A 30-year-old Harvard business school grad from Queens, NY, may just be about to turn the printing and cosmetic industries upside-down in one fell swoop.
Grace Choi recently stunned attendees of a hackathon called MHacks at the University of Michigan by tearing apart an ordinary, 2D printer and converting it into a 3D printer for make-up.
After the hackathon, she posted a video of herself transforming a simple $70 Hewlett Packard printer into a one-stop shop for custom eye-shadow, lipstick, blush and even nail polish.
Once a printer is hacked, all that makeup enthusiasts need to do is select a color in Photoshop from a personal photo or a picture on the internet, enlarge it to a full page, and print it out on a small tray containing their chosen cosmetic using edible or vegetable ink.
For eyeshadow and other powdered products, the color will only print on the surface of a white powder base, but Choi actually considers this an advantage of her design. People only have to print as much makeup as they need, and then they can reuse the base for another color.
Since coming up with her discovery, Choi has founded a company called Mink, which she hopes to use to sell her printers to makeup enthusiasts everywhere. She went through about 20 printers before she settled on the one that would become the Mink prototype printer. At the moment she’s funding the one-woman company with her savings account.
Choi told CNBC that “We’re giving women the power to have what they want, when they want it,” and calls her invention the “visual iTunes for beauty.” She hopes her invention will disrupt the beauty and printing industries.
According to research from Consumer Report, many printer ink cartridge models delivered half or less of their ink to the page. Choi’s invention will help people get more out of their printers, as well as dodge high prices for makeup at department stores.
Choi also hopes the Mink printer will help girls build self-confidence by controlling their own look. “It’s finally training our girls to understand the definition of beautiful should be in their control,” she told CNBC, “Not the corporations.”