What’s new in fastener design for 2021? Here are 10 of the top trends to watch in fastener design – they could affect how you use fasteners in your business.
- Fasteners are becoming smaller, lighter and multi-function
- Manufacturers are employing new materials with improved corrosion protection
- New types of installation, including surface mounting and installation during stamping, are becoming popular
- Some fasteners may be replaced by state-of-the-art adhesives
Trend #1: Multi-Functionality
The first trend to watch in fastener design is the development of multi-functional fasteners. Multi-functional fasteners can serve multiple purposes in multiple places within a product, thus reducing the number of SKUs you have to deal with, increasing productivity and speeding up assembly times.
Trend #2: New Materials
The fastener industry has traditionally produced fasteners from metal and plastic. Fasteners made from new materials, however, are shaking up the market. Look for fasteners made from ceramics, special alloys, carbon fiber, and other composite materials that combine enhanced strength and hardness with lighter weight. Some new alloys enable the creation of superconducting fasteners, as well as fasteners that can withstand extreme heat and pressure.
Trend #3: Improved Corrosion Protection
Metal fasteners have always been susceptible to rusting, which can cause joint failure. Fastener manufacturers are improving the corrosion protection available in a number of ways. Some fasteners are now designed with new geometrical shapes, which are less likely to collect dirt and water that can lead to corrosion. Others are using special coatings designed for specific corrosive environments. The upshot is that you can now select fasteners that utilize the best corrosion protection for your particular needs.
Trend #4: Reduced Weight
In certain industries and products, such as automobiles and airplanes, it is essential to keep the overall weight to a minimum. Even a few ounces of excess can have a significant impact on performance. In these situations, it’s important to utilize ultra-lightweight fasteners that can help reduce the overall weight of the finished product. This is typically achieved via fasteners made from titanium or lightweight polymers. For example, fasteners made from Torlon (polyamide-imide) have a strength-to-weight ratio of 19.9, compared to just 9.2 for cold-rolled steel. Titanium grade 5 performs even better, with a strength-to-weight ratio of 29.1. These materials are ideal for when high strength must be maintained while weight is minimized.
Trend #5: Miniature Designs
One of the biggest fastener trends today is the use of miniature fasteners. The shift toward miniature and micro fasteners is hastened by the increasingly compact designs for products today. There simply isn’t room in a tiny product for traditionally-sized fasteners. These products require fastener types and styles that are substantially smaller than their traditional counterparts.
Fastener designs that take up a minimal amount of space are increasingly popular in a number of different applications, including:
- Clocks and watches
- Control panels
- Medical devices
Some of these fasteners are small enough to fit on the head of a pin. They’re often used in the aerospace, automotive, consumer electronics, and military industries.
Trend #6: Small Screw Insertion
The increasing use of miniature fasteners can lead to new challenges, especially with micro screws. Manual installation of these small screws using traditional fastening tools is both time-consuming and prone to fitting issues due to insufficient seating torque. This results in screws that are not firmly fitted, allowing joints to work loose over time.
This issue is leading to the development of new small screw insertion methods and tools. These advancements provide more precise semi-automated or automated small screw insertion.
The following video shows one company’s system for small screw insertion during manufacturing.
Trend #7: Surface Mounting
Printed circuit boards (PCBs) and other items made from fragile materials can be damaged when traditional types of fasteners are applied. To protect against damage from rough handling, manufacturers are introducing fasteners with surface mounting capabilities specifically for use with PCBs. In many instances, fasteners are available in self-contained packages that can be soldered directly onto the surface of circuit boards.
Trend #8: Installation During Stamping
Another recent advancement in fastening design is the ability to install fasteners during the stamping process. Newly developed systems work in tandem with the stamping press to both feed and install the fasteners, thus eliminating the need for secondary installation operations.
Trend #9: Security
Thieves and vandals can often dismantle and steal valuable components by easily removing screws and other types of fasteners. Engineers are increasingly taking theft protection into consideration in their product designs. New types of fasteners, such as security screws, are needed to prevent theft and vandalism, and to guard against unwanted product tampering.
Trend #10: Adhesives
The final fastener design trend to watch in 2021 doesn’t actually involve fasteners. This trend is about replacing traditional fasteners with adhesives.
Newly developed adhesives have been developed that meet and exceed the requirements previously met by metal and plastic fasteners. These adhesives can be applied quicker and often at lower cost than traditional fasteners. Different adhesives can also be combined and customized to meet specific product needs.
Fastening via adhesive is an increasingly popular alternative to traditional mechanical fasteners. Adhesives can be used in a variety of applications, from micro fastening to laminating large surfaces.
Adhesives offer a number of advantages over traditional fasteners. They can lessen product weight, reduce the labor involved, and also cost less than traditional metal fasteners, while still providing the required strength. The following chart compares the capabilities of adhesives versus a variety of more traditional fasteners.
Learn More About New Fastener Design Trends at the International Fastener Expo
When you want to find out what’s new and improved in fastener design, there’s no better place than the International Fastener Expo. This year’s show runs from September 21-23 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, and you can make your reservations now.
Sign up today for the International Fastener Expo 2021 – September 21-23 in Las Vegas!