Rivets for Sheet Metal in CNC Machining(sheetmetal fabrication Uriah)

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Rivets are a popular and versatile fastening method used in sheet metal fabrication and CNC machining. They provide a strong mechanical attachment between two or more pieces of sheet metal in a way that is easy to install, remove if needed, and allows some flexibility in the joint. Understanding when and how to use rivets for sheet metal parts made with CNC machines can help improve the strength, durability, and assembly of fabricated components.
What is a Rivet?
A rivet is a mechanical fastener that consists of two main parts - a cylindrical shaft and a head. The shaft is inserted into holes drilled or punched into the materials being joined. The head is formed on one end and upsets or buckles the tail on the other end during installation to create a permanent connection. This creates a strong clamping force to hold the materials together while still allowing some flexibility in the joint.
Rivets come in a variety of head styles, materials, sizes and installation methods to suit different sheet metal fabrication needs. Some common types of rivets used with CNC machined sheet metal parts include:
- Blind rivets - tubular rivets designed to be installed from one side without access to the backside. The mandrel stem is pulled to expand the rivet body.
- Solid rivets - solid cylindrical shafts that are inserted into holes and headed on each side with a rivet gun or hammer.
- Self-piercing rivets - designed to pierce and join thin sheets without pre-drilled holes. Often used for aluminum, magnesium, and other softer materials.
- Structural rivets - high strength rivets that meet aerospace or structural specifications, usually with large head styles.
- Drive rivets - small, semi-tubular rivets designed to fill shallow holes and provide high clamping force.
Benefits of Rivets for CNC Sheet Metal
Using rivets in CNC machined metal parts offers a variety of benefits compared to other joining methods:
- Speed of Installation - Rivets can be quickly inserted into holes and headed to form a fast joint. Installation is also easy to automate.
- Mechanical Strength - The riveted joint can withstand high shear and tensile loads if properly designed and installed. Rivets are very rigid under dynamic loads.
- Vibration Resistance - Riveted joints allow some relative movement which increases vibration resistance compared to fully rigid welded or bonded joints.
- Disassembly Capability - Rivets can be drilled out if needed later for repairs or modifications. This isn't possible with welds or adhesives.
- Appearance - Countersunk rivets can provide a smooth exterior surface compared to exposed weld beads or fasteners. The shop-head of rivets can also be customized.
- Material Options - Rivets come in a wide range of materials including aluminum, steel, titanium, copper, and more to suit the base materials.
- Cost Effectiveness - Installation of rivets has a lower overall cost compared to welding or bonding processes in many production environments. The fasteners themselves are relatively inexpensive as well.
CNC Machining Processes for Rivet Holes
For rivets to work effectively, properly sized holes with good dimensional accuracy need to be created in the sheet metal components first. CNC machining offers excellent control and repeatability for producing rivet holes. Here are some common methods:
- CNC Drilling - Drill bits can create holes for most rivet sizes and joint configurations. Allows precise hole placement and depth control.
- CNC Punching - Punching uses special tools to stamp holes in sheet metal. Fast process but limited depth control. Common for mass production applications.
- CNC Milling - End mills and slot drills can mill rivet holes. Allows countersinks and other complex holes shapes to be machined.
- Laser Cutting - Lasers quickly cut holes through sheet metal with no contact. Excellent for delicate materials where burrs must be minimized. Limited hole size range.
- EDM Hole Drilling - Uses electrical discharges to "burn" through conductive materials with no contact or force. Achieves burr-free holes with tight tolerances.
Hole sizes should match the rivet diameter being installed, typically with a tolerance of +0.002/-0.000 inches (+0.05/-0.00 mm). Countersinks may be needed to recess flat or countersunk rivet head styles. Programming CNC toolspaths and using properly sharpened tools helps achieve high quality rivet holes.
Design Considerations for Riveted Sheet Metal Joints
Proper design is critical to create riveted sheet metal connections that have sufficient strength and durability:
- Hole Pattern - Evenly spaced holes in a staggered pattern provide the best load distribution. Follow standards for minimum edge distances and hole pitch.
- Joint Geometry - Lap joints, butt joints, and other configurations affect joint strength. Account for both shear and tensile loads.
- Rivet Size - Larger rivets and more rivets per joint increase strength. Consider sheet thickness, materials, and expected loads.
- Fitting Force - Rivets exert a powerful clamping force on sheets. Ensure adequate material strength to prevent tearing or deformation.
- Clearances - Allow small clearances around rivet holes and for sheet alignment to prevent binding during assembly.
- Materials - Select rivet materials compatible with the base materials to prevent galvanic corrosion. Heat treating may also be needed.
- Inspection - Test sample rivet joints under expected static and dynamic loads. Check for hole quality, rivet seating, and material distortion.
Properly designed and manufactured riveted connections can withstand very high loads and fatigue cycles in CNC machined sheet metal components for aerospace, automotive, electronics, and industrial applications.
Automating Rivet Installation
For medium to high production volumes, automating the process of inserting and heading rivets improves speed and consistency. Here are some CNC equipment options:
- Rivet Machines - Special CNC machines that insert rivets and form the heads in one process step. High speeds are possible with precision insertion and upset force monitoring.
- robots - Industrial robots can be programmed to pick, place, and upset rivets using rigidly mounted tools. Enables flexible automation. Machine vision can improve accuracy.
- CNC Feed Systems - Belt, tube, or tape feeders can automatically supply rivets to installation equipment. Reduces labor and improves production flow.
- Presses - CNC hydraulic or pneumatic presses automate heading of pre-inserted rivets. Can integrate with other machinery.
- Roller Headers - Spinning rollers compress and form rivet heads. Compact inline option for round head rivets.
- Controllers - Programmable controllers coordinate actuators, sensors, feeds, and motion for automated riveting. Can integrate with larger manufacturing systems.
Automated systems require initial programming but then enable consistent, reliable high-speed riveting with minimal operator intervention. This boosts part quality and frees up personnel for other tasks.
In summary, rivets are an extremely versatile and beneficial method of joining sheet metal components made with CNC machining. With the right design, machining approaches, and equipment, rivets can help fabricators and manufacturers improve the quality, durability, and manufacturing efficiency of sheet metal products across countless industries. CNC Milling CNC Machining