What is Water Transfer Printing – Hydrographics

Water Transfer Printing is also known as

\Hydrographics, immersion printing, hydro dipping

Hydro Dipping kits in Australia

The process is a unique, Patented technology. This is the only printing method capable of applying decorative pattern to any 3-Dimensional Product. It has been widely used in many major industrialized countries such as USA, UK, JAPAN, ITALY, SWEDEN and KOREA.

How does hydrographics work?

Specially formulated PVA printed films are chemically treated and then fed out onto the surface of a water tank.

The product is immersed into the softened film so that the natural pressure of the water impresses the ink onto the product.

The plain product emerges from the dipping tank (Hydrographics Machine) decorated with the pattern of your choice.

The residual film is washed away and a top coat is applied to give the product luster and durability.

Like most technical advances the technology sounds simple enough however it requires timing precision and quality products. Backed by years of research, the results are truly impressive.

Hydrographics Features:
  • Water Transfer Printing will decorate 3D complex shapes, compound curved surfaces and rough surfaces which no other process can do.

  • The impressive ranges of designs on offering by leading manufacturers.

  • Availability of thousands of standard patterns include a variety of wood grains, marbles, leathers, textures and obstacles with new patterns being added regularly. You may even have your own exclusive Patterns.

  • As well as a wide variety of shapes. Water Transfer Printing can be applied to almost any material.

  • The Design possibilities are endless.

Hydrographics Main application:
    • Automotive industry: Instrument panel, automotive internal (external) decorative surface (panel), navigation wheel, motorcycle/ scooter’s exterior components.
    • Home Décor, electronics & appliance: handrail, Beth ware, kitchen ware, Door, window, shelves, electronic switch cover, locks, furniture, external shell for refrigerator handle, laundry machine external panel, remote control, dehumidifier, Television, air conditioner and all kinds of small home appliances, DVD, Audio devices… etc.
    • IT industry products: external shell for mouse, electronic dictionary, PDA and all kinds of computer peripheral devices…etc
    • Sporting goods: Racket, roller blades, bow, bicycle accessories, saw handle, Goggle…etc?
    • Stationery and gifts: Pens, office stationery, clock, picture frames etc
The Origin of Hydro-Dipping

Hydro Printing

Water Transfer Printing Invention

Hydro-dipping finally appears to be gaining mainstream exposure, thanks in part to home hobbyists’ access to online forums and social media channels. But what was the industry like before YouTube and Facebook, or before the internet itself? How different were the practical aspects of the process then from the methods today’s manufacturers employ?

When and by Whom Was Hydrographic Printing Invented?

The earliest patent records credit the invention of water transfer printing to Motoyasu Nakanishi of Kabushiki Kaisha Cubic Engineering in 1982.

U.S. Patent Number 4436571 A
Filed: Jul 26, 1982
Issued: March 13, 1984
Assignee: Kabushiki Kaisha Cubic Engineering
Inventor: Motoyasu Nakanishi
Abstract: A printing apparatus provided with a structure which supplies a transcription film into a transcription tub containing a liquid so that the transcription film is kept afloat on the liquid, a structure which makes the liquid flow in a direction in which the film is supplied, and a structure which slantingly immerses an article to be printed into the liquid in the transcription tub from an upstream position to a downstream position of the liquid. The transcription tub is provided with a structure which blows pressurized air onto the transcription film to eliminate wrinkles of the film. The film supplying structure of the printing apparatus is equipped with a feed roller mechanism provided with a cutter for cutting slits in both side end parts of the film. In the transcription tub of the printing apparatus is provided a set of belt-type guide members which support both side edges of the film and feed the film along the liquid flow. This printing apparatus is equipped with a film removing device which removes the film waste adhering to the article to be printed by a shower.

A bit technical and over-complicated, but it sounds like they’re talking about a hydro-dipping machine, right? Yeah, they’re totally talking about a hydro-dipping machine. Check out the entire patent article for yourself: http://www.google.com/patents/US4436571.

Accumulated Spherical Granule Immersion Transfer Printing!

Interestingly enough, Mr. Nakanishi also filed for and received patent CA 1149227 A1 – a process identical to water transfer printing but with “a number of fine granules such as, for example, steel balls” used instead of water.

Abstract: A method of printing adapted to make a material to be printed applied onto a pattern which is preprinted on an extendible film which is extended on an accumulated granule layer composed of a number of spherical granules so that the preprinted pattern at its whole surface is adhered to the surface of the material to be printed by forcing the material to be printed into the accumulated granule layer.

Wisely, Nakanishi realized that Accumulated Spherical Granule Immersion Transfer Printing didn’t have quite the ring to it as does Hydro-Dipping, and thus the process fell to obscurity. Here’s the entire ASGITP patent article: https://www.google.com/patents/CA1149227A1.


Though the patent records are pretty clear, the exact origin of cubic printing is still somewhat of a debatable subject. Case in point, the websites of three different water transfer printing companies state three different company names as being the first to introduce the concept. Only one – Taica Corporation – however, claims to have done it themselves.

1974 Invented CUBIC PRINTING. (applied for patents at home and abroad).
1976 Established Shizuoka Cubic Co., Ltd. (renamed Cubic Co., Ltd. in 1989) in Shimizu city, Shizuoka prefecture (currently Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka city) for sales expansion of CUBIC PRINTING. (Apr.)

Convincing enough. Cubic Co., Ltd. (again renamed Taica Corporation in 2006) invented the process in 1976. Wait, what?

Not to leave things too simple, here’s what TWN Industries has this to say on the matter:

In the late seventies, a new surface coating technology referred to as Cubic Printing or Hydrographic Printing began to emerge. Cubic Engineering had a patent on this technology and charged substantial licensing fees during the life of this patent.

TWN Industries doesn’t lay claim themselves, yet they give credit to Cubic Engineering, not Cubic Co., Ltd.

To make matters even less clear and more Asian, Taita Chemical Company, Limited (read not Taica Corporation) states:

The Cubic Printing process, developed by CUBIC JAPAN is a revolutionary, unique, Patented technology. This is the only printing method capable of applying decorative pattern to any 3-Dimensional Product.

Okay, so multiple organizations give credit to multiple other organizations which may or may not all be the same Japanese organization with multiple names. Got it.