Speaking the Same Language

For UK-based SME The Tintometer Ltd., helping to define and conforming to ASTM standards aid in cost control and ensure interoperability.
Elizabeth Wilkinson

 The Tintometer® Group has been a member of ASTM for many years. Early records suggest that Gerald Fawcett, grandson of our founder Joseph Lovibond, attended meetings as early as 1940. Throughout the years, the Tintometer Group has been very active in ASTM technical committees, both contributing to and benefiting from their excellent work. A truly international organization, ASTM gains advantages from the open sharing of expertise from around the world, and the standards produced from this sharing improve communication among countries and industries.

This is the foundation of the Tintometer Group's business model too, so we share the same goals. Our Lovibond® measurement instruments encourage the use of standards to improve industry, ensure quality worldwide, and promote communication and interoperability. In this day of growing globalization, the use of standards to ensure uniform criteria around the globe is becoming more and more important.

For human beings, color is a visual, perceptual property. Each person describes and, therefore, defines color differently. Measuring a color against ASTM standards provides several benefits. Across the world, it means everyone is talking the same language. Having a fixed number removes any misinterpretation of results. Describing a liquid as "dark red" could be, and usually is, misunderstood. Referencing a color measurement to a value of "ASTM 6.5" leaves no room for misinterpretation.

The petroleum industry has been volatile over recent years, having a seesaw effect on pricing and influencing the cost of living around the world. With every dollar counting, controlling costs to minimize this seesaw effect is paramount. Maximizing efficiency within refineries is vital.

The color of petroleum is an important indication of the status of the refining process from its crude state to its deliverables. Pricing across the world is set, partly, against the color of a product. An important part of the refining procedure is, therefore, color measurement. Color is also an indication of type and quality. In some applications, such as aviation fuel and marine diesel fuel, it is used as a means of recognition.

Since ASTM is internationally recognized, its standards are used throughout the petroleum industry, from Australia to Zambia, overcoming international and technical barriers. And this is nothing new. The first tentative standard methods for petroleum color were submitted in 1923, with the first colorimetric instruments appearing as early as that year.

A manufacturer of color measurement instruments, the Tintometer Group is primarily involved with ASTM in the development and use of standards for the color measurement of petroleum products. The ASTM D1500 color scale is widely used for the grading of petroleum products such as lubricating oils, heating oils and diesel fuel oils. Other petroleum products that do not fall within the scope of ASTM D1500, such as undyed gasoline, white spirit, petroleum wax and kerosene, may be graded using the Saybolt test ASTM D156. ASTM D6045 for color testing of petroleum products by the automatic tristimulus method covers electronic methods of determining Saybolt color. The additional performance criteria quoted in the ASTM specifications such as accuracy, linearity and reproducibility are all met by the Lovibond PFXi range of automatic colorimeters.

It is not only the petroleum industry that has benefited from the work of ASTM. The Gardner color scale, as specified in ASTM D1544, is a single number, one-dimensional color scale for similarly colored liquids such as resins, varnishes, lacquers, drying oils, fatty acids, lecithins, sunflower oil and linseed oil and is utilized extensively in industries that use these materials for the accurate reporting and sharing of results.

Participating in the ASTM technical committee in 1958, the Tintometer Group was instrumental in the development of the master glass standards that were utilized when the current Gardner scale was specified in 1963; the earlier 1933 and 1953 versions are still available upon request. An instrumental method based on tristimulus colorimetry is now the preferred method as it removes the subjectivity of visual assessment and ensures increased correlation between a customer and supplier.

Standards Ensure Confidence in Quality

Looking forward, the Tintometer Group is keen to continue contributing to the excellent work of ASTM. The R&D manager for the Lovibond color product line is active on several ASTM committees. In Committee D01 on Paint and Related Coatings, Materials and Applications, where he is a subcommittee chairman, a new standard for tint strength of pigments is being discussed and developed. The Tintometer Group is also active in plans for an interlaboratory study on the color of rosin in liquid to ensure compatibility with measurement practices in Europe.

Taking part in ASTM is important to The Tintometer Group, and active participation within subcommittees is essential for understanding and ensuring that our Lovibond product ranges meet customer requirements.


Elizabeth Wilkinson is the marketing manager for color products at The Tintometer Ltd., part of the Tintometer Group.


Company Snapshot

  • The Tintometer Ltd.
  • Wiltshire, United Kingdom
  • Supplier of instruments and reagents for monitoring color and water for quality control
  • 2015 winner of the Queen's Award for Enterprise, International Trade
  • Number of staff: ~300
  • Number of staff who are ASTM members: 3
  • Trading area: Global, with offices in Germany, the UK, Switzerland, the United States, Brazil, China, Malaysia, India
  • ASTM Technical Committees with Tintometer representatives: D01, D16 and E12

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