What is a Pneumatic Riveter?

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  • Written By: M. McGee
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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A pneumatic riveter is a tool that uses air to create enough pressure to drive a rivet into structural metal. There are three basic configurations for a pneumatic riveter; rivet tools, rivet guns and riveting machines. Each of these works in a similar way, but has a slightly different construction. These three types have a number of different methods for actually pounding the rivet. These riveters are common in many types of manufacturing and construction, from building skyscrapers and airplanes to reinforcing blue jeans.

Most riveters, regardless of their size and configuration, work the same way. The rivet is placed into a hole in the metal; this hole is often slightly smaller than the rivet to facilitate a strong connection. A solid metal block, called a buck, is placed on the opposite side of the pneumatic riveter to provide a surface to push the rivet against.

The actual process of pounding the rivet is made of many steps, but it happens in a fraction of a second. Air is pumped into a holding chamber inside the riveter, where it is kept under pressure. When the riveter pushes the trigger, the air rushes into a piston chamber and pushes the piston down. This pushes the rivet down into the buck, flattening the backside of the rivet.


The construction of the pneumatic riveter has less to do with how it works and more to do with how it’s used. A rivet tool is a large machine that is typically used in the construction of a building or large piece of machinery. Rivet guns are smaller, handheld tools used for lighter projects, such as aircraft construction. Both of these tools are held directly by an operator who has full control over them. Riveting machines are part of a larger manufacturing process and are often found on automated assembly lines.

Three main methods can pound rivets into metal. The one-shot riveter forces the rivet down in one extremely powerful blow. These riveters are used nearly exclusively on high-strength metal, like steel. If used on a lighter metal, the impact would deform the structure of the impact spot. While this method is generally very fast, it also requires a highly-skilled operator.

The other two styles of pneumatic riveter hit the rivet over and over as long as the operator continues to hold the trigger. This incrementally pushes the rivet into the metal and deforms the back end. In general, these riveters are easier to use than the one-shot type. A slow-hitting pneumatic riveter hits the rivet between 1,500 and 2,500 times per minute, while a fast-hitting riveter may hit up to 5,000 times per minute. The slow-hitting riveter is the most common style of riveter on the market.


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