From automotive and industrial coatings to interior/exterior finishes and consumer product packaging, color-quality assurance is an essential ingredient in many manufacturing processes. When you consider the tremendous cost of manufacturing a product with the wrong color, ensuring perfect color formulation before a production run becomes arguably the most crucial step. Color quality control professionals have been using color-measurement software to simplify formulation matching for years. Such programs save countless resources by using sophisticated color-matching technology to decrease mis-tints and production line re-runs.

While color-measurement software is predominantly geared toward industry specific applications, much of the functionality of the software is useful to other industries. Until recently, a company requiring color-matching functions specific to more than one industry needed to invest in separate software packages. Not only did that mean an additional cost for the user, it also meant further training time to learn another program. X-Rite offers software that can eliminate these time-consuming nuisances.

Quality-Control Software

The Formulation-Master™ 2001 allows users to access all of their quality-control processes with one program. The comprehensive color-formulation software is an enhanced combination of three separate software packages: Plastic-Master®, Paint-Master® and QA-Master® 2000. All formulation and quality-assurance processes from the three programs have been incorporated into one powerful software application. No longer does a user have to manage multiple applications or purchase new software each time the process changes. Instead, total color formulation capabilities are available in one streamlined package.

Philip Goforth, product manager for X-Rite’s Coatings, Plastics and Textiles business unit, says the new software package answers customers’ need for color quality control that crosses the conventional lines of industry specific applications. “X-Rite talked to customers in various industries to find out what type of functions would most benefit their processes,” Goforth said. “Formulation-Master 2001 was designed specifically with this customer input, so that the best functions of our entire line of Master Series software could be included into one comprehensive program. We incorporated instrument interface, varied data displays and database editing options, to create the most sophisticated software package available on the market.”

Formulation-Master 2001 is networkable, allowing multiple users to access a single set of calibration data and standards. Working from one centrally located computer, the main server contains a database that can be accessed by everyone in the network. The program’s capacity to standardize projects across an enterprise saves time and money by eliminating the need to download information user by user. With most other software applications, information sharing is only possible through downloads between users, wasting valuable time and money.

Jim Aaron, X-Rite software project manager, said the program’s networking capabilities are focused on increased efficiency. “Formulation-Master 2001 provides color professionals within the same network with the optimal resources for producing predictable color in an effective manner,” Aaron said. “The system was designed to improve responsiveness to the color formulation and control process by acknowledging multiple users. This capability eliminates having to go back and forth between users to download and transfer information from one computer to another.”

The program’s ‘Quick Correct’ feature permits the adjustment of an existing color quickly and efficiently, even without a known formula. The user then has the option of being able to alter the formulation to match an existing standard with the click of a button. Similarly, the ‘Quick Compare’ function can compare the formulations of two separate color standards and display the difference between the two.

Information-Sharing Software

ColorMail® 2.0 allows users of the program to share information between separate locations. Projects, standards and samples can be dragged into an e-mail application for forwarding to someone else outside of the network who is using the software. The information can then be sent as an attachment to the other person. This function is designed to give the mail recipient the capability to correct the standard and send it back, if necessary.

“ColorMail is a great function for companies that have production facilities in more than one location,” said Aaron. “If each location is using Formulation-Master 2001, color information can be easily communicated through e-mail. The ability to exchange formulation information with another company location can save immeasurable time.”

Additional Benefits

Formulation-Master 2001, like X-Rite’s other software applications, is designed to run on Windows® operating systems. It incorporates toolbar buttons that display function names when covered with the mouse arrow. Color standards and samples, formulas and corrections can all be accessed with the function buttons, which can be added or deleted according to which buttons are necessary for a specific process. Users can program the buttons to display customized on-screen views that fit their specific needs. Now users have the option of excluding any function button that is not specific to their particular application, serving to simplify their process by eliminating unwanted information.

“If one person wants to arrange the screen to display the L*a*b* values of a particular formulation, they can save that exact view so that their preferences are always available,” Aaron said. “Then, if another user decides that they need the screen to display the reflectance data of a formulation, they can change the view to address that need as well. Once those views are saved in distinct files, each individual user has one click accessibility to their preferred viewing specifications.”

There are color-measurement software packages that make the user choose between creating and mixing color with either a dry pigment or a dispersion. Formulation-Master 2001 gives options to the user. The program lets users create both dry pigment and dispersion outputs and delivers those outputs in a variety of weight/volume units, or directly to a dispenser in ounces, half-shots or quarter shots. This flexibility allows the user to make an initial match that contains dry pigments, and adjust or correct that color with dispersions.

Color settings often differ among computers, changing the way a formulation looks to users at different locations. By ensuring that formulations are viewed in the same way, the software eliminates the chance of color misrepresentation. Formulation-Master 2001 is the first and only software to use the International Color Consortium’s (ICC) standard device profiles for on-screen color. The ICC profiles eliminate variations in color displays, minimizing another variable in the color-management process.

When considering color quality control, color professionals must choose the best software package to manage their company’s manufacturing processes. Color formulation software can be judged by several factors — speed, clarity, accuracy and ease of use. But when it really comes down to it, simplicity is a must. Keeping that philosophy in mind, users can benefit from software that makes color formulation simple.

For more information on color-measurement software, contact X-Rite, 3100 44th St. S.W., Grandville, MI 49418; phone 616/534.7663; fax 616/248.9748; visit