It happens every day: someone calls us here at Olander looking for inserts.
What kind of inserts? Well, they’re not entirely sure, because they’re not the one who’s going to install them.
Can they ask the person who requested the inserts for clarification? Well, yes, but they’re not confident they would understand the requestor’s answer.
Sometimes, technical requirements tend to get lost in translation between someone very familiar with part usage and someone who has no experience with that.
We’re not trying to poke fun at anyone here. We’re merely trying to underline our broader point: there’s a lot of confusion when it comes to inserts.
Many people who call Olander for inserts simply have no idea what they’re looking for because it’s not their area of expertise. Others seem to have a strong idea, but upon further discussion with our customer service reps, it becomes apparent that this strong idea was actually based on misconceptions about what inserts can and can’t do.
That’s why we thought this would be a great time to write the first in what will probably be a series of articles about inserts.
(A series of articles about inserts? Hey, we love what we do!)
Four Key Questions for Choosing an Insert
If you’re serious about finding the right insert for your needs, the best way to start is to not think about inserts.
That sounds like a contradiction, but it’s true. Here at Olander, we carry hundreds of different kinds of inserts. Your first instinct may be to start scrolling through your options, reading up on features, and comparing prices.
Please don’t. Instead, start by asking yourself the most important question about inserts: “What am I going into?” Your choice of insert must be dictated first and foremost by the kind of material you’re working with.
Your second question should be: “Am I drilling a new hole or filling an existing one?” Some inserts are most appropriate for new builds, while others work better for repairs.
Your third question should be: “Do I have the right tools for the job?” Many inserts require you to drill a specific size hole, use a special tap and the proper installation tooling. If you don’t have the tool handy, the insert won’t achieve the desired result.
And your fourth question should be: “What will be the usage pattern for this hole?” A hole in which the bolt will be removed frequently could need a material and insert design that is different than a hole where you’re installing once and forgetting about it.
We’re always happy to walk customers through these questions when they call us. But you can get a head start by thinking about these issues in advance.
Some Inserts We’d Like You to Meet
Let’s get down to inserts. In answer to the first question above, you may be drilling into sheet metal. If so, we generally recommend a Thinwall Blind threaded insert.
For example, AVK inserts are ideal for when the material you’re fastening to is too thin for thread tapping. Once you’ve made that determination, you can start figuring out the best thread size for your situation and what material your AVK insert should be made out of.
What if you’re going into thicker material, such as a metal plate? If you’re designing a new product and plan on using inserts in many holes, a Heli-Coil insert could be an excellent choice for you.
Heli-Coil inserts are wire inserts that are available in various lengths and materials for a wide range of applications. With Heli-Coil, you will incur a tooling cost up front to tap threads for a custom hole. But once you’ve done that, you’ll find the Heli-Coil Wire Thread to be a cost-effective and durable insert.
Now, what if you’re going into weaker material such as aluminum and want to install a durable insert that will withstand frequent removal of the bolt? Along with a Heli-Coil inserts, key locking insert (also known as Keensert or keysert) may be the way to go.
Key locking inserts are threaded inserts that are great for reinforced threads in softer parent material. They’re also a good solution for replacing damaged or stripped threads in an existing hole.
Now, key locking inserts are larger inserts, so they require more material around them (they’re not good for applications in very tight spaces). Once you’ve threaded a key locking insert into a machine-tapped hole, you’ll drive down the keys to lock the insert into place.
You’ll find that key locking inserts are more expensive per part than Heli-Coil inserts. But since you only need inexpensive tooling to install them, you’ll save money up front. By contrast, a Heli-Coil manual tooling insert may cost you $150-200 for installation, but after that, each part will cost pennies instead of dollars. Your cost analysis, then, will always revolve around how many inserts you need for your project.
Where to Go From Here?
We’ve given you a lot of information about inserts….and we hope your head isn’t now spinning as quickly as your drill bit.
Believe it or not, this article only scratches the surface of the amazing options that are available to you when you go shopping for inserts. Need a hand selecting the right inserts for your next project? Drop us a line at Olander. We’re here to help you Hold It Together! And look for our next article soon.