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If you ever want to hear a manufacturing engineer swear, just mention the word “springs.” The coiled components come in a wide variety of sizes, and they’re used in many mass-produced products, ranging from pens and syringes to valves and lightbulbs. But, tiny springs often cause big headaches when it comes to automated assembly.
Many engineers have horror stories about the pesky parts. “They’ve been a nightmare forever,” says Carl Nelson, president of Performance Feeders Inc. “Springs can easily get you in a lot of trouble. There are many variables with spring designs, and each application is different.” Springs are often a very inexpensive component in an assembly. However, the problems created in detangling and handling them can greatly affect the productivity and efficiency of automated assembly systems. “Springs are inherently difficult to
handle for a variety of reasons,” explains the president of Unitech North America. “When handled in bulk, they have a tendency to get tangled together. This problem is magnified if the spring has open-end coils, which can result in the springs being corkscrewed into one another.