By lynn stanley, senior editor

Formdrilling solves the problem of joining thin-walled material.

Hole in One
Thermal drilling technology allows fabricators to produce their own inserts out of a part’s material for a bevy of benefits

art failure can be a public relations nightmare for manufacturers. It’s a complaint that Todd Bieri, operations manager for Formdrill-USA Inc. hears on a fairly regular basis. “Prior to coming to us, customers have talked about various product failures as a result of using inserts or weld nuts and how that has created a negative image issue for them that they are anxious to reverse,” he says.

Since 1994, the Rolling Meadows, Illinois-based company has worked to put a cost-saving, time-efficient technique at customers’ fingertips by perfecting its thermal drilling process and developing new products.

Formdrill thermal drilling tools give companies an alternative to conventional methods like weld nuts or inserting and swelling rivets in a pre-drilled hole. These approaches to sheet metal fastenings are costly, time consuming, take more production steps, add external elements and tend to have quality issues. Rivets can lift and twist. Welded nuts can experience thermal distortion. Formdrill’s process eliminates these issues because it uses the sheet metal itself. Bieri explains how.

High energy
Formdrilling solves the problem of joining thin-walled material. The process uses friction and axial force to make a hole and create a bushing, which increases the area available for tapping out of the source material. The length of the formed insert is about three times larger than the sheet metal’s thickness.

“In other words, you are increasing the thickness at the spot where you created the bushing,” he says. “It allows you to multiply the number of threads without adding components. The bushing can also be used for support of a pivoting shaft. The average cost is one to two cents per hole versus seven to 10 cents or more.”

Thermal drilling is ideal for an automated manufacturing process.
Todd Bieri, Formdrill-USA Inc.
Formdrill’s tools and specialized approach gets rid of scrap and waste and reduces labor, material costs and production cycle time. Leakage and corrosion also are eliminated. Myriad benefits are attracting the attention of a growing base of new customers.

“This technology has been around for more than 40 years, but I still hear from people regularly that have never heard of this method before,” Bieri says. “In the last five years or so, we have seen more and more companies become aware of Formdrill’s capabilities.”

Formdrill’s tool closeup
Formdrill’s tooling fits on standard machine shop equipment.
The thermal tool manufacturer has also seen an uptick in requests for automation projects. “Thermal drilling is ideal for an automated manufacturing process,” Bieri says. “It saves both time and money and increases part consistency. We are having more conversations with companies who want to talk about the potential of thermal drilling for these types of processing lines. Companies are looking to validate a switch from how they have been doing things to trying something new in the climate of economic uncertainty that the pandemic has created.”

Formdrills are currently being used by most major car makers for parts like oxygen sensors, instrument panels and seat frames. The company is also looking at the growing EV market. Other industries include HVAC, metal furniture, medical equipment along with products like railings and fencing.

The right match
The thermal drilling products fit on standard machine shop equipment. “We offer a portable magnetic drill that is perfect for field applications or smaller shops that want to get started with our technology,” says Bieri.
Formdrill’s process closeup
Formdrill’s process eliminates scrap while reducing labor and material costs.
Customers can use the Tool Wizard on Formdrill’s website to match their application to suggested tools and accessories and see machine and operating parameters as well as pricing. “We’re also happy to talk with customers about their needs,” Bieri adds.

The nimble company responds quickly to customers by making and stocking new tools and packing up orders with same-day shipping 95 percent of the time. Despite Formdrill’s rapid response time, the company meets exacting standards. Tools are measured and inspected during production to ensure each one meets the company’s stringent tolerance and dimension requirements. “This means the life cycle of our tools is longer, a fact that allows us to be more competitive,” Bieri says.

“We are different from other companies because we aren’t trying to sell customers tools,” he continues. “We are here to provide a solution for the problems fabricators face. We listen to their needs and work through the available options. If our customers succeed, we succeed.”

Formdrill-USA Inc.,
Rolling Meadows, Illinois, 773/290-1040, formdrill-usa.com.