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The Trending Hydrogaphics Industry

October - 2014
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By now many of you have probably heard or are familiar with the custom coating process known as “Hydrographics”. If you haven’t, then it is still likely that you own or have seen & touched products that are finished by this method. Automakers have been using this technique for more than a decade to decorate vehicle dash inserts in “wood grains” & other finishes. There are many manufacturers in multiple industries that utilize this decorative coating process for their products. Some examples of these products are: sunglasses, firearms, golf cart & ATV bodies, shoes, cell phone cases, hair straighteners…Just to name a few.  

Hydrographics (also known as Water Transfer Printing) is a film-dipping process of applying high-definition patterns to complex, three-dimensional surfaces. Hydrographics coatings can be used on an array of different materials such as: metals, plastics, glass, hard woods, composites, & many other substrates. The Hydrographics industry is booming, simply because the applications & markets are virtually endless. Some of these example markets & products are: automotive & motorcycle components, sporting & hunting goods, household items, electronics products, architectural items, & many others. There are thousands of designs & patterns to choose from such as: carbon fibers, hunting & military style camouflages, exotic wood grains, animal prints, skull designs, marble & stone designs, illusion designs, & many more. 

Hydrographics 101:

The substrate to be printed onto is first pre-treated & a base coat paint is applied. The poly-vinyl-alcohol (PVA) film that is used is roto-gravure printed with the graphic image to be transferred. The film is then floated on the surface of the water in a specialized tank designed specifically for the process. A chemical activator is then sprayed directly onto the surface of the film to dissolve the PVA backing into a liquid ink layer and activate a bonding agent. The piece is then lowered into the tank through the floating ink layer, which causes the displacement of the water to wrap around and etch the inks to the base coat. After removing the piece from the water, the residual gel-coat is washed off and then the item is left to dry. Once it has fully dried, a top clear coat finish is applied to protect the graphic & enhance the contrast of the pattern.

Since water will effectively flow over any contour or shape, the Hydrographics process is ideal for decorating any complex shaped items that many other conventional wrapping or coating techniques would not be able to efficiently do so. It is also amazing that you can print the absolute highest definition patterns in a matter of seconds, where some other conventional processes (such as airbrushing), would take hours, days, or weeks to complete the same finish without the same detail.

This process has been around for a while, but has just recently been exposed to different levels of consumers. You can now find Hydrographics being used by DIY individuals, small businesses, as well as large scale manufacturing facilities. There are different levels of equipment ranging from “garage & hobby” tanks, all the way up to fully automated production lines. Now virtually anyone, on any budget, can start a new business or expand their current operation by integrating Hydrographics…which is now sure to be a common staple in the coatings world for good.      

Regards, Ary Marivani

Equipment Sales Director

eptex coatings

5559 El Paso Drive

El Paso, TX 79905 USA

Phone (915) 313-9333 x 11

Fax (915) 541-1287