What is hydrographics?
Hydrographics, also known as water transfer printing, water immersion printing or hydrodipping is a term that refers to the process of applying detailed and flowing graphics to various items and materials. It is capable of applying crisp and intricate graphics to complex or unique shapes that other processes can’t facilitate. Hydrographics is used to apply graphics such as wood grain finishes to automotive trim and architectural pieces or to apply camouflage to hunting gear and firearms. All of the possible options make this process hugely versatile. There are thousands of patterns available from carbon fibers, wood grains, stones, camouflages, brushed & stamped metals, and designer patterns. Also, all of these can be applied to many different materials such as plastics, metals, rubber, wood, glass, fiberglass and more.
How does it work?
The patterns and graphics used for hydrographics are printed onto rolls of blank Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) sheets. The PVA acts as a backing to hold the inks together. The hydrographic inks dry on the rolls at which point the rolls can be handled. When an item is being decorated with the given pattern, a slightly larger piece of the printed film is cut from the roll and placed on top of a processing tank filled with heated water. The film floats on the water’s surface for about one minute while the water soluble PVA backing dissolves away. This leaves the dried inks behind for the pattern transfer. Next, an activator is sprayed over the water’s surface and onto the floating inks. This rehydrates the inks and makes them liquid again. The part being decorated is then carefully lowered through the water’s surface. As the part passes through the water, the floating inks are pressed into all the items crevices and around its curves. The piece is then removed from the water and the graphic has been transferred. It is then rinsed, dried and finished with a protective topcoat.
Why use hydrographics?
Today, a product’s costs and product’s aesthetics have huge influences on consumers when shopping or buying an item. Many people are swayed during the shopping process to an item that is both inexpensive and visually appealing. Hydrographics is used to increase the aesthetics of an item and is an inexpensive process to do so. Hydrographics can be applied to items that may otherwise be unable to coat graphically and at a fraction of the cost of other processes. The uses of hydrographics are huge and highly customizable. An extensive selection of hydrographic imagery can be applied to a wide range of materials and used along custom basecoats & topcoats for endless customization options. To add to this, SMI offers custom hydrographic pattern development. If you want items printed with a custom pattern that isn’t in our library, we can help you develop the pattern and bring it from your concept, to reality. This allows you to coat pieces with your own logo pattern, custom camouflage or other design. The hydrographics process is geared towards giving items the eye catching look that results in brand recognition and awareness.