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Department Spotlight

Maintenance at Fastco

Keeping heavy machinery such as cold heading equipment up and operational is no small task. At Fastco, we have an entire department of machine repair & preventive maintenance technicians, along with an onsite electrician that help keep our cold headers, thread rolling machines, inspection equipment, and general facilities running smoothly and efficiently.

Fastco’s maintenance department works diligently to keep production equipment running. The team performs repairs as needed and schedules planned maintenance to make sure that all key equipment is kept running without negatively impacting production because of machine down time.

A crew member on a blue riding floor scrubber performing general cleaning.
A crew member cleans the floors at Fastco.

Due to the ongoing nature of maintenance, this department has team members working onsite through all three shifts. They are here to help keep the facility running smoothly, days, nights, and sometimes weekends. The amount of time spent behind the scenes doing preventive maintenance on the equipment and the upkeep of facility itself is huge. It may often be invisible to other team members, but it matters.

Our maintenance crew team understands how much it matters as well. They know that they impact the company’s bottom line. Profitability depends on productivity, and productivity depends on having machines up and running efficiently. By doing their jobs thoroughly, our maintenance team works to prevent down time first, and then reduce any necessary down time.

Assorted tools and blue shelves with equipment in the main maintenance area at Fastco.
The main maintenance area at Fastco

These eleven team members are essential members of team Fastco and we want to say thank you to them for all the work they do. Maintenance at Fastco is critical and we appreciate everything you do.

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Industry News

Fastener Manufacturing Growth

It has been a rough couple years, especially for many of us in the fastener manufacturing business. Is there a hope on the horizon?

Supply Chain Woes Led to Slow Fastener Manufacturing Growth

In the last five years, the fastener manufacturing industry has only grown 0.1% on average per year. Obviously, the global COVID-19 pandemic was a large factor in this decrease. In addition, the global chip shortage has crippled supply chains, particularly in the automotive sector. For many fastener manufacturers, automotive makes up a substantial portion of business. For Fastco, we have historically seen automotive make up more than 95% of our business. Currently, automotive makes up around 80% of our business.

With auto industry continuing to limp along, it is no wonder that fastener manufacturing growth has been much slower than the rest of the US economy and even the manufacturing sector as a whole.

Fastener Manufacturing Growth for 2023 and Beyond

But we are beginning to see a shift in the forecast.  The latest report on the industrial fastener market from Spherical Insights & Consulting projects that the industry will grow from $86.62 billion in 2021 to $146.3 billion by 2030. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6%.

While a 6% CAGR isn’t fantastic, it is definitely stable. And for a large and established industry as a whole, it’s nothing to scoff at. The growth of industrial fasteners as a whole exceeds the 5 year projected growth of the auto industry itself.

So what industries are stepping in to fill in the gaps and help grow fastener manufacturing?

Some obvious heavy hitters are solar (20.5% CAGR, growing to a $223.3 billion industry by 2026) and construction (7.3% CAGR from now through 2029).

Within the auto industry itself, we are also seeing a forecasted annual growth of 25.4% from 2021 – 2028 in the electric vehicle sub-sector.

Diversification in Industries Served

While one could argue that it is always a good time to be thinking about diversification, the argument is particularly poignant right now. Companies should work to diversify the industries they serve, the products/services they offer, and the subcontractors they utilize in their supply chains. Diversification leads to stability. Sure, it may not protect a company from a global recession, but it will certainly help them weather industry-specific crises.

At Fastco, 82% of the new business we have won in 2022 is for industries outside of the automotive sector, including solar, construction, agriculture, material handling, and industrial equipment. We have also been able to provide solutions to customers looking to shore-up supply chains or dual-source products.

As we look to the future and the industry growth projected, we are excited to see more growth on the horizon.

Categories
Manufacturing

Cold Heading Quality Steel

At Fastco, we manufacture cold headed fasteners with steel. We’ve done some dabbling with other materials, such as aluminum and brass, but the vast majority of our work is with steel – carbon, alloy, and stainless steel.

What Is Cold Heading Quality Steel?

Cold Heading Quality Steel (CHQ Steel) requires a particular raw material chemistry in order to withstand the force applied to it while maintaining superior quality. It is used to form all sorts of fasteners, from bolts, screws, pins, and rivets to nuts, spacers, and bushings. The steel is drawn down into coils of wire, which can then be fed into cold heading machines and formed through a series of dies and punches.

Carbon Steels

Low, medium, and high carbon steels can all be used in cold heading. Lower carbon steels, such as 1010 which has a .10% carbon content, have relatively low tensile strength. However, low carbon steel is fairly easy to material to work into form.

Carbon Steel 1010_ 1045_ 10B21
A coil of carbon steel wire

Another example of a highly formable carbon steel is 10B21, which is a boron-containing carbon steel. Stronger than 1010, it is a major component in buildings, tools, ships, cars, machines, and appliances.

Alloy Steels

Alloy steels are contain a mix of several elements such as nickel, chromium, silicon, and boron. They typically fall into two groups: low alloy and high alloy.

Low alloy steels include 1541, a medium-carbon / medium manganese grade steel, which is both versatile and affordable. Other alloy grades such as 4037 or 4140 are higher cost and more common in the oil and gas and aerospace industries.

Bolt
A B16 Bolt

High-alloy steels such as B16 perform well in high-strength industrial applications. B16 is a chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium steel that works well as a material for bolt manufacturing.

Stainless Steel

A comparably more difficult material to work with, stainless steel is popular across many industries due to its corrosion resistance. Austenitic stainless steel grades such as 302 and 304 are highly formable, particularly in annealed condition. Other high-nickel alloy stainless steel grades, such as high-temperature alloys like A286, martensitic stainless steel like 410, or ferritic steels like 430, are often more difficult to work.

Stainless Steel 304
304 Cold Heading Quality Stainless Steel

Cold forming is the superior method to form with stainless steel because it does not require heating, making for a safer and more energy (and cost!) efficient process. Fastco specializes in stainless steel cold formed fasteners.

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Industry News Manufacturing

The Growth of Solar Manufacturing

For more than 50 years, Fastco’s primary industry has been automotive. As we look to diversify our products, we’ve moved into supplying fasteners for the construction, material handling, agriculture, and furniture industries. Now, we’re launching full-steam (full-sun?) ahead into supplying fasteners for solar panel manufacturing.

 

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy solutions are the future. The climate crisis has proved that reliance on fossil fuels is unsustainable. Companies are working on energy solutions and setting target dates for net zero emissions.

In the solar renewable energy sector, there are both individual and corporate tax credits and other incentives available for people and companies that install solar panels. These incentives were enhanced with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

Solar Manufacturing Panels Installed on a Roof

Solar Panel Manufacturing Growth

In the first half of 2022 in the US, solar accounted for 39% of all new electricity-generating capacity added to the country’s power grid. If not for ongoing supply chain constraints, we would be seeing even more robust growth.

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will be a catalyst for continued growth over the next 5 years, with an anticipated increase of 40% in solar deployment from 2023-2027. As a result, there will be a tripling of the US’s solar energy capacity.

 

Solar Panel Fasteners

At Fastco, we are seeing a boom in the number of solar fastener requests for quote and new business awards we receive. For solar installations, austenitic stainless steels like 302 or 304 are often preferred due the durability. Other steels can be used, typically with a zinc-nickel or such similar coating as Magni 565.

rivet for solar manufacturing

It is clear that we are on the cusp of a big boom in the solar panel manufacturing field. Fastco is excited to be a part of this industry’s growth. Fasteners are essential components in almost all fields. They hold the world together (literally!), and we love seeing our fasteners used in ways that improve our planet.

 

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About Fastco Manufacturing

Fastener Features – MAThread® and MATpoint®

Fastener Features – MAThread® and MATpoint®

Fastco is MAThread® and MATpoint® licensed. These patented thread types are heavily relied upon in automotive applications because they eliminate seizing and jamming of fasteners with anti-cross thread technology. This is especially beneficial for difficult, high-volume assemblies, reducing cost by eliminating the need for expensive reworks caused by cross or false threading.

Many automotive OEMs consider MAThread® to be the standard for externally threaded fasteners. These include GM, Ford, Chrysler, Mercedes Benz, Volvo, and VW.

Fastco can manufacture all of the following types of MAThread® Fasteners:

6 different MAThread types of thread rolling
Visit mathread.com for more information.

 

MATPoint

The most common design, MATpoint works effectively in most applications, except for when prying heavy components into place during an installation.

Very Short MAThread

As indicated by the description, this design has a very short end point. Therefore, this design works best for applications with problematic point clearance and limited angular misalignment.

Dog Point MAThread

Dog Point MAThread performs best on any difficult application or when prying heavy components into place during installation.

“P” Point MAThread

This design works best with difficult applications when the point clearance will not be an issue. In addition, it works well with thick stack-ups of multiple components.

Never-Jam™

If packing length and/or weight is a concern, this is the thread to use. It is effective up to and including 12 degrees misalignment.

Custom MAThread

MAThread can customize design criteria for special applications.

Custom MAThread - MATpoint with special dog
As an example of “custom,” here is a MATpoint design with a special dog.

 

Key Features of MAThread® and MATpoint®

Key fastener features of MAThread® and MATpoint® include:

  • Self-correcting: This makes thread damage or seizing impossible.
  • Easy-to-use: This allows any installer to use them without fear of fastener or part damage
  • Customizable: MAThread can meet customer’s specific needs.
  • Always improving: The design is regularly reviewed and made better.

 

In addition to automotive, MAThread® design can be used in a wide variety of industries, including construction, heavy equipment, motorcycles & recreation vehicles, and water craft.

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About Fastco Manufacturing

Our In-House Tooling Capabilities

For the last decade, Fastco has worked to increase our in-house tooling capabilities. From making less than a quarter of our tooling in-house, we’ve expanded to making about 80% of our tooling within our three onsite tool rooms.

Making our own tooling allows us to save money and time; we can make a tool set in less than half the time it would take to purchase one. This means we can pivot quickly on design changes and get prototypes out the door quickly.

 

 

In-House Tooling Improvements

In recent years, we have made some significant investments in our tooling equipment, including:

  1. A Sodick VZ300L Wire EDM machine, which opened up our capabilities with shaped inserts and trims.

    Sodick Wire EDM - to manufacture tooling in-house
    Fastco’s Sodick Wire EDM
  2. Our CNC Mills (including a Haas VF2 CNC Mill and a Haas CNC Mini Mill), which we use to make our own knurl dies in-house.
  3. A Haas TL1CNC Lathe, which has expanded our forming of steel solid pockets and punch inserts.
  4. A Weldon CNC ID Grinding Machine, which reduced costs for some of our most expensive tooling (pocketed and tri-lobular inserts). Most importantly, its high level of precision allows us to get an exemplary surface finish, improving the performance of these tools.

    Weldon CNC ID Grinder - for manufacturing in-house tooling
    Weldon CNC ID Grinding Machine
  5. A laser marking system, which allows us to make all marking tooling in house at a near-zero consumables cost.

 

 

Why In-House Tooling?

Manufacturers that make their own tooling provide a huge value benefit to customers for the following reasons:

  1. Decreased Lead Time: The current lead times for most purchased tooling is upwards of 8 weeks. We can make our tooling in less than half that time. If a design change happens, we work on the fly to change out the tool sets. If there is an out-of-stock scenario, we won’t need to short orders while we wait for tooling; we also won’t need to set up the machine again, adding wasted cost. If a customer needs prototype parts in less than 8 weeks, we can typically make that happen.
  2. Improved Control Over Quality: Making our own tooling allows us to produce better parts. Our tooling produces a superior finish on parts with tighter tolerances and a better total indicator reading (TIR). If we struggle with forming a part on a machine, we can  make tooling adjustments to improve the quality of the part.
  3. Lower Cost of Tooling: Not having to order tooling cuts down on freight costs. Making our tooling reduces costs associated with unnecessary downtime. It also reduces the need for extra outside processing trips and unnecessary extra setups.

 

 

Fastco’s Tooling Equipment

Fastco has a wide-range of tooling manufacturing equipment, including:

  • Manual ID, OD, and Surface Grinders
  • CNC ID & OD Grinders
  • Honing equipment
  • CNC Lathe, as well as manual and speed lathes
  • CNC Mills and manual mills
  •  Blanchard
  • Laser Etcher

These machines give Fastco the ability to grind, engrave, turn, mill, drill, and hone our tooling. In addition, we have a wide-range of inspection equipment, including a CMM, comparator, and Keyence, along with micrometers, calipers, and gage pins. We also have a manual arbor press and a hydraulic press for toolset assembly.

tooling made in-house

Content for this article was contributed by several key personnel at Fastco who have driven this shift and overseen it over the last several years. Thank you to Nate Barger (Tool Room Team Leader), Aaron Headrick (Purchasing Manager), and Tom Fredricks (Assistant Tool Room Team Leader). 

 

Categories
Manufacturing

Screw Locking Methods

Fastener Features – Screw Locking Methods

There are a number of ways to secure, or lock, a male threaded fastener into place. With bolts, this is typically done with nuts.  But what about screws or studs? There are a number of features that can temporarily or permanently lock screws into position on fixtures. This week, we are going to highlight three screw locking methods: SEMS screws, interrupted (or interference) threads, and thread-locking patches.

 

SEMS Screws

SEMS are a combination of a screw/bolt and permanently attached washer (or set of washers). The word SEMS comes from the Illinois Tool Works Inc. They originally made machines that produced pre-aSEMbled washers/screws.

SEMS are fast and easy to handle and assemble. Since they are already pre-assembled, there is less chance of components being missed in larger assemblies. But since they are permanent, the only way to disassemble them is to break the washer.

At Fastco, we have a dedicated SEMS unit that can assemble SEMS screws and bolts.

screw locking method - SEMS Screw
SEMS Fastener

 

Interrupted Thread

An interrupted (or interference) thread forms when a groove cuts into the threaded portion of the screw or stud. Alternately, the thread could also be deformed in some capacity to create the interrupted thread. This interrupts the thread as it coils into the fixture. These are typically a feature on self-tapping screws.

If you are interested in learning more about interrupted threads, contact us and our engineers can help you determine if this feature is the right design for your fastener and assembly.

Interrupted Thread
Stud with an interrupted thread just above the washer.

 

Thread-locking Patch

To create a thread-locking patch, one would apply an adhesive patch to the threaded area of the screw, bolt, or stud. This patch may be just a dot or it could wrap around the fastener. The patch may be nylon or another polymer adhesive. The patch increases the prevailing torque, providing vibration resistance and allowing the screw to lock into position when assembled. Since nylon-patch screws can withstand constant vibration and low-level heat without loosening, they are popular for the automotive and aerospace industries.

Here at Fastco, we partner with premier patch processors, including Nylok Corp and ND Industries.

Screw with nylon patch
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That's Fasten-ating!

That’s Fastenating: Let’s Talk About Screws

Let’s Talk About Screws

Screws are amazing fasteners. Stronger than nails and easy to install/reinstall, they look similar to bolts. Similar applications may require a screw and/or a bolt. Typically, a bolt pairs with a nut or washer and may or may not have a point or tapered end.

So let’s talk about screws! When we’re thinking of screws, we generally think of threaded metal fasteners with tapered ends that allow them to be driven into a material. Generally speaking, screws and nuts do not pair up. Instead, the end of the screw remains embedded in the application material. As it rotates, the screw’s thread create a new thread in a material as it turns. Alternately, screws can be drilled into preformed holes.

let's talk about screws
Above, a hex head machine screw.

Did you know that screws are considered one of the six simple machines? Considered some of the first machines ever invented, the six simple machines include the wheel and axle, levers, ramps, pulleys, wedges, and, you guessed it, screws.

Screw Types

There are a wide variety of screws and screw applications.

  • Self-Tapping (or Self-Drilling) Screw: These pointed screws have sharp cutting threads that tap a hole during installation. Self-tapping screws quickly drill into metal or wood.

 

  • Socket Screw, also known as an Allen Head Screw: These screws have an internal hex drive built into the head. Socket screws fasten machine parts. The name “Allen” comes from the Allen Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut. The company trademarked the name in 1943. Although the company no longer exists today, the name stuck.

 

  • Machine Screw: Typically, machine screws do not have a point. Often made of brass or steel, machine screws fasten metal parts together.

 

  • Weld Screw: These are screws that are welded into place. A wide variety of applications, including construction, automotive, HVAC, and agriculture, utilize weld screws.

 

  • Sheet Metal Screw: Fully threaded and pointed, sheet metal screws cut through sheet metal.

 

This Phillips Head Screw drills into aluminum or plastic.

At Fastco, we manufacture a wide variety of screws with a various head designs (including socket, hex, Phillips Head, and 6-lobe), threads (including MAThread, Lockthread, interrupted threads, paint-cutting threads, and standard threads), and points (including MATpoint, dog points, and p-points).

Learn more about how we can meet your fastener screw needs and send us a quote today!

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That's Fasten-ating!

That’s Fastenating: Studs, the Fastening Kind

What are Studs (the Fastening Kind)?

In short, a stud is a threaded rod or bar. They resemble screws and bolts, except that they do not (typically) have heads. Generally, fastening studs are permanent fixtures that can work with or without nuts, although they often involve the use of a nut. They are often welded, swaged or bonded to attach. If welded, they may have a small head to make this feasible.

 

Standard Stud Features vs Bolts and Screws

However, the lack of head is the most unique feature of a stud, but there are other features that are often true of studs vs. bolts or screws.

Tap End Stud
Tap End Stud with Six-Point Drive

Studs are often larger than bolts and screws. Used in assembling heavy machinery and materials such as turbines or tanks, studs can be manually installed because they do not require external force to be torqued down.

Bolts and screws have rotational force applied to them along with linear force. Studs, on the other hand, do not have a rotational force applied. Studs do not have stretching on their threads and can produce a repeatable clamping force. As a result, they last longer.

Welding Stud
Welding Stud with Shoulder and Hex Drive

Different Types of Studs

Studs can be fully threaded or have threads on one end with an unthreaded end, or they may be double-ended and threaded on both sides of an unthreaded center.

Among the different types of studs are:

  • Fully-Threaded Studs (These do not typically have a chamfered end)

 

  • Tap-End Studs (These have unequal length threads on either end of a non-threaded center. There is typically a tap end and nut end. The tap end may have some kind of point.

 

  • Double-End Studs (Studs with equal length threads on either end of the non-threaded center. One or both ends attach with a nut.)
    Double End stud
    Double-End Stud

     

  • Flange Studs (These fully-threaded studs have chamfered ends used in flange connections)

 

  • Welding Studs (These have single-sided threads that pair with a nut. The unthreaded side is welded into place)

 

Need a stud manufactured? Contact us today and send us a request for a quote.

Categories
That's Fasten-ating!

That’s Fastenating: Mechanical Fastening Pins

What are mechanical fastening pins and what do they do?

In the world of fasteners, pins are one of the most basic looking components. Pins are unthreaded, usually cylindrical. Their purpose is to “keep machine parts in proper alignment or fasten them together,” according to Britannica. These are known as mechanical fastening pins, not to be confused with the pins used to hold fabric while sewing or push pins that you use to tack up paper products to corkboards.

More or less, mechanical fastening pins fall into two categories:

 

They rely on friction to hold them in place.

This includes most types of pins, from dowel pins to grooved pins to fetter and knurled pins and even spring pins. The more solid the pin, the more precisely it holds components and the more strength it has. On the flip side, more compliant pins like spring pins are easier to insert and more tolerant of dimensional variations in holes.

 

They have some form of positive locking feature.

This would include split pins and lynch pins. Since these pins do not rely on friction alone, they are easy to assemble and disassemble.

Among these groups, there are a myriad of pins, from solid pins to grooved and slotted pins to coiled and spring pins. These pin types all have all have distinctive appearances as well as varying functions. At Fastco, we manufacture primarily solid pins, as these parts fit the cold forming process well. Spring and coiled pins are better suited for a stamper or caster.

stainless steel mechanical fastening pin
A stainless steel mechanical fastening pin

 

Types of Mechanical Fastening Pins

Some examples of pins that we manufacture at Fastco include:

  • Clevis Pins (these fasten a u-shaped device together with the help of a cotter pin)

 

  • Dowel Pins (a simple solid cylinder that is inserted into a preformed hole)

 

  • Hinge Pins (a pin that holds to parts together so that one can swing relative to the other)

 

  • Locating Pins (used to locate an item on a fixture or to align two pieces of the fixture)

 

  • Weld Pins (pins that are welded into place)

 

  • Fetter/Knurled Pins (pins that have a fetter or a knurl)

 

Interested in learning more about what we can do for you? Contact our sales team today!