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Hacked 3D Printer Becomes a Precision Tattooing Robot

Hacked 3D Printer Becomes a Precision Tattooing Robot

by Elliot MarasNovember 5, 2015

Want to get tattooed by a robot? Meet “tatoue,” the 3D tattoo printer. Tatoue was born when a group of enterprising design students in Paris were looking for a way to do something unique. Their story can be found on Appropriate Audiences website, a design group that takes its name from the title of the movie previews that precede major motion pictures.

Appropriate Audiences combined a 3D printer with a tattoo artist’s needle to create a tattoo printer that can create indelible art work on skin.

How It Came About

Appropriate Audiences explains that in 2013, ENSCI les Ateliers, a Paris design school, hosted a workshop organized by the French Ministry of Culture. The goal of the workshop, called Public Domain Remix, was to use images, videos and sound from the public domain in a “Mashup.”

Students had eight hours to gather digital material, hack it or remix it. A digital manufacturing concern called Le FabShop helped the students with the project.

One team came up with a unique concept: a machine that automatically creates tattoos taken from an image bank. FabShop representatives said they could prototype the concept using the school’s equipment.

In one afternoon, the students were able to hack a desktop 3D printer and get it to trace on artificial skin using a pen rather than an extruder.

The students decided they wanted the machine to make real tattoos on real skin, so they worked in their spare time with help from teachers. They borrowed a manual tattoo machine from an amateur tattoo artist and found artificial skin to test the machine. They drew a circle on the artificial skin to test the precision of the process, and it worked.

First Human Tattooed By A Robot

The students had no problem finding a volunteer to be tattooed by the machine since people were excited about being the first person to be tattooed by a robot.

The question was whether or not they could get the same results they got on the artificial skin on human skin. Human skin has a curved surface and more flexibility. They attempted to tighten the area around the skin using a metal ring, elastics and Scotch tape. The most effective technique came from using the inner tube of a scooter that was open on the marked area.

The machine was able to create a precise tattoo on human skin.

The students developed a step-by-step set of instructions on transforming a 3D printer or CNC into a tattoo machine.

According to, a design and architecture website, Appropriate Audiences adapted Autodesk software to change tattoo designs into digital files. To get a tattoo, the user inserts a limb into the printer while the needle draws the design on their skin.

Also read: Voxel8 – A 3D printer for embedded electronics

Needle Automatically Creates A Design

The robotics of the machine enable the needle to automatically create a design on the skin at up to 150 punctures per second. This executes a repetitive action similar to that of a traditional 3D printer, according to claims that designers Pierre Emm, Piotr Widelka and Johan Da Silveira founded Appropriate Audiences after they met at ENSCI les Ateliers.

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