Converter-material supplier collaboration improves flexible fasteners.
Dual Lock Reclosable Fasteners.
In many assembly applications, screws, bolts, and other
conventional mechanical fasteners have given way to flexible fastening
materials. There are many reasons for the switch, including reduced product
weight and cost, improved appearance, and reduced assembly time by making it
unnecessary to precisely fit individual components together. In automotive,
industrial and consumer applications, flexible fasteners eliminate problems
caused by vibration, which can loosen mechanical fasteners and cause noise and
possibly detachment of components. In outdoor applications, the materials offer
excellent UV resistance and will not rust like metal fasteners.
Sometimes suppliers of these flexible fastening materials produce additional
value for customers by partnering with converters to provide custom assembly
solutions for moderate- and high-performance applications. Working with the
material supplier, converters can identify the best fastening material for a
customer from among the supplier’s offerings. Converters with an in-house
engineering staff also provide other design-related assistance to improve both
the product itself and the manufacturing process.
Once design work is completed, converters turn the chosen fastening material
into the appropriate form using a variety of machines and processes. These
allow the firms to handle all types of converting jobs, as well as related
tasks such as welding and even sewing.
Scotchmate Reclosable Fasteners.
Flexible Fastening Options
3M manufactures several different flexible fastening
products. These include “reclosable” fasteners, which produce a secure
attachment but can also be opened and closed many times. These fasteners
eliminate holes, snap caps, fastener heads and protrusions, resulting in clean
lines and sleek profiles in many applications.
One widely used reclosable fastener is the 3MTM
Scotchmate Reclosable Fastener, which features stiff hooks that mesh with
pliable loops to allow fast and easy closure in applications that require
repeated openings and closings. Available in different strengths, thicknesses
and colors, they offer a tailored appearance for frequently removed parts of
indoor and outdoor structures, such as displays, exhibit booths, offices, and
automotive interiors. Other common applications include aircraft seat assembly
and liner pads inside sports helmets.
Standard hook-and-loop fastening materials are easily removed and replaced, but
they tend to lose their holding ability over time and when exposed to
vibration, especially when the applications involve high weight or large
For more demanding fastening and assembly applications,
Dual Lock Reclosable Fasteners are available. These
industrial-quality fasteners feature small, interlocking mushroom-shaped stems
with five times more tensile strength than standard hook-and-loop fasteners. An
alternative to zippers, screws, snaps, hooks and bolts, these fasteners offer
design flexibility, fast product assembly, smooth and clean exterior surfaces,
and improved product performance in many applications.
Dual Lock Reclosable Fasteners can be used in electronic, electrical,
aerospace, automotive and marine applications. The material replaces screws in
wall and ceiling panels in many transportation applications, eliminating
drilling, screwing, and corrosion. In addition, Dual Lock Reclosable Fasteners
help produce clean product design and allow components to be quickly removed
for servicing or circuitry upgrades in electronic components and cabinetry
Unlike reclosable fasteners, 3MTM
Tape doesn't allow repeated opening and closing.
It can, however, replace screws, rivets and spot welds in permanent
high-strength bonding applications. Offering the convenience of a tape with the
strength of mechanical assembly options, the acrylic tapes bond to metals,
plastics and glass, eliminating drilling and unsightly fasteners. The foam
conforms to many irregular surfaces and helps provide sealing, cushioning, and
The tapes are used in the construction, transportation and electronics markets.
In electronics applications, they provide reliable and durable component
attachment, as well as temperature resistance, shock and vibration reduction,
and sealing to keep out dirt and water. In the transportation industry, the
tapes replace mechanical fasteners used in side-panel attachment to give
vehicles a clean, smooth appearance, while also delivering the strength and
durability necessary to meet vehicle requirements.
The Converter's Role
To obtain flexible fasteners that meet their specific
requirements, manufacturers should work with a converter that has a working
partnership with a material supplier. 3M collaborates with Fabrico, a leading
provider of design and manufacturing services for flexible materials. Top
converters like Fabrico have experienced design-engineering teams that can help
customers choose the best material for a fastening application. If a customer
starts out by selecting a high-cost material, for example, the converter,
working with specialists from the material supplier, may be able to identify a
less-expensive material that meets application requirements. A supplier with a
large selection of products like 3M might be able to provide a material that
both costs less and performs better than the customer’s original choice.
Converters can also help customers turn fastening concepts into finished
designs. Some converters can handle rapid prototyping tasks using 2-D and 3-D
CAD solid-modeling software and tool-less sample-making equipment. A
converter’s engineering staff can also make suggestions for improving customer
designs. For example, sometimes customers come up with designs that aren’t
readily manufacturable. With their knowledge of materials and manufacturing
processes, converters quickly spot such problems and recommend redesigns or
modifications that make the components easier to manufacture, which reduces
production costs and time while retaining the functionality that the customer
When a design is ready for production, converters turn
flexible fastening materials into rolls, pre-fabricated parts and custom
fabrications. There are a variety of custom size and shape requirements, which
frequently require that intricate patterns be cut to tight tolerances with
high-performance die-cutting equipment, and that materials be laminated with
either pressure-sensitive or non-pressure-sensitive adhesives.
Many types of equipment and capabilities allow converters to tackle difficult
fastening materials. For example, Fabrico’s high-performance water jet cutter
allows accurate cutting or slitting of difficult-to-die-cut products without
damaging the material or the blades of conventional cutting machines. In
addition, the firm can handle custom converting of thick foam materials, such
as 3M VHB Tape, which is hard to convert because it tends to re-bond to itself
after being cut.
In addition to converting machines, specialized in-house equipment is sometimes
required. Fabrico uses an ultrasonic welder to spot weld two die-cut strips of
Scotchmate Reclosable Fasteners or Dual Lock Reclosable Fasteners to produce
long straps of the materials, which are wrapped around bundles of cable and
tubing. A permanent bonding method that doesn’t require costly adhesives,
welding melts the two strips together to form a homogeneous structure that
retains the strength of the original material.
interested in switching from hard to flexible fasteners may be best served by
partnerships between top converters and flexible-material suppliers. For
customers, the benefits of such partnerships include a variety of material
options and expert assistance in selecting the right material for a particular
fastening application. The converting partners also offer other types of
valuable design help, as well as a range of manufacturing capabilities that
turn designs into effective flexible fastening solutions for applications in
For more information, www.fabrico.com/3M.