Title:
Clamp for bundling, servicing and supporting cables, wire lines and other control lines
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A body is molded from elastomer, preferably polyurethane, and has a hinge at one end of the body between the two arms which make up the body. A pair of metal inserts are embedded within the arms of the body, respectively, and are positioned such that three bolts can be turned to bring the two arms closer together to clamp whatever control lines are positioned between the two arms. The two arms are molded such that there is a slight separation of the two arms until the three bolts are torqued up to cause the elastomer arms to distort and firmly clamp the control lines being clamped. The two inserts, as well as the three bolts, are preferably fabricated from stainless steel but may also be fabricated from other metals, or from very hard plastic.



Inventors:
Mcclure, Lawrence M. (Katy, TX, US)
Whitefield, William H. (Houston, TX, US)
Application Number:
10/836789
Publication Date:
11/03/2005
Filing Date:
04/30/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E02D5/62; F16L3/10; (IPC1-7): E02D5/62
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
STERLING, AMY JO
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Matthews, Lawson, McCutcheon & Joseph, PLLC (HOUSTON, TX, US)
Claims:
1. A clamp for bundling a plurality of control lines, comprising: a unitary elastomer body having first and second arms, each of said arms having first and second ends, and an elastomer hinge, which is integral to said first and second arms and which is integrally formed between a first end of said first arm and the first end of said second arm; a first insert embedded within said first arm and a second insert embedded within said second arm; plurality of partially threaded fasteners located within said elastomer body which, when tightened, pulls said first and second arms together to thereby clamp a plurality of control lines between said first and second arms.

2. The clamp according to claim 1 wherein said elastomer body is molded polyurethane and said first and second inserts are fabricated from a material which is harder than said elastomer body.

3. The clamp according to claim 1 wherein said elastomer body is molded polyurethane and said inserts are fabricated from metal.

4. The clamp according to claim 1 wherein said elastomer body is molded polyurethane and said inserts are fabricated from stainless steel.

5. The clamp according to claim 1 wherein said fasteners are metal bolts, each having a threaded first end and which are fabricated from stainless steel.

6. The clamp according to claim 5 wherein said plurality of threaded fasteners comprises three stainless steel bolts.

7. The clamp according to claim 1 wherein said first arm, said second arm and said hinge are molded as a single piece.

8. The clamp according to claim 1 wherein said first arm, said second arm and said hinge are molded as a single piece of polyurethane having a given hardness and said inserts are manufactured from a hard plastic having a greater hardness than said given hardness.

9. The clamp according to claim 8 wherein said fasteners are fabricated from a material which is harder than the hardness of said polyurethane body

10. 10-12. (canceled)

13. A clamp for bundling a plurality of control lines, comprising: a unitary elastomer body having first and second arms, each of said arms having first and second ends, and an elastomer hinge, which is integral to said first and second arms and which is integrally formed between a first end of said first arm and the first end of said second arm; a first thru-port in said elastomer body having a configuration defined by said first and second arms, wherein said configuration is distorted by causing said first and second arms to come together, and which is distorted even more by forcing said arms one against the other.

14. The clamp according to claim 13, wherein said first thru-port configuration is circular prior to being distorted, but which becomes oval shaped as a result of the distortion.

15. The clamp according to claim 14 wherein a second thru-port in said elastomer body has a configuration defined by said first and second arms, wherein said configuration is distorted by causing first and second arms to come together and which is distorted even more by forcing said arms one against the other.

16. The clamp according to claim 15 wherein said second thru-port has one or more control lines bundled therein.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates generally to the field of clamping devices for securing hydraulic, pneumatic and electrical control hose bundles and various other control lines, such as a wire line and also control mechanisms for being able to control subsurface equipment from a offshore rig or offshore vessel. However, the invention has other applications, and can be used to clamp hoses, control lines and the like in various other applications.

One or more hoses or tube bundles used in oil well drilling and production is typically made up of a plurality of individual or single line electrical lines or pneumatic or hydraulic hoses bundled together to make a compact design and having a plastic outer sheath. The diameter of the hose bundle varies with respect to the desired number and size of hoses utilized. Typically in an offshore drilling operation such a bundle is used to transmit hydraulic or pneumatic fluid under pressure from control equipment located on an offshore oil well platform to a wellhead control system, or to a control pod for a sub-sea blowout preventer stack. The hose or tube bundle is flexible and generally extends for several hundred up to several thousand feet or more. Because the tube bundle is flexible and must extend several hundred feet or more from a surface platform to a control pod or a blowout preventer stack, it is necessary to attach the tube bundle to some type of support structure, which may be a cable, choke or kill lines or some supporting member of various tubulars such as a riser.

It is known to attach the tube bundle to a series of clamps spaced along the extended cable. A type of control hose clamp known includes two clamping sections, often pivotally connected by an exterior hinge and having an over-center or off-center latch securing the control bundle and the wireline between the two sections. Such control bundle clamps are manufactured in various sizes to conform to the various sizes of tube bundles utilized.

As offshore platforms and floating drilling rigs have ventured into deeper waters, the environment has become more of a problem to operating sub-surface through control hose bundles. The currents may be worse because of depth or even because of the area and the temperature of the water may even be a negative factor to the life of the control hose bundle. A light polyurethane that is utilized as the outer coating on such tube bundles has a tendency to get torn up. The tube bundles are extremely expensive, and since it may be necessary to shut down a drilling rig if a control hose bundle is damaged to the extent that the control pod may not be operable, maintaining the integrity of the bundles is a very important consideration.

In the known type of hose bundle clamps, the metal arms of the clamp often will degrade the tube hose bundle around the clamped portion as the marine forces cause flexing of the intermediate sections of the control bundles. The effective weight of the clamp becomes a very big factor when using the clamps in very deep water. It is a very well known fact that solid metal weighs essentially the same whether in the open air or submerged in water. If one places a metal clamp every twenty to thirty feet along a depth of five to ten thousand feet, such clamps may add an additional twenty pounds of weight at each of those twenty-foot locations. This additional weight can be a very negative factor. The elastomer body clamps, according to the present invention, having metal inserts embedded in elastomer bodies, weigh considerably less when submerged in water than in open air. As an example, the clamp may weigh twenty points in the open air and five pounds when submerged in water. This differential is of course governed by the amount of water displaced by the elastomer clamp having metal inserts embedded therein.

It is also known in the prior art that the prior art clamps used frequently are more complex and are manufactured from a multiplicity of pieces.

It is also known that with prior art clamps, they frequently fail to provide a uniform clamping pressure upon hoses or control lines being clamped.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an isomeric, pictorial view of the clamp according the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a top plan view of the clamp illustrated in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an elevated, isometric view of a metal insert which is used in the clamp according to FIGS. 1 and 2;

FIG. 4 is a top plan view of the flange located on the clamp illustrated in FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a side, elevated view of the insert illustrated in FIG. 3;

FIG. 6 is a elevated, isometric view of a second metal insert which is used in the clamp according to FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a top plan view of the top flange of the insert illustrated in FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 is a side, elevated view of the insert illustrated in FIG. 6;

FIG. 9 is an end view of the insert illustrated in FIG. 6;

FIG. 10 is a top plan view of the clamp illustrated in FIG. 1, having in dotted lines the metal inserts and passageways through the body of the clamp illustrated in FIG. 1;

FIG. 11 is a top plan view of the mold which is used to mold the clamp illustrated in FIG. 1, and having the inserts illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 6 positioned within the mold prior to pouring the elastomer mixture into the mold;

FIG. 12 illustrates a top plan view of the two inserts which are placed into the mold illustrated in FIG. 11;

FIG. 13 is an elevated view of one of three pins which are used to hold one of the inserts in the mold illustrated in FIG. 11;

FIG. 14 is an elevated view of one of three pins which are used to hold a second insert which is placed into the mold illustrated in FIG. 11;

FIG. 15 is a top plan view of an artist's conception of the clamp according to FIG. 1 and showing the two inserts in place within the elastomer body of the clamp and also showing three bolts which are used to position the two halves of a clamp according to the invention together; and

FIG. 16 is a side view of one of the three bolts which are used to hold the two halves of the clamp together according to the present invention.

PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION

Referring now to the drawings in more detail, FIG. 1 is a pictorial, isometric view of the clamp 10 in accordance with the present invention. The main body 12 of the clamp 10 is basically of molded elastomer construction but has a pair of metal inserts enclosed within the body 12 which are illustrated further hereinafter. The body 12 has, in the preferred embodiment, four thru-ports 14, 16, 18 and 20. The large thru-port 18 is typically used to bundle an umbilical of a plurality of electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic lines (not illustrated). It should be appreciated that any number of thru-ports can be included in the mold for the clamp 10 and the four thru-ports 14, 16, 18 and 20 are shown merely for purposes of illustrating the invention. The thru-port 20 can be used to clamp around a wireline (not illustrated). The thru-port 16 can, by way of example, be used to clamp around a winch cable (not illustrated).

The clamp 10 illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2 also includes three bolts 22, 24 and 26 which are used to pull the two halves 28 and 30 closer together to clamp around the cables or control lines in using the clamp 10 in operation. It should be appreciated that the term “arm” is sometimes used herein as being synonymous with each of the two halves 28 and 30. This is especially the case when the claims call for first and second arms which are joined together at their first ends by the elastomer hinge 32.

The clamp 10 has a molded elastomer hinge 32 which is an integral part of the molded elastomer body 10. In using the clamp 10, illustrated in FIG. 1, before the bolts 22, 24 and 26 are used to tighten up the two halves 28 and 30 to clamp around the cables or other lines held within the thru-ports 16, 18 and 20, or even before the bolts are even partially threaded into the body 12, the halves 28 and 30 can be easily rotated around the pivotal hinge 32 to open up the two halves 28 and 30 as desired to clamp around the cables or other lines.

The present invention contemplates that the body of the clamp, including the two arms and the integral hinge, are molded from an elastomer. As used herein, the word “elastomer” and any derivatives of that word are meant to include any thermo-setting material, either natural or synthetic, including natural and synthetic rubber, nitrile rubber, butyl rubber, polysulfide rubber, TPO rubber and polyurethane rubber. Although the preferred embodiment of this invention relates to the use of a polyurethane elastomer to mold the body, other such elastomers will also function to serve as the body of the clamp, according the present invention.

Referring now to FIGS. 3, 4 and 5, there is illustrated an insert 40. The insert 40 includes a top flange 42 and a lower flange 44 and a plate 46 between the two flanges 42 and 44. The top flange 42 is illustrated as a top-plan view in FIG. 4 but it should be appreciated that the lower flange 44 and the top flange 42 are identical except as to their location with respect to the plate 46. The flange 42 has a pair of extension arms 48 and 50 and a semicircular center portion 54 between the two ends 48 and 50. The plate 46 has three thru-ports 60, 62 and 64 which pass through the plate 46 of the insert 40 for receiving bolts 22, 24 and 26, described hereinafter.

FIGS. 6, 7 and 8 illustrate a second insert 70 which has a pair of flanges 100 and 102 and having a plate 104 between the two flanges. Flange 100 has two extending arms 94 and 96 and a semicircular portion 98 there between. The first end portion of the plate 104 has a pair of thru-ports 80 and 82 and the other end portion of the plate 104 has a thru-port 84. The thru-ports 80, 82 and 84 are constructed to line up with the thru-ports 60, 62 and 64, illustrated in FIGS. 3, 4 and 5.

The thru-ports 60, 62 and 64 are threaded and are sized such as to be slightly undersized with respect to the male thread 304 of bolt 300, illustrated in FIG. 16. Because the internal thread of thru-ports 60, 62 and 64 is slightly undersized, the bolts such as bolts 300 have to be torqued up to pass through the thru-ports and can thus not easily fall out of the thru-ports 60, 62 and 64. This is a major advantage in that if the bolts were able to fall out of the clamps, they could fall where they should not, such as into the wellbore or any of the other areas underneath where the clamps are being used or stored. This type of thread assembly is generally referred to as having a “captive thread” and as such, prevents the bolts either from being easily removed from the thru-ports 60, 62 and 64 or being inserted into such thru-ports.

It should be appreciated that the insert 70 of FIG. 6 is essentially identical to the insert 40 of FIG. 3 other than for the fact of having a threaded boss welded into and lined up with each of the thru-ports 80, 82 and 84 to threadedly receive a bolt. Although not illustrated, the thru-ports 82 and 84 also have such a boss such as the boss 110 to threadedly receive a bolt, as hereinafter described.

Although some parts of the inserts are welded together, they may also be made by well known casting processes.

Referring now to FIG. 9, the insert 70 is illustrated as an elevated, end view, in which the threaded boss 110 is more clearly illustrated. In the preferred embodiment of this invention, the boss 110 extends from the plate 104 out to the extreme dimension of the flange 100, as illustrated in FIG. 9. Again, it should be appreciated that the thru-ports 80, 82 and 84 each have a boss such as the boss 110.

Referring now to FIG. 10, there is illustrated a top plan view of the clamp 10, according the present invention as illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, but which in FIG. 10 illustrate in dotted lines, the inserts 40 and 70 embedded within the elastomeric body 12 of FIGS. 1 and 2. A thru-port 120 leading through the elastomeric body 12 is aligned with the thru-port 60 in the insert of FIG. 3. A thru-port 122 in the elastomer body 12 is aligned with the thru-port 62 illustrated in FIG. 3. A thru-port 124 is aligned with the thru-port 64 illustrated in FIG. 4. The thru-port 62 in FIG. 10 is aligned with a thru-port 63 in the molded elastomer body 12. A thru-port 64 in the insert 40 is aligned with a thru-port 65 in the molded elastomer body 12.

A thru-port 66 in the molded elastomer body 12 is aligned not only with the thru-port 61 but also with the thru-port 80 and also with the boss 110 which is not illustrated in this figure. In a similar way, a thru-port 71 in the molded elastomer body 12 is aligned with the thru-port 82 illustrated in FIG. 6 into a threaded boss which is also not illustrated in this figure.

A thru-port 124 in the molded elastomer body 12 is aligned with the thru-port 64 illustrated in FIG. 5 which in turn is aligned with a thru-port 65 in the molded elastomer body 12.

Another thru-port 67 in the molded elastomer body 12 is aligned not only with the thru-port 65 but also with the thru-port 84 illustrated in FIG. 6 and also with a boss similar to boss 110 but which is not illustrated in this figure.

Referring now to FIG. 11, there is illustrated a mold 200 which is used for manufacturing the clamp 10 illustrated in FIG. 10. The mold 200 has a rectangular shaped body 202, machined out of solid steel, and having end walls 204 and 206 and side walls 208 and 210. In order to mold a clamp 10 such as is shown in FIG. 10, and which has a nominal height of four to five inches, the mold body 202 should be at least as high as the clamp 10. A partial cavity 212 formed in the top surface of the mold body 202 has the same configuration as the exterior profile of the clamp 10 illustrated in FIG. 10. Thru-ports 220, 222 and 224 are formed through the side wall 208 leading into the cavity 212 wherein the thru-ports 220, 222 and 224 all have a slightly larger diameter than the diameter of the pin 226, illustrated in FIG. 13.

The thru-ports 230, 232 and 234 are formed on the other side wall 210 and lead from the exterior of the mold body 202 into the lower section of the cavity 212. The thru-ports 230, 232 and 234 are a larger diameter than the diameter of the thru-ports 220, 222 and 224, and are sized to have a slightly larger diameter than the diameter of the pin 236 in FIG. 14.

The two inserts, such as the inserts 70 and 40, illustrated in FIG. 12, are suspended within the interior of the cavity 212, as illustrated in FIG. 11, and the three pins 226 are inserted into the thru-ports 220, 222 and 224 to go into the three bosses which are located on the insert 70. In a similar way, three of the pins 236 are inserted into the three thru-ports 230, 232 and 234 which in turn go into the thru-ports 60, 62 and 64, illustrated in FIG. 5. The six pins together hold the two inserts 40 and 70 in place within the cavity 212 and allow the elastomer material to go not only above the inserts 70 and 40, but to go around and under the inserts 70 and 40 so that the inserts 70 and 40 are totally embedded within the elastomer material.

In addition, plugs are inserted into the mold at the position shown as 250, 252 and 254. A much larger plug, which is sized to correspond to the thru-port 18 used to clamp the umbilical, is used to plug up the thru-port 18. In addition, spacers 260, 262, 264 and 266 are used to make sure that the two sides of the elastomer body 12 illustrated in FIG. 11 are not joined together anywhere except at the end which is identified as the hinge 32, such as is illustrated in FIG. 10. In molding the clamp 10 according to the present invention, after the inserts 40 and 70 have been degreased, grit blasted and bonding agent applied, and have been inserted into the mold cavity 212, illustrated in FIG. 11, the mold is then preferably heated to 215 degrees Fahrenheit in an oven (not illustrated). The curing oven is then set for 225 degrees Fahrenheit and the mold with the inserts 40 and 70 held in place within the cavity 212, is placed within the casting oven to allow the temperatures to stabilize.

The preferred castable elastomer polymer material which is to be used in the clamp 10 according to the present invention involves the use of a polyurethane elastomer, available from Anderson Development Company, under the order number 80-5 and which is mixed with mboca, also available from Anderson Development under their ordering number Curcen 442. After determining the total volume to be filled in the mold around, and under and over the inserts to complete the manufacture of the clamp according the present invention, it is best to use 18.5 grams per cubic inch of volume to determine the total amount of the mixture of the polymer and mboca which is required to fill the mold cavity. After making the determination of the amount of materials to use, the polymer should be heated to 210 degrees Fahrenheit and the mboca should be heated to 230 degrees Fahrenheit. When the polymer reaches 210 degrees, it should be placed into a vacuum chamber for ten minutes to remove any trapped gases. After that vacuum process, the polymer and mboca should be blended together using a mixer and a drill for approximately two minutes, or whenever the two fluids are completely blended together. The combination of the polymer and the mboca is then poured into the hot mold cavity and a timer should be set for the correct demold time, usually about 45 minutes. When the 45 minutes is up, the mold should be pulled from the oven, and the clamp according to the present invention should be removed from the mold. The demolded clamp should then be put into a post-cure oven for sixteen hours at 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Thereafter, the clamp should be removed from the post-cure oven after sixteen hours and cooled down to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Following standard QC procedures, the molded part should be cleaned up and a calibrated durometer tester check should be used for reading of 80 to 86 durometer on the A-scale. After these procedures, the clamp should be inspected for individual defects and the finished clamp should be then compared with the design prints for final approval and shipped out to the customer, or stored, as desired, but only after the three bolts 22, 24 and 26 have been threaded into the clamp 10.

The two inserts 40 and 70, which are illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 6, are preferably manufactured from 316 stainless steel, but can also be made from very hard plastic, or from any other metals which can be chosen to stand up to the environment found when operating in salt water from the side of an offshore rig or from a floating vessel, or such other environment in which the clamps are to be used.

Although the preferred embodiment of the present invention contemplates the use of a molded polyurethane elastomer body to allow the two arms to freely pivot around the hinge 32, and the two inserts and the three bolts which are used to pull and hold the two arms close together in the clamping position, are preferably manufactured from steel or some other such hard metal, it should be appreciated that when working on an offshore rig, or a floating drill vessel, or in any other such dangerous environment, the safety rules sometimes require a “no spark” environment. In such an environment, the inserts and/or the bolts used in the thru-ports 60, 62 and 64 can be manufactured, if desired, from extremely hard plastic such as high density polyurethane, fiberglass, nylon, orlon and the like, and mixtures thereof, because to overstate the obvious, the plastic bolts do not spark when coming into contact with the plastic inserts. In an alternative embodiment, the inserts could be made from hard plastic but not the bolts, and vice versa.

Referring now to FIG. 15, there is illustrated what is essentially an artist's conception of the clamp 10, according to the present invention, showing the two inserts 40 and 70 embedded within the elastomer body 12 and showing the three bolts 22, 24 and 26, which are used to pull the two halves of the clamp together which are pivoted around the integral elastomer hinge 32.

Referring now to FIG. 16, there is illustrated a bolt which can be used with the clamp 10, according to the present invention. In the preferred embodiment, the bolt is a ¾×3½ heavy hex bolt available from American National Standard which preferably is manufactured from 316 stainless steel. The bolt 300 has a hex head 302 and a threaded-end portion 304 which threadedly engages each of the bosses used with the present invention such as, for example, the boss 110, which has a female thread to match the male thread 304 of the bolt 300 illustrated in FIG. 16.

The thread bolt 300 has a shank portion 301 between the hex head 302 and the threaded portion 304 which has a lesser diameter than the threaded portion 304. This assists in keeping the bolt 300 as a captive within the clamp 10 because it allows bolt 300 to flop around after the threaded portion 304 has been threaded through the thru-ports 60, 62 or 64.

In the operation of the clamp illustrated in FIGS. 1-16 herein, the two halves of the clamp 10, illustrated such as in FIG. 1, is opened up by hand and are swung open around the integral hinge 32. It should be appreciated that the hinge 32 preferably has no metal parts embedded within the hinge itself and when the two halves are opened, the hinge should operate many, many, many times without failure.

It should be appreciated that the clamp, according to the present invention, uses a hinge 32 which is believed to be somewhat new and improved over other hinges known in the clamping art, quite aside from the remainder of this invention. The thru-port 14 illustrated in FIG. 10, for example, which is not used to clamp any control lines or other lines such as thru-ports 16, 18 and 20, is deliberately left open after the two arms of the clamp have been closed together by turning the three bolts. The application of additional torque to one or more of the three bolts causes the hinge 32 to be deformed downwardly, much as is shown by the dotted line 33. This causes the two clamping arms to be brought into intimate contact and creates a strong clamping force on whatever control lines are held in the thru-ports 16, 18 and 20. This action essentially causes hinge 32 to collapse which is believed to be the reason the elastomeric hinge 32 operates so well.

After the two halves are swung open, whatever cables, hoses or lines, as desired, should be within the thru-ports 16 and 20 and also within the enlarged thru-port 18 for the umbilical. The two halves are then rotated back together, pivoted around the hinge 32, are then, because the bolts 22, 24 and 26 are already captured within the thru-ports 60, 62 and 64, the three bolts are then threaded through the three bosses on the other side of the clamp and continued turning of the bolts into the threaded bosses causes the two halves of the clamp to be moved closer and closer together until the two halves are caused to deform, including the deformation caused by the collapse of the hinge 32, to fully grasp whatever cables and lines are being secured by the clamp. These clamps will find particular utility in deep water operations, for example, where water may vary between one hundred and ten thousand feet deep beneath the offshore rig or floating vessel and it will be common practice to use these clamps every twenty to thirty feet along the length thereof between the offshore rig and the sea floor where the control lines are being used and are being controlled.

Accordingly, it should be appreciated the there has been described a new and improved clamp which can be used for bundling, securing and supporting cables, wirelines and other control lines. The clamp according to the present invention, in its preferred embodiment, includes steel or other hard metal inserts which are fully embedded and encapsulated by an elastomer body molded around said steel structures to prevent damage to such structures and to any control lines being bundled by the clamp.

The clamp also has features of using an elastomeric hinge having no metal, no moving parts and will not corrode, but will collapse when the two arms of the clamp are forced tightly together, which causes the hinge to distort and more firmly clamp the control lines passing though the clamp.

The invention is also characterized by the ability of the clamp to be used in a non-sparking environment such as may be found on an offshore barge or drilling vessel, or even on land drilling rigs where sparks cannot be tolerated.

The clamp is also characterized as being self-contained and having no parts or fasteners which can fall off and be lost in the wellbore or other areas.

Finally, the clamp has the ability to change the hardness of the elastomer body and also to change the size of the clamp and also the ability to increase or decrease the force applied to the bundles being clamped. The invention is also characterized by there being no galvanic action because the only exposure on the outside of the clamp is exposure to a nonmetallic, elastomeric body.