NEW YORK — The last thing anyone plunking down serious cash for a piece of permanent art on their body wants is for a tired tattoo artist to get a hand cramp. But it's easy to see it happening, given the clunky, solid stainless steel equipment artists usually work with.
While the general perception of tattoos has moved with the times, the equipment has not — until now. Enter Solvay Special Polymers, the Alpharetta, Ga., based arm of the Belgian materials firm, and its Radel polyphenylsulfone (PPSU).
Working with innovative Chicago-based tattoo equipment company Morphix Inc., the materials supplier was able to help create lighter and more ergonomic grips for tattoo artists. The companies introduced their innovation to the medical device world at the MD&M East trade show held June 9-11 in New York.
“Tattoo artists' hands take a beating,” Morphix President and CEO Todd Myers said in a joint news release. “Between the heavy equipment, constant vibration and repetitive motion, many artists battle with wrist and digital pain throughout their career. Our redesigned grips are a lot lighter and more comfortable than standard metal grips, and they give artists better control.”
The Humbolt and Flatiron tattoo needle grips, made from injection molded PPSU weigh in at 60 grams and 56 grams respectively — a far cry from the 160-gram stainless steel cylindrical grips most artists are used to.
Solvay considers the grips “healthcare-adjacent” in the United States — though other countries such as Brazil regulate tattoo equipment as medical devices — so they fall under Solvay's healthcare line because of the level of sterilization the finished product must withstand, said Maria Gallahue-Worl, global healthcare business manager for Solvay Specialty Polymers.
The Radel PPSU grips can withstand as many as 1,000 sterilization cycles without degradation or loss of tensile strength, the companies said.
Fighting fatigue, stiff sterilization requirements and overall high expectations were requirements Solvay is accustomed to hearing, particularly as the medical device and surgical instrumentation markets move away from metals and toward plastics.
“All the same things apply to surgeons,” Gallahue-Worl said. “It really is specific to what we do.”