Building a better screw.

Forbes has an article on Kenneth LeVey and how he invented a better screw. As in the fastening device, you perverts!

He was flabbergasted by how archaic screw design was. On rare occasions when a new screw length or width was needed, an engineer would consult a 300-page manual dating from 1936 that explains the relationships between certain heights and pitches of threads and the lengths and widths of the resulting screws. “They would go do math for a couple of days and come back with an answer,“LeVey says—to how the grooved dies should look, how much pressure should be applied to the blank, and what the diameter of the blank should be.

LeVey had a handful of interns spend three months putting the mummified math of the old screw guide into software. Meanwhile, he grabbed an old thread-rolling machine out of a nearby factory and wired it to operate very slowly to let him observe exactly what was happening. Using three-dimensional solid-modeling software, LeVey gleaned a finer understanding of how the metal moved when it was squished. Possibilities opened up. LeVey could design intricate dies that, on a computer at least, could wrap screws with a helix of shaped threads.

To make dies capable of pressing tiny, intricate patterns onto the threads, LeVey had to borrow a technology often used to create injection molds for detailed plastic parts. The pattern of the die is milled into a soft, graphite like carbon. The carbon is placed next to the steel die form, and very high voltage is sent between the carbon and the steel, creating a powerful arc of heat, which vaporizes the steel in the desired pattern. “No one had bothered to take advantage of all of this new technology available to us and apply it to this very old product,” LeVey says.

By 2003 LeVey and ITW finally had a product. The company, under its Tapcon brand, began marketing large-diameter concrete screws with tiny, arrowhead-shape chisels wrapped around the screw, to cut into concrete like sharks’ teeth. Builders previously had to insert adhesive into predrilled holes to get screws to hold when they attached wood framing to concrete foundations; now they can just use LeVey’s breakthrough.

This is pretty cool reading and shows that even ancient objects we take for granted can be improved upon. LeVey’s new method of making screws ends the problems associated with using them on concrete and plastic and they don’t cost all that much more than any other screw to make. Nifty.

Link found via Boing Boing.

5 thoughts on “Building a better screw.

  1. “No one had bothered to take advantage of all of this new technology available to us and apply it to this very old product,

  2. I’ve always heard there’s nothing new under the sun and I’ve decided that’s a defeatist attitude. I’m glad this inventor felt like screwing with current design.

  3. I’m glad this inventor felt like screwing with current design.

    Brock, go to your room and think about what you’ve done!

    I love geeky stuff like this.  Reminds me of an old joke; the CEO calls his secretary and says, “Get Smythe in here – I’m going to fire him!  Every time I pass his office, he’s just leaning back in his chair looking out the window!”

    The secretary says, “But boss, Smythe came up with our last three successful campaigns!”

    The CEO is quiet for a moment, then he says, “Well don’t just stand there – get somebody up there to clean Smythe’s window!”

  4. Oops, did I screw-up, DOF? Sorry. I’d better quit screwing around. I’ll try not to be so screwy in the future, otherwise I’m probably screwed. Besides, I wouldn’t want people to think I have a screw loose.

  5. OK, this is just amazing (and off-topic)… the notice of Brock’s last comment in Gmail was accompanied by a text ad for, a company that specializes in selling ITW screws.  Chalk one up for the Gmail business model!

    Brock, you’re such a screwball…  LOL

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