Hi-Def Coatings is the exclusive home of the patent-pending ImageLockTM process, a method of dye-sublimation for 3D parts that outperforms hydrographics and other dye-sublimation methods. ImageLockTM was designed to bring true high definition finishes to the outdoor industry, where hydrographics and outdated methods of dye-sublimation have reigned for too long. ImageLockTM embeds a high resolution image (up to 1440DPI) directly into your plastic parts or into one of our preferred exclusive base coatings, chosen to best match the properties and tolerance requirements of your parts.

What is dye-sublimation?

Dye-sublimation is a method of transferring a digital image into the coatings of substrate. This process requires sublimation ink, heat, and pressure. Sublimation ink is able to convert from a solid to a gas without the liquid step in-between. Heat initiates the conversion, and pressure and time control the transfer from the printed medium to the coated destination. Dye-sublimation is most commonly seen as an alternative to screen-printing clothing.

Why ImageLock and not hydrographics?

Hydrographics (also known as immersion printing, water transfer printing, and dipping) uses a specially-printed, water soluble film that is carefully laid onto the surface of a tank of water and, when activated by a solution, dissolves away to leave the ink behind on the surface of the water. Parts are then carefully dipped into this water, and the inks attach to the surface of the part. Because no heat is required in this method, it is ideal for parts that can’t withstand the heat requirements of dye-sublimation. However, the transferred image simply rests on the surface of the part. Without an additional top coat, it can easily be removed with things you can find around your home, like denatured alcohol or even some bug sprays.

ImageLock doesn’t rest on top of the coatings the way hydrographics does. The heat and pressure actually allow dye-sublimation inks to embed directly into the clear top coat, meaning you have to remove the top coat to remove the image! This makes parts decorated with ImageLock free from defects and chipping under normal wear and tear. It is stronger, more durable all-around, and much more chemically resistant than hydrographics. We guarantee it. 

What makes ImageLock better than other 3D dye-sublimation methods?

ImageLock is unique from other methods of 3D dye sublimation in two distinct ways.

1. Resolution

ImageLock allows for the transfer of images at a higher resolution than any other method of dye sublimation for 3D parts. Most other methods boast resolution up to 300 DPI, which is great, but ImageLock far exceeds that, transferring images at up to 1440 DPI.

2. Thin Build Coatings

While other methods of 3D dye sublimation will work with thin build coatings, such as Cerakote, they are designed primarily for transfer into powder coating, and they look best when transferred into powder coating. Other methods can look faded or washed out when transferred into thin build coatings. ImageLock was designed specifically for transfer into thin build coatings, to make 3D dye sublimation a decoration option for parts with tight tolerances, like firearms. (Our preferred thin build coating is KG Gun Kote.) Whether you’re using a thin build coating or traditional powder coating as the base coat on your products, ImageLock will never have that faded or washed out look.

Want to learn more?

Get in Touch!

Send us a message about your parts or just start a conversation. We’d love to run a sample or two so you can see how great your parts could look.