As an international manufacturer, KAMAX specializes in precision, high-tensile fasteners for critical and non-critical automotive and heavy-truck applications. These are the durable parts that secure vital power-train safety features and other key components of passenger cars, SUVs and trucks, as Barbara Kram discovers.
The bolts, screws, studs, pins and rivets made by KAMAX-G.B. Dupont L.P. are not your father’s fasteners. Unlike the things you find in a typical hardware store, KAMAX parts are cold-formed and heat-treated to impart extra toughness to carbon steel. The result is an unparalleled level of strength that puts KAMAX bolts in a property class all their own — in fact, among the highest strength ratings in the industry.
“Our company is at the cutting edge of metallurgy and precision for critical, high-strength bolts,” says Ed Potoczak, sales manager in North America. That’s comforting to know because KAMAX fasteners are found in safety parts, including the seat- belt anchor bolts and seat-track bolts of global vehicle makers and large Tier I and Tier II customers. Critical, impact-related parts require certification to the government’s high standards of strength and durability, and KAMAX is up to the challenge.
Its parts (ranging from 6 millimeters to 28 millimeters in diameter, and in strength ratings of 8.8, 9.8, 10.9 and 12.9) are found bumper to bumper in the interior and exterior — in the power train, chassis, suspension and body. For example, KAMAX makes critical engine cylinder-head and connecting-rod bolts for domestic light vehicles and heavy diesel trucks. “Not many companies are known for being able to produce these very high-strength fasteners,” says Potoczak. “Diesel engines, for example, are designed to go a million miles and withstand extreme temperature conditions. They require very high strength and ultra precision of the bolts to ensure the long-term integrity of the joints.”
Taming of the Screw
It turns out that a bolt can be thought of as a kind of spring. The strength of the fastener is created when it’s tightened and pulls the threads taut. “You want a part that’s hard but has certain spring characteristics of ductility and flexibility,” says Potoczak. “You can make this ‘spring’ stronger by making it thicker, but you can also increase its strength by changing the chemistry of the steel and how you heat-treat it.” For this reason, KAMAX incorporates cold heading, through which heads, flanges and collars are formed by numerous blows, along with specialized heat treatment for toughness.
“The threads and the head are all formed so things are very flat, perpendicular, smooth and not damaged or nicked,” says Potoczak. “The more fine and precise everything is, the more consistent the installation torque will be to provide a joint tightened to a certain clamp load. This limits variability when our part is installed in the mating part, providing a tighter range of force that holds the engine together.”
Another KAMAX capability that is not common in the industry is rolling after heat-treating, a process that protects threads during manufacturing. This provides auto makers with fasteners that are precise in terms of installation and performance. KAMAX works its magic at three manufacturing plants in the Detroit metropolitan area. The company’s Troy, Mich., plant includes its headquarters, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution. Cold heading and cold rolling are also done in the Lapeer, Mich., facility, and heat treating is performed in the plant in Hamtramck, Mich.
Investments in design, development and production equipment continue to expand KAMAX’s overall capabilities and quality control. “We’ve added a fair amount of new equipment with different capabilities and features, including faster, bigger and different technologies to precision-form parts,” Potoczak says. “We’re adding automated quality- monitoring systems all the time, including in-process and final inspection systems.”
Adding to its core capabilities, KAMAX can tackle specialized requirements for coatings, adhesives or lubricants. The company works in partnership with the engineering teams of its clients to fine-tune joint designs. KAMAX carefully selects its supply base to add any needed external processing of parts, such as special machining, assembling, plating, coating or patching. “We rely very heavily on our outside suppliers to back up the quality and cost demands that our customers make on us, and we’re pretty proud of the group that we’re working with,” Potoczak says.
License to Drill
To add more value to its specialized bolts and screws, KAMAX incorporates self-tapping technologies. Instead of having a nut or a hole with the threads precut in it, a self-tapping part goes into a straight hole with smooth walls. The fastener displaces the steel in the mating part and actually rolls its own threads going in. This technology can save costs by eliminating separate tapping operations to cut threads into the mating part. It also eliminates the time and effort required to clean out the chips and small pieces generated in conventional fastening, as well as potential damage from that debris.
KAMAX also uses an anti-cross-threading technology. This is an enhancement to the tip of the part to line it up, engage the threads and start more easily into the nut or hole during manufacturing or assembly. This special tooling and design can make a significant difference by preventing cross-threading or stripping holes while moving vehicles down a busy assembly line.
KAMAX also offers SEMS, which incorporates washers right into the bolts, screws and studs. “We help customers strike a balance between the functionality of the part and the manufacturing complexity and cost, so they get the best value all the way around,” says Potoczak.
The privately held company is a marriage of two family businesses that were joined in 1995, when German fastener maker KAMAX acquired American bolt manufacturer G.B. Dupont. The global fastener company is living happily ever after with its 2,200 employees, enjoying annual sales of $300 million. Other international manufacturing sites are in Spain and the Czech Republic. The company also has alliances with Asian manufacturers.
With more than six decades of experience, a heritage of German engineering and the infusion of American ingenuity, KAMAX has a culture of unsurpassed quality. The company is QS 9000 and Ford Q-1 certified, and boasts many other certifications and industry awards. Its reputation, resources and marketing prospects are all enhanced by being part of a highly respected worldwide enterprise.
“We benefit from consulting and technology from our German headquarters on tooling, materials, machining processes and state-of-the-art R&D,” says Potoczak. “Our customers are challenging us to make perfect parts every time in a high-volume, batch-processing business. Our goal is to manufacture with zero defects. Our industry is raising the bar for quality and value in response to the increasing expectations of car and truck customers worldwide for trouble-free, durable vehicles.”