Every day, springs are all around us – more than you might think. You might be aware of the springs in your mattress, in your biro and in your watch, but some of their uses might surprise you.

Foundations

Many of the world’s largest cities sit in earthquake-prone areas, including San Francisco, Istanbul, Mexico City and Tehran. For structural engineers in areas like this, the challenge is to create a building that will survive and protect its inhabitants when the earth starts to move. One way they can do this is a method called “base isolation”. The building essentially floats above its foundation on a system of springs; in an earthquake, the springs allow the foundation to move without moving the building above, causing less deformation and therefore less damage.

Arms & Legs

Modern prosthetics are becoming more and more advanced all the time – a long way from the days of the wooden peg-leg, they can increasingly be made subtle enough that you might not necessarily know somebody is wearing one if they chose not to tell you. The biggest improvement has been the design of limbs which can move; for example, extension springs can be used in prosthetic knees to provide a more natural movement than a fixed knee. Advances in robotics have also used springs to mimic the action of the body’s muscles and tendons, which may lead to further advances in prosthetic technology.

Light Switches

To the layperson, this may be very surprising – you would assume that when you flick a light switch on, the switch itself makes the contact which allows electricity through to light up your room, or breaks it when you switch it off. However, the design of the humble light switch actually uses a compression spring to both make the contact and hold the switch in its current position. Flicking the switch stretches the spring, and as it passes the centre point the energy in the spring is released, pushing the contacts into the opposite position – from off to on, or vice versa. If you push your light switch slowly, you should be able to see that it actually comes on at the middle point, not when the switch reaches its final position.

If you need springs for any purpose, here at Airedale Springs we can help with anything from a small bespoke order to mass production, all with a friendly and personal service. For more information, call us on 01535 643456 or contact us online.