Rich In Color, Low In Cost

When Western Materials, a concrete block producer in Yakima, Wash., decided three years ago to change from powder to granular pigment and adopt a fully

When Western Materials, a concrete block producer in Yakima, Wash., decided three years ago to change from powder to granular pigment and adopt a fully automated coloring system, a Sherbrooke, Quebec-based manufacturer provided the solution: Interstar granular pigments and the GranaStar 416 dispensing system.

Western Materials President Stan Martinkus and Block Plant Superintendent Troy Brown provided Interstar cement, basic aggregate, and finished product samples. In return, the manufacturer performed color matching tests and offered a formula to mix the colors, plus a detailed report on how to implement the system.

Start-up was quick; they had us running in a couple days, Brown affirms. The system takes up less room and was easy to install. Plus, they matched all our colors accurately the first time around, so we saved thousands on test batches. Interstar also sent a technician who stayed throughout the process to ensure a seamless transition.

Brown emphasizes that color consistency and cost savings led Western Materials to choose GranaStar pigments: Not only do we save in the cost per pound of color, we also use 15 to 20 percent less pigment to match the colors we produced before.

Operating a Besser V312, producing three blocks at a time, Western Materials has enjoyed the benefits of automated color dispensing since the new system was installed: pigments can be changed faster and with less spillage. As the producer runs a high changeover plant, often switching colors five to seven times a day, automation has eased labor concerns and significantly reduced waste. Moreover, the pigments can be used in any type of concrete mixer, and their quick dissolve properties result in shortened mixing cycles.

Another advantage the company notes is its ability to fabricate higher quality product due to greater precision and flexibility in the mixing process. Pigments are weighed with an accuracy of ±0.2 oz. The system’s blending possibilities also provide an expanded color range. From four basic colors Û a yellow, two distinct reds, and a black granular pigment Û Western Materials’ dispensing system creates a wide variety of colored concrete products.

Interstar’s automated system affords the additional advantage of storing all color formulation in a database, allowing users to go back years later and reproduce a color to an exact match. Also enduring are the pigments’ constituents, chiefly inorganic iron oxides and no chemical additives, except the coating that holds the pigment in its bead shape. Consequently, company chemists contend, the color is permanent and remains unaffected by sunlight.

Interstar offers a purchasing program based on the volume of GranaStar pigments ordered annually and on the length of the equipment leasing period. A nominal or low monthly charge is incurred to rent the dispenser, depending on the amount of pigment purchased. Even if you do rent the dispensing system, Brown explains, you’ll pay less than you would on hand-weighed product.

Interstar remains the owner of all GranaStar equipment, so Western Materials absorbs none of the cost associated with upkeep. When Brown needed to replace a small, off-the-shelf part for the GranaStar, he needed to look no farther than a local supply outlet. Û


Established in 1917, Yakima, Wash.-based Western Materials is headed by Bill Douglas and Stan Martinkus, who took over in 1983. Western is a producer and retailer of concrete and architectural masonry units and other building materials. Its specialty is architectural block in a wide color range. The company takes pride in being able to meet clients’ specific colored product requests.

The producer employs over 139 and operates stores out of Yakima, Wenatchee and Pasco and Walla Walla, Wash. Western Materials’ primary customers include masons, contractors and other trades.