Hydrographic printing, a/k/a "dip coating" or "camo dipping," is a neat way to get complicated graphics onto complicated objects. It doesn't work well with undercuts, but as we showed you here, if you want to get a carbon-fiber graphic onto a game controller or a camouflage pattern onto an animal skull, it's pretty much the only game in town.
It's also woefully catch-as-catch-can. Trying to line the 2D pattern up with 3D contours is virtually impossible. But at this year's SIGGRAPH, a research collaboration between students from Columbia University and Zhejiang University presented their method for correcting this.
We're oversimplifying the description a bit, but the researchers essentially used texture mapping to figure out how a checkerboard pattern would wrap around various objects they modeled. They then skew their pattern to match the resultant distorted checkerboard and print the pattern out. Next, assuming they line the object up carefully over the pattern when they submerge it, they can convincingly dip-coat things like a cat, a zebra, and even Shia LaBeouf with a bad haircut.