Considering the Spectrophotometer

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PPG's spectrophotometer, a technology that supports the colorist's work. Photo: PPG

The spectrophotometer is not a new device, but its technology has evolved in such a way that it can provide body repairers with proud services.

Matching the colour of a replaced or repainted part when repairing a collision is certainly one of the most important challenges body repairers face. If the colour of the part swears with the rest of the vehicle, the customer will be the first to tell you… which is never good news.

“The first piece of advice I would give to our body shops is to walk around the vehicle with the customer to identify previous damage, but also to show them that sometimes the original colour of the bumper is different from the colour of the tailgate, for example,” explains Denis Chevrier, technical trainer for Sherwin-Williams.

Afterwards, the spectrophotometer, commonly known as a scanner, will be a tool that can assist the colorist to make sure that the right colour is chosen from a much richer selection than the one found in the paint sample box.

There is an incredible variety of colours on the market and the same vehicle, coming out the same day from the same factory, can have different shades of colour. In fact, according to our experts, the same colour code can have as many as 20 variables.

Preparing the surface

In order not to falsify the data, you need excellent preparation of the surface where the readings will be taken,” says John Beauregard, Refinishing Solutions Specialist at PPG. You have to get the maximum gloss and make sure the machine is properly calibrated. It takes training to use this tool. ”For example, if you take a reading for a solid black with a dusty surface, the reading could give a result for a metallic black.

As close as possible

The unit will take two or three readings of the same target and average these readings. A light is projected on the panel and the colour waves will be analyzed to give the result as close as possible to the original colour. Once the reading is taken, the tool is connected to the computer where the software will present its choices.

It’s not a complete solution, but it’s a great place to start,” says Christian Roy, Technical Services Manager at NAPA\Cmax. The device will give a choice of colours that the technician must then validate by preparing a sample. He can read this sample with the spectrophotometer to see if it’s in the right area and then check it directly on the car. »

“According to the software linked to the measurement tool, the search will be done among the colours already registered on the paint company’s site. On the other hand, the option of doing an advanced search among the entire database can be very useful,” says Denis Chevier.

Depending on the type and the paint company, the method can vary. Some will search by VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), others will search by make, and some will offer the choice of going with the grain size of the metallic flakes for effect colours.

Much more precise

The new generation of spectrophotometers demonstrates greater accuracy than the tools that body repairers came into contact with several years ago. According to Roy, some people are reluctant to use them. “But in a context of scarcity of skilled labour, this tool is very useful. It will never replace an expert, but for representatives of the younger generation, it’s attractive, user-friendly and accurate. I know it’s an important investment, but I’m convinced that all workshops should take an interest in it. ”

The Way Forward

Body shops should indeed take an interest in this, especially as the time approaches when the paint manufacturers will replace the boxes of colour samples with the spectrophotometer. This is what, for example, Jonathan Adam, Business Development Manager at BASF, tells us.

BASF’s newest spectrophotometer that represents a solution for the future. Photo: BASF

“This is the direction our company is heading in. We recently launched a line of automotive paints that are exclusively supported by the scanner. This latest generation tool is very reliable and accurate. Obviously, we will support our customers in this transition. ”


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