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Journal of Materials Processing Technology 77 (1998) 209 215

An anti-loosening screw-fastener innovation and its evaluation


N. Sase a,*, K. Nishioka b, S. Koga c, H. Fujii a
a

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Gifu Uni6ersity, 1 -1 Yanagido, Gifu 501 -11, Japan
b
Toyota Motor Company, Toyota-shi, Aichi 471, Japan
c
Tokai Rika Company Limited, Oguchi-cho, Niwa-gun, Aichi 480 -01, Japan

Abstract
It is widely known that screw fasteners loosen sooner or later, even so-called anti-loosening screw fasteners available in the
market do not prevent loosening, as reported in an earlier paper. The purpose of this paper is to present the development of a
real anti-loosening screw fastener that has a strong resistance against loosening without sacrificing any of the advantageous
features of conventional screw fasteners. Before introducing the development, the mechanism of the loosening process of screw
fasteners is investigated. It is shown that the loosening of screw fasteners is caused by two factors. One is relative slip between
the bolt and nut screw threads, the slip causing torsion in the bolt. The other is relative slip between the bearing surface of the
bolt or nut and the surface of the fastened material, the slip causing slackening of the torsion. The prevention of loosening should
be possible if either one of these causes is eliminated. Aiming at eliminating the first cause, the torsion, a new screw named The
Step-Lock Bolt (SLB) is developed. The developed bolt has eight steps in which the lead angle degree is nil at the circumference
of the thread. The efficacy in preventing the initiation and progress of loosening is examined by applying a force cyclically at right
angles to the center line of a bolt. The results show that whilst a conventional fastener lost the fastening force within 1000 cycles,
the developed SLB does not lose the fastening force until over 30000 cycles. It may thus be concluded that the SLB is a practical
means of preventing screw fastener loosening. 1998 Elsevier Science S.A. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Bolt; Loosening; Screw Fastener

1. Introduction
Screw fasteners are undoubtedly one of the most
important machine elements. The outstanding feature
of screw fasteners is that, despite their design simplicity, they provide a high clamping force. Screw fasteners, therefore, have been used almost world-wide since
the 14th century. However, they have an inherent and
inevitable fault: they all loosen eventually by vibration
[1 5]. Many troubles caused by the loosening of
screw fasteners are reported frequently. Although several methods have been proposed to prevent screw
fasteners from loosening, these troubles do not seem
to be decreasing.
The purpose of this paper is to present an idea for
a real anti-loosening screw fasteners that is very resistant to loosening without sacrificing any of the advan-

* Corresponding author
0924-0136/98/$19.00 1998 Elsevier Science S.A. All rights reserved.
PII S0924-0136(97)00419-6

tageous features of conventional screw fasteners. The


authors try to realize this based on the analysis of the
loosening mechanism, which was presented in an earlier paper written in Japanese [1].

2. Proposal of Step-Lock Bolt (SLB) concept and its


production

2.1. Proposal of the anti-loosening screw fastener


It was found in the earlier paper [1] that the loosening of screw fasteners is caused by two factors. One
is relative slip between the bolt thread and the nut
thread. The flank angle, which is usually 30, is much
bigger than the friction angle. Relative slip along the
flank is caused easily when even a slight force is applied. Being lead by this slip, a slip along the lead is
also caused. As a result, torsion is caused in the bolt.
The other cause is relative slip between the bearing

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N. Sase et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 77 (1998) 209215

surface of the bolt or nut and the surface of the


fastened material, the slip causing slackening of the
torsion of the bolt. When both of these two causes
take place, the screw fastener will loosen eventually:
this is the mechanism of the loosening process.
Since these are the causes of loosening, it may be
concluded that prevention against loosening can be
realized if either one of these causes is eliminated.
However, this is easier said than done.
In order to prevent the bolt from being twisted, a
possible idea is to make the lead angle nil. If the lead
angle is nil, relative slip along the lead will not be
caused even if relative slip occurs on the flank surface. However, such a device can not be called a
screw fastener because it cannot be fastened.
If the flank angle is made nil or very small, on the
other hand, relative slip between the bolt screw thread
and the nut thread will not occur. Torsion is not
produced in the bolt. However, this method will result
in serious disadvantages, one of which is an increase
in the fastening torque because no relative slip is expected on the flank. The fastening torque of a screw
with zero-flank angle is 1.5 times as large as the fastening torque of a conventional screw. The second
disadvantage is that the zero-flank screw cannot
provide a high clamping force because of the stress
concentration at the root of the threads.
Another possible idea is to prevent relative slip between the bearing surface and the surface of the fastened material. A practical application of this idea is
to make a taper on the bearing surface and the surface of the fastened material, such as the nuts of
automobile wheels. However, this way has been
adopted, very high accuracy in the location and the
dimension of the holes in the fastened materials is
stringently required. The cost of production becomes
higher, and this screw fastener is not interchangeable
with conventional screw fasteners.
The authors would like to propose a screw possessing a new shape which aims to prevent bolt torsion.
The outline of the screw is shown in Fig. 1. This
screw has some steps on the helix. It is called a StepLock Bolt (SLB). The part that has no lead angle is
called the step part, and the part that has a lead
angle is called the inclined part.
A model of the fastened state of a SLB is shown in
Fig. 2. In the case of the proposed SLB, the clamping
force FB is supported by the step parts. This is in
contrast with a conventional screw, which always has
a tendency to push out a nut along the inclined
thread when friction becomes less. It may be expected
that a SLB screw thread hardly slips in the direction
of the thread, i.e. along the circumference. It is also
anticipated that a SLB will not loosen even though
the bottom surface of the bolt or nut slips, because a
SLB is able to prevent the torsion by itself.

Fig. 1. Outline of the Step-Lock Bolt.

2.2. Production method of the SLB


However, all these contemplated features of SLBs
will never be realized unless a practical method can be
found to produce SLBs. In general, the rolling process
is the best method to produce bolts from the view point
of productivity. The authors aimed to produce the SLB
by the rolling process using a pair of flat dies.
A diameter of 8 mm was decided upon as the best
SLB prototype size, since this size is used most frequently. The pitch of the SLB was fixed at 0.75 mm,
which is the standard pitch of fine screws. The shape of
the SLB screw thread and the dies for rolling were
designed based on these dimensions.
Difficulties were encountered in various aspects, being solved as follows:
1. The first problem was to generate the steps on the
nut. Since this seems impossible, an alternative idea
was adopted, i.e. the SLB set shape is indented onto
the nut thread. Suppose a conventional nut which
has a lower hardness than that of a SLB is used.
The step shapes will be copied onto a conventional
nut thread when the nut is fastened hard.

Fig. 2. Fastened model of the Step-Lock Bolt.

N. Sase et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 77 (1998) 209215

211

Table 1
Basic thread profile

Pitch (mm)
Crest (mm)
Root (mm)
Height of thread (mm)
Flank angle

SLB

Conv. fine screw

0.75
0.078
0.132
0.487
58

0.75
0.094
0.094
0.487
60

2. The next thing to be resolved was the possibility


that a conventional nut could not be screwed onto a
SLB smoothly because of the interference caused by
each thread contact. It became clear that, if a conventional nut which has a screw thread adapted to
ISO standards is used, a special screw shape design
is needed for the SLB to provide enough length to
each step part. Eventually, in order to decide the
SLB screw shape, the rolling process was simulated
using a 3-dimensional model. The contact conditions of the rolled SLB with a profile of a conventional fine screw thread was checked on the PC. As
a result of the simulation and the checking, the
thread profile of the SLB was decided as shown in
Table 1, where the dimensions of a conventional
ISO screw are shown also for comparison.
3. The third problem was to design the dies and to
engrave fine teeth on them. The main difficulty is
that a grinding wheel cannot be used. A singlelipped end mill was designed and made for this
purpose. The deformation of the material in rolling
a columnar bolt by a pair of flat dies was also
calculated carefully.
4. Rolling of an SLB is possible by the same machine
as is used for conventional bolts. However, there are
step parts engraved 78 mm apart from each other on
both the upper and lower dies. In the rolling process
the step parts on each die have to align exactly.
Therefore, extra care was needed in the initial setting up of the dies.
Regardless of all these rather intricate procedures,
once the machine is set up correctly, the rolling itself is
as easy and fast as it is in the case of conventional
bolts. The SLB screw actually rolled is shown in Fig. 3.
The material is 0.45% carbon steel: The step shapes are
very fine as shown in the figure and it is not easy to
distinguish SLBs from conventional bolts by the naked
eye.
The lead of the rolled SLB helix was measured by a
dial gauge and is shown in Fig. 4. It is clear from the
figure that eight step parts, which have no lead angle,
are formed in a pitch. It was confirmed that producing
the SLB as designed by rolling is possible.
The nuts used for experiment are conventional nuts.
Rolled SLBs can be used in combination with conven-

Fig. 3. The appearance of an SLB.

tional nuts without any interference. The hardness is


270 on the Vickers hardness scale. Since SLBs should
be harder than the nuts to prevent loosening, the
hardness of the SLB was increased to 360 HV by heat
treatment.

3. Fastening of the SLB


A fundamental condition for the anti-loosening characteristics is that the SLB step shapes be indented on
the nut screw thread. A block was fastened with a SLB
and a conventional nut, and the contact state between
the threads was examined whilst keeping the fastening
constant. A small part of the fastened thread was cut
off at the plane including the center line of the bolt.
Special attention was paid to prevent the threads from
sliding with respect to each other. Fig. 5 shows the
contact state at the step part of the SLB observed for
the case of a 16 kN clamping force. It is clear from the
figure that the SLB screw thread causes deformation on
the screw thread of the nut. This deformation was

Fig. 4. The lead of the SLB helix.

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N. Sase et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 77 (1998) 209215

Fig. 5. Interlocked pressure flanks of a SLB screw and a conventional


nut.

observed only at the step part of the SLB, and not at


the inclined part. It was also confirmed that deformation was caused at the step parts when the SLB is
fastened with the nut by more than 12 kN of clamping
force. The deformation became unclear when the force
was less than 8 kN.
The fastening torque of a SLB and of other screw
fasteners are shown in Fig. 6, this figure showing that
the fastening torque of a SLB is slightly greater than
the torque of a fine screw, and is about the same as that
of a coarse screw. The torque is much smaller than any
of the so-called anti-loosening fasteners such as serrated
flange nuts, nylon inserted nuts and spring washers.
The strength of nuts is of paramount consideration
for SLB fasteners. In order to examine the maximum
load at which a nut thread breaks off, tensile tests were
carried out keeping nuts on SLBs. Tensile tests were
also applied to conventional screw fasteners under the
same condition. In both cases, a nut with a hardness of
270 HV was combined with a volt of 360 HV. The
maximum load (proof load) of SLBs was 37 kN, which

Fig. 6. Fastening torque for generating the clamping force of 16 kN.

is the same as fine screws. The maximum load of coarse


screws was lower at 32 kN. The results showed that no
decrease in the strength of nuts is observed.
The maximum clamping force was also examined by
fastening a bolt with a nut statically. The maximum
clamping force of SLBs was found to be 25 kN, which
is lower than the proof load by about 30%. This is a
little too low, although the maximum clamping force is
always lower than the proof load. The maximum
clamping force of fine screws and coarse screws was 29
and 26 kN, respectively. These figures represent a decrease of about 20%. The decrease in the maximum
clamping force from the proof load in the case of SLBs
is considered to be caused by a bigger deformation of
the screw thread surface of nuts. Never-the-less, this is
not a serious problem because the maximum clamping
force of SLBs is still in the same range as that of coarse
screws.

4. Evaluation of the SLB from the view-point of


anti-loosening performance

4.1. Performance of the SLB


Fig. 7 shows the displacement-base loosening device
for screw fasteners. This was designed to evaluate the
efficacy in the prevention of loosening. The function of
this device was reported in detail [1]. This device rocks
the tested bolt at right angles to the center line of the
bolt at constant amplitude during a test, the amplitude
being adjustable within a range of zero to 0.4 mm.
In the first test, the loosening processes of SLBs and
conventional screws were examined. The clamping force
retained by a fastener decreases as the number of
oscillations of the rocking plate increases. The variation
in force according to the number of the oscillations will
show ease or difficulty in loosening. The amplitude and
the rocking frequency were 0.4 mm and 5 Hz, respectively. A test was considered finished when the clamping force because lower than 4 kN or when the number
of oscillations exceeded 5000. The screw thread and the
bottom surface of both the bolt and the nut were
lubricated with molybdenum disulphide.
The typical loosening processes of screw fasteners are
shown in Fig. 8. The tested screw fasteners are a SLB,
a fine screw, a coarse screw and a coarse screw with a
spring washer combined. The initial clamping force of
each fastener is the same at 16 kN. It is clear from the
figure that each fastener starts loosening immediately
after the oscillation begins. However, the SLB stops
loosening after a few hundred oscillations, the clamping
force of the SLB remaining at the same level for 5000
oscillations or more. On the other hand, the other
fasteners continued to loosen after initial loosening,
their remaining clamping force becoming 4 kN or less

N. Sase et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 77 (1998) 209215

213

Fig. 7. The displacement-based loosening device.

within 1000 oscillations. The spring washer is somewhat


more effective in slowing the loosening process compared with the coarse screw, but it is less effective than
the fine screw.
The initial loosening of the SLB is caused by clackening of the torsion that is stored when being fastened:
therefore it seems to be difficult to avoid this loosening.
When a SLB is oscillated for well beyond the nominal 5000 test cycles, the SLB does not loosen, but
breaks off in about 34000 oscillations, the breaking
taking place at the plane of the bottom surface of the
nut.
Fig. 9 shows the results obtained when an SLB is
fastened with initial clamping forces of 20, 12 and 8
kN. It is clear from the figure that the SLBs stop
loosening after the initial loosening, provided that the

applied initial clamping force is over 12 kN. In the case


of a 8 kN fastening force, the SLBs sometimes loosen
and sometimes do not. This result corroborates the
results obtained in Section 3, in which the deformation
of the nut thread was seen to become undetectable
when the clamping force was 8 kN or less. Therefore,
the key factor in determining the degree to which an
SLB exhibits an anti-loosening ability is the extent to
which the SLB step shape is indented on the nut
threads.

Fig. 8. Loosening process when fastened at the initial clamping force


of 16 kN.

Fig. 9. Loosening processes of an SLB fastened with various initial


clamping forces.

4.2. Reason for anti-loosening characteristic


The displacement and the turning angle of the bolts
and the nuts were examined in loosening tests. The
movement of a coarse screw is shown in Fig. 10, and

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N. Sase et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 77 (1998) 209215

The amplitude of the rocking plate can be varied.


When the amplitude is small, the nut does not slip on
the rocking plate and even conventional coarse screws
do not loosen. As the amplitude is increased step-bystep and exceeds a particular value, the nut starts
slipping and the screw fastener starts loosening. Therefore, the ability to prevent the initiation of loosening is
evaluated by the use of a threshold amplitude. Typical
examples are shown in Fig. 12. A coarse screw fastened
with a clamping force of 16 kN does not loosen at an
amplitude of 0.10 mm but loosens at 0.15 mm. The
threshold l of the coarse screw fastened with a clamping force of 16 kN is within the 0.10 mmB lB 0.15 mm
range. It is also clear from the figure that the threshold
l of the fine screw is in the 0.15 mmB lB 0.20 mm
range.
The threshold l of various screw fasteners fastened
with a clamping force of 16 kN and thus examined are
summarized in Table 2. The threshold of the SLB could
not be measured because the SLB did not loosen within

Fig. 10. Analysis of the loosening of a course screw: (a) displacements


of the rocking plate and the nut; and (b) turning angles of the bolt
and the nut.

that of an SLB in Fig. 11, where (a) of each figure


shows the displacement of the rocking plate (A) and the
relative displacement of the nut against the rocking
plate (B), whilst (b) shows the turning angle of the nut
(C), the turning angle of the bolt (D) and the relative
angle between them (E). It is recognized in Fig. 10 that
the bolt of a coarse screw turns in the loosening direction just before the nut on the rocking plate slips.
During this period the bolt is twisted. At the same time
the bolt and the nut start turning together in the
direction that slackens the torsion of the bolt, whilst the
nut starts slipping on the rocking plate. These movements take place twice in one cycle of rocking.
In the case of SLBs, the relative displacement of the
nut is the same as that in the case of coarse screws, as
shown in Fig. 11(a). However, as Fig. 11(b) indicates
clearly, both the bolt and the nut hardly turn despite
the slipping of the nut. The SLB screw shape prevents
torsion, as desired, this being considered to be the
reason that loosening is prevented.

Fig. 11. Analysis of the loosening of an SLB: (a) displacements of the


rocking plate and the nut; (b) turning angles of the bolt and the nut.

N. Sase et al. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 77 (1998) 209215

215

Table 2
Loosening thresholds of various fasteners when fastened by 16 kN

Fig. 12. Examination to determine the loosening threshold of amplitude.

the amplitude of 0.4 mm as shown in Fig. 8. It is found


in the table that special screw fasteners and or parts
designed to prevent loosening did not provide any
improvement. These special screw fasteners can neither
prevent the initiation of loosening nor the progress of
loosening. Any idea involving the increase of the friction force at the screw thread or at the bottom surface
in order to prevent loosening does not seem to work.
The fine screw, which has a smaller lead angle, can
prevent the initiation of loosening to a small extent.
Any method involving the suppression of bolt torsion
will be more effective than those that seek to suppress
the turning of the nut by friction. Therefore, the SLB
which eliminates torsion completely, should be the best
way to prevent loosening.

5. Conclusions
Aiming to prevent the loosening of screw fasteners,
the authors proposed an SLB which has eight steps in
the circumference of the helix of the screw. A SLB of 8
mm diameter was produced, and its anti-loosening per-

Screw fasteners

Threshold l (mm)

Coarse scr.
Fine scr.
Nylon ins.
Spring wshr.
Serr flange
Step-lock bolt

0.10BlB0.15
0.15BlB0.20
0.15
0.15
0.10BlB0.15
0.4Bl

formance was examined. It was seen that the SLB can


prevent loosening when it is fastened with a clamping
force of over 12 kN. The production process and the
fastening process are almost the same as those of
conventional screw fasteners. Therefore, the SLB is
certainly able to eliminate loosening without sacrificing
any of the desirable functions of screw fasteners.

Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Mark Adams for
the genuine interest he showed in this research, for the
valuable suggestions given at the last stage of this
analysis and for spending so much of his valuable time
to check this manuscript.

References
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[2] G.H. Junker, New criteria for self-loosening of fasteners under
vibration, SAE Int. Automotive Eng. Congr. 1969, paper no.
690055, 1969, pp. 314 335.
[3] K. Hongo, Loosening of bolt and nut fastenings, Trans. Jpn.
Soc. Mech. Eng. 30 (215) (1964) 934 939.
[4] A. Yamamoto, S. Kasei, Investigations on the self-loosening of
threaded fasteners under transverse vibration, J. Prc. Eng. 42 (6)
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[5] N. Sase, S. Koga, K. Nishioka, H. Fujii, Evaluation of AntiLoosening Nuts for Screw Fasteners, Proceeding of the International Conference on AMPT93, vol. 2, 1993, pp. 10511062.

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