UO HACKTIVE: PERSONAL TATTOO MACHINE

April 22, 2016

A celebration of talented creatives and entrepreneurial initiatives, UO HACKTIVE is a community of creators.

UO HACKTIVE acts as a global creative cloud, pushing boundaries and pioneering new technology. It is a celebration of independent practices; the space where art overlaps with music, fashion and tech. Digitally enabled, we are searching, finding, gathering and sharing alternative visions.


We caught up with Jakub Pollag, the creator of a 3D printed self-tattoo machine, which aims to democratise the tattoo industry. Over to you, Jakub…



The personal tattoo machine was my graduation project from the Royal College of Art.

I have been doing tattoos using the ‘stick and poke’ method for some time. When I first landed on the idea of making a self-tattoo machine, it was inspired by prison tattoos. Prisoners build their own machines from scrap materials to tattoo themselves. I first built a machine after this style from pictures and research in order to test the idea. You can see the process involved from the image below.



The machine is made from a VCR motor, bic pen, shirt button, tape, battery and string.

After that, I tried to build one using sterile disposable components. I then underwent a long period of research when I learned how the various machines work. As this stage, I was constantly improving my design. I was essentially hoping to create a link between the professional machine and the homemade one. I wanted to create a simple kit that is easy and safe to use.

The prototype is 3D printed, but it was designed for plastic injection moulding. It consists of a simple DC motor, 9V battery and off-center cam that moves the needle up and down.

The most challenging aspect of the project was to make it as safe as possible. This involved reading various government guidelines, codes of practice and health and safety manuals. I had to go through the research ethics committee at the Royal College of Art and have never-ending discussions with tattoo artists.

I’ve given myself quite a few tattoos with the machine and I’ve also tattooed more than 30 of my friends. I personally tested every prototype and every step in development, so I have a little sample scribble book on my leg.



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