Garter springs solve problems in engineering
Tim Parkinson of Airedale Springs discusses the features of the garter spring, and how it makes it onto the wall of fame as a real problem solver in engineering.
Springs have helped multiple sectors and industries throughout the centuries, and there’s no stopping them now. Compression springs are vital in ensuring the correct pressure in oil rigs that are located offshore, as well as being able to act as shock absorbers in vehicle suspension systems. And extension springs help to ensure lever mechanisms work efficiently, as well as making sure that your trampoline at home or school works properly. But one type of spring that isn’t mentioned frequently is a garter spring.
Garter springs are specialised compression or extension springs that provide a strong radial force. The most common type of garter spring is formed from an extension spring; the extension spring itself must have one end that is open and the other end must be coned so that it can fit tightly into the opposite end and create a nib joint. Because of the orientation of the extension, it means that extension garter springs exert an inward force. For example, if you had an extension garter spring and you were to stretch it, it will want to resist and return to its original position.
Compression garter springs are on the opposite end to extension garter springs; they exert an outward force. For example, if you had a compression garter spring and you were to compress it, it will want to resist and return to its original state.
One of the reasons why extension garter springs are a more widely used option compared to compression garter springs is due to the amount of material that is used. In standard spring manufacturing, compression springs require more material because of their natural state. Compression springs are large because they need to be compressed; it wouldn’t work effectively if it were small. Because of this, extension garter springs traditionally have a smaller natural circumference and the wire is also thinner because they don’t need to be compressed, which is the predominant reason as to why they are used more frequently than compression garter springs.
Garter springs are one of the only springs available on the market that can produce a radial force; this is extremely important for applications that require an incredibly tight seal. The most widely-used example of garter spring use is in oil seals – these are seals that are used to ensure that water, dirt, dust or any other substances do not interact with mechanical operations. This is important in vehicle engines, especially for 4x4 vehicles, as they are built to be rugged enough for travelling off-road.
However, the most prominent use is in oil rigs. The environmental condi-tions where oil rigs are located around the world are extremely harsh, throwing up a whole host of issues and potential problems. For example, underwater condit-ions mean higher pressure, and turbulence can affect various aspects of the oil rig. The implementation of oil seals means that the mechanisms that help to drive the drills within the oil rig are safe from any dirt or water that could affect them. Because of this, garter springs are of vital importance.
Although garter springs are very simple components, they have managed to transform the engineering sector. Garter springs, due to their orientation, can effectively handle various changes in pressure, viscosity, temperature, and volume. This means that these specialised springs can withstand some of the toughest environments known to man – something no other spring could previously do.
They have also changed the industrial sector for the better, as they are used in many seals, such as ones for gearboxes in vehicles, and hydraulic pumps in hydraulic drive systems. Gearbox seals help to ensure that there are no leaks between the engine and the transmission, helping to maintain an effective drive mechanism for vehicles around the world. Hydraulic pump seals are used to make sure that no water can escape from the pump mechanism that helps to convert mechanical energy into hydraulic energy, whether that is through fluid flow or pressure.
Because of these reasons, and since they are a completely unique design that promotes the importance of radial forces, it is fair to say that garter springs are some of the best problem solvers in the engineering world. They can repel various substances from contamination, leakage, and other scenarios that could potentially damage important infrastructure.
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