3D Printer Madness: 3 French Students Turn A 3D Printer Into A Tattoo Machine

25-04-2014 by

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You can now add 3D printed tattoos to the list of awesome things you can do with your 3D printer. Pierre Emm, Piotr Widelka and Johan Da Silveira, from the ENSCI les Ateliers design school in Paris, turned an ordinary 3D printer into a tattoo artist. As part of a workshop hosted by their school and organised by the French Ministry of Culture, the students were asked to transform or rework the way a form of digital media worked.

The three students came up with the idea of transforming a 3D printer into a machine capable of creating tattoos from a library of pre-loaded images. They had just 8 hours to make their idea a reality. After speaking to Le FabShop, who were brought in as digital manufacturing consultants, the three set to work. By modifying a MakerBot 3D printer, Pierre, Piotr and Johan replaced the printer’s extruder (the part a 3D printer prints with) with a pen to allow it to trace on skin.

When the workshop was over, the three decided to see if they could perfect their machine. They decided to work on it in their spare time. After borrowing a tattoo machine from an amateur tattoo artist, they set about testing the tattoo machine/printer on artificial skin. They decided on a circle to test the precision of their machine and managed to create a perfect circle every time.

The next logical step was to find a person willing to be tattooed by their invention. This was the easy part, as there was no shortage of volunteers willing to be tattooed by a “robot”. The difficulty now lay in repeating the same process on human skin, which is a curved surface and is more flexible than the artificial skin they had used in their tests. They solved this issue by using the inner tube taken from a scooter to keep the skin stretched tight during the tattooing process. Antoine Goupille is now the proud owner of the first ever 3D printed tattoo 

Is this the beginning of the end for human tattoo artists? Not really. Right now, the 3D printer/tattoo machine can only create basic shapes, which is a far cry from some of the amazing works created by human artists. But there are possibilities for the future. It's hard to believe that you could one day print on your skin the way you print on paper with your printer and ink cartridges.

If you want to turn your own 3D printer into a tattoo machine, Pierre, Piotr and Johan have put the instructions on


Nic Venter

About the author

Nic Venter+

 is the founder and director of He started the business in 2009 with the idea to sell ink and toner cartridges online and to provide you with a quality product, value for money and convenience. He regularly blogs on about printing and technology. Part of his philosophy is having fun and making sure that he and his team think everything ink, so you don't have to.

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