Steel springs are made in many types, shapes, and sizes, ranging from delicate hairsprings for instrument meters to massive buffer springs for railroad equipment. The primary focus of this article is small steel springs that are cold wound from wire. Wire springs are of four types: compression springs (including die springs), extension springs, torsion springs, and wire forms. Chemical composition, mechanical properties, surface quality, availability, and cost are the principal factors to be considered in selecting steel for springs. Both carbon and alloy steels are used extensively. The three types of wire used in the greatest number of applications of cold formed springs are hard-drawn spring wire, oil tempered wire and music wire. Residual stresses can increase or decrease the strength of a spring material, depending on their direction. Steel springs are often electroplated with zinc or cadmium to protect them from corrosion and abrasion. Although some hot-wound springs are made of steels that are also used for cold-wound springs, hot-wound springs are usually much larger, which results in significant metallurgical differences. All spring design is based on Hooke’s law; charts and formulas are available to aid in the design of springs.
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