Riveting in Sheet Metal Fabrication with CNC(316l vs 316 Sarah)

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Rivets have been used since ancient times to join pieces of metal together. In modern manufacturing, riveting is still a popular technique for fastening sheet metal components, providing a strong and permanent mechanical bond. With the rise of computer numerical control (CNC) machines, riveting processes can be automated for high precision and efficiency.
How Rivets Work
A rivet is a short cylindrical shaft with a head on one end. To join two or more sheets of metal, holes are drilled or punched into each layer and a rivet is inserted. The plain end of the rivet is then upset, or mushroomed out, to form a second head, clamping the sheets together. Rivets are commonly made from aluminum, steel, copper, or titanium.
The riveting process induces plastic deformation which mechanically fastens the rivet in place. This creates a tight seal that is resistant to vibration and fatigue. Rivets can be used to join similar metals or dissimilar metals. They are popular in aerospace, automotive, appliances, and other sheet metal fabrication industries.
Automated Riveting with CNC
Many modern manufacturing facilities use CNC machines for riveting. CNC (computer numerical control) uses programmed computer instructions to control tools and machinery. For riveting, the CNC machine precisely controls drill location, hole sizing, rivet feeding, insertion, and upset.
CNC automation provides consistency in quality and efficiency. Rivet patterns can be optimized for strength requirements. Production rates can be increased due to fast drilling, rapid tool changes, and integration of multiple steps into one CNC program.
Drilling/Punching Holes
The first step is to create holes for rivet insertion. CNC drilling centers use high-speed drill bits to bore holes at the precisely programmed locations. CNC punch presses use punch and die sets to stamp out holes rapidly.
Drilling produces more accurate holes with smoother edges. Punching is faster and requires lower tooling costs for high volume production. The CNC machine can be programmed to drill or punch the properly sized holes in the correct locations for each rivet.
Feeding Rivets
CNC automated riveting systems have integrated vibratory bowl feeders that orient and deliver rivets to the insertion point. The feeder bowl uses vibration and rotation to manipulate the rivets into the correct position. For small rivets, vacuum suction cups may pick and place each rivet into precision holder guides that position the rivet over the drilled hole.
Inserting Rivets
A pneumatic, hydraulic, or servo rivet insertion system then drives each rivet into the hole using a punch. The punch impacts the rivet with sufficient force to flare out the tail and clamp the sheets together. On certain CNC riveting machines, the insertion punch is integrated into the spindle for faster processing.
Upsetting Rivets
The upset process deforms the inserted rivet tail to form a wide head that locks the rivet in place. Upsetting can be done with rotating flattening spindles, orbital forming tools, or impact hammers. The CNC machine is programmed to control force, dwell time, and rotation to flare the rivet precisely based on rivet size and material properties.
Automated Quality Inspection
Automated inspection improves quality control. Vision systems and robotics allow the CNC machines to check for missing or malformed rivets after the riveting process. Any defects can be flagged or mapped for rework. Force monitoring systems can also be implemented to collect upset force data and fine-tune the riveting programs.
CNC Riveting System Examples
Here are some examples of how CNC technology is used for automated riveting:
- Gantry-style CNC riveting machines have a moving gantry that positions the riveting head anywhere over a stationary work table. Useful for large parts and flexible production.
- 4-axis and 5-axis CNC riveting centers manipulate parts in multiple directions for accessing hard-to-reach areas and doing angles. Common for aerospace assemblies.
- Indexing dial machine rotates the part to each station for progressive drilling, riveting, and inspection steps. Allows high-volume production.
- Robotic CNC riveting cells use articulated robots to handle parts and perform flexible riveting patterns without reprogramming. Good for mixed-product lines.
- Specialty CNC riveting machines for automotive, appliances, electronics, and other production environments. Tailored processes to suit part configurations.
With advancements in quality control systems, tooling, and software, CNC riveting machines will continue improving manufacturing productivity and part quality. By automating the precise, repetitive process steps, CNC riveting provides excellent throughput for sheet metal fabrication. CNC Milling