What Is Hydrographics Printing?
Everyday we utilize and use products that have dazzling and intricate designs on their exteriors without much or any thought to the process behind their production. The imprinting of these designs onto such things as helmets, tire rims, and numerous other products is often done by a process called hydropraphics. This process is often called hydrodipping or water transfer printing also. The process is as fascinating as the finished products are beautiful.
The first step to hydropraphics printing is to pre-treat the item with base coat material. The next thing is to choose the pattern that is to be applied to the 3-D product. This design is then imprinted on a polyvinyl alcohol film, which contains the desired pattern. This sheet is developed to the size needed to cover the item. When dry, this sheet is pliable and thin, containing the imprint clearly on both sides of the sheet.
This film sheet is then placed on top of a large container of water. Great care is taken in this step of the process to avoid the folding or wrinkling of the film. Any bubbles or abnormalities in the sheet will affect the quality of the print that is transferred to the item. The placement of this film on the water surface may require more than one person if the sheet is large. The film that is placed in the vat floats on the surface of the water as oil would.
Before the item can be treated, an activator is sprayed over the entire top of the film and water container. This is a delicate part of the process for this type of printing. If there is too much or too little activator applied at this stage of production, the ink on the pattern sheet may not adhere to the surface being treated. After the surface of the sheet has been introduced to the activator, it is time to dip the item.
The item to be printed is then slowly lowered into the container until the entire piece is submerged. This process takes a lot of patience and skill. The product needs to be lowered very slowly and at the correct angle. The professionals who apply this type of print to 3-D surfaces are very skilled to be able to lower these parts into the container at just the right angle, speed, and direction to achieve the ultimate results. These patterns when applied correctly with water transfer printing will cover the entire surface of the item including all indentations and curves.
After the item has been completely submerged, it is necessary to extract it from the water and ink bath. The ink that was not adhered to the item will still be floating on the surface of the water and needs to be cleared away before the product can be taken out of the container. The person hydrodipping the part does this by swirling the product around under the water until the surface is clear to pull the part up and out. If this process is not done, the remaining ink on the top of the water will adhere to the already printed piece once again, ruining the products finish.
This printed product is then sealed with a cover coat to keep the design fresh and protected.
It used to be impossible to print on 3-D items. When it comes to printing on uneven surfaces, hydropraphics, hydrodipping, and water transfer printing now offer the ultimate results you are looking for. This innovative printing process gives the ultimate in printing quality involving many different unique designs on a multitude of 3-D items.