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With Pantone custom color matching, Protolabs helps manufacturers improve branding and speed time to market.

With Pantone custom color matching, Protolabs helps manufacturers improve branding and speed time to market.

Protolabs now offers custom color matching for injection-molded parts. Image courtesy of Protolabs.

With design cycles shrinking and demand for customization increasing, the use of color in creating prototypes and parts is on the rise. With custom-color matching, manufacturers and designers can create parts in specific shades for prototyping, presentations or end use. 

Protolabs now offers exactly that type of custom color matching for injection-molded parts using customer-provided Pantone numbers or via scanning part samples. The capability was enabled through the integration of PolyOne’s PINPOINT Express Color and Dosing System, which includes 3M precision dispensing and dosing technologies. This allows Protolabs to develop custom colors on site, while also cutting the time required to mold short-run plastic parts in precise colors. 

With simple, fast color matching, Protolabs says that customers can enhance brand recognition while also accelerating time to market and reducing color-matching costs. 

The company outlined how the process works in a recent blog post, which also includes a video showcasing their color-matching capabilities. 

“Customers have begun coming to us looking for their branded color for their products,” said Protolabs Project Engineer James Beard in the accompanying video. “They want to utilize our speed to develop these prototypes (and in some cases production parts), and they want it in their branded color.”

Traditionally, injection molding suppliers needed an average of around four weeks—and as long as six to eight weeks—to provide a resin in a custom color. That includes the color sample request, sample delivery, final color approvals and production of the completed parts.

Protolabs has cut this process down to just a few days. The company offers color matching for four materials right now: ABS, ABS-PC blends, polypropylene and polyethylene resins. The PINPOINT system and PolyOne’s ColorMatrix Select software can accelerate the color-matching process, down to as little as a few hours in some cases. 

According to the video, the preferred method of color matching is using the Pantone or PMS color chips. If customers want to match a sample part, there must be a flat area on the part that is at least as big as a quarter so that it can be scanned successfully with a spectrophotometer. Sample plaques can be submitted for approval in as little as three days.

Once the material is selected for the part, Protolabs uses the PolyOne PINPOINT system to create the right color mixture, which is then fed through the doser and injection molded.

“All of these new capabilities are things that our customers have wanted for a while, so we’re excited to finally be able to offer it to them—while still delivering finished parts at industry-leading speeds,” said Joel Matthews, global product manager at Protolabs, when the company announced the new color-matching offering.

Check out all of the details about Protolabs’ custom-color matching capabilities, including images of completed parts and details about how to provide sample parts for color scanning. The blog post, video and other information are all available registration-free.

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