From small consumer products to heavy duty industrial equipment, springs are found in all types of machinery. A spring is a storage device for mechanical energy and is most commonly classified by the way a load is applied to it. Springs have three basic types: compression spring, extension spring, and torsion spring. Compression springs are designed to operate with a compressive load. These are found in things like shock absorbers, spring mattresses, mechanical pencils, and retractable pens. Extension springs are intended to support tensile loads. A fun example of this spring is the Slinky, though they are also found in luggage scales and garage door mechanisms. Torsion springs are designed to operate with torque, and are found in items such as clothespins and mouse traps.
These three classifications are just general terms for the operation of springs. Each type of spring can be characterized further. Compression springs, for example, can be broken into three types: linear springs, variable rate springs, and constant force springs. Linear springs operate based on Hooke’s Law, which states that the force required to extend or compress the spring by a given is proportional to the same distance, so long as the force does not exceed the limits of the spring.
Another classification, variable rate springs, do not have the same spring rate throughout its axial length. This means they can support both slow and abrupt changes without problems. A commonly known variable rate spring is a compression spring, a cone-like spring found in battery boxes. Constant force springs, as their name suggests, require the same force throughout the entirety of an extension. They are also called clock springs. These springs are usually a coiled ribbon of steel used in counterbalancing applications such as clocks and adjustable monitors.
Springs are sometimes classified by how they are made. These springs include coil, flat, machined, and molded springs. Coil springs are a lightweight component made by the formation of metal wires on a CNC coiling machine. After the spring is made, it is not flexible. It must first be heated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit or more to relieve stress and subsequently quenched to create shape memory. Flat springs come in many shapes and sizes. Examples of flat springs include spring washers, PCB spring contacts, and retainer clips. They are made through the stamping of sheet metal, though they can also be coiled. Similar to coil springs, flat springs must also be heat treated.
Machined springs are used for heavy duty applications that call for high strength and precision requirements. These springs are machined on CNC lathes - a machining tool that rotates a workpiece on an axis of rotation to perform operations such as cutting, sanding, drilling, turning, and more. They are commonly used in woodworking and metal spinning. Molded springs are made from plastic or composite materials and are typically found in applications where the spring will be exposed to corrosive environments. This includes food production, medical, and marine applications. Due to creep, these springs can only be used in intermittent cycles. They are a relatively new invention in the spring market, and are therefore less common than others.
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