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Bishop Rotary

Machinist Clint Clark improves on old-school ink-delivery devices

Reality TV star and competitive biker Carey Heart is getting a new tattoo based a portrait of his wife, pop singer Pink. The tattoo artist is Orange County’s Franco Vescovi, who is also testing his new tattoo machine, a prototype made with Alibre Design.

Alibre user and machinist Clint Clark helped Vescovi to design, prototype, and set up the initial runs of production. “A friend of mine put me in touch with Franco, who wanted to develop his own line of tattoo machines. He had the basic concept of what he wanted to do but needed me to help him turn it into reality.”

Clark modeled the assembly of the tattoo machine in Alibre and suggested adjustments for easier manufacturability. He also built the first aluminum prototype parts for Vescovi’s new company, called Bishop Rotary.

“I finished the design about a year and a half ago and the machines went into production in March of 2010, and to date he had sold almost 300 of them. Honestly, right now Franco has more orders to fill than he has product,” says Clark. “He recently purchased his own milling machines to boost production.”

Threading the Needle

“Instead of using electric coils – what you’d see inside a normal tattoo machine -- this machine actually uses a motor with a cam that turns the rotary motion into a linear motion,” Clark explains.

The inner mechanics of the Bishop Rotary machine are old school. As in the “electric pen” patent of the 1800s (initially intended for engraving) a simple electric motor drives the motion. Tattoo artists adopted the rotary-type machine for skin and used it for decades, until a competing method -- called dual coil – surged in popularity in the 1970s.

Today’s artists, however, are rediscovering the rotary machine for its numerous advantages. While coil guns can be used either for line work or shading but not both, rotary machines can be used interchangeably, letting an artist complete an entire tattoo without ever changing instruments.

“I wouldn’t say this design is completely novel,” says Clark. “There are other machines that use this method, but I think this one is unique in its function in the way it holds a needle. If you’re not familiar with tattoo machines, to keep the needle from bouncing around they typically use rubber bands. This particular machine actually has a clip that rigidly holds the needle. You don’t have to worry about the rubber band breaking or the needle coming loose when drawing.”

“It’s quiet, lightweight, it actually gets the tattoo done quicker,” says Vescovi, as he continues work on Carey Heart’s latest piece. “And believe it or not, it hurts less, because you don’t have to grind it as much.”

Low-cost production, high-value products

Clark worked on the tattoo machine project on the off hours of his day job, where Clark uses Alibre Design Professional to build precision tooling for new products at Mission Viejo-based Q-Mark Manufacturing. Most of Q-Mark’s Coordinate Measuring Machine tooling usually contains only one or two components.

The simplicity of the products at Q-Mark, like the Bishop Rotary, doesn’t justify the use of a high priced modeling application, says Clark. Alibre’s parametric modeling gives designers all the tools to make useful and popular products, without immediately draining away the incentive for profit. “It’s definitely Alibre’s price point that makes it attractive,” says Clark.

Precision that comes from the professional software tools also gives Clark the confidence to stand behind his design, or in this case, sit beneath. “I was the first person to be tattooed by Bishop Rotary’s test prototype,” says Clark. “It’s a great horned owl that pretty well covers my entire back. So I can honestly say from experience that the machine doesn’t hurt as much as a coil machine, and it is virtually silent.”

3D model and manufacturing drawings: Alibre Design Expert

About Alibre, Inc.
Alibre is the leading global provider of cost effective professional grade mechanical CAD, CAM, and PDM solutions. Founded in 1997, Richardson, Texas-based Alibre is led by Chairman and CEO J. Paul Grayson (previously CEO of Micrografx) and other graphics visionaries who are changing the landscape of 3D mechanical CAD/CAM software. Alibre develops Alibre Design™ and Alibre CAM™, the fastest growing parametric CAD/CAM solutions on the market. A small fraction of the cost of comparable software, Alibre Design offers the same core features as SolidWorks, Pro/E, Inventor, and other mid-range solid modeling packages at a cost that is affordable to any business or individual. Alibre CAM extends Alibre Design to provide integrated 2 1/2 to 5 axis CNC machining. Used by an immensely diverse user base, Alibre Design and Alibre CAM provide design and manufacturing solutions to Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, consulting firms, machine shops, start-ups, hobbyists, inventors, teachers and students. Alibre products are distributed in 50 countries and in 15 languages. For more information on Alibre, or for a free trial of Alibre Design and Alibre CAM, please visit All trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.