Despite how small and insignificant they may seem to a large industrial or IT setup, a lot of time is spent on fasteners. They just may not realize it. Fasteners, and the tools needed to install them, often end up eating valuable time and effort that could potentially be better spent elsewhere.
The growth in tool-free fasteners (also called tool-less, no-tools-required, and other names) gives engineers the chance to free up time spent fiddling with fasteners, screws, nuts, bolts, and the like. In industrial and IT settings, there are some promising opportunities to use tool-free fasteners. Not only are they more efficient, but they are also just as strong durable as traditional solutions, and they represent the future of enclosure equipment mounting.
The Benefits of Tool-Free Fasteners
A simple task can take more time when you first have to hunt down the right tool. Worse is when engineers give up looking and use improper tools. An engineer might be in the field and not have packed in the tool, or his/her toolbox might be on the other side of the shop. Either way, using improper tools can damage the fastener and equipment.
Tools also increase the cost of operation and take up storage space. They wear over time and can break. Even tools like screwdrivers and drills that can last for a relatively long period of time can add up. Finally, tool-required fasteners are often mechanically complex, meaning more chances for failure or pieces and parts getting lost.
Tool-Free Fasteners Make Inroads
Manufacturing and IT are two prominent industries where tool-free fasteners are catching on. The IT industry has already seen benefits from many types of tool-free fasteners. Something as simple as a Velcro cable bundle holder, or frames that offer predrilled holes, are saving time and helping IT to stay organized.
Pre-drilled frames means users don't spend time drilling holes and don’t need a drill. More importantly, drilling holes into frames means they have been weakened, and a stress concentration has been introduced that the designer did not intend for. Pre-drilled holes in mounting frames offer easy-to-push or slide-in fasteners to mount equipment.
With slots and holes in the frame it is easy to customize shelving. Installing or moving tool-free shelves can be slid and locked into place. Some equipment can be designed with these frames in mind. For example, a tool-free 19-in. rack can be installed by clicking it into place without fasteners. Bus bar equipment that is screwed into place can now ditch the screwdriver and be clipped onto the bus bar, and the wire can be pushed into the tool-less fastener. All of this saves time and labor cost. In addition, this saves using nearly 500 tool-required fasteners for a 42U cabinet.
Industrial uses are not as prevalent in this setting. However, tool-free fasteners are gaining traction and have a few opportunities for continued growth. One example is a tool-free plastic wedge safety device for mounting panels.
Previously, engineers would have to get the panel positioned, hold it in place, and then fiddle with the fastener and installation tool. The simple plastic wedge can easily be inserted to hold the panel in place and keep it there while the final fastener is installed. This is not only more efficient but safer.
Tool-free fasteners might seem too strong. If they clip into place so easily, how well are they really fastening the device in place? Durability and fastening strength aren’t a concern because tool-free fasteners go through as much testing as conventional fasteners. In fact, because there is no risk of using the wrong installation tool and potentially damaging the fastener, they can be used and reused over and over with little worry.
Many tool-free fasteners are specifically designed to be simple. This is important as complex fasteners with more moving parts will contain more points of failure. Fasteners should be simple and minimize failure point as much as possible.
It’s Not a Matter of If, But When
Tool free fasteners represent the future of industrial and IT equipment mounting and cable management. Their use is only likely to increase. They are easy to add to existing design specifications and guidelines. Companies have seen the cost and time reduction when using tool-free fasteners and are starting to switch to these where ever it is possible. Tool-free fasteners are quickly becoming the de-facto way to mount things in many industrial and IT settings.