Sign & Digital Graphics

2016 WRAPS

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114 • WRAPS • 2 0 1 6 TOOLS & EQUIPMENT to the surface of the desired object— experts like McDonald carefully dip the outer edge of the part and then roll the rest of the wheel, helmet or auto part into the water until the image covers the entire surface. Once finished, clearcoat completes the work. It does, as McDonald admits, take a certain skill to learn how to do it right each time. "You have to be able to do it so you don't trap air bubbles as you go—it's called 'reading the water'—and that's probably the biggest learning curve involved," he says. "It's all a very intimi- dating system when you first deal with it, but then you can start making some good money at it once you figure it out. An auto shop might charge a customer $2,000 for a full wood grain-look interior for all of the parts in their car; that costs me about $600 in supplies." But the process is actually no more expensive to direct customers than many Provided you have a big enough immersion tank, all of the parts off a full-sized cruising bike can be hydrographically dipped for a fully customized job. Everything must be carefully prepped before the dipping process. other painting jobs, McDonald adds: He recently completed two custom hydro- graphics wraps covering virtually every surface of a motorcycle, and charged $3,000 apiece. And on the less expensive end of things, Fort Worth HydroGraphics is doing a brisk business in customizing Yeti cups, that uniquely Texan, stainless-steel insulated drink cup. "People will pay $40 for the cup and $50 for the wrap job, so they can be the coolest guy at the coffee shop," he says. One of the few limitations with the hydrographic process goes back to its somewhat mysterious roots in Asia. Hydrographics jobs were first seen in Japan as many as 40 years ago; when a product patent expired in the early '80s, the technology finally began to spread to the U.S. At present, commercial-grade Ameri- can installers are only able to access pre- made hydrographic films from suppliers overseas. There are plenty of varieties, certainly, from carbon fiber and metal- look surfaces to colorful flames and more, but the ability to create custom or branded imagery is still in its infancy in the U.S. Victor Rojas, marketing manager with Princeton, Florida-based T W N Industries, a major supplier of hydro-

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