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Students hack a 3D printer to ink tattoos

A group of Parisian students have proved 3D technology's adaptability with hacking of a MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer to allow it to ink tattoos.

The students developed the plans by taking a manual tattoo needle from a tattooist and cleverly adapting it to the arm of the machine.

To start with, the machine was only really adept at producing perfect circles on a small piece of skin, which needed to be tightened with a scooter's inner tube, as shown in this 'part one' video:

Obviously, human skin is malleable and curved, making intricate tattoos much harder. But the team kept working on the project during their spare time, with some help from teachers and other students, they explain on their Instructables website.

They borrowed a manual tattoo-machine from an amateur tattoo artist and found some artificial skin - and a brave volunteer - for the first tests, which you can see in part two below.

New possibilities

Recently we have seen a number of great examples of the flexibility and adaptability of 3D printing technology. Earlier this year hacker Jose Julio demonstrated how he built an air hockey robot out of 3D printer parts and a PS3 camera. The air hockey table shows how powers of prediction and quick practical movement may be an offshoot of this type of development.

The 3D printer is fast becoming an everyday piece of kit and even entering the mainstream public’s consciousness with the MakerBot recently displayed at the Gadget Show Live event.

Have you seen an imaginative and inspiring use of 3D printing? Let us know in the comments!

Tom May
Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specialising in art, design and travel. He has been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. He has also worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella.