When the industrial revolution transformed industry, manufacturers quickly designed universal fasteners which were suited for virtually every applications. A simple wood screw was used through the furniture industry, while fine threaded bolts and screws were used in metal product fabrication. Not until the end of the 20th century did manufacturers re-examine their approach to fastener design. Maybe it was advanced manufacturing methods or maybe someone in the field looked at a problem and designed a new, better mousetrap to solve an old problem. In any case, one of the most significant improvements in concrete fasteners in the last century is the concrete screw, or Tapcon screw.
Tapcon screws allow installers to drill smaller pilot holes than traditional shielded anchors. A Tapcon screw is manufactured from hardened steel, and features an abrasive, aggressive thread. Once a pilot hole is drilled, the concrete screw is screwed into the concrete with a power drill in much the same way a wood screw is fastened into wood. Quick and efficient, contractors use the tapcons to install low-load fixtures to concrete and cement block walls.
Installers must be careful with Tapcons, or they will create problems for themselves. First the tapcon hole must be drilled to the proper depth. If the end of the screw hits the bottom of the hole before it is screwed all the way in, the screw will likely ream the hole out, and not be able to grip the concrete. Secondly, installers must use the correct diameter drill bit. If the hole is too large, the tapcon won’t grip the walls. If the hole is too small, the screw will bind as it enters the hole. In this case, a powerful drill will strip the head completely off the screw in just seconds, thus complicating the installation.
Another application using specialty hardware is solar panel installation. With our nation’s push toward more green energy solutions, solar panels are being designed into new building energy systems, and are typically mounted in multi-panel arrays on the building wall or roof planes. The individual panels are held into the arrays via custom solar panel mounting hardware. When mounting a solar panel array, the fastener needs to create a ridged structure, but also allow for the panel to be installed and removed for inspection, maintenance and repair. For new buildings, or retrofit installations, the solar panel mounting hardware is designed as a single fastener that screws or threads into the building’s structural shell and then allows the solar panel to be mounted to the end of the fastener which is still exposed to the exterior.
When solar panels are mounted to a building’s roof, these specialty fasteners firmly attach the panels to the roofing system and allow for quick and seamless installation of the panels at a later date. For new buildings, specialty fasteners are recommended which fasten the metal roofing systems to the building’s framework and at the same time provide the studs to which the solar panels mount.
When designing a solar panel installation, make sure to research the installation options ahead of time. A proper installation requires the right fastener and proper preparation and planning.