What is Water Transfer Printing?
The process of water transfer printing, or dip-print as it is also known, was developed to apply after-market decorative finishes to a range of products. The unique way in which the film is applied (through water) enables even the most intricate of 3D models to be covered in the selected print.
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 is then 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. The ink layer along with the polyvinyl alcohol backing then wraps around and adheres to the item. The adhesion is a result of the chemical components of the activator softening the base coat layer and allowing the ink to form a bond with it.
After removing the piece from the water, a top coat is applied to protect the design. With multiple prints, hydrographics printing can achieve full 360° coverage of the part surface, including small crevices. Compared with airbrushing, for example, the hydroprinting process is much quicker and allows far more complex and detailed designs to be applied.
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