Flex Products is betting there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow it has just created. The Santa Rosa, CA-based company will try to move niche market color-changing paint into the mainstream automotive market this year by debuting its SpectraFlair pigment, an automotive coating that provides a continuously changing rainbow of colors to a vehicle's exterior.

Marketing Manager Jerry Droll says SpectraFlair will become available in the first quarter of 2002 and claims a major customer already has placed a significant order. “We have one order for product development. But we don't know the timing yet,” Droll says.

Flex Products is selling SpectraFlair as a replacement for silver and foresees use initially on luxury cars. The application forecast is noteworthy because current color-changing paints see limited use, mostly on sports cars and compact cars in very small volume. Flex Products says SpectraFlair differs from its predecessors in that there is no stark change from one color to another when viewing a vehicle from different angles. Instead, SpectraFlair appears as a liquid silver metallic topcoat intertwined with prisms of oozing rainbow colors. The change is continuous, not sudden. A picture or description doesn't do SpectraFlair justice, it must be seen in person.

The company hopes SpectraFlair will encourage more widespread use among auto makers that have toned down color shifting paints previously. “That's why we developed this technology. It still catches the eye. But it's more subtle,” says Droll. “There's a color shift within a discreet range.”

However, Flex Products offers no word on SpectraFlair's cost — previous color-changing paints cost as much as $1,000 per gallon.

SpectraFlair's secret is light and pigment flakes. The color change depends on the distance light travels to the vehicle surface. About one micron thick, each pigment flake is comprised of a surface that is formed by a series of grooves. The distance between the grooves and the depth of the grooves maximizes the color effect.