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Colorants for Plastic Industry

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Color is an integral part of the plastic material and it should not be considered as an after thought. The whole system of coloring has to be deal with using what is called a total systems approach. No doubt the color enhances the functionality, but it has also the potential to degrade certain material properties like impact strength, if not applied properly.

The colorants that are used in the Plastic Industries can be both the dyes and pigments. Both dyes and pigments exhibit color through the process of visible light absorption and scattering. Typically color formulations generally have four colorants. Black and white are used basically to control the value and Chroma, while two colored pigments or dyes are applied to establish the Hue.

Dyes that are used in the plastics industry must be very strong, show good heat stability and be transparent. Typically the dyes are used to tint or shade a resin. In the plastics industry dyes are limited in use, as such they can be used for only a selected number of resins. Pigments used in this industry can be organic or inorganic. While pigments offer more choices to the manufacturers due to its opacifying ability, broader chroma range, and better heat stability for most of the resins. Pigments are generally dispersed within a resin matrix, while dyes solubilize in the resin. Titanium Dioxide is a pigment that has a wide use in Plastics industry. It is used to make the plastics more whiter, brighter and durable.

Dyes or Pigments?

A base polymer dictates the choice of the colorant selected. Pigments are typically used in polyolefins as most of dyes show a tendency to migrate in polyolefins. While Dyes are often successfully used with polycarbonate, polystyrene, acrylic, and other types polymers because of their color strength and transparency. The final word is whatever be the colorant selected it must show compatibility with the base resin. This is in order to prevent a color shift occurring over time.

Have a look at the properties of few of the colorants that constitutes both dyes and pigments:

Type of Effect Pearlescent Metallic Fluorescent Phosphorescent Thermochromic Photochromic
Cost Low Low Low-High Medium High High
Polymer compatibility All All Dyes: PMMS, PET, ABS, Pigments:PE, PP PMMS, PE, PS All All
Durability Excellent Excellent Fair Good Fair Fair

Factors in selection of right colorant

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