The worst part about having part of your car repainted is that if it's more than a few years old, you can generally tell where the car was touched up because the paint match wasn't perfect. Sometimes it's because factory paint was used, but the paint on your car has faded over time. Other times it's because they don't make your car's colour anymore, and paint matching becomes an artform. But now, as The Economist writes, a European-funded collaboration between three companies has yielded the BYK-mac, a device you hold over any car's paint, and it will tell you exactly how to recreate colour from scratch.
This device came to fruition because of EUREKA, an EU research agency that brought together Merck, a power player in the chemicals industry, AkzoNobel, one of the world's biggest paint producers, and BYK-Gardner, a firm that makes quality control equipment. Together, they were able to produce the BYK-mac, which has a database of more than 100,000 colours to work with.
The device has a spectrometer that not only analyses colour, but also can pick apart the texture of any paint. Texture is referred to as paint components that affect the appearance, but not necessarily the color—most of the time these are the glittery or sparkle effects in the paint, which can change the appearance of a paint job depending on what angle you view it at. All these colours and textures in the database of the BYK-mac have mathematical values attached to them, and fiddles around with all these different colours until it can match what it reads in the spectrometer perfectly.
The Economist also writes that paint matching is much more difficult these days because the complexity of how car paint is made and how it's applied has increased significantly. Even using a stock paint, applying paint in the wrong direction can make it look mismatched. In any case, there's no mention of when this will leak into the public sector, but seeing as they have a working prototype, I'd assume we'd see it sooner rather than later. [The Economist]