Hydrodipping Offers Bold New Customizing Solutions
Even if you’re a seasoned veteran of car customization, you may be unware of hydrodipping. It’s one of the latest trends in administering prints to a car and can even be used to achieve that complex carbon fiber look. The process goes by many names including hydro imaging, camo dipping, or its technical name, hydrographic dipping. While we’re primarily interested in how hydrodipping works with automobiles and auto parts, it’s worth noting that the process isn’t strictly limited to the auto world. A quick Youtube search turns up a vast array of items that have undergone a similar process, including firearms, motorcycle helmets, and even a deer skull.
The Painstaking Set Up
The DIY home versions shown in most of those videos aren’t quite as painstaking and complex as the full treatment you receive when hiring hydrographic dipping professionals. Once you’ve selected the auto part that you want to hydrodip, a base coat (a sort of primer) is applied. A special tank is prepared for the dipping process, usually outfitted with an aluminum dam to secure a sensitive gravure-printed polyvinyl alcohol film bearing the graphic you’ve chosen to be displayed on the dipped auto part. This delicate film is carefully floated on the surface of the water and secured using the aluminum dam. It’s integral that the top surface of the film remain dry during this process in order to avoid tearing.
90 Degrees and 90 Seconds
An activating agent is then sprayed on the film’s surface that creates a chemical reaction transforming the graphic-emblazoned film into a liquid floating on the tank’s surface. This activator also releases a bonding agent that is crucial for the hydrodipping process. The water in the tank must also maintain a temperature of approximately 90 degrees for the process to work. Professionals have 90 seconds from the point that the activator is applied to uniformly lower the auto part into the tank. The liquefied design clings to the part, adhering to it perfectly if all steps are followed with precision. A top powder coat or clear spray coat is then applied to protect the design.
What Parts Are Ideal for Hydrodipping?
Since hydrographic dipping is adept at thoroughly reaching difficult areas of 3-dimensional pieces, it’s in demand for non-porous auto parts. But what sort of materials can survive the dipping process? If the item has at least some rigidity and can be painted, then it most likely can endure the dip. To be more specific, you’ll have the most luck with materials made of metal, plastic, and fiberglass but you can also do wooden items and glass though these may find rarer opportunities for application in the auto world. You’ll run into issues when attempting to hydrodip items that are too flexible or porous, such as any pieces that have been rubberized. One of the major challenges of hydrodipping, even amongst professionals, is finding a vat large enough to accommodate bigger pieces like car hoods.
While hydrodipping is a novel competition to more classic methods of customization such as vinyl wraps, decals, and airbrush paintjobs, challenges such as vat sizes have stifled it from taking over as a dominant means of modification. That being said, some of the work being turned out by hydrographic drip professionals is stunning. While we may never see full auto frames undergoing the process, perhaps the trend will continue to thrive through smaller auto parts.