Wisconsin Hydrographics

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What is hydrographic printing?

Hydrographics or hydro-graphics (also known as camo dipping, immersion printing, water transfer printing, water transfer imaging, cubic printing, or hydro dipping) is a method of applying printed designs to three-dimensional objects. The hydrographic process can be used on metal, plastic, glass, hardwoods, and various other materials. In the process, the substrate to be printed is pretreated and a base coat material is applied. A polyvinyl alcohol film is gravure-printed with a graphic image to be transferred and is then floated on the surface of a vat of water. An activator chemical is sprayed on the film to dissolve it into a liquid and activate a bonding agent. The piece is then lowered into the vat, through the floating ink layer, which wraps around and adheres to it. After removing the piece from the water, a topcoat is applied to protect the design. With multiple dippings, hydrographic printing can achieve full 360-degree coverage of the part surface, including small crevices. - Wikipedia

Can you print custom patterns or photos?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes and no. The process of printing current patterns is done in a professional printing facility that specializes in printing water transfer printing film. Using the proper PVA paper and inks is essential to a vibrant and long-lasting finish. There are some businesses that say they can print custom pictures and logos using their printers and blank PVA paper. Though it may look great initially, the longevity and durability of the image on your project are yet to be tested, and it is currently an unproven regular practice in this industry.

How difficult is the process?

The process requires the proper equipment and a working knowledge of automotive-grade primers, paints, clearcoats and their ability to bond with the many variations of metals, plastics, woods, and glass. You must have the ability to troubleshoot problems and coordinate shape types to determine how water will flow around the 3D object being dipped. Using substandard equipment and paints will result in a weak finish or failed transfer that will not last.

What is the turnaround time for my custom item?

Because we are a busy facility, and also supply manufacturers with production parts, our custom service turnaround can be from 4-12 weeks depending on our workload. The time could be less, and you will be notified during the initial contact, however; it is always best to contact us to ask prior to dropping off your item.

How durable is the final product?

Your item, when done at Wisconsin Hydrographics, will always be as strong as any automotive finish; and depending on your choice of clear coat, even stronger. Wisconsin Hydrographics guarantees we will use only automotive grade paints and clearcoats on your item. Most of our finishes are used on firearms and automotive applications where they are exposed to regular handling, UV rays, heat, and outdoor elements on a regular basis.

What types of objects can be printed on?

Any item that can be painted and submerged into water can be printed on. Woods, metals, glass, and plastics that can fit into our tanks can be printed. Our tanks are both industrial size with the largest having dipping area over 8' long, 4' wide and 32" deep. This can handle most items.

Does the item need to be disassembled?

Yes. We recommend you or a professional should disassemble the item and wash or degrease it the best you can prior to arrival. Though we will still disassemble items and prep them prior to paint, extra charges for this service could apply. When shipping items for service, please only send us what you want to be coated along with a completed Order Form obtained from our web site. If you have questions on this, please see our notes section on the pricing page or contact us.