Airbus’s A400M Was Meant to Be the Pride of Europe’s Military. But After Years of Problems It Still Has a Screw Loose

By David Meyer November 14, 2019 For Fortune.  See Original Article >

Airbus just got some unwelcome pushback from the Luftwaffe.

On Wednesday, it emerged that the German air force had rejected delivery of two of the European plane-building consortium’s A400M military transporters, of which it already has 31, with another 20 also yet to be delivered. The reason: technical issues, including a problem with the bolts holding the propellers onto the craft.

The bolt issue is arguably not that major in itself—due to insufficient tightening, the bolts can become loose during rare high-g maneuvers, potentially leading to structural damage but not causing the propellors to fall off. A day’s work on each plane will fix the issue, a spokesperson for the Luftwaffe told Fortune.

However, the problem adds to a long list of issues with the A400M. The transport aircraft is Europe’s shot at avoiding reliance on the products of American manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Boeing. But since its inception in 2003 it has been plagued with heavy delays, cost overruns requiring $4.3 billion in bailouts from European governments, and technical faults.

The first deliveries of the A400M were supposed to take place in 2009 but only occurred four years later (to France)—the delays caused arguments between Airbus and NATO and led the consortium to report around $9.3 billion in charges overall. Four Spanish crew members died in a 2015 test-flight crash that was down to a software fault. More recently, Airbus has also had to deal with problems with the plane’s engines, propellers and propeller gear boxes.

“This is certainly a bad look for Airbus after a long line of technical faults and delays,” said Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the U.K.’s Royal United Services Institute. “It remains to be seen whether this particular fault is replicated in other users’ fleets, but serviceability remains a concern for many.”

According to Germany’s Der Spiegel, which first reported the Luftwaffe’s rejection of the two transporters, the bolt issue first manifested in a French A400M, leading Airbus to advise its customers to inspect their craft.

“The issue, already communicated to all our customers… is not safety critical and our customers continue to accept and operate their aircraft,” Airbus said in a statement. “Airbus has made great progress so far over this year to meet our customer requirements and the agreed capability roadmap. We continue to work closely with all our customers on those matters.”

The A400M’s issues “pale into insignificance” when compared with those that have plagued Boeing’s KC-46 military transporter, said Mal Craghill, a former commander of the U.K.’s Air Warfare School. “It is not uncommon for new aircraft types to encounter teething problems,” he said.

“I suspect the German move is just to ratchet up the pressure on Airbus to get the engine problems fixed more quickly. I’m not aware of Germany mounting any significant operations at the moment, so now is as good a time as any to highlight the issues,” said Craghill.

Europe’s air forces do not entirely rely on the A400M; as Craghill noted, they still have many Lockheed C-130 and Boeing C-17 military transport aircraft in service.

Nonetheless, said Bronk, “this issue as with others that have dogged the programme will be sorted—the A400M is too important to too many air forces to be allowed to fail now.”

“It is also important to remember that when the aircraft is working as intended, it performs extremely well and offers a unique and valuable mix of capabilities to the Luftwaffe and other operators,” Bronk added.

Custom Bolts | Custom Fasteners

Time to fight corrosion for the environment’s sake

By Nimeka de Silva and Patrik Lundström Törnquist – November 24,2019 See original article >

The global cost of corrosion exceeds US$2.5 trillion annually, or three percent of global GDP. Moreover, the environmental consequences are enormous. Innovative premium high-strength and high-performance stainless steel fasteners offer significant benefits – from product and asset infrastructure maintenance to total lifecycle costs – in many global industry sectors.

Metallic corrosion is the result of electro-chemical interaction between a metal and substances present within its operating environment. Corrosion results in degradation of that material, to the point where it is no longer mechanically or structurally fit for purpose. Corrosion presents a formidable global challenge. It affects many everyday products and almost all infrastructure – through increased maintenance, shorter product lifecycles, end-of-life management and generally the overall utilization of more resources over a product’s lifetime.

The economic and environmental impact is significant, and it is high time to place the fight against corrosion in a proper sustainability context.

The International Measures of Prevention, Application and Economics of Corrosion Technology (IMPACT) study by NACE estimates the global cost of corrosion to be US$ 2.5 trillion annually – equivalent to around three per cent of global GDP in 2018. However, it also estimates that existing corrosion control practices could save 15-35 percent of the cost of corrosion, equating to between US$ 375 and US$ 875 billion globally each year (NACE International, 2016).

Corrosion impacts heavily on the environment

The consequences of corrosion-related impacts on the environment are not included in this study but are increasingly important. In response to greater interest in issues related to environmental impact and sustainability, engineers are ever more encouraged to design products and infrastructure that can minimize negative environmental and societal impact. Sustainability in design, optimizing a product’s lifecycle, minimizing maintenance requirements and end-of-life upcycling/recycling for example are all becoming an important part of product performance, quality and overall cost.

In future, it is very likely that we will see even more burden placed on product manufacturers and asset infrastructure owners towards end-of-life management, so making early considerations in the design and planning stage will become a more crucial aspect of engineering. Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) are becoming ever more important for any product or project from both a customer and regulator perspective.

More robust and cost-effective fastener solutions

Stainless steel fasteners have long been used in corrosive environments, such as within the oil & gas industry, chemical processing, marine and coastal applications. In recent years, stainless steel materials, predominantly austenitic grades A2 (304) and A4 (316), have become more readily available, largely due to low-cost high-volume Asian manufacturers.

However, interest in premium stainless steel and high-grade alloy fasteners has really taken off. Within the correct application, they offer improved product performance, reduced maintenance and can help to maximize the product lifecycle. Considering total lifecycle costs can help to deliver significant cost efficiencies over the lifespan of a product, rather than an approach focusing purely on the initial upfront cost.

Particularly in more technical industries where performance, safety and reliability are all critical factors, engineers are now starting to give more consideration to an ever-increasing range of fastener products and material options available to them, in an attempt to design more robust and long-term cost-effective products and infrastructure.

Traditional fastener challenges for engineers

One of the traditional limitations accepted by engineers when considering the use of stainless steel materials, is reduced mechanical strength compared with high tensile carbon steel. If a combination of high strength and corrosion resistance was required, then engineers may often resort to the use of high tensile carbon steel with an additional protective coating.

However, high tensile carbon steel brings with it the burden of finding a coating suitable for the application and the associated performance, quality and lifespan considerations for the coating. High tensile carbon steels are also prone to the risk of hydrogen embrittlement as a result of their manufacturing process. Engineers often express concerns regarding this risk and careful consideration should always be given during their production.

The solution – corrosion resistance and high strength

Enter premium high corrosion-resistance stainless steel fasteners. These are products that combine the corrosion resistance capabilities of different stainless steel material grades, with the strength of high tensile carbon steel (such as the BUMAX DX 129 range). In addition, ductility and fatigue properties are also considerably better, outperforming high tensile carbon steel. By eliminating the limitations of strength in stainless steel materials, these premium fasteners open up new possibilities for design engineers that require a combination of high mechanical performance and corrosion resistance.

Applications for these premium stainless steel fasteners include aerospace, offshore equipment, steel construction, high-end electric bikes, high pressure applications, fueling systems and semiconductor manufacturing equipment – all with excellent results. Many more applications may follow, to the benefit of not only the owners and users of products and infrastructure – with higher quality, reduced maintenance and longer lifespans – but also the entire planet with the potential for the more sustainable use of material resources.

Custom Fasteners

Keeping Golden Gate Bridge in good shape as it turns 80

Original Article by Carl Nolte May 27, 2017 for The San Francisco Chronicle

As the Golden Gate Bridge was being built, Joseph Strauss, the chief engineer, was often asked: How long will the bridge last? His answer was always the same.

“Forever,” he said.

The famous span turns 80 on Saturday, not quite forever, but nearly a lifetime. And how long the bridge lasts depends on a small army of painters, ironworkers, electricians and engineers whose job over the years has taken them to the top and the bottom of the towers and everywhere else on the bridge.

Currently, the Golden Gate Bridge employs 32 painters, five painter laborers, 19 ironworkers, and three ironworker foremen, called “pushers” in the trade. A superintendent is in overall charge.

Though the painters are the most visible of the maintenance crew, it’s the ironworkers, who walk the high steel and build the scaffolding for the painters, who capture the public imagination.

“We have a nickname. They call us Sky Cowboys,” said Phillip Chaney, 57, the ironworker superintendent.

Their job is to replace rusting rivets with bolts, to build scaffolding for the painters and to make sure the bridge is sound.

“The paint protects the steel, but it’s the steel that holds up the bridge,” Chaney said.

“We have a corner office with a view,” said Darren McVeigh, 51, a second-generation ironworker who has been with the Golden Gate Bridge for 15 years and in the trade since 1982.

It’s “rough and dirty work,” McVeigh said, but it’s a good job.

Ironworkers report at 6:30 in the morning and are off by 3. It’s a union job, and the pay is good: $41.53 an hour, according to bridge district figures. It takes a four-year apprenticeship to become a journeyman, and Golden Gate work is especially prized in the trade: Bridge workers get 13 paid holidays, plus vacation.

In other jobs, McVeigh said, “When you don’t work, you don’t get paid.”

On the other hand, working on the Golden Gate presents special problems. The bridge crosses a strait on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, and the strait is famous for its wind and fog.

“Sometimes it cuts through you like a knife,” McVeigh said. “It’s brutal, just brutal. At the end of the day, all you can do is stand under a hot shower.”

The moisture from the fog and rain also add an element of danger to the work because it makes the steel slippery.

No one can be an ironworker who has a fear of heights, but the trade requires a finely honed sense of caution.

“You know the saying: ‘One hand for the company and one hand for yourself,’” McVeigh said.

All ironworkers on the bridge are required to wear a harness — 100 percent tie-off they call it — but there’s a trade-off. With layers of clothing on a chilly day, a body harness and a tool belt, ironworkers look like bears up on the steel. It makes it harder to move, to work.

Though 11 workers were killed during construction, there have been only two fatal accidents involving bridge crews in the past 80 years. In 1970, a painter fell to his death, and in 2003 an ironworker in the employ of a contractor died in an accident during a seismic retrofit project.

And there are also injuries, especially working with steel beams and building scaffolding.

“You get hand smashes and eye injuries, back injuries, bad knees,” McVeigh said.

They also face death, especially when someone is threatening suicide. Bridge workers are trained to intervene and will go to the railing to try to stop someone from jumping. “We put on a harness and tie-off so if they go, we are not going to go with them,” McVeigh said.

Like the others, he has talked some would-be jumpers off the edge. “I’ve lost count,” he said. “Maybe a dozen.”

In the next few years, a suicide barrier will be strung under the deck. The work won’t be done by in-house ironworkers, but by ironworkers hired by the contractors for the job.

The ironworkers’ main work at the bridge is keeping it standing. “There’s an old saying,” McVeigh said. “Rust never rests.”

Chaney points to a long color-coded chart in an engineering office near the toll plaza. It’s a conceptual printout of the bridge, showing the results of regular inspections: green for good steel, yellow for caution, red for problems.

Last year, the ironworkers spent a lot of time replacing some of the 600,000 rivets in the Marin tower. Rusted rivets are removed by a device called a “rivet buster” and are replaced with steel bolts.

Most of this year is devoted to building stages — “dance floors,” they are called — under the roadway deck, so old paint and some steel can be replaced. The stages are surrounded by tent-like structures that keep the old paint and debris from falling into the water.

It takes months to build the stages and the tenting, careful work done under the roadway. It’s not as dramatic as high work on the 746-foot-tall towers, but just as important.

There are other jobs, too. “I have guys working on greasing the bearings on the deck,” Chaney said. Like all suspension spans, the Golden Gate Bridge moves with the weight of traffic and with the wind. The steel moves. “You don’t want a stiff structure,” he said.

After the stages are done, the next big job will be to work on the San Francisco tower, where the effects of wind and rain have left the tower looking a bit shabby, as if it needs a new paint job. “It’s structurally sound,” Chaney said, “but not aesthetically.”

Not everybody can work on what may well be the most famous bridge in the world. Like others on the bridge, McVeigh is proud of it.

“When you are driving to work and see it in the windshield,” he said, “you say to yourself: ‘Wow! Look at this thing!’”

A quiet anniversary

It will be a quiet birthday Saturday when the Golden Gate Bridge turns 80.

Instead, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District is inviting the public to post personal stories about the bridge on the bridge’s Facebook page and to Twitter @goldengatebridge, hashtag #GGB80 and #MyGGBstory.

The idea, the district says, is to “allow visitors from all over the world to join the fun.”

On the bridge’s 50th anniversary, in 1987, as many as 300,000 people walked on the bridge, causing the arch in the main span to flatten. The bridge staged an elaborate fireworks display on its 75th, in 2012. See Original Article >

Custom Bolts | Special Bolts | Custom Machined Bolts

Delayed NASA space telescope literally has some screws loose

Original Article for CNET BY AMANDA KOOSER MAY 4, 2018 5:34 PM PDT
Building a next-generation space telescope isn’t easy. NASA’s James Webb telescope will replace the famous Hubble telescope someday, but the delayed observatory project is feeling a little shaken at the moment.

NASA is testing the telescope’s spacecraft element to make sure it can survive launch and a harsh life out in space. The spacecraft consists of the sunshield and the spacecraft bus, which houses electrical, communication, propulsion and thermal control subsystems, among others.

The space agency subjected the spacecraft to routine mechanical shock and acoustic vibration tests, which loosened some of the hardware holding the sunshield membrane cover in place. The loose hardware was an assortment of screws and washers, as noted by SpaceNews.

NASA says this sort of issue isn’t uncommon during testing for complex spacecraft, but the observatory is under extra scrutiny due to the high profile of the project and its $8 billion price tag.

“NASA is reviewing options for repair and the next steps in spacecraft element launch environment testing,” said Greg Robinson, Webb’s program director.

The telescope has been beset with a series of technical issues and recently had its projected launch date pushed back to 2020, though some critical pieces of the telescope project successfully made it through cryogenic testing earlier this year.

It’s good to keep in mind that Hubble, an ultimately triumphant project, was originally expected to launch in the early 1980s, but actually got off the ground in 1990 and still required a series of servicing missions later on.

While the Webb telescope may be facing a minor setback due to the loose hardware, it’s better to figure it out on the ground and fix it than have it happen in space. View Original Article >

Special Fasteners | Custom Fasteners

How Custom Fasteners are Made

When companies in industries from agriculture to shipping need standard fasteners, they have plenty of options for purchasing them. But when a special part is needed, only a company that focuses on delivering custom fasteners will ensure a quick turnaround and superior product. At Chicago Nut & Bolt, custom work is what we do, and our custom fasteners can be made to any specifications in a timely manner that has impressed our clients for 20 years.

Despite the complex parts we have been able to produce during the past two decades, our process is simple. It begins when a client sends a blueprint for a part, which might be anything from a custom screw for a century-old bridge to a 6-ft. bolt for a crane. Based on the blueprint and specifications for features like a particular grade of steel or type of plating, we typically provide a quote within 24 hours. That’s our goal, and it’s an industry-leading turnaround.

Once we send the quote and it becomes an order, we coordinate with the manufacturers handling the multiple aspects of production that go into developing a custom order. Next, we continue to the vital step of quality control. During this testing phase, our experts check 30, 60 or even more dimensions, verifying them within a tolerance range. Only after all quality measures have been approved do we package the order. Along with the parts, we send certification that all material grade and strength properties have been met. Everything needed is shipped to the customer, but we also offer warehousing. That means, our customers have the option of making large orders and asking for their certified parts as needed.

There is a lot that goes into making custom fasteners, but because we have been doing precisely that for 20 years, we have a tested, step-by-step process that enables us to offer the quickest turnaround in the market.

Custom Machined BoltsCustom Fasteners | Custom Bolts

A Custom Fastener for the Mining Industry Shines Like Gold

Crafting just the right piece of hardware can sometimes feel like creating a piece of jewelry. And when custom bolts and nuts are needed to secure heavy equipment, absolute precision is necessary. A recent custom fastener we developed for hydraulic mining equipment both met the exacting tolerances of the blueprint and sparkled like a golden pendant thanks to its distinctive plating.

The client came to Chicago Nut & Bolt with an order to produce 2,500 custom pieces with several special features. First, the fastener had to be crafted from high-alloy hardened steel, which would provide considerable strength and resistance to corrosion. Because the mining equipment would be exposed to wet conditions, including ocean water, this high level of preservation was key. Second, the custom fasteners needed to feature internal and external threads so that they could be screwed both inside and out. Basically, it was a special nut and bolt combined in one piece.

Based on the client’s exacting blueprints, we began the process of filling this custom order by utilizing CNC machinery. Thanks to this advanced technology, the raw steel could be cut in a precise manner with a computer-controlled metal lathe. The CNC machine also added the interior and exterior threads to this special fastener. Next, the pieces were heat treated and finally plated, which created the gold sheen that makes the fasteners look like a modern piece of industrial-style jewelry. At each step in the process, our team performed a stringent quality inspection.

Finally, the 2,500 special fasteners were packaged to the customer’s specs and shipped. From blueprint to delivery, the process took about four weeks, although we have been known to create custom nuts and bolts as fast as overnight or within a few hours. That’s because our main capability is creating one-of-a-kind nuts and bolts in quantities from one to 1 million. Not every custom fastener we manufacture will look like a piece of jewelry, but every piece will always be just the right fit.

Chicago Nut & Bolt manufacturers custom large size fasteners, including bolts, nuts and screws per blue print. With over 20 years in the custom fastener business, Chicago Nut & Bolt supplies quantities from one to 1 million pieces and can also warehouse orders.

 

Choosing the Right Fastener Supplier for Rapid Prototyping

You’ve just had a new design approved to move on to the next stage – prototyping. That’s good news, right?

The only issue? Your first iteration is due in a short amount of time and you don’t know where to source the pieces from.

Choosing the Right Supplier

Finding the right supplier can be difficult under normal circumstances, let alone when you’re on a time crunch. If you’ve never had to source products before, the first things to keep in mind are your physical product needs, budget, the scale of your project, reliability of the supplier, and time constraints.

Once you have all of these factors figured out, you can either look for suppliers that meet your criteria, or put out a Request for Proposals. Once you have received a handful of bids, consider which ones will best meet your requirements. If you have some contenders that can’t meet your deadline or require a minimum product order that’s above what you need, put those to the side and focus on the others.

What to Look for in a Fastener Supplier

Since special fasteners are present in just about every product imaginable, there’s a good chance you’ll need at least a few in your prototype to hold everything together.

When choosing a fastener supplier for a rapid prototyping project, look for companies that stock blanks in a wide variety of styles and sizes. These can be customized depending on your needs.

You should also look for manufacturers and/or distributors that not only carry a large inventory of options, but additionally have the ability to design customized fasteners just in case your project ends up needing something more precise.

How We Support Rapid Prototyping

At Chicago Nut & Bolt, our fastener prototypes take your specifications for geometry, joint design, and structure into account to come up with the right configuration for your prototypes. Our specialists can even take a look at your application demands and physical requirements to help determine the right material for your project.

Request a quote for your project to see how we can help you.

Custom Fasteners | Custom Nuts |Special Nuts |Special Fasteners

Unique Projects That Call for Custom Fasteners

Custom Fasteners are a vital component of any major construction project. But some projects require more customized fastener options than others due to environmental concerns or weight requirements. We’ve worked on a number of unique projects that required custom fasteners, and have rounded up a few of our favorites.

Otherworldly Applications

Chicago Nut & Bolt has worked on a few projects with applications beyond Earth (while still remaining firmly planted on the ground). The Bioshere 2 in Arizona is a massive 3.15-acre self-contained ecosystem. The goal is to replicate a biosphere on another planet to test the possibilities and realities of space colonization. This was a major undertaking, with construction beginning in 1987 and finishing in 1991. Unfortunately, efforts to replicate food growth and production on a planet like Mars were unsuccessful – but this is valuable knowledge when considering what methods will work on a foreign landscape. By performing trial and error here on Earth, we’re setting up eventual colonists with a better understanding of what to look out for and design around.

In addition to helping build the largest closed ecosystem, we’ve also supplied custom fasteners for the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. At 1,001 feet across, this is the largest single-aperture telescope ever built. The radio telescope is used for radio astronomy, aeronomy, and radar astronomy. The massive focusing dish of the telescope gives Arecibo the largest electromagnetic-wave-gathering capacity on Earth.

Regional Landmarks

While we have supported many lesser-known projects with far reaching applications, we’ve also supplied custom fasteners for more well-known structures. Perhaps the most widely recognized project is the Golden Gate Bridge, which we regularly supply fasteners for during refurbishing and maintenance.

We’ve also provided fasteners for a more local landmark – the “Son of Beast” record-breaking wooden roller coaster in Mason, Ohio. It’s the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in the world, topping out at 78 mph and 218 feet tall. It’s also the only looping wooden roller coaster.

We’re always interested in seeing how our custom fasteners are used once they leave the factory floor. With customers in such diverse industries, it’s an exciting challenge coming up with solutions that meet strict specifications. If you need specialized fasteners for a project, let us know your requirements and we can work with you to find the best solution. You can request a quote online or call us at 888-529-8600 to discuss your needs.

Custom Fasteners | Custom Nuts |Special Nuts |Special Fasteners

How Radically A High-Speed Train System Would Improve Travel In The US

Business Insider has broadcasted a video showing just how radically a high-speed train would revolutionize our traveling systems.  Hyperloop is in the making and has some great projects ahead to making this high-speed train a reality.

According to this video, the US railroad network is composed of about 140,000 miles of tracks. Many passengers travel by train at only 50 mph.  The top speed of the fastest train, AMTRACK, is on average anywhere between 80-90 MPH.

 

A new vision for high-speed trains would connect to all the U.S major cities of a 170,000  mile network.  Here is how it would be mapped out.

What’s the Difference between Us and Them?

More choices. It’s that simple. At Chicago Nut & Bolt we specialize in custom made fasteners to meet any specification and application.

Many of our competitors may say they are a custom manufacturer but when you look closely at their products and capabilities, they are 90-95% off the shelf. That might be fine for some applications. But, for truly custom made nuts, bolts and screws the best choice is to work with a company that has the capabilities to produce exactly what you need.

How can we be 100% custom and provide quick turnaround times? It’s because we have a massive inventory of blanks and a plant staffed with experienced machinists. Every imaginable head style of fastener is stocked and the blanks can be modified according to exact specifications. We will provide extra-large or extra-long sizes, drill holes, fit an extra thread, add a special body diameter, or create a special pattern across the flats.

Custom bolts are available in a wide range of materials and many different bolt styles such as square, round, hexagonal, countersunk, flanged, socket, and 12-point. We can add any type of protective and anti-corrosion coatings and treatment. No other company has the same capabilities as we do.

If you want more precision, more accuracy, more style, and more choices, the company to partner with is Chicago Nut & Bolt. We’re all custom! Contact us today to learn more.

Custom Bolts | Custom Fasteners | Chicago Bolts | Special Bolts | Large Diameter Bolts | Custom Nuts | Special Nuts | Special Fasteners