A 3D water transfer printing system has been created through a collaborative effort between researchers at the Universities of Zhejiang and Columbia. This system sees nearly flawless application of water transfer printing to multiple surfaces of an object using a computerised system.

Water transfer printing, also known as hydrographics or immersion printing, is used to transfer ink to a surface using immersion. This way of “printing” is most commonly used to paint cellphone covers and vehicle accessories. But this method comes with limitations. Until recently it was limited to basic patterns: the ink on curved edges of objects being printed is “stretched” when removed from the water. Submerging objects multiple times to cover larger areas is tricky as the ink could overlap or not link up with the previous coat, leaving a space.

Now a computerised system of water transfer printing registers the colour texture and surface complexities of a digitally rendered object and uses this to  submerge the 3D version of it multiple times to create a fully colourised object.

Watch the video above to see the computerised water transfer printing system in action.

Source and credit: Computational Hydrographic Printing by Yizhong Zhang, Chunji Yin, Changxi Zheng and Kun Zhou