Aircraft are robust vehicles, allowing us to achieve heavier-than-air flight and traverse the world in speeds never before thought possible. As aircraft are faced with many stressors and extreme conditions during typical flight operations, their assemblies need to be heavily secured to maintain integrity and safety. While there are a number of methods to conjoin parts for an assembly, the aluminum alloys regularly used for aircraft structures make procedures such as soldering ineffective for robust attachments. Instead, many aircraft manufacturers rely on a number of rivet types to join aluminum structures together due to their ease of installation, high capabilities, and easier maintainability.
At their most basic, rivets are a type of fastener that feature a head and cylindrical shaft. For their installation, most rivets are passed through preformed holes in components, and then tools may be used to create a second head on the other side of the assembly to secure parts together. Often composed of metal, rivets can be used to join metal sheets, plates, and other materials. When used on aircraft, the most common types include solid shank rivets and special rivets such as blind and CherryMax types. With each type, aircraft skin sections, spars, ribs, and other structural components and equipment pieces can be permanently attached to one another.
The solid shank rivet is the most common type used for the construction of aircraft and their assemblies due to the fact that they provide high reliability and are very cost-efficient. As compared to bolts and nuts, solid rivets are much quicker to install, often catering to automatic, high-speed tools. As their tensile strength tends to lack compared to their shear strength, solid rivets should not be used for the attachment of thick materials. As they are a more standard type of rivet, solid shank rivets are installed into a component by passing the tail-end through a preformed hole before deformation with a tool.
With various special rivet types, more complicated areas of the aircraft can be fastened securely. Known as blind rivets, such fasteners may be used in instances where accessing both sides of an assembly is difficult. With a nail-like mandrel located in the shaft of the blind rivet, the fastener may be passed through a preformed hole of a component and a special tool is then used to begin pulling the mandrel through the shaft. As the mandrel is drawn, the rivet will begin to form a second head and lock the fastener in place as the mandrel is snapped off.
CherryMax rivets are special locked spindle blind rivet types, and they provide high strength capabilities alongside an inspectable mechanical locking device and an included installation washer. Due to their construction, CherryMax rivets are most useful for fastening thin sheet metals or materials that tend to become damaged when secured with more conventional blind rivet types. With easy installation capability and a robust locking collar that further guarantees joint integrity, the CherryMax rivet serves as a robust fastener choice for aerospace construction.
While the more common rivet types are very useful for assembling aircraft structures, they still require regular maintenance and inspection to ensure their integrity. During visual inspections, one should always ensure that their rivets or the surrounding areas around them are not cracked or damaged. Additionally, rivets should not be loose or distorted in any shape or form, as changes in structure may lead to an issue later on. If a rivet warrants replacement, the component should always be carefully removed, and a rivet of the same size may be used for the same hole.
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