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Thread types: The practical engineer's guide

Learn how to correctly design threads for manufacturing in order to save time and costs.

Written by Agata Lovrecich, Product Manager at Hubs

Introduction

At university we learn how to design parts to optimize design efficiency - less material, higher performance. In the real world the details, such as threads, can cause you to waste time and lose money.

There is little practical literature targeting threads in the context of design for manufacturing. Most articles you will find talk about the actual machining of the parts and are catered towards machinists. This article seeks to be a practical guide for engineers designing physical products.

What a thread is made up of

Threads can be either internal or external and typically fit together. They are called out (or specified) in a technical drawing by defining the following parameters.

Thread parameters:

  • Thread series: thread profiles (such as UN and Metric)

  • Thread type: within the thread series you have different types of thread types, such as UNC and UNF for UN, and M and MJ for Metric.

  • Nominal diameter/major diameter/thread size: indication of thread size. Refers to the major diameter of the thread

  • Minor diameter: should always be the roughly the same as the drill size (hole size)

  • Pitch: distance a point moves linear (parallel to the axis) in one revolution

  • Depth: how far deep into a hole the thread goes

  • Allowances: allowable tolerances of the thread fit

  • Class fit/tolerance fit/allowance: defines the tolerance range of thread dimensions including major, minor, and pitch diameters of internally or externally threaded parts

  • Drill size: defines the size of the hole to be drilled for the thread to be tapped. This is a definition you will see in a lot of thread sizing tables. It is essentially the same size as the minor diameter.


000 02 IM-Illustration Thread types article 01 01

Holes: blind vs thru holes

There are two types of holes where you can define threads: blind holes and thru holes.

  • Thru hole: a hole that goes all the way through the surface. Therefore, it's depth is the thickness of that particular wall.

  • Blind hole: a hole that does not go all the way through the surface. Depth therefore needs to be specified separately.

through-vs-blind-holes

Overview of thread types

There are various different thread types available, the most common are metric and unified.

  • Metric threads (M): Metric threads are the metric international standard that follows ISO. This is one of the most common threads.

  • Unified threads (UNC/UNF/UN/UNEF): Imperial standard, typically consists of coarse (UNC) and fine (UNF) threads. UN is used for a set of specific thread series which have uniform or constant threads-per-inch.

  • Pipe threads (National pipe) (NPT/NPS/NPTF): typically used for threaded pipe fittings.

  • Multi-start threads: Multi-start threads consists of two or more intertwined threads running parallel to one another.

  • British Standard Pipe (BSPT): typically used for threaded pipe fittings.

  • Thorlabs: Branded threads specs to create adapters for Thorlabs’ optical equipment.

  • ACME: a type of trapezoidal threads.


Read next: Learn how to assemble 3D printed parts with threaded fasteners →

Calling out threads: Metric and UN

The following threads are the simplest type of threads and are understood by both local and global suppliers. The dimensions should be placed on the view that describes the feature most clearly.

Metric threads

000 02 IM-Illustration Thread types article 07 01

As a standard, you can define metric threads by simply putting the type and size (e.g. M10). The size, as mentioned above, is defined by the nominal diameter (major diameter) of the thread. The pitch and depth that follow will follow the common metric common standards (see table below).

All metric threads are assumed to be “thru” on thru holes unless indicated otherwise. Depths for blind holes must always be indicated.

Class fit - metric threads

Class fit defines the tolerance of the threads, and is also sometimes referred to as "allowance" or "thread fit". Internal thread tolerances are always written with capital letters, and external threads are lowercase. The standard thread tolerances are 6H for internal threads and 6g for internal threads, which is what your supplier will default to if you don’t call any different tolerances in your drawing. If you’re interested, below is a deep dive into why this is.

The class fits are defined typically from ISO 965-1, based on the thread engagement length. The thread engagement length is important for you because it denotes the length of your assembly, which will be useful for your load bearing calculations, as friction changes with this thread engagement.

000 02 IM-Illustration Thread types article 09 01

The default thread engagement length considered is N, which denotes a typical screw/screw hole connection. Therefore, the class fits default to “medium” which is 6H for (internal threads) and 6g (for external threads), as highlighted below.

000 02 IM-Tables Thread types article Table 01-2

000 02 IM-Tables Thread types article Table 02-2

The tolerance position determines the type of tolerance to be used. The main ones are g and h.

  • G (internal) or g (external) tolerances define a tolerance changing with pitch diameter
  • H (internal) or h (external) tolerances define a static tolerance that does not change with pitch diameter

Sometimes, you will see both internal and external threads call out for one individual thread. This indicates an assembly fit, for example:
  • 6H/6g


Metric threads in practice - examples

  • Standard ISO thread: M10 x 1.5 - 6H THRU LH
  • Standard ISO thread: M10



Why are these call outs so different?

With metric threads, you can get away with a very simple call out, like in the second example, where you only indicate the thread series (M) and size (10). In this case, the rest will default to standard. Remember that for blind holes, you also must indicate the depth of the thread, as there is no standard to fall back to (see the table below).

Thread series Thread size (nominal diameter) Pitch Class fit Depth Modification
M 10 1.5 6H THRU LH - left hand thread
M 10 Not indicated - default to standard pitch for this thread size (table) Not defined - default to 6H Not indicated so default to THRU for thru holes. For blind holes, this indication would be incomplete Not indicated - default to RH (right hand)



Example of how to indicate the depth of a blind hole

Thread chart

Drill size = Hole size required

UN, metric, UNS, NPT, NPS, BSPP, BPST, PG thread sizes

UN
Size Drill size Drill size, decimal size equivalent Thread type
0-80 3/64" 0.0469" UNF
1-64 53 ga. 0.0595" UNC
1-72 53 ga. 0.0595" UNF
2-56 51 ga. 0.067" UNC
2-64 50 ga. 0.07" UNF
3-48 47 ga. 0.0785" UNC
3-56 46 ga. 0.081" UNF
4-40 43 ga. 0.089" UNC
4-48 42 ga. 0.0935" UNF
5-40 38 ga. 0.1015" UNC
5-44 37 ga. 0.104" UNF
6-32 36 ga. 0.1065" UNC
6-40 33 ga. 0.113" UNF
8-32 29 ga. 0.136" UNC
8-36 29 ga. 0.136" UNF
10-24 25 ga. 0.1495" UNC
10-32 21 ga. 0.159" UNF
12-24 16 ga. 0.177" UNC
12-28 15 ga. 0.18" UNF
1/4"-20 7 ga. 0.201" UNC
1/4"-28 3 ga. 0.213" UNF
1/4"-32 5.6 mm 0.2204" UNEF
5/16"-18 F 0.257" UNC
5/16"-24 I 0.272" UNF
5/16"-32 9/32" 0.2813" UNEF
3/8"-16 5/16" 0.3125" UNC
3/8"-24 Q 0.332" UNF
3/8"-32 11/32" 0.3438" UNEF
7/16"-14 U 0.368" UNC
7/16"-20 25/64" 0.3906" UNF
7/16"-28 13/32" 0.4063" UNEF
1/2"-13 27/64" 0.4219" UNC
1/2"-20 29/64" 0.4531" UNF
1/2"-28 15/32" 0.4688" UNEF
9/16"-12 31/64" 0.4844" UNC
9/16"-18 33/64" 0.5156" UNF
9/16"-24 33/64" 0.5156" UNEF
5/8"-11 17/32" 0.5313" UNC
5/8"-18 37/64" 0.5781" UNF
5/8"-24 37/64" 0.5781" UNEF
11/16"-24 16.5 mm 0.6496" UNEF
3/4"-10 21/32" 0.6563" UNC
3/4"-16 11/16" 0.6875" UNF
3/4"-20 45/64" 0.7031" UNEF
7/8"-9 49/64" 0.7656" UNC
7/8"-14 13/16" 0.8125" UNF
7/8"-20 53/64" 0.8281" UNEF
15/16"-20 57/64" 0.8906" UNEF
1"-8 7/8" 0.875" UNC
1"-12 59/64" 0.9219" UNF
1"-20 61/64" 0.9531" UNEF
1 1/8"-7 63/64" 0.9844" UNC
1 1/8"-12 1 1/32" 1.0313" UNF
1 1/4"-7 1 3/32" 1.0938" UNC
1 1/4"-12 1 11/64" 1.1719" UNF
1 1/4"-18 1 3/16" 1.1875" UNEF
1 3/8"-6 1 7/32" 1.2188" UNC
1 3/8"-12 1 19/64" 1.2969" UNF
1 1/2"-6 1 11/32" 1.3438" UNC
1 1/2"-12 1 27/64" 1.4219" UNF
Metric
Size Pitch, mm Drill size Thread type Coarse/Fine
M1.6 0.35 1.25 mm C
M1.8 0.35 1.45 mm C
M2 0.4 1.6 mm C
M2.2 0.45 1.75 mm C
M2.5 0.45 2.05 mm C
M3 0.5 2.5 mm C
M3.5 0.6 2.9 mm C
M4 0.7 3.3 mm C
M4 0.75 3.2 mm F
M4.5 0.75 3.7 mm C
M5 0.5 4.5 mm F
M5 0.8 4.2 mm C
M6 0.5 5.5 mm F
M6 0.75 5.2 mm F
M6 1 5 mm C
M6.3 1 5.3 mm F
M7 1 6 mm C
M8 0.5 7.5 mm F
M8 0.75 7.2 mm F
M8 1 6.9 mm F
M8 1.25 6.7 mm C
M9 1 8 mm F
M9 1.25 7.7 mm C
M10 1 8.9 mm F
M10 1.25 8.7 mm F
M10 1.5 8.5 mm C
M11 1 10 mm F
M11 1.5 9.5 mm C
M12 1 11 mm F
M12 1.25 10.8 mm F
M12 1.5 10.5 mm F
M12 1.75 10.2 mm C
M14 1 13 mm F
M14 1.25 12.8 mm F
M14 1.5 12.5 mm F
M14 2 12 mm C
M16 1 15 mm F
M16 1.5 14.5 mm F
M16 2 14 mm C
M18 1 17 mm F
M18 1.5 16.5 mm F
M18 2.5 15.5 mm C
M20 1 19 mm F
M20 1.5 47/64" F
M20 2.5 17.5 mm C
M22 1.5 20 mm F
M22 2.5 25/32" F
M24 1.5 57/64" F
M24 2 22 mm F
M24 3 21 mm C
M26 1.5 24.5 mm F
M27 1.5 1" F
M27 2 25 mm F
M27 3 24 mm C
M30 1.5 1 1/8" F
M30 2 28 mm F
M30 3.5 1 1/32" C
M33 2 31 mm F
M33 3.5 1 11/64" C
M35 1.5 33.5 mm F
M36 1.5 34.5 mm F
M36 2 34 mm F
M36 4 32 mm C
UNS
Size Drill size Drill size, decimal size equivalent Thread type
00-90 62 ga. 0.038" UNS
6-48 2.9 mm 0.1142" UNS
8-24 31 ga. 0.12" UNS
8-40 28 ga. 0.1405" UNS
10-28 23 ga. 0.154" UNS
10-36 20 ga. 0.161" UNS
10-40 20 ga. 0.161" UNS
10-48 18 ga. 0.1695" UNS
10-56 18 ga. 0.1695" UNS
12-36 12 ga. 0.189" UNS
3/16"-24 9/64" 0.147" UNS
3/16"-100 16 ga. 0.177" UNS
7/32"-32 13 ga. 0.185" UNS
1/4"-24 4 ga. 0.209" UNS
1/4"-27 3 ga. 0.213" UNS
1/4"-36 2 ga. 0.221" UNS
1/4"-40 2 ga. 0.221" UNS
1/4"-48 1 ga. 0.228" UNS
1/4"-56 1 ga. 0.228" UNS
1/4"-80 B 0.238" UNS
9/32"-32 1/4" 0.25" UNS
5/16"-20 G 0.261" UNS
5/16"-27 6.9 mm 0.2716" UNS
5/16"-28 J 0.277" UNS
5/16"-40 7.2 mm 0.2834" UNS
11/32"-32 5/16" 0.3125" UNS
3/8"-18 8.1 mm 0.3188" UNS
3/8"-20 8.2 mm 0.3228" UNS
3/8"-27 R 0.339" UNS
3/8"-28 R 0.339" UNS
3/8"-40 8.9 mm 0.3503" UNS
7/16"-16 9.5 mm 0.374" UNS
7/16"-18 9.6 mm 0.3779" UNS
7/16"-24 9.9 mm 0.3897" UNS
7/16"-27 10.2 mm 0.4015" UNS
7/16"-32 13/32" 0.4063" UNS
7/16"-40 10.5 mm 0.4134" UNS
15/32"-32 7/16" 0.4375" UNS
1/2"-12 10.5 mm 0.4134" UNS
1/2"-16 7/16" 0.4375" UNS
1/2"-18 11.2 mm 0.4409" UNS
1/2"-24 11.5 mm 0.4528" UNS
1/2"-27 11.5 mm 0.4528" UNS
1/2"-32 15/32" 0.4688" UNS
1/2"-40 12 mm 0.4724" UNS
9/16"-16 1/2" 0.5" UNS
9/16"-20 33/64" 0.5156" UNS
9/16"-27 33/64" 0.5156" UNS
9/16"-32 17/32" 0.5313" UNS
5/8"-12 35/64" 0.5469" UNS
5/8"-16 9/16" 0.5625" UNS
5/8"-20 37/64" 0.5781" UNS
5/8"-27 37/64" 0.5781" UNS
5/8"-28 37/64" 0.5781" UNS
5/8"-32 19/32" 0.5938" UNS
11/16"-16 5/8" 0.625" UNS
11/16"-18 16 mm 0.6299" UNS
11/16"-20 41/64" 0.6406" UNS
11/16"-32 21/32" 0.6563" UNS
3/4"-12 16.5 mm 0.6496" UNS
3/4"-18 45/64" 0.7031" UNS
3/4"-24 45/64" 0.7031" UNS
3/4"-27 23/32" 0.7188" UNS
3/4"-32 23/32" 0.7188" UNS
13/16"-12 47/64" 0.7344" UNS
13/16"-16 3/4" 0.75" UNS
13/16"-18 19 mm 0.748" UNS
7/8"-12 51/64" 0.7969" UNS
7/8"-16 13/16" 0.8125" UNS
7/8"-18 53/64" 0.8281" UNS
7/8"-27 21 mm 0.8268" UNS
7/8"-32 27/32" 0.8438" UNS
15/16"-16 7/8" 0.875" UNS
1"-14 23.5 mm 0.9252" UNS
1"-16 15/16" 0.9375" UNS
1"-18 61/64" 0.9531" UNS
1"-24 61/64" 0.9531" UNS
1"-27 24.5 mm 0.9646" UNS
1"-32 31/32" 0.9688" UNS
Header Header Header Header
Cell Cell Cell Cell
Cell Cell Cell Cell
Cell Cell Cell Cell
Cell Cell Cell Cell
Cell Cell Cell Cell
Cell Cell Cell Cell
Cell Cell Cell Cell
Cell Cell Cell Cell
NPT/NPS
Pipe size Thread type TPI Drill size Drill size, decimal size equivalent
1/16 NPT 27 C 0.242"
1/8 NPT 27 Q 0.332"
1/4 NPT 18 7/16" 0.4375"
3/8 NPT 18 9/16" 0.5625"
1/2 NPT 14 45/64" 0.7031"
3/4 NPT 14 29/32" 0.9063"
1 NPT 11 1/2 1 9/64" 1.1406"
1 1/4 NPT 11 1/2 1 31/64" 1.4844"
1 1/2 NPT 11 1/2 1 23/32" 1.7188"
2 NPT 11 1/2 2 3/16" 2.1875"
1/8 NPS 27 T 0.358"
1/4 NPS 18 15/32" 0.4688"
3/8 NPS 18 19/32" 0.5938"
1/2 NPS 14 19 mm 0.748"
3/4 NPS 14 61/64" 0.9531"
1 NPS 11 1/2 1 13/64" 1.2031"
BSPP/BPST
Pipe size Thread type TPI Drill size Drill size, decimal size equivalent
1/8 BSPP 28 8.8 mm 0.3464"
1/4 BSPP 19 11.8 mm 0.4645"
3/8 BSPP 19 15 mm 0.5905"
1/2 BSPP 14 19 mm 0.748"
3/4 BSPP 14 24 mm 0.9449"
1 BSPP 11 30 mm 1.1811"
1 1/4 BSPP 11 39.5 mm 1.5551"
1 1/2 BSPP 11 45 mm 1.7716"
2 BSPP 11 57 mm 2.244"
1/8 BSPT 28 8.4 mm 0.3307"
1/4 BSPT 19 11.2 mm 0.4409"
3/8 BSPT 19 14.5 mm 0.5709"
1/2 BSPT 14 18 mm 0.7087"
3/4 BSPT 14 22 mm 0.8661"
1 BSPT 11 30 mm 1.1811"
1 1/4 BSPT 11 38.5 mm 1.5157"
1 1/2 BSPT 11 44.5 mm 1.7519"
2 BSPT 11 56 mm 2.2047"
PG
Pipe size Thread type Drill size Drill size, decimal size equivalent
PG-7 PG 11.2 mm 0.4409"
PG-9 PG 35/64" 0.5468"
PG-11 PG 17.25 mm 0.6791"
PG-13.5 PG 3/4" 0.75"
PG-16 PG 21.25 mm 0.8366"
PG-21 PG 1 1/16" 1.0625"
PG-29 PG 1 13/32" 1.4063"
PG-36 PG 1 51/64" 1.7969"

Drill size = Hole size required

Unified threads

000 02 IM-Illustration Thread types article 08 01 Class fit - Unified threads (UN)

Remember that class fit defines the tolerance range of thread dimensions, this is always coupled up with an indication of whether the thread is external (B) or internal (A). There are 6 types of class fit for unified threads:

  • Classes 1A and 1B - Loosest tolerance, it’s very rare. Usually used for when quick assembly/disassembly is required.
  • Classes 2A and 2B - “Medium” tolerance, it’s the most common fit. This is the best option to balance thread performance and convenience.
  • Classes 3A and 3B - Very tight tolerance. Used when the threads are critical to the safety of the service of the final product.

If no fit is indicated, the default class fit is 2A for internal threads, and 2B for external threads.


Unified threads in practice

Examples:

  • .250 - 20UNC - 2A MOD
  • 1/4" x 20 UNC
  • #4-20 UNC
  • .375 - 24UNEF - 2B
  • 10-32 UNF-2A
  • 0.190-32 UNF-2A



These examples are very different - how do they relate to the formula?

Unified threads have various different ways of being called out, you are better off picking one way and sticking to it, but if ever you need to look at another engineers drawings here’s a list of common ways to call them out broken out by section.

Nominal diameter (major diameter/thread size) TPI Thread series & type Class fit & external/internal designation (optional) Modification (optional)
.250 20 UNC 2A MOD
1/4" 20 UNC Not defined - default to 2A No modification
#4 20 UNC Not defined - default to 2A No modification
.375 24 UNEF 2B No modification
10 32 UNF 2A No modification
0.190 32 UNF 2A No modification

000 02 IM-Illustration Thread types article 05 01

Design tips


1) Keep it common

If there’s one thing that will without fail save you time and money when it comes to manufacturing is to keep things common.

You don’t learn this when you’re getting your degree, and it's only through trial and error that seasoned engineers realise the importance of keeping components as common as possible - even when designing custom products. If there’s an off the shelf solution, don’t over complicate it. This also applies to threads, always seek to choose common series of threads as much as possible and common sizes.

By common I mean globally understood. We know that there are threads such as NPT, BSP, etc. that are also common locally but overseas suppliers tend to have issues with these unless they're specialized. I suggest to always make design choices that maximize the amount of manufacturers eligible to supply them. Why? Because having a diversified supply mitigates risks and gives you more buying power.



Keeping threads common (meaning globally understood) will not only lead to less back and forth with your supplier, but also open you up to more manufacturing partners. If you’ve ever worked with suppliers, you’ll know that they don’t particularly like specialized requests.

2) Be wary of hole sizes

One of the most common mistakes we’ve seen when we make parts containing threads (we’ve manufactured more than 6 million parts at the time of writing) is that the thread sizes do not seem to match the hole sizes they are called out in.

This is a problem because it leads to confusion on whether it’s the right thread size and the diameter of the hole is wrong or vice-versa. As manufacturers, we cannot make assumptions, and this confusion leads to a delay in manufacturing time (1-2 days at least).

3) Call out thread depths on blind holes

Another reason for delay is incomplete thread specifications.

Blind holes are holes that do not go through the full wall thickness of the part. If you call out a thread on a blind hole, you must always indicate the depth of the thread.

About the author
Agata is a Product Manager at Hubs responsible for the manufacturing service offering. Having worked with multiple customers and suppliers, Agata has an excellent understanding of the common hiccups in custom manufacturing. She holds an Aerospace Engineering Bachelors and a Masters in Innovation Management.

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