Springs have been used throughout history. A sturdy tree branch can be used as a spring. The first sophisticated springs were found in the Bronze Age, when eyebrow tweezers were used in many cultures.
Around the third century B.C., Greek engineers developed a process for making spring-tempered bronze by increasing tin in a copper-alloy cast and hardening it with hammer blows. They made leaf springs from this process to operate catapults but they were not powerful enough. During the second century B.C. catapult engineers built a similar device with greater success.
Padlocks used spring devices during the ancient Roman Empire. One type of padlock used bowed spring metal “leaves” to keep the device closed until the leaves were compressed with keys.
During the middle ages the next significant event occurred in spring manufacturing history. A power saw invented around 1250 used a water wheel to push the saw blade in one direction, at the same time bending a pole. The pole returned to its original position, pulling the saw blade in the opposite direction.
In the early fifteenth century, coiled springs were developed by clockmakers by replacing the system of weights that commonly powered clocks with a wound spring mechanism. The coiled springs in clocks made the devices smaller, allowing for the first portable timekeeping devices. This same coiled spring technology was also used in ship navigation.
The eighteenth century brought on the Industrial Revolution and mass-production spring making techniques. During the 1780s, British locksmiths used spring winding equipment to produce springs. A lathe was adapted for spring manufacturing and the spring lathe carried a reel of wire in place of a cutting head. Wire from the reel was wrapped around an arbor secured in the lathe chuck. The speed of the lead screw, which carried the reel parallel to the spinning rod, could be adjusted to vary the pitch of the spring coils. This technique is still used in today’s spring manufacturing processes.
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