Hydrographic equipment includes sand-blasting cabinets, paint-stripping machines, tanks, spray guns, infrared heat lamps, paint-spray booths, wash-rinse stations and static-printing machines. Hydrographics is used by a variety of organizations, from large-vehicle manufacturers like Mercedes and BMW to smaller specialty shops.
Hydrographics, also known as immersion printing, water-transfer printing, hydrodipping or fluid imaging, is used to apply printed designs on three-dimensional objects, which range from quad bikes to helmets. The process begins with the printing of the desired design on special film. It is then floated on a large tank filled with water and sprayed with an activator, which turns it into an immiscible liquid layer.
The surface of the object to be printed is first cleaned in a sand-blasting cabinet. This process also roughens the surface, which improves adhesion. Old paint and other coatings are removed using a paint-stripping machine. A base coat is then applied using a spray gun.
The object is then lowered into the tank and through the floating ink layer. The activator reacts with the base coat and causes it to bond with the ink. The object is removed, dried with infrared heat lamps, and a scratch-resistant coating is applied. If needed, extra layers may be added to improve durability. The object is then buffed, at which point it is ready for use.