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This Demonstration models the deformation of a noncylindrical spring under a compression load. A compression spring is designed to get shorter when a load is applied to it. Examples are vehicle suspension springs, mattress and upholstery springs, and springs used in switches, controllers, and so on. Many compression springs are cylindrical in shape but others are conical (tapered) or hyperboloidal (hourglass/barrel) with a variable coil diameter. One advantage of noncylindrical springs is that their spring constant varies during compression. The larger diameter coil windings collapse and become inactive first, followed step by step by the smaller diameter windings, thus keeping the action of the spring constant. Another advantage of shaped springs compared to cylindrical ones is that higher effective spring constants can be attained with less voluminous springs, requiring wire of a smaller diameter. Typical examples are the hourglass shaped (Bonnell) springs in mattresses. If the mattress were made out of cylindrical springs with the same spring constant and covering the same area, its weight would be prohibitive. Bonnell springs combine large volume and light weight with large effective spring constants. These springs are soft (low spring constant) under a relatively light load. They get harder (higher spring constant) as the load increases when the larger diameter windings have collapsed.
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