Fasteners are used in all industries and applications. They are crucial to virtually every product you see today.
When selecting fasteners for industry application, it’s important that you select the right fasteners for your needs. That means not choosing a specific size and type, but also choosing the right material, coating and more.
Why the Right Fastener Matters
Fasteners may be the smallest component of your industrial product, but they’re among the most critical. It’s essential that you choose a fastener that meets the specific needs of your product and how it will be used.
Choosing the wrong fastener can result in a product that doesn’t hold up over time or under stress. The wrong fastener can also lead to expensive last-minute product redesigns or significantly increase your product cost.
As small as they may be, the fasteners you choose need to be of the same or better quality than the product they support. It’s not just about picking the lowest-cost fasteners – it’s about choosing the most appropriate fasteners to ensure your product’s reliability and lasting success.
How to Choose the Right Fastener for Your Needs
When you’re selecting fasteners for your industrial applications, consider these seven questions before you make your choice.
1. How is the Fastener Being Used?
The first thing to consider is how the fastener and the product itself will be used. For example, if the fastener is regularly opened and closed, a durable solid metal fastener makes sense. If a fastener is seldom if ever opened, a lower-priced alternative, such as plastic, might be acceptable.
2. Where is the Fastener Being Used?
Environmental factors affect what type of fastener your product might need. Fasteners used indoors in undemanding conditions can be less robust than those used outdoors or in a more extreme environment. Consider also specific environmental demands. For example, exposure to saltwater can cause 18-8 grade (18% chromium, 8% nickel) stainless steel fasteners to corrode and lose integrity. If saltwater is a key environmental factor, fasteners made from 316 grade stainless steel will be less susceptible to rusting.
3. What’s the Right Type of Fastener?
As you’re aware, there are many types of fasteners available – bolts, screws, nuts, washers, rivets, anchors, inserts, rods, clips, pins, and more – and many variations within each fastener type. For example, you can choose from several different types of screw heads, including flat, oval, round, pan, hex, hex washer, truss, button, and socket cap. There are an equally diverse number of nut types, including hex, cap, acorn, jam, flange, square, tee, torque lock, K-lock, slotted, coupling, and castle.
Each type of fastener has its own inherent strengths, weaknesses and applications, making certain types of fasteners better choices in specific situations. You need to choose the right type of fastener for your specific product needs – how the fastener is being used, what materials it will be fastening, how the fastener fits within the overall product design, and more. You can choose from off-the-shelf fasteners or design your own custom fastener for a specific product need. (Off-the-shelf fasteners are less expensive and more readily available, of course, while custom fasteners may be the only way to meet unique product specifications.)
When determining a fastener type, familiarize yourself with the ASTM fastener standards. You can often use these standards to select the type of fastener you need.
4. What’s the Right Material?
Knowing how and where the fastener will be used should also help you determine the right material for your fasteners. The material you choose affects not just cost, but also the strength and corrosion resistance of the fastener.
You can choose from among these common materials:
- Steel (including stainless steel, carbon steel, and alloy steel) is the most common material used in fasteners today, because of its high tensile strength and durability
- Bronze, while more expensive, is superior to stainless steel in highly corrosive marine environments
- Brass, while softer than steel or bronze, is also highly resistant to corrosion
- Aluminum shares many of the same qualities as brass but is considerably lighter weight
- Nylon, which is lightweight and, unlike other materials, does not conduct electricity
Note that there are different grades within each material type. Choose the grade most suited for your usage and environment needs.
5. What’s the Right Coating?
Coatings are often added to fasteners to increase corrosion resistance. In some cases, though, coatings are purely decorative.
The most common fastener coatings include:
- Zinc plating provides good corrosion resistance, although it can rust if the coating is damaged or exposed to water or extreme humidity
- Galvanizing coats the fastener with a thicker layer of zinc for even better corrosion resistance, although the thicker coating can compromise fastener compatibility
- Chrome plating also improves corrosion resistance and adds visual appeal to the fastener
More chemically sophisticated coatings may also be available for specific applications, including:
- Fluoropolymer resin coatings for lubrication and corrosion resistance,
- Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS2) coatings for friction protection with high pressure loads
- Epoxy coatings for impact and abrasion resistance
- Phenolic coatings for high temperature environments
6. What’s the Right Size?
How and where the fastener is used also factors into the fastener size. Heavier-duty applications may require larger fasteners, while tighter designs may dictate smaller ones.
Most fastener types come in a variety of industry standard sizes. For example, metric bolts are sized from M5 to M30, with hole sizes from 5.5mm to 32mm.
7. Which is the Right Source for Fasteners?
Browse all types of fasteners at the International Fastener Expo. IFE is the largest specialty fastener show for fasteners and other industrial products in North America, with more than 650 exhibitors from around the world. This year’s show is at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and runs from September 21-23.
Register now for International Fastener Expo 2021 – September 21-23 in Las Vegas!