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The Ins and Outs of Screws and Fasteners

Whether you work in construction, production, or are prototyping a new product, you will likely need to utilize screws and fasteners to securely join your various components. Depending on your application, you may be able to get away with standard screws and bolts that can be bought at any hardware store.  For more specialized applications, you may need custom fasteners manufactured specifically for your use case.

Screws and Bolts – What’s The Difference?

The most common types of fasteners are screws and bolts. While screws and bolts have certain similarities in appearance, they have a few easy-to-identify differences.

One of the main differences between the two is that a screw fastens directly into the product’s surface while a bolt requires a nut and washer on the other side of the material to fasten components. So in simplest terms, a screw is “screwed into” something, while a bolt “bolts things” together.

Another major difference between the two is the tools required to install the fasteners. While screws may have any of a number of different head types such as slotted, Philips, or square recess heads, as long as you have the right screwdriver or drill bit, you typically won’t need any additional tools to insert the screw.

However, when using nuts and bolts to fasten components together, you will usually need a wrench or driver to tighten the bolt as well as a second wrench to apply torque to the nut. In some cases, a washer will also be used to evenly distribute the load of the fastener.

How to Use Screws and Fasteners

No matter what type of fastener you’re using, the first step is typically to drill a threaded hole in the material that is just smaller than the size of the fastener you plan to use. No matter whether it’s a nut or a bolt, you will receive a much tighter connection by pre-drilling the holes before installing the fastener.

When using threaded fasteners like screws, you’ll want to make sure to drill only partially through the product’s surface so that the screw’s threads can catch properly. Once the starting hole is drilled, you can either continue using a drill to drive the screw into the material until the head lies flush with the surface or remove the drill and complete the attachment using a manual screwdriver.

When using nuts and bolts, you’ll want to drill the hole clean through your material so that your bolt can pass directly through the material and make a connection with a nut on the other end. When selecting the bolts for your application it’s important to anticipate the depth of the material you’ll be fastening as you don’t want the bolt to be too short to make the connection or to be too long.

How to Remove Quick Fasteners

Quick fasteners are also known as quick release fasteners, quarter-turn fasteners, panel fasteners, self-ejecting fasteners, or Dzus fasteners.  This hardware has a partially threaded shaft to secure components together but allows for quick removal. These fasteners are common on cars to attach panels that need to be removed quickly and often and motorcycle parts that require frequent removal or access to small components.

Quick fasteners have a spring inside that keeps the fastener snug and secure. To remove a quick fastener option, all you need to do is push down into the center of the screw and pull it out.

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Types of Metals Used for Screws and Fasteners

Screws are produced from a variety of metals and alloys. Depending on the application, there may be specific strength requirements, corrosion resistance requirements, or other requirements that dictate an ideal metal or group of metals that must be used in production.

Typically, screws and bolts are made from steel due to its strength and relatively inexpensive cost. However, screws and fasteners can also be produced from stainless steel, brass, titanium, and a wide range of other metals depending on the intended application. For example, screws and bolts used on offshore drilling rigs may be made of stainless steel due to the material’s added resistance to weather and corrosion.

The Federal Group USA is capable of producing custom metal fasteners and Screws from a wide range of high-quality materials depending on your specific needs. We are also available to consult on the most appropriate materials for your requirements.

Steel

As the most common metal for producing screws and fasteners, steel is widely available and durable. There are four types of steel typically used for producing fasteners:

  • Alloy Steel provides exceptional strength, ideal for socket head products.
  • Low Carbon Steel is best for machine manufacturing, medical device manufacturing, and automotive manufacturing. It falls behind in durability compared to other options.
  • Medium Carbon Steel has mid-level strength, ideal for automotive parts.
  • Stainless Steel varies in strength and corrosion resistance properties but has a wide selection of applications.

Aluminum

Aluminum is a lightweight metal material for manufacturing custom fasteners. Aluminum doesn’t have as much durability as steel, but it works well for binding lighter components in various applications.

Aluminum alloys are significantly more robust without adding too much to the weight. Typically these screws will be used for lightweight applications like fastening trim or when you have special requirements to avoid magnetism.

Brass

As a copper-based alloy, brass fasteners are relatively easy to manufacture. Rust-resistance and strength compare poorly to other metals, but it provides cosmetic appeal common in marine applications.

Titanium

The most durable material for screws and fasteners is titanium. Titanium fasteners are common within the aerospace industry and other heavy-duty applications.  Titanium fasteners are also used in medical applications like bone screws.

Types of Screws

Screws are ubiquitous but sometimes not effective enough to bind the components you are trying to build. Though you can find screws in a myriad of manufactured products, construction projects, and everyday objects, different screws have unique purposes.

Some of the more common types of screws are:

  • Hex Cap Screws feature a hexagonal head and can attach metal or to wood. The shaft has coarse or fine threads and a flat washer configuration under the head for extra holding power.
  • Drywall Screws work well in securing drywall sheets to ceiling joists and walls. They might be too coarse for wood studs and too fine for metal studs.
  • Sheet Metal Screws connect multiple sheets to tubing or other metal structures. The screw heads are widely used in the welding industry and can be hexagonal, flat, or round.
  • Wood Screws have a special threaded shaft for binding to wood.

Hidden Fasteners vs. Deck Screws

When building structures like decks, you may prefer to hide the connections or fasteners for aesthetic purposes. What is the difference between products like hidden fasteners vs. screws labeled for decks? There are a few considerations.

Hidden fasteners secure wood or composite boards while creating a smooth surface. The connections occur between the panels instead of on top, but it doesn’t work well for all composite materials.

Deck Screws are more visible but highly effective. You can use these fasteners for wood and composite decking for a secure, long-lasting bond at a low cost. If you prefer less noticeable screws, you can color-match the screw head to the deck’s composite wood.

Common Fabrication Methods

Cold heading and machining are two standard fabrication methods for screws and fasteners.

Cold Heading

Also known as cold forging, this process shapes metal wire using dies, high-speed punches, and hammers (instead of heat). Once a blank screw is cold-headed, it goes into a machine to cut threads into the screw shaft. This works either by rolling two grooved dies onto the blank screw or using a die-cutting machine to roll the threads around the shaft.

Machining

An automated process that uses sharp edge-cutting tools, machining chips away at screw blanks in until it creates the desired shape and specifications. Precision CNC Machining is best for tiny screws or unique custom designs.

Contact The Federal Group USA Today for Custom Screws and Fasteners

The Federal Group USA offers a wide range of custom metal fabrication and manufacturing solutions including the production of custom fasteners. Our team’s engineering expertise and superior manufacturing standards have made us a leader in custom fastener manufacturing for more than 40 years.

We work with various high-quality metals and can fabricate fasteners to meet your exact specifications. Our professionals will walk you through every step of the fabrication process culminating from our many years of experience.

Call The Federal Group USA today for custom, cost-effective screw and fastener fabrication at (800) 795-2658.