Fastening systems, (also) unconventional

Special handle for the assembly of rack columns and crosspieces by Unifast
Frontal views of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta front end

Offering solutions and innovation in assembling technologies and products to companies, providing a recognizable contribution so that they can be protagonist in their market. This is the vision and the mission pursued by the Turin Unifast.

Luca Bergadano, marketing and sales manager of Unifast at Settimo Torinese (Turin).
Luca Bergadano, marketing and sales manager of Unifast at Settimo Torinese (Turin).

Unifast’s target has always been to provide the companies of any size and sector with the most valid technical solutions and the most advantageous ones, from the economic point of view, in the ambit of fasteners, in the mechanical assembly and in the choice of the most necessary equipment. All that through a complete, reliable and professional service, to allow its customers to operate with utmost tranquillity and confidence. With headquarters at Settimo Torinese (Turin), the company distributes in fact solutions and products of some of its partners acknowledged among the primary international producers, turning to key sectors like automotive (which, together with the field of industrial vehicles represents about 70% of the generated turnover), electrical boards, telecommunications and “white goods” industry. «We like considering our company – specifies Luca Bergadano, marketing and sales manager – like a “flexible open system”, always ready to accept new challenges to satisfy increasingly complex, and in some respects unconventional, requirements». A dynamic reality, then, able to represent and to propose itself as a reference partner able to trigger and to boost concrete courses to satisfy exhaustively specific technical needs in the fastening ambit. «We dialogue with customers – adds Bergadano – in order to understand at best the type of application, to envisage its criticalities and the operating margins within which it is possible to operate, afterwards identifying the most suitable technical solution among those already available in the catalogue, or proposing alternatives with purposely developed systems».

Mauro Azzalin, export manager of Unifast at Settimo Torinese (Turin).
Mauro Azzalin, export manager of Unifast at Settimo Torinese (Turin).

Standard and special
With this spirit, and in the ambit of constant and continuous growth and development, in 1999 Unifast setup a productive unit giving birth both to its own range of specific products and to the implementation of special components upon demand and design. In this context stand out FAST Turn and KAPti-nut, two systems with its own brand. The first ones rank among the most renowned assembly instruments in the industrial world and stand out for safety, user friendliness and interesting prices for each productive sector, including also the automotive and the household appliance industry. More in detail, FAST turn allows connecting each other two particular items undergoing frequent disassembles and needing immediate accessibility. It is composed by 3 different components: a “female” item on the fixed part of the assembly and a “male” component, with fastening means to prevent it from “being lost”, on the mobile part. The user will have then the possibility of opening, entering, intervening and closing with rapidity and simplicity; only a rotation by 1/2 revolution is necessary and the component is disassembled. Numerous are also the designs developed, as mentioned above, upon customers’ specifications. «Like in the case of Rittal, our German customer – specifies Mauro Azzalin, export manager of Unifast – whose need consisted in performing the rapid assembly and disassembly of electrical board parts, that’s to say columns. With the addition of the fastening requisite. The idea consisted in developing a simple system, conceptually, but effective and somewhat complex in its execution. Upon customer’s indication, we started from a component already previously developed by Unifast that has been gradually optimized to satisfy the above mentioned mechanical and operational requisites, as well of electrical grounding». An effective solution that has aroused widespread approval and that will be exclusively produced by Unifast in this new version in 5 million pieces in the next 10 years. It is instead intended for the automotive industry another fastening system still developed by the Turin company for an Italian automotive firm. It is in this case an application for the third loading line, and it follows the sector trend that sees the increasingly massive use of aluminium. «It was necessary – adds Azzalin – to have some M10 fixing points, fine pitch, class 8, on an aluminium plate with 7 mm thickness which enabling substantial deformation of the manufactured good. The goal was the possibility of mounting the shock-absorbers for the pedestrian collision on these plates, since they are very important for the passive safety provided for by legislative regulations in several Countries. The plate, equipped with these fastenings, was to be welded in its turn on the aluminium strut». In this way Unifast succeeded in solving the customer’s criticalities by inserting some sturdy and reliable fastenings on an aluminium component, actually with the same mechanical resistance characteristics as the fastenings that are normally used on steel. «The requirement – adds Azzalin – was in this case the possible fastening of aluminium shock absorbers to struts in order to protect pedestrians in case of impact with the front part of the car, in the specific case the new Alfa Romeo Giulietta. This particular plate was previously welded, while the new functional need provided for the assembly and disassembly possibility, together with the impossibility of using threaded inserts». The winning proposal by Unifast consisted in submitting a modification of its patented “square nut”, just called KAPti-nut (see box) to the customer, in its version for aluminium. «In this way – underlines Azzalin – we succeeded in solving the customer’s criticality by assuring a fastening on aluminium with the same resistance characteristics, providing the tightening strengths of steel»

Anti-rotation insert with square shape KAPti-nut, patented by Unifast.
Aluminium plate, Alfa Romeo Giulietta front end.

Foreign markets as a further growth opportunity
In short, the competence gained by Unifast, coupled with the product validity, allows offering a valid technical support to the market since the beginning of the project up to its implementation, and sharing its fundamental stages in co-design and co-engineering with its customers: prototyping, pre-series, identification and choice of the necessary equipment, lab tests and trials, to reach finally the final production according to the highest qualitative standards. Result achieved thanks to the contribution of around forty people subdivided between the Italian headquarters (about thirty people) and two sister companies (one site in England and one in Germany), called to control the European market, for a turnover (growing) that in  2013 reached about 13 million Euros. «Rising turnover – ends Luca Bergadano – that, for the current year, is expected to exceed 14 million Euros. For a percentage, it too growing, by about 35% generated by our production while the remaining part by partners that we exclusively represent on the Italian territory». Concerning this, it is worth mentioning: POP-branded blind rivets (Stanley Engineered Fastening); the HUCK (Alcoa Fastening Systems) range that includes blind bolts and structural rivets made with different types of material and shapes; PEM self-clinching nuts and studs; KOENIG expander plugs, available in the two lines for high or low pressure, provided in different materials and configurations; the DIRAK range including accessories for cabinets, electrical boards, racks and steel structural works for electricity, electronics and telecommunications. These are completed also by complementary fasteners (weld studs and bushes, studs for grounding, threaded inserts, anti-vibrating bushes, clips and inserts for plastic materials) and components made from wire through cold forming.

KAPti-nut, system of inserts and studs patented by Unifast.
KAPti-nut, system of inserts and studs patented by Unifast.

Pressure threaded inserts/males, with squared shape
The need of having bushes or threaded males on thin sheet metals for the successive assemblies is a deeply felt and fundamental requirement for several industrial sectors: from the automotive to household appliances, from motorcycles to the accessories for electrical boards, from electronics to telecommunications. At present, the most diffused systems used for this purpose are “projection” welding of nuts and screws, threaded rivets and coated threads. In this context, the welding difficulties are nowadays widely known in general, and they are processes not easily controllable, like: eventual “cold welding” and consequent unwelds, deformations due to the developed heat, difficulty to operate on pre-galvanized material; exhalation of noxious fumes, possible supplementary control operations. To overcome these obstacles, Unifast proposes the system called KAPti-nut, which offers a range of inserts and studs that are installed on panels or formed sheet metal components through a simple mechanical forming process. As a matter of fact, no type of welding or use of chemical/adhesive substances is exploited but, simply, a permanent and safe structural anchorage is determined. The use of such inserts proves then ideal for the multiple or automatic insertion, for instance on panels made of steel, aluminium and other material sheet, also simultaneously with the forming process.