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Last edited 05 Nov 2019
How springs work
Springs are an incredible feat of engineering, and life would not be quite the same without them. Used in the vast majority of products and technology we use in day-to-day life, springs are relatively simple, but how do they work?
As a spring’s wire is bent, energy will be used in the process, some of which will be stored within the spring. When energy is stored within a spring, it is referred to as being ‘prestressed’. As the spring is wound more and more, it becomes far easier to squeeze and stretch the material because the atoms found in the material are being moved out of their usual position, making the material more receptive to manipulation.
Springs are fantastic at storing and absorbing energy. That is why the tighter a spring is, the more energy is required to move it – although it is worth noting that once the energy has been expended in order to deform the spring, this energy is not lost, it is stored as potential energy within the spring. Essentially, this means that when the tightly-coiled spring is next released, the energy that was used to coil up the spring will be released.
The best way to think of the whole process is outlined in Robert Hooke’s 1678 book ‘Lectures de Potentia Restitutiva', or 'Of Spring Explaining the Power of Springing Bodies‘. Hooke states that the more a spring is stretched, the longer it gets, the more work has to be done, and the more energy it stores.
 What type of springs are available?
Currently, there are three main types of springs available on the market, they are:
- Extension – extension springs have touching coils, allowing them to separate when pulled apart, which makes them stretch, e.g. as used in trampolines.
- Compression – commonly used in mattresses, compression springs work in the opposite way to that of extension springs. The spaces between each coil allow the spring to absorb energy when it is pushed together by an external force.
- Torsion – designed to allow each coil to twist tighter together when a force is applied, torsion springs are often referred to as ‘pop-up’ springs. Torsion springs are commonly used in digital cameras and CD players.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Clock springs.
- Compression springs.
- Compression vs wave springs.
- Constant force springs.
- Die springs.
- Extension springs.
- Flat springs.
- Gas springs.
- Key qualities of springs.
- Large and hot coiled compression springs.
- Lockable gas springs.
- Spring materials.
- Springs in structures.
- Tension springs v torsion springs.
- Tension springs.
- The Difference Between Tension and Torsion Springs.
- The Uses of Wire Forms Within the Construction Industry.
- Torsion springs.
- Using springs in construction to prevent disaster.
- Wave springs.
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