There are thousands of fasteners used in the manufacturing and assembly of a single automotive vehicle. Some fasteners are applied manually by technicians while others are installed with pinpoint accuracy by automated robotics, equipment, and machinery. Here is a list of some of the most recent innovations and trends concerning automotive fasteners.
Composite Material Fastening
The automotive industry is constantly on the lookout for lightweight, durable, strong, impact and fatigue-resistant materials. This never-ending pursuit is all about fuel efficiency. Lightweight composite materials mean lighter vehicle frames, better gas mileage, and thermal management.
Joining composite material does not come without challenges. The fibrous and laminate nature of such materials makes traditional mechanical fastening difficult without fatiguing or cracking the composite. Until recently, adhesive has been the go-to for the joining of composites but recent advancements in Bossard’s fastener technology allow embedded mechanical fasteners into composite panels. This can be a huge benefit when considering composite to metal or substrates where adhesive just won’t bond. Another benefit of using a mechanical join would be for applications where there is a need for repeat access or repair.
Multi-material designs can benefit from Bossard’s MM-Welding® technology by creating strong mechanical connections in porous, honeycomb, laminate, and injection molded components often found in automotive applications.
The Rise of Plastic Fasteners
Plastic is another lightweight but durable material used by automotive manufacturers. Lightweight plastic fasteners are less expensive than composite, steel, and other materials. One reason for their low cost is that the plastic injection molding process produces less waste compared to other conventional machining and manufacturing processes.
Prices are also lower because of lower labor costs as molding machines can run 24/7 with minimal supervision. Plastic fasteners like washers, pins, and spacers don’t have issues with corrosion and certain thermoplastic resins have a high tolerance for heat, humidity, chemical exposure, extreme weather, and corrosive operating environments.
New Shapes, Sizes and Configurations
Fastener manufacturers are constantly having to come up with new fastener designs to keep up with the speed of automotive innovation. This includes designing fasteners with different shapes, sizes, configurations, and geometries. This constant push for new designs is driven largely by changing automated assembly equipment and machinery.
The lean manufacturing and continuous improvement processes of the automotive industry force the entire supply chain to innovate. Automotive manufacturers are always looking to reduce assembly and production cycle times. This constant pursuit means fastener companies must ensure that each generation of fastener is stronger, more durable, and more reliable than the last.
The Need for New Permanent Fastener Designs
With the further adoption of electric vehicles, the automotive industry is gradually moving away from semi-permanent joints. This is due in large part to the increase in electrical vehicle production where manufacturing, assembly, and service requirements differ greatly from conventional gas-burning cars.
While it’s not uncommon for combustion engines to be removed from cars for repair, servicing, and refurbishment, this is a less likely outcome with electric engines. Electric cars have engines that are permanently in place and not designed to be dismantled or removed. Properly securing the parts and integrated assemblies within electric engines requires the design of robust permanent fasteners.
A Constantly Changing Industry
The automotive industry will also demand more flexibility from designers as they push for more uniformity among internal and external fastener designs. This means designers must be open to reducing inventory skews by designing more universal fasteners for wide-ranging automotive applications.
If you would like to learn more about these latest innovations, contact us now.