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Afraid To Trust A Tattoo Artist? How About A Robot?

Printed tattoos could be the future of body art.

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© 2014 Instructables - appropriate audiences

We’ve all heard horror stories of people going to get a tattoo, and leaving with a permanent artwork which is nothing like what they imagined. But what if there was a better way of getting a tattoo, where we wouldn’t have to put so much faith in the skill of a tattoo artist?

A design team of university students from France have come up with an interesting solution, which may, in years to come, change the way we get tattoos. Though combining 3D printing technologies with computer projection and tattooing equipment, the team has created a way to ‘print’ tattoos on skin.

A French team has created a way to 3D ‘print’ tattoos on skin.

Inspired by a French government competition to remix everyday devices for radical new uses, the team built a prototype machine which took a popular MakerBot 3D printer and replaced the printing head with a standard tattoo gun. The first prototype machine existed only as a proof of concept, able to print onto a sheet of rubber and nothing else, but the team then wished to take their design much further.

Through further refinement and testing of the design, they finally managed to create a functioning device which could print a tattoo in 3D on human skin. This they achieved by creating a series of pieces which could stretch human skin taught, in order to make it possible to accurately print an image.

Surprisingly enough, they had no trouble finding a volunteer with many people jostling to become the first human tattooed by a robot. You can watch this first tattoo being printed in the video below:

Clearly this technology still has a long way to go. Printing larger designs - such as a sleeve - would be far more challenging, as it would require a machine which can print in any possible direction, rather than just straight down. Furthermore, human skin has a great degree of variability in its elasticity, meaning a device would have to be individually calibrated for each person.

Regardless, the technology has great potential, and could eventually in the coming years grow to replace your tattoo artist, and allow for greatly more intricate and accurate tattoo designs.