While screws may seem like a universally homogeneous component, there are actually several different types of screws that are used in unique applications. As the most common fastener type in the world, screws are used in nearly every industry, including manufacturing, aviation, and consumer goods, among many others. In this blog, we will discuss the most common types of screws and how they are implemented.
Screws are set apart from other fasteners by their helical ridge, which allows the member to engage with a pre-drilled hole or create a new thread in the material in the case of self-tapping. They may also contain a partially-threaded shank above the ridge to increase stability when combined with a washer or nut. Additionally, all screws feature a head that is engaged by a screwdriver or similar tool when tightening or loosening.
One common misconception is that screws are synonymous with bolts which look similar and perform like functions. While there are no formal definitions or distinctions for each, there are several commonly accepted differences that have been appreciated by professional associations such as ASME. The primary accepted difference between the two is the method by which fastening takes place. Screws are held in place by either their articulation with a pre-drilled hole or through the tension created with the walls of the substrate it is drilled into. This differs from bolts, which are generally held in place with the use of a nut and washer.
Machine screws secure machine parts or other surfaces to a metal surface with a pre-tapped hole affixed with threading. Since they are built to withstand frequent vibration and corrosion, durable metals such as titanium, stainless steel, and brass are commonly implemented in their manufacturing. These screws feature a fully threaded shank; therefore, the tapped hole must be drilled to the correct length. Since they are used so frequently in vehicles, tool assembly, electronic devices, and other vital equipment, there exist several industry standards to ensure uniformity among the various manufacturers.
Sheet metal screws feature a fully threaded shank and a sharp tip that enables self-tapping through a variety of materials, including sheet metal, wood, and plastic. These versatile fasteners may be used to retain any number of objects or combine a surface with a piece of sheet metal. Unlike other screw types which may be produced from a wide variety of materials, most sheet metal screws are made from carbon steel or galvanized steel.
Cap screws are easily recognized by their flat head with an extending diameter. These screws are designed with a dilated head to provide a mechanical stop when tightening. They also stretch when tightened, creating a tensile load that can readily affix two components together. Cap screws find use in many machine parts and consumer electronic devices.
Ceramic screws, while technically not a unique type, are worth mentioning because of their specialized purpose. Due to ceramic's lightweight, wear-resistant, and corrosion-resistant properties, aerospace engineers have long looked to use this material in aircraft and spacecraft. Additionally, ceramic fasteners can withstand temperatures up to 2,000 degrees celsius, making them the perfect choice for engine components.
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