9 Innovative Fastener Types and Their Use Cases
Fasteners are used across various industries in place of welding or adhesives, with each type of fastener bringing unique capabilities, application uses and benefits.
Throughout our 80-year history, the PEM® team has taken pride in remaining at the forefront of the industry. We have continued to invest in developing our line of products, devising new and innovative ways for design engineers to put their assemblies together.
In this blog, we’ll be exploring some of the most innovative PEM® fastener technologies to be released to the market and our experts look ahead to the future of the fastener industry.
- The Benefits of Self-Clinching Theory
- Introducing microPEM®
- microPEM® TackPin® Fastener
- microPEM® FlexTack® Fastener
- microPEM® TackSert® Fastener
- microPEM® TackScrew® Fastener
- ClampDisk® Fastener
- SpotFast® Fastener
- SFNTM Spinning Flare Nut
- VariMount® Bonding Fastener
- GHOSTTM Magnetic Fastening
- Where Is the Industry Headed? Read the PEM Fastener Industry Report 2023
The Benefits of Self Clinching Technology
Self clinching fastener technology has revolutionised production fastening, replacing conventional joining methods such as welding. Self clinching technology offers a cleaner, energy-smarter alternative with proven performance for today’s most challenging applications.
Self clinching technology is trusted by engineers and fabricators across all industries, as it provides stronger joints and facilitates faster and more efficient production processes. It also comes with the added benefit of reducing costs, particularly for those with high-volume applications.
Compared to other joining methods, self clinching fastener technology offers greater design flexibility as it can be used to join dissimilar materials, which isn’t possible with welding.
The installation process for self clinching fasteners is also cleaner and more environmentally friendly. A lot less energy is required to run a press than welding equipment and any subsequent action is no longer necessary, helping companies to save time in their operations.
There have been many reasons customers have gravitated towards self clinching technology instead of welding. Some of the key technical benefits of self clinching technology include:
- It provides strong threads or attachments in metal as thin as 0.2mm (.008”)
- It provides high push-out and torque-out resistance
- It doesn’t require special hole preparation, such as chamfering and deburring
- It can be installed using any parallel action squeezing force
- The reverse side of metal sheet remains flush
- There’s no re-tapping required after application
- It offers low installed costs
- It can be installed using automated equipment for high-volume applications
Self clinching fastener technology also offers a range of benefits for design engineers trying to ensure DFMA parameters are met with their designs. This can include working with fewer parts, fewer assembly steps and reduced total assembly time.
All of these combined have the added benefit of facilitating a shorter time to market, simplified assembly processes, improved quality and reduced overhead, leading to significant cost savings project-wide.
Introducing microPEM® Fasteners
“As our PEMedge® teardown service has become increasingly popular, we’ve witnessed a trend amongst customers who are trying to reduce real estate in their assemblies as much as possible,” says Jay McKenna, PEM® Global Technical Marketing Manager.
“We’ve seen thinner sheets being used, increased use of stainless steel, and tighter designs that require fastener solutions that enable a design engineer to reduce the overall footprint. As a result, PEM® experts have worked hard over the years to stay on top of this trend and develop the solutions that can make all of this possible. One of the solutions we’ve developed is our micoPEM® range of self clinching fasteners.”
microPEM® TackPin® Fasteners
“In a design, the cost of the screw is often a known quantity, but the cost of designing and assembling with that screw is an unknown,” explains Jay. “When it comes to working with loose screws, there are a host of associated costs.”
Such costs might include:
- Applying a patch to prevent vibrational loosening
- Using a threaded insert or tapped hole
- Increased installation time — it’s quicker to press a component into an assembly than to screw it in
- Any rework costs due to cross-threading
- Additional driver bits
- Any rework costs due to driver bit cam-outs
“What we see in most cases is that a design engineer will know what a bag of a thousand screws costs, but they might not be thinking about what the total cost of utilising and assembling their products with those screws is once all of the above factors are taken into consideration. And this is where the TackPin® fasteners offer a huge benefit.
“With the TackPin® fastener, we’re installing a harder fastener into a softer panel. The component offers a strong joining method, has a smaller footprint and weighs less than a loose screw. It also has a shorter z-height, which is important in compact designs.”
Other key benefits offered by the microPEM® TackPin® fastener include:
- Complete 360-degree metal-to-metal contact, supporting grounding or conductivity requirements
- Ease of use, with no possibility of cross-threading or risk of the driver bit camming out during installation
- High performance — stronger in pull-out than a screw of equal size
- Reduced weight
- Smaller head footprint and smaller all around, enabling tighter, more compact designs
“All of this leads to cost savings, which benefits both the OEM and fabricator. The TackPin® fasteners offer greater performance and savings by eliminating the potential risk of scrapped or damaged parts that come from working with loose screws.”
microPEM® FlexTack® Fastener
“For some applications, there’s a concern about the tolerancing of the top panel. Sometimes this can be as great as +/- 10% of the nominal panel thickness,” explains Jay. The microPEM® FlexTack® fastener was designed as an answer to this challenge.”
The microPEM® FlexTack® fastener has a Belleville-shaped head that, upon installation, clinches into the bottom panel like a typical TackPin® fastener. However, the head flattens, which helps to draw the panels together.
“This function would be desirable in a product with a touch point, like a keyboard, where a gap intolerance stack-up would impact performance. With FlexTack® fasteners this is eliminated, giving nice, solid, panel-to-panel contact.”
microPEM® TackSert® Fastener
When working with non-ductile metals or other materials, it becomes necessary to consider another type of fastener to replace screws.
“For applications made with plastics or aluminium and magnesium castings, the microPEM® TackSert® fastener is the recommended solution,” says Jay. “It will broach its way into that material yet still hold the top panel down with a head that’s much thinner than a standard screw head.
“The TackSert® fastener offers all of the same benefits as the TackPin® fastener. It eliminates those costs associated with threading a screw and the risk of cross-threading, helping rectify design issues by offering reduced z-height.”
Other key benefits of the microPEM® TackSert® fastener include:
- Eliminates the risk of cross-threading
- Eliminates the need for inserts or tapped holes
- Reduces risks associated with tightening torque control
- Eliminates the possibility of vibrational back-out
- Easily installed automatically
microPEM® TackScrew® Fastener
“With some applications, design engineers may want to eliminate all the risks that come with using a screw, but they have a repairability requirement,” says Jay. “When this is the case, it’s essential to have the ability to clinch a component into place, yet still be able to remove it.
“With repairability becoming a higher priority within design, the TackScrew® fastener provides all the benefits of a press-in component while also being repairable.”
“When an engineer wants to eliminate loose screws from an assembly, the TackPin® and the TackSert® fasteners will satisfy most situations. But when a clamp is required, the ClampDisk® fastener has been built to provide that clamp load in the assembly,” explains Jay.
“The CDS™ microPEM® ClampDisk® fastener presses straight onto a 1mm pin to replace threads, adhesives, rivets and other small fasteners. The upward flanges of the disk grip onto the pin and prevent push-off while the download flanges flex and generate clamp load. This could be a clinched-in pin or a pin created in a cast design, and therefore existing as part of the casting.
“This part can be removed and pried off with a sharp-edged tool, and then a fresh part can be put in place to reassemble it.”
Some key benefits offered by ClampDisk® fasteners include:
- Clamp load generation
- Simple installation
- Compatibility with multiple panels of any material
- Limited installation stress to assembly
Unlike rivets that “bulb” during installation, the ultimately flush profile of SpotFast® fasteners allows for unobtrusive attachment requiring minimal space. A smooth surface is retained for finishing and fasteners can be concealed easily with paints or powder coatings.
Within the SpotFast® range of PEM® self clinching fasteners, there are four models:
SF™ fasteners create a permanent, flush joining between two sheets. Squeezing the fastener into place causes a cold flow of panel material into the fastener’s two separate clinch profiles.
The SF™ fastener can be used to attach two metal sheets that are too difficult to weld, to fasten sheets of unequal thicknesses, to join dissimilar metals that cannot be welded or even to attach ultra-thin metal sections.
SFP™ fasteners offer the same benefits as the SF™ fastener but are made from precipitation-hardened stainless steel and are used for installation into stainless steel sheets.
SFW™ fasteners offer the same benefits as the SF™ fastener but are specifically designed to allow for pivoting between two sheets of metal. A wave washer provides consistent torsion to allow for repeatable rotation.
SFK™ fasteners are designed for the flush joining of metal to PCB/plastic/cast panels.
SFNTM Spinning Flare Nut
“The SFN™ spinning flare nut has been designed to eliminate loose hardware in an assembly,” says Jay. “Usually, you’ll have a clinch stud in the top panel and then a loose nut would be threaded onto it to secure the two panels together. However, for certain applications, loose hardware can present challenges for fabricators and the engineers tasked with maintaining it.
“With SFN™ nuts, once the part is pressed into the properly sized, pre-punched embossed mounting hole, it offers no torque resistance, allowing it to spin freely in place, allowing for quick attachment to mating hardware. When you back off the nut, the panels separate. When you reassemble it, they come back together. It’s easy to assemble and disassemble repeatedly without losing any parts.”
VariMount® Bonding Fasteners
The VariMount® fastening system eliminates issues associated with welding. The assembly is comprised of a standard PEM® nut, stud or stand-off mounted permanently into a base plate. The assembly can then be fastened or bonded to assorted panel types in various ways.
Mounting methods for VariMount® fasteners include:
- Laminate with composite layers
- Surface bonding
- Loose hardware (nuts, bolts, screws)
- Self clinching fasteners
- Blind threaded rivets
- Adhesives or adhesive tape
- Hollow wall anchors
“VariMount® bonding fasteners can be mounted on or into a variety of materials, including composites, plastics, metals, wallboard and any rigid material or panel.”
GHOSTTM Magnetic Fastening
Currently part of the PEM® range as a tech release, the GHOST™ magnetic fastening solution is ideal for achieving tight security and sleek aesthetics. When fully released as part of the PEM® product range, the GHOST™ fastener will provide a fully concealed fastener solution with zero visible evidence of disassembly once engaged.
“The GHOST™ fastener will enable assembly and reassembly with near-instant release during the disassembly process afforded by a specialist magnetic tool,” says Jay. “It’s ultra-sleek in design, and the concealed nature of this product opens up several design avenues across various industries and market sectors.
“Using a magnetic release tool on the concealed fastener actuates the internal components, unlocking the pinch-lock grip and instantly releasing the pin from the fastener. Only someone who’s authorised with the proper tool will know where to place it to locate and release these components if required.
“It also offers cosmetic benefits, but security-wise it’s a huge improvement over other methods of assembly. If you were to try and physically separate the component without using the tool, it would require around 130 Newtons of force to separate each pin from its retainer, and it will be obvious that the assembly has been tampered with.”
Discover More About the Future of Fastener Technology with the PEM® Fastener Industry Report 2023
Find out more about where PEM® experts think the fastener industry is headed and discover the innovative technologies currently being developed to enable further advancement across a range of industries, including automotive electronics, consumer electronics and mechanical engineering.