Plastic Composite Springs Combine Advantages of Metal and Engineered Thermoplastics
Compression springs offer high strength-to- weight ratios and superior heat stability
PITTSFIELD, Mass--Increased demand for springs that combine the strength of metal with the special attributes of high-performance engineered plastics has led Lee Spring, a global manufacturer of mechanical springs, to develop a new spring technology that reportedly provides a number of critical advantages over traditional metal alloy springs. The company recently introduced its LeePTM plastic composite springs, said to be among the first springs ever made with high-performance, engineered plastic and the first springs ever molded from SABIC Innovative Plastics' UltemTM resin. According to the manufacturer, LeeP springs offer patent-pending designs that maximize spring rates and cycle life while minimizing solid height. They are also said to provide high strength-to-weight ratios that optimize performance while reducing mass, and excellent stability of physical and mechanical properties at elevated temperatures up to 170 degrees Celsius (338 degrees Fahrenheit).
SABIC Innovative Plastics provided a range of specialized services--including predictive analysis, material characterization, and mold optimization--for the development of the LeeP springs. The company's Ultem resin is said to give the new springs a broad range of high performance properties, including high strength-to-weight ratio, no magnetic interference, high corrosion resistance, and dielectric insulation for non-conductive applications.
"We specifically selected Ultem resin for LeeP because of its superior track record of success in the most demanding application areas versus competitive materials," said Al Mangels, president of Lee Spring, in a statement. "The resin exceeded our expectations at every step. It's a truly exceptional product that, due to its tougher-than-tough balance of high-performance properties, performs better than any other thermoplastic. When all was said and done, we knew we had set a new industry standard, which, after all, was the goal."
"Thermoplastics have rarely before been used in high-performance springs, so we were venturing into virtually uncharted territory with Lee Spring," said Shawn Lee, product marketing manager, SABIC Innovative Plastics. "But through our strong chemical and materials expertise and our technical customer support, ranging from initial calculations and predictive analyses to benchmarking how Ultem resin would perform in the new line of springs, we delivered another winner. Equally important, SABIC Innovative Plastics provided a valued customer a major competitive advantage and an opportunity to capture greater market share, which is what we work toward for all of our customers."
Lee Spring saw an untapped opportunity to expand its market reach with high-performance thermoplastic springs that approach the strength of metal without certain drawbacks. "Our customers' wish list includes strength, heat stability, corrosion resistance, non-magnetic properties, insulation, inertness, low flame toxicity, and recyclability," said Steve Kempf, CEO of Lee Spring. "What led us to Ultem resin was its excellent all-around performance combined with great strength. Ultem resin satisfies the full gamut of customer requirements in a single offering."
In marine applications, for example, LeeP springs offer longer life because Ultem resin resists salt water. For the medical device industry, LeeP springs avoid the cost of shielding, which is necessary for metal springs that can interfere with diagnostic imaging. Other market sectors that may benefit from the new springs, according to Lee, are medical products and processing equipment; pharmaceutical delivery devices; food processing and packaging equipment; aerospace products; electronics and electrical equipment; water purification systems; and automotive interiors.
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