Nov 4, 2017 | By Julia

Julien Nikolov, a graduate student from the University of Lincoln in the UK, is rethinking the concept of tattoos in his “Metamorphosis” design project. Using 3D printing rather than ink and needles, the designer has created three-dimensional, tactile tattoos that wearers can easily wear and remove.

Perhaps closer to body jewelry, Nikolov’s 3D printed tattoos add tactility (and a dimension) to two-dimensional graphic designs. Using a design software, the student designer was able to create customizable 3D models that can be 3D printed and adhered to the body for an innovative and unique body modification.

Unlike with traditional tattoos, the idea behind the Metamorphosis project was to create “bespoke products for body modification whose final form is ‘open’ and liable to change both physically and digitally.” That is, rather than commit to a particular graphic forever—traditional tattoos are permanent, of course—Nikolov has conceived of a body decoration that is adaptable, changeable, and open.

“The intent of this project was to consider how technological developments could impact populations of people within construct social scenarios,” reads a description of the design project, which was a final year assignment for a Product Design course at the University of Lincoln.

The non-invasive but still visually striking accessories are made using selective laser sintering (SLS) and are printed out of powdered elastomers. Once 3D printed, the flexible tattoos can be put on the wearer’s skin using a bio-friendly, silicone-based adhesive.

With the 3D printed tattoos, wearers can choose when and where to wear the accessories, which can be beneficial to those who have jobs that frown upon tattoos or other body modifications. The 3D printed tattoos could also appeal to those who are hesitant about getting an ink tattoo and committing to a more-or-less permanent body mod.

Of course, the 3D printed tattoos are not a direct alternative to ink tattoos, as they offer something new and unique: three dimensions. “The positive relief effect achieved after application communicates essential design information through both visual and tactile stimulation,” reads the project description.

There’s another big advantage to these printed tattoos too: they don’t hurt. Since no needles are required to create the 3D artworks, those with a low pain threshold might consider getting a Metamorphosis tat over a traditional one.

At the end of the day, it’s up for debate as to whether these 3D printed tattoos offer “a new level of opportunities for self-expression and transformation of the human form.” One thing is for certain though: Nikolov has successfully created a unique application for SLS 3D printing, something that could transform an industrial technology into a cosmetic one. We would wear one.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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