ATF’s precision components, integrated components and specialty fasteners include cold-formed parts and assemblies used in every major industry in North America. Barbara Kram tells how the smallest parts have built a world-class company.
Automobiles. Electronics. Telecommunications. It’s not a bad day’s work to be an integral supplier to all of these and many other major industries. ATF Inc. is in that enviable position as one of the nation’s fastest growing privately held designers, developers and manufacturers of specialty fasteners, cold-formed components and integrated components.By focusing on the finest precision details of the largest components and the smallest parts, ATF has built a globally connected company with $50 million in annual sales.
Established in 1946 as Accurate Threaded Fasteners and located in Lincolnwood, Ill., ATF operates one of the world’s most technologically advanced fastener manufacturing facilities, which encompasses engineering, testing and research. The company’s team of affiliates includes other all-star companies: Asyst Technologies of Kenosha, Wis., and Frankfort Manufacturing of Frankfort, Mich. ATF also has associations with manufacturers serving OEMs, Tier I and Tier II suppliers in Europe, South America and the Far East.
Things Great and Small
ATF is an industry leader in cold-formed parts, small-diameter specialty fasteners and value-added precision components and assemblies. The company’s engineering and design expertise saves substantial costs in precision applications, such as automotive braking. ATF combines the capabilities of its cold-heading equipment and parts-forming operations with high-speed, precision metal-removing equipment, to hold tight tolerances and eliminate many expensive screw-machine parts. In addition to chassis applications, ATF contributes large-diameter parts expertise to other applications, including automotive engines, drive systems and power trains.
Also among ATF’s engineered components are the precision ball studs used in gas-spring pivots, headlamp adjustment and suspension applications. Its specialty collar studs come in many configurations of thread forms, drive features and geometry. These are used in any application where two dissimilar sides of the stud fasten components —in fastening plastic to sheet metal, for example.
ATF’s small-diameter specialty fasteners include many proprietary designs specifically engineered to meet precise OEM needs and tolerances. The LO-DRIV® Fastener is the latest technology for forming threads in sheet-metal applications. This fastener can create threads with a low amount of driving torque, while providing a higher clamp load than competing fasteners.
ATF also manufactures parts with the MAThread™ anti cross-threading feature. This feature is the premier method for eliminating the costly cross-threading problems that occur during assembly. The MAThread™ feature provides the assurance that the fastener will start and seat correctly, each and every time. Specialty fasteners in assembled plastics are an area in which ATF has taken the lead. The company’s Delta PT® (plastic thread) screw is unique because it has a reduced flank angle and a cored, recessed root to decrease stress on thermoplastic bosses. Delta PT® is a hit with OEM customers in thermoplastics, thermoset materials and/or light metal die castings. ATF has the capability to produce proprietary Delta PT® screws, fasteners and other miniature parts as small as 1.5 millimeters.
As a complement to its Delta PT® fastener, ATF has added two revolutionary plastic bosses to its list of problem-solving fastening systems. The EASYboss® and the VARIOboss® are proprietary products that create a superior joint, as compared to the metal clips that are currently being used. Both boss systems, designed to be used with the Delta PT®, maximize the amount of thread engagement and create a stronger overall joint.
Proving that the total is greater than the sum of its parts, ATF’s Integrated Components group combines the latest technologies in cold forming with the latest technologies in other manufacturing processes, such as metal stamping and plastic molding. The result is a fully integrated assembly that surpasses the customer’s quality requirements, while reducing the overall cost. Automotive door/latch striker systems are just one example of ATF’s integrated component systems.
Quality to the Core
ATF truly epitomizes the American resurgence of industrial quality with its highly trained and motivated work force of 260; a modern, 185,000 square-foot U.S. facility; and strategic alliances throughout North America and overseas. The company’s team-concept management philosophy integrates application engineering with precision manufacturing and total quality control to produce parts of the highest value at increasingly competitive costs.
ATF makes certain that its products are the best through process controls, supplier controls, critical parts processing and defect-free, automated assembly. In fact, “zero defects” are the watchwords and the commitment of all of its manufacturing operations. ATF was one of the first cold-heading companies to meet the demanding criteria for QS 9000/ISO 9002 world quality standards. In 1997, ATF added the coveted Ford Q1 certification and in 1999, the company received A2LA accreditation for its in-house laboratory. The company’s quality-control system emphasizes continuous pursuit of data, process and document control; inspection, testing and internal quality audits; and statistical procedures.
Application engineering is ATF’s forte, adding value to specialty formed parts through better design. The company’s project engineering reduces the end user’s in-place fastener costs, a significant benefit to both the company and its customers. ATF’s experienced staff of engineers offers design and prototype assistance that ties together functional strength and corrosion protection requirements into an integrated, cost-effective solution. The tools of their trade include a broad array of materials, heat-treat processes and special finishes to meet customer needs. ATF’s applications engineers help customers understand torque tension relationships, assembly considerations and material response to clamp loads and stress in product assemblies. ATF will test and analyze a product to achieve the lowest cost while optimizing fastener performance.
The ATF Simultaneous Engineering Team, its multidisciplinary technical resource group, reviews every new product the company manufactures. This assures customers that its products are made in the most efficient, precise manner. Quality engineers review for capability, tool and product engineers for design parameters, manufacturing engineers for processes and application engineers for end product performance.
When every aspect of engineering, design, development and manufacturing is so precisely controlled, analyzed, measured and tested, the result is unparalleled excellence in each part. ATF goes beyond mere perfection to value-added design expertise in precision components and integrated assemblies. For example, precision components often include the secondary operations — such as machining, grinding and drilling — that are required for auto braking, suspension manufacturing and other demanding applications.
ATF’s assembly expertise consists of pre-assembled modules made up of cold-formed parts and other components, and modules consisting of metal and high-tech plastics. In this way, ATF’s expertise in fasteners has evolved to larger assemblies — and has led to an expanded customer base. Finally, ATF has taken innovation beyond its line of products as a founding member of an international consortium of suppliers called the Global Fastener Alliance (GFA). The GFA manufacturing network helps OEMs coordinate bids, sourcing, warehousing, tooling and research. These services and more allow ATF to have a global reach that provides its customers with an unmatched supplier consolidation method. The benefit for the customer is lower overall costs and improved quality. It just goes to show that when you do the little things right, it leads to bigger and better things.