While hydrographic printing has been a thing for a while, it's never been quite this precise, until now.

Researchers from Hangzhou's Zheijian University and Columbia University in New York have teamed up to invent what they call computational hydropgraphic printing.

Hydrographic printing uses a vat of water to float ink on the surface which is then transferred to an object as it is dipped into the vat. The process has worked for simple projects like say, camouflaging  a rifle, but is too hit or miss to mass produce colored 3D printed objects.

In computational hydropgraphic printing, the object to be printed is 3D scanned and algorithmically converted into two dimensional images on transparent film. The film floats on the surface of water while a robotic arm dips the object into the water bath in such a way that the pattern is applied the same way every time.