You are here: News

News

FASTENING THE FUTURE


Chris Jenkins, editor of Torque Magazine, visits Arconic Fastening Systems (AFS) in Telford to find out about a leader in unique and cost-effective solutions to fastening problems.

The separation is primarily a corporate activity – our future will be determined by the value we bring to customers, that will not change Jim Arnold, AFS Vice President and General Manager Arconic Inc could hardly have a more prominent place in world manufacturing history. When in 1886, Charles Martin Hall developed the first commercial aluminium smelting process, the foundation was laid for a company which by the ‘30s controlled half of the world’s aluminium production capacity.
 
Today, the company’s 60,000 staff in 30 countries produce best‐in‐class bauxite, alumina and primary aluminium
products, and deliver ‘value‐added’ products made of titanium, nickel, aluminium, steel and stainless steel. Arconic technology is found in automotive, commercial and military transport, air and space travel, heavy industrial and consumer electronics products, particularly where ‘lightweighting’ is a priority.
 
Yet the company is not resting on its laurels, and has announced ambitious plans to separate into two standalone, independently traded entities; an ‘Upstream’ company retaining the name Arconic, pursuing the bauxite, alumina and
aluminium, and energy business; and a ‘Value‐Add’ company called Arconic, to be an innovator in high‐performance multimaterial products and solutions. The transaction is expected to be completed in the second half of 2016.

Value added
So how will this affect the Arconic Fastening Systems (AFS) operation, based in Telford? According to Jim Arnold, Vice President and General Manager of AFS, it will be “Businessas usual!”
“The separation is primarily a corporate activity – our future will be determined by the value we bring to customers, that will not change,” Jim explained.
 
AFS was formed through Arconic’s acquisition of Huck Fasteners in 2000, Fairchild Fastening Systems a couple of years later, and the rings business of aero engine part maker Firth Rixson in 2014. AFS recently celebrated its 30th
anniversary in Telford, and now has over a hundred employees at the location. The current AFS product ranges
offered by the Telford location are Huck and Recoil. Jim Arnold demonstrated the merits of the various products with obvious enthusiasm during our visit to Telford.
 
Huck fastening systems are designed to solve problems due to extreme vibration between joined materials. The Huck LockBolt based on Lou Huck’s original design provides high stability and facilitates lightweight, stronger and more durable structures. “The fastener compromises a pin and collar,” explained Jim, “and the special installation tool swages the collar on to the pin during installation. The pin locking grooves provide up to 100% contact area with the swaged collar, with clamp force variation of +/‐6%, compared to 30% for a conventional fitting – essentially it’s vibration‐proof, whereas a conventional nut and bolt could work loose.
“The pin has a relatively shallow thread which also increases the tensile strength and shear strength of the installed fastener when compared to a nut and bolt. The saving to the customer is both in speed of installation, and in maintenance costs – a simple visual inspection will suffice, rather than regular testing. Sizes from 4.8mm to 36mm are available, and the products are proving popular in markets such as wind towers, where vibration proof, maintenance free, third‐party approved fasteners are a necessity.”
 
Lockbolts have the added advantage that there is no need for a sloped washer to aid alignment on sloped surfaces, thanks to the collar design. Relatively new is the Huck 360R system, a shallow‐thread bolt and nut combination with  locking thread flanks and a plastically deforming nut, achieving vibration resistance only previously achievable with a traditional lockbolt.

Evolution
Challenging the engineering community with innovative technology is something AFS does well, but it’s also well‐established in more conventional areas such as Huck structural blind fasteners. These are appropriate for fastening sheet or tube material up to 20mm thick, where only one side of the workpiece is accessible. Even here, though, new applications are being found; in solar energy, for instance, where tubular mounts require multiple fastenings to  secure the panels against wind damage. Blind fasteners are also used on automotive, trailers, and a wide range of industrial applications.
“We bring new products to market but we also develop new products to meet specific customer needs,” explained Jim Arnold.
 
Another aspect of AFS’s worldwide operation is its commitment to regional manufacturing. “Part of our strategy is  to commit to the region,” explained Jim – “local manufacturing is key to the speed of delivery and service”. The commitment to Telford is evident in the recent announcement of a £1.6m investment in machinery and staff. Planned to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2016, the additions include an optical inspection machine, and two cold parts formers for small diameter collars and medium diameter pins. These investments along with increased demand have led to four additional jobs coming to the Telford site. With its diversification into green technology, particularly wind and solar power, along with developments in automotive technology and multi‐material assembly, the future looks exciting – and Jim Arnold promises, along with the corporate developments, news of a “knockout!” new product which will keep AFS at the forefront of assembly technology.