It’s a universal fact that Fasteners play a key role in almost every industry be it Heavy metal industry, Iron and steel industry or else. Moreover, just like every technology, the Fastening technology has also evolved big time in the past few years.
Many of the recent innovations in fastening technology owe much to marketplace directives for smaller and lighter packages produced quickly and cost-effectively. These demands dictate that fasteners work harder, “smarter,” and in more ways to advance product design and development. As a result and in a notable departure from the past, designers now will more likely consider and specify attaching hardware as “first thought” instead of afterthought.
For the fastening industry the outcome is that the drawing board (and computer screen) is rarely blank. Participating as active design partner (a trend in itself), leading manufacturers recognize a need to keep pace with evolving applications, giving rise to the next generation of products and fostering entirely new assembly solutions.
Screw Design Innovation
There has been a tremendous advance in the thread design of self-threading screws.
With milling ribs facilitating self-countersinking, fiber cut tips for stress-free driving into wood, EXPANDET screws have advanced technology for screw fixings in wood construction.
Innovation in the thread profiles are now producing screws that speed up stress-free fixing in plastics.
A key trend is evidenced by an expanding category of fasteners offering specific functional permanence. These types can be installed permanently and then mated with minimal loose hardware to complete attachment. They replace traditional permanent joining methods, such as adhesives, rivets, and welding, which inherently disallow component disassembly.
Their primary benefit is in providing the means for components to be attached securely while enabling subsequent removal, whether for service or replacement. In short, attachment is “permanent” until or unless otherwise required.
With some projects, finding a fastener that works with thin or brittle materials can seem impossible. This is where rivet nuts, which are also known as a blind nuts, blind rivet nuts, or threaded inserts, come in.
The need to safeguard against theft and vandalism in now becoming an essential part of design specifications.
Security Screws are certainly a worthwhile consideration in not just preventing theft, but also for manufacturers to prevent unwanted tampering of their products. This has spurred a number of security fastening solutions for a number of applications.
Faster Assembly Requirements
In the electronics industry, concerns about potential (and expensive) damage to printed circuit boards during fastener installation in the final stages of manufacture have contributed to advanced surface mounting capabilities for fasteners. Fasteners currently are being supplied on self-contained tape-and-reel for automated soldering (along with other components) directly onto boards. As fasteners join the lineup of other soldered surface-mounted components, the integrity of boards is maintained, secondary operations are eliminated, the assembly process is streamlined, and expensive scrap is history.
One of the biggest trends in fastening technology is smaller parts. Compact designs for components inherently shrink the “real estate” available to place and install hardware. Miniature fastener types and styles have evolved to fit effectively in the increasingly restrictive design envelopes encountered in industries ranging from electronics to aerospace.
Increased usage of thin walled application
In applications where threads may be required for very thin and “ultra-thin” metal sheets, miniature clinch fasteners offer strong, permanent, and reusable threaded solutions.
Ultra-Slim Screw heads now offer a major space saving and design flexibility. Some types will even promote installation closer to edges to optimize use in minimal space.
As parts get smaller, innovative delivery systems and automation have arrived to make handling and installation easier.
Loose screws have especially presented problems over the years. When workers must insert small screws by hand or when each screw must be handled and fed one at a time into conventional semi-automated power fastening tools, productivity rates suffer and associated costs rise. Conventional screw-insertion methods have failed in assuring proper seating torque for small screws will be achieved consistently and accurately.
As a remedy, systems have been engineered for fast and accurate small-screw insertion. These can eliminate loose screws by utilizing “sticks” of serially connected screws in thread sizes as small as #0-80 and M2.
These sticks are simply placed in a driver and, when a job gets under way, screws install and twist off cleanly when precise seating torque is reached. Some systems have been further enhanced with robotics to fully automate the process of installing small screws in metal or plastic components.
A number of innovations have attempted to eliminate or reduce the catastrophic effects of failure of joints due to vibration.
The Wedge-Lock washers by Heico are one example of a successful solution.
The need to protect our health and environment has brought in a number of legislations and norms such as ROHS and REACH which has spurred the industry to innovate into newer coatings that are less harmful and confirm to the changing regulations.
Self-contained in-die fastening systems represent a promising new technology to install fasteners during the stamping process. Working in tandem with a stamping press (and properly tooled die) to feed and install clinch fasteners, these portable systems now on the market eliminate secondary operations typically required for fastener insertions. Users can realize increased productivity, quality, and savings and gain a competitive edge as the system provides a capability to perform two operations (stamping and fastener-installation) simultaneously in the die.
A possibility for some types of fasteners to reduce hardware requirements opens the door for fewer parts in an assembly, which is a perennial quest
Unconventional fastener materials are playing newfound roles in achieving benefits that otherwise would not be possible from traditional all-metal fasteners.
As examples, hybrid fasteners incorporate a combination of metal and injection-molded plastic elements and, depending on type, can be less expensive, lighter, and easier to manipulate and install than standard mechanical fasteners. Plastic introduces the opportunity for color-coding, whether for purposes of identification, raising “safety” flags, matching parts, or cosmetics. In this way, fasteners further are serving as multi-functional devices.
IMPROVED FASTENER TECHNOLOGY ALLOWS NEW FASTENERS TO BE MADE FROM COMPOSITE MATERIALS
Currently, most fasteners are made out of products such as metal and plastic. However, the use of composite materials has been increasing over time. Some of the advantages of these products that are making them ever more popular include the fact that they are very light, and also tend to be very strong. Those that are made out of ceramic are also very hard, which means that they can be used in scenarios where they might be exposed to a lot of heat and pressure. As a result, we can also expect that in the next few years or decades, we will finally end up having fasteners that are made out of the same material. Some of the qualities that they will have include the hardness and lightness that composite material is well known for.
Product Development driving change and innovation.
The transition by OEMs to a new generation of electric vehicles is placing increased emphasis on breakthrough technologies for lightweight vehicle manufacturing processes and integrated assembly using fastening solutions to reduce weight, space and process time.
Other noteworthy product trends include a growing preference for stainless steel hardware to resist corrosion and new generations of “floating hardware” designs to compensate for misalignment when parts must be mated.
Move to Intelligent Purchase.
Fastening technology basically divides costs into part and system cost.
Part cost is defined by the cost of the fastening element – Screw, Rivet, Nut etc. System cost includes development of the part, manufacturing, assembly, quality assurance, logistics, maintenance, downtime etc.
The overall joint cost would consist of about 15% part cost and 85% system cost.
Intelligent purchase represents a move to efforts in reducing the system cost for greater benefit.
One of the best ways to take full advantage of current (and future) fastening technology products and processes is for product designers to enlist a supplier’s support at the outset of component design. New fastening trends very well may follow.