- What is hydrographic printing?
- Can you print custom patterns or photos?
- How difficult is the process?
- What is the turnaround time for my custom item?
- How durable is the final product?
- What types of objects can be printed on?
- Does the item need to be disassembled?
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 pre-treated 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
Unfortunately, the answer is No. The process of printing custom patterns and logos is done in a professional printing facility who 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 inkjet printers and blank PVA paper. The longevity and durability of the image on your project is yet to be tested and is currently an unproven practice.
The process requires the proper equipment and a working knowledge of automotive-grade primers, paints and their ability to bond with the many variations of metals, plastics, woods, and glass. You must have the ability to trouble shoot 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 that will not last.
Because we are a busy facility and also supply manufacturers with production parts, our turn around is 4-6 weeks. This ensures the product will have ample time for curing between paint coats and proper curing of the finish coat. This time also depends on the amount of work in the shop. The time could be less and you will be notified during the initial contact.
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. Most of our items are used on firearms and automotive applications where they are exposed to UV rays, heat, and the outdoor elements on a regular basis.
Any item that can be painted and submerged into the water can be printed on. Woods, metals, glass, and plastics that can fit in our tank can be printed. Our tank is 7’ 6’’ long by 3’ wide and 28’’ deep. This can handle most items.
Yes. You or a professional should disassemble the item and clean it to make sure it is ready for paint when it arrives to us. Only send us what you want to be coated. If you have questions on this, please see our notes section on the pricing page.