Blind rivets have come a long way in the last 100 years. What makes blind rivets so useful in a wide range of industries is the fact that you can drive them in from only one side. Additionally, once sealed, they have excellent load-carrying capacity and are less prone to failure caused by vibration or corrosion.
The blind rivet (also known as a pop rivet) was created in 1916 by Hamilton Neil Wylie, an engineer and Royal Navy reservist. Wylie’s invention was revolutionary because for the first time, rivets could be driven without requiring access to both sides of the join. In 1922, Wylie put his patented blind rivets to work for a British aircraft maker, refining his design. Others followed, including inventors Carl Cherry and Lou Huck, until they developed the one-piece units with mandrel and rivet that are commonly used today.
Having proven their value in aircraft manufacturing, pop rivets were soon adopted for other forms of transportation, electronics, appliances, and a host of other applications where blind rivets could do the job no other type of fastener could.
Plastic Pop Rivets Are Ideal for Automotive
Blind rivets are commonly used in today’s automotive and trucking industry because they are extremely durable and require no welding, adhesives, or special skills to install. For example, automotive rivets are ideal for structural repairs, such as installing a new panel on top of a broken or corroded panel or installing plastic bumpers and other accessories.
As pop rivets have evolved, the materials used to make them have evolved as well. Plastic and nylon pop rivets are commonly used in automotive manufacturing because they are strong (stronger than aluminum), lightweight, and non-corrosive. They are also useful for joining painted surfaces because they are less likely to mar the finish than metal rivets.
Bay Supply offers precision plastic rivets from two manufacturers for these types of applications:
- Marson plastic rivets are black and feature a truss head. They are commonly used for plastic-to-plastic, plastic-to-metal, and plastic-to-fiberglass joins and are non-corrosive and non-conductive.
- Gesipa plastic rivets have a dome head and a plain finish and can be installed using manual or automatic riveters. They are ideal for joining plastics, fiberglass, wood, metal, Plexiglass, and other materials.
We also have a wide variety of blind rivet types for automotive applications:
- Rivet nut inserts are threaded rivets that use permanent nuts and can be installed in new or existing holes. The nutsert can hold a bolt, but is designed to expand as it is tightened for a permanent bond.
- Closed-end rivets are extremely versatile and can be used with any type of material.
- Avseal blind plugs are designed for both low-pressure and high-pressure seals and can be installed using a wide range of tools.
- T-peel rivets, or T-style rivets, are set using a tri-fold or quad-fold peel on the blind side. They have exceptional pull properties and provide high tensile and shear strength. They also can be used to set plastics, rubber, wood, and laminates.
Blind Rivets for Aviation and Transportation
Bay Supply also carries a full line of rivet nuts, rivet nut inserts, closed-end rivets, and pop rivets for aviation manufacturing and repairs, locomotive and railroad manufacturing, and other transportation applications.
In aviation, solid rivets are usually preferred for applications where full load transfer is a concern, such as hinges, landing gear, and wing attachment fittings, or where a fluid-tight seal is required. Blind rivets are very useful for other aspects of aviation manufacturing, such as installation of cabin components and non-load-bearing parts. Pop fasteners have sufficient strength, are easy to install, and can handle drastic temperature changes without weakening. Coil thread inserts are used to create high-strength threads in low-strength materials.
What makes blind rivets so attractive for aviation and transportation applications is their resilience and their resistance to constant vibration. Blind rivets have proven to be more durable and safer than conventional rivets. They are also ideal for making repairs that will last.
Pop Rivets for Electronics and Appliances
Pop rivets have also found their way into most manufacturing applications, including electronics. Plastic pop rivets, rivet nut inserts, closed-end rivets, micro rivets, and pull-through rivets are commonly used in electronics to hold plastic parts together or to anchor a circuit board. Nylon blind fasteners are particularly useful because they are strong but non-conductive.
Similarly, plastic pop rivets, rivet nuts, and blind rivets are used in appliance manufacturing, largely because they address the same challenges of heat resistance and vibration. For example, pop open-end rivets are ideal for use in gas grills because they can handle the heat. Pop rivets last longer when subjected to the operating vibration of a pump, laundry dryer, or air conditioner. Speed fasteners are also useful for excellent holding power and quick installation.
Blind rivets may be the most versatile fasteners on the market, and manufacturers have plenty of options when it comes to choosing the right fastener for the job. Of course, it helps to have a great fastener distributor in your corner who can help you find the right rivet for your needs.
If you’re on the hunt for blind fasteners, chances are you’re trying to find a cost-efficient solution. Unfortunately, the stark contrast between domestic and imported fasteners and something that might look like a good deal on blind rivets could end up costing you in quality—and reputation.
Understanding Domestic vs. Imported Fasteners
The first official acknowledgement of counterfeit fasteners in the U.S. came in the mid-1980s, but the reality is that subpar imported fasteners made their way into the country as early as the late 1970s, when oil prices escalated. In Japan, engineers saw a way to cut costs and reduce energy consumption by producing fasteners with low-carbon boron steel. As a result, there were dangerous, low-quality fasteners flooding the U.S. and causing countless instances of irreversible of damage.
As far back as 1988, then-U.S. House Representative John Dingell chaired a subcommittee that discovered substandard imported fasteners had spread (literally) everywhere, just waiting to cause potential damage. Results of the report included the disposal of 30 million counterfeit fasteners in military warehouses and the discovery that 61 aviation accidents had been caused by defective imported fasteners.
Since then, the U.S. has gone to great lengths to establish standards for the design and manufacturing of quality fasteners. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) maintains Fastener Quality Act (FQA) standards, compiles requirements for fastener companies, and even offers details on ways to report fraudulent organizations. However, countless fasteners still make their way into the U.S. that just don’t match the quality, ingenuity, and standards of domestic fasteners that are compliant with the FQA.
How to Spot Counterfeit Fasteners
Unfortunately, even with so many regulations in place, most imported fasteners are designed and built using pirated technology that was created and standardized by domestic engineers. The manufacturing processes and specific tooling details that go into manufacturing innovative fasteners, such as blind fasteners, are incredibly complex. If you’re purchasing imported fasteners, chances are you’re not getting a product based on that original engineering. Instead, you’re getting a second-rate product that’s just “good enough.”
Domestic manufacturers are the origination point for design and production of proprietary fastening products. When these products are copied, it’s unlikely the copy will undergo the detailed development process that the original domestic product did. This results in an inferior product that lacks consistency and reliability.
When, for economic reasons, a top domestic brand discontinues production for a product with established customer acceptance, these manufacturers often partner with overseas sources to allow ongoing production. Bay Supply leverages its longstanding relationships with these manufacturers to continue production and provide readily available inventory under the Bayfast brand.
So how do you spot substandard imported blind fasteners? Price and physical quality are two major indicators. If you find blind fasteners sold on the cheap but made of a typically expensive metal variety, chances are the deal is too good to be true. Physically, the feel and look of the fastener will give away whether it’s a high-quality product or a cheap knockoff. If you’ve heard that fasteners made from imported steel are substandard, there’s more to the story: A blind fastener produced on U.S. soil from imported steel will typically be higher in quality than a blind fastener made internationally with that same steel.
Ultimately, the best way to know you’re getting the highest-quality, most compliant blind rivets is to find a trustworthy supplier. In an industry predicted to surpass more than $15 billion by 2020, it's crucial to find a vendor known for stocking quality blind fasteners from trusted manufacturers. With the right supplier, you’ll avoid hours of research and the endless costs that come with faulty fasteners.
Originally published February 2019 and updated October 2020.