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Two French students built a 3D-printing tattoo machine

This is impressive, though there's a reason human artists shouldn't worry.


Mike Fenn


Posted on Nov 7, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 6:19 am CDT

The number of amazing things you can 3D print increases every day. Already, the process lets us create video game controllers and prosthetics seemingly out of thin air. Humans have even evolved to the point where we can 3D print food. Now, 3D printing has spread to the world of tattoos.

The French Ministry of Culture recently gathered students from ENSCI Les Ateliers, a renowned design school in Paris, to produce mashups from video, music, and other public domain materials. However, two students decided to take things further—much further. They developed and perfected a machine capable of printing tattoos. After a few test runs, first with ink pens and then with artificial skin, they finally tried it out on a person.

3D PRINTER X TATTOO MACHINE / EP 02 from appropriate audiences on Vimeo.

While this is certainly impressive, human tattoo artists around the world don’t need to fear losing their jobs. The tattoo machine can only imprint designs that have been programmed into a gallery, so it lacks the creativity and flexibility of a human artist. If you want, for example, a permanent image of Pope Francis I, you’ll still have to seek out a live artist.

Image via appropriate audiences/Vimeo

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*First Published: Nov 7, 2014, 10:34 am CST