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Distributor's Link Magazine Fall Issue 2015 / Vol 38 No4

36 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S

36 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK Michael L. Mowins Mike Mowins is the President-Global Licensing for Phillips Screw Company. He is the author of numerous articles on fastening and has served as Associate Chairman for the NFDA, Chairman for the IFI Associate Supplier Division, and Chairman of the Aerospace Fastener Standards Advisory Committee. He serves on the SAE E-25 Engine Bolt and G-21H Counterfeit Hardware Committees. He holds 4 U.S. Patents and is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy (BS) and University of Rhode Island (MBA). IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD - UNDERSTANDING FASTENER DRIVE SYSTEMS AND WHY THERE ARE SO MANY Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there were only screws with slots in their heads. And life was simple. Today the variation in fastener drive systems seems infinite and it’s hard to tell why there are so many and what each one should be used for. Some are cross shaped, some have lobes, some are only on airplanes, and some are meant to only work if you have the right tool. Why are there so many? To answer that question we need to understand a little about the evolution of the screw and screw driver. The earliest known screws from the 1400’s had slotted heads and were used to secure manacles and leg irons in place. The Wyatt brothers were the first in the late 1700’s to mass produce cut thread screws in large volumes with countersunk slotted heads. The slot was put in with a saw. This was a fairly simple operation, but it left the end of the slot open on both ends. If the person using the flat blade screw driver wasn’t careful it could slip out of the end of the slot and damage the screw, their work, or injure them. Forging a recess with closed sides in the head of the screw didn’t come into existence until the early 1900’s when the square socket was developed by Peter Robertson in Canada. Robertson solved the problem of driver slippage with his tapered square shaped recess. In the early days it gained some popularity in the growing automobile industry; but due to issues related to who would control production between Robertson and Henry Ford, it never really became a widespread success outside of Canada. Then, along came Henry Phillips with the first practical cross shaped recess. Phillips had seen a cross shaped recess developed by a man named John Thompson. It was a perfect four pointed star that tapered to a very sharp CONTRIBUTOR ARTICLE point. The problem with Thompson’s design was that it weakened the head of the screw and the driver tip often broke. Henry bought the rights to Thompson’s patent and began to tinker with it. The result was a shallower recess that mated with a stronger blunt nosed driver. He kept the angled walls of the four wings because as the screw was tightened the angled driver wing walls would start to ride up the angled walls of the recess and put a back pressure on the screw driver. This slight pressure helped craftsmen driving screws by hand know when they had them tight enough that they were secure, but, could still be removed; in essence, it was a torque limiting system. With a power tool, the effect became even more pronounced and became what we now call cam-out where the driver will pop out of the recess as the screw is fully seated. Henry now had a better solution but no way to get it to market. The answer was to form a partnership with the major screw producers of the day by licensing them to make his design. Phillips’ partnership with the companies, most notably the American Screw Company, led to the development of what became the modern cold heading industry. Henry Phillips partnered with an engineer from American Screw, John Joseph Tomalis, and together they developed the process for efficiently putting the recess in the end of a piece of wire with a punch at high speed. Both men have been honored for their role in the industry, Phillips was inducted in the U.S. Patent office Inventors Hall of Fame in 2012, and Tomalis was honored by the Industrial Fastener Institute with a Trowbridge Technology award in 2010. The PHILLIPS screw and screw driver that came out of their partnership is still one of the most widely used screw driving systems in the world. CONTINUED ON PAGE 154

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