Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Water Transfer Printing?
Water Transfer Printing, or hydrographics, is a surface decorating process where elaborate graphics like wood grain, carbon fiber, camouflage, and designer prints are applied to a 3-D product’s surface.
The Water Transfer Printing process is used extensively to decorate items that range from entire all-terrain vehicles and car dashboards to small items like bike helmets or other automotive trim. Films can be applied to all types of substrates including plastic, fiberglass, wood, ceramics, and metal. For the most part, if the item can be submerged in water, it can be dipped using Water Transfer Printing technology.
The process utilizes a water-soluble film that contains complex patterns printed in ink. The film dissolves in the water and leaves the ink on the surface. In the typical process, the item is first coated with a primer or an adhesion promoter. After the primer is dry, a base-coat paint is applied which controls the hue of the pattern. Many hydrographic films are transparent which means you can achieve unique designs by customizing the base coat colors. For example, wood grain films often utilize a brown base coat and many camouflage patterns use a required base coat color to maintain the integrity of the pattern.
After the base coat is applied, the item is ready for decorating. The film is activated. The item is then dipped into the water and the ink wraps around it. Excess PVA residue is then washed off, the part is dried, and a clear top coat is applied.
What type of items can be dipped?
A wide variety of flat or 3-D shapes and manufacturing materials (plastics, metals, glass, wood, etc.) can be decorated with Water Transfer Printing technology.
How durable is Water Transfer Printing?
We like to let our product speak for itself. Some of our largest clientele are automobile, boat, and firearm manufacturers who demand the highest standards of quality and durability. Many parts that are decorated using our materials spend most their lives in direct sun exposure, such as boat instrument panels. The inks we use to print our patterns are developed and tested using Xenon Arc testing, ensuring the coating retains its color and integrity in prolonged sun exposure and other environment conditions. Our clear coat is automotive grade, which is also designed to withstand nature and time.
How scratch resistant is the final product?
The clear acrylic we recommend is as durable as the paint used on auto exteriors. It is extremely resistant to scratches and debris.
What is the maximum temperature a processed part can be exposed to?
If the process is done correctly, parts decorated using Water Transfer Printing will withstand temperatures up to 325° F. This means that engine valve covers, intake manifolds, and plastic engine covers can all be decorated and will withstand the residual heat coming from the car’s engine.