Fasteners Used with Aircraft Composite Laminates

Many companies make specialty fasteners for composite structures and several types of fasteners are commonly used: threaded fasteners, lock bolts, blind bolts, blind rivets, and specialty fasteners for soft structures, such as honeycomb panels. The main differences between fasteners for metal and composite structures are the materials and the footprint diameter of nuts and collars.

Corrosion Precautions

Neither fiberglass nor Kevlar® fiber-reinforced composites cause corrosion problems when used with most fastener materials. Composites reinforced with carbon fibers, however, are quite cathodic when used with materials, such as aluminum or cadmium, the latter of which is a common plating used on fasteners for corrosion protection.

Fastener Materials

Titanium alloy Ti-6Al-4V is the most common alloy for fasteners used with carbon fiber reinforced composite structures. Austenitic stainless steels, superalloys (e.g., A286), multiphase alloys (e.g., MP35N or MP159), and nickel alloys (e.g., alloy 718) also appear to be very compatible with carbon fiber composites.

Fastener System for Sandwich Honeycomb Structures (SPS Technologies Comp Tite)

The adjustable sustain preload (ASP) fastening system provides a simplified method of fastening composite, soft core, metallic or other materials, which are sensitive to fastener clamp-up or installation force conditions. Clamping force can be infinitely adjustable within maximum recommended torque limits and no further load is applied during installation of the lock collar. The fastener is available in two types. The ASP® has full shank and the 2ASP® has a pilot type shank. [Figures 1 and 2]

Fasteners Used with Aircraft Composite Laminates
Figure 1. ASP fastener system

Fasteners Used with Aircraft Composite Laminates
Figure 2. ASP fastener system installation sequence

Hi-Lok® and Huck-Spin® Lockbolt Fasteners

Most composite primary structures for the aircraft industry are fastened with Hi-Loks® (Hi-Shear Corp.) or Huck- Spin® lockbolts for permanent installations. The Hi-Lok® is a threaded fastener that incorporates a hex key in the threaded end to react to the torque applied to the collar during installation. The collar includes a frangible portion that separates at a predetermined torque value. [Figure 3]

Fasteners Used with Aircraft Composite Laminates
Figure 3. Hi-Lok® installation

The lockbolt incorporates a collar that is swaged into annular grooves. It comes in two types: pull and stump. The pull-type is the most common, where a frangible pintail is used to react the axial load during the swaging of the collar. When the swaging load reaches a predetermined limit, the pintail breaks away at the breakneck groove. The installation of the Hi-Lok® and the pull-type Huck-Spin® lockbolt can be performed by one technician from one side of the structure. The stump-type lockbolt, on the other hand, requires support on the head side of the fastener to react the swage operation. This method is usually reserved for automated assembly of detail structure in which access is not a problem.

The specific differences in these fasteners for composite structure in contrast to metal structure are small. For the Hi-Lok®, material compatibility is the only issue; aluminum collars are not recommended. Standard collars of A286, 303 stainless steel, and titanium alloy are normally used. The Huck-Spin® lockbolt requires a hat-shaped collar that incorporates a flange to spread the high bearing loads during installation. The lockbolt pin designed for use in composite structure has six annular grooves as opposed to five for metal structure. [Figures 4 and 5]

Fasteners Used with Aircraft Composite Laminates
Figure 4. Huck-Spin® lockbolt

Fasteners Used with Aircraft Composite Laminates
Figure 5. Huck-Spin® installation sequence

Eddie-Bolt® Fasteners

Eddie-Bolt® fasteners (Alcoa) are similar in design to Hi- Loks® and are a natural choice for carbon fiber composite structures. The Eddie-Bolt® pin is designed with flutes in the threaded portion, which allow a positive lock to be made during installation using a specially designed mating nut or collar. The mating nut has three lobes that serve as driving ribs. During installation, at a predetermined preload, the lobes compress the nut material into the flutes of the pin and form the locking feature. The advantage for composite structure is that titanium alloy nuts can be used for compatibility and weight saving without the fear of galling. The nuts spin on freely, and the locking feature is established at the end of the installation cycle. [Figure 6]

Fasteners Used with Aircraft Composite Laminates
Figure 6. Eddie-Bolts®

Cherry’s E-Z Buck® (CSR90433) Hollow Rivet

The Cherry Hollow End E-Z Buck® rivet is made from titanium/columbium alloy and has a shear strength of 40 KSI. The E-Z Buck® rivet is designed to be used in a double flush application for fuel tanks. The main advantage of this type of rivet is that it takes less than half the force of a solid rivet of the same material. The rivets are installed with automated riveting equipment or a rivet squeezer. Special optional dies ensure that the squeezer is always centered during installation, avoiding damage to the structure. [Figure 7]

Fasteners Used with Aircraft Composite Laminates
Figure 7. Cherry’s E-Z Buck hollow rivet

Blind Fasteners

Composite structures do not require as many fasteners as metal aircraft because stiffeners and doublers are co-cured with the skins, eliminating many fasteners. The size of panels on aircraft has increased in composite structures, which causes backside inaccessibility. Therefore, blind fasteners or screws and nutplates must be used in these areas. Many manufacturers make blind fasteners for composite structures; a few are discussed below.

Blind Bolts

The Cherry Maxibolt® is available in titanium for compatibility with composite structures. The shear strength of the Maxibolt® is 95 KSI. It can be installed from one side with a G-83 or equivalent pneumatic-hydraulic installation tool, and is available in 100° flush head, 130° flush head and protruding head styles. [Figure 8]

Fasteners Used with Aircraft Composite Laminates
Figure 8. Cherry’s titanium Maxibolt

The Alcoa UAB™ blind bolt system is designed for composite structures and is available in titanium and stainless steel. The UAB™ blind bolt system is available in 100° flush head, 130° flush head, and protruding head styles. The Accu-Lok™ Blind Fastening System is designed specifically for use in composite structures in which access is limited to one side of the structure. It combines high joint preload with a large diameter footprint on the blind side. The large footprint enables distribution of the joint preload over a larger area, virtually eliminating the possibility of delaminating the composite structure. The shear strength of the Accu-Lok™ is 95 KSI, and it is available in 100° flush head, 130° flush head, and protruding head styles. A similar fastener designed by Monogram is called the Radial-Lok®. [Figure 9]

Fasteners Used with Aircraft Composite Laminates
Figure 9. Accu-Lok ™ installation


The fiberlite fastening system uses composite materials for a wide range of aerospace hardware. The strength of fiberlite fasteners is equivalent to aluminum at two-thirds the weight. The composite fastener provides good material compatibility with carbon fiber and fiberglass.

Screws and Nutplates in Composite Structures

The use of screws and nutplates in place of Hi-Loks® or blind fasteners is recommended if a panel must be removed periodically for maintenance. Nutplates used in composite structures usually require three holes: two for attachment of the nutplate and one for the removable screw, although rivetless nut plates and adhesive bonded nutplates are available that do not require drilling and countersinking two extra holes.

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