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Constant Force Springs

The extension type of constant force spring represents the most basic, yet most versatile, type of constant force spring. It is a pre-stressed flat strip of spring material which is formed into virtually constant radius coils around itself or on a drum. When the strip is extended (deflected) the inherent stress resists the loading force, the same as a common extension spring, but at a nearly constant (zero) rate. A constant torque is obtained when the outer end of the spring is attached to another spool and caused to wind in either the reverse or same direction as it is originally wound. The full rated load of the spring is reached after being deflected to a length equal to 1.25 times its diameter. Thereafter, it maintains a relatively constant force regardless of extension length. Load is basically determined by the thickness and width of the material and the diameter of the coil. Fatigue life of springs ranges from 2,500 cycles to over a million cycles depending upon the load and size of the spring. Working deflections of 50 times the drum diameter can be achieved and these springs are much easier to handle than a conventional wire spring. Considerable flexibility is possible with constant force springs because the load capacity can be varied by using different mounting configurations such as cavity mounts, multiple spring mounts, etc. Constant force springs are available in a wide variety of sizes and end configurations to suit the design situation.

Common Applications:
The constant force spring is an excellent device for applications where a constant load is required. Some of the many applications of constant force springs are in counterbalances, door closers, cable retractors, hose retrievers, tool head returns, cabinet & furniture components, gym equipment, hair dryers, toys, electric motors, appliances, space vehicles, and other long-motion functions. Motor springs are used for cable retraction, power generation etc. Power springs are used for retracting applications such as seat belt webbing, tape measures and dog leads, seat recliner, window regulator mechanisms etc.

Mounting Constant Force Springs


A Constant Force Spring is usually mounted by first tightly wrapping it on a drum, then attaching the free end to the loading force such as in a counterbalance application. This relationship can be reversed, however, with the free end mounted stationary and the spring itself providing the working force, as with carbon brushes in electrical apparatus.

The drum diameter should be 10 to 20% larger than its natural diameter. One and one-half wraps should remain on the drum at maximum extension. The strip becomes unstable at long extensions and should be guided to prevent twisting or kinking on recoil. Idler pulleys must be larger in diameter than the natural diameter and should never be used to cause backbending against the natural radius of curvature.

Constant force springs may be mounted without a bushing in a cavity. This mounting is simple and inexpensive; however, friction encountered can result in relatively high hysteresis. Another variation, the "rolling action unit" has its free end fixed allowing the coil to push against a movable member. Multiple mounting can be used to increase force. Constant force springs mounted back-to-back make the sum of their forces available at one point. This method also provides stable extension over long deflections. Tandem mounting makes the sum of two spring forces available at a single point but does not add stability. Pulley mounting doubles the force of a single constant force spring but reduces the cycle life. Laminar mounting, inter-winding of two or more springs as an assembly, offers the sum of their forces in a minimum of space.

Constant Force Spring Design Considerations


Material - Typically stainless steel Type 301 is selected, but high-carbon steel, inconel and other materials are also suitable for constant force springs. Fatigue - A moderate or low number of required cycles will permit the use of a heavily pre-stressed spring with surprisingly high force available from a small package. On the other hand, where space is not restricted, these springs can be designed to provide millions of cycles. Backbend - Unless specifically designed to do so, the constant force extension spring cannot normally be backbent or reverse wound without permanent deformation.

Tensile load - Normally, the spring material should not be loaded in tension by restraining the coil and increasing the load. If it is necessary to place a stop on the travel, it should be applied in the mechanism in such a way as to avoid using the spring itself to transmit a holding force other than that exerted by its natural re-coiling force. Speed and Acceleration - If the two members to be connected by the coiled-band spring are expected to approach each other or separate at high speed or acceleration, testing may be necessary to determine whether or not the spring will perform favorably under such conditions. Torque - The drum and coiled body of the extension spring must be completely free to rotate. No torque load or friction load should be applied to the spool or shaft, as the extended portion must be taken up by the coil readily to maintain full tension. A torque or friction load will also cause a "hysteresis" effect. In an extreme case this condition can render the spring non-functioning. Stability - Unless properly designed, a long, free extended portion of a spring may have a tendency to buckle or curl, particularly at the start of a return stroke. While there is no theoretical limit to such a spring's extension, it is advisable to confine any long extended portion in a way that will prevent curling. This can be done by providing some external support or guide. Stability increases as the width is increased in its relation to thickness. Width should be at least 50 times the thickness. A width to-thickness ratio of 250 is a recommended maximum. Good drum design, good bearings and careful attention to avoid high mass inertia, will contribute to stability. Initial load - From its relaxed condition the coiled-band extension spring must be withdrawn at least 1.5 times its drum diameter before developing full rated load. After this extension is made, the force will be maintained at any further extension. Environment - corrosive atmospheres and/or extreme temperatures will affect the life of a spring. End configuration can be custom designed if readily available end configurations do not suit certain specific applications Method of mounting - should be carefully chosen for maximum performance and consistency. Safety - Uncoiling or extending the spring stores energy in the extended section. If the energized spring is released from all restraint, it will try to return to its normal free condition with considerable force and speed. This movement may be uncontrolled in direction and/or speed. Serious injury can result from contact with an edge, end or coiled section of the spring. A constant force spring must not be over extended. Caution should be exercised when removing a spring from the equipment. Since spring failure may result in injury or damage to other equipment failsafe travel-limiting devices must be built into the unit.

Constant Force Spring Design Theory:


The formulas below give good results for moderately stressed springs. A constant factor of 26.4 is used to compensate for cross curvature occurring in the extension form. The spring obeys Hooke's Law as an increment is deflected from curved to straight. The spring is usually not attached to storage drum and at least 1.5 turns should remain on storage drum at full deflection. Caution must be used while using a highly stressed spring like constant force spring as it has an inherently limited fatigue life and its failure can result in harm to equipment or personnel.

Constant Force Spring Nomenclature:


P = Load, lbs E = Modulus of elasticity, psi S = Stress, psi b = Material width, in. t = Material thickness, in. Rn= Natural radius, in (Rn= Natural Inside Diameter 2) R2 = Storage drum radius, in. Sf= Stress factor

Formulas:

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