a labeled wire-rivet diagram

New connector links structural, electrical systems

January 10, 2022 8:15 am Published by

Sandia has filed a patent for a simple modification to traditional rivets that may help engineer safer systems.

Kyle LeBlanc and Tim Briggs worked with machinist Brian Holliday to create what they are calling the wire rivet — a rivet with a lengthwise gap that, when crimped together through mechanically attaching two things, will hold a wire firmly in the middle.

“The wire rivet provides a simple means to electrically connect to a substrate material,” Kyle said, which can help ground each component of a finished product. “It’s a fairly common need for a lot of components to establish a common grounding network. You don’t want an imbalance of electrical charges between neighboring structures. With everything directly grounded using a wire rivet, it can prevent damage to structures and also improve signal communications that are passing through the structure.”

Traditionally, a pre-drilled ring terminal is installed at each rivet point that would connect to ground wires. Tim and Kyle said that the elegance of the new design is in how it removes the ring to improve the connection, while still enabling installation using a common riveting tool.

“These types of connections are all around you and me,” Tim said. “In your car, you have hundreds if not thousands of ground connections. On airplanes a lot of things are connected to common nodes. One of the biggest challenges is effectively connecting, in a reliable way, to different materials. This technique allows you to drill a hole and expose pristine material to which the rivet can connect directly.”

Kyle said the wire rivet could be adapted readily for simple connections but there’s an opportunity to take it a step further.

“In some ways it’s so strikingly simple you wonder why it hasn’t been invented before,” he said. “But there’s a myriad of opportunities to take this in new directions. You could tune the electrical properties of the connection to achieve some new effect. This could enable new types of embedded structural sensor designs.”

Sandia is now in the process of pursuing potential licensees for the wire rivet.