Dimide was founded by a father and son team of structural engineers who got set on a mission to perfect the common c-clamp.
How it all began
One day while doing a routine visit to a local machine shop to discuss prototype parts for one of Mike Costen's clients, he noticed something about clamps. In spite of all the advances in manufacturing tooling with CNC machining, power tools, etc.. one very commonly used tool remained unchanged for over half of a century. Mike Costen, who is also an owner and principal engineer at ASR Engineering, knew that with the improvements in materials, manufacturing methods, and design tools it didn't make any sense for clamps to have remained unchanged for so long. That's when he started trying to design the perfect clamp.
The Impact Compatible Clamp Idea
After 6 iterations of clamp designs and getting sick of using t-handles to struggle to apply enough clamping force he started thinking that there had to be a better way. He quickly realized that mechanics, construction workers and manufacturers (mostly) aren't running around with manual ratchets and hand tools anymore due to one big reason. Power tools had arrived. While power tools had replaced nearly all other manual tools, for some reason they just hadn't made it into the clamping industry yet. Doing a little bit of research it was apparent that Black and Decker had tried to make an automated clamp, though it's lack of power and speed made it worse than common locking clamps.
This lead to the important question, how do you make a clamp that adds the advantages of power tools without any cons?
The answer seemed to be simple, design a clamp that could be used with the popular impact wrench. Impacts easily deliver massive amounts of torque which is why they're popular for tightening & removing difficult nuts along with plenty of other applications. The use of an impact wrench would make tightening a clamp a breeze.
Designing An Impact Compatible Clamp
It became clear that designing a clamp that could withstand the repeated abuse of an impact wrench while remaining lightweight and affordable would be a significant challenge. Fortunately, Mike Costen had over 30 years of experience rising to such design challenges as the principal engineer at ASR Engineering. With the use of advanced Finite Element Analysis (FEA) a structurally optimized clamp body was generated.
As anyone who frequently uses an impact wrench understands, one big issue with impacts is stripping the threads off or shearing the screw due to the high impact torque. To make a screw that could withstand not only tens of cycles of impact wrench abuse but thousands or near limitless cycles it required special design considerations. The threads needed to be hard, durable, and strong enough to withstand impact loading without wearing. This required combining today's best screw manufacturing methods along with today's strongest steel.
Testing Impact Wrench Compatibility
As any engineer and fabricator may appreciate, it's a lot different to design & analyze something than it is to actually physically test it. A clamp that could only handle a few impact load cycles simply wouldn't cut it, we weren't going to ship anything that couldn't handle a lifetime of impact abuse. Of course there is only one way of testing this and being a father and son team with a limited budget we didn't get to setup an automated tester. So we started cycling the clamp thousands of times, which was as monotonous as it sounds.
After about 1,200 cycles the first iteration's screw actually sheared! This lead to a redesign of the screw to increase the shaft diameter. Fortunately with the revised design the screw was now able to handle thousands of cycles without any noticeable wear.
Initial Dimide Clamp Launch
With the initial Dimide Clamp designed, Mike Costen reached out to his son, Emmet Costen, who was also a structural engineer. Emmet having a love of business, engineering, and product development jumped on board and helped work on launching the Dimide Clamp.
The Dimide Clamp was initially launched at Fabtech 2016 during which it went live on Kickstarter. The Kickstarter campaign ended after raising around $14,506 but missing the lofty $70,000 goal. While we didn't meet our goal we did learn a lot.
In spite of the Kickstarter campaign ultimately failing to meet the goal, it did get us the attention we needed to launch the Dimide Clamp. We also were able to hear from hundreds of fabricators and makers about how to improve the clamp and what they were looking for.
Dimide Clamp Feedback
If you want to develop an amazing product you need to listen to what customers and supporters are saying. We were fortunate to be able to attend Fabtech in 2016 and 2017 during which we spoke to over a thousand avid fabricators who all let us know what they were looking for in their ideal clamp. Combining Fabtech with shop visits, feedback from our local fabrication community, Kickstarter back feedback and more and we had a solid list of how to make the perfect clamp.
Our goal became to make an impact compatible Dimide Clamp that met all the following:
- Reduce setup time
- Capable of clamping pipe, sheet, and other sections
- Allow customers to outfit their whole shop
The Perfect Easy-to-Use Clamp
Customers had two repeated comments about the Dimide Clamp's ease-of-use. It was bulky and required two hands.
When you're using a clamp your typically need one hand to hold the part you're clamping and another to hold the clamp. Obviously if you need two hands to hold the clamp then how are you going to hold the part you're clamp?
We heard this time and time again. We started looking at other clamp designs to figure out how we can not only make the clamp single-handed, but also make it the easiest clamp to use. We knew that the pinnacle of single-handed use clamps was the locking or vise-grip clamp. So that became our goal, make a clamp that was easier to use than a locking clamp.
The one thing that has always annoyed us about locking clamps was the constant need to adjust the screw to the proper length before being able to clamp down. So we figured if we could make a single-handed clamp that eliminated this adjustment requirement, then it would become easier to use. The resulting clamp would allow you to just pick up a part and clamp it in one try every time then we would be onto something big.
While we had an impact compatible clamp, we now needed a single-handed impact compatible clamp. Fortunately the most commonly owned impacts on the market had a common solution to this. Thanks to the locking chuck design of impact drivers, we just needed to design a grooved 1/4" hex into our screw. With this you can handle an impact driver and tighten the clamp to high loads with only one hand. This frees up your second hand for holding the part you were clamping, while allowing for significantly more clamping force compared to a locking clamp, and eliminates the need to adjust an annoying screw!
If you're going to be operating a tool single-handedly then you have to make that tool lightweight. Fortunately, by designing the Dimide 1/4 Series Clamp for use with a 1/4" impact driver instead of a 1/2" impact wrench we were able to take out a significant amount of weight. This has made the Dimide 1/4 Series 6" Clamp weigh only 2.8 lbs. The clamp and impact driver are now easy enough to lift with just one hand over and over again.
Some of our biggest customers, have been adopting our clamps for ergonomics purposes. Their workers were starting to get wrist injuries after repeatedly manual tightening of clamps, fasteners, and anything else. To solve this their goal was to make everything use a "gun" and by gun they were referring to impact drivers. This also had the added benefit of speeding up work since an impact driver is 10x faster than manual tightening.
They ran into trouble when they were searching for a clamp that allowed them to clamp down with their preferred power tool. Fortunately they discovered us very early on and put the Dimide Clamp into practice. Since then we noticed that they were only using 1/4" impact drivers, we presume because those vibrate far less than heavy 1/2" impact wrenches. However, they were using our HD Series Clamps which were specifically designed for 1/2" impact wrench use and therefore had a lot of extra weight in them which wasn't needed for 1/4" impact driver use. This made making a clamp specifically for 1/4" impact drivers a priority as it could improve ergonomics and prevent wrist injuries in shops all around the world.
There is a reason NASCAR was one of the first groups to adopt the impact wrench. When you're in a pit stop every second matters, so the advantage in speed an impact wrench delivers over a wrench can make the difference between winning and losing a race.
Today fabrication isn't much different than a NASCAR pit stop. The faster you can make a quality part the more competitive you are and the more work you can win. That's why our goal was to help allow fabricators to work faster by spending less time setting up welds and more time welding. Adding impact compatibility speeds up setup times significantly by removing the clamping bottleneck that comes with manually tightening clamps. Impact compatibility also makes it so you no longer have to choose between clamping force and clamping speed. Not only do your setup times speed up, your parts are better secured to prevent anything from moving during the weld process allowing you to reach for the grinder less often.
Another comment that was recurring were special requests for unique features that would make the clamp work for different unique jobs. Instead of designing unique one off high cost solutions for each customer, we set out to design one clamp that could be easily modified to perfectly fit every customer's needs. This significantly decreases the cost of making a unique tool for a unique job. It also allows the clamp to be used for pipe, sheet metal, wood, welding, lifting, and more.
We didn't want to make a clamp that only the most successful shops could afford, we wanted to make a tool for fabricators everywhere. This is why we set out to make the Dimide 1/4 Series Clamp affordable without sacrificing quality or performance. To drive down price we focused heavily on design for manufacturing and assembly. The plate designs had to be optimized for a stamping press. Care was taken to remove every weld. Every clamp had to be able to be assembled with ease and without the potential for a mistake to lead to rejecting clamps. Every part of the design that was optimized for manufacturing and assembly would lead to cost savings for our customers.
Today, too many manufacturers are putting out cheap tools that simply don't last long enough. Maybe its because of our engineering pride, but we refuse to put out a tool that we aren't confident will last the customer a life time. That's why when a screw fails in testing after 1,200 cycles we decide that we need to go back and improve the design until the screw simply doesn't fail even after a lifetime of use. Of course you can't design something to be indestructible, so we have taken extra care to ensure that the side plates of the clamp start to bend slightly before the screw is ever damaged. This makes it so that even when someone overloads the clamp, with a breaker bar or similar tool, they are given a warning before the clamp ever breaks.
Coming To Kickstarter | Finalizing Design
The Dimide 1/4 Series Clamp will launch on Kickstarter where becoming a backer will guarantee you to be one of the first customers to ever obtain your clamp. Not only will you be one of the first to obtain your clamp, you will also be able to give feedback on the clamp's design, ideas for modular jaws and other features before the design is finalized.
Reach goals will be used to determine which peripheral jaws and components will launch first. The more backers that support the Dimide 1/4 Series Clamp will allow for more peripherals and capabilities to launch with the clamp.
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