How We Perform Hydro Dipping at Montana Hydro Image
The hydro dipping process also known as water transfer imaging is the process of applying decorative patterns to almost any plastic, metal and even wood item. We start our process by first preparing the surface of your item by cleaning, sanding, media blasting or whatever we have to do to get the proper surface preperation for the rest of the process. It is critical to have a clean surface, free of contaminants such as oils or anything that could cause a hindrance
We move onto using our automotive grade primers that is suitable for most metals, woods and plastics. We may do multiple layers depending on if we are making a textured surface smooth or filling in rock chips on chevy bow ties. Always sanding each layer to a proper finish that will allow the paint to bite in and hold for the long haul.
Next we spray a basecoat of paint down on your item. We primarily use waterborne paints, it’s the wave of the future, and honestly we prefer to use them. If we absolutely cannot match or find a color that you want, then we will look beyond waterborne paints. Depending on the paint color, item, shape, and so on we may also apply multiple layers of basecoat to an item. A good basecoat is necessary in order for the hydro dipping process to be successful.
Now we move onto the dipping process. This is where we do some of our real magic here at Montana Hydro Image. We have your item prepared to take on a pattern. We pepare our tank for your item, set the water to around 37 degrees celcius for prime dipping temperature. We lay out your pattern on top of the water. Being printed on PVA film, the water soaks in and the PVA starts to break down and dissolve, leaving a floaiting slime that keeps the ink intact. We apply our activator to the floating ink pattern to finish the PVA dissolve process and prepare the ink for exposure to your item.
Now that all those steps are done, we now move into dipping. After planning and prep to ensure propper pattern layout, direction, airflow and waterflow we dip your item carefully and slowly. This ensures a crisp pattern layout, and utilizing water pressure to apply or “print” the floating layer of ink to your item and allows it to bite into the basecoat. After carefully dipping your item and leaving it submerged for up to 30 seconds, we remove the item from the tank and inspect. After ensuring a proper ink application we then move your item to our rinse tank for several minutes to remove the rest of the PVA film which at this point is a layer of slime (reminds me of a trout out of one of our beautiful blue ribbon fishing streams and rivers around Missoula, Montana where we are based…).
After rinsing and allowing your item to dry, we re-inspect and ensure a clean pattern application to your item, and make sure it is up to our standards. Once that has been completed and we decided we are ready for starting the finall process, we prepare the item for our automotive grade clear coat application. We feature hi-gloss clears, lo-gloss clears and matte clears so you can have the finish you desire and keep your item looking good and protected! Once we perform the clear coat service, polish where needed, then it’s allowed time to cure and we verify that the finish is up to our standards we will wrap it and return your refinished item to you! That’s the basics of our hydro dipping process here at Montana Hydro Image, there are much more fine details we could go into, but that’s a lot more reading and more things that we do to nitpick and be perfectionists at our trade. We look forward to seeing a smile on your face and knowing that you got your money’s worth out of our services!