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A guide to panel fasteners

clock 5 minutes | 15 Nov 2019

Crew testing electronics and inspecting electrical installation system

Panel Fasteners explained:

In today's modern fabrication, panel fasteners come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and materials. They're useful in various applications and industries:

  • Automotive
  • Aerospace and aeronautics
  • Ship building
  • Electronics
  • Electric cable enclosures
  • Cabinet making

Solid, round head rivets have been used for centuries, as far back as the bronze age. Often used in ship and bridge construction, these rivets consist of a shaft with a round head on one end. After being heated to the correct temperature, they're placed in holes that join panels to framework. The exposed end of the shaft is hammered to flatten it, making a strong, secured attachment.

Here's an interesting historical fact: the Golden Gate Bridge that spans the San Francisco Bay in California has approximately 600,000 rivets per tower.

Fortunately, you probably won't need nearly that many rivets for your engineering projects. And much of the time, you'll be using panel fasteners made of nylon, plastic, or other synthetic materials.

When specifying a fastener, you need to consider one or more of these conditions and requirements:

  • The materials of the mating surfaces
  • The thickness of both the panel and the structure to which is attached
  • The environment it will be located in (wet or damp, acidic or caustic, high or low temperature)
  • How often, if ever, that the panel will need to be removed
  • The strength of the join required, both shear and tensile
  • And of course, the aesthetics or appearance of the fastener

Let's look at some examples.

Concealed Access Panel Fasteners and Quick Access Fasteners

You may be designing a cabinet to house electronic equipment that doesn't need immediate access. For example, audio/visual or security components. You need occasional access, but still want to hide them from plain view.

For both aesthetic and potential privacy/security issues, you don't want the fasteners visible. In that case, concealed panel fasteners, also called hidden panel fasteners might be your best option. A two-piece assembly, the pin is attached to the panel and the receptacle for it is installed on the cabinet frame. The two pieces mate, using compression to hold them together. Simply pull outward on the panel to release it.

These hidden panel fasteners are just one of the options available when access to the interior of the cabinet is required or necessary.

Plastic panel fasteners

Another option for securing a panel or cover while still allowing easy access are quarter turn panel fasteners. These plastic fasteners are a two-piece fastener as well, and can join one fixed panel and removable panel fixings. The base snaps into the fixed surface and the slotted screw is inserted through the removable panel and into the fastener base. With a simple quarter-turn, the panels are secured or loosened for removal.

Panel fasteners
Panel retaining clips

Panel retaining clips

When designing wooden furniture such as cabinets, you might want to easily include other materials like glass or plastic panels. Door panel retainer clips, also known as cabinet door panel clips, make installation easy, as well as allowing the delicate panels to be shipped separately in more secure packaging.

There is another feature of cabinet door panel retainer clips that are beneficial to both you and your customer. Your buyer may be in love with the cabinet's overall design, but not enamoured with the inset panel. By using cabinet panel retainer clips instead of adhesives or other more permanent attachments, you can give your customer a choice of several panel selections or even a customised panel.

Plastic Rivets

Maybe you're not building a bridge or a powerful steam liner. But your project may still benefit from using rivets. These days, you have a multitude of possibilities. These fasteners have options for both permanent and removable panel installations.

For a permanent attachment to metal surfaces, blind rivets are often used. They're called "blind" because you don't need to access both sides of the rivet to install them. They're sometimes referred to as "pop" rivets, but that's actually a brand name of blind rivets.

Panels from an electrical household appliance on a production line

Blind rivets

Often known as body panel fasteners, consist of a one-piece metal body or shell with a flange, and a metal mandrel with a ball on the end. When compressed, the ball is drawn into the shell to distort the end and secure the rivet.

There are also push in blind rivets, normally manufactured from a synthetic material such as nylon. However, instead of being drawn out, the mandrel is driven into the shell, expanding it.

Plastic snap rivets

These are also a blind rivet. However, they are easier to install and are removable. These plastic or nylon rivets push in easily to the mounting holes and a larger, round head makes it easy to secure the rivet. Besides easy installation, another benefit to using them is that you can remove them by prying the head up and pulling out the mandrel.

Plastic push in snap rivets

Rivet Types

Here are several other types of push in blind rivets, each designed for easy removal.

A ribbed push in rivet has, as the name suggests, ribs down the shaft of the rivet. Also called fir tree configurations, the ribs are pointed back toward the head of the rivet. When pushed in, they keep the rivet from being retracted easily. These are often used in automotive parts installations, such as door panels.

Snap together rivets

Snap together rivets come in two separate pieces, one snapping into the other. They are often used for decorative purposes. However, they can affix two panels to each other. Another type of snap rivet has a stem on one piece, over which the other head snaps on. If you need to fit two panels together, this is an easy to use option.

A barbed rivet is similar to a ribbed push in rivet, although the barbs are larger. Also known as assembly clips, they hold panels securely.

Screw-in rivets

An expanding push in rivet can be removable with a threaded mandrel that, as it is screwed in, expands the shaft of the rivet to secure the panel. When it's necessary to remove the panel, such as is often necessary for security equipment enclosures, the mandrel is screwed out and the rivet is lifted off with the panel.

There are situations where it might be necessary to attach trim pieces or even another panel to the panel you're designing. However, your panel is likely too thin to thread and tap to accept a screw or machine bolt.

Edge Panel Fasteners

The solution is to install edge panel fasteners on the edge or edges of the sheet metal panel. To use these ingenious fasteners, a slot is cut in the side of the panel to accommodate the width and depth of the fastener.

The grooves in the fastener position it into the panel slot. The fastener is then twisted to cinch it down. The threaded insert will now accept a machine thread screw.

It's evident that there are many useful options for attaching panels to cabinets, enclosures, or even to each other.

Edge panel fasteners

Download free CADs and try before you buy

Be sure to browse our selection of snap on rivets, clips, and plastic push in panel fasteners.

Optimise your design by downloading free CADs of the solutions you’re interested in. You can also request free samples to ensure the panel fasteners you’ve chosen are exactly what you need. If you’re not quite sure which solution will work best for your application, our experts are always happy to advise you. Request your free samples or download free CADs now.

Fasteners: which material do I need?​