3D Printer Turned Tattoo Machine Can Ink The Perfect Circle ; Artists Are Far From Worried

Thanks to some clever French students, a modified MarkerBot 3D printer, and a donated tattoo machine, the world’s first robotic tattooist has tattooed its first work of art… a “perfect” circle. France’s Cultural Ministry challenged people to remix images and sounds into something innovative at an event hosted by Paris’ famous design school, ENSCI les Ateliers, the UK’s Daily Mail reported.

Pierre Emm, Piotr Widelka and Johan Da Silveira, armed with their hacking ability and digital materials, altered the 3D printer so that it was able to draw “the perfect circle” on skin with a pen. They only had eight hours and succeeded. Not satisfied with a mere washable design, after the event was over, the trio stuck with their innovation and took it skin-deep. They borrowed a tattoo machine from an amateur tattooist, known in the industry as a “scratcher,” and hooked the machine up to the 3D printer. After extensive practice getting the robotic tattooist to ink on fake skin made of silicone, the trio were able to make the machine precise enough to actually ask for a volunteer to sit for a real tattoo.

Pierre told NPR, “The big difficulty was to repeat the same exercise on a curved surface and on a material that has much more flexibility than silicone.” A professional in the tattoo industry will use his own hands to pull the skin taut while tattooing. With each new line, the artist re-positions how they tighten their living canvas. The three innovators tried different methods to make sure the skin was taut including using elastic bands and a metal ring. Ultimately, to tattoo the circle, the students used a tube on an open area where the 3D printer-turned-tattooist would ink the skin.

Tattoo artists aren’t worried though. Matt Limbers, one of the tattooist that works at The Shop in Michigan, joked, “Well, I guess I’m out of a job,” and added a frown emoticon to further emphasize his sarcasm. The Shop’s owner noted that the innovation is very clever and he was amazed at how far they took it, but he hopes that next time the trio tattoos someone with their altered 3D printer, they pay closer attention to their cross-contamination prevention techniques.

Donny Morrison, artist and owner of Who’s Your Donny Tattoo in Michigan, told Inquisitr, “3D printers generally build from a flat, non moving surface. No surface on the human body is entirely flat, or non moving. A machine does not have the ability to instantly adjust to movement, jerks, pain of the customer, or differentiation in skin areas.”

An Instructables user referring to himself as jwhitehouse wrote, “As a tattoo artist [I] find this an interesting experiment, but many decades away from a practical application. Most tattoos are bigger than the quarter sized circle this is capable of producing, and a good stretch is essential to any good tattoo. No way could this machine ink a sleeve or backpiece! It would have to be [re-positioned multiple] times even to do a small name, and that would cause alignment problems. [I’m] intrigued, but not even a little bit afraid for my job.”

Mike Beers, a tattoo fan in Michigan, said that after watching the video of the 3D printer tattooing, he noticed that it didn’t look like the hacked 3D printer was going to actually succeed in making its tattoo design perfectly circular. “Seems like it would be hard to make it come out perfect on a curved surface, unless they plotted out the shape of the arm in the computer drawing, and then the arm didn’t move,” Beers told Inquisitr.

A Facebook user, who identifies her self as La Cru, added about the 3D printer’s tattoos, “Also if you have to go to the bathroom, starting where you left off would be unlikely.” For now, the 3D printer – altered to be a robotic tattoo artist – poses no threat to the industry, but with innovative students like the french trio, no one knows what the future of tattooing may hold.