrates 2008, an industry event held Feb. 25-27 in Chandler.
Color experts at Florham Park, N.J.-based BASF ``are seeing four distinct color stories'' for 2009, said Doreen Becker, technical marketing manager for BASF's effect pigments. Those four lines are being rolled out to designers and brand owners in cosmetics, fashion and other types of packaging.
BASF, which acquired the pigments business in its 2006 purchase of Engelhard Corp., also is using bismuth oxychloride, a white, crystal hexagonal pigment that provides a ``liquid metal'' effect in such projects as the housing for the iTV from Apple Inc.
Optically variable pigments also are gaining in popularity when used in transparent or opaque substrates, Becker said. The materials can produce a multicolor effect when viewed from different angles. The pigments can be used with black or other pigments or dyes to make unique effects and color combinations.
BASF, a unit of German chemicals maker BASF AG, also is reviewing the use of biodegradable materials, which can create vivid transparent color effects, although their functional capabilities sometimes are limited.
Becker urges designers to choose color at an early point in the design process. Automakers often save that step for last, leading to a limited number of color choices available to consumers.
``With the auto companies, color is usually the last part of the equation,'' BASF's Becker said. ``And then they'll rule out a color because it might not work in the mold. They definitely need to start the color process earlier.''
The Ciba database, available at www.matchmycolor.com, includes data from numerous suppliers, including BASF, DuPont Co., Carolina Color Co., Shepherd Color Co. and X-Rite Inc.
``Color is important, but it can be a major headache,'' said Kim Gooding, a technical sales engineer in color with Ciba, a Basel, Switzerland-based additives maker with U.S. headquarters in Tarrytown, N.Y. ``Coke red evolved over the years, but today the challenge is to have efficient, consistent, accurate color. It can be tough, because colors can change by interpretation, age and wear.
``We've even had cases where customers will send us a color sample in an e-mail and say, `Match this,' '' Gooding added. ``Sometimes computer screens may not show the correct color, so color monitors need to be calibrated.''
Matchmycolor.com launched in late 2006 and initially was generating 5,000-6,000 hits per month. Gooding said the site has caught on and now gets about 30,000 hits monthly.