Measuring Appearance in Packaging Materials

Measuring Appearance in Packaging Materials

Measuring the colour of Packaging Materials

The use of packaging is universal and cannot be specified to a single industry. Packaging for each industry, regardless of whether it is food, construction, pharmaceutical or any other industry imaginable, the packaging used should be of a standard to not only serve a purpose but also highlight the product contained.

Depending on its use, the appearance and characteristics of packaging can change. Different materials can have different purposes, depending on the product and the purpose of the packaging itself; should the packaging accentuate the product within or is it meant to contain the product entirely.

Some examples:

Cardboard
An opaque surface, such as cardboard, allows for the product logo and any other desired artwork to be displayed whilst holding the product securely.

Opaque plastic
Again, product designs, images and logos can be printed on this opaque surface. Plastic tends to be harder wearing than cardboard so for some products this tends to be a better option.

Clear plastic
Depending on quality, clear plastic packaging can be durable whilst showing off the product inside. This can be printed on, labels attached and personalised in a number of ways to suit individual client requirements.

Film
Film is not as tough or hard-wearing as other packaging materials but allows the product to be seen clearly, an important factor with some items, such as food, in which the customer likes to see what they are buying.

Brick Carton
A tough, commonly used packaging medium that keeps the product contained whilst also allowing for inventive packaging decoration and advertising.

Glass
A similar application to film as it allows the product to be viewed but is also able to be adorned with labels and any other packaging necessary.

Foam
More of a protective packaging that is surrounded by materials such as cardboard or plastic to make it visually appealing to a customer.

Aluminium
A functional packaging material used for a variety of different products.

Paper
Either as a packaging material or for advertising.

Why do we need to measure the appearance of packaging materials?

As with many products, appearance is a vital component when it comes to appealing to a potential customer. It is also an indicator of quality as, if care isn’t taken to ensure a high quality conforming appearance from product to product then it can be assumed that care will not be taken to ensure a high quality product is being sold.

Measuring appearance needn’t be a complicated and time consuming task; it should be relatively simple and beneficial to the production process.

Points to think of…

First of all, let’s think of how different packaging types can be measured. Generally speaking, any form of opaque packaging would have its reflected colour measured, regardless of material. A translucent packaging material could also have its reflected colour measured, depending on how thick the sample is, or its transmitted colour. A transparent sample must have its transmitted colour measured to give an accurate representation of appearance.

For the degree of accuracy needed for some packaging materials, an instrument would be required that can give extremely detailed data that can tell a manufacturer everything they need to know about a product and what, if any, changes need making to keep standards consistently high.

As an example, the UltraScan VIS quantifies date from between 360nm to 780nm to let you know exactly what the customer will be seeing. For reflectance measurements, standards can be set and tight tolerances put in place to make sure any product manufactured matches closely to a perfected set standard. Transmission measurements are equally as useful as any discrepancies with clear packaging can be noted and resolved before they are sent to a client.

The method for such measurements needn’t be complicated once the relative setups have been programmed. This is where intelligent software plays a part. For measuring see through packaging of any material, we would first select some samples that need measuring. For the sake of accuracy, the more samples of a batch measured, the better the data will represent the batch as a whole. The samples would then be placed into the transmission compartment of the instrument and a measurement taken. For an opaque sample, a similar method applies with the exception that the sample is placed at the reflectance port for measurement.

Once data has been received, the question is what to do with it. Using EasyMatch QC software, the option is available to compare all batch measurements to a pre-determined standard. An average can also be taken to give a wider view of the appearance of a batch.

The main purpose of using a spectrophotometer in the quality control process is to make sure whatever packaging is being produced is consistent from batch to batch, even from one site to another. Another use could be for improving the product, relative to a client’s requirements.

Whatever the instrument chosen, it has to both compliment and support the quality control process whilst being as less intrusive as possible. It needs to be easy to use but also capable of handling a variety of sample types if required. Whatever the spectrophotometer chosen, versatility should be at the forefront to accommodate any changes in methodology and should be able to switch from reflectance to transmission measurements easily to allow any manufacturer to grow and explore a wider range of packaging potential.

Recommended Product
Measuring Appearance in Packaging Materials

HunterLab UltraScan VIS Spectrophotometer

A host of measurement features and specialized sample-handling devices make UltraScan VIS a highly versatile colour measurement spectrophotometer. Because of its exceptional inter-instrument agreement and long-term stability, you can be confident that differences between measurements are due to product color changes, not instrument variability. Materials on the borderline of accepted tolerances will not be unnecessarily rejected.

The UltraScan VIS easily measures both reflected and transmitted color as well as transmission haze and meets CIE, ASTM and USP guidelines for accurate color measurement. UltraScan VIS uses diffuse/8° geometry with automated specular component inclusion/exclusion. For transmission measurement, the use of a robust CIE-conforming sphere instrument (TTRAN Total Transmission mode) effectively negates the effects of minor scattering typically found in transparent samples.

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