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bolt securing

The Making of Bolts

Bolts are one of the most basic components of engineering and construction, yet their production has become an advanced, high-tech process with multiple steps. Find out how raw steel is transformed into highly specified and exact metal implements.

First published in Bolted #1 2018.

BOLTS can come in a wide range of different sizes and shapes, but the basic production process generally remains the same. It starts by cold forging steel wire into the right shape, followed by heat treating to improve strength and surface treating to improve durability, before being packed for shipment. However, for more advanced bolt designs, the production process can expand by a number of additional steps.

As one of the leading suppliers of fasteners to the automotive industry, Swedish manufacturer Bulten is highly proficient in every step and facet of bolt production. “We do not produce catalogue parts – everything we produce is custom-designed, according to the customer’s specifications,” says Henrik Oscarson, Technical Manager at Bulten’s production plant in Hallstahammar, Sweden. “Depending on where the fastener will be used, there are a number of different options for producing exactly the right bolt.”

COLD FORGING STARTS with large steel wire rods, which are uncoiled and cut to length. The grade of steel is standardised across the industry, according to the requirements of ISO 898‑1. Using special tooling, the wire is then cold forged into the right shape. This is basically where the steel is moulded, while at room temperature, by forcing it through a series of dies at high pressure. The tooling itself can be quite complex, containing up to 200 different parts with tolerances of hundredths of a millimetre. Once perfected, cold forging ensures bolts can be produced quickly, in large volumes, and with high uniformity.

For more complex bolt designs, which cannot be contoured through cold forging alone, some additional turning or drilling may be needed. Turning involves spinning the bolt at high speed, while steel is cut away to achieve the desired shape and design. Drilling can be used to make holes through the bolt. If required, some bolts may also have washers attached at this stage of the process.

HEAT TREATMENT IS a standard process for all bolts, which involves exposing the bolt to extreme temperatures in order to harden the steel. Threading is usually applied before heat treatment, either by rolling or cutting, when the steel is softer. Rolling works much like cold forging, and involves running the bolt through a die to shape and mold the steel into threads. Cutting involves forming threads by cutting and removing steel.

Since heat treatment will change the properties of the steel to make it harder, it is easier and more cost-effective to apply threading beforehand. However, threading after heat treatment will mean better fatigue performance.

“The heat treatment can cause heat marks and minor damage to the bolt,” explains Henrik Oscarson. “For this reason, some customers demand threading after heat treatment, especially
for applications like engine and cylinder head bolts. It’s a more expensive process since you need to form hardened steel, but the threads will maintain their shape better.”

For long bolts, where the length is more than ten times the bolt’s diameter, the heat treatment can have the effect of making the steel revert to the round shape of the original steel wire. Therefore, a process of straightening often needs to be applied.

THE CHOICE OF surface treatment is determined by the bolt’s application and the requirements of the customer. Often, the main concern for fasteners is corrosion resistance, and therefore a zinc-plated coating applied through electrolytic treatment is a common solution. This is a process whereby the bolt is submerged in a liquid containing zinc, and an electric current is applied so that the zinc forms a coating over the bolt. However, electrolytic treatment does come with an increased risk of hydrogen embrittlement. Another option is zinc flakes, which offers even higher corrosion resistance, albeit at a higher price.

WHEN CORROSION RESISTANCE is not an issue – such as inside an engine or an application that is regularly exposed to oil – using phosphate is a more cost-effective option. Once the surface treatment has been applied, standard bolts are typically ready to be packaged. However, more advanced designs may require some additional assembly, such as brackets. Other bolts will also require some form of patching, either a locking patch or a liquid patch. A locking patch consists of a thick nylon layer over the threads, which helps improve grip. A liquid patch will help improve thread-forming torque.

ONCE THESE STEPS are complete, the bolt is finished. Now all that remains is some form of quality control to ensure uniformity and consistency, before the bolts can be packaged and shipped.

THE PRODUCTION PROCESS

1. WIRE
Uncoiled, straightened and cut to length.

2. COLD FORGING
Moulding the steel into the right shape at room temperature.

3. BOLT HEAD
Progressively formed by forcing the steel into various dies at high pressure.

4. THREADING
Threads are formed by rolling or cutting.

5. HEAT TREATMENT
The bolt is exposed to extreme heat to harden steel.

6. SURFACE TREATMENT
Depends on the application. Zinc-plating is common to increase corrosion resistance.

7. PACKING/STOCKING
After quality control to ensure uniformity and consistency, the bolts are packaged.

 

Read more: Top ten tips for secure bolting

SpaceX competition winners chose wedge-locking washers

First published in Bolted #1 2018.

IN 2015, ELON MUSK, the billionaire behind the futuristic transport technology companies Tesla and SpaceX, launched the Hyperloop Pod Competition. It challenges university students to design the best transport pods for the Hyperloop– Musk’s dream where people will travel inside a pod that levitates on its tracks and races at almost supersonic speeds through a giant tunnel
network, which connects the major cities of the world.

During the 2017 competition, the WARR Hyperloop team from the Technical University of Munich was the one that finally raised the laser-sintered titanium trophy. During the competition, they broke a world-speed record for hyperloop pod travel, using Nord-Lock wedge-locking washers to secure each bolt of their pod.

THE 30-STRONG WARR Hyperloop team was divided into several sub-teams to manage areas ranging from CAD design and structure to procurement, finance and marketing. Sub-team leader for CAD design and structure, Florian Janke, says he was inspired by Musk’s vision for a superfast futuristic transport system, and especially the idea that people could one day travel from Munich to Berlin in just 30 minutes.

He says that, “When Musk launched his ‘SpaceX competitions’, I just had to be part of it. We did well in all the stages of the Hyperloop Pod Competition. In the last one, which focused on maximum speed, we achieved 324 km/h (210 mph).”

The WARR Hyperloop team’s lightweight pod smashed the previous 310 km/h (192 mph) record speed set by California-based Hyperloop One, whose pod reached this speed in a 500-metre tube. “There is obviously lots of acceleration and vibration when testing at such high speeds in a relatively short tube – 1.2 km (0.8 miles),” Janke explains. “It was essential that we had secure bolts, so we used Nord-Lock wedge-locking washers, which held the bolts firmly in place. They were perfect.”

The WARR team has registered for the next, third Hyperloop competition, and has already passed the first selection round. While some team members are active in the new, 2018 team, albeit in new roles and positions, most of the them are carrying on with their studies. A few are travelling from trade fair to trade fair showing the 2017 winning pod.

AS THE TEAM worked very closely with a lot of manufacturers in order to get financial backing and various parts, some team members have since had interviews with these companies, and are now considering working there.

New issue of Bolted magazine out now!

The 2018 March issue of Bolted magazine is available now! As with every edition we have filled the magazine with interesting cases and insights from the world of bolting.

In this issue of Bolted, we take a closer look at what goes into the manufacturing process of traditional bolts – from raw steel to tailor-made applications.

We ask expert Filemon Schöffer about the potentials with 3D-printing, and we meet German company “MMG” who is a world leader in production of propellers for large container ships.

And of course a lot more.

Bolted magazine is available in 9 languages – Read them now:
English
German
French
Swedish
Finnish
Japanese
Chinese
Korean
Spanish

Want to receive your complimentary copy of the Bolted magazine? Subscribe now!

Top tips from bolting expert

Bolted got a unique opportunity to meet ­Japan’s foremost expert in bolting, Doctor ­Tomotsugu Sakai. His book Bolted Joint Engineering – Fundamentals and Applications continues to receive an enormous amount of support as the definitive work on bolt fastening.

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.”

Facts: Micro-slip
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

  • 1941 – Born in Okazaki City, Japan
  • 1979 – After working for Toyota Motor Corporation, receives his doctoral degree in engineering, mainly engaging in the strength and durability testing, research and development of various automobile parts.
  • 2001 – Transfers to Toyota Techno Service Corp, engaging in education and technical consultation for threaded fasteners.
  • 2007 – Retires and establishes Sakai Consulting Office on Bolted Joint Engineering, where he provides education and technical consultation for bolt fastening to this day.

 

► Video: Multifunctional Nord-Lock X-series washers

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Washers triple-protect nuclear transports

23 February 2018
comment

Text: Ulrich Schamari

photo: ILLUSTRATIONS: Daher Nuclear Technologies

First published in Bolted #2 2017.

THE CHALLENGE

Daher Nuclear Technologies GmbH, located in Hanau close to Frankfurt am Main, Germany, develops containers for transportation of radioactive substances. For obvious reasons, these containers must be extremely safe.

Designing a new container for uranium hexafluoride transports, the company had to consider the very stringent international and national requirements, including the recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for transport by road, rail and sea. A container that fulfils these requirements must, for example, be resistant to the mechanical and thermal loads that can occur in case of an accident.

These mechanical accident loads are defined by a sequence of tests that include a 120-centimetre fall, followed by a 9-metre fall, followed by a fall from 1 metre onto a spike. The container must remain sealed, so that the subsequent thermal test, a fire, doesn’t jeopardise the container’s safety.

THE SOLUTION

Daher set out to design the container locks so that the locking bolts would, under no condition, come loose or be lost during the loading of the container onto a lorry or during transport. The company’s intensive search for the optimal solution led to Nord-Lock wedge-locking washers of type NL16-254SMO. These safety washers are an important component in Daher’s triple-protected locking system: the lock is secured with a bolt, which in turn is locked in position by another bolt. The wedge-locking washers from Nord-Lock are located under the second of these bolts. Each container has six locks and each lock is equipped with a Nord-Lock washer pair.

THE RESULT

Thanks to the use of Nord-Lock wedge-locking technology, the locking systems on the Daher transport container for the nuclear industry can no longer be worn by vibrations or stress, but remain tightly and securely locked. Daher was also pleased to find how cost-effective the use of the Nord-Lock product is, and how easy the maintenance is. If needed, the wedge-locking washers can be replaced at any time to ensure that the transport containers remain in top condition. The containers have a service life of more than 30 years – something that the Nord-Lock washers contribute to.

The Experts: Improving fatigue resistance

First published in Bolted #2 2015.

A: The fatigue capacity of a bolted joint is very small, as compared to its static capacity. To improve fatigue resistance, designers can increase the thread capacity and decrease the alternating stresses at the threads.

To increase the thread capacity, it is recommended to use a rolled thread instead of a cutting process. To increase the bolted joint capacity, utilize multiple smaller fasteners instead of a single larger fastener.

The capacity is also increased by using an improved connector, such as a Superbolt MJT (Multi-Jackbolt Fastener) or Flexnut, which improves the load distribution in the threads and adds elasticity to the bolted joint.

The best way to improve fatigue resistance is to reduce the alternating stresses at the threads. There are three main ways of doing this: Assembly design, assembly tightening, and assembly security.

The assembly design process provides an opportunity for improvement of the load distribution on bolted joints and to reduce the level of external stresses supported by each joint. To facilitate that, keep these principals in mind:

1. Use the highest possible preload
2. Minimize the bolt to load eccentricity
3. Use the largest possible contact surfaces
4. Use the largest possible clamping lengths
5. In most cases, use a preload higher than the working load

Other assembly design options include the use of necked-down studs or bolts, and the use of elastic washers, which counter the effects of relaxation, creeping, and thermal differential elongation.

With regard to assembly tightening, achieving the necessary preload is the main factor in reducing alternating stresses. It is recommended to use calibrated tools with high accuracy. It is also recommended to use a proper lubricant to achieve preload accuracy, and to reduce the risk of seizing. A suitable tightening sequence should be used to mitigate the risk of un-evenly loaded bolts and to ensure overall bolted joint integrity.

Regarding assembly security, it is recommended to secure the bolted joint against loss of preload. Further, secure the assembly against environmental effects, such as corrosion that could initiate a fatigue crack. This may be done through the selection of suitable materials and/or coatings for parts and fasteners.

 

ASK THE EXPERTS
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Put the Nord-Lock experts to the test.
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How do you choose the right size of Nord-Lock washer?

 

In this video we explain how you choose the right size of washer for your bolted joints.

► Read more: Introduction to Nord-Lock washers

► Video: Junker vibration test with Nord-Lock wedge-locking washers

How does the Nord-Lock washer work?

 

Nord-Lock washers secure bolted joints with tension instead of friction. Watch this video and let us explain how it works!

► Read more: Introduction to Nord-Lock washers

► Video: Junker vibration test with Nord-Lock wedge-locking washers