A lot of parts go into the construction of an airplane. A typical Boeing 747, for instance, has approximately 6 million parts. Of course, many of these parts are small. Most airplanes have thousands of small fasteners, with rivets being the most common type of fastener used in their construction. You can find rivets on the fuselage and wings. What are rivets exactly, and how are they used to manufacture airplanes?
What Are Rivets?
Rivets are pin-like fasteners that are used to create a fixed and permanent joint. Whether it’s a large Boeing 747 or a small Cessna 172, airplanes aren’t constructed of a single piece of metal. Rather, they are constructed of many different pieces of panels of metals, all of which are joined together.
Rivets are designed to hold these metal pieces together. They penetrate through multiple pieces of metal, after which the rivets will hold those pieces together. Unlike screws and bolts, most rivets can’t be removed — at least not easily. Once installed, they’ll create a permanent joint.
The Purpose of Rivets
There are other ways to hold two or more metal parts together, some of which include bolting, welding and brazing. Nonetheless, rivets are the most common solution for airplanes. When compared to other fastening solutions, rivets typically create stronger joints. Welded joints may fail when exposed to the harsh environment of high-altitude flights. Rivets create stronger and more durable joints that are less likely to fail.
Furthermore, welding involves the use of heat, which can change the physical properties of the metal pieces. Rivets don’t involve the use of heat. They are simply pin-like fasteners that are inserted through multiple metal pieces. Therefore, rivets won’t alter the physical properties of the metal pieces.
What About Solid Shank Rivets?
There are also solid shank rivets. Like conventional rivets, they are used to create a fixed and permanent joint. Solid shank rivets, however, are typically used when repairing airplanes. They feature a solid shank are and defined by their material, head and temper condition.
Most solid shank rivets are made of aluminum alloy. As you may know, aluminum alloys are commonly used in the construction of airplane parts as well. Fuselages and wings are oftentimes made of aluminum alloy. But you can find solid shank rivets made of this same material as well. Aluminum alloy solid shank rivets are strong and resistant to corrosion, making them ideal for making repairs to joints.