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What is a Machine Screw?

Fasteners are essential components for countless assemblies, serving to secure various parts together in a permanent or temporary way. Depending on the assembly in question, environmental factors, and how much strength is needed for joints, there are various types and subtypes of fasteners that one may use. Across industries, screws are one of the most prevalent, such hardware typically coming in the form of an externally threaded shaft with a head on one side. Machine screws are a common subtype of screw, featuring a more unique design when compared to their counterparts. As one of the most commonly used types for many applications, it can be highly beneficial to have a basic understanding of their features and use.

Machine screws are like most other fasteners, intended to be used for the means of joining two or more objects together. However, machine screws are set apart from many other screw options as their diameter will never exceed 0.75 inches, making them smaller than many other types. Additionally, machine screws also exhibit uniform threading across the length of their shaft instead of tapered threading. What this means is that the threading across the shaft is the same size from top to bottom, while tapered threading will generally expand the closer it is to the opposite side of the head.

With their small size, machine screws can be used for many applications and assemblies, especially those that may be constrictive in space. This makes them quite preferable, and the fact that they can be procured in a variety of materials adds to their benefits. The most common material for machine screw construction is stainless steel, and this is due to the fact that stainless steel offers high strength, durability, and ample protection against corrosion. Aluminum is also a very popular material option, featuring rust and corrosion protection which may be essential in various environments to ensure reliability over time. While aluminum is not as strong as stainless steel, it is lower in weight. For an industry such as aviation, having fasteners that are lightweight is essential as strength-to-weight ratios are paramount for the optimal performance of aircraft and other flying vehicles.

Despite having the name “machine screw,” such fasteners are not always used for the assembly of machines. With their small diameter and size, they are not always fit for reliably joining metallic objects together. The reasoning for their name is actually a result of their manufacturing process, as the threads of such fasteners are precisely formed by a machining process referred to as die cutting, ensuring uniformity across the length of the shaft. The process of die cutting involves cutting away materials to form grooves and fine threads, and the remaining materials that have not been cut serve as the threads. Some machine screws may also be created through a process known as roll forming, and this is carried out by having the thread rolled onto the screw. To do this, a rolling die exerts high pressure to form the metal and establish fine threading. Instead of cutting away parts of the screw, rolling die machines do not remove any metal materials during the formation process.

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