FAQ

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  1. How do I order Water Transfer Printing film, equipment, or supplies?
  2. What size of hydrographic film do you sell?
  3. What is Water Transfer Printing?
  4. What type of items can be dipped?
  5. How durable is Water Transfer Printing?
  6. How long does the process take from start to finish?
  7. What do I need to start a hydrographics business?
  8. How scratch resistant is the final product?
  9. What is the maximum temperature a processed part can be exposed to?
  10. How can I match the base coat color of a camouflage pattern?
  11. What is the best spray gun for Water Transfer Printing?
  12. Do I have to spray a decorated part with clear coat?
  13. What temperature and humidity is best to store Water Transfer Printing film?
  14. How should I set up my floor plan for maximum production?
  15. How do I apply final clear coat?
  16. How much power does a Water Transfer Printing wash station need?
  17. How much power does a continuous flow machine need?
  18. How much power does a Water Transfer Printing tank need?
  19. When do I attend Water Transfer Printing Training?
  20. How can I purchase a spray booth for Water Transfer Printing?
  21. What type of spray booth do you recommend for Water Transfer Printing?
  22. How do I wash the dipped parts correctly?
  23. How should I dry my dipped parts?
  24. How long does it take to create a custom hydrographic film?
  25. What are the environmental considerations of Water Transfer Printing?
  26. How much does it cost to start a hydrographics business?
  27. Can items that are not correctly decorated be re-dipped?
  28. What is the minimum area required for setting up a production line?
  29. How difficult is it to learn the Water Transfer Printing process?

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How do I order Water Transfer Printing film, equipment, or supplies?

We’d love to help you get set-up and processing right away. Give us a call at 305-258-9622 for pricing and ordering information.
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What size of hydrographic film do you sell?

Most of our Water Transfer Printing film comes in three different widths, various lengths can be ordered based on your specific production needs.
Production Rolls:
50 cm wide X 150 or 600 meters long
60 cm wide X 125 or 500 meters long
100 cm wide X 250 meters long
Roll-off: Custom film lengths based on film inventory.
Accessory Packs: 3-meter film sample designed for custom projects.
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What Is Water Transfer Printing?

Water Transfer Printing, or hydrographics, is a surface decorating process where elaborate graphics like wood grain, carbon fiber, camouflage, and designer prints are applied to a 3-D product’s surface.

The Water Transfer Printing process is used extensively to decorate items that range from entire all-terrain vehicles and car dashboards to small items like bike helmets or other automotive trim. Films can be applied to all types of substrates including plastic, fiberglass, wood, ceramics, and metal. For the most part, if the item can be submerged in water, it can be dipped using Water Transfer Printing technology.

The process utilizes a water-soluble film that contains complex patterns printed in ink. The film dissolves in the water and leaves the ink on the surface. In the typical process, the item is first coated with a primer or an adhesion promoter. After the primer is dry, a base-coat paint is applied which controls the hue of the pattern. Many hydrographic films are transparent which means you can achieve unique designs by customizing the base coat colors. For example, wood grain films often utilize a brown base coat and many camouflage patterns use a required base coat color to maintain the integrity of the pattern.

After the base coat is applied, the item is ready for decorating. The film is activated. The item is then dipped into the water and the ink wraps around it. Excess PVA residue is then washed off, the part is dried, and a clear top coat is applied.
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What type of items can be dipped?

A wide variety of flat or 3-D shapes and manufacturing materials (plastics, metals, glass, wood, etc.) can be decorated with Water Transfer Printing technology.
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How durable is Water Transfer Printing?

We like to let our product speak for itself. Some of our largest clientele are automobile, boat, and firearm manufacturers who demand the highest standards of quality and durability. Many parts that are decorated using our materials spend most their lives in direct sun exposure, such as boat instrument panels. The inks we use to print our patterns are developed and tested using Xenon Arc testing, ensuring the coating retains its color and integrity in prolonged sun exposure and other environment conditions. Our clear coat is automotive grade, which is also designed to withstand nature and time.
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How long does the process take from start to finish?

It all depends on the complexity of the item being processed. For example, a dashboard for a pick-up truck can take approximately 30 minutes of total “hands-on” time to complete (this does not include unattended time like drying/curing). The process can be sped up with our automated solutions including our Automatic Spray System, Wash Stations, and Infrared Heaters.
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What do I need to start a hydrographics business?

The essential components to starting a Water Transfer Printing business include:

  1. Training (We recommend our 2-day Water Transfer Printing training program because it provides a thoroughly structured curriculum and advanced dipping techniques.)
  2. Your choice of Water Transfer Printing film.
  3. Activator (We recommend our activators because they are specifically optimized to perform with our inks and PVA.)
  4. A hand sanding device.
  5. A spray gun and air compressor. (We recommend a DeVilbiss high efficiency spray gun because it perfectly atomizes the activator while spraying.)
  6. Primer, the selected base coat paint, and a clear acrylic paint.
  7. A Water Transfer Printing system. (We recommend our Entry-Level Water Transfer Printing Tank for small businesses and our Stainless-Steel Tanks and Automated Systems for medium to high-volume production.)
  8. A device or fixture to hold the item while it is being dipped. (We recommend a Dipping Arm for processing large parts like ATV’s.)
  9. A constant water supply, drainage system, and an aerated room.

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How scratch resistant is the final product?

The clear acrylic we recommend is as durable as the paint used on auto exteriors. It is extremely resistant to scratches and debris.
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What is the maximum temperature a processed part can be exposed to?

If the process is done correctly, parts decorated using Water Transfer Printing will withstand temperatures up to 325° F. This means that engine valve covers, intake manifolds, and plastic engine covers can all be decorated and will withstand the residual heat coming from the car’s engine.
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How can I match the base coat color of a camouflage pattern?

Specially designed paint mixing systems and formulas are available for you to purchase. You can mix as little as one quart of paint at a time. We also carry specific color mix paint available to purchase for all camouflage films and offer paint chips with film orders.
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What is the best spray gun for Water Transfer Printing?

The DeVilbiss high efficiency spray gun perfectly atomizes activator when spraying, making it the recommended gun for Water Transfer Printing. This spray gun is also used for spraying base paints and clear coats in the automotive industry. The DeVilbiss spray gun provides excellent atomization, a consistent spray, and reduces waste. It is the official spray gun used in our TWN Certified Training Program.
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Do I have to spray a decorated part with clear coat?

Clear coat is a vital part of the Water Transfer Printing process. It protects the integrity of your final product, reduces scratching, and ensures firmness and longevity.
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What temperature and humidity is best to store Water Transfer Printing film?

The ink films are printed on Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) film. Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) is very sensitive to moisture and temperature. You must store the film properly to ensure long shelf life and optimal performance. Water Transfer Printing film must be stored in a humidity and temperature controlled environment. We ship our films in vacuum sealed plastic sleeves to ensure the film remains in pristine condition.
HUMIDITY: Below 60%
TEMPERATURE: 68° to 77°F
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How should I set up my floor plan for maximum production?

You will need to consider many things while setting up your Water Transfer Printing facility. Size of parts to be decorated and amount of parts to be decorated are most important. Depending on these two answers you will need enough space to accommodate fixture, priming and painting, decorating, and top coating. Please contact TWN to help you get started properly and streamline production.
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How do I apply final clear coat?

Use a high quality clear coat for the final finish. Whether its flat, semi-gloss, or gloss; the final coat should be durable enough to protect the part. Once the clear coat has dried you need to inspect it for defects. Most minor defects like orange peel look, or debris in the finish can be wet sanded and polished out at this stage. There are a few exceptions to this. For instance, if you are using a flat clear coat you would have to sand the defect away and then re-apply the final coat.
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How much power does a Water Transfer Printing wash station need?

When setting up your Water Transfer Printing equipment facility, make sure you have enough power to supply several machines, decorating equipment, wash station and paint booth. For our WTP-5MWS, you have two choices: 3 phase 220V or 3 phase 380V. This machine contains two reservoirs which contain 2 pumps and 1 heater per reservoir. You will need a large enough wire to accommodate a 100-amp breaker at the machine. When running, the machine draws approximately 35 amps.
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How much power does a continuous flow machine need?

Our Continuous Flow machine is equipped with three 9KW heaters, an automatic activator applicator, blower, bubbler, pump and motorized fixture rotor with pockets. You will need to dedicate 100amps for this piece of equipment.
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How much power does a Water Transfer Printing tank need?

The overall power of each static printing machine listed below is 19KW. The addition of a production arm to a system does not increase the overall power. Our static printing machines include the WTP-2M, WTP-2MPA, WTP-3M, & WTP-3MPA.
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When do I attend Water Transfer Printing Training?

Training will be scheduled after delivery of your Water Transfer Printing equipment. We would like you to have all your equipment operating prior to training. This will ensure that you are able to begin decorating parts immediately & will help reinforce what you learned during our Water Transfer Printing training.
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How can I purchase a spray booth for Water Transfer Printing?

To purchase a spray booth please contact TWN directly via our contact form or call us at 305-258-9622. We will be glad to assist you in determining which size and booth meets your production requirements. We can also recommend to you someone that can manufacture a custom-built spray booth.
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What type of spray booth do you recommend for Water Transfer Printing?

We recommend an enclosed cross draft or down draft industrial paint booth for most applications where gloss or flat top coats will be used. If your operation is specialized and processes only camouflage in dead flat top coats, an open face spray booth may meet your requirements.
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How do I wash the dipped parts correctly?

Thoroughly washing the part after dipping is essential for optimal top coat adhesion and overall product quality. Volume of water is more important than pressure. You can wash large parts with a hose, but an automatic Water Transfer Printing wash station will thoroughly wash your parts in a 360-degree fashion. This will streamline production, save time, and reduce labor costs. Either way you must wash for at least 5 minutes. All excess PVA and ink should be removed before moving forward.
Important: Water temperature should be 100°F-125°F/(48°C-52°C).
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How should I dry my dipped parts?

After thoroughly washing by hand or in our automated wash station, all parts must be thoroughly dried. This can be accomplished with a drying room which is heated and has circulating air, or just by air drying. Whichever method you use, ensure that the part is completely dry before proceeding.

You can speed up the drying process and reduce turnaround time with our Infrared Curing System. Once the part is completely dry, inspect it for defects that need to be touched up. If the defect is too severe the part may need to be prepped and dipped again.
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How long does it take to create a custom hydrographic film?

Artwork can usually be taken through the cylinder engraving process to prototype film within just 4-6 weeks.
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What are the environmental considerations of Water Transfer Printing?

By most standards, the Water Transfer Printing process is relatively environmentally friendly. However, there are several aspects that need to be addressed with the proper environmental regulatory agencies. This list includes guidelines for where to start the application process, but by no means implies that additional regulatory issues are not required in your facility. It is the responsibility of the business owner to verify that his company follows all Federal, State and Municipal requirements.
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How much does it cost to start a hydrographics business?

Water Transfer Printing is economical and overcomes problems faced by conventional methods such as hot printing, screen printing, transfer printing, and conversion coating. We provide custom equipment and training solutions tailored to your business requirements. From a small business to a full-scale automated production facility, we provide the equipment, supplies, and consulting to give your hydrographic business a competitive advantage. Contact us for a custom quote.
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Can items that are not correctly decorated be re-dipped?

Yes, of course. Items that do not meet your quality requirements can be painted and dipped again.
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What is the minimum area required for setting up a production line?

The minimum operating space required for Water Transfer Printing is approximately 2,000 square feet. Your floor plan should accommodate a preparation area, dipping area, spray booth and finishing area.
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How difficult is it to learn the Water Transfer Printing process?

After 14-hours of training is conducted it historically it takes an additional 2-3 weeks to fine-tune your production line.
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Add your questions to our Water Transfer Printing Knowledge Base!