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Humble Spring Keeps Pace With Changing Manufacturing

A pickup in manufacturing in the U.S. and Europe is driving demand for springs installed in nearly every industrial machine and household device.

Spring and wire forming manufacturers are responding by developing new processes to more rapidly turn out more springs and metal parts.

Some new approaches to spring manufacturing were on display Wednesday when nearly 100 spring and wire manufacturers gathered in Hartford, showing their wares and seeking customers. High school teachers also attended, checking out what’s new and what skills the industry needs, said David Gaignard, a Plainville High School teacher.

WAFIOS, a German manufacturer of wire and tube working machines, was among the companies at Metal Engineering eXpo 2017. The company displayed machines that shape wire into springs and components in minutes.

David Purcell, president and chief executive officer of WAFIOS Machinery Corp. in Branford, the company’s Connecticut unit, said that business is great.

“It’s not just that manufacturers are replacing machines, but they’re adding capacity,” he said.

As the economy strengthens after a lackluster recovery from the Great Recession, manufacturing is gaining. Economic activity in manufacturing expanded in September, with the economy growing for the 100th consecutive month, according to U.S. supply executives in the ISM Report on Business.

In addition, industry 4.0 — the name given to automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies — is helping boost the pace of factory technology, including faster manufacturing processes, Purcell said.

WAFIOS and Fenn-Torin of East Berlin were showing off the latest technology, massive machines that quickly fashion wire into coils or other parts.

It’s part of an industry effort to adapt digital technology to more quickly produce the guts of manufactured products: springs and wires made into machine parts found just about everywhere, including planes, cars, engines, medical devices, household items, factory machines and countless other finished products and components used in manufacturing.

“If it’s made by man and it moves it’s got springs in it,” said Bill Lathrop, president of Colonial Spring Co. in Bristol.

Central Connecticut is “ground zero” for springs and metal stamping, said Edward J. Planeta Jr., vice president of sales at Acme Wire Products Co. Inc. of Mystic. Dozens of companies operate in the region. Only Chicago, also home to many spring manufacturers, comes close in the number of spring wire products manufactures, Connecticut’s industry leaders say.

Connecticut’s early history in clock-making gave it a head start in spring manufacturing, Lathrop said.

“The skill set to build those little components inside a clock are the same you need to make springs,” he said.

While there are new applications for better fuel efficiency and less weight, the basic spring is unchanged from a design dating to carriage springs more than a century ago.

“We’ve been doing the same thing for a long time,” said Gary McCoy of the Spring Manufacturers Institute.

Still, there often new applications, he said. Car manufacturers, for example, are looking for lighter weight parts, including springs, to boost fuel efficiency.

Planeta of Acme Wire Products said little has changed with his product, which is used in the food service, sporting goods, medical, restaurant and defense industries.

“You try to improve the processes as much as possible,” he said.

His company posted a music video to “stand out,” Planeta said. Still, he said, “I don’t want to sex it up too much.”

Copyright © 2017, CT Now
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