Performance & Hotrod Business - February '15

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44 n Performance & Hotrod Business n February 2015 PERFORMANCE plastics) to visually transform the material into a different material. A mind-boggling array of ink graphics are available, includ- ing those that provide the appearance of carbon fiber, punched metal, diamond- plate metal, wood grain, camouflage designs—as well as creative graphics that depict flames, skulls, barbed wire, etc. The range of designs is almost limitless. Even if you've never heard of this pro- cess, you've seen the results. Following are just a few examples: • New cars that feature "wood grain" interior trims (actually plastic, wet-dipped to look like wood) • Shotguns in camouflage patterns (bar- rels, stocks and receivers are wet-dipped individually and then reassembled) • Fiberglass helmets that look like car- bon fiber • Cell phone cases that look like carbon fiber • ATV bodies that feature camouflage patterns How does the process work? The graphic pattern is selected from a range of patterns. These are pre-printed ink graph- ics available in sheets. • The item to be treated is prepared by cleaning and with the application of an appropriate basecoat urethane paint. The color of the basecoat will influence the color of the final graphic, since most ink graphics are somewhat translucent. • The selected ink graphic sheet is placed onto the surface of water, (in a special temperature-controlled tank). • The item to be treated is skillfully low- ered through the floating graphic sheet, submerging into the water as the ink film wraps around and clings to the item. • The item is removed from the water tank, rinsed and dried, followed by the application of a protective clearcoat. Basically, the process is very similar to that of dipping an Easter egg through floating color dyes. This is a very over- simplified overview of the process, but you get the idea. Automotive applications are many and varied. In terms of engine applications, the items that might be considered for wet- dipped graphics can include intake mani- folds, timing covers, oil pans, air cleaner housings, valve covers, thermostat hous- ings, distributor caps, pulleys, etc. One caution that I need to impart involves any bolt holes on the component. While the graphic film ink is very thin, the protective clearcoat can prove to be an issue in areas where a bolt head or bolt with washer will compress the clearcoat. Using an intake manifold as an exam- ple, pre-check the fit of all bolts to the manifold, using exactly the same bolts (and washers) that will be used for final installa- tion. If the bolt hole entry areas are already spot-faced, carefully check for bolt head or washer fit. If the fit is a bit on the tight side, increase the diameter of the spot-face by about 0.030 inches. If the holes don't fea- ture spot-face recesses, cut these in, again providing perhaps 0.030 inches or more clearance for the diameter of your bolt heads or washers. When you deliver the manifold to the wet-dip shop, tell them to mask the spot face surfaces prior to applying their clearcoat. If you don't pay attention to this, a thick buildup of clearcoat at the bolt holes will result in the clearcoat bulg- ing/expanding as the bolts are tightened. This can potentially lead to lifting of the clearcoat down the road. Note: While a few builders may be tempted to take advantage of wet-dipping for an engine block, be aware that this is not a practical idea. First of all, the block would need to be smoothed out, eliminat- ing all casting surface roughness, which is very time-consuming. Secondly, considering the weight and size of a block, the wet-dip shop probably won't be able to lower and lift the block in/out of the water tank. Even if they have an overhead crane, proper positioning of the ink film involves carefully rotating the part while it passes through the floating ink film. In other words, wet-dipping a block simply isn't practical. Ceramic Coatings The use of high-temperature ceramic coatings has been around for decades as both a thermal barrier treatment for piston domes and combustion chambers, as well as exhaust manifolds and headers. From an appearance standpoint, we'll focus on exhaust components. In addi- The customer for this Pontiac big-block build wanted to utilize black wherever appropriate. The intake was hydro-dipped to look like carbon fiber, topped off with one of Holley's Ultra HP carbs adorned in its "Hardcore Black" finish. Here's another example of a wet-dip job. The intake duct and housing of this Vortec super- charger were wet film-treated with a "silver" car- bon fiber graphic. The owner of this Ford small-block wanted a monochrome appearance theme. The cast iron block was painstakingly smoothed and painted in a fine aluminum color. Matched up with aluminum heads and headers featuring an aluminum luster ceramic finish, the final appearance of an "all- aluminum" engine was achieved.

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