I Am Joe’s Gas Spring

Michael Shade, IQS Editor

People who are familiar with Reader’s Digest (or who have read or seen “Fight Club”) are likely to be familiar with the “I am Joe’s Body” series that was published in Reader’s Digest some decades ago. It was a novel concept – describing the functions of various organs in first-person in hopes of connecting with audiences who are bored or intimidated by textbook lessons in anatomy. Independent of context, anatomy lessons can be boring or confusing; some of my readings for biology courses in college may as well have been written in Sanskrit. Since I started at IQS last week, I’ve been swimming in an unfiltered sea of extruders, oxidization inhibitors and cross-linked oligomers. If only these parts and services could speak to me, I thought to myself, I might have a chance at understanding what they do. While trying to think of a way to explain how gas springs work, I came across a picture of a gas spring-operated prosthetic:

Fig. 1

Immediately, I realized that it was missing something:

Fig. 2

Much better.

While the gas spring may not be the duodenum of the industrial world, the concept certainly doesn’t register with laypersons on the same level as, say, a hammer. It merits its own narrative. Ahem.

Anatomy of a gas spring.

I am Joe’s gas spring. I am attached to Joe’s knee prosthesis, and I allow him to bend and extend his leg. I am similar to an air shock system, which is used for impact absorption on spacecraft and airplane landing gear, though I operate on a much smaller scale. You might think of coiled metal when you hear the word “spring,” but instead of a metal coil, there is an air spring, or column of pressurized air, inside my metal cylinder. That column pushes a rod up out of my cylinder. I am a form of tension gas spring, which means that I am relaxed when extended, like when the prosthetic knee is straight. When the knee bends and compresses me, I try to push back into my extended position. This configuration allows Joe’s leg movement to resemble that of a non-prosthetic leg. My air column provides gentle but firm resistance, which is easier on Joe’s other joints without compromising performance. I was precision engineered according to the most recent advances in gas spring design, though relatively little gas spring design and research focuses on applications for gas springs in the medical technology industry. I lead a tedious life full of repeated extending and contracting, but I serve an important purpose. Without me or designs like me, mobility would be more difficult for Joe and many other people who cope with the loss of a limb.

A gas spring keeps a parking gate open.

All of gas spring-kind is underrated for its value in all kinds of industrial contexts. We nitrogen gas springs can survive under almost any conditions because of nitrogen’s low reactivity. Combine that quality with the corrosion resistance found in stainless steel gas springs (though they tend to be arrogant because of that quality), and you’ve got a triple threat (corrosion resistance, low reactivity and withering arrogance). We can be designed to support loads as heavy as 88,000 pounds, or we can be used to keep your car’s trunk or hood open. We keep doors from slamming, and we elevate your office swivel chairs (which are forms of locking gas springs). To put it plainly, Joe and all of the rest of you are lucky to have us.

A gas spring supporting a hatchback hatch.

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