Hot Niche: Throw Some Water on Red-Hot Hydrographics

Posted by Rock LaManna


I’m a huge fan of niche printing companies and innovative technologies.  Right now, we’re seeing a red-hot niche developing with hydrographics applications in plastic decorating and finishing services.

Hydrographics applies printed or film designs onto three-dimensional objects.  A polyvinyl-alcohol film is gravure-printed with the graphic image to be transferred, and it’s then floated on the surface of water.  A bonding agent is added, and then the substrate is lowered into the liquated.  The floating ink layer wraps around the surface and adheres to it.  (Click on this video from H20 Printers to see the process.)

Why is this technology so red-hot to visionary printers?  A number of reasons:

It’s a hot new growth market. 

Whenever you have a break-through technology like this, new markets pop up left and right.  Just think of all the customers you can reach:  Plastic injection molders, automotive, aviation, consumer goods, and medical devices – the list goes on and on. 

It’s highly specialized, requiring talent and the right equipment. 

As the H20 video shows, this is a very specialized trade, and it requires the right equipment and personnel to pull it off.  It’s not an easily-duplicated commodity item.

It may be unattractive to the giants of the industry

You may think a big player like 3M would be interested in this market, but I don’t believe they are.  Their interest might be in the film you need for the process (check out examples like Realtree and Mossy Oak).  But the actual service work is too fragmented for the big players, which means there’s a lot of opportunity for the savvy printer.

It adds a new element of design and customization to everyday objects. 

Peruse any hydrographics website and you’ll see example of rifles covered in camouflage; hard-hats with wood-grain, and skis with any type of decorative image imaginable.

It’s complementary to your printing business.

If your sales are dipping in one area, consider partnering with a hydrographics printer to expand your offerings.  For example, if you do the printing for an OEM, why not introduce them to this technology?  You might not have the financial capability or expertise to open your own operation, but you can introduce other hydrographics printers to your book of business and generate a strategic alliance. 

It’s a highly profitable niche. 

Wrap all those reasons together, and you’re talking about attractive profit margins.  Whether you’re looking to make yourself an attractive investment for a bigger fish, or simply trying to build your own printing business, this is a very lucrative enterprise.

To me, the smart money is on innovative technologies like hydrographics.  Whether you’re looking to buy into the business or partner with an existing hydrographics printer, it’s a great area to niche in and create strong competitive advantages. 

It’s also a terrific way to establish yourself as an expert in a particular technology – one that will be attractive to a wide range of vertical markets in the very near future. 


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Topics: New Technologies