Alcoa Designs New Fastener Insert; No Tapping Needed

Manufacturers traditionally used bolts inserted into a tapped hole to fasten items together. If the thread on the bolt or in the hole gets damaged — or “stripped”— the connection becomes weak and the product is ruined. The solution was to place a metal insert with a thread formation into the hole, restoring both the connection and the product. Over time, thread forming inserts became standard practice when a bolt connection needed to be strong, such as on aircraft.

“One of the major drawbacks of threads is that the preparation for the insert – drilling a hole and then performing a tapping operation to thread the hole – is time consuming and expensive due to the machinery and accuracy required,” said Simon Bowen, Director of Operations for AFS Australia. “The key to creating the SmartSert insert is that it can be installed quicker without a pre-formed hole.”

Advantages and Applications

AFS turned to its expertise in wire forming to develop a wire that has a concave-shaped cross-section as opposed to the traditional diamond shape.

“The insert doesn’t actually cut the base material when it’s installed,” said Bowen. “Instead, the material flows around the insert just like modeling clay does when you press a finger into it. This eliminates cracking and other damage.”

SmartSert inserts are extremely compact, and require minimal space. Bolts can be tightened to higher torques without stripping, and are not easily dislodged by vibration. Potential new applications include scooter engines, aerospace materials, computer cases, printers, mobile phones, and electrical plugs.

AFS Melbourne has begun commercial production, with interest in the insert already being shown by major Asian automotive and electronics manufacturers.

About Alcoa Fastening Systems

Alcoa Fastening Systems, a business unit of Alcoa, is a leading worldwide designer and manufacturer of fastening systems, specialty fasteners, components, and installation systems for aerospace and commercial product assembly. Headquartered in Torrance, California, the company has 6,600 employees, and manufactures at 19 locations in 9 countries. AFS also operates 7 worldwide distribution/logistics centers.

About Alcoa

Alcoa is the world's leading producer and manager of primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum and alumina facilities, and is active in all major aspects of the industry. Alcoa serves the aerospace, automotive, packaging, building and construction, commercial transportation and industrial markets, bringing design, engineering, production and other capabilities of Alcoa's businesses to customers. In addition to aluminum products and components including flat-rolled products, hard alloy extrusions, and forgings, Alcoa also markets Alcoa® wheels, fastening systems, precision and investment castings, structures and building systems. The company has 122,000 employees in 44 countries and has been named one of the top most sustainable corporations in the world at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. More information can be found at



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Alcoa Fastening Systems developed a new patent-pending insert called SmartSert, which can be installed in plastic or aluminum-based materials without a pre-tapped hole. The SmartSert insert can be installed quicker without a pre-formed hole resulting in both cost and time savings. (Photo: Business Wire)