3D Printing May Influence Change in The Fastener Industry
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In this modern day and age, where would we be without plastic fasteners? Today they are used in the automobile industry, aeronautics, space development, food and drug development and many other areas. It is surprising! We use plastic fasteners or plastic composite fasteners and washers in areas most of us could never even imagine.
In fact, the more you think about it, the more profound this question is, especially for such a seemingly lowly product, the plastic fastener. It is a question that many within the industry are asking, “Where are we going next?” Certainly, a deep question for such a simple object. Don’t believe us? Read on to understand our thought process here.
Fasteners literally hold our world together.
It is impossible to imagine every single thing that we see and know as being here without the help of fasteners. Wikipedia says fasteners are essentially “any hardware that holds two objects together, such as bolts, nuts, screws, and anchors”. Once upon a time all we had we were vines and ropes, pegs and wires, pieces of sinew and hair. And now it is hard to think of all the different types of fasteners available to us, from the standard metal, to plastic fasteners and that doesn’t even cover all the different plastic composite fasteners available, and made especially to work in industrial applications.
Today, fasteners are found in everything from your home to your job, even in the vehicles that take you to work and then back home again. We use plastic fasteners in the things we play with and enjoy, in the products that help us make foods, in the furniture we sit on. In short, we use plastic fasteners in more things than we ever thought possible, and we need them for a variety of reasons. Primarily, because they are lightweight, but also because when they are blended with composite materials, they can offer just as much strength as metal fasteners.
The World of The Plastic Fastener Industry is Expanding
Today with the rapid advances of 3D printing, the plastic fastener industry is growing even more. We now have the ability to print hardware for a multitude of industries, whether for industrial or consumer products, for machining and industrial needs, or for the formation of non-cutting threading methods.
3D Printing and The Future of The Plastic Fastener
3D printing is a technology that can overcome the shortcomings of conventional manufacturing techniques, and it is an area that is just now being explored and expanded. This industry promises to usher in a plethora of products that could once only have been dreamed of. So here once again the sci-fi guys got it right.
For obvious reason, this new and exciting technology has been restricted to high-tech, emerging technologies and industries such as aerospace, biomedical, and robotics. The costs of this cutting-edge technology, still in its infancy, make the printing of generic fasteners too restrictive for the present. But that will change. We will overcome and conquer. It is a whole new territory where the plastic fastener, bolt and plastic washer will make itself at home.
It Is The Future of The Plastic Fastener
To that end, numerous product designers and fabrication firms are working, exploring the different ways of using 3D printers to develop unique designs that will take plastic fasteners to the next level and beyond.
The enhanced functionality of plastic fasteners brought about because of the advanced 3D printing techniques brings a new outlook to the industry. Experts foresee an overall added value to a full range of product and expect industry advances never achievable before.
Time To Take Advantage of Possible Federal R&D Tax Credit
Companies involved in these pursuits may qualify for federal Research and Development Tax Credit. A credit enacted to encourage innovation, creation and fabrication of emerging uses and technologies. What the transistor and circuit board did for electronics these technologies will do to advance manufacturing in every corner of the globe and especially in the fertile minds of inventors, untethered by limitations.
What Is The Research & Development Tax Credit?
The federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit, enacted in 1981 has spurred many industries to take on new challenges. Those involved in the development and utilization of 3D printing techniques can receive a credit of up to 13% of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. To qualify, your research must meet the following criteria:
- Be technological
- Lead to or aim for an improved or new product, processes, or software
- Be in the process of development or experimentation
- Need to eliminate uncertainty
- Eligible costs include wages, supplies, testing, contract research, associated expenses and patent development.
The R&D tax credit can offset the minimum tax and as a further incentive startup businesses can apply the credit against up to $250,000 per year in payroll taxes.
Mechanical Fasteners vs. Adhesives
It is almost impossible not to think of any product and not think of the different components that hold them together in the manufacturing process. Every separate element needs to be fastened in one way or another. Even the simplest arrow of primitive man, needed a way to keep the arrowhead attached, but leather thongs and lengths of rope no longer get the job done when it comes to modern manufacturing.
The Use of Adhesives
Adhesives of course are a popular and economical way to fasten parts together. While some industrial adhesives are able to create a stronger bond than mechanical fasteners,there is a price to pay. Many disadvantages are associated with adhesives including extreme toxicity requiring safety equipment and procedures that must be built in or incorporated into your factories and manufacturing process.
Adhesives can be dirty and difficult to work with. They are under scrutiny and subject to numerous regulatory issues including safe waste disposal, and strict regulations for packaging and shipping and storage.
The biggest issues challenging the use of adhesives have to do with the effect they may have on the serviceability of a finished product. Permanent and sometimes instant bonding of components can result, but these also make repairs basically impossible to perform without substantial damage to the components. Who among us has not Krazy Glued our fingertips together at least once in our life, and when we pull our fingers apart parts of our skin come with it. The same principle applies to products.
The Right to Repair Movement
In our PC world, a movement to prevent adhesive bonding by manufacturers called “Right to repair movement,” is rapidly spreading and is affecting everything from toasters to shoes. But that movement is also pushing the development of innovative fastening techniques and products to the fast track.
The mantra of modern business is quicker, stronger, better and cheaper. This is creating a major growth opportunity for innovative fastener design. CAD software and 3D printing techniques are taking innovation off the screen and onto the assembly line, making dreams that were once far away, an everyday occurrence.
Even H.G Wells would be shocked to see how far we’ve come, and have gone. Not only from the earth to the moon, but beyond. A lot of that forward progress belongs to the invention and development of 3D printers to manufacture parts and plastic fasteners/joints for aircraft and other aerospace applications.
3D printers are allowing the development of fasteners and joints with new capabilities. Airbus is developing a new technology, called “hyper joining. This joint claims to be six-and-a-half times stronger than a bonded joint and has the ability to absorb up to 80 times more energy, reduce fuel consumption and cost, as allow for more advanced aerodynamics. And the sky’s the limit when advanced technology meets advanced thinking.
Something as simple as a staple over a stitch has simplified surgery. Now that 3D printing is advancing, even everyday fasteners such as Unthreaded Expandable Fasteners (UEF) are being revolutionized and examined.
The procedure for securing posterior cervical stabilization plates relied on surgical screws. The misalignment of those screws, which can ultimately lead to nerve damage and screw expulsion can result. A 3D printed UED, incorporated into the implant, solves the alignment issue, reducing surgical risks.
The U.S. is aging rapidly and its infrastructure is in a state of general, teeth-rattling disrepair. Groundbreaking technologies like 3D printing will increasingly be called on to reduce the cost of repairing and modernizing the nation’s bridges, highways, and rails.
The high cost of labor in the U.S. will drive the costs through the roof and every means will be thought of and examined to reduce costs everywhere possible. Right down to the lowly fastener.
This will unleash major incentives for innovative fasteners to be developed. These will be more economical, easier to use and allow construction workers to assemble products in faster and cheaper ways.
The future is in 3D
Success is built on the fastening of the needs to means. Fasteners, found in everything, generate a huge opportunity for the high-end plastic fastener industry. It is in the creation of new plastic fastener solutions that we will see a reduction in cost, and we will build product value. 3D printing technologies are tools we are just beginning to learn to use and we’ve only scratched the surface.
Using the federal Research and Development Tax Credit to offset development costs and fund R&D, visionary companies can use this benefit to develop plastic or plastic composite fasteners with functionalities that could not be achieved before 3D arrived. Fasten your seatbelts everyone. It’s going to be an exciting ride.