Though there are many kinds of springs, helical springs are the most common, and their application is widespread. From machinery and consumer products to industrial equipment and transportation—anything with a machine will likely have a spring inside it. Springs are a valued device that because they can store mechanical energy. Varying types have been in use since the beginning of recorded time, from simple snare traps to the bow and arrow to leaf springs, some argue that the use of springs dates back to the Stone Age. Yet, it was not until 1763 that the invention of the helical spring occurred. A near century later, 1857, the first steel coil spring was produced. From that point forward, helical springs played an important role in the Industrial Revolution and in industries today.
What is a Helical Spring?
The simple answer is that helical springs are elastic coils. Thus, helical springs are also referred to as coil springs. They are formed by a tightly wound helical coiled wire into a cylindrical spring. Their unique design can absorb, eject, or maintain a force or energy between surfaces. Once the energy has been released, the elastic coil returns to its original helix-shaped form. Helical springs functionality can be easily highlighted by the sheer amount of applications that the spring has in all areas of modern life.
Types of Helical Springs
There are different kinds of helical springs. The easiest way to recognize one from the other is to understand the application. In other words, what kind of load is the spring designed to carry? The three main varieties of helical springs are compression, tension or extension, and torsion. As their names imply, the specific design of the springs represents their mechanical application and how their potential energy is stored.
Compression springs are the most common helical spring on the market. They are the open-coiled springs designed to resist force when their axis is compressed. They come in numerous shapes, including conical, hourglass, or barrel. The compression acts as a buffer to absorb the energy of a particular load. They are powerful, durable springs that are placed in round holes, over rods or shafts—anywhere any resistance to linear compression is needed. Common compression springs have diverse applications in many industrial sectors. You will find them in ballpoint pens, mattresses, sofas, couches, valves, electrical switches, button operated devices, vehicle suspensions, and medical devices.
Tension springs, or extension springs, are those tightly wound coiled springs with loops or hooks at either end. This allows the spring to be attached to separate components. Mechanical energy is expended when an outside force creates tension and pulls the spring. The further a device is extended the greater energy is needed to return components back to its resting or neutral position. Tension springs are used across many industry sectors, from energy and agriculture to aerospace and rail. Common applications for tension springs include trampolines, automotive interiors and exteriors, various farm equipment, garage doors, and medical devices like stretchers and surgical lights.
Finally, torsion springs store energy similarly as compression springs. However, they store their energy when twisted or rotated, utilizing torque force. Once the spring is twisted, the spring exerts proportional force to the amount being applied but in the opposite direction. Torsion springs are used whenever a rotational or torque force is needed. Door hinges are a prime example. Torsion springs are used in garage doors, automobile doors, industrial heavy-duty overhead doors on loading docks and warehouses, and common screen porch doors. This helical spring provides the clamping ability of a clothespin. Spiral torsion springs are used in mechanical watches. They are also found in clipboards, mousetraps, and levers and switches of all shapes and sizes.
The combination of simplicity and functionality present a multitude of uses for helical springs. Over the years, helical springs have been widely adapted for use in common household products to industrial applications. They vary in size from micro designs for medical and electronic applications to large industrial-sized foundational dampeners for bridges. Helical springs are a reliable means to store mechanical energy, and their durability and precision not only make them suitable for a wide range of products and applications but an indispensable component in the modern world.
Want to learn more about the capabilities and products James Spring & Wire has to offer? Contact us online today or give us a call at (610) 644-3450 to learn more!