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The UA contributes its science to car colours


Alicante, 11th October 2011

The colour of car bodywork is a key element to choose for future users. At the University of Alicante, a research group has specialized in the measurement and colour reproduction, an area that both in the scientific and technological aspects is essential for current trends to expand and enhance the visual appearance of the exterior of cars. This group has -in conjunction with the UA- organized with one of the leading companies in this sector a meeting on this topic that starts on Thursday.

For car manufacturers, it is essential that their vehicles offer their most attractive side, with the most harmonious and uniform colours as possible, notes Francisco M. Martínez Verdú, Director of Colour & Vision and local coordinator of the Iberian Automotive Meeting. The colour and visual effects of its frame and exterior ornaments are essential to gain the public's preferences. International studies indicate, for example, that throughout Europe the most popular colour is black (26%), followed by white (19%) silver (16%), grey (15%), blue (9%) and red (7%). However, the tone is not the only thing that arouses people's interest, but equally important are other features, such as brightness or intensity.

Manufacturers, for example, find that the colour is constant and independent from the angles of illumination and vision or, conversely, that according to these inclinations, it presents a different key. The current trend is to show flashy effects, which can be achieved with different textures and metallic pigments, pearlescent or nacreous and microgranules.

This is why -as Verdú states- exact colour measurement is essential, which requires both the knowledge of physical properties —the wavelength is essential— and the interpretation of them made by the human brain so that the perception of the human eye and the sensation produced in the individual is predicted by some numerical coding using international scales. And not only for new cars, but for the repainting of used ones, so this can display an even look. Or so for buyers not to be surprised when they choose a colour from a sample and then they receive the original. For manufacturers, any method of calculation saving them costly trial and error steps in the process of checking the behavior and acceptance of a given chromatic body is important.

The battery of instruments, owned software and scientific and technical knowledge that has allowed this research group, for example, to specify the formulation of different paint recipes to reach an identical visual result to compensate the different effect produced when applied to the metal frame or on their plastic accessories. The technological foundations and calculation models used allow us to predict the behavior of the pigments. It should be known in advance whether the colour the designer sets on paper or computer screen is reproducible or not at the time of manufacturing or what tolerance limits are allowed . It is not the same either to study indoors with electric lighting or exposing the product to the sunlight. Also, depending on flat or curved surfaces, they differently influence the perception humans have of their reflexes. For the manufacturer it is equally important to know how much control you can exert on the painting process, so that even in this field there will be no surprises. This process can be especially complex with pearlescent effects, where four lay(er)s or more are needed to achieve it. We must also anticipate the appearance of aging effect over time of solar ultraviolet radiation.

From this Thursday and Friday, 13 and 14 October, the 1st BYK-Gardner Iberian Automotive Meeting, will discuss this and other topics, organized jointly by the AU and the company BYK bringing together leading experts from paints, plastics and cars firms. "We are now in the third generation of car colours. The purpose is to prepare for the fourth" says Verdú.


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