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Rivets: which material is best for you?

clock 2 minutes | 24 Sep 2018

Rows of different rivet head styles and materials

What are Rivets? Rivets are a cost-effective and straight forward fastener solution, especially ideal for supporting shear and tensile loads, and applications involving complicated or limited access. They’re available in a range of materials, which naturally raises questions.

But, how do you know which material you should choose?

Typically, your rivets should have the same mechanical properties as the components you’re joining. Rivets are made from many different types of materials - to name a few, there are aluminium rivets, metal rivets, and steel rivets, so how do you decide on which rivet material to use? For example, if you’re joining soft materials, use plastic rivets.

However, that doesn’t tell you what the material is providing, so here’s a look at different rivet materials, the benefits and common applications:

Material

Properties

Typical applications

Aluminium - with added magnesium

Lightweight, corrosion resistant, durable

Aircraft
Automotive
Air conditioning systems

Brass

Malleable with high strength, low friction – does not create sparks

Gas appliances

Copper

Ductile, decorative appeal, excellent conductor of electricity and heat

Electrical appliances

Copper nickel

High resistance to corrosion, stress corrosion and high temperatures

Ship manufacturing
Appliances in corrosive environments

High carbon steel

Hard, durable and withstands wear

Aircraft
Automotive
Rail transport

Plastic

Can be used to join non-plastic materials, such as rubber, urethane and other soft materials

Consumer appliances
Electronics
Construction
Furniture

Stainless steel

Strong, hard, corrosion resistant and withstands wear

Aircraft
Automotive
Rail transport

Steel

Weaker than carbon steel due to lower carbon content. Still tough and hard

Aircraft
Automotive
Rail transport
Construction
Furniture


Materials that can work together – and those that can’t

As already noted, generally rivets should have the same mechanical properties as the components you’re joining. When dissimilar metals come into contact within a corrosive environment, a galvanic action occurs which corrodes one metal at a faster rate than the other.

The rate of corrosion depends upon several factors:

  • Electric -- the difference in electrical potential
  • The conductivity of the electrolyte
  • The relative sizes of the contacting areas

This means that in applications high in moisture content, such as air conditioners, special care must be taken to lessen the effect of galvanic corrosion. Here are the metals which should be used together and just as importantly, those that shouldn’t.


Metals being joined

Rivet shell material

Aluminium

Al/Zn- coated steel

Zinc-coated steel

Stainless steel

Copper

Brass

Aluminium

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

Steel zp

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

Stainless steel

Yes

Yes

Yes

Nickle copper

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Copper

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes


Yes: Compatible

No: Incompatible

– : Compatible in mild environments, though some corrosion may occur. Paint both metals to reduce reaction.

Rivet coatings

Coatings are often used for aesthetic purposes and also to add corrosion resistance. Zinc is a common coating for steel rivets. An Almac® coating combines aluminium and zinc for corrosion resistance and works particularly well with aluminium rivets and materials. Copper rivets with coated carbon steel add strength.

The point is, you can add more properties to your choice of rivet material and get the best possible solution for your application.

A selction of rivets
  • Materials: