Americhem Inc. is rolling out a Web-based version of its vDesign plastic color-matching software, one that it said will make it easier for customers and prospective clients to develop new products.
The Cuyahoga Falls-based compounder and concentrates maker unveiled vDesign in mid-2010 in a CD version, and has recently beta-tested the new, secure site.
During a Dec. 20 tour of Americhem's packaging design center in Cuyahoga Falls, officials demonstrated some of the program's features. Users can upload their color and property requirements to generate potential color matches for building products; packaging made of high density polyethylene, polypropylene and PET; and polymer fibers.
Rodney Manfull, Americhem's general manager of molding products, said the program can be tailored to designers' non-standard color requests.
It's like the orchid you pick out of the garden: Can that be done in a talc-filled or glass-filled PP? Probably not. Can it be done in PET? Maybe, because of the gloss and refractive index, things like that, he said.
There are three ways to input colors in vDesign: using Americhem's in-house library of samples; using a color-selection tool similar to that used in Photoshop that returns up to 16 million possible hits; and measuring a target with a spectrophotometer.
Users enter their masterbatch requirements in pounds or kilograms, and can select up to three light sources for viewing colors: daylight, cool fluorescent or warm incandescent.
The vDesign program then calculates masterbatch costs, which can be displayed in dollars, British pounds sterling, euros or Chinese yuan.
Additional vDesign features coming in January include giving users the ability to save their color selections in password-protected online accounts, as well as three-dimensional virtual prototyping of bottles based on customers' computer-assisted-design samples.
You can take the customer's CAD drawing, upload that, put the color on it [and] input their labeling. You can take the [virtual] bottle and put it on the rack next to shampoo X and Y, and put it right in product placement and then say, 'How do I like that? Does it pop? Does it jump vs. the competitor's bottle? Manfull said.
Once the vDesign user is satisfied with the right color match, an e-mail is generated to Americhem's labs to produce a sample, which can be turned around and shipped in as little as 24 hours.
The vDesign program augments Americhem's packaging design center, which opened in late 2007. The centerpiece of the facility is a sample room, with shelves stacked high with 2,000 bottles in various tints, opaques, metallics, pearlescent and fluorescent versions.
The center has spectrophotometers for precise sample matching, a light booth with variable light sources for viewing colors, and machinery that enables production of up to 20 sample bottles while the customer waits.
The center has four bottle blowing machines, including single- and multilayer extrusion blow molding, and single- and two-stage injection blow molding. The newest, installed during the winter of 2010, is a Bekum H-111 EBM machine for multilayer samples.
If you think about that middle layer [in multilayer bottles] and the initiatives that the brand companies have with the recycled content and getting more in there, you see the importance of [the Bekum machine], Manfull said.
When we're designing the product, we understand what goes in the middle layer and how we can support that green component.
The facility also has six Milacron injection molding machines for producing samples.
In all, Americhem's physical and virtual packaging design tools are geared toward faster, more accurate color and property matching for a range of masterbatch formulations, with the goal of providing accelerated development of new products.
The company in September unveiled its 2012-13 color trends for cosmetics packaging at the HBA Global Expo in New York. The trends are divided into four seasonal themes.
At the HBA show and last fall's Pack Expo in Chicago, Americhem's pearlescent colors and scented concentrates received the most attention, Manfull said.