The humble spring has been around for a very long time, but it still makes a huge difference to machines of all shapes and sizes.

One prime example of how the simple addition of a spring can drastically change how something works is the pinball machine. The earliest form of the pinball machine was a simple wooden board with no springs, flippers or paddles; just pins to mark the different scoring areas and a wooden stick, much like a pool cue, with which to propel the balls. It was called bagatelle, and despite being very simple it was very popular.

At some time in the 18th Century, a new form of bagatelle table – the billard Japonais – was created. Instead of cues, these tables used launchers, powered by compression springs, to propel the ball around the table. Once patented – by British inventor Montague Redgrave, in 1871 – this simple spring revolutionised the game and it gained even more popularity.

Even today, springs can revolutionise established designs. Researchers have been working for years on creating humanoid robots; they grow ever more lifelike, but one of the prime issues has always been the lack of fluidity in their movements. Human muscles are naturally springy – this allows us to react quickly to shocks, to bounce back and absorb impacts. While it is possible to model such springy behaviour through software, it’s not possible to do so instantly; the delay caused by having to process inputs from sensors creates an unnatural movement.

Because of this, researchers working on the Roboy project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, decided to use springs in the robot’s muscles. Similar to the kinds that are found in vehicle suspension, albeit on a smaller scale, they give the robot’s motion a more authentically human appearance.  This has another benefit – accidents where robots strike humans are not unknown, and springier robots should be safer to be around than their stiff, unreactive cousins.

Here at Airedale Springs, our expert team are able to help you design springs to your precise requirements, whatever forces, sizes or finishes you require. Whether you need to design a spring to revolutionise an existing design, to create something new and innovative, or whether you simply need springs made to your existing tried and tested specifications, we will be happy to hear from you.