Millions, if not billions of fasteners are produced and sold worldwide every day. Designed in response to the constantly evolving needs of manufacturers, these integral components to our cars, fridges, computers and telephones are the lynchpins of our modern existence, without which our 21st century lives would, literally, fall apart.
Advances in product technology and design, combined with economic and even environmental factors, mean that the successful fastener manufacturer (and supplier) has to be nimble enough to adapt its range constantly to manage its customers’ needs, and stay ahead of competitors.
One company that has both the experience and expertise to move with the times is TR Fastenings, the trading division of Trifast PLC, a global manufacturer and supplier of fasteners and fixings which has been at the forefront of the industry since it was founded in 1973 and which now regularly supplies over 5,000 companies with components, each with specific needs in both product and quality. In recent years one major development in manufacturing industry has been the trend for using fewer, and lighter, materials. So how has TR approached this challenge? Already a market leader with its extensive range of metal fasteners and fixings, TR has recently launched a range of plastic fasteners, which looks set to become a core product range in its portfolio.
Where a fastener is needed to be versatile, light and yet strong, plastic is often the optimal solution. A case in point is the automotive sector, where the latest trend is for lightweighting - a lighter car uses less fuel, is more economic and more environmentally friendly. TR Fastenings recently supplied plastic fasteners to the UK car manufacturer Ariel Motors for their latest Atom sports car, to help take weight out of the structure to enhance its world-famous performance. “The Atom is designed with an open structure based on frames,” explains Kevin Roger, TR Fastenings’ plastic products sales manager. “Therefore the use of plastic cable ties is a neat and subtle way of hiding the wiring harness throughout the body of the car. However, where a part was needed near the engine, a stainless steel tie was need, which we could also provide.”
“The Atom is just one example of how we are currently approaching our clients and asking to see their processes to see if we can improve them and provide some production benefit. Also, plastic fasteners have the advantage of being multi-functional. Why use a nut, bolt and a washer, when you could use a two-piece plastic rivet that takes less time to apply? That is where the innovation is.” Innovation is all in a day’s work for Steve Wallis, TR’s Sheet Metal Specialist at TR Fastenings., who keeps an eye on the fastener needs of his customers. “The key is communication”, explains Wallis. “We regularly undertake market research and invest considerable time and resources in the development of new products as a result. In addition, our Application Engineers regularly works alongside product designer and developers to provide technical assistance on materials and product development – a bespoke service for those who request it.”
TR’s range of Hank Rivet Bushes, Hank Self Clinch, Blind Rivets, Euro Rivet Bushes, Swage Nuts, Weld Nuts and K-Series products all offer threads in a variety of materials where the sheet is too thin to be tapped by conventional methods. As a result, TR Fastenings has positioned itself as a market leader in the sheet metal fastener sector with its own-range of fasteners, which come in a range of shapes and sizes and materials. As metals became lighter and thinner during the 1990s, the company introduced its TR Hank Clinch Fastening range which now comprises 750 different components including studs, stand offs, nuts and panel fasteners and is used in numerous industry sectors, including medical equipment, marine, automotive, white goods, telecommunications, electronics and general engineering.
The range is ever-expanding too. TR recently introduced a new M8 size hardened stainless steel self-clinch stud in November 2012, which has a potential use in a number of industries that use stainless steel sheets, but also require a certain amount of corrosion resistance is required.
“This size was not available on the market and we could see evidence of demand, so it made commercial sense to produce it,” comments Wallis.
TR also launched two other new sheet metal products in 2012, in response to customers’ needs, the Euro Rivet Bush and the K-Series nut.
TR has been manufacturing the genuine Hank Rivet Bush for 30 years and the new Euro Rivet Bush offers an alternative to the Kerb-Konus and PSM Rivet Bush ranges, principle aimed at the European market. Easily installed, extensive in-house testing using the very best engineering equipment shows this product out-performs similar products offered by TR’s competitors.
TR Fastenings’ also introduced the K-Series nut, which offers a permanent female thread that can be installed without the need for specialist tooling. Once fixed, the product offers a permanent thread with a high prevailing torque and pullout resistance.
K-Series nuts are manufactured in a case hardened carbon steel, plated and tested to ISO898, though stainless steel can be supplied to order. Sizes range from M2.5-M16, with three different spigot lengths, the body of the product is hexagon with a serrated spigot.
“The great thing about the K-series nut that sets it apart is that it is quite small in the hole size required and the diameter of the body,” explains Wallis. “It is much smaller when compared to self clinch nuts and rivet bushes. So this gives it the other added advantage of where space is a premium, such as in the telecommunication or electronics industry.”
The Binx Nuts range is another exclusive fastening to TR’s product portfolio. Originally designed in the 1960s. the Binx Nut has been refined and developed by TR Fastenings to an all-metal, self-locking nut suitable for use in various industry sectors. Dimensionally no bigger than a standard full nut, the Binx Nut’s ingenious design incorporates two opposing cantilevers which lock into the mating part with inward and downward pressure minimising thread wear and enabling the nut to be removed and replaced repeatedly whilst retaining torque resistance. Binx Nuts are also unaffected by temperature fluctuations or contaminants. Available off the shelf in a number of different materials and sizes the Binx Nut is the first choice for many, especially where vibration resistance is a priority. The product is ideal for the high engineering industry sectors.
Meanwhile, further investment in product development for the thermoset and thermoplastic industries has enabled TR Fastenings to expand its screws for plastics range with the introduction of the Plas-Fix 45 screw this year. This product has a 45-degree angle and Tri-lobular thread form, which makes it ideal for harder plastics, offering superior screw performance with low torque drive and high pull out strengths.
Advances in technology which lead to better design, improved productivity and new market opportunities for the product manufacturer are equally beneficial for the fastener manufacturer, which in turn can pass on those benefits to its customers. A great benefit to us all.