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A risky business

Published: 26 September 2013 - Rachael Morling

Fasteners can be critical products in industries ranging from marine to construction. But, when trying to keep costs low, sourcing cheap copies of fasteners can prove to be a false economy, explains bigHead

bigHead bonding fasteners are used in applications throughout a diverse range of industries, including automotive, transport, marine construction, general industry and signage. Here, they offer benefits such as strength, flexibility and easy installation. However, the company sometimes comes across cheap copies of its products.

Two recent examples were in the automotive and construction industries – and bigHead is surprised that such false economies would be seriously entertained in such high risk areas.

In the first example, a well known EU Tier 1 supplier to an automotive OEM sourced a cheaper copy from Taiwan. On detailed inspection, it was possible to discern poorer quality in a number of areas, such as ‘punch exit burring’ to the many head perforations and reduced weld projection form and height – both critical features of the bigHead design. These resulted in poorer ‘flow’ of the composite materials around the perforated head, but not so poor that product failure could be established at this stage. However, once the Tier 1’s product was put into service, it frequently broke.

It is not always possible to tell by looking at a weld that it is inferior, which is why close control of the manufacturing process of the bigHead fastener is so critical and why so much of the company’s experience has been focused on the weld process. As a result, it achieved a 0ppm defect rate on the weld in 2012.

There are a number of points to think about in this application – the high cost of reclamations and repairs, the disruption to production, customer inconvenience, and damage to the Tier 1’s reputation. In addition, did the OEM know that the supplier was not using a genuine part and had they sanctioned the change?

Another recent example was within the construction sector, where cheap bigHead copies surfaced at the final purchasing stage, long after the original product had been tested and approved. Despite having worked with the contractors and architects for over a year, the purchasing function entertained offers from many companies who thought they could make a bigHead. But, without thorough analysis of the manufacturing process it would be impossible to have any confidence in these. 

Meeting industry demands

Genuine bigHead fasters are used in a wide range of applications.

With the automotive market investing heavily in lightweight materials, the company is seeing demand from supercars to premium and luxury cars as materials such as carbon fibre extend their penetration.

As a result, the fasteners are being used within the automotive industry by companies including Aston Martin, Bentley, Lotus, McLaren, Ford, Audi, VW, Mercedes, Jaguar Land Rover, and numerous kit car manufacturers The company is also an approved supplier to Rolls Royce Motors.

In this area, the products are being used for applications including cabin panels, interior trim, external cladding, bumpers, moulded panels, light clusters, seating, and anchor points.

In fact the company is currently supplying a specialist fastening solution to Proseat for a high end ventilated seat module. Embedded directly in the polyurethane seat cushion, the bigHead fastener provides a very secure anchor point for a fan unit to be attached under the seat cover. The threaded stud connection allows the fan unit to be easily assembled and later removed for repair.

Marine and construction

Manufacturers in areas from mass transportation to construction continue to increase their use of composite panels, with the desire to reduce weight while maintaining strength. As the applications for these panels grow, so too do the fastening challenges. Fastening solutions that worked for more substantial structures in steel, wood, stone and concrete may not be effective.

In the marine industry, bigHeads secure cabin panels, engine room insulation, interior furnishings, deck fixings, light clusters, and many other applications. Made of 316 stainless steel, these are ideally suited to provide high load bearing fixings to GRP, carbon fibre and other composite materials in the most severe marine environments.

They have, in fact, been used for many years in boats such as Sunseeker Yachts, Lasers and RNLI lifeboats.

The company has also seen an increase in the use of bonding as an alternative to welding in marine environments as welding can lead to weakness through corrosion. Offshore oil and gas platforms, for example, have started to implement adhesive bonding as an effective alternative to welding.

Furthermore, the fasteners are being used in construction applications. Here, they are used to secure interior panels, external cladding, moulding panels, light clusters, seating, anchor points, etc. They are also ideal for discretely fixing thin panels where traditional drilled fixings are incompatible. Tests have shown that the fasteners can withstand very high loads.

Select a genuine product

So, when specifying a fastening solution it is best to ensure that you have selected a genuine product, one that will offer the strength and reliability needed for the application, and one that will not compromise the design of the final product.

bigHead Bonding Fasteners

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Industry Connections: Bighead Bonding Fasteners Ltd

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