A New Way to Customize> Hydrographics
BY Scion CM
All images courtesy of Liquid Transformations.
Many Scion Owners choose to paint or modify various components from the interior, trim, or engine bay of their cars. A number of different options exist for painting these pieces – but one very personalized and professional option is Hydrographics (also known as hydro printing or immersion printing). As this is a new process, many of you may not be familiar with this option. In this Scion Insider article, we're getting the low down about this process from Liquid Transformations, a hydro printing shop in Washington.
What is Hydrographic Printing?
Hydrographic printing is a highly specialized coating process. It is primarily a painting and dipping process. This process allows us to apply highly defined intricate prints and patterns to virtually any three dimensional object of your choosing.
What automotive elements can be hydrographically printed?
Printable items include steel, aluminum, various plastics, fiberglass, fiberglass reinforced plastic, wood, urethane, bone, closed cell foams, and more. The only things not suggested for hydrographic printing are cloth and rubberized items.
They way we explain it is, if it can be painted we can do it. Vehicle specific items such as interior and exterior trim pieces, wheels, suspension parts, under hood parts, intake tubing, intake manifolds, and exhaust tips are just some of the printable parts. The main factors are temperature range and exposure to abrasion.
Generally, hydrographically printed items can handle up to about the 400° temp range. Exposure under those temps should not affect the finish. If we need higher abrasion resistance or higher temperature capable coatings, we offer those solutions with various other products we offer.
How large of a piece can be printed?
Size is a limiting factor - a printable part that has an area of 1m x 3m is roughly the maximum size. Another factor is if the pattern requested is being manufactured in a size large enough for your project. A quick email or call to us can help answer the trickier questions.
How durable is this finish?
The durability is fantastic! It's as tough if not tougher than the best hot rod paint jobs out there.
It's a finish automotive enthusiasts are familiar with from their OEM factory applied burl wood, carbon fiber, stone, or brushed metal finished interior trim pieces.
Liquid Transformations process is a catalyzed process from top to bottom. All the materials used - from the adhesion promoters and primers, to the base color, to the clear coat. All of the layers are mixed with their respective additives to create the most durable high quality product of its kind available to the market today. Of course the durability depends on how someone cares for it. Thankfully a simple light soap and a microfiber cloth is all you need to keep your items looking fantastic.
The other nice part is that if accidental damage does occur, unlike your factory supplied items, they can be redone. Need even more parts done, or building your project in stages? No problem. Customers have direct access to the factory. We only use the right stuff for the job – the highest quality automotive grade paint and materials.
Are custom patterns available?
The industry has thousands of patterns to choose from. With so many and the rainbow of base colors that can change the look of a finished product, we can generally supply an attractive solution from the patterns available. If you don't see a design that suits your taste, don't let that stop you – a great solution is available.
For larger scope jobs, custom graphics can be made for hydroprinting – it just requires the manufacture of an entire printing cylinder of 250 meters. We are authorized by our suppliers to be the liaison between the customer and the factory to assist in the production of a custom film. Many companies and individuals have greatly benefited from producing their own film. Please contact us for more information regarding custom made hydrographic patterns.
What's the general price range?
At Liquid Transformations we quote each and every job we do. We use pricing on our web site as a guideline. Pricing for a single project starts at $40, our minimum order dollar amount.
Projects with lots of details or specifics can have a wide range of pricing. Individual parts within a project can be as low as $10 each for smaller parts. Generally we see projects range from $50-250 for single part applications (i.e. center radio bezel or all 4 power window switch panels).
Full interior projects range from $250-$3000 depending on how basic, wild or exotic we go. Generally, a customer can expect a price range of $400 to $1500 for the more straightforward change over or custom project. We always do our best to fit the project and details to the customer's needs. This has proven to be the best approach for even the most discerning or budget minded customers.
Would you recommend the DIY hydro kits available?
We've generally seen customers struggle with these, although YouTube sure makes it look easy. A number of times we've been asked to redo a project that a customer tried at home first. We suggest customers save their time and money for the lake, and leave the dipping to the pros!
The comfort in letting the pros do it, for the price you are going to pay for an industry-standard finished product, is well worth it. If you buy a kit, do it yourself, and it doesn't turn out – you're left holding the bag. Best case is that you end up with something that might pass, but most definitely will not look as clean as having it professionally done. There is a lot more that goes into a high quality project than some folks may realize, its well worth the money to have it done professionally.
How would you suggest people find a quality shop near them?
If you can walk into the shop – I would suggest doing that first. Take a look at their operation and see how they treat you as a customer.
If you do not have a shop locally, being the relatively low cost of shipping - sending your parts to a high quality shop is your best bet. When you locate one you like the feel of, box your stuff up and send it to them. A high quality hydrographic company should have no problem handling your project just as fluently from a distance as they would be able to in person.
Image courtesy of Pj Nicolai - work completed by Liquid Transformations
When looking for a Hydrographic Printing shop, what are some things to consider to ensure you're getting the best quality product?
My best suggestion would be to get in contact with them. Look at samples of their work, ask them details as an educated customer would. They may offer printing, but what quality of materials are they using? Are their painters certified? Are they far cheaper than the majority of the companies you have seen in your searches? If so, there is probably a reason. Ask if they do their process fully in house or send some stuff out. If they don't do all work in house, that should be a red flag as this process requires staying close to it from start to finish. What kind of facility do they maintain? Many people operating from a web site may be working out of their garage and are usually not legally allowed to paint professionally. Use your best judgement based on all the above factors. Details are what matters, not merely the bottom line price.
In fact, basic pricing is one factor to consider in choosing a shop. If they only give you a set number, that is a huge red flag. This is because the entire process is a very custom job. Single pricing doesn't work with so many options available. You'll either end up paying much more to get the job done how you want it or you won't be satisfied with the "cookie cutter" job given to you when what you really wanted was something custom. Giving customers a price range lets them implement their options and requests while still having it fit their budget.
Thank you to Liquid Transformations for providing us the info and pictures. You can learn more about them or contact them via their website, www.LiquidTransformations.com.