To save automakers and automotive suppliers considerable time and money in applying metallic flake and other effect paints, X-Rite launched its xDNA® system with the MA98® handheld spectrophotometer.

To save automakers and automotive suppliers considerable time and money in applying metallic flake and other effect paints that are popular with the vehicle-buying public, X-Rite launched its xDNA® system with the MA98® handheld spectrophotometer.

The xDNA package solves a daunting problem that has concerned automotive suppliers and automakers since metallic flake, pearlescent and other effect paints were introduced in the 1970s: How to accurately measure the color and appearance of coatings with “sparkle” that confound optical instruments.

Manufacturers often waste a significant amount of time and money trying to match body panels, bumper facias and other parts coated with effect paints because they do not have instruments that measure why the paints look different under various illuminations and observation angles. Quality control personnel on a production line may observe that body panel and bumper facia don’t match properly, but prior instruments could not give consistent and accurate measurements to help explain why the mismatch was occurring. Consequently, companies spend an inordinate amount of time and resources trying to determine the root cause of painting problems through trial and error methods.

“With xDNA, X-Rite is giving automakers and their suppliers the appropriate tool to distinguish characteristics of effect paints that can’t be detected – much less analyzed – by other systems,” said Brian Teunis, Market Manager of X-Rite’s industrial color and appearance division. “We coined the term ‘xDNA’ to emphasize the fact that each effect paint has a unique, three-dimensional mathematical model, similar to the way that each person has a unique DNA structure. The exact name for X-Rite’s package is Dynamic Numerical Analysis, but we figured xDNA was a little easier to say.”

The xDNA system promises to speed the introduction of new effect paints by designers and paint manufacturers, improve the first-time quality of products being coated with the paints, and reduce the time and effort of troubleshooting manufacturing problems that occur on the factory floor. For instance, one of the world’s largest automakers was able to resolve a problem matching the effect paints of bumper facia and body panels in three days using the xDNA package – after spending more than two months trying to resolve the issue through the use of other measurement systems.

The key to xDNA is a new instrument called MA98 that uses twice the number of illumination angles and sensors of prior instruments, and a software package called X-ColorQC® that manipulates the data with proprietary xDNA algorithms to generate easy-to-understand graphs that show unique characteristics of an effect paint.

The new xDNA package offers manufacturers reliable and consistent data that can help:

  • troubleshoot whether a problem on the shop floor is due to the manufacturing process or the paint formulation;

  • assess whether existing equipment can be adjusted enough to accommodate a new process;

  • develop more exact quality standards on the painting lines that indicate quickly when a process is going out of control; and

  • predict whether a person will be able to perceive a difference in color and appearance when the formula of an effect paint, or the process used to apply the paint, are changed.

“X-Rite will first market the xDNA system with MA98 to the automakers and automotive suppliers in the United States and Europe, but the package has potential applications in other industries, including appliance manufacturing and cosmetics formulation,” added Teunis. “The xDNA system of software with MA98 is available in most languages.”

From a hardware viewpoint, MA98 is a precision, 31-point spectrophotometer that is designed for ease-of-use on the factory floor. Weighing approximately 1 kilogram (2 pounds) and covered with a soft, over-mold case for two-handed use, the instrument is designed for frequent and comfortable measurement by shop floor personnel. Other features include:

  • quick measurement time of about 1 second, with calculation and display in a total of 2 seconds;

  • battery-powered operation that lasts up to 16 hours or 1,000 5-angle measurements per full charge, in addition to operation from an AC adapter;

  • solid-state sensors and indicator lights that signal when the instrument is applied properly against the test surface to improve measurement repeatability;

  • replaceable lamp modules that can be replaced without affecting the measurement performance or results of the instrument;

  • compatibility with previous generations of X-Rite instruments, allowing continued use of existing databases;

  • a large color display screen that is backlit for easy viewing under varying light conditions;

  • software that instructs the operator on the proper techniques of measurement with both text and visual cues; and

  • improved optics and lens system to deliver double the light of previous systems to the surface being measured.

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