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Hydrographics

Hydrographics or HydroGraphics, also known as immersion printingwater transfer printingwater transfer imagingcubic printing, or hydro dipping, is a method of applying printed designs to three-dimensional objects. The hydrographic process can be used on metal, plastic, glass, hard woods, and various other materials. 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, 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° coverage of the part surface, including small crevices.

Source
Wikipedia contributors. "Hydrographics (printing)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 Aug. 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2012.