Imitating Art in Life with a Reverse-Engineered Tattoo

In general, tattoo artists are not electrical engineers. That’s fine; the world needs both professions. But when you need a circuit designed, you’re better off turning to an EE rather than a tattoo artist. And you certainly don’t want an EE doing your new ink. Disaster lies that way.

Surprisingly, [Missa]’s tattoo of a heart-shaped circuit turned out at least to be plausible design, even if it’s not clear what it’s supposed to do. So her friend [Jeremy Elson] took up the challenge to create a circuit that looked like the tattoo while actually doing something useful. He had to work around the results of tattoo artistic license, like sending traces off to the board’s edge and stranding surface-mount components without any traces. The artist had rendered an 8-pin DIP device, albeit somewhat proportionally challenged, so [Jeremy] went with an ATtiny85, threw on a couple of SMD resistors and a cap, and placed two LEDs for the necessary blinkenlights. Most of the SMDs are fed from traces on the back of the board that resurface through vias, and a small coin cell hidden on the back powers it. One LED blinks “Happy Birthday [Missa]” in Morse, while the other blinks prime numbers from 2 to 23 – we’ll assume this means it was [Missa]’s 23rd birthday.

There’s a surprising amount of crossover between the worlds of electronics and tattooing. We’ve featured functional temporary tattoo circuits, prison-expedient tattoo guns, and even a CNC tattoo machine.

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Tech Tattoos Trace Two Dimensions

Flexible circuit boards bend as you might expect from a playing card, while skin stretches more like knit fabric. The rules for making circuit boards and temporary tattoos therefore need to be different. Not just temporary tattoos, there are also circuits that reside on the skin so no unregulated heat traces, please. In addition to flexing and stretching, these tattoos can be applied to uneven surfaces and remain intact. Circuits could be added to the outside of projects or use the structure as the board to reduce weight and size. Both are possible with the research from Carnegie Mellon’s Soft Machines Lab and the Institute of Systems and Robotics at the University of Coimbra.

These circuits are an improvement over the existing method which relies on cropping away metal foil with a magnifying glass, tweezers and a steady hand. Instead, silver particles are printed with an inkjet printer before the traces are coated in eutectic gallium indium which is liquid metal at room temperature. If we were to oversimplify, we might describe it as similar to a non-toxic equivalent of mercury that we have also seen used in DIY OLEDs. This is a development likely to be interesting in a range of fields from medicine to cosplay.

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Tattoo your 3D Prints with Velocity Painting

Just when it seems like we’ve juiced all the creative potential out of our 3D printers, a bold new feature lands on the table. Enter Velocity Painting, a concept brought to life by [Mark Wheadon] that textures our 3D prints with greyscale images.

At its core, the technique is straightforward: skin an image onto a 3D print by varying the print speed in specific locations and, thereby, varying just how much plastic oozes out of the nozzle. While the concept seems simple, the result is stunning.

Velocity Painting opens up new ways of expression on top of an existing print with all the skinning opportunities. Imagine adding a texture for realism like this rook that’s been patterned with a brick layout, or imagine an aesthetic embellishment like the flames on [Mark’s] dragon print.

The results speak for themselves, and the growing number of users are proving it. Head on over to the gallery to indulge yourself in this delightful oozing aesthetic that’s sure to turn a few heads.

[Mark Wheadon’s] hack takes the mechanics of how we print and adds another creative tuning knob. If you’re looking for other embellishments for your prints, have a look at [David Shorey’s] work on texturizing fabrics.

Living 3D Printer Filament

This is more than a printing filament hack — closer to bleeding edge bio-engineering — but we can’t help but be fascinated by the prospect of 3D printing with filament that’s alive on a cellular level.

The team from MIT led by [Xuanhe Zhao] and [Timothy Lu] have programmed bacteria cells to respond to specific compounds.  To demonstrate, they printed a temporary tattoo of a tree formed of the sturdy bacteria and a hydrogel ‘ink’ loaded with nutrients, that lights up over a few hours when adhered to skin swabbed with these specific stimuli.

So far, the team has been able to produce objects as large as several centimetres, capable of being adapted into active materials when printed and integrated as wearables, displays, sensors and more.

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Tattoos by Robotic Arm With Pinpoint Accuracy

Tattoos are an ancient art, and as with most art, is usually the domain of human expertise. The delicate touch required takes years to master, but with the capacity for perfect accuracy and precision movements, enlisting a robotic arm and some clever software to tattoo a willing canvas is one step closer thanks to the efforts of [Pierre Emm] and [Johan da Silveira].

They began by using a 3D printer modified to ‘print’ with a tattoo needle. Catching the interest of the Applied Research Lab at Autodesk, the next logical step was to use an industrial robot arm get a human under the tattooing machine — dubbed Tatoué — after scanning the limb in question and loading it into Dynamo, their parametric design environment to map the design onto the virtual limb.

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Turning The Makerbot Into A Tattoo Machine

tattoo

ENSCI les Ateliers, the famous design school in Paris, had a “Public Domain Remix” and hackathon recently, with teams splitting up to remix public domain and other free-to-use IP in projects. Most of the teams came up with similar ideas, but one team went above and beyond the call of duty; they turned a 3D printer into a tattoo machine, capable of inking a real, live human test subject.

The build began by plotting a circle with a pen onto a piece of paper. This evolved into printing a tool holder for a tattoo machine graciously provided by an amateur tattoo artist. Tests with “artificial skin” (any one care to hazard a guess at what that is?) were promising, and the team moved on to a human guinea pig.

The biggest problem the team faced is that humans aren’t flat. They tried a few tricks to tighten the skin around the area to be tattooed – metal rings, elastics, and finally the inner tube from a scooter. In the end, the team was able to tattoo a small circle on the forearm of the test subject.

It’s an extremely simple and small tattoo, and scaling this build up to a sleeve would be difficult. A better solution would be to create a point cloud of an arm before going for a much larger tattoo.

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