Hinges are created for different applications. They differ in utility, efficiency upon installation, and price. While the primary function of a small hinge is to join two pieces and allow movement, some serve as decorative pieces on tool kits and cabinets. Variations between hinges are brought by the base materials and the process involved in manufacture.
Hinges have been used for a long time, but it is only recently that their manufacture has been standardized. Hinge production has been bettered with advanced machining and mass manufacturing. The number of manufacturers has also gone up and so have the designs and types of hinges. Despite having similar designs, materials and applications, modern hinges are by far more complex than their predecessors.
Hinges are placed in different categories based on the base materials, machining techniques used to create them, and the tooling. Even for small hinges, metal is the most common material used. Metal is versatile; it can be used to safely secure two pieces together and can also be used for decoration. Again, metal is durable. Granted, the process of making hinges involves metal fabrication. While the metal fabrication processes used in production are used in other manufacturing processes, the methods are stellar in hinges and brackets.
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The forming material determines the cost and the applications of hinges. The same forming material determines which finishes are used on hinges. Steel is used as a base material in many hinges thanks to its versatility and mechanical durability.
Steel is an alloy of carbon and iron but it can also be alloyed with a number of other metals to create compounds with better properties. For instance, steel alloyed with nickel and chromium produces stainless steel hinges, which are resistant to rust and thus ideal for use in high moisture conditions or on hinges exposed to corrosive substances.
Whether used for box hinges, concealed hinges, or strap hinges, stainless steel has a horde of benefits. In most cases, stainless steel is used to create large steel hinges for security purposes but it can also be used on the small ones. Common stainless steel hinges include spring hinges, mini friction hinges, piano hinges, strap hinges, butt hinges, hidden hinges, small door hinges, and self closing hinges among others.
Extrusion is the most common stainless hinge fabrication process as it adds tensile strength to hinges. However, these hinges may also be roll formed or stamped.
Brass forms part of most miniature hinges and is only second to stainless steel. Brass is a combination of copper and zinc. The alloy created by these two metals has a lower melting point than either of the metals and a great malleability. Brass is relatively easy to fabricate compared to steel and other metals. Even better, the yellowish gold color of brass makes it ideal for use in decorative mini hinges. Brass is preferred by manufacturers due to its strength and its ability to resist erosion. Besides the sturdiness of small brass hinges, brass is easy to shape. They can be structured into butterfly hinges, slip joint hinges, custom small hinge and inset hinges among others. Brass hinges are used as cabinet hinges, cupboard hinges and bag hinges among other applications.
Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. Just like brass, bronze is easy to form and can be used to create different forms of mini hinges. The alloy forms a reddish color on the surface, which makes it ideal for use in decorative hinges. Bronze is known to have low metal-to-metal friction, and as such, it is great for use on hinge joints.
Plastic hinges are common as miniature hinges. These are normally fitted on small cabinets, small door hinges for bags and cupboards and kit boxes. Almost every manufacturer uses polypropylene reinforced with nylon to make them stronger. These hinges are mostly manufactured as decorative hinges since they are made available in different colors, designs, and shapes. The only drawback with plastic hinges is that they are not durable.
Hinge-making is a value added process, and as such, the cost of hinges is dictated by the length, the efficiency, and cost of the production process. Thermal treatment is involved in making hinges. Here, the forming material of hinges is put in a high heat medium, in an industrial smelting unit or oven. This process makes the forming material malleable. When a metal block is melted, it becomes easy to configure and mold to different shapes as needed. Heating may also interfere with the chemical composition of metal. However, the chemical composition does not change much unless the manufacturer adds other substances or chemicals.
After melting the material block, the next step is machining. Here, the melted material is cut, flattened or deformed and then stamped to form tiny hinges. This is the same process for all types of materials. One of the most common machining techniques used is casting. Casting is preferred due to its simplicity. Here, metal is melted and then placed in a mold where it solidifies into the desired shape. Casting is followed by finishing processes such as smoothing. Finishing processes enhance the aesthetics of hinges. Decorative hinges are offered with good looking finishes in a wide variety of colors.
Hand-casting is labor intensive, and consequently, the mini hinges produced are more expensive. Other labor-intensive machining methods also result to more expensive hinges.
Extrusion is a machining method that uses pressurized force to compress the material block against a die shaped in the form of hinges. Hinges created in this machining method are relatively stronger and thicker than hinges that have been stamped. However, extruded hinges are more labor intensive and thus costly. This technique is mostly used to create precision hinge models.
True to its name, this process involves deforming the material block into a hinge-shape. Materials are bent, spun and rolled or forged to create cranked hinges and other forms of hinges. Drawing and deep drawing increase the length of the metal and stretch it to attain the desired form. Turret punching is another process in deformation machining. Here, specially shaped dies are pressed against the material of hinges to alter its dimensions.
Cutting is used to create hinges where excess material is cut off, leaving hinge-shaped metal. Cutting is done through sawing, drilling, and shearing. There are also other sophisticated cutting methods such as water jet cutting and laser jet cutting.
Secondary processes are done after the main manufacturing processes. Secondary processes are done on all hinges including stainless hinges, friction hinge, torque hinge, precision hinge and specialty hinges among others. However, these secondary processes are more on decorative hinges. Some of the processes at this stage include treatments to reduce the chances of wear and deterioration. Each time hinges are used, a small part of the metal is worn away and as such, a manufacturer may opt to use ball bearings in between joints. The bearings let the ball glide easy when hinges are in use. However, in small door hinges, ball bearings are not common thanks to the small size.
For decorative hinges, finishing treatments such as painting, polishing, burnishing, and smoothing are carried out. Other processes include rust proofing to give hinges a longer productive life.
Miniature hinges are normally used as small box hinges. They are as diverse as large hinges and, therefore, come in different designs, sizes and material. These specialty hinges are created as small as 10mm while others are slightly longer. The most common types of tiny hinges include:
Small Butt Hinges
This is a common and diverse type of pivot on the market today. They are designed in various sizes with the smallest measuring 13mm long. Though they are widely used and most companies supplying hinges have them, once they are installed, they are not easy to adjust. A butt hinge can be used on boxes, bags and cabinets.
True to their name, these hinges come in the shape of a butterfly; they are different shapes, however, each looking like a butterfly. They are easy to install and may be made of different materials. In industries, they are used for decoration.
Flush hinges are unique in that they do not require a recess to be cut. They are cut from a single piece of metal. However, these hinges are not as strong as small butt hinges. They are used as cabinet hinges and as small box hinges.
This type is created with two main parts each with a threaded extension. The two parts are supposed to be joined before hinges are installed. Each of the parts is installed by screwing the threaded part into an already drilled hole. They are easy to manufacture and also easy to install.
Concealed hinges are offered in two main sizes; the smallest is 25mm, and the largest is 36 mm. You can adjust these hinges once they are installed. They are created for chipboard and MDF. Like hidden hinges, these hinges are fitted in a way that they are not visible.
These are also called continuous hinges. They are useful where long hinges are required. They have been used as gate hinges and cupboard hinges among other applications. The hinges are designed in either brass or steel. Piano hinges are fixed into position with miniature countersink screws.
Self Closing Hinges
Self closing hinges are like spring loaded hinges that close after the door is released. Refrigerator door hinges are good examples of these types of hinges. When the box door is closed, the hinges are not visible and as such, they are good examples of hidden hinges.
These are used in kitchen cabinets but they have also been used as gate hinges. They are preferred since they completely hide the cabinet that they are attached to. These hinges appear to have straight arms and they fall on the category of adjustable hinges. Using three small screws, these hinges can be adjusted to fit on the box door snugly and conceal the box door frame.
Inset hinges are related to overlay hinges only that their arms have a large crank that allows the box door to be set inside, inset, the door frame. They are used on cabinet doors, box doors and glass doors in kitchen cupboards.
A small hinge company will create all types of hinges including small brass hinges, soft close hinges, pivot hinge, small spring hinge, friction hinge and torque hinge among others. Most companies dealing with hinges take custom orders. These orders are only possible when a retailer needs a large quantity of hinges and brackets in different categories. Seeing that most companies are using mass manufacturing techniques, retailers and wholesalers ordering have to order a large amount of say soft close hinges or mini friction hinge.
Some companies do not produce all types of hinges. Some may not be producing pivot hinge, bass hinges or adjustable hinges but with a custom small hinge order, these companies can produce the hinges. A company will show all the hinges they produce on their website or on online directories, allowing retailers to choose the type and size of box hinges they need including spring loaded hinges, cranked hinges, small spring hinge, slip joint hinges among other types of hinges.
There are different factors that distinguish these companies; the techniques of forging hinges, the speed of operation, the range of materials available to make hinges and the type of hinges they make. Large retailers and wholesalers giving large, small custom hinge orders will consider cost and mode of delivery among other factors. Custom orders are not, in any way more expensive than normal orders. In fact, these orders are less expensive seeing that retailers maker mass orders. The cost of manufacture will determine the cost of orders.