Self-tapping screws are one of the most commonly used industrial fasteners. As on of the earliest engineered fastener products, self-tapping screws were manufactured out of hardened steel, and their use powered the Industrial Revolution. Still incredibly common today, self-tapping screws now include many styles and types made for specific fastening functions.

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Self-tapping screws ‘tapping screws’ are made from case hardened steel to enable tapping into sheet steel plate, a pilot hole is required to ensure the plate is formed to make a close fitting mating thread. Standard self-tapping screws are identified by their head, drive type with a letter code denoting the thread type and point.
Terminology used in the commercial fastener trade, unlike that used in aerospace or military fasteners, can be imprecise and often cause confusion. A prime example of this impreciseness is the distinction between self-tapping screws and self-drilling screws.


  • A self-tapping screw can accurately be described simply a tapping screw, but is also regularly referred to as a sheet metal screw, since they are used so heavily in the sheet metal trade.

  • Whichever name is used, a self-tapping screw (or sheet metal screw), is designated as such because it contains form mating threads (thereby “tapping” the threads) in a pre-drilled hole into which they are driven.

  • A self-drilling screw is a type of self-tapping screw that also features a drill point. The sharp drill point will both drill a hole and form the mating threads in a single operation.

  • So where does the confusion between terms come in? In many cases, the person specifying a this type of screw will interchange the terms self-tapping screw (or “Self-Tapper”) with self-drilling screw, but a screw is only a self-drilling screw when it will drill its own hole.