Twist of fate?

You can wave goodbye to the world of Slotted, Phillips, Pozi-Drive and Torx thanks to a new fastening system which uses the same driver for all sizes of screw.

We’ve all been there, either half way up a ladder or jammed awkwardly behind the refrigerator only to discover that we haven’t got the right screwdriver for the job.

Well, you can wave goodbye to the world of Slotted, Phillips, Pozi-Drive and Torx thanks to a new fastening system which uses the same driver for all sizes of screw.Uni-Screw, developed in Sheffield and manufactured by Birmingham based Forward Engineering, is one of those ideas that you wish you’d thought of yourself: simplicity itself but genuinely new and eminently useful.

Uniscrew’s drive bit and screw heads consist of three hexagonal tiers. The driver locates tightly into the screw head and provides multiple drive surfaces no matter what the size.For the smallest screw sizes, only the smallest of the three driver tiers are used. But, as screws increase in size, either 2 or 3 tiers come into play, thus offering more torque for bigger screws.

The design, says Jon Frost, the physicist behind the concept, has been made possible thanks to recent advances in cold-forging technology, which have enabled accurate creation of the vertical side walls of the screw and driver.

Uni-Screw’s concentric, hexagonal driving surfaces offer exceptional directional stability and are able to define a direction in space with an accuracy better than 3° – in other words, there is practically no wobble when the driver is placed in the screw head. Indeed, the system can be located so firmly within the screw that a screwdriver can be released horizontally with the screw supporting its weight.

Forward Engineering also claims that the design overcomes the problem of Cam-out – the tendency of conventional tapered drivers to slip out of screw heads when they are rotated. With Uni-Screw, both screw and driver surfaces are precisely aligned with the driver axis so there’s no tendency for the driver to disengage under load.

Frost adds that the shape of the tiers is largely irrelevant, which opens up interesting security applications. The design of the screw and driver can be modified to create a tamper resistant system. For example, a specially tailored system could use a combination of different shaped drive surfaces.

Indeed, with the current three tiered design, there are around 324,000 possible combinations.

Speaking at the UK launch of the product Steven Sidwell, Director of Forward Engineering, boldly claimed that ‘we hope to secure 60% of the world screw market’However, while using just one driver could save vast amounts of time and money in industrial assembly environments, Forward realises that our’s is not a culture which readily embraces change. Although the product has been received favourably in tests on the assembly floor, it’s going to take a while to convince industry to abandon tried and trusted methods.

This is why the company has a two-pronged marketing offensive, with a short term aim of getting the DIY stores to stock the product. If they can achieve this, it will undoubtedly be a big hit with DIY enthusiasts. The longer term aim, and a much tougher nut to crack, is to persuade the manufacturing industry to dispense with existing methods. If Forward Engineering can achieve this, Uni-Screw will be huge.