Specials and Custom fasteners from Challenge (Europe) Ltd

The demand for fasteners – threaded or otherwise – is frequently impossible to meet from standard ranges – at the same time quantities and delivery schedules need to be managed for production scheduling. Here at Challenge Europe we are in a position to handle both since quality has always been a top priority for us, reflected both in the product range of our stock, and in the service we provide. We gained the ISO9001 award for quality in 1997, the company is a member of the Engineering Industries Association and our service ethos enables us to supply systems such as Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI), Kanban, JIT, and Linefeed.

This is coupled with a specialised manufacture, sub-assembly and packing service, allowing customer products to be supplied in the most efficient format. Combined with the availability of a UK delivery fleet, the service that we offer enables small to medium sized manufacturers to meet the challenges of present-day operations.

It seems that small volume custom special jobs are a problem for bigger manufacturers, where it is not cost-effective for them to program large and expensive automated equipment. This enables our team to optimise performance across customer manufacturing operations with customer standard products from stock including many specialist items.

This capability is ideal for small quantities and extends to partnering arrangements with fabricators and finishers so that we can cover a wide range of items from specialist threaded fasteners to sheet metal or moulded/cast components. Coupled with in-house machining and a global sourcing and supply infrastructure, this in-depth expertise of the manufacturing cycle has been gained from over 30 years in the engineering arena.

Our capability enables us to produce components from alternative materials at short notice and to incorporate them into packaged sub-assemblies. In this way customers gain a complete package of high-quality and low-cost on standard mass-produced items and on small quantity specialist components.

Typically this includes Instrument Carrying Handles, Chrome Handles, Clamp Screws and Stud Rivet Nut Assembly, as well as cut to length studding, vented screws, spacers and general modification work to standard fasteners e.g. shortening to non-standard lengths & cross drilling to take split cotter pins.


Challenge (Europe) - handles, clamps, machine parts, stud rivets, valve knobs and captive screws

Along with threaded fasteners goes a whole swathe of ancillary products which, for the team at Challenge (Europe) are characterised by items such as instrument handles, clamp screws, stud rivet assemblies, valve knobs, captive screws and a great capability in the production of custom specialist machined parts.

This capability covers most metals and sometimes plastics with non-standard special items to customer drawings or non-standard sizes to international standards, e.g. an intermediate diameter or length. Where an ex-stock item is not suitable they are happy to advise.

Instrument carrying handles in painted or chrome finish are suited to instruments, trollies, cases etc.

Clamp screws are designed to suit specific customer requirements for the clamping of components by hand operation rather than for screwing into a component. They can be manufactured in steel, stainless steel, brass, and to many sizes metric and imperial. Stud rivet assemblies provide a quickly installed permanent rivet nut type of assembly but with a re-usable male screw thread. Used mainly in sheet material where accessibility or other installation processes, e.g. welding, are not practical options.

Valve knobs are just one example of a product resulting from a joint customer development project.

Captive screws are another example – they are retained by means of having a reduced diameter shank following on from a standard screw thread – usually with a raised head for tool or manual operation. Standard metric sizes, materials plated steel or stainless steel. This is one style of fastener which is often required to custom dimensions as they must be a correct length to suit the application.

Challenge Europe Rivets and Pins and Weld Studs and other fasteners

In the engineering lexicon rivets and pins are commonplace and are fundamental to location, e.g. by use of dowels or groove pins and slotted steel tension pins. Similarly, Challenge Europe ex-stock delivery reflects the everyday usage of simple security fixings such as split cotter pins as well as the wide range of weld studs, self-clinching pins, brass threaded inserts and the many types of rivet in daily use. The experienced team at Challenge Europe are optimally positioned to advise on new or specialist applications and very much welcome talking to engineers before product finalisation, or at revision stages.

Common rivet forms available from Challenge Europe include blind “POP” rivets, solid, tubular style and self-clinching pins.

Blind rivets offered by Challenge Europe include: Open Ended which provide strong, low cost fastenings ideal for a wide range of applications within the general engineering industry. They are available in aluminium, steel, stainless steel, monel and copper; also closed (Sealed) End which are specifically designed to provide a waterproof seal after the rivet has been set and are available in aluminium, steel, stainless steel, and copper. Multigrip rivets are designed to clamp a wide range of material thicknesses as well as having excellent filling characteristics where the hole form proves inconsistent.

Traditionally multigrip rivets are available in aluminium, but steel and stainless steel versions have been recently introduced albeit with a very much reduced range of sizes and head styles… Structural rivets are designed to provide high tensile and shear strengths for more demanding applications and are available in steel and aluminium. Grooved rivets can be used in conjunction with fibrous materials such as wood where upon setting the aluminium body of the rivet expands and the grooves bite into the material. For load spreading special rivets are suitable for soft or brittle materials where upon setting the aluminium rivet body folds back into segments preventing damage. Peel rivets are similar to the load spreading rivet in design and application, except that the rivet body splits open into a ‘petal’ arrangement upon setting, they are also in aluminium.

Solid Rivets are generally manufactured to suit individual customer’s requirements, and are almost infinitely variable in terms of diameter, length, head form and material type. They are considered to be the strongest of the rivet types, but require high setting forces and sometimes more specialised setting tooling. Semi-Tubular rivets preserve the shear strength of solid rivet but with easier setting. They are generally available with oval, countersunk or tinman heads and in a variety of sizes and materials to suit customer applications. Tubular rivets are similar to the semi-tubular variety, but with a fully hollow shank and are designed for lighter setting force. Bifurcated style rivets are sometimes known as split rivets, being generally used on softer materials such as leather and composite timber boards, where they act in a self-piercing manner and can be designed to self-set.

Washers and Dubo rings from Challenge Europe

Ex-stock specialist Washers and Dubo Rings offer many benefits in terms of sealing, security, anti-vibration and mechanical protection. In addition they can normalise friction on torque sensitive applications, provide sound deadening and anti-corrosion by electro-galvanic insulation. Copper grip and brass terminal cup washers on the other hand provide excellent electrical conductivity for connection of power or earth wires.

Plain washers in standard or “mudguard” forms are complemented by screw cup (finishing) washers and crinkle washers which improve aesthetics and add light spring compression to the fastening respectively. Sealing and security roles are addressed by fibre and coil spring types, plus Belleville washers for higher force spring compression.

Where special sealing and anti-vibration functionality is required then the Dubo Ring system is suited to many applications in aerospace, electronics, component assembly, construction and maintenance.

This product is proving to be an increasingly popular method of meeting the dual requirements of sealing and locking, e.g. in preventing leakages from transformer oil reservoirs up to more demanding roles within the power generating industry.


Ex-stock specialist nuts from tech fastening experts at Challenge Europe

While many machine screws or bolts fit into a tapped thread within a larger component the versatility of these threaded fasteners is often exploited by using a nut which we stock in many variations and materials. Our wide ex-stock offering supports manufacturing supply chains – including nylon insert nuts – the most used anti-vibration self-locking nuts often fitted where previously a full nut and jam nut were utilised, thus saving an extra operation, also reducing weight and height of the assembly; a situation where half nuts could also be used to allow for lack of space.

Specialist nuts are often called for and are stocked to locate into various substrates e.g. flange nuts which help with load spreading and anti-vibration capability. Similarly, square nuts which slide into channels and are often used for roofing because of their self-locating square format.

Dome nuts are a frequent solution where aesthetics and safety are uppermost e.g. on prams and fairground equipment etc.  Other standard nut forms include cage nuts for captive use e.g. on 19” racks, computer panels etc. often in M6 sizes for electronics, they provide location with space for the nut to float and allow for adjustment. Combi nuts on the other hand have an integral washer retained within the nut assembly for load spreading and anti-vibration purposes, whereas their barb nut variant incorporates paint cutting edges for earthing continuity purposes while saving fiddly assembly, loss of washer etc.

Traditional wing nuts facilitate hand operation for quick release without tools and the convenient U nut design is used on sheet material to provide an instant thread with load spreading action.

Ex-stock socket screws and bolts from Challenge Europe

Specialist threaded fasteners available ex-stock from Challenge Europe in high grades of material include socket screws for production, incorporating milled sides (cap heads) so they may be easily spun up by hand and of course with a recessed hex drive which enable machine feed and torqueing on the assembly line.

Other specialist socket screws include button head/dome head designs which give improved appearance, lower profile and a smooth finish. They also offer more clearance with less vulnerability to interference, either to clothing or to other equipment passing over and are ideal for floor fixings as they present less of a trip hazard.

Socket head cap screws are generally more considered for engineering use at the elite end of the fastener range, by virtue of their more precise production tolerances – and historically being more commonly of 12.9 grade they are engineered for use at the top end of the precision spectrum.

In particular the socket head shoulder screw variant features a plain shank with a ground surface for location – “a dowel with a thread”, especially useful for tooling applications where a lower clearance is desirable, e.g. for locating with precise fit, but it can also be used to provide a bearing surface.

Challenge Europe - a nuanced approach to manufacturing with bolts, studding and fixings

The manufacturing sourcing and supply process today is more than ever concerned with supporting robust procedures to ensure reliable quality and performance at highly competitive prices. But the greatest concern is probably that of getting it wrong as this is often the greatest cost of all.

It is here that our team here at Challenge Europe can help, even with apparently simple threaded fasteners like flange bolts – used for speed and where people don’t want the inconvenience of a separate washer for load spreading or anti-vibration purposes. Similarly for studding where a longer length is required, e.g. for ceilings, to extend floor anchors or for chemical fixings such as epoxy glue embedded attachments.

All are well understood products but still benefit from expert guidance, as experience as shown.

Standard ex-stock items include flange bolts which are generally found in a more limited range than conventional bolts and set screws – also throughbolt style floor anchors which permit component positioning, hole drilling and insertion of the fixing all in one operation without needing to remove the component.

Conversely, shield anchors do need removal of steelwork in order to drill and place the fixing, but are better in weaker concrete as they are capable of generating a greater wedging force in variable substrates. They are also able to accommodate a variety of different fixings, e.g. various bolt head types.

Modern mechanical fasteners from Challenge Europe

In the modern world there are many issues coming to the fore such as the reduction of chemicals hazardous to your health (RoHS – Restrictions of Hazardous Substances and REACH – Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals). In addition industry is continually being charged to reduce wastage and improve recyclability as well improve working environments, health and safety being key issues that most companies come across on a regular basis.

Mechanical fasteners in one form or another have been in existence almost from the cave man days with developments in more recent years enabling them to be used successfully in most types of assembly environments and at the same time satisfying the requirements of safety, quality and cost. They continue to be a simple solution to assembly problems providing a system of positive connection with low risk, which can be easily disassembled. They have no thickness limitation, are not environmentally sensitive and provide through-thickness reinforcement, with low sensitivity to peel stresses and have no major residual stress problems.

Above all they are simple – joint configuration is simple, manufacturing processes are simple, inspection is simple and maintenance is simple. Simplicity can be a major advantage in most applications.

Simplicity however does not mean they are incapable of sophistication with major advantages over chemical fastening adhesives. For example, threaded fasteners are commonly used with a torque adjustable closure force permitting pre-loading of the joint to allow it to adapt to variable loads from engines to couplings.

Similarly, the structural integrity, strength and security of mechanical fasteners can be designed to encompass the needs of vandal-resistance, to accommodate the extreme loads of vandal attack and to resist tools. In our drive for the new it is easy to forget the advantages of the old technologies.

With a mechanical fastener, when it is fixed, it is fixed and with a little thought it stays fixed. You can have confidence in what you feel when you fit it and what you see when you inspect it. So it is worth considering that most mechanical fasteners exhibit a common range of attributes:

They are suited to production – especially where dis-assembly is likely to be needed. Threaded fasteners and rivets are easy to use in the manufacturing environment where everybody has appropriate tools, experience and expertise.

They have predictable, reliable and often very high performance – they are a known quantity from simple and robust (to high specification) materials with positive known characteristics, including sealing and anti-vibration.

They are easy to maintain and are easily removed for maintenance and repair, even small components can be replaced from larger assemblies. Assemblies using mechanical fasteners can generally be taken apart for ease of repair and maintenance, even rivets can be drilled out allowing access in sheet metal fabrications. Whilst there are some adhesives that will allow disassembly this often requires considerable time and the use of chemical solvents to clean and prepare the surfaces for re-assembly.

Mechanical fasteners provide certainty of fixing as they eliminate the risk of faulty and potentially scrap assemblies by providing a visible fixing that is not subject to a failed bond scenario.

Reduced surface preparationgenerally mechanical fasteners require no special preparation of mating surfaces, eliminating the need for cleaning solvents, etc. and provide an immediate fixunlike many adhesives there is no delay in production due to allowances for cure times.

Adjustment during assembly is readily achieved since some assembly jobs entail a trial and error approach, with mechanical fixings you have the provision to adjust as many times as is necessary without being limited by a cure time.

Mating Componentsfasteners don’t have any detrimental effect on mating components as there is no risk of chemical created structural change. In addition dissimilar materials can be joined, although care is recommended to prevent the risk of galvanic corrosion.

They are environmentally friendlydue to their recyclability you don’t have the problems associated with having to safely and legally dispose of chemical waste that could occur with adhesives products. Regarding environmental concerns we find that generally all fasteners are recyclable, either by reuse in their original condition or by melting down. In this respect steel is quite an environmentally friendly material.

Low impact on the work environmentmechanical fasteners have the benefit of being able to be utilised in all weather and environmental conditions that man can survive, no need to provide specialised assembly areas, such as fume extraction or controlled temperature. In addition mechanical fasteners are less messy to use, require less specialised training, and generally don’t require respiratory/allergy monitoring of users.

They have an extended shelf life and maintain their value over timeunlike many adhesive products, mechanical fasteners do not require specialised storage facilities and provided they are kept in a dry environment their shelf life is virtually indefinite.

Likewise for life in service – look after them and they can last many lifetimes – for example the Eiffel Tower, opened in 1889, with 2.5million rivets used in its construction. Then there is the Forth Rail Bridge, opened 1890, 6.5 million rivets, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened in 1932, with 6 million rivets used.

Challenge Europe - screws ex-stock and custom

The team here at Challenge Europe are experienced in supporting manufacturing and trade users of ex-stock and custom screws in a very wide variety. In our experience this differentiation of design and material enables us to help customers get the right screw for the job – saving time, saving money, saving waste and ensuring a top quality job first time.

Typically this covers stainless steel machine screws, self-tapping/thread-forming screws and steel chipboard screws. Of increasing popularity are self-drilling types such as SPAX – which have a special thread form to cut into timber without a pilot hole – and HECOFIX screws, also with a range of specialised threads, both especially designed for professional users.

For example, we find that people often use self-tappers in plastic without realising that there are specialist designed-for-plastic screws – and only find out later that ordinary self-tappers can bind in the hole where they snap off or split the component.

Proper advice can cover screw type, hole, sizes, clearances, torque settings etc. So call us here to talk to us about your screw needs.


New Hafren range of security fasteners available from Challenge Europe - anti-vandal and anti-tamper screws and nuts

When a manufacturer is considering security issues around fasteners, generally there are three aspects:

  • The ability of the fastener to securely do its job and withstand problems such as vandalism.
  • How secure will the fastener be in service, how for example will it seal or retain components and/or fluids?
  • How confident can I be in my selection and my supply chain?

These are vital matters addressed by Kevin Moorcroft and his team here at Challenge Europe, for example we are delighted to have in our portfolio the Hafren range of security fasteners – a range of anti-vandal, anti-tamper screws and nuts proven in applications from architectural and street furniture, to marine and industrial equipment. Vandal resistant fasteners such as 2 hole headed (otherwise known as pignose or snake eye) A2 stainless screws, bolts and self-tappers provide a versatile and clean look to installations while deterring vandals and keeping installations safe. Likewise, shear-nuts in zinc plated steel, galvanised, A2 and A4 stainless. Other important items include 6-lobe driven threaded fasteners in A2 stainless steel with centre pin, in self-tapping, machine screw, self-drilling, barrel nut and floor anchor formats. Both countersunk and dome headed types are available.

Regarding security of retention and sealing, Challenge Europe offer exceptional performance with Dubo products which flow into the threads of the bolt and the nut, where they create a particularly effective frictional resistance with the bolt. This action prevents rotation of the retaining ring around the bolt, by wrapping around the flats on the nut and thereby effectively prevent the nut from loosening by filling all free spaces, while sealing against leakage. Applications range from use in preventing leakages from transformer oil reservoirs to  more demanding roles within the power generating industry and elsewhere.

Because DUBO Retaining Rings possess plastic-flow characteristics they absorb vibrations arising in the bolt assembly and exhibit excellent sound-deadening properties and durability. Thus they neither deteriorate nor wear and may be re-used again and again without loss of performance.

DUBO Retaining Rings are chemically resistant to Alkalis, to solutions of neutral inorganic salts, also to oils, fats, petrol, benzine, alcohol, acetone, diluted acids, and sea water, they are consequently able to prevent electrolytic corrosion between two different metal surfaces and prevent fatigue in the bolt material while  insulating and protecting the surfaces.

Dubo Toothed Collar Ring drawingA unique addition to the DUBO system is the DUBO-toothed collar ring which is intended for use in combination with high quality steel nuts (8.8). The toothed collar ring enables any desired bolt tension without damaging the DUBO-retaining ring through high bolt and nut loads, this design permits the use of any nut as a locking nut, which can then be re-used. Constraining the DUBO-retaining ring into this toothed-collar ring ensures that optimum deformation of the DUBO-ring is obtained after tightening the nut which provides a secure and long lasting locking and tightening effect according to the DUBO principle.

This high level of product performance is of little value however unless backed by an experienced team working to BS EN ISO standards – such as here at Challenge Europe since manufacturers’ confidence in their supplier is crucial to the reliable consistent output of any production facility. Confidence which stems from the ability to work in partnership with regard stock holding and supply control which may be offered from a central managed site covering production line restocking of fasteners, inventory control – measurement, stock re-ordering, kit and component supply, and single point invoicing. Site management enables a supplier to maintain optimum stock quantities and production system integration ensures supply chain capabilities within preferred production systems, e.g. Kanban, Lineside Supply and Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI).

A process which may additionally include supporting the engineering operation by initiating the supply chain, working from engineering drawings to determine the components/assemblies required. Security and confidence come from partnering design and commissioning new component tooling for improved manufacturing efficiency. Thus by controlling existing tooling we , as your fastener partner are able to audit and maintain an inventory, including a full logistical history for each item. Managing quality control in this way we can take responsibility for the inspection, monitoring and acceptance/rejection of components.

Ultimately as concept consultants we can advise on optimal design-for-production (DFP) values at the product concept stage and provide specification consultancy with pre-production advice on the handling of components, kits and sub-assemblies. This allows greater confidence in the development/production process leading to reliable high quality outcomes.

Further along the product lifecycle into product enhancement, production engineers will want to look at  on-going product improvement – a process that can be made easier as we can suggest components of alternative materials or how to reduce component counts and shorten assembly times.

Contact us here to discuss your fastener needs.

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