Immersion Printing – Is It Right for Your Window Film Company?

April 23rd, 2014 by Editor

“It can be used to gain extra profit,” says Cristian Escalante of CJE Services Inc. in Boynton Beach, Fla.

“The diversity in the imaging and the ability to overlay on most any substrate is amazing,” adds Hann Kim of STM, Solar Transmission Management in Los Angeles.

What are they talking about? Hydrographics.

Various automotive parts can be covered using immersion printing, including interior parts. Photo courtesy of Georgia Hydrographics Inc.

Various automotive parts can be covered using immersion printing, including interior parts. Photo courtesy of Georgia Hydrographics Inc.

So what exactly are hydrographics, also known as immersion printing and could it benefit your automotive window film company as an add-on?

“Basically it’s water-transfer printing. It’s widely used in the automotive industry for interior and exterior pieces” says Alan Combs of Georgia Hydrographics.

He explains immersion printing as a“method of applying printed designs to three-dimensional objects. The hydrographic printing process can be used on metal, plastic, glass, hard woods and various other materials,” Combs states. “In the process, the substrate piece to be printed is pre-treated and a base coat material is applied. A polyvinyl alcohol film is gravure-printed with the graphic image to be transferred, and then is floated on the surface of a vat of water. An activator chemical is sprayed on the film to dissolve it into a liquid and activate a bonding agent. The piece is then lowered into the vat, through the floating ink layer, which wraps around and adheres to it. After removing the piece from the water, a top coat is applied to protect the design. With multiple dippings, hydrographics printing can achieve full 360-degree coverage of the part surface, including small crevices.”

Hydrographics can be applied to a variety of automotive exterior parts as well. Photo courtesy of Georgia Hydrographics Inc.

Hydrographics can be applied to a variety of automotive exterior parts as well. Photo courtesy of Georgia Hydrographics Inc.

“There are a thousand or more different patterns … you can color the item whatever base color you want then the film lays on top of a water solution and it starts to dissolve,” says Johnny Price with Hydrographics HQ in Waco, Texas. “It turns into something similar to paint and you take the item and you push that item through the color and it bonds to it … then you put a protective layer over that. We do a lot of dashes and interiors; we’ve done a couple of fenders for one customer.”

Combs adds that the print is long-lasting. “Hydrographic printing is very durable,” he says. “After the item is printed, it receives the same high-quality clear-coat finish that is used in the automotive industry. Clear finishes are available in flat, matte and high gloss.”

As a startup, it could be too pricey for less-established dealers to consider.

“You need sprayers for the paint, clear coats, a tank for dipping, the chemical that makes the film bond, the film, sanders and sanding, air tanks and dryers, paint rooms and a washtub to wash off the starch after you dip it through the pattern,” says Price.

“It costs around $3,500 for the machine and $5,000 more for the equipment required,” says Escalante.

“It’s amazing technology, but expensive to start up,” says Kim. “You must have a business space to set up the machinery and the client ready and willing to spend the money right away in order to recover your return on investment … Good marketing needs to be in place.”

Training courses are available for interested dealers.

This article is from Focus on Film, the weekly e-newsletter that covers the latest news regarding window film and related products, including paint protection film. Click HERE to sign up—there is no charge. Interested in a deeper dive? Free subscriptions to Window Film magazine in print or digital format are available. Subscribe at no charge HERE.

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  1. Great content! Congratulations on the initiative to share something of such quality. Congratulations!

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