Nord-Lock washers secure bolted joints with tension instead of friction. Watch this video and let us explain how it works!
First published in Bolted #2 2012.
Bolts are one of the most common elements used in construction and machine design. They hold everything together – from screws in electric toothbrushes and door hinges to massive bolts that secure concrete pillars in buildings. Yet, have you ever stopped to wonder where they actually came from?
While the history of threads can be traced back to 400 BC, the most significant developments in the modern day bolt and screw processes were made during the last 150 years. Experts differ as to the origins of the humble nut and bolt. In his article “Nuts and Bolts”, Frederick E. Graves argues that a threaded bolt and a matching nut serving as a fastener only dates back to the 15th century. He bases this conclusion on the first printed record of screws appearing in a book in the early 15th century.
However, Graves also acknowledges that even though the threaded bolt dates back to the 15th century, the unthreaded bolt goes back to Roman times when it was used for “barring doors, as pivots for opening and closing doors and as wedge bolts: a bar or a rod with a slot in which a wedge was inserted so that the bolt could not be moved.” He also implies that the Romans developed the first screw, which was made out of bronze, or even silver. The threads were filed by hand or consisted of a wire wound around a rod and soldered on.
According to bolt expert Bill Eccles’ research, the history of the screw thread goes back much further. Archimedes (287 BC–212 BC) developed the screw principle and used it to construct devices to raise water. However, there are signs that the water screw may have originated in Egypt before the time of Archimedes. It was constructed from wood and was used to irrigate
land and remove bilge water from ships. “But many consider that the screw thread was invented around 400 BC by [Greek philosopher] Archytas of Tarentum, who has often been called the founder of mechanics and considered a contemporary of Plato,” Eccles writes on his website.
The history can be broken down into two parts: the threads themselves that date back to around 400 BC when they were used for items such as a spiral for lifting water, presses for grapes to make wine, and the fasteners themselves, which have been in use for around 400 years.
Moving forward to the 15th century, Johann Gutenberg used screws in the fastenings on his printing presses. The tendency to use screws gained momentum with their use being extended to items such as clocks and armour. According to Graves, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks from the late 15th and early 16th centuries include several designs for screw-cutting machines.
What the majority of researchers on this topic do agree on, though, is that it was the Industrial Revolution that sped up the development of the nut and bolt and put them firmly on the map as an important component in the engineering and construction world.
The “History of the Nut and Bolt Industry in America” by W.R. Wilbur in 1905 acknowledges that the first machine for making bolts and screws was made by Besson in France in 1568, who later introduced a screw-cutting gauge or plate to be used on lathes. In 1641, the English firm, Hindley of York, improved this device and it became widely used.
Across the Atlantic in the USA, some of the documented history of the bolt may be found in the Carriage Museum of America. Nuts on vehicles built in the early 1800s were flatter and squarer than later vehicles, which had chamfered corners on the nuts and the flush was trimmed off the bolts. Making bolts at this time was a cumbersome and painstaking process.
Initially, screw threads for fasteners were made by hand but soon, due to a significant increase in demand, it was necessary to speed up the production process. In Britain in 1760, J and W Wyatt introduced a factory process for the mass production of screw threads. However, this milestone led to another challenge: each company manufactured its own threads, nuts and bolts so there was a huge range of different sized screw threads on the market, causing problems for machinery manufacturers.
It wasn’t until 1841 that Joseph Whitworth managed to find a solution. After years of research collecting sample screws from many British workshops, he suggested standardising the size of the screw threads in Britain so that, for example, someone could make a bolt in England and someone in Glasgow could make the nut and they would both fit together. His proposal was that the angle of the thread flanks was standardised at 55 degrees, and the number of threads per inch, should be defined for various diameters.
While this issue was being addressed in Britain, the Americans were trying to do likewise and initially started using the Whitworth thread.
In 1864, William Sellers proposed a 60 degree thread form and various thread pitches for different diameters. This developed into the American Standard Coarse Series and the Fine Series. One advantage the Americans had over the British was that their thread form had flat roots and crests. This made it easier to manufacture than the Whitworth standard, which had rounded roots and crests. It was found, however, that the Whitworth thread performed better in dynamic applications and the rounded root of the Whitworth thread improved fatigue performance.
During World War I, the lack of consistency between screw threads in different countries became a huge obstacle to the war effort; during World War II it became an even bigger problem for the Allied forces. In 1948, Britain, the USA and Canada agreed on the Unified thread as the standard for all countries that used imperial measurements. It uses a similar profile as the DIN metric thread previously developed in Germany in 1919. This was a combination of the best of the Whitworth thread form (the rounded root to improve fatigue performance) and the Sellers thread (60 degree flank angle and flat crests). However, the larger root radius of the Unified thread proved to be advantageous over the DIN metric profile. This led to the ISO metric thread which is used in all industrialised countries today.
Those working in the industry have witnessed much fine-tuning of bolts during recent decades. “When I started in the industry 35 years ago the strength of the bolts was not as fully defined as it is today,” recalls Eccles. “With the introduction of the modern metric property classes and the recent updates to the relevant ISO standards, the description of a bolt’s strength and the test methods used to establish their properties is now far better defined.”
As the raw materials industry has become more sophisticated, the DNA of bolts has changed from steel to other more exotic materials to meet changing industry needs.
Over the last 20 years there have been developments in nickel-based alloys that can work in high temperature environments such as turbochargers and engines in which steel doesn’t perform as well. Recent research focuses on light metal bolts such as aluminum, magnesium and titanium.
Today’s bolt technology has come a long way since the days when bolts and screws were made by hand and customers could only choose between basic steel nuts and bolts. These days, companies like Nord-Lock have invented significant improvements in bolting technology, including wedge-locking systems. Customers can select pre-assembled zinc flake coated or stainless steel washers, wheel nuts designed for flat-faced steel rims, or combi bolts, which are customised for different applications. The acquisition of US company Superbolt Inc. and Swiss company P&S Vorspannsysteme AG (today Nord-Lock AG) has added bolting products used in heavy industry, such as offshore, energy, and mining, to Nord-Lock’s portfolio, taking a huge step in becoming a world leader in bolt securing.
There is also much more emphasis now on analysing joints. “In the past, people used to decide upon a certain size of fastener based on their experience alone. And, fingers crossed, it would work,” Eccles explains. “Nowadays, people focus more on analysis and making sure things work before products are built and sent out into the market.”
First published in Bolted #2 2017.
Q: What do the markings on bolts and nuts mean?
A: Bolt heads and nuts are often marked with numbers, letters, dashes, slashes, dots, or an assortment of other marks. Fasteners commonly have two different markings: a unique manufacturer identification symbol – such as letters or an insignia – and information about the fastener strength. Such markings differ based on how the fasteners were made. See the table for the alloyed steel metric and stainless-steel metric fasteners that comply with ISO standards. UNC thread fasteners mainly comply with ASTM standards.
Due to lack of space, markings can be missing on smaller sizes, such as those with diameters below M5 according to ISO 898-1. However, the bolt class must be marked on the head above this size.
First published in Bolted #2 2017.
Any machine with moving pivots will eventually experience lug wear. The most common are applications subjected to heavy loads and vibrations, such as mining and construction equipment. Other common applications include industrial presses, wind turbines and moveable bridges. Any moving pivot in just about any application will experience lug wear at some point – the higher the demands, the faster the onset. When it happens, it will lead to a loss of precision and control.
There are three main reasons why lug wear is inevitable when using conventional straight pins:
The most common solution to lug wear is to repair the lugs with welding and line boring. The first step of this is to unload the pivot and dismount the pin. Then the line boring equipment needs to be lined up and “mounted” to the equipment. The worn lugs are rebored, filled up with weld, and finally rebored with a fine cut to the original diameter and tolerance. After removing the line boring equipment and repainting the lugs, a new replacement pin is installed. This whole process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the size and complexity of the installation. During this time, the machine is inoperable.
Despite the time and costs, this method is generally accepted as unavoidable. “It’s just something everybody does because everybody else does it, and they’re not even aware that there is another way,” says Jonny Wiberg, development & research engineer, Expander System. “Repairs are just accepted, and people don’t even look for another solution.”
Over the years, engineers have searched for better solutions to the lug wear problem. None of the previous attempts has proven universally effective. One option is to use a pin that fits as tightly as possible into the lug’s holes, practically eliminating the play between the two, and ensuring the best possible pressure distribution for a straight pin. Not only does this make the pivot expensive and the pin difficult to mount; over time, the lug hole will expand anyway.
Using the temperature method, the pin is frozen and then allowed to get warmer and expand once installed, creating a perfect press fit in the lugs. Tolerances of both pin and lugs need to be exceptionally tight – down to some hundredth of a millimetre, or tolerance grade 6. This significantly increases the cost of the pivot. Pivots with frozen axles are often considered maintenance-free, but they are impossible to maintain, as the axle can’t be removed.
Another solution is to improve the strength of the lugs with bushings. However, this will only prolong the onset of lug wear, and will not eliminate the problem completely, as the bushings need to be replaced several times during the equipment’s lifetime.
None of these solutions will completely remove the need for costly and time-consuming lug repairs. In contrast, the Expander System can potentially eliminate lug wear once and for all. It works by using a pin with tapered ends and expanding sleeves on each side. When it is installed, the sleeves expand radially, so that they fill the lug to create an exact press fit.
As the sleeves of the Expander System expand into the lug, they can take up unevenness or deformation, eliminating the need for welding and line boring. This significantly reduces the time needed for installation as well as the machine downtime. The most time-consuming process for installing the Expander System is the dismantling and removal of the original pin – a process that is also necessary before welding and line boring. In a recent example, the Swedish Expander System company was asked to do a cost comparison for a 70-millimetres axle. Considering the cost of the expansion bolt, the cost of pin removal and installation, plus the income loss from downtime, the total cost of the Expander System solution was calculated at around 500 euros. A conventional pin was around a third of the purchase price, while the costs of removal and installation remained the same. The time needed for line boring, in addition to the time taken for the transportation of line boring equipment, and the loss of income from significantly higher downtime, all contributed to a total cost estimation of over 2,300 euros.
Using the Expander System will not totally eliminate the need for boring, but for the welding process. It will eliminate the lug wear problem for the lifetime of that pivot. Using conventional pins, lug wear would inevitably return and the repair procedure would need to be repeated. In a typical application, this happens three to four times during a machine’s lifetime or every 3,000 or 4,000 hours. This means that the cost savings can amount to thousands of euros – for each machine.
How a rusty nail led to an award-winning innovation
In the 1950s, twin brothers Everth and Gerhard Svensson were building roads throughout Sweden, and becoming increasingly frustrated with the downtime and repairs caused by lug wear. One day, when a pivot pin was coming loose, Everth improvised and took an old rusty nail to fix the pin in the lug hole.
As a temporary solution, the rusty nail worked quite well and inspired Everth to develop the Expander System. For many years, the twin brothers used expander products as they continued to build roads. However, it wasn’t until 1986, when Everth’s son Roger realized the ingenuity of his father’s solution, that the concept was patented and the company Expander System Sweden AB was founded. In 1987, the Swedish Minister of Industry awarded the Expander System with the Innovation Development Award, in memory of Alfred Nobel. Today, the Expander System is installed in millions of machine joints globally.
Getting over 6,000 extra operating hours
Lug wear is a widespread problem for machinery pivots. It has cost users of machinery lots of money through the years – for repairs as well as for downtime. This is something that the Expander System can put an end to.
The Expander System will in most cases cost more than a traditional straight pin. But when all costs are fully calculated, including the time and costs associated with welding and line boring, and the loss of production due to downtime, the Expander System will prove to be significantly more cost-effective. The full extent of savings depends on many different variables, but it is fair to say that the higher the frequency of lug wear and the higher the costs of downtime, the greater the potential savings.
For Swedish construction machine supplier Maskinia AB, every minute of downtime for machine repairs means lost income. This is why they have been using the Expander System since 1999.
Recently, an excavator was brought in for repairs after 3,700 hours of operation. Using the Expander System, the boom mounting axle was replaced in just 6 hours. By contrast, the repair would have taken 3–4 days if it was replaced by a traditional pin, using the common method of welding and line boring.
Lars Malmén, Aftermarket Manager at Maskinia, says that, “The Expander System admittedly costs more than a traditional axle, but if you include repair time and stoppages with loss of income, the difference is clearly to the advantage of the Expander System. If you add the fact that Expander offers a 10-year function warranty, you can count on at least 10,000 problem-free operating hours – compared with the 3,700 that is regarded as normal for a traditional pin.”
First published in Bolted #1 2017.
Q: What is clamped length?
A: Clamped length – LK – is the free length of a bolt that is stretched under tension, meaning:
It is also called “grip length” as the total thickness of clamped parts under compression.
To optimise a bolted joint, it is recommended to design the clamped length to at least 3 or 5 times the bolt diameter. Increasing the elasticity of the fastener greatly improves the properties of the joint, as it:
For stiff joints that don’t permit a long clamped length, it is possible to implement smart and effective solutions to avoid failure. Instead of using expensive and unattractive spacers, you can, for example, use:
First published in Bolted #1 2017.
Nearly everyone has tightened a nut at some point in their lives and can understand the basic concept of torquing. It is the oldest, simplest, and for most non-engineers, the only method of tightening bolted joints.
Whether by hand or hydraulics, compared to other methods, simple to understand basics of torquing make it overall a far more cost-effective option. This does not dismiss the need for training and understanding of the key factors in torque tightening.
“With one torque wrench and a range of sockets, you can tighten quite a wide range of nuts and bolt sizes,” says Robert Noble, Technical Director, Asset 55. “It offers quite a bit of flexibility, and it’s easy to explain to a technician how to use torque equipment.”
Given that it will be effective in the majority of applications, it is clear why it is often the default first choice.
Hydraulic torquing has its limitations, particularly friction, which Noble labels, “the number one enemy of torque.” Typically, friction accounts for 90 percent of the torque applied to the nut, which means only a small portion of torque will translate into useful bolt load. Because torquing is an indirect way of loading, it is difficult to predict the exact bolt load. Many factors should be taken into consideration, in particular the lubricant used, the need to avoid possible contamination and a good surface finish on the nut bearing surfaces. This must be overcome to ensure reasonable accuracy when using torque to produce preload and can be a significant disadvantage in critical joints.
Noble stresses that with good procedures, calibrated equipment and competent personnel, torque tightening can be used successfully on most joints. Much is made of bolt scatter, which will see the achieved preload on an individual bolt within +/– 25 percent of target, but on a flange with multiple bolts the usual result is to achieve an average bolt load within close range of target (providing good practice is followed and the coefficient of friction is assessed). “This is accurate enough for the majority of gasketed flange joints, so torque remains a very viable technique,” Noble says.
Hydraulic bolt tensioning began in the 1970s, pioneered in part by British engineer Fred Heaton, who would go on to found companies Hydratight and Boltight. Over the next 20 years it gradually became more common and is now becoming the preferred method for tightening large critical joints in many industries, such as oil and gas, wind, subsea, or power generation.
Compared to hydraulic torquing, it is a more complex procedure that involves more specialised equipment. In certain applications tensioning can offer greater accuracy and control, as well as speed of assembly. It is particularly advantageous on flanges with multiple bolts. Using conventional torque, each bolt is tightened one-by-one in a pattern, which must be applied carefully to avoid the risk of putting too much load on one side of the gasket or flange. By attaching multiple tensioners, it is possible to tighten a number of bolts simultaneously for an even compression of the gasket.
“This is essentially where hydraulic tensioning came from,” says Nitin Patel, Projects and Commercial Manager, Boltight. “It allowed people to control the clamping force and if you could do it all in one go, around the whole circumference, that would be much better for the gasket, much better for the joint, and you could actually predict the load that is in that joint.”
Another perceived advantage of tensioning is improved accuracy, but as Noble points out, it’s not always that simple. “Unfortunately, the industry tries to use simple one-size-fits-all rules but they do not apply to the torque and tension criteria,” he explains. “Where the conditions are right, tensioning can become very accurate. Typically, that would be for bolts with a high length-to-diameter ratio – long, thin bolts – and where you have high bolt loads. In these applications tensioning is more accurate than torque. But conversely with short, fat bolts and low bolt loads, tensioning becomes less accurate.”
Tensioning also has its disadvantages, namely load loss, which occurs when the tensioner is released and the load transfers to the nut. To compensate for this, the load loss is estimated and the technician applies the expected load loss in advance. This means that the bolt, gasket and flanges are subjected to greater stress than the targeted assembly stress. This has to be taken into consideration either at the joint design stage or prior to using the tooling. An alternative is to repeat the tensioning procedure to compensate for the settlements.
Hydraulic bolt tensioning can also have practical and logistical drawbacks. Since it requires more equipment and specialised tools, it can be significantly more expensive. “Tensioning is not easily understood, other than by those who tension regularly,” says Noble. “You need specific tension tools and it’s difficult to design a tensioner range with the same flexibility as a torque wrench.”
So the truth is that there is no simple answer to which one is better, torquing or tensioning. It is best decided on a joint-by-joint basis.
“Blanket policies result in a lot of technical queries and in some cases the need to compromise on bolt load. Instead you need to do what is best for that specific joint,” Noble says and concludes: “Sometimes it comes down to looking at the application with open eyes, considering how you will actually get the equipment out to the site, the location where it has to be used and how it is going to fit into the application.”
Did you know that…
Friction typically accounts for 90% of the torque applied to the nut during hydraulic torquing?
For bolted joints, several factors must be considered before choosing between torquing or tensioning.
First published in Bolted #1 2017.
Q: How does lubrication affect hydraulic tensioning and multi-jackbolt tensioning?
A: With the traditional method of tightening a nut, using a spanner, lubrication is very important, as there are a lot of surfaces moving against each other – the threads of the nut against the threads of the stud and the underside of the nut against the surface of the joint. Overcoming these frictional forces accounts for approximately 90 percent of the work (energy input) applied to generating the load in the joint.
When a hydraulic tensioning tool applies a clamping load to a joint, lubrication has no effect as it is applied directly to the stud and joint. A tension force is a linear force applied in an axial direction, so there is no rotation required to generate the load. This allows the nut to be turned down against the joint face under minimal friction.
As there is no friction to consider, there is no need to reduce the coefficient of friction using lubrication. Also, the lack of friction in the application permits much more accurate and repeatable results.
With multi-jackbolt tensioners (MJTs), the use of a lubricant on the main bolt thread does not affect the preload. It is advisable to use a very light film of lubricant with anti-seize characteristics to facilitate tensioner removal.
A more tangible effect of lubrication for MJTs is from the required lubricant use on the individual jackbolt threads, jackbolt bottoms of the tensioner, and washer face.
Proper use of lubrication is crucial to safeguarding repeatable and precise preload control in Superbolt installations. Superbolt mainly uses a graphite-based lubricant with a low friction coefficient and steady performance to achieve a positive impact on the preload. The MJTs are delivered with lubricant pre-applied to the installed jackbolts. Additional lubricant is included for application to the jackbolt bottoms. For subsequent installations, reapplication of lubricant is required to provide the intended performance.
First published in Bolted #1 2017.
How do you define ideal fastening, which you also covered in your book?
“Ideally, fastening should be based on the use of widely available, standardised fasteners, rather than specially designed parts. More importantly, ideal fastening should ensure a bolt fastening design that won’t lead to any kind of failure. The entire product design becomes invalid if a single failure occurs. You must pay attention to every aspect. I consider ‘evaluation without any omission’ most important.”
Is using lubricants an advantage in bolt fastening?
“Yes, if the fastened objects don’t slip against each other, lowering the friction coefficient is favourable in all aspects. If fastened objects are in a ‘loosening environment’, they are more likely to loosen if the friction coefficient is low, but it does not necessarily lead to loosening.
They are in a ‘loosening environment’ if they are repeatedly subject to slip against each other with a force exceeding a certain threshold.
How do external forces cause slip, based on shear direction, axial direction and torsion?
“If an external force is applied in the shear direction, it would cause slip. If it is applied in the axial direction, the fastened objects would separate from each other – separation. Under these conditions, the lower the friction coefficient, the more likely loosening is to occur.
When writing Bolted Joint Engineering – Fundamentals and Applications, I used the conventional view of the slip phenomenon, explaining the slip of fastened objects on the contact surface – so-called ‘macro-slip’. You can observe this with your eye, as this type of slip needs to be only 0.1 mm for visual confirmation. Around 1988, it was found that invisible ‘micro-slip’ actually occurs before the macro-slip and that it causes rotation, which is so micro that, whether turned in the direction of loosening or not, it can’t be confirmed with the naked eye. This phenomenon, ‘micro-slip’, gradually diminishes the axial force. It was introduced in an article in the Journal of the Japan Society for Precision Engineering.
“If fastened objects are in contact with each other, conventional experiments can’t measure the slip amount of a certain section of the contact surface or of other sections. But all of these values can be calculated using the finite element method, FEM. It has been used in the fastener industry since around 2000 and today most research on threaded fasteners utilises it. An article by Doctor Satoshi Izumi et al. in 2006 announced that gradual rotational loosening was found to occur with micro-slip (invisible minute slip)rather than macro-slip (clear, visible slip). I was shocked when I first read the article, which states that when micro-slip occurs repeatedly, it causes minute rotational loosening as small as 1 degree per 1,000 times or 1/1000 degree each time. A 1/1000-degree rotation is not at all observable to the eye. With the finite element method, it can be studied perfectly and it was demonstrated that micro-slip causes rotational loosening. I felt I was in trouble! [Laughs] The results drastically shook the concept of critical amount of slip.
I had thought that micro-slip would naturally lead to fretting wear, but didn’t consider that it could cause rotational loosening. I had no way of testing that at the time. It was an eye-opening experience.”
A slip not visible to the naked eye. Gradually diminishing the clamp force, it can ultimately lead to visible rotational loosening (macro-slip). Settlements and relaxation of the material can also decrease the clamp force. Nord-Lock Group has developed X-series washers that deal with both forms of slip. They counteract all kinds of clamp force losses with the spring effect, while the wedge effect prevents spontaneous bolt loosening.
Facts: Doctor Tomotsugu Sakai
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