What is Water Transfer Printing?
Water Transfer Printing or Hydrographics (also known as hydro dipping, hydro imaging, fluid imaging, hydrograghic printing) is a 3D decorating process. Graphics such as carbon fibre, woodgrain, camouflage, geometrical patterns are applied to decorate the items.
The Hydrographics process is used worldwide to decorate a variety of items, from aeroplane interiors to very small items like cell phone cases. Films can be applied to all kind of materials including plastic, wood, fibreglass, metal, and ceramics. For the most part, if the item can be dipped in water, the water transfer printing process can be applied.
This process utilises a water-soluble film that contains the printed designs. Once an activator has been applied, the film dissolves and leaves the ink on the surface of the water. The process requires good preparation and the item to be decorated is firstly coated with a primer. After the primer dries, a base coat paint is applied to match with the pattern. So, for example, woodgrain prints often utilise a brown base coat and many camouflage patterns use specific base colour.
After the base colour is applied, the item is ready for the water transfer printing process. As previously mentioned, the activator HGA-EM014 is used to activate the film. Now, the item can be immersed into the water and the ink wraps around it. It is then washed and protected with a clear topcoat.
1. What does it cost?
Water Transfer Printing is the most advanced cost-effective process, which overcomes problems faced by traditional printing methods, such as conversion coating, screen printing, transfer printing, and hot printing.
2. Is Water Transfer Printing / Hydrographics durable?
Some of our biggest customers are automotive manufacturers who demand the highest standards of quality and durability on their products. The ink from the hydrographic film is very durable itself. However, a protective clear coat needs to be applied to protect decorated items to ensure that they last for years.
3. Can items that are not correctly printed be reprinted?
Yes, items that are not decorated to customer satisfaction can be reprinted. The decorated piece needs to be sanded and painted again. After that, the piece will be ready again for the printing process.
4. How is the hydrographic film supplied?
Hydrographic film comes in three different widths
(50 cm wide X any length)
(80-90 cm wide X any length)
(100 cm wide X any length)
Please refer to our online film gallery to determine the desired width of film.
5. What types of items can be printed?
A wide variety of flat or 3-D items and materials can be decorated with this process. (plastics, metal, wood etc.)
6. How scratch-resistant is the final product?
The clear coat recommended is the same as is used on automotive exteriors. Resistant to UV, scratches, etc.
7. Do I have to spray a decorated part with clear coat?
The clear coat is a very important step of the process. It protects the items from scratching and gives them durability.
8. At what temperature and humidity is it best to store the hydrographic film?
The hydrographic film is printed on polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and it is very sensitive to humidity and temperature. You must store the film appropriately to ensure long life, durability and proper decorating. The hydrographic film must be stored in a humidity and temperature controlled room.
Room humidity must be below 60% and room temperature between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius (68º to 77º Fahrenheit)
9. How should I set up my Water Transfer Printing facility?
Before setting up your production plant, many things need to be considered. Size of items to be printed and amount of items to be printed are the most important. After answering these two questions you will know the approximate space needed to accommodate fixtures, hydrographic films and equipment. Please check our Equipment Section and download the PDF documents for full information.
10. How do I apply the clear coat?
Use a high quality clear coat to protect the decorated item. You can use matt, satin or gloss finish. The clear coat should be very durable to last over time and protect against scratches.
11.How much power do I need to set up a Water Transfer Printing facility?
In order to determine how much power is needed for the selected equipment, we invite you to visit our Equipment Section and download all the specific documentation.
12. What type of spray booth do you recommend?
We recommend an enclosed spray booth or industrial paint booth for most applications.
13. How do I dry my decorated parts?
After washing, the decorated items must dry out before applying the protective clear coat. This step can be accomplished with a heated room and circulating air, or just by normal air drying. Make sure the decorated item is completely dry before proceeding to the clear coating. Other options are thermal, flash drying and circulating air or blow drying.
14. How long does it take to create a custom hydrographic film?
Artwork is taken through the cylinder engraving process to produce the required film within 4-6 weeks.