When constructing an aircraft and its various structures, a great number of fasteners are utilized to conjoin parts and components to form assemblies. Screws and bolts are two common aircraft fastener types that are widely used throughout the construction process, and both are often confused with one another due to their similar designs and appearances. Despite their common characteristics, bolts and screws present different uses for aircraft construction, each providing their unique benefits and drawbacks which make them optimal for their respective applications.
Bolts and screws are both considered a type of externally threaded fastener, and they feature a helical threading that extends outwards from their shaft. With this helical threading, bolts and screws are able to affix themselves to components securely, preventing the assembly from coming apart. Their differences, however, lie in how they are able to be installed into a component, as well as their characteristics such as strength and load bearing capabilities. Bolts are fastener components that consist of a head, shank, and thread, and their head will often come in various shapes in order to accommodate different installation tools to provide optimal torque. To install bolts, the tail end of the component is passed through the preformed holes of two or more unthreaded components, and a nut is tightened on the opposing side of the head to provide pressure and axial clamping forces on each side of the assembly. On an aircraft, bolts are often reserved for areas that require high amounts of strength, including those such as flight instruments, structures, and assemblies. Depending on the application and need, a number of bolts may also be implemented, including types such as anchor bolts, arbor bolts, elevator bolts, and more.
As compared to bolts, screws utilize their external threading in order to fasten together components, and they most often do not require an additional fastener such as a nut in order to provide an optimal assembly. With a sharp tail end and helical threading, the screw bores and wedges itself into the assembly as it is tightened. Through this method of installation, materials are pulled tightly together as the screw is driven in, preventing removal of the fastener by mechanical or physical forces. On an aircraft, screws are typically used on areas that do not need the high strength of a bolt, such as installing non-structural assemblies and securing instruments to panels. There are also a variety of screw fasteners that may be used for varying applications, and these include deck screws, drive screws, wood screws, and more.
While bolts and screws may have their similar appearances and end goals for component assembly, both utilize different methods of installation to provide their respective strengths and benefits. When an assembly requires great load carrying capacity, bolts are most optimal due to their design and installation method of pairing with a nut. Meanwhile, screws can provide optimal installation for smaller components and lighter materials, and they are quick and easy to install without the need for a fastener on the opposing side of the assembly.
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