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Simple Process, High-Tech Results

August 2014

ChromeCollageIt’s a simple process. Take a plain unadorned object, dip it and voila! – it’s covered in camouflage, stars and stripes or row after row of Hello Kitty.

Alex Garcia keeps thinking of new ways to use the high-tech permanent coating system that is the basis of his new venture, HydroGraphic Solutions. Hoping to develop a market among hobbyists, retailers and other small businesses, Garcia has renovated the lower level of an 1880 feed barn in Colora, Md., to expand his fledgling operations.

HydroGraphic focused first on producing custom work, but Garcia sees a future in the do-it-yourself trend: hobbyists who want to customize their “toys” or homeowners who want a faux finish on their woodwork, for instance.

“It’s endless,” Garcia says. “That’s what I like so much.”

To that end, the new headquarters is getting its final touches. Due to open this summer with an open house around Labor Day, the new space has showrooms – with trim customized with their own process – to display their line of customer printers, hydrodipping tanks and supplies as well as products they are reselling. There is also training space as the company continues to produce custom work in its own 350-gallon tank.

The film-based process transfers a permanent high-resolution pattern or logo on a three-dimension object – from car parts to sports equipment, any object that can be dipped in water, really.

What’s more, he says, anybody with a water tank and a batch of the specialized film can do this: Spread a sheet of patterned film on the surface of the water in a 350-gallon tank. Wait until it becomes hydrated. Dip the object to be coated. Wash. Dry. Finish with a glossy or matte top coat. “Once it’s on there, it’s on there,” Garcia says.

Right now, camouflage is big but some 600 patterns are available with HydroGraphic also able to print custom designs.

HydroGraphic already has attracted a following among motorcyclists, car enthusiasts and outdoorsmen. But Garcia wants to appeal to a wide variety of customers: school sports teams, building contractors and non-profits throughout the Mid-Atlantic. He envisions partnering with retailers to stock already-printed merchandise or sell HydroGraphic’s custom work with the retailer sharing in the profits.

HydroGraphic’s film-based process can transfer a permanent high-resolution pattern or logo on just about any three-dimension object.

HydroGraphic’s film-based process can transfer a permanent high-resolution pattern or logo on just about any three-dimension object.

“We can provide an opportunity for those guys to create new revenue,” Garcia says.

Garcia says he is talking to an aircraft-refurbishing company who is looking for ways to create lightweight luxury interiors. Instead of marble, why not a marble-like finish?

Business partners include Liquid Performance, World Impex, a European car parts distributor and the non-profit RAACE. He’s currently in discussions with a helmet distributor. Garcia explains that the hydrodipping process would give motorcyclists an opportunity to customize a helmet at a fraction of the cost of airbrushing. Printing might cost up to $125 but airbrushing costs $250 to $450, according to Garcia. He says he’s also reaching out to PepBoys as a possible retailer for custom printed car parts ready to use or to order.

“I’m trying to make it affordable for people,” he says.

Garcia and a friend, who has since moved onto other ventures, got into the business about five years ago. They started small with their own tank and some training. Last November Garcia decided to turn it into a full-time business “to expand and help our economy,” he says. Work began in February on the barn and the company now employs 10 people.

In addition to hydrodippings, the company also provides glass etching, liquid chroming and a combination of finishes, including a reflective camouflage design Garcia calls “chromoflage.” “It looks really neat,” he says. “My goal is to get it out there,” he says. So promotion has gotten new emphasis with demonstrations at festivals and car and motorcycle shows, including Bikefest 2014 in Ocean City, Sept. 11-14.

HydroGraphic Solutions has also partnered with the Forest Hill-based Race Against Abuse of Children Everywhere. A “RAACE superhero” supporter, HydroGraphic agreed to participate in a fundraising motorcycle rally at Ripken Stadium on July 27.

Garcia says the statistics on child abuse led him to support RAACE. “I want to do what I can to help expand that message,” Garcia says.

Garcia, an Edgewood High School graduate and a resident of Street, is also president of CANI Optical Systems, a distributor of flexible medical endoscopes, which he started in 2005. CANI is based in Aberdeen, though Garcia bought the barn originally to serve as a warehouse for CANI. “It had a lot of character to it,” he says.

Now with a new business installed, he’s hoping it has a lot of new customers, too. I95