In the robot tattoo parlour, nobody cares if you scream

If you keep still, this could be one of the most precise tattoos you get. If you don't? Well...

Curtis Moldrich
5 Aug 2016

In the future, robots will be able to do most of our jobs, and now it looks like even tattoo artists aren’t safe. Two French designers have just created an industrial robot tattooist and the result of its first work is... pretty good to be honest.

Pierre Emm and Johan da Silveira previously made a tattoo robot using a modified MakerBot 3D printer, and swapped out the robot’s plastic extruder for a tattoo gun. But their new project, part of a residency in San Francisco’s Pier 9 is bigger, better and somehow more terrifying. This project doesn’t use a cute 3D printer – it’s a huge industrial robotic arm that looks more at home assembling cars on a production line.

As you’d expect, being tattooed by a robot isn’t as simple as sitting down and choosing from a book, and there’s a lot of preparation involved. Because we humans have limbs of different shapes and sizes, the whole area to be tattooed must be scanned and turned into a 3D model. After that, the tattoo design is mapped onto the model using specialised software, and it’s time to bring in the human volunteer.

One thing is clear from the off – if you’re being tattooed by a robot, you need to keep very still. The robot tattooist looks precise to the point of fault, and unlike its human counterparts, it won’t compensate for any minute movement from the client.

That’s pretty worrying when you consider that the robot is puncturing your skin at something like 150 times a second – but it does mean that if you can keep still, you’re going to get one of the cleanest, most precise tattoos ever.

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