Besides a few outlier designs it’s safe to say once you’ve seen on iPad cover, you’ve pretty much seen them all. INKO by industrial designer Alexandre Echasseriau isn’t all too unique at first glance either…until you notice the entirety of the case and raised tactile keyboard are made from leather. Even more intriguing is the fact the keyboard design and electrical “wiring” wasn’t printed by machine, but tattooed manually into the leather itself.
The INKO is the collaborative effort between Echasseriau and Bare Conductive, whose prototyping medium, Electric Paint, was used to produce the capacitive network between the embossed iPad keyboard drawn into the surface of the leather. Emulating tattooing, the conductive paint was directly injected into (vs. printed onto) the leather skin. Inside, a Bluetooth antenna works to transmit each keystroke signal from the keyboard to the connected iPad, otherwise operating like any other iPad keyboard case.
Tattooing the paint rather than screen printing or painting opened up an opportunity to create a sustainable and robust PCB circuit. The luck was that after a little dilution, the paint could be perfectly tattooed and conducts very well.
Echasseriau’s next step is utilizing this preliminary one-off design and working with a 3D printer to automate the process, injecting circuit designs into leather by machine rather than hand. Perhaps looking beyond is the day when we’ll have circuitry tattooed into our own skin, body hacking with degrees more intimacy than today’s wearable technologies.