[ 彩材拆拆 x UNWRAP CMF ]
Ch.40 Unwrapping CMF design on clear communication for translucent plastic
Ch.40 拆招CMF設計談透明塑膠的調色溝通

CMF is a specific discipline within industrial design that focuses on the development of a product’s color, material, and finish. Unwrap CMF writes about little stories of CMF Design for those who are interested in learning more about this niche field. Comments and inspirations are welcome!

By revealing the internal mechanical structure of electronic products, the use of translucent plastic adds a retro-futuristic sci-fi feel, as well as recalling the classic aesthetics from the 80’s and 90’s, contributing to its growing popularity as we move out of the pandemic and into the metaverse.

As translucent plastic becomes popular, questions regarding execution in mass-production also emerge. When thinking about what to use as the reference standards, Pantone’s plastic chips may first come to our minds. However, the price of the entire set of Pantone’s plastic chips is not… “friendly”. On top of that, plastic colors may change over time and lose its accuracy after a few years. Most importantly, even if the design team owns a full set of Pantone’s plastic chips, there is no point of using it for communication unless if the supplier also happens to have the exact same set in their hand… and they often don’t!

Therefore, for communication throughout color-tuning translucent plastic, in the absence of physical references, a rough expected effect can be first demonstrated using images or renderings (added with background objects to showcase desired transparency). The next step is for the supplier to prepare 3 to 5 different levels of color samples, with each sample’s colorant proportion and formula carefully recorded. This extra detail will allow us to effectively determine the most appropriate adjustment for the next round of color-tuning.

The habit of recording each round’s formula is rather important. That is because translucent plastic contains very little colorant, a slight proportion adjustment of the colorant can result in significant changes in color. For example, when color-tuning plastic in translucent orange, even the tiniest difference in yellow or red additive can cause noticeable changes in the hue and/or transparency.

In addition to colorant content, the polished or frosted texture of the tooling also affects the perceived transparency of the plastic. The thickness of the sample can also change the transparency and the perceived color at the end. As there are many factors that can affect the final result, when color-tuning translucent colors, it is preferred to use texture and thickness most similar to the final production if possible.

But that’s not it! Getting to the intended color and transparency is just the first step. If this happens to be an optical component, a balance must be tested and decided between desired transparency and optical performance. In addition, as laser-etching has its limitations on transparent materials, logos and artworks via laser-etching is not ideal. Instead, printing or in-mold solutions may be considered.

After all, translucent plastic isn’t anything new. We just got rusted because it hasn’t been widely used in the past decade. Just like introducing any new material or process, with or without an existing color-tuning procedure, do not let it stress you – all it takes is the adaptability of a CMF Designer to improvise when something arrives! ?



CMF為Color Material and Finishing,譯為色彩、材質、及表面處理工藝,屬於 工業設計 旗下重要的一環。Unwrap CMF( 彩材拆拆 )將圍繞著這個主題,以淺而易懂的小故事拆解 CMF設計師 的日常。

經過幾十年的低調,透明塑膠終於再次回到大眾的視野。透明塑膠殼的應用透視了電子產品的內部結構,呈現復古未來的科技感,同時又回溯經典的八九十年代美學潮流,因而在疫情後期、元宇宙初期重新冉冉升起。

隨著透明塑膠逐漸熱門,延伸的量產實現問題也接踵而至。一提到透明塑膠的標準參考樣本,許多設計師首先會想到潘通的塑膠色卡。然而,潘通塑膠色卡的價格不菲,而且塑膠經長時間後會產生變質而出現色差。更重要的是,即使設計部門曾採購潘通色卡,若供應商沒有同樣這套昂貴的塑膠色卡,雙方之間就失去了共同的衡量標準。

因此,對於透明塑膠的調色溝通,在沒有實物樣品的情況下,可以先用網路圖片或渲染圖示意大致的預期效果(並加入背景物件以呈現透明度)。接著,請供應商依照示意圖,調配3至5個不同梯度的色板,並詳細記錄每個梯度樣品的色料比例、配方等參數,以便在收到第一輪樣品之後,有效拿捏後續下一輪調色的參數。

每一輪的調色紀錄相對重要,這是因為透明塑膠的色料含量極少,因此微調不同色料的比例就能產生極為明顯的色差。以調配透明橘色為例,即使每個梯度間只有極小的黃色或紅色差異,都可能導致橘色的色相及透明度產生變化。

不僅取決於色料含量,模具內的拋光或咬花紋處理也是影響塑膠透明度的因素之一,不同的材料厚度也會對透明度和最終的顏色產生影響。影響透明素材最終效果的決定因素太多,因此,在調色時,應盡可能使用與最終量產相似的咬花及厚度。

好不容易調好了預想的效果,這還只是第一步。若涉及光學零件,還需要在通透度和光學效果之間取得平衡。此外,因為雷雕技術在透明材料上的種種侷限,透明塑膠上的logo等字符不宜採用雷雕,但可以用絲印或模內成型來代替。

透明塑膠並非新材料,只是在過去十幾年未被廣泛運用,然而,就像面對任何新工藝或新材料,即使缺乏現有的調色管理也不用擔心,CMF設計師自身的應變能力就是最好的解決辦法啦?

Translucent plastic contains very little colorant, so a slight proportion adjustment of the colorant can result in significant changes in color.
透明塑膠的色料含量很少,因此微調不同色料的比例就能產生極為明顯的色差。
In addition to colorant content, the polished or frosted texture of the tooling also affects the perceived transparency of the plastic.
不僅取決於色料含量,模具內的拋光或咬花紋處理也是影響塑膠透明度的因素之一。
Verbal labels can mislead. For accurate communication with vendors, use visual or physical references to specify the desired effect.
避免文字誤導並確保和供應商之間的有效溝通,建議使用參照圖片或實物來明確所需效果。
As laser-etching has its limitations on transparent materials, logos and artworks via printing or in-mold solutions would be advised.
考慮到雷雕在透明材料上的種種侷限,透明塑膠上的logo等字符宜採用絲印或模內製作。
With its light transmittance property, translucent plastic can offer a unique edge-glow effect through the use of fluorescent content.
因其光線傳導的材料特性,透明塑膠加入螢光成分後可產生獨特的邊緣發光效果。




CMF學無止境,歡迎留言補充。
Comments and inspirations are welcome!
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Problem-solving ??? ?????. Former head of CMF at Motorola. A New York-based and world-traveling Design Consultant with over 13 years of specialty in CMF Design. 高雄囡仔,前摩托羅拉CMF設計團隊負責人,目前定居於紐約並遊牧世界,任自由撰稿人兼CMF設計顧問,持續投入在CMF設計的科普推廣,並為WGSN及羅技等公司提供CMF專案支持或諮詢服務。

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