The Leather Business Unit of LANXESS Deutschland GmbH is using a web-based colourimetrics and colour formulation system to integrate all its expertise in colour standardisation and formulation relating to leather finishing pigments. As well as intensive technical support in developing optimal colour formulations, the Leather BU also offers its customers a regularly-updated range of standard compositions for fashion colours for the next couple of seasons.

Using the X-RiteColor Master Web Edition, a hardware and software package from X-Rite GmbH, Cologne, LANXESS already has suitable technological means at its disposal at four Intranet-linked sites in Leverkusen (Germany), Wuxi (China), Zárate (Argentina), and Sao Leopoldo (Brazil). Stefan Wildbrett, leather technologist at LANXESS in Leverkusen, explains the benefits, saying: ‘We no longer need to send data storage media or colour samples half way around the world by mail or courier to be certain we have found the correct colour with our formulation. The new colour measuring system calculates this formulation precisely and error-free in seconds.’

At the click of a mouse, the system computes every theoretically conceivable pigment combination and displays those that most accurately reproduce the colour of the customer’s sample. Calculations like these can be modified by other factors, such as the maximum number of colouring substances in the formulation or the minimum proportion of a component. Requirements as to the opacity of the finishing can also be taken into account.

After just a few weeks, the colourimetric system database contains over 100 colours. ‘The system is easy to use, very robust and fast, which means we can process customer inquiries in a very short time’, explains Wildbrett. For example, if the colourant range is extended or altered, formulations can be calculated fast and reliably that exactly produce the colours previously obtained using the earlier colourant range. This service, which makes customers’ work in the ‘colour kitchen’ much easier, is offered by LANXESS free of charge when a range is changed or new colours are adopted.

‘The computer system is a major labour-saving device. It helps meet customer needs quickly and accurately’, notes Wildbrett. Such a system allows a colour to be adjusted free of metamerism. Doing this manually leaves things to chance’, he continues. This is especially important in leather production if tannery customers, for instance from the automotive industry, give exact specifications as to the colour or colour effect of samples under varying lighting. There are 18 different illuminants stored in the new colourimetric system, for which appropriate colour values can be calculated and used as the basis for metamerism-optimised formulations.

The new colourimetric system has enabled a unique service to be created for the leather industry. For years, the Leather Business Unit has been offering its customers information on current trends in leather fashions. This includes a look at fashion colours for the next two seasons. Wildbrett and his colleagues have just created 27 fashion colours for the 2006 summer season. Using formulations developed in this way, customers can plan their colour range and purchase the relevant pigments early on.