Why Are Aircraft Riveted Rather Than Welded?

If you pay close attention to the skin of an aircraft, a plethora of rivets may be visible along the vehicle's exterior. Used to hold sheets of aluminum together on modern aircraft, rivets are applied in lieu of welding due to aluminum’s susceptibility to heat. Weakening the bond along joints when exposed to extremely high temperatures produced during welding, rivets mitigate the margin of error associated with welded aluminum. Presenting themselves as mechanical fasteners with a cylindrical shaft and factory head at one end, rivets come in multiple shapes to create a solid foundation that streamlines the construction of aircraft. Placed within prefabricated holes, rivets must be pressed (or “bucked”) into place with the aid of a pneumatic rivet gun or hand tool. Providing an overview on rivets and their application among aircraft, we will briefly discuss why they are the prefered method to welding and how they compare. 

First implemented for aircraft during the 1920s, rivets proved to be the most reliable option for aircraft construction, regardless that welding had been around since the 1800s. Though it is possible for aircraft to be welded along joints, it is a method not often utilized and requires complex knowledge on techniques most choose to forgo. Predominantly contributed by the particular thickness of aircraft skin, welding joints for such parts is considerably time consuming. As such, rivets were established as the standard connection method for aircraft to save time, improve part resistance to corrosion, and greatly increase part reliability.

Built with thicker sheets of aluminum to accommodate for pressure fluctuations imposed on aircraft flying at higher altitudes, it is imperative that joints remain in place with little fatigue. However, as modern aircraft are premeditated to be constructed with as little added weight as possible, parts like rivets must follow suit. Manufactured in five alternate specifications depending on the load a rivet is expected to carry, common rivets recommended for aircraft include: 5056, 2117-T, 2024-T, 2017-T, and 1100 models. All capable of being used for aircraft, the aforementioned rivet types are typically made from aluminum alloys, but can also be made from magnesium alloys, copper alloys, and more for a diverse set of properties.

While welding and its applied techniques have improved over the decades to accommodate repeatable applications, it still lacks the accuracy needed for replicating welds of similar strengths. The difficulty with welding aircraft joints lies in the fact that it is difficult to replicate the exact amount of heat and power that was once used on a previous weld. Ultimately resulting in an unreliable product with joints of various strengths, the chemical process that takes place during welding is also difficult to reverse, promoting rivets as an undeniably attractive solution.

Aiding in keeping an aircraft's weight as low as possible, rivets are small and light in weight, making them a cost-effective solution when repairs are needed. No matter your part needs, we invite you to browse our inventory for numerous rivets ready for system implementation. Whether you require a pneumatic rivet, mild steel rivet, 5056 rivet, carbon fiber parts, or more, Purchasing 3sixty is here to streamline and expedite any one of your orders for immediate procurement. Due to our quality control and export compliance, we operate with AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B certification and accreditation, alongside our NO CHINA sourcing pledge. If you would like to request a quote for your comparisons, you can submit an RFQ form as provided on our website. Upon receipt, a dedicated account manager will quickly review and respond with a personalized solution to your needs in just 15 minutes or less, 24/7x365.


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