Friday, September 16, 2005

"The humble screw has changed little in 2,000 years, until a stubborn engineer at Illinois Tool Works came up with a fascinating new twist."
For centuries now the screw has held things together, and for almost as long it has been frustratingly inept at its central purpose. Concrete cracks when it is punctured by a screw. Plastic creeps away from the pressure, sliding down the threads so that even a tightened screw loosens almost instantly. Carmakers have to mold brass inserts into plastic parts to accept screws; otherwise they might loosen and cause a dreaded rattle.

Kenneth LeVey has a better idea. A product development director at Illinois Tool Works, the nation's biggest screwmaker, he has reinvented what the company dubs the threaded fastener in a way that lets it grip tight where it used to let loose -- and compete with cheaper screws made by offshore rivals.