Admittedly, I am a multi-tool user as probably most engineers are no matter what field they are in and I can say with certainty that not all multi-tools are the same.
I’ve owned a Leatherman Sidekick, a Gerber Multi-Plier 600 (needlnose) and a SOG S66N and while they all are great in their own right, they do have their drawbacks, most notably of which is quickly gaining access to the multitude of tools packed tightly within, without slicing myself in the process.
Sure, using my multi-tools around the house isn’t anything special and, all cuts aside, does not pose any major health concerns. Soldiers on the other hand need to be able to access their multi-tools quickly in certain situations to accomplish any given tasks, with one of those situations being under heavy fire.
Imagine, 1) trying to first gain access to the multi-tool among the array of pouches and 2) trying to open those tools while wearing gloves and 3) while being shot at – you get the picture.
Army veteran and MIT engineer Christian Reed took it upon himself to design a multi-tool that does away with those issued by making it easily accessible and easy to use- even while wearing gloves. He designed his first prototype of the GRIPsher while serving overseas and as you could imagine, it wasn’t easy to accomplish.
I will let Christian describe the design process he went through to create his GRIPsher Multi-Tool, which was started using SolidWorks to create the design where he “began to sketch out some designs (while deployed) and eventually made the first GRIPsher CAD model. As is often the case when designing strictly in CAD (without any calipers on hand either), it was much smaller than I wanted it to be. I learned this when I sent an STL model back to my friends in the states to get printed.”
Apparently, government funding does not include stipends for 3D printers, a tool you would think they would capitalize on. Regardless, when he returned home he bought an Flashforge 3D Printer to continue prototyping his multi-tool, but switched it out for a Formlabs Form 2 to gain greater detail in less time.
At this point, the design process was streamlined and he printed a few more ‘Gen-1’ models of the GRIPsher, which allowed him to focus on areas of the tool that needed reinforcing. “So using a split screen, I made an entirely new model using larger dimensions, but also added and changed a few features. I took more time to better define my model and use [sketch and assembly] relationships so changes would not blow up everything once they were made,” explains Christian.
“At this point, I was getting close to the final design, so I began to use a waterjet to cut a few 2D samples and test things like the bottle opener, making sure the arms were strong enough to support testing the green jaws on the bottom. I was still using the Form 2 to help either make parts that I would attach to the metal ones I had already made or for models to represent the final shape and fit I wanted to test.”
Prototyping with ABS, PLA or other filaments can only take you so far when prototyping and testing tool designs, so it was time for the stainless steel phase of his endeavor. “3D printing had certainly reduced my cost and increased the speed at which I could iterate, but I needed to test some of the more intricate functions. The first round of Stainless Steel prototypes came out well and I only made a few changes, adding a feature or two for the second round (which is the one seen on Kickstarter).”
He then though of integrating additional features into the design based on user feedback as well as what he thought should be included to give it increased functionality, but sometimes design changes don’t always work out. “One that I had originally wanted to put in was tweezers (which I thought would be a pretty easy thing to do). However, this turned out to be problematic, as designing one that could actuate the way I wanted to proved to be harder than I thought,” said Christian.
The final design of the GRIPsher Multi-Tool was introduced on Kickstarter in September with the funding goal surpassed in just a few days. It ended with successful funding of over $50,000, which says a lot with the GRIPsher Multi-Tool costing only $35. Along with regular pledges, veterans and active military members were able to get theirs free–You read that right, Christian is providing his multi-tool to those who are serving or have served in the military at no cost.
What’s more, civilians have the option of pledging $60 or more, which will get them their own tool and have an additional tool donated to an active military service member. For more information on the GRIPsher Multi-Tool head to their Kickstarter site – they’ll have more on their website along with orders soon.