From automotive and aerospace to electronics and energy, there are many markets that frequently use tamper-resistant and security fastening solutions to prevent unauthorized access, tampering, or theft of their products.

Alternatives to security bolts, screws, and other tamper-evident solutions do exist but not all offer the same level of protection. And a number of these options even make tampering possible with the right tool or creative workaround – as there’s no such thing as completely tamper-proof screws or tamper-proof bolts.

This article explores the different ways that security and tamper-resistant fastening solutions are used across various industries, the alternatives that are available, and the options that are most effective.

In this article, we’ll cover:

How Are Security Bolts and Tamper-Resistant Screws Used?

Security bolts and screws are designed with unique features that are intended to prevent tampering, theft, or unauthorized access. Specialized tools are typically required for installation and removal.

Markets that frequently use tamper-evident screws include:

Automotive – to prevent unauthorized removal or tampering with critical components such as engine parts, airbags, and electronic modules.

Electronics – to secure sensitive internal components or data in products such as computers and laptops, smartphones, and other networking devices.

Aerospace/Defense – to maintain the integrity of military equipment, aircraft, and other sensitive weapons systems and technologies.

Pharmaceuticals – to prevent tampering and counterfeiting of medications.

Energy/Utilities – to prevent energy theft and ensure accurate readings on utility, gas, and water meters.

Government/Public Infrastructure – to secure access panels and signage in high-security locations such as government facilities, public infrastructure, and transportation systems.

Application uses extend beyond these sectors, and the need for tamper-evident solutions can arise in any industry where protecting assets, ensuring safety, and preventing unauthorized access is critical.

What are the Challenges When Using Security Screws?

When it comes to working with security screws or any type of loose screw, there are often associated costs beyond the cost of the screw itself:

Beyond the challenge of extra costs, a more serious issue with tamper-resistant screws and security bolts is they still have the ability to be removed under some circumstances.

Some security screws have unique heads that require specific tools, but there are specialized screwdriver bits that can be used with a regular screwdriver or power tool. The bits have matching features that engage with the screw head, allowing for removal.

A plier or wrench method is suitable for some types of security screws that don’t have a complex design. If the head is exposed, gripping and turning with the tool could easily remove it, and also likely damage the screw.

Screw extractor tools are designed to remove stripped or damaged screws, but they can also be effective at removing security screws. Using a reversible drill, the screw extractor can dig into the screw head – applying torque and allowing removal of the screw.

Removing tamper-resistant screws and security bolts without authorization can come with consequences. So if attempting to remove a security screw, make sure you have the proper tool and permission to execute the removal.

What are Alternatives to Using Security Screws?

Depending on the application, there are alternatives to using tamper-evident screws.

Tamper-evident seals or labels can show signs of tampering if an individual tries to open or remove them. They are typically used for sealing doors, containers, or packaging.

Security tape has tamper-resistant features and is commonly used to seal boxes or packaging. An attempt to remove the tape will leave a visible mark or warning.

Adhesive bonding or a strong epoxy can provide an alternative to screws and can permanently attach objects together. Removal is difficult without damaging the components.

Welding or riveting might be suitable for a permanent or tamper-resistant solution. It is difficult to reverse without specialized tools or equipment.

While security screws and some of the above-mentioned alternatives may be acceptable to use for one-time assembly in certain applications, PEM® Tack fastening solutions are an innovative alternative for any permanent assembly with highly secure, tamper-evident requirements – with zero ability for removal without proof of tampering.

What is a Tack Fastening Solution?

Tack fasteners provide a reliable and permanent fastening method for sheet metal, printed circuit boards, Aluminum and Magnesium castings, and other thin materials. They are installed by pressing them into properly sized holes in the material and feature a self clinching or broaching design – permanently locking into place once installed.

The design of tack fasteners makes them ideal for non-serviceable items and areas that are not intended to be tampered with. The fasteners are also designed with round heads. Lower to the surface and uninterrupted by a driver, they are typically less visible on an application.

If an attempt is made to pry a tack fastener head off, the surface would get damaged, the head would bend, and the fastener could tear out of the bottom panel. Any of these scenarios would make it clear that tampering occurred.

Simply stated, it is impossible to remove a tack fastener from an assembly without damage and leaving evidence of tampering.

Types of Tack Fastening Options

The family of tack fasteners includes three solutions, each designed for specific attachment needs in mind.

microPEM® TackPin®

microPEM® TackPin® fasteners are designed for sheet-to-sheet attachment: PEM® 

microPEM® TackSert®

The tamper-evident microPEM® TackSert® pin is suitable for the attachment of thin sheets to plastics, aluminum and magnesium castings, and other brittle materials. It will broach its way into the material, yet still hold the top panel down with a head that is much thinner than a standard screw head. Available hole size is from 1 mm up to 5mm diameter.

MicroPEM® FlexTack™

MicroPEM® FlexTack™ fasteners feature a Belleville shaped head that draws panels together to adapt to panel thickness tolerance variations. The unique, low-profile head flattens during simple press-in installation and fits into tight spaces where screws can’t. They can clinch into base panels as hard as HRB 50/HB 89 and attach top sheets as thin as 0.18mm/.007”.

Tack fasteners are available in a wide range of core and micro sizes. Connect with a PEM® engineer for details.

Until fully tamper-proof screws and tamper-proof bolts come to market, even the most reliable screws and bolts can be removed without knowledge when using the right type of tool. So when critical tamper-resistant performance is a priority, consider microPEM® tack fasteners as an innovative alternative over traditional fastening methods.

To learn more about microPEM® fastening solutions including the tack fastener portfolio, download our latest datasheet.

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