Professional tattoo artists are most sought because of their experience and knowledge in tattoo designs and techniques. With the advancement of digital technology, specifically 3D printing, it seems that the manual work of a tattoo artist is reduced. This way, the tattoo artists can focus more on tattoo design and client support.
When it comes to tattooing and 3D printing, both have similarities and differences. However, one might ask the question, ‘is there a connection between tattooing and 3D printing?’
What Is 3D Printing?
3D printing, or additive manufacturing, refers to a manufacturing process wherein a three-dimensional (3D) printer deposits materials layer by layer based on the object's digital model. It enables the production of complex shapes that uses less material as compared to traditional manufacturing methods.
3D manufacturing involves using plastic or metal materials, depending on the application and design requirements. It’s usually used in manufacturing molds for jewelry making and creating prototypes for electronic or gadget components and automotive parts.
Here are more good-to-know facts about 3D Printing:
3D Modeling Software: 3D modeling software tools come in different types, including industrial-grade software (paid) and open source software (free). You can easily install free 3D modeling software. Also, some types don’t require installation as they can just work in your computer’s browser.
Slicing: This refers to the act of dividing a 3D model into horizontal layers by using slicing software. One can easily fee the raw .obj, .stl, or file using a 3D printer with a built-in slicer. By using an SD card, USB, or the internet, your file is then ready to feed the 3D printer once it’s sliced.
3D Printing Industry: 3D printing was only used to create small samples or prototypes in the past. However, it’s now transforming into an innovative production technology. For one, it’s significantly impacting the global supply chain by creating product prototypes or samples before mass production.
3D printing technology has a very promising future. It’ll transform almost all major industries and change the way people work and live, including 3D printing in the tattoo industry.
Quality 3D Tattoo Machinery Is Possible
With the advancement of 3D technology, Defiance Manufacturing explains that it's possible to create custom tattoo machines nowadays. Machine builders can build custom tattoo machines specifically designed for professional tattoo artists; using 3D technology in tattooing is not far from reality.
Here are some expert tips when choosing a tattoo machinery provider:
- When choosing a 3D tattoo machine manufacturer, it’s important to choose the one with years of experience.
- Choose a company that can also repair, restore, and retune old tattoo machines.
- It’s good if they can also reuse salvageable parts and replace parts if you still want to use your tattoo machine.
- A good company tailors each tattoo machine to the client's needs and focuses on achieving desired results, even if it’s used on an everyday basis.
3D Printer Can Be Used To Print On Human Hands
It’s shown that the University of Minnesota scientists could print electronic tattoos on human hands by using a custom 3D printer. Electronic tattoos can be used for different purposes, such as printing temporary soldier sensors to detect biological or chemical agents. Also, it could be used to charge critical electronic devices through the installation of solar cells.
Here are the good-to-know facts about the research:
- The scientists employed a new, low-cost technology used to print biological cells on the skin’s wound. This technology can open better opportunities for the tattooing industry through direct skin graft printing.
- A silver flake ink cures at room temperature, which makes the direct printing on the skin safe as it keeps human hands from burning when used in tattooing.
- The temporary tattoo used in the research can be removed by water or peeling it off.
3D Printer Converted Into a Tattoo Machine
A famous Paris design school on October 13 hosted a workshop, wherein the concept was to use sound, images, and videos. Digital manufacturing was invited to the workshop to help students realized their potential projects. While all teams came up with almost similar ideas, one team stood out because of a unique idea to use a 3D printer to automatically create tattoos.
The students were able to obtain a desktop 3D printer and used it to trace on the skin. Instead of using the extruder, they used a pen, leaving the crowd amazed.
The students were very persistent in creating a real tattoo 3D machine. They tried many tricks to tighten the surrounding skin area, such as using elastics, metal ring, and scotch tape. The inner tube tire of a scooter was the most effective material used.
Here’s the step-by-step guide on how to transform a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine or 3D printer into a 3D tattoo machine:
- Measure the equipment. Rather than using the extruder of a 3D printer, you can create an adaptor to fix it.
- Make your tattoo tool stable by installing it properly; it shouldn’t vibrate while printing.
- The build platform should be marked at the center. If you’re using a three-axis 3D machine, you need to draw in a 3D software. The recommended thickness is 0.2 millimeters.
- If it’s the first time to use the machine, start by creating outlines only because it won't fill surfaces at the moment.
- Next, import the drawing into the 3D printing software.
- The length between the top of the arm and the platform is measured and added to the 3D printing software.
- Adjust the skin tension so the circle won't look oval after you remove the inner tube rubber (gives the skin uniform stretch). A stencil is used to draw a circle on the part of the skin to be tattooed.
- For health and safety, sterilize all tools that might be in contact with the skin.
- Fill the needle with tattoo ink. Start the tattooing process by sending the drawing to print. Once the machine gets to its measured height, pause it.
- Next, place the arm of the volunteer in the newly created automatic tattoo machine. The tattooing process will go smoothly as long as the needle height and skin tension are measured correctly.
Connection of Tattooing and 3D Printing
There's a direct relationship between tattooing and 3D printing because both use art, design, and print. The only difference is the medium used or the surface that needs to be printed on. Because human skin differs in color, texture, thickness, and other factors, the creation of a perfect tattoo 3D printer should be carefully thought.
Samuel F. O'Reilly invented the first electric tattoo machine in New York City, which was patented on December 8, 1891. It was adapted from the 1876 rotary operated stencil pen of Thomas Edison. Because of this first electronic machine, it revolutionized the tattooing trade, which was brought into this modern age, paving the way to tattoo 3D printing.
Handwriting and typewriting make the perfect analogy of traditional tattooing and tattoo 3D printing. With the 3D technology, professional tattoo artists won't need to manually apply the ink on the skin as the tattoo 3D printer will do the job.
Does it mean that consumers won't need the services of tattoo artists anymore? Not necessarily. So, what’s the tattoo artist's role when the ideal tattoo 3D printer will be created?
Here are the roles of a professional artist in tattoo 3D printing:
Tattoo Designer: A professional tattoo artist has the experience and training in tattoo arts and design. With the advent of tattoo 3D printing technology, professional tattoo artists are still needed to create the best tattoo design that’s suitable for tattooing human skin.
3D Machine Operator and Supervisor: Unless you purchase your own tattoo 3D machine, you'll still need a professional tattoo artist to ensure that the machine is in good working condition. This will avoid regrettable, painful, and costly mistakes.
Ensure Safe Automatic Tattooing: Professional tattoo artists know the safety measures that’ll help avoid cross-contamination when using tattoo needles and other health and safety risks involved using any type of tattoo machine.
Without a trained tattoo artist by your side, you might encounter various problems, making your tattoo experience unpleasant.
- Tattoo Client Advisor: To whom will you learn the best tattoo designs and techniques? The answer to this question is only from professional tattoo artists. They’re the only ones who can better advise you on the before, during, and aftercare management when it comes to tattooing.
Take note that one mistake could lead to major problems, even if you're using a state-of-the-art tattoo machine.
- Expert Human Intervention: With the help of a professional tattoo artist, you’re assured that someone will come to the rescue if something goes wrong.
To ensure safety, human touch or intervention is still required when using a DIY or high-tech tattoo 3D printer.
How to Choose a Commercially Sold Tattoo 3D Printer
Now that you’ve learned the connection between 3D printing and tattooing, it's time to know how to choose the best commercially sold tattoo 3D printer in the market today. So, how do you choose a tattoo 3D printer?
First of all, you have to ensure that you're only sourcing or buying a tattoo 3D printer from a reputable manufacturer. Check the company's website and note the years of experience, technologies used in manufacturing, and the listing.
The product listing should include all important information, such as the suitable uses of the 3D machine, features, benefits, warranty, and even the seller's return policy. Once sophisticated tattoo 3D printers will be offered in the market, consumers might become more overwhelmed or confused with the wide array of brands to choose from.
Check out the important considerations when buying a tattoo 3D printer:
- Type and size of the tattoo 3D printer
- Materials used in tattoo printing (possibly the same skin-friendly ink used in traditional tattooing)
- Safety features such as automatic shut-off when problems arise
- Print speed (how fast the tattoo design will be finished)
- Print resolution (dictated the quality of images)
The Future of Tattooing and 3D Printing
Electronic tattoos are on their way, and it's not a myth. Possibly, 3D printing technology involves integrating computer and scanning vision into 3D printing, scanning the surface being printed, such as a skin for tattooing.
In the future, 3D printing technology will enable you to print almost anything you can think of, such as toys, a gadget cover, and even basic things you need at home, like cups, plates, and other kitchen utensils. Also, 3D printers will cause a lot cheaper because of production and demand growth, and will be part of everyone's daily life.
Businesses will also use 3D printing to present sophisticated designs and a promotional method, such as giving away miniature product freebies. In the education sector, teachers can use it to print figures of animals, shapes, and other learning materials for an excellent visual-based type of learning.
Here's how the future of tattooing and 3D printing can be realized:
Medical Use: 3D printing technology goes beyond e-tattoos. It can scan other body parts, such as the nerve of an organ, bringing a very promising future for the medical world. Computer vision allows printing on moving surfaces, such as a leg or hand.
Multiple Use: A 3D printer can compensate for the hand’s topology and motion. It means that you have tracking, multifunctionality, and complex surfaces. Also, you'll have anatomically-accurate device matching, making it unique.
Protection: Soldiers could carry 3D printers in their backpack and take them out in the field as needed to print any protective device using available materials fed into the 3D printer.
Now, you’ve learned that tattooing and 3D printing have a connection. Both are considered arts that involve printing. While tattooing uses human skin as a printing medium, 3D printing usually use plastic, metal, and other materials, depending on the application.
The good news is that 3D printing technology and tattooing can be combined, creating a revolutionary product that automatically tattoos human skin faster and more precisely. However, professional tattoo artists' role shouldn’t be discounted because their services are still needed to ensure health and safety in a 3D printing tattoo session.