Previously referred to as pearlescent pigments, effect pigments are used to create colors and visual effects, such as sparkle, that you see in coatings, plastics, automotive paint, and specialty inks. Effect pigments allow manufacturers to add uniqueness to their products and packaging. Kuncai Americas has manufactured effect pigments for more than 20 years.
The Kuncai product portfolio includes a huge range of effect pigments; a wide choice of different color shades and particle sizes based on natural mica, synthetic mica, or borosilicate, also known as glass flake.
For a long time, pearlescent pigments were based almost solely on natural mica. While natural mica is still a very prevalent part of the product line, where Kuncai begins to differentiate themselves is by manufacturing their own synthetic mica.
Natural Mica vs Synthetic Mica
Natural mica, a naturally occurring mineral, offers excellent heat resistance and unique sparkle. The colors produced with natural mica are not as bright as color produced with synthetic mica due to the uneven substrate.
Synthetic mica is manufactured and produces a much more even surface and rounded edges, giving greater control over color intensity. It is more flexible and shatterproof, making it more durable than natural mica. Synthetic mica is produced for a number of different industries, but Kuncai Americas is the only manufacturer making a synthetic mica substrate for the pigment industry.
The Science Behind Effect Pigments
Effect pigments use light reflection to change the color, intensity, opacity, and sheen in product applications. In a video interview with Rick Kistler, North American Sales Manager at Kuncai Americas, he explained how coating thickness creates varying wavelengths that change the way light reflects and transmits through platelets, thus changing the color.
“If we put a very, very thin coating down, we are going to reflect essentially a white pigment or a silver white pigment. If we allow that coating to build up to somewhere between 60 and 80 nanometers, we’re going to start reflecting a gold or a yellow. Continue to build it up thicker, and we get red, blue, and green, just essentially working through different endpoints on the color spectrum, so we’re just changing the way light is reflected.”
Supply Chain and Sustainability
Natural mica is found in Brazil, China, India, and Madagascar. The use of controversial practices, including child labor, to mine natural mica in some countries has caused companies to seek alternative sources. Kuncai Americas is part of the Responsible Mica Initiative to help implement responsible working conditions and eliminate child labor. Read about the RMI here.
Kuncai Americas manufactures synthetic mica in China and stores it in their warehouse in Ohio, reducing delivery time and supply chain headaches in most cases. It also impacts sustainability. “We feel that long term the overall sustainability story that accompanies the production of synthetic mica versus the mining of natural mica is another advantage for us and that the carbon footprint is going to be smaller and longer term,” said Kistler.
Kuncai Americas produce high performance effect pigments for multiple applications including:
- Automotive coatings
- Seed coatings
- Cosmetics and Personal Care
- Industrial Coatings
We go into more detail on effect pigments, showing examples of light refraction and color, and explore innovations in the industry in our video interview. Watch the full video interview here.
Interested in adding sparkle to your products? Request a sample below.