New Hacked 3D Printer Can Tattoo Any Image Onto Skin
Could this be the end of tattoo artists?
The intricate, detailed art of tattooing has grown into an exceptional mainstream industry as more and more people sport the permanent body art. But a team of French designers have hacked a 3D printer and turned it into a tattoo machine that can draw any image onto the skin, which may potentially see the end of tattoo artists.
The Mirror reports that the ‘Tatoué’ machine, combining a Makerbot 3D printer and tattooist’s needle, can etch any image whether a photograph or hand-drawn sketch and tattoo it onto a limb inserted into the printer with pinpoint accuracy. The needle using sensors and follows the natural contours of the body part, puncturing the epidermis skin layer up to 150 times a second, to inject ink into the dermis and create permanent designs.
Paris-based design company Associate Audiences – founded by Pierre Emm, Piotr Widelka and Johan De Silviera after they met at the ENSCI les Ateliers design school – initially tested the printer on a piece of flat synthetic silicon skin to tattoo a perfect circle before trialling it on the curvier surfaces of the human body. The idea arose in 2013, when a school workshop set a brief for students to use digital materials available in the public domain to create something unique.
“The big difficulty was to repeat the same exercise on a curved surface and on a material that has much more flexibility than silicone”, the designers told design magazine Dezeen. “Many tricks were tried to tighten the area around the skin – a metal ring, elastics, scotch tape – but the most effective one was a scooter's inner tube, open on the area to be marked".
“A lot of people were excited by the idea of being the first human tatooed by a 'robot'”.
The invention is set to change the tattoo industry by storm, and although it isn’t perfect yet the team are currently trying to develop an off-the-shelf model for tattoo artists.
Historically, according to the Guardian the twin-coil electromagnetic tattoo needle we see today was not patented until 1891 by Irish-American tattooist Samuel O’Reilly; however the art can be traced back thousands of years to ancient civilisations, symbolising ownership, ranking, healing or sometimes as a form of punishment.
But recently decades have seen the rise of the tattooee. Body art is no longer the mark of rebellion, or only for soldiers, sailors, rockers and criminals. And according to Statistic Brain, figures from 2013 showed that the US spends a staggering $1.65billion (£1billion) annually on tattoos, with the total number of Americans having tattoo being 45 million. The group with the most tattooed individuals is 26 to 40 year olds.
BBC News reported that the psychology of tattooing has been the subject of academy analysis for many decades and scholars often wonder what drives people to come back for more rather than simply settle for their first tattoo. Tattoos are used for a range of reasons such as self-expression, uniqueness as well as to cover up birthmarks, scars and skin conditions such as vitiligo (melanin deficiency causing white patches).
University of Westminster psychologist Viren Swami conducted a study in 2012, to analyse the personality differences between tattooed and non-tattooed individuals. The research found that these differences were ‘generally small’ although tattooed folk showed higher scores of extraversion, need for uniqueness, and overall held a more positive attitude towards tattoos.
"It seems to be predominantly about the idea that you feel unique as an individual" explains Swami. "People get tattoos for all sorts of reasons but that's the underlying one".
"There don't seem to be any persuasive traits that mark them out as different. They don't have different personalities. My feeling is that, at the end of the day, it's an aesthetic preference”.
So could the tattoo machine encourage more people to get inked? And will it mean that we will no longer need tattoo artists? Well it would certainly provide more quality assurance and the Associative Audiences team hope that Tatoué could help tattooists and hope to work closely with them.
"From the onset of the project we have been exchanging with tattoo artists and now would like to deepen our relationships with them, so as to better adapt the machine to their different styles and practices”, said the designers.
"The next step for us would be to travel and meet as many tattoo artists as possible, in an effort to discover new practices and techniques throughout the world”.