It’s all in the little details: Choosing the right fastener for your product

Garage Startups

In 1939, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded HP in Packard’s garage

Visit Kickstarter on any given day, and you’ll see close to three to four thousand projects. A t least a few hundred of them are product design or manufacturing related. And it is this that shows us that startup companies are changing the world in unusual, exciting and groundbreaking ways.

Many of these life changing startups literally began in a garage. Yes, the companies and the products we know to be strong, once had humble beginnings. Check this list out, for starters.  And even today, many new product innovations continue to rise and change our world. And most of these inventions come from garages, bedrooms or home offices. Just the other day I came across the story of Kyle Doerksen, Founder of Future Motion, an innovator who invented the Onewheel motorized skateboard and prototyped his idea in the garage before launching a Kickstarter campaign. How did he do it? He just got busy and started creating those prototypes. He kept making and testing until he made the perfect motorized skateboard.

How Does an Inventor Start?

Inventors start by designing, and testing. They might use computer aided design, or go “Old school” and grab Playdoh, cardboard, wood, or just about anything imaginable to make their idea function. It is after a few initial tests, that the manufacturing process comes into play, and it is here that you must think about factors such as resistance, flexibility, contact, friction and abrasion – and all of these points have a lot to do with the type of fastener you use.

Fasteners?

Are you thinking: “Why do I need to know about fasteners? Those are simple products, I just need to use the appropriate one to fasten my materials together”?  You wouldn’t be alone. But fasteners have a world of their own, and using the appropriate fastener can be the key to making your prototype work. The modern fastener is complex and made in different types and of different materials. Today, a plastic fastener can be just as strong as a metal one, and in many cases, a more appropriate choice for modern day products.

Let’s Take a Look at The Plastic Fastener

nylon screws

Plastic Fasteners, Specifically Nylon Screws

Most people assume that plastic makes a product look and feel cheap. They believe plastic fasteners don’t have the strength and durability of their metal counterparts. Plastic fasteners simply attach plastic parts, cheap furniture and other very inexpensive products. That’s just not true. Plastic and composite fasteners are used in a very diverse set of products, and “CHEAP” has nothing to do with it, but weight, electro charge and friction certainly do.

Plastic and plastic composite screws and fasteners

Plastic, like many materials, has developed with technology. Research and development has found that when combined with other composite materials, plastic can be just as strong, and in many cases, better than metal. The primary benefits to using plastic are:

  • It is light
  • Resistant
  • Non conductive to electricity.

This makes plastic and plastic derivatives ideal for the making fasteners, which is why plastic screws can be an ideal solution when  designing or developing a new product.

In What Industries Are Plastic Fasteners Used?

Plastic fasteners are used in every industry imaginable, including the aerospace industry. These are known as high performance engineering plastics. Manufacturers and designers often choose them as a natural fit because of their light weight compared to other industrial materials and fasteners. Modern engineered polymer fasteners are about 1/6th the density of steel, are flame and smoke retardant and have lower toxicity characteristics (important in food industry products) and can handle temperatures as high as 400°F. In fact we can easily say that plastic fasteners have the following important benefits:

  • They are tough
  • Impact resistant
  • Stand up to abrasion and vibration
  • Have good sealing characteristics
  • Perform well in bearing and under wear
  • Have electrical insulating properties

How to Choose The Right Plastic Fasteners

Plastic screws are much like standard screws, except they are made of plastic or plastic composite materials. When referring to them you compare the size, the thread size, head size, and shank thickness. Screw sizes are based on head size and shank thickness and the sizes go in ascending order, so a #2 screw is about half the size of a #4 screw.

Heads – Conical heads are on most general purpose screws and can be driven below the surface with the head lying flat against the material being fastened, even if not as neatly and cleanly as screws that have countersinking heads. Pan heads, like flat screws,hold the materials together tightly but do not countersink. And when you need to hold materials firmly together there are washer heads which provide holding power but do not conceal. Of course, you might also choose a trim head which does conceal within the holding materials.

The head of a screw also comes in different designs to fit the different fabrication or drive bits used. Some are specially designed to offer better bit grip, minimize stripping and premature cam-out.

Threads – Fine threads are often used to attach things to metal whereas coarse threads offer more strength in holding woods and other similar like materials.

Points – points on the end of screws also differ,  but most are sharp to help bore into the material being used.

Coatings

Over the years, plastic screw manufacturers have found that they can make screws that are just as strong as metal ones. It is a matter of using advanced coatings designed to protect them from the elements in exterior applications.

So to get to the point here, when innovating and creating new products, using plastic fasteners for your products and projects might be an important consideration to make.

Need help choosing the right fastener?

As fastener experts, we can help you find the right fastener for your next project. Contact us today, no matter where you are in the design or build process!