A spring is a device used to store energy. When exposed to a load, energy transfers from the load to the spring. However, not all types of springs use this method of mechanical operation. Some springs, known as gas springs, use compressed gas. Springs of this type feature a gas-filled cylinder that moves a rod up and down in response to a load. Gas springs are definable as hydro-pneumatic, energy storage elements. Nitrogen gas or oil are used to provide compressible and motion control (damping) mediums. Gas springs are highly versatile and can be configured to suit a wide range of applications. This blog will cover what gas springs are, how they work, and how they differ from traditional mechanical springs.
A gas spring is a type of spring that uses compressed gas to store energy. They commonly feature a nitrogen-gas filled cylinder at their base and a rod-shaped piston surrounded by lubricating oil above the cylinder. When a gas spring is exposed to a load, the piston sinks into the cylinder where it alters the volume of the gas, thereby storing the energy of the load. The most common applications of gas springs include automobiles and furniture. In automobiles, gas springs are incorporated into the design of struts that support the weight of the hatchback tailgate while it is open. Despite this, they are also found in myriad medical and aerospace applications. Furthermore, large gas springs are common in industrial manufacturing machines that are used in the press tooling industry, where the forces they are required to withstand can be as large as forty tons.
Although they may sound complex, gas springs actually have a more simple means of operation than that of mechanical springs. All gas springs feature the aforementioned gas-filled cylinder in addition to other smaller and less significant components. In their default state, meaning when there is no load present, the piston remains out of the cylinder. The compressive force of a load pushes the piston into the cylinder. The cylinder within a gas spring is sealed, meaning there is nowhere for the gas to escape. When the piston pushes into the cylinder, the gas will compress and simultaneously push back against the piston. This leads to a decrease of the volume of gas inside the cylinder, causing its pressure to increase, pushing back against the piston.
Though mechanical springs store energy just as well as gas springs, they do so in a different way. Mechanical springs feature a coiled design in order to mechanically store energy. There are two types of mechanical springs: tension and compression. A good example of a tension spring is a spring that stretches when exposed to a load. Adversely, a compression spring becomes shorter when experiencing a load. While gas springs do not stretch when exposed to a load, they do compress. The piston sinks into the cylinder of the gas spring, resulting in a shortened height. As long as the piston is inside the cylinder, the gas will be compressed and the spring will hold the load’s energy.
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