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That's Fasten-ating!

That’s Fastenating: How do Rivets Work?

Is a Rivet the Same as a Pin?

Pre-assembly, rivets look a lot like pins. In fact, this is readily stated in most definitions. TWI writes that “A rivet is a mechanical fastener composed of a head on one end and a cylindrical stem on another (called the tail) which has the appearance of a metal pin.” In other words, rivets, like pins, are unthreaded. But how rivets work and are used in applications differs from pins.

 

Cold Headed Rivets Image
Semi-tubular rivets

But the most important feature of the rivet is it’s permanence in an application. Their purpose is similar to that of a nut and bolt combination. But while you can easily disassemble and reassemble a nut and bolt, rivets cannot be removed without be broken or damaged. They are designed to hold together permanent joints, similar to welding applications. In other words, rivets are installed to stay.

How do Rivets Work?

The rivet is inserted into a punched or drilled hole. The pre-formed rivet head (or factory head) holds it in place and another head (the shop head) is formed from the tail, by a process called upsetting or bucking. In other words, it’s deformed, expanding to about 1.5 times the diameter of the shaft. The shop head (or buck tail) is flatter than the other head and holds the rivet permanently in place.

Rivets offer some advantages over bolts and nuts. They can resist vibration without loosening and secure joints with short clamp lengths. Rivets are also a fairly versatile fastener, typically less expensive than bolts and screws with quick and low cost assembly options.

What are the Different Types of Rivets?

There are a wide variety of rivets, including solid rivets, one of the oldest types of rivets, dating back to the Bronze Age.

Solid Cold Headed Steel Rivet
Solid Cold Headed Steel Rivet

Another common, easy to install rivet is the blind rivet. These rivets are hollow (typically known as pop rivets) or semi-tubular and used on applications where it is not possible to access the rear side of the parts that are being joined.

At Fastco, we specialize in semi-tubular and solid rivets, including:

  • Shoulder rivets (semi-tubular or solid rivets with a shoulder under the head)
  • Countersunk or flat rivets (used in countersunk holes, these rivets sit flush with the surface)
  • Brake lining / clutch facing rivets (both types have flat, chamfered, countersunk heads to provide a smooth surface after install)

 

If you want to know more about what make, give us a call at 616-389-1402 or 616-389-1409. You can also use our RFQ form to send a quote or email us at sales@fastcoind.com.

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That's Fasten-ating!

That’s Fastenating: What is a Bolt?

What is a Bolt?

I’m glad you asked. If you search Google, you’ll find a lot of different answers. For one, Fastener Engineering calls a bolt “a mechanical fastener with a threaded shaft” while simultaneously stating that this same description can be used to define a screw.

 

 

Function: Part of a Fastening Team

Merriam Webster defines a bolt as “a metal rod or pin for fastening objects together that usually has a head at one end and a screw thread at the other and is secured by a nut.” In other words, a bolt is only one part of a fastening team, typically paired with a nut or sometimes a washer. With this definition, any fastener that does not require a nut to secure it would not be a bolt.

Hex Head Bolts
Cold headed hex head bolts

This definition uses the function of the part to define it, which is probably the most simple and accurate definition. But there may be other ways to define what is and is not a bolt. Specifically, there are certain features that we associate primarily with bolts.

 

 

Features: Heads, Shanks, and More

One of those features is (typically) a lack of point. In fact, Cambridge Dictionary specifically includes this in the definition, saying a bolt is “a screw-like metal object without a point, used with a nut to fasten things together.” It should be noted that this definition does not include special bolts, which may have features like dog points, MATpoints, and P-points.

In addition to lacking a point, bolts typically have only a partially threaded shaft. This unthreaded feature is called the shank (or sometimes shoulder). The shank creates an area on the bolt that is stronger and less elastic, less likely to sheer. It can also provide more versatility to the function, including acting an area for something attached to the bolt to move. Again, though, this is not true of all bolts, but would apply more to standard bolts.

Head shape is another defining feature of bolts. Unlike studs, bolts always have heads. Their most common head shape is a hexagon, as this provides flat surfaces for tools to apply torque while fastening. There are also square-head, hex flanged-head (basically a hex with a ring around it), round-head, and pan-head bolts.

Cold headed bolt
A hex head bolt with a long shank

 

Bolt Types

Other common bolt types include:

  •  – Carriage bolts (dome-shaped head with a square shoulder just below the head),
  •  – Stake bolts (a round-head with a knurled shoulder),
  •  – Clinch bolts (bolts with a locking feature under the head that is secured by a punching force), and
  •  – Weld bolts (bolts with heads that are welded into place via some type of projection or weld ring).

 

As you can see, defining a bolt can be tricky. You might find that what some call a bolt may actually be more stud- or screw-like in appearance. But if it functions like a bolt (i.e. has a head and fastens objects together along with a nut), then it’s probably safe to call it that. Either way, we’ll make the part for you. Send us a request for a quote today.

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Industry News Manufacturing

The Benefits of Bulk Ordering

When it comes to buying in bulk, the old adage “the more you buy, the more you save” holds true across many industries. For cold heading manufacturers, the benefits of bulk ordering are especially significant.

That’s because cold heading is a bulk manufacturing process. But what exactly does that mean? It means we need to produce quantities of about 50,000 (although this can vary between 25,000 and 100,000 pieces, depending on the part size) or more at one time to be cost-effective.

There are two main reasons for this:

The upfront cost of cold heading tooling and development.

Our cold heading tooling averages between $2,000 and $6,000 to initially produce. If you are only making a one-time, low-volume purchase, you may end up paying this cost upfront or amortized over the smaller volume run. If you are ordering in large volumes for long-term jobs, Fastco does not charge for or amortize upfront tooling. The tooling is perishable and wears out over time, so there are ongoing tooling costs over the life of a long-running job. However, this is all part of the expense of manufacturing the part, and is not impacted by lot size or estimated annual usage.

Cold heading tooling in a shuttle in Fastco's tool room.
Cold heading tooling in a shuttle in Fastco’s tool room.

Initial development time is the other piece of the upfront cost. Our engineers have to work through how cold heading progression should work on the machine. This brings us to the next expense.

 

The machine setup time in cold heading.

While upfront costs are expensive, the biggest reason cold heading is considered a bulk process is the machine setup time. This is an ongoing expense that occurs with every order. True, the initial machine setup time on a brand new part might be longer than the average set up time for an established part. Still, the setup time will always be there.

Machine setup times are typically between 3 and 8 hours. Setup costs per hour, including labor, are between $100 and $120. This means a setup costs between $300 and $1,000 per job. If the job is 250,000 parts, the cost impact is negligible. If the job is only 10,000 parts, the cost of a setup will likely be higher than the cost of material. It could easily double or triple the overall cost of the part.

Senior setup techs work on setting up a cold heading job
Senior setup techs work on setting up a cold heading job.

 

Beyond cold heading, if a part needs to be thread rolled, the same setup cost factors would apply. In addition, if the part needs to be sent for outside processing, there are typically minimum lot charges. These can range widely, from $50 to $1,250 or more, depending on the process.

For all of these reasons, it’s obvious that bulk ordering is the most cost effective strategy for purchasing cold headed fasteners. So if your company is going to need 50,000 parts over the course of three months, we recommend placing an order for that full 50,000 parts. Don’t have space to hold all 50,000 parts? Let us know! We offer releases on blanket purchase orders. Talk to our sales team and we’ll be happy to help figure out how to get you the most and best product for your money.

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Industry News

What is IATF 16949 and Why Does it Matter?

What Is IATF 16949?

If your company is not a part of the automotive supply chain (or even if they are), you may be asking this exact question.

The International Automotive Task Force, or IATF, is made up of a group of automotive manufacturers. According to Cheryl Simon, Fastco’s Lead Auditor, “This task force develops standards for  automotive industries worldwide so that every auto manufacturer works to the same standards.”

What is IATF - Fastco Quality Policy: Striving to meet customer expectations through continuous innovation
Fastco’s Quality Policy, displayed throughout our facilities.

 

ISO vs. IATF

You may be wondering how this differs from other automotive standards, such as ISO 9001:2015. Cheryl explains that the “International Organization for Standardization [ISO] focuses on customer satisfaction whereas IATF focuses on customer-specific requirements.  To be IATF certified you must also implement the ISO 9001 standards.” Both are needed “to support the automotive Quality Management System (QMS).” In other words, “IATF is an extension of ISO 9001:2015.” The two certifications work “to make sure that every automotive company is turning out quality parts for its customers [and] has a quality system in place.” It also serves as a stamp of approval, certifying that our company is a quality supplier of fasteners.

 

Becoming IATF Certified

It is not an easy or quick process. Cheryl outlines seven steps to becoming IATF certified:

 

  1. Evaluate your current quality system

  2. Add systems and processes to meet the requirements

  3. Develop the “Documented Information” for the QMS and your processes

  4. Implement and use the new quality system

  5. Select a registrar for the certification audit

  6. Obtain the certificate of registration

  7. Celebrate!

 

After you’ve celebrated, you still have to work to maintain the certificate. To do that, “the company needs to audit its own systems, processes, and products yearly to make sure that [they] still meet the requirements of the ISO and IATF standards.”

 

Continual Improvement

Another difference between ISO and IATF is their purpose. “ISO’s purpose is to facilitate international trade by providing a single set of standards that people everywhere will recognize and respect,” Cheryl states. IATF, on the other hand, “focuses on continual improvement.” IATF-certified companies always work to improve our processes through such things as “reduction of waste, decreasing variations, defect prevention, and improved operations.”

For companies in the automotive sector, having a rigorous quality standard and policy seems second nature. Since the 1980s, QMS has been a top priority as the industry works to keep up with competition abroad.

But what about those who supply other industries? You can argue that quality always matter. Cheryl says IATF 16949 certification “tells other companies that your QMS system is solid. You have good processes in place. Customers can rely on your company to give them good quality parts.”

As an IATF 16949 certified company, Fastco is poised to provide your company with top-quality parts that meet rigorous, globally-recognized standards. Give us a call today or complete our RFQ form.

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Industry News

The Case for Buying American-Made Products

With increased insecurity in the global supply chain, the case for buying American-made products is stronger now than ever. Companies and consumers alike are seeing the rising costs of overseas products, while concerns about long-term sustainability and supply chain security remain central. These issues contribute to a growing list of reasons to shop domestic, including supporting local economies, job creation, and better quality parts.

Fastco team member
A team member inspects parts for quality assurance.

Here’s a list of the top six reasons we believe you should purchase American-made:

It’ll save you money.

The big driver to buy goods overseas used to be that they were cheaper. Labor and materials are often cheaper (but cheaper doesn’t always mean better – see #3 below). While labor and materials may still be cheaper overseas, those costs are offset by the rising costs of fuel. Not to mention extra fees for duty and tariffs. In addition, you can rest easy knowing that your purchase is contributing to the long-term stability of the American economy and U.S. workers.

You’ll get your product more quickly.

Lead times are on the rise everywhere. Even domestically, we are seeing fastener lead times of up to about 20 weeks (our current average is 8-10 weeks). However, this is nothing compared to the 6 – 8 month lead times we are seeing on imported goods. And that does not include time to ship, which is usually another 6 to 8 weeks by boat.

You’ll get better products.

The quality standards in the U.S. are higher than many other places. At Fastco, we follow the International Automotive Task Force (or IATF) quality standards, a global quality standard in the automotive industry that is even more rigorous than the ISO quality management system. We use U.S.-made steel, which has a reputation for being strong and high-quality due to the strict steel standards overseen by the EPA and OSHA.

It’s about the people.

And it’s not just about job creation. The United States has many labor laws and agencies working to protect our workers’ rights and safety. Low wages and undeveloped safety standards are one of the reasons that parts can be produced at such low costs in other parts of world.

It’s about the planet.

Global climate change presents an ever-growing threat to life as we know it. Purchasing parts from overseas can lead to higher use of gas, oil, coal, and other pollutants, particularly when airfreighting shipments. The closer to home the products you purchase are made, the less fossil fuels you’ll use to transport them. This has a direct positive impact on our planet.

You can feel good about your purchase.

It feels good to do good. Supporting local economies feels good. You’re helping build America’s future. Pat yourself on the back, give yourself a high five, and keep up the good work.

Fastco team member
A team member works on production tooling. Fastco manufactures 80% of tooling in-house.
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About Fastco

Who We Are at Fastco Industries

The origins of Fastco

Like many entrepreneurs, Fastco’s founders Stephen Frantz and Arvin Tap had a vision. They were not just going to buy, refurbish, and sell machine equipment; they were building financial stability for their families and providing a service to their community. With goals forged in hard work and innovation, it was easy to shift their focus after buying their first cold forming machine. When they couldn’t sell the equipment, they began using it to manufacture specialty fasteners.

While Fastco has changed its purpose, name (formerly Fast Machine), and location, moving from the south side of Grand Rapids to Walker, Michigan, we are still rooted in that original vision of continuous innovation. Our longevity as a company is the result of our ability to weather storms (including a particularly devastating derecho in 1998 that destroyed one of our buildings) and adapt to the demands of the times.

Fastco plant
Aerial view of the our main building from the 1970s.

 

Arvin Tap
Arvin Tap (co-founder)
Steve Frantz
Steve Frantz (co-founder)
Growing through the years

Historically, Fastco has primarily been an automotive industry supplier. We evolved our quality standards to meet rising automotive quality demands in the 1990s, investing in process monitors for all of our cold formers and thread rollers. To meet automotive customers’ requirements of zero defects, Fastco invested in electronic inspection systems. We also invested in the human power to run these machines and to visually and roller sort parts. Today, parts inspection is a key part of our process for automotive suppliers.

After surviving the Great Recession, we hoped we had seen the last of financial crises for at least another generation. Still, we anticipated curve balls coming our way. We continued to improve and innovate. During this time, we grew our in-house tooling department, which now manufactures approximately 80% of our tooling. This enabled us to shorten our sample lead times and rapidly meet customer needs.

Fastco also began to see a need to move outside of the automotive industry and diversify our customer base. We expanded our work into the construction sector. Now, we are actively seeking out non-automotive suppliers in the furniture, industrial equipment, and energy industries.

Fastco Today

When the pandemic arrived, Fastco went into survival mode, like so many companies and individuals. We furloughed some, sent others home to work, and soldiered on with a bare bones, hardworking crew. As soon as the tides began to turn with the pandemic, the chip shortage arrived. Our automotive customers pulled or reduced their orders.

It was clear that diversifying our customer base was not just an abstract, distant-future goal. It was a real, here-and-now need.

In 2021, we brought in over 3 million in new business awards, 47% of which was in non-automotive industries. So far this year, 75% of the over 1 million in new business we have been awarded is non-automotive.

We may have come far from our original business concept, but we are still a visionary company, willing to do what it takes for our customers, our suppliers, and our employees. We are fastener experts, ready to bring our knowledge, skills, and hard work to the people and companies that need it. The future is full of uncertainty, but one thing is clear: we are ready for it.

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Manufacturing

Cold Forming

It might seem basic: cold forming is when parts are formed “cold.” In other words, the metal is room temperature when the parts start the forming process. It is a high-speed and high-pressure forging process in which a coil of wire material is fed into a machine and progressively formed into shape with dies and punches or blows.

 

 

The Process – Progressive Forming

Cold forming uses a process known as progressive forming to gradually develop the part from a slug (a section of material cut from the coil of material) to its final shape, or close to it. The forming progressions are different for every part. The more complex a part, the more steps in the process. Likewise, the harder the material, the more blows may be necessary to reach the final shape. Fastco has a great deal of experience working with harder-to-form materials such as stainless steel and high-nickel alloys.

Factory worker
An operator feeds wire into a cold heading machine.

Common forming techniques include upsets and extrusions. Upsets involve reducing the slug in height and increasing the starting diameter. There are two types of extrusions. Forward extrusion is when the material is forced through a small diameter hole in order to reduce diameter and increase length. Forcing the material around a punch/pin to form a hole in the part is known as backward extrusion.

 

The Benefits of Cold Forming

Using speed and pressure to form parts has many benefits. There is very little scrap in the process, as it involves shaping the metal, not cutting, shaving, or drilling it like screw machining, which can lead to almost 60% metal waste. In addition, the process is efficient and cost effective when manufacturing bulk quantities. At Fastco, we consider “bulk quantity” to mean over 50,000 parts, although this varies depending on the size and complexity of the part.

Cold headed parts are also harder and stronger than hot forged parts. Parts formed by cold heading have a better surface finish, sometimes requiring no finishing work at all. While the process cannot meet the tight tolerances of precision machining, cold heading is still more precise than hot forging with dependable and reproducible results.

Tub of parts
A tub of parts.

 

What Cold Forming Can Make

A wide variety of fasteners can be cold formed, including screws, rivets, pins, bolts, bushings, and nuts. Whether or not a part is formable for Fastco specifically depends on several factors.

At Fastco, our machines form male fasteners, meaning nuts are outside of our capabilities. We do have the capacity to make some bushings and semi-tubular parts, depending on the dimensions.

 

Formable or Not?

The type of material, tolerance scheme and the features of the part matter. Some parts might be formable out of carbon steel, which is easier to manipulate, but not feasible with stainless steel. There are also certain features that are not able to be performed with cold heading, such as holes through the side of a part. Fastco does have the ability to send out for outside machining operations such as grinding, turning, and drilling and tapping. In addition, we have a thread rolling department capable of adding threads, knurls, fetters, points, and grooves to cold formed parts.

The size of a part matters, too. For example, our diameter range is between 3mm and 18mm; we would not be able to form parts that are outside of that diameter range. Within those limits, not every cold forming machine that we have has the same range. Our larger machines typically handle our bigger and/or more complex parts. A really small, complex part might not be big enough to run on a larger machine.

That’s why we always want to see component prints and to hear from you about the functionality of the part. Knowing what you need the fastener to do can help us determine if a tweak to the diameter, a different material, or a tolerance adjustment will make this a feasible part for us that will function just as well, if not better, for you.

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Industry News

Reasons to Buy Direct from a Manufacturer

Fastco’s tradeshow booth
Fastco’s booth at the Detroit Engine Expo in 2018.

If you’ve plugged the phrase “fastener manufacturer” into Google, you probably already have an idea of why it’s better to buy direct than to purchase through a distributor. To validate your hunch, here is a list of the top three reasons to buy direct from a manufacturer:

 

Buying direct saves money.

This first one is obvious. If you take away the intermediary, you are removing their cut of the profits. If a distributor typically adds 20% onto the cost of goods, then your business sees a 20% cost reduction.

 

You’ll have more control of your product with better quality outcomes.

This one might not be as obvious, but if you deal directly with the manufacturer, then you have a much clearer idea of the quality of what you are buying. With fewer parties, process oversight is better managed and maintained, improving quality outcomes.

At Fastco, we encourage new and potential customers to come onsite to tour our facility and observe the manufacturing process. If a problem arises or a design change needs to be made, we are available and eager to work through that issue. There are no third parties or bureaucratic layers to work through.

 

Working directly with the manufacturer results in improved communication and service.

We touched on this briefly above in terms of engineering and quality communication and service. But working directly with a manufacturer results in improved service and communication at all levels.

When you ask a question, someone at our company has the answer; you don’t have to filter your questions through mediators. This results are that we can answer your questions more quickly and more accurately.

As we’ve seen over the last couple years, the costs of goods are on the rise, from raw materials to fuel. Lead times have also increased, disrupting supply chains. Buying direct is one way to help reduce your costs and control your product in an increasing expensive and unpredictable global economy.