So I gave this a bit of thought and came up with a solution. Here is my shuttle tatting with the look of needle!
The top one is needle tatted and
the bottom one is shuttle tatted.
Can you see how they are just about as chunky as each other.
But for me, the shuttle tatting is much smoother, consistent and lies flat
(as in, no twisting of the elements)
I had already thought about this when I made my roses for which I also wanted chunkier petals. For that pattern, I had doubled up my thread after having made the centre ring with a single thread. It worked well. But in this case, as you are moving from chains to rings, you cannot have a doubled thread as you end up with four thicknesses (two core and two working).
My solution was to attach a loop of thread (in this case I'm using size 10) to my shuttle going down the side of the bobbin so it doesn't get tangled up with the thread of the shuttle. You then make the stitches with three thicknesses as your core but you pull the loop back out of your stitches before finishing the chain or closing the ring. It isn't as difficult or complicated or time-consuming as it sounds! And it works really well to give the chunky look of needle but (for me) the ease and consistency of tatting with a shuttle.
The extra loop only needs to be about 6-7 inches long
so it's easy to pull it back out and it doesn't get in the way.
In fact when closing rings, it just pulls back out
by itself as you close the ring, so no extra work involved at all.
So there you are. I realise this is probably a minority interest and I don't know if anyone will find this useful but for me, it solved a problem and enabled me to create a tatted piece with the look I was after.