Security Challenge Leads to Innovative Set Screw Designs
Bryce Fastener pushes the envelope in security screw cold heading, using special tamper-proof tooling and 50 tons of pressure to force security shapes into the head of the screw
screwPhoto courtesy Bryce Fastener
Design-2-Part MagazineSet screws for security have been around for fifty years, but the driver bits to undo them have been readily available for the past ten years, leading to much theft. Facing that security challenge head on has led Bryce Fastener to develop an array of custom, high-level security screws, security nuts, security bolts, and tamper proof fasteners that have made these the "best products on the planet for security," said Bryce Campbell, owner of the Gilbert, Ariz., company.Security is of utmost importance to Bryce Fastener, which serves such industries as electronics, solar, retail, financial, construction, military, government, utilities, and corrections in a wide range of unique and demanding applications. By constantly innovating its products, namely, the Penta-Plus, Raptor, Key-Rex, and Penta-Nut, the company works on the principle of an ever-changing shape that has millions of variations."It takes a lot of R&D and experimenting," Campbell said. "You have to have special machines and you have to know how to set them up. We've finally figured that out, and we're saying now we know how to make set screws pretty inexpensively. That's hard to find. The cost has come down and we can get pretty much any size you want in a set screw."By making the unique screws and driver bits for each customer, Bryce Fastener has found a way to face down the security issues many industries face, such as hacking into credit card terminals. In response to grocery store surveillance footage of two men stealing a credit card terminal and replacing it with a fraudulent one in less than five minutes, Bryce Fastener developed the Penta PlusTM socket set screw."Installing this high security screw into a deep recessed hole makes it nearly impossible for anyone other than the owner of the specialized tool to remove the terminal from its holding plate," said Campbell in a statement. The Penta-PlusTM is widely used; customers include the Museum of London and The Smithsonian, which use it to hold down art pieces, and Apple, which uses it in its iPhones.The Penta-PlusTM also cracks down on copper theft plaguing city and state governments, which must deal with thieves pulling up copper wires from streets and shipping it to China to sell on the black market. "Cities are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars of copper, but if you put our fastener on the entrance way to the copper, the theft goes away and stops immediately," Campbell said. Other "tamperproof" products on the market are not as secure because the drivers are available at the retail level and online, he said. After losing $300,000 worth of copper in 2010, one city in Arizona used the Bryce Fastener Penta-PlusTM and was able to replace all of the standard pull-box cover bolts. The city took further steps to ensure that only municipal personnel had access to the special drivers that remove the fasteners."It's better than a padlock and it's better than your front door lock; that's how good we're making a screw now," he said. "We've taken what was traditionally just a tamper-proof screw—everybody knew where to get the driver bits—and we've actually made it so that even the smart guy can't get the stuff out."Bryce Fastener "refigured" how to do a set screw. "When you have that center pin, that's what's hard," Campbell continued. "No one has learned how to do that well, but we have," Campbell said. "We're selling security. What we've actually accomplished is the least expensive, high-security lock on the planet."The company had to push the envelope in security screw cold heading to make the manufacturing process successful, he said, explaining that this means the security shapes are forced into the head of the screw with up to 50 tons of pressure, as rapidly as 100 per minute. Special tamper-proof tooling is used, requiring experienced specialists, time, and "dead nuts" security screw machines. The old-fashioned way of drilling a hole and putting a pin in the center is over. "We figured out how to do it on a cold-header where you're feeding the metal in, cutting it off, putting the shape into it, and kicking it out of the machine in less than a second and using 50 tons of pressure," he said.Campbell has been in the fastener business since 1972, but it wasn't until somebody lost $40,000 worth of computers out of a hospital complex in 1995 that Campbell realized he needed to come up with something better than a tamper-proof screw and enter into the security market. "It started happening then that tamper-proof screws weren't actually secure because anybody could get the bits. So they needed something better," he said.Trade secrets are always changing to protect the design of the screws from China and Taiwan. Bryce Fastener has developed 25 threshold trade secrets so that they're changing designs almost daily to fit the needs of each customer. The company actually gets a big tax write-off because 50 percent of its energy is spent on R&D. Bryce Fastener has essentially discovered how to make a set screw easily and cost-effectively, explained Campbell, who said it's all about the right tooling and how you get the machinery to run. "We're a good company, we make good products, and we're super innovative," he said. "Our products are probably the least expensive, best, and easiest way to secure anything. We've also developed the fastener that works better than any other fastener and we're right in the middle of getting a patent on that. So we're pushing the envelope with that, too."
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