PLASTICS: Color Me Recyclable
In response, Kodak has made the development of distinctive looks and designs a priority in their new product marketing for single-use cameras. In achieving these distinctive appearances, the company must balance stringent polymer specifications and processing guidelines with varying manufacturing capabilities located around the world.
Due to these complex global processing requirements, Kodak called on Clariant Masterbatches, a global leader in color and additive masterbatches, to get the colors right and to meet the tight production schedules necessary to deliver products to the market quickly.
Recycling imperative"It is a challenging part of our business, and Clariant Masterbatches has been a very responsive partner on many design and manufacturing levels," says Brett Blaisdell, plastics engineer, Kodak product development. "There are some unique criteria for choosing the resins for a single-use camera. Nothing can interfere with the film. It starts with the specification that the resin and all the colors, additives and pigments used must be photo-inactive. That includes making sure that all the ingredients do not in any way sensitize the film. Our job is to build a light-tight box. The material must prevent light from striking the film-something we call photographic opacity. Even before we discuss the color, the material requirements must be completely understood."
The Kodak Ultra single-use cameras are injection molded of high impact polystyrene. Kodak pioneered the use of recyclable components, with cameras being returned to a central location. They are then dismantled and sorted, with the parts reground for use in future value-based camera products. Kodak has recycled more than 400 million cameras in the last five years, with an average rate of 60 percent return worldwide. In the U.S., single-use cameras are recycled at a rate of 74 percent-greater than glass, cans or corrugated cardboard. In each camera, 76 percent to 90 percent of the material is reused or recycled.
"In choosing colors and formulations, the recycle stream is at the top of our priority list," Blaisdell says. "No matter what high-end, glitzy effect we want to achieve, those ingredients must be compatible with the full life-cycle of the camera. Because of Clariant's ability to source in a global marketplace, they are able to solve problems for us even before they happen. When we transfer a formula among manufacturing groups, it is important to make sure those ingredients are fully qualified in our system."
Special effectsTwo recent color schemes for the Kodak Ultra featuring Clariant Masterbatches effects were blue denim with metallic accents on the bezels and a gray with a pink bezel (see photo). These models were developed at Kodak headquarters in Rochester, N.Y., tested extensively with consumers at color trade trials, and are presently being sold in the European and Japanese markets.
"When we design and then source the materials and colors, we must take into account that the manufacturing could be done in many different locations," Blaisdell says. "After the formulations are approved in Rochester, we can then transfer those specifications to the Clariant Masterbatches location nearest our manufacturing facility." Tony Newell, global marketing and key account manager for Clariant Masterbatches, has worked on numerous programs for the single-use camera product category. "For Kodak we must meet aesthetic, recycling, performance and durability demands," Newell says. "In the past few years, our ability to use transparent or translucent effects has increased as the Kodak designers have used an inner opaque core that protects the film from exposure."
Ann Fang, color and material specialist for corporate design and usability at Kodak, handles color, appearance and effects for Kodak Ultra cameras. "We have worked very closely with Clariant and have been extremely pleased. Because we are constantly designing two or three years out, we need input as to what colors will be in fashion and what will appeal to various markets and demographics," she says.
Design adviceThe development of the color appearance for Kodak Ultra products involved a collaborative effort across companies and continents. Barron Gould, a Color Consultant in the U.K., originally partnered with Clariant Masterbatches in England before the work moved to Kodak's company headquarters in Rochester. Recently, Clariant Masterbatches continued the design process by presenting a tool called "Perceptions" to Kodak.
The global trend forecast, supported by Clariant and Merck, illustrates long-term lifestyle developments and their interpretation into design and marketing-relevant criteria for product development. "Perceptions 2004" consists of fabrics, natural materials, and plastic color chips divided among five different themes-Freedom, Beauty, Wealth, Health and Wisdom. The purpose of the material is to demonstrate underlying trends that will affect products, packaging and future designs.
"Clariant presented Kodak a 10,000-ft. view of the trends in color that they might not have been able to see, trying to select one shade for one particular product," Newell says. "Our customers benefit from tactical material and color expertise as well as a long-term perspective on where markets may be trending. This is critical to designers and brand managers who are working on products with long lead times that can often be required to take an accelerated market commercialization path."