Rivets: An Essential Fastener with Endless Applications(surface finish chart Thomas)

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Rivets are one of the most common and versatile mechanical fasteners used across countless industries. A rivet is a metal pin that is inserted through holes in two or more pieces of material and then deformed on one or both ends to hold the pieces together. The deformation on the rivet ends is called the shop head and the bucktail.
Rivets have been used since ancient times to join materials together. Originally made of wrought iron, modern rivets are manufactured from aluminum, steel, copper, stainless steel, and specialty alloys. The most common rivet types are solid and blind rivets. Solid rivets require access to both sides of the workpiece for installation. Blind rivets can be installed from one side when access to the backside is limited.
Here are some of the top uses and applications for rivets across various industries:
Aerospace and Aviation
Rivets are extensively used in the assembly of aircraft frames and fuselages. Aircraft-grade aluminum rivets offer high shear and tensile strength while remaining lightweight. Rivet joints distribute stresses efficiently across the aircraft structure. Riveting also helps prevent fatigue cracks from developing and spreading. Common aircraft applications include:
- Joining aluminum skin panels to stringers and bulkheads
- Attaching leading edges, flaps, and other flight control surfaces
- Securing engine cowlings and access panels
- Joining wings and tail sections to the fuselage
Blind rivets allow for rivet installation when only one side is accessible, critical for the complex curvature of airplane assembly. Specialty rivets like flush rivets reduce drag on aerodynamic surfaces. Expanding mandrel rivets form a shop head without the need to drive a manufactured head.
Automotive Manufacturing
Rivets are used throughout automobile manufacturing to assemble body panels, doors, hoods, and component brackets. Steel and aluminum rivets offer corrosion resistance and reliably join the mix of materials and coatings used in vehicle construction. Applications include:
- Permanently joining stamped sheet metal parts like quarter panels, roof pillars, and trunk lids
- Attaching interior panels, trim pieces, seats, and seatbelts
- Mounting lighting fixtures, emblems, mirrors, running boards, and other exterior accessories
- Securing hood and trunk hinges along with door hinges and latches
- Installing rack and pinion steering linkages
High shear rivets joining body panels help cars maintain structural integrity in a crash. Specialty rivets like self-piercing rivets (SPR) can pierce sheet materials during installation, eliminating the need for pre-drilled holes. Blind rivets allow access from one side for dashboard and interior riveting.
Construction and Infrastructure
The versatility, strength, and ease of installation of rivets make them ideal for constructing buildings, bridges, towers, and more. Common construction applications include:
- Connecting I-beams, gusset plates, and structural steel framing
- Assembling scaffolding, catwalks, ladders, and safety railings
- Joining sheet metal ductwork, roofing, siding, gutters, and downspouts
- Mounting solar panels, antennas, billboards, and other exterior fixtures
- Securing construction lift systems like conveyors and personnel lifts
Stainless steel and aluminum rivets provide good corrosion resistance in outdoor environments. Large structural rivets over 1/4” diameter can replace high strength bolts. Blind rivets allow installation of sheeting, siding, and panels from one side only.
Marine and Underwater Use
The marine industry relies heavily on rivets due to their resistance to corrosion from saltwater. Applications include:
- Assembling alloy and fiberglass hulls, decks, and bulkheads
- Mounting outboard motors and stern drives
- Joining masts, booms, railings, ladders, and other deck hardware
- Attaching propellers, rudders, and underwater appendages
- Securing cargo containers, ballast tanks, and other equipment
Copper and cupronickel rivets withstand underwater and saltwater corrosion. Countersunk head rivets provide an aerodynamic surface important for reducing drag and preventing marine growth. Explosive rivet installation allows underwater joining for repairs and construction.
Industrial Manufacturing
Rivets provide reliable, permanent fastening for factory equipment, machinery, and other heavy-duty applications:
- Joining steel structural frames, supports, and machine bases
- Mounting motors, pumps, presses, conveyors, and robotic arms
- Assembling crane and hoist structures, gantry booms, overhead cranes
- Building truck, tractor, and machinery frames from formed steel and aluminum
- Securing guards, doors, covers, and safety barriers on industrial equipment
- Attaching equipment legs, casters, leveling mounts, and vibration dampeners
Large diameter rivets up to 1” provide tremendous shear strength for heavy loads. Self-piercing rivets combine piercing and riveting in one operation. Blind rivets allow easy access for machinery maintenance and repair needs.
Consumer Products
Many everyday products rely on rivets for fastening:

- Joining aluminum ladder rungs to side rails
- Assembling barbecue grills, wood stoves, patio heaters
- Building retail display racks, shelving units, and shopping carts
- Mounting brackets on furniture like chairs, sofas, and cabinets
- Securing hinges on toolboxes, tackle boxes, musical instrument cases
- Attaching applicator heads on caulking guns, glue guns, grease guns
The popularity of rivets for consumer items stems from their strength, low cost, and easy installation. Blind rivets allow rivet insertion with access to just one side. Specialty aluminum and nylon rivets reduce scratching on sensitive surfaces. Countersunk rivets provide a smooth finished appearance.
Rivets Offer Reliability Across Industries
From aircraft and cars to jungle gyms and jewelry, rivets deliver reliable fastening strength unmatched by other mechanical fasteners. Advances in materials and installation tools allow rivets to be applied in more applications than ever before. Whether in a delicate electronics assembly or massive steel construction, engineers continue to turn to the versatility of rivets to bring manufactured products to life. CNC Milling CNC Machining