Hydrodipping, or hydrographics, is a common method of applying images to hard surfaces. This method of printing allows for printed graphics to be applied to any three-dimensional surface. Hard metals, plastics, glass, wood, and other materials can be customized with printed graphics using hydrodipping. In fact, people have customized entire vehicles using hydrodipping. The technology was first patented in the early 1980s, and has since found its way into many different applications. For wheels, hydrodipping is ideal for wrapping thanks to the way it adheres to the rim: iIt curves to the shape of wheels more freely, and with fewer imperfections. Hydrographics can be painted over, allowing a protective clear coat to be applied.
How does hydrodipping work?
When using hydrodipping to customize wheels, the process starts with the print. A unique pattern is created, and the pattern is then printed to a special piece of water-soluble film. Before a wheel can be hydrodipped, it has to be prepped. The surface of the wheel is sanded smooth with high-grit sandpaper, often by hand. Then the wheel is painted with a primer. Depending on the final results, the wheel may also be painted before the graphics are applied. Candy paint, or transparent paint, can also be applied after hydrodipping.
Once the wheel has dried completely, the film is prepared. Made from polyvinyl alcohol, the film actually floats on the surface of the dipping tank. The dipping thank is filled with water, and once the film is ready, the prepared wheel is carefully lowered into the water, usually through the film. Using a careful speed and angle, the film will transfer the image to the wheel as it dissolves. Dissolving is aided by an activator solution, typically sprayed over the film just before dipping. The water’s surface tension actually pulls the image around the spokes of a wheel, providing excellent graphic coverage.
The secret to a good hydrodipping transfer is that activator solution. If poor activator is used, there’s a risk that the image won’t transfer cleanly, or that the ink won’t adhere to the wheel. Hydrodipping is not for amateurs. Even the slightest mistake will add bubbles or tear the film. If the image is wrong, the process must start over from the surface preparation stage. That’s a lot of labor costs.
Once the image is applied, the remaining reside must be washed off. Incredibly, the ink is now fixed to the wheels, so there isn’t any concern for it washing off. Once the wheel is dry, a clear coat is applied, finishing this amazing customization. This simple process is a great way to add a unique customization to your car. Because any image can be printed onto wheels, the only limit is your imagination! This is a great way to make wheels stand out from the crowd.
How much does hydrodipping cost?
While colors can make a car’s wheels stand out, a skull stencil does even more. Most hydrographics shops charge around $75 to $80 per wheel, depending on labor costs and customizations. If hydrodipping is part of a wheel painting package, the cost may be higher. Do some research online to find the closest hydrographics shop, and the pricing they offer.
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