It doesn’t take a body long to have a good look around in today’s world and be struck by an odd notion. To quote a dear friend of mine, “We live in the future, man.” Think about it…it’s true. We’re just a scratch over a hundred years since the known beginning of powered flight, and Mars is in our sights. Lasers, Fiber Optics, 3D Mass-forging…this is some serious Buck Rogers stuff, here, kids. The world’s knowledge. All of it. Right in our pockets. Times have definitely changed, so it was natural that our little industry experience some change, as well. So here we go, a little follow-up and addendum to our last segment on the Coil/Rotary rivalry.
Allow me to begin by saying that this is in no way an exhaustive list of all the latest technology making waves in the tattoo biz. This is intended to give you, the intrepid reader, a taste of what’s new and some ‘grist-for-the-mill’ when it comes to making intelligent tattoo choices.
I’ll leave the machines out of this, with the exception of mentioning that builders have been essentially over-engineering the formula of the tried and true coil machines. Some of these improvements include the use of semi-magnetic and non-ferrous metals and exotic alloys in the frame construction to boost or shape the magnetic torus produced by the coils. Using such alloys also has the benefit of improved heat dissipation, light weight, better vibration absorption (less noise), and greater resistance to expansion or contraction due to atmospheric conditions than a standard cold steel or ductile iron frame would offer. There are even some builders out there experimenting with non-metallic and semi-metallic composites, and having no small amount of success.
Now, on to the business end. Needles. Needles are needles, right? WRONG. You may not know it, but your artist has a bevy of options in choosing the most basic of elements in your tattoo process…the humble needle. There are long-taper and short-taper, textured and non-textured, differing metallurgies that wear differently with use (for those really long tattoos), and that’s just the actual pokey bit. Then there’s the configuration. Do we use a flat shader? A magnum shader? Woven or stacked? Do we use a round shader, instead? A round liner? A tight one, or a loose one? It can boggle the mind of the uninitiated.
Additionally, there are the new cartridge systems. These little beauties are a self-contained, return-sprung encased needle grouping which are actuated in a strictly linear fashion by the drive bar attached to the machine cam or armature bar. Need to switch from a liner to a shader? No more need to unclip your machine, pick up an entirely separate unit, plug in, and spend the next 3-10 minutes adjusting your machine to this particular skin type. A quarter-twist and a light tug and out it pops, grab the new unit, pop it in, quarter twist, and off you go. 2.5 seconds, at best. I, personally, love ’em.
Power supply tech has taken a nice turn, also. Gone are the days of the 50 pound boat anchor of a power unit. I literally donated mine to a tattooing history museum. I tattooed with the thing for 8 years! No, these slick new units are small, thin, light and VERY precise. They can not only store settings for multiple users/machines, but they can also track total machine run-time, and if provided rate input, can even tally your running cost for the tattoo session so you don’t have to. Hey…the meter don’t lie, lady. To complement these magic boxes are a new concept in switchcraft for tattooing; touchless switching. I have seen both Infrared and Digital Signal Modulation around the 3GHz range employed with great successes, and this represents a significant impact in the arena of contamination control.
With the incredible influx of raw art talent; formally educated and self-made, and the recent acceleration in tech development in the tattoo industry, our future has never looked brighter. If you look hard enough on the internet, you’ll find that some bold pioneers are already attempting to integrate 3D printing/plotting technology with tattoo application. Pay attention, people. You are witnessing the infancy of what is to become a ubiquitous technology that will change almost everything. With the winds of change blowing as hard as they are, it is up to those of us above-decks to hoist the sails and run this great ship into the next evolution of body art.
Stay tuned, and don’t fear the Sky Net, kids. Your toaster can’t become self aware and kill you…yet.