News By Jun. 15, 2014 10:01 am
Students mod a 3D printer to create permanent tattoos | News | Geek.com

Robots already build our cars, vacuum our floors, and explore space — why not let them create an indelible mark on your skin? A team from design studio LeFabShop created just such a robot late last year at the French Ministry of Culture’s Public Domain Remix event. The team started with a MakerBot, but instead of a plastic-extruding nozzle, it was equipped with a tattoo machine. This robot can create real tattoos, unlike some other robots.

It only took an afternoon to affix a tattoo needle to the MakerBot’s arm and get the basic positioning sorted out. A 3D printer creates objects by laying down layer upon layer of melted plastic. The same movement that extrudes plastic under normal conditions was used in this case to “build” a single layer of ink. The team chose a simple circle pattern for the tattoo, which would show off that robot’s precision.

The first test was conducted on a human skin analog, but the project wasn’t done until a real person submitted to the robot’s loving embrace and got a tattoo. It wasn’t hard to find a volunteer, but a real person is not flat like the test material. Depth is just as important as the path a tattoo needle takes, so the inner forearm was tattooed as it’s pretty close to flat. The tattoo robot was able to successfully create a small circle tattoo on the first try.

The results look passable, but there’s some clear wobbling of the line. A tattoo needle can make more than 100 punctures per second, which results in a bit of pull and vibration on the skin as it is dragged along. A real tattoo artist holds the skin taught while making lines to keep everything straight, but the robotic tattoo was made without such support. It wasn’t really about doing a perfect tattoo, though. Modding a robot in an afternoon that can make a tattoo is pretty impressive by itself. Flesh-and-blood tattoo artists of the world have nothing to fear…yet.

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