Nearly every physical body acts as a spring of some kind. For example, even the largest beam deflects and then returns to its initial position when the slightest load is applied and then removed. However, a mechanical spring is designed so that it will deflect a certain amount when a load is applied; store the energy that has been used to deflect it, and then release this energy as it returns to its initial position. Numerous types of springs have been designed to perform this fundamental function either by exerting a push, pull, torque, or a combination of these actions. In order to facilitate a discussion of the special design considerations, the many kinds of springs are grouped into general types according to the way they exert force and store energy.

Compression, extension, and torsion springs are named by the manner in which they exert force and store energy. The many other types of springs, including flat springs and garter springs, are usually named only by their shape or application.

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