The water transfer printing process is extensively used to decorate items that range from entire all-terrain vehicles and car dashboards, to small items like bike helmets or automotive trim. Films can be applied to all types of substrates including plastic, fiberglass, wood, ceramics and metals. For the most part, if the item can be dipped in water and can be painted using traditional techniques then the hydrographic printing process can be used.

In the process the substrate piece to be printed is pre-treated and a base coat material is applied. A Poly alcohol film is gravure-printed with the graphic image to be transferred, and then floated on the surface of a vat of water

The 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 layers. The ink layer along with the polyvinyl alcohol backing then wraps around to adheres to the item. The adhesion is a result of the chemical components mof the activator softening the base coat layer and allowing the ink to form a bond with it. One of the most common causes of a failure to achieve adhesion between the two layers is a poorly applied activator This can be either too much activator being applied or too little

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