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Flex Products boosts capacity of color-shift pigments

SpecialChem / Aug 21, 2001
SANTA ROSA, CA, Aug. 21 -- Flex Products Inc., a manufacturer of specialized pigments for plastics, paints, and coatings, says it has more than tripled its manufacturing capacity for its color-shift pigments, which impart color to painted or pigmented surfaces that change with the angle of view. The company, a subsidiary of JDS Uniphase, has not disclosed its new capacity, but notes that increasing customer demand prompted the expansion.

Flex Products is one of three major manufacturers of color-shift pigments - the others are BASF, Ludwigshafen, Germany, and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. Each company's technology for creating the variable colors differs slightly, but the basic concept involves coating microscopic, highly reflective metal or mineral flakes with multiple layers of pigments. Light waves reflected from underlying pigments interfere with light waves reflected from overlying pigments, and the degree of interference is dependent on the angle at which the flakes are viewed. (Soap bubbles and oil slicks exhibit the same phenomenon.) Manufacturers of automobiles, electronic equipment, sporting goods or home appliances can use the variable colors to differentiate their products from the competition.

Flex Products' flakes, tradenamed ChromaFlair, consist of an aluminum core coated with inorganic pigments. They are loaded into such resins as polycarbonate, polypropylene, high-density polyethylene, PET, ABS, and nylon 12. Loading levels are typically between 0.2 and 0.6%. Pigmented resins can be processed with standard fabrication techniques such as injection molding, extrusion blow molding, thermoforming, and in-mold decorating.

Flex Products says the capacity expansion for its color-shift pigments consists of installation of two new machines at its headquarters for electron-beam deposition of the coatings onto the flakes. "Although the new machines are similar to our previous equipment, we have seen a higher throughput with these new machines," says Ed Dietrich, Flex Products' director of sales and marketing.

While Flex Products reports that most of its customers are buying its color-shift pigments for esthetics, the company sees an emerging market for the pigments in product security. The idea is to add a little of the pigments to molded or painted product surfaces to give them a multicolor sheen that is hard for counterfeiters to duplicate. Flex offers a line of its color-shift pigments, dubbed SecureShift, for this purpose.

Both the ChromaFlair and SecureShift lines are marketed in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Flex says that the ChromaFlair pigments have been employed in products manufactured by Nokia, Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nike, and Adidas.
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