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What Are Washers and Their Functions?

January 18, 2016

washer

Middlemen rarely receive the acclaim they deserve, which is unfortunate since they provide invaluable functions, a purpose filled by positioning an intermediary asset between two forces. In translating this phenomenon into engineering terms, fasteners need washers to fill intensely physical intermediary purposes. After all, nuts and bolts haven't changed much over the decades, but the duties of these timeless components have increased. Fasteners now need to deal with huge loads and ceaseless vibrations, forces that loosen screws and destroy bolts. Fortunately, along with material improvements, newer and denser alloys, the introduction of the washer embodies engineering design's best means of coping with massive loads and challenging shearing forces.

Load-Bearing Locking Partners

Modern constructs and contrivances express their heavy outlines in so many ways that it's difficult to classify the assorted forces. Vibration tears at fastening mechanisms, sending resonating ripples through nearby surfaces, floors, and walls. Then, heavy components use eccentric shapes and dense metals. Pure downward loading is compromised by this added weight, a load that stresses its associated fastener with weird weight vectors. Plain screw and bolt heads deal with these stresses by adding washers to their stunted profile, thus distributing the weight. In addition, other forces are mitigated. Special spring-loaded versions and plastic models absorb vibration and rocking motion as a bolt or screw thread tightens, thus locking the fastener securely in place.

Revised Functionality

A plain washer is a metal or plastic disc with an opening, an aperture that's big enough for the threaded rod of a partnering screw or bolt to slip through. That said, the profile of a washer can vary every bit as much as a fastener. There are wide discs and versions that offer reduced radial outlines. They can thicken or narrow to offer a flush profile. Then we're on to locking versions and spring variants, washers that deliver a more dynamic shape. But, regardless of form, the basic shape rarely varies. The disc is formed by two concentric circles, although the inner and outer ring does vary to accommodate different load scenarios, and the edge will adopt serrated and spring-imbued accents to increase grip.

Engineering know-how has moved on since this little piece of hardware was conceived. The flattened doughnut-shaped aids are sometimes integrated as part of a fastener head to increase productivity. They're also imbued with customized auxiliary extras to target wood and metal surfaces, thus adding yet another string to the rounded bow of this particular middleman.

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