Jim, Tom, and Dave: Thanks, guys, for the detailed feedback and your collective experience. The advantages of one over the other obviously depend on the specific circumstances. The big advantage I kept hearing about adhesives was simplification and therefore reduction of manufacturing times, thus savings. I will keep all this in mind when I work on the micro-fastener feature. Your feedback will help me ask better questions!
Jim makes a good point. Adhesives can resist as much load as mechanical fasteners -- provided that you have enough surface area to spread them over. But since, in round numbers, the shear strength of steel is 100 times greater than the shear strength of typical structural adhesives, this means you need to have 100 times more surface area. It might not be hard to find this much surface area on a large component, but on a small component, it could be a challenge.
Where adhesives really shine is in fatigue -- and since, in my experience, most fastener failures are fatigue failures, this can be a big advantage. Also, as Tom Drechsler points out, if adhesives are properly used, they can vastly simplify a manufacturing process.
Given all this, I would imagine we will see more and more adhesives on our products. Are there particular industries that are adopting this? Are there certain industries in which the adoption of adhesives is a particularly strong solution?
Rob, the cost differential seems to revolve mostly around application process differences that save manufacturing costs and time, which also translate into cost. But your point is well taken--if the adhesives help the product last longer since it's not poking holes in sheetmetal--which will make the metal fail sooner as well as creating a point of ingress for damaging liquids--then that's another cost savings.
Ann: We were able to reduce the cost of a small shaft assembly by eliminating machining operations for traditional fasteners by switching to an anaerobic shaft-locker. The resulting bond is stronger than the small 17-7Ph shaft it is used on. Surface prep is critical, dispensing must be done carefully but when done in a controlled environment with fixturing the assembly times can be managed. Life & overstress testing has validated the process and we continue to monitor it as this is new ground for us.
The resulting parts are stronger (no flats for stress raisers), have less vendor issues (deburring on fine ID bores from cross threading or stepped shaft diameters). and take less space (even small fasteners have length requirements that conflict with highly packed components).
I've experienced the opposite problem. In fact experiencing it now. When attempting to fasten small components with adhesives, there is less margin of error. Less surface area, more opportunity for contaminant, or surface irregularity to confound adhesive. I guess there are some caveats - such as surface preparation, use of cleanroom, etc. Sometimes you simply want there to be a "mechanical" connection.
Chuck, that's an intriguing point about adhesives replacing fasteners in ever-shrinking smaller electronics. That's what I would have thought, but it turns out there's a "micro" class of fasteners that are ridiculously small--I don't recall the exact dimensions--and that will be the subject of an upcoming feature this year.
Dave and Alex, thanks for the feedback. A whirlwind tour it was. Each of these subjects deserves its own feature, and in fact, each will get its own spot at least once again this year. I concentrated on structural solutions since those seem like the toughest area for adhesives to beat fasteners, but they came closer than I'd initially expected. The fact that adhesives spread out the load over a larger area seems to be one of their biggest advantages. Pretty awesome numbers, eh? There's a lot more going on with adhesives, and they've come a lot further, than I would have guessed.
Interesting, Ann. It could be that the material costs are small compared to overall costs. If the adhesives are particularly effective, there could be additional savings in quality through the life of the product. That could matter in terms of overall costs.
I would think that adhesives offer an advantage in smaller electronics partially because mechanical fasteners can only get so small before they become a manufacturing problem. I would imagine that some of today's razor thin phones would be a good example of this.
At this year's MD&M West show, lots of material suppliers are talking about new formulations for wearables and things that stick to the skin, whether it's adhesives, wound dressings, skin patches and other drug delivery devices, or medical electronics.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.