How to: Use Hydrographics With 3D Printed Parts
Hydrographics is a process where you overlay a sheet of printed graphics onto an object. The hydrographic film is floated on the surface of a tub of water. It dissolves into a layer of paint floating on top the water. When you dip an object into it, the paint conforms and sticks to the surface.
Hydrographics film is sold in many patterns. In this guide we used Carbon Fiber and Brushed Aluminium. Purchase a roll with the pattern of your choice
Hydrographics works best with objects that have flat or gently curved surfaces. Pointy and complicated objects do not work as well because the film has trouble wrapping around them. That being said, you may be surprised at the things hydrographics can do.
Hydrographics can only cover half of an object at a time. If you want graphics on all sides, you will need to dip your object multiple times. Beware, though, because the patterns from both sides will not line up.
Plan out how you are going to dip the object before you start. Remember that you will need to hold the object somehow while you are dipping it, and the part you are holding will not get covered.
Step 1 — Cut out a piece of film
- Roll out the sheet of film and lay your object on top.
- Use scissors or a knife to cut out a piece of the film that is big enough for your object.
- Imagine the film is wrapping paper and you are wrapping a birthday present. You need enough film to cover all sides of the object.
- Remember that the piece you cut out must still be small enough to fit in your tub of water.
- Be careful with the film once you take it out of the bag. If you accidentally get it wet, it will begin to dissolve.
Step 2 — Apply masking tape to film
- Now apply strips of masking tape to opposite sides of the film.
- The tape will hold the film out while it is floating on the water and prevent it from curling up.
- Cut away any excess tape.
Step 3 — Float film on water
- Gently float the film on the surface of the water. Put down one edge first and carefully lay down the rest.
- If you lay down the entire sheet at once, you will get air bubbles underneath.
- Remember to put the shiny smooth side face down and the matte side face up.
- After a few seconds, you will see the film wrinkle and then contract.
- Let the film soak for 60 seconds before proceeding.
Step 4 — Spray film with activator
- If you have no already done so, don your rubber gloves.
- After the film has soaked, spray it liberally with the activator.
- Cover the film thoroughly using wide strokes.
- You will see the film immediately begin to dissolve. Start dipping your object within about 10 seconds
- DO NOT BREATH THIS. Always do this outside or in an extremely well ventilated area.
Step 5 — Dip thing
- Be careful about where you grab your object. Remember that the part under your fingers will not be coated.
- It might be better to stick your fingers to the back of the object using double sided tape, instead.
- Slowly dip the object into the water at an angle. Avoid dipping flat surfaces straight in since it can cause air bubbles.
- Push the object all the way through the film so that it is completely submerged, then shake it to break off the excess film.
- With the object still underwater, use your other hand to clear away the extra bits of film. Then turn the object upside down and pull it back up.
Step 6 — Cleanup
- Gently set your object down on some paper towels.
- Let it dry for a couple hours before handling.
- If you plan to reuse the water for more dipping, clean out as much of the bits of film as you can. A fish net works best for this.
- You're done!