An Overview of Hydrodipping

cerakote coatingIf you have ever wondered how a certain symbol, word, or picture was able to be placed on an item, it is conclusive that you are curious about the process of hydro dipping. Also referred to as hydrographic or cubic printing, hydro dipping is the process of applying printed materials to three-dimensional surfaces. While the conclusive origin of this process is not well-known, the history that is known pertaining to this concept is interesting.

It is believed that the first apparatus used for this technique was attempted to be patented on July 26, 1982, by Motoyashu Nakanishi of Kabushiki Kaisha Cubic Engineering. In the process we know today, the piece to be printed is pre-coated and treated with a base coat material. A polyvinyl alcohol film is then engraved onto an image carrier in a big tub or vat. The piece is then floated on the water’s surface. A chemical that promotes the activation of a bonding agent is sprayed on the film and this then dissolves the film into a liquid. The piece is then lowered into the tub, and the polyvinyl film along with the ink layer adheres to the desired item. This process is similar to the original process established by Nakanishi.


There is a vast amount of three-dimensional surfaces that are able to withhold this process in order to obtain a printed design. Experts essentially state that if it can be dipped in water, it is more than likely able to be printed. Plastic, fiberglass, metal, tile or ceramic, and wood are all surfaces that easily undergo the hydro dipping process.

Of course, since the invention of this process, some items trump the list of popularity when it comes to having graphic designs. Among the most popular are:

  • Trucks, cars, and motorcycles
  • Bicycles
  • Helmets
  • Dashboards
  • Video game controllers
  • Cups and coozies
  • Jewelry
  • Arms: Guns, knives, and crossbows
  • Signs
  • Vases and other decor

The intricate process seems incredibly effective in hindsight, but hydro dipping sometimes ends in failure. The most common reason this process results in the two surfaces failing to adhere to each other is the improper application of the activiating spray. Failure to execute each step of the process properly and in its entirely results in a big, noneffective mess. Of course, when executed properly, the end results can be visually stunning and statement-making.

To conclude, hydro dipping is by no means an ancient practice. Its origin is fairly recent, and as the emphasis on unique art as the only means to express oneself becomes apparent, this technique grows more popular. Holding the capability to gain exposure for businesses and artists, this is a process that may eventually prove to be timeless.