Wire Springs

SIC 3495

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing wire springs from purchased wire. Establishments primarily engaged in assembling wire bedsprings or seats are classified in the Furniture and Fixtures industries.

Industry Snapshot

The output of the wire springs industry is widely dispersed across industry and sector lines, reflecting the great extent to which the industry is dependent not only on the production of manufactures but also on the production of the economy at large. The top 10 industries and sectors buying the outputs of the wire springs industry in the early 2010s were new construction, repair and maintenance, personal consumption, mattresses and bedsprings, miscellaneous fabricated wire products, non-farm residential structures, exports, motor vehicles and passenger car bodies, maintenance and repair of residential structures, and retail trade.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009 the wire springs industry shipped products valued at $2.38 billion, down from $2.48 billion in 2008. By 2010 that figure had dropped to $1.79 billion. Changes in the industry brought on by the economic recession of the late years of the first decade of the 2000s also included a drop in the number of companies manufacturing wire springs, from around 298 in 2008 to 274 in 2010. As the global economic downturn worsened, some manufacturing operations either moved offshore or consolidated, while others closed their doors altogether. By 2011, however, industry participants were looking forward to a recovery in the economy as well as the domestic manufacturing sector.

Organization and Structure

The capital requirements for the wire springs industry are generally low, with average investment per establishment around 40 percent of that for the manufacturing sector as a whole.

Prior to the 1980s, it was rare for firms to cooperate in the production of springs, but this changed in the late twentieth century. Firms learned to cooperate on a number of bases. For example, some firms developed expertise in grinding springs at high tolerances, while others developed high levels of efficiency in looping the wire on the ends of springs. Other spring-producing firms found it advantageous to hire these specialty firms for such operations.

The smallest firms have fewer than 25 employees and generally do not design the springs they produce, relying instead on specifications provided by their customers. They typically produce small batches of springs made from larger wires (up to about three-eighths of an inch in diameter), as well as large and small batches from smaller-diameter wires (up to about 0.08 inches in diameter). These versatile firms typically have one or two hand-operated spring coilers and several automatic spring coilers, in addition to a lathe or two for coiling heavier wires. Moreover, these small firms typically have a number of machines devoted to the other processes necessary for spring production, including grinders, spring testers, baking ovens, and various machine tools.

In 2010, companies with 24 or fewer employees made up the largest segment of the industry, accounting for about 61 percent of all establishments engaged in the industry. Medium-sized companies, with between 25 and 99 employees, made up the second largest share of companies in the industry, with about 22 percent. These firms typically employ engineers to design and test springs. Medium-size firms usually specialize in producing coil springs in large batches or are diversified in the production of a large number of spring types. These firms employ processes similar to those used in smaller firms, and the main distinctions regarding capital goods are the number and size of machines. These firms also typically have a greater variety of machines to supplement core production processes, such as electroplating equipment. Using computers in the design and production of springs in the 1990s led to greater qualitative distinctions in the production processes of smaller and larger firms.

Large firms had more than 100 employees and typically had a larger technical and scientific staff. There were about 30 such establishments in this industry in the United States in 2010. In addition to engineers, large firms often employ metallurgists and highly trained inspectors. They also devote substantial resources to specialized research equipment, such as fatigue testers and wire-twisting machines. These large establishments typically are diversified in the production of all major spring types and often are diversified across industry lines. The Peterson American Corp. of Southfield, Michigan, for example, had about 800 employees in 2010. The company had a home-office engineering staff that complemented the production engineers working in Peterson's various plants, as well as engineers and metallurgists involved in product design, performance analysis, and research and development.

In the years just after World War II, the production of springs was concentrated in the northeastern states of Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, as well as in Illinois and Ohio. However, by the end of the twentieth century, the top five states with spring manufacturing establishments were Illinois, California, Ohio, Michigan, and Connecticut. Many plants in the industrial Midwest produce springs for the automobile industry, while many California firms produce springs for the aircraft industry.

Background and Development

The wire spring manufacturing industry grew rapidly after World War II. The number of plants producing precision springs increased about sixfold from 1940 to 1980. Membership in the Spring Manufacturers Institute (SMI) increased from 40 establishments in 1940 to about 350 in the late 1990s.

The SMI was founded in 1933 and is headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois. The SMI publishes the quarterly Springs: The Magazine of Spring Technology, books such as the Handbook of Spring Design, and various publications on topical subjects such as computer software and federal regulations relating to health and safety issues. The industry also is served by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society for Testing and Material, and the American Society for Metals.

The three primary types of wire springs are categorized according to how and when they absorb energy. Compression springs absorb energy as they are compressed, extension springs as they are extended, and torsion springs as they are twisted. The design and production of wire springs has been referred to as a "black art" because of the complexity of interactive variables that must be taken into account. The industry has used about 100 types of metals in the production of springs. The choice of the optimal metal depends on such conditions as the potential for corrosion, conductivity, loads to be borne by the spring, temperature ranges to which the spring will be exposed, desired working life of the spring, and size constraints. The basic types of metals used in spring production include high-carbon steels, steel alloys, stainless steels, and copper- and nickel-based alloys. Since the cost of materials can vary from one to hundreds of dollars per pound, and safety is often a factor (in the production of vehicles, for instance), the optimal choice of materials is vital.

Production begins with the process of coiling metal wire. For smaller batches (several hundred or less), the manufacturer uses a hand-operated coiler or a lathe. Larger batches require automatic coilers. Whereas many coilers produced at the rate of 3,000 to 5,000 springs per hour in the mid-1970s, by the 1980s machines were sold that coiled up to 18,000 springs per hour. After being coiled, springs were baked to stabilize their shape. Thereafter, they were compressed to remove any "set," permanent distortion in a spring stressed beyond its elastic limit that could occur during use in springs coiled longer than the desired finished length. Finally, the ends of the springs were shaped (in the case of extension and torsion springs) and ground. Precision grinding was among the most time-consuming and expensive operations in the production of springs. After they were thus formed, springs were typically finished by oiling, painting, electroplating, or oxidizing.

In addition to the more common wire spring types are hairsprings. These are spiral springs made from very fine flattened wire (as thin as 0.0002 inches). These springs are used in clocks and watches, as well as specialized precision instruments. Only a few firms produce hairsprings.

In the late 1990s, the industry was growing between 6 and 8 percent a year, or almost double the growth of gross domestic product. In spite of this growth rate, the spring industry was nevertheless threatened by growing demand for non-wire or non-mechanical springs, such as gas springs and plastic products.

The wire springs industry, like many others in the manufacturing sector, was seeing an increase in the cost of raw materials in the mid- to late 2000s, combined with increasing imports from China. According to the SMI, medical products, aerospace products, and industrial equipment were showing the most demand and driving sales in this category.

A major concern for the spring industry was the failing automobile industry that intensified as the economy and consumer confidence worsened, especially since automobile demand accounted for nearly 50 percent of spring production in the late 2000s. One industry expert, Richard Rubenstein, president of Plymouth Spring Co., suggested consolidation as a means to survive. In fact, "Without consolidation we will have too much excess capacity and it will be difficult for everyone to survive, " Rubenstein noted in Springs magazine in April 2009, adding that "We need a solid industry with members who have the ability to make the products customers need and to compete on a level playing field."

Current Conditions

The outlook for the industry improved as the nation entered the second decade of the twenty-first century. A 2011 report by market research firm IBISWorld stated that "While the recession took its toll on key downstream industries, like the construction and furniture markets, [spring] industry operators will return to growth over the next five years." Although imports were expected to cause increased competition, revenue growth in the industry was predicted to be stable.

According to industry statistics from Dun and Bradstreet, there were an estimated 274 establishments engaged in manufacturing wire springs from purchased wire in 2010, down from 298 in 2008. Total sales for the industry had dropped from almost $2 billion in 2008 to $1.7 billion in 2010. The industry also experienced declines in employment in the late 2000s and into the early 2010s, from 9,430 people in 2008 to 9,227 in 2010. States with the highest concentration of workers were California (819), Indiana (759), Illinois (687), and New York (680). Connecticut led in sales in the industry, accounting for more than 65 percent of total revenues. Major industry categories were mechanical precision springs and instrument precision springs.

Industry Leaders

In the early 2010s, the largest privately held spring manufacturing company in the United States was Peterson American Corp. of Southfield, Michigan. Founded in Detroit in 1914, Peterson had about 12 manufacturing plants in North America and England in 2010. The company produced compression, torsion, and extension springs, as well as multiform clips and wireforms. In 2010, Peterson's revenues reached an estimated $56.9 million with 800 employees.

Another industry leader was Associated Spring of Bristol, Connecticut. Founded in 1857 and part of the Barnes Group, Associated Spring was one of the largest manufacturers of springs and precision metalforms in North America in 2010. Barnes had 4,900 employees and reported overall revenues of $1.1 billion in 2010. Associated Spring had 10 manufacturing operations in six countries, producing 13,000 different parts including compression, extension, torsion, die, stock, and power springs and wireforms for customers worldwide.

Research and Technology

At the start of the twenty-first century, there were no major breakthroughs in spring design or spring technology. Instead, the industry concentrated on and expanded the use of computer software in spring production and design and the use and development of new materials. This included software developed by the SMI for the design of compression, extension, and torsion springs. The program is based on parameters drawn from the SMI Handbook of Spring Design and enables the design of optimal springs working under various sets of constraints.

Computer numerically controlled (CNC) spring-making equipment also was being used by spring manufacturers after years of lagging behind the machine tool industry because of the cost of the machines to the relatively small spring industry, and because of the complex set of operations required for the production of springs. CNC technology, however, has made possible increased speed of production, lesser setup and training times, greater precision, and lower costs.

New materials played an increasing role in spring production at the start of the twenty-first century. These included memory alloy springs; beryllium copper, which is especially well suited for springs needing increased production speeds and decreased product size; and springs made from titanium alloys. Springs made from titanium alloys weigh one-half of those made from steel and are also highly resistant to corrosion. The high cost of titanium makes it prohibitively expensive for many applications, but new and less costly titanium alloys are responsible for expanded use of the metal in the spring industry.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

News and information about Wire Springs

Purchase of Wire Springs Gost 9389-75 and Wires of Ordinary Quality Gost 3282-74
Mena Report; October 21, 2017; 298 words
Tenders are invited for Purchase of wire Springs GOST 9389-75 and Wires of ordinary quality GOST 3282...of procurement Quantity, Cost Status 1 Purchase of wire Springs GOST 9389-75 and Wires of ordinary quality GOST 3282...
Presolicitation Notice: Department of the Army Seeks "Coil, Flat, and Wire Springs"
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; September 9, 2014; 298 words
...the Army, Army Contracting Command, has issued a presolicitation notice (W56HZV14T0395) for "Coil, Flat, and Wire Springs".This presolicitation notice was posted on Sept. 8 and the response date is Oct. 23.Contract, Tender Notice...
Contract Award: Springs & Suspension Wins Federal Contract for "Coil, Flat, and Wire Springs"
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; November 11, 2010; 253 words
...has awarded a (max potential contract value $173,500.00) federal contract on Nov. 10 for "Coil, Flat, and Wire Springs." Contractor Awardee: Springs & Suspension Inc., 1317 Cedar Grove Rd., Conley, GA, 30288-1108. For any query...
Contract Award: Greene Metal Products Wins Federal Modification Contract for "Coil, Flat, and Wire Springs"
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; February 9, 2012; 251 words
...has awarded a max potential contract value $8,146.07 modified federal contract on Feb. 8 for "Coil, Flat, and Wire Springs." Contractor Awardee: Greene Metal Products Inc., 24500 Capital Blvd., Clinton Township, MI 48036-1348 For...
Contract Awards: BAE Systems Land Systems Weapons & Vehicles Wins $116,341 Federal Contract for Coil, Flat, Wire Springs
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; December 24, 2009; 273 words
...68 federal contract from U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, Rock Island, for coil, flat and wire springs. The contract award date was Dec. 23 and posted on Dec. 23. The original document can be viewed at: https...
Wire springs & forms. (What's Hot).(Ace Wire Spring and Form Company Inc.)(Brief Article)
Product Design & Development; June 1, 2001; 242 words
A line of custom springs and wire forms is manufactured using CNC coiling equipment. Units available include precision, compression, extention, and torsion springs with widely divergent diameters ranging from 0.004 to 0.625 in. The manufacturing process used for the springs and forms is designed to
Round wire springs.(Wavo Springs)(Brief Article)(Product Announcement)
Machine Design; February 22, 2001; 213 words
Wavo Springs are compact, round, wire wave springs that fit in tight radial and axial spaces. Wavo springs, which serve as alternatives to Belleville springs, provide high and accurate force while maintaining dimensional stability, as well as precise load and deflection. The springs come in carbon
Round wire springs.(Wavo Springs)(Brief Article)
Machine Design; March 1, 2001; 210 words
Wavo Springs are compact, round, wire wave springs that fit in tight radial and axial spaces. Wavo springs, which serve as alternatives to Belleville springs, provide high and accurate force while maintaining dimensional stability, as well as precise load and deflection. The springs come in carbon

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