Riveting in Sheet Metal Work(metal surface finishes Elroy)

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Rivets are a common fastening method used in sheet metal work to join pieces of metal together. They create a permanent joint by inserting a metal pin through holes in the pieces being joined, and deforming the protruding ends to lock it in place. Rivets come in a wide variety of styles, sizes and materials to accommodate different sheet metal thicknesses and applications. Knowing when and how to use rivets for sheet metal work can lead to strong, long-lasting assemblies.
Benefits of Riveting Sheet Metal
Rivets offer several advantages that make them a popular choice for joining sheet metal:
- Permanent Connection - Once installed, the deformed rivet ends lock it tightly in place, preventing loosening over time from vibration or movement. This creates an extremely secure joint.
- Allows for Dismantling - Unlike welding, riveting does not fuse the metal pieces together. This means riveted assemblies can be taken apart if needed by drilling out the rivets. This makes maintenance and repairs easier.
- Accommodates Differing Thicknesses - The clinching action of rivet installation compensates for small gaps between materials of slightly differing thicknesses. This flexibility is useful when working with sheet metal.
- Works on Most Metals - Rivets suitable for sheet metal are available in steel, aluminum, copper and other common metals, making them versatile for mixed material assemblies.
- Quick Installation - Riveting is generally faster than bolting or welding sheet metal together, especially with access only to one side of a joint. This improves productivity.
- Low Cost - Rivets themselves are an economical fastening option, and installation only requires simple hand tools for many applications.
Common Rivet Types for Sheet Metal
There are three main categories of rivets used to join sheet metal, each with design variations within the category:
- Solid/Round Head Rivets - As the name suggests, these feature a solid shank and round head. They are the most basic type and come in flat and countersunk head options.
- Semi-Tubular Rivets - These have a hollow, partially open shank. The open end gets flattened during installation to clamp materials together. Common types are round head and countersunk flush rivets.
- Blind Rivets - Designed to be installed from one side when there is only access to one part of the assembly. The mandrel stem gets pulled to expand the rivet body. Common options are pop rivets and break mandrel rivets.
Sheet metal workers select the best rivet type for their specific joint design, materials and assembly method.
Rivet Materials for Sheet Metal
Sheet metal rivets are manufactured from steel, aluminum, copper, stainless steel, and specialty alloys like Monel or titanium. Steel and aluminum are the most common. Factors that determine the best material include:
- Strength - Steel provides the highest shear and tensile strength for heavy duty connections. Various alloys offer differing levels of strength.
- Corrosion Resistance - Stainless steel and aluminum rivets resist corrosion in harsh environments. Some alloys like Monel also offer excellent corrosion protection.
- Ductility - Softer, more ductile materials like aluminum, copper and some brass alloys deform easier during riveting to fill gaps.
- Weight - Aluminum and titanium rivets minimize weight while maintaining good strength. This is important in applications like aircraft.
- Compatibility - Rivet material should match or be compatible with the sheet metal material to prevent galvanic corrosion.
Proper rivet selection ensures a long-lasting, trouble-free sheet metal assembly.
Riveting Tools for Sheet Metal
Installing rivets in sheet metal is simple using hand, pneumatic or hydraulic riveting tools. Common options include:
- Manual Riveting Hammers - For light duty riveting, simple hand held hammers allow the operator to buck the rivet by striking the set head.
- Pneumatic Riveting Hammers - These air powered tools speed up installation of large batches of rivets. The hammering action sets the rivet quickly.
- Squeeze Riveters - Hydraulic or pneumatic jaws apply strong clinching force to both sides of a rivet to set it. No hammering required.
- Impact Rivet Guns - Also called rivet busters. A heavy impact force sets the rivet in one squeeze of the trigger. Often used for large or stubborn rivets.
- Orbital Riveters - Use a orbital vibrating head to quickly upset the rivet and fill the hole. Eliminates rework from excessive hammering.
For difficult access joints, right angle and offset riveting tools allow for better ergonomics and control. Automated tools are also available for high volume riveting. Proper tool selection helps optimize riveting productivity and quality.
Riveting Best Practices for Sheet Metal
Following some basic best practices will produce professional results and strong sheet metal rivet joints:
- Drill holes precisely matched to rivet diameter for a tight fit. Remove any burrs.
- Select a rivet length allowing the set head to sit flush with material surface. Approximately 1.5 x material thickness is suitable for most applications.
- Use washers under rivet heads and under set heads for soft materials like aluminum to prevent tearing.
- Set rivets perpendicular to the surface using quality riveting tools. Avoid off-angle setting.
- Set the rivet with 1-3 solid blows. Excessive hammering deforms the surrounding material.
- Use a dolly block behind the sheets for support if accessible. This prevents deformation of the materials.
- Stagger adjacent rows of rivets where possible. Aligning rows weakens the joint.
- For multi-layer joints, work from the middle outwards when bucking and setting rows of rivets.
- Always set the shop head first, against a bucking bar or dolly, then form the set head.
Proper rivet selection, hole preparation and installation technique will produce ideal riveted sheet metal assemblies. Consulting rivet manufacturer design guides can provide further guidance. With some practice, riveting can become a quick, reliable process for permanently joining sheet metal components. The versatility of rivets makes them a useful fastening method for any sheet metal shop. CNC Milling