It might be fair to say coil manufacturers are walking with a spring in their step these days.
With the advent of microcoils in the comfort layer, coils replacing foam on the mattress edge and pocket coils throughout, not to mention a rise in the demand for hybrid beds, innersprings are enjoying their place on showroom floors everywhere.
In fact, the most recent data in the 2016 Mattress Industry Trends Report, published by the International Sleep Products Association, reveals that the number of innerspring mattresses shipped in 2015 (the most recent year for which data is available) jumped 8.3% over the previous year. And 2016 research by the Better Sleep Council, ISPA’s consumer-education arm, found that 35% of those surveyed thought a hybrid or spring bed was the best technology for a good mattress.
In the pocket
One of the most significant trends in coils is the continuing popularity of fabric-encased springs.
“In the last few years, we’re seeing individually wrapped coil units taking a larger market share,” says Tim Witherell, director of bedding for Hickory, North Carolina-based Hickory Springs. While traditional open coils still are prevalent, encased coils have developed a much higher profile.
Bedding manufacturers are favoring wrapped springs because they have grown increasingly affordable, they are adjustable-base friendly, have independent movement and have a good story consumers can relate to, Witherell says.
Others note that the growth of hybrid beds is a driving force in the springs market.
Typically, when people refer to a hybrid bed, they mean a combination of springs in the support layer and some type of foam or latex at the top for extra comfort. A few suppliers are turning that definition on its head.
UT+C, with operations in Danville, Virginia, and Nowe Skalmierzyce, Poland, introduced its Foam Pocket Spring at ISPA EXPO 2016 in Orlando, Florida. With FPS, foam blocks are encased in fabric, much like wire springs. The company has created machinery to feed precut blocks into the pockets, along with coils. Manufacturers can choose from a variety of combinations to get the feel that they want. So far, the most popular is the checkerboard pattern, which alternates wire springs and foam, says Pat Flippin, director of sales.
“If you have all foam, you have one feel,” he says. “If you have all springs, you have one feel. This concept allows for zoning and different feels. It’s the ultimate hybrid technology at this point. This is a unique product. It has a lot of potential outside of the initial introductions.”
During Interzum Cologne 2017 May 16-19 in Cologne, Germany, Starsprings offered its newest coil innovation, which also combines springs and latex.
While one of the benefits of pocketed coils is a lack of motion transfer, Tobias Lundberg, sales and marketing manager of the Herrljunga, Sweden-based company, points out that a sheet of latex glued on top of coils will cause some motion on larger sections of springs than needed. The company’s new “s-touch” solves that problem, topping each coil with a small pad of latex and incorporating it into the pocket.
Each spring moves independently, he says. The latex itself feels softer, and by incorporating it into the spring pocket, the spring unit is ready to be covered with ticking, he adds.
Starsprings launched the product in Australia, Canada, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, South America, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Other spring finds at Interzum Cologne included Bad Essen, Germany-based Agro International GmbH & Co. KG’s DualActive. The double-layered unit features a firmer base, topped with a softer coil for comfort. Metal Matris, headquartered in Kayseri, Turkey, displayed a combination of high and low pocket coils. It also upped its coil count in some units to 2,000. Boyçelik, also headquartered in Kayseri, introduced pencil pocket spring units with higher counts, as well. “We are more concentrated on pocket springs, built together with three to four levels,” says Selma Bargu, Boyçelik sales representative.
Topping it off
Microcoils are another innovation that gradually have expanded the meaning of the term hybrid mattress. These petite pocket springs are designed purely for comfort and are found in the top layers of mattresses.
“It gives you an independent sleep surface with no motion transfer,” says Martin Wolfson, president of Alvarado, Texas-based Texas Pocket Springs.
His company’s microcoils are made from 17-gauge high tensile wire using a 7-inch coil with seven convolutions squeezed into a 2 ½-inch pocket. “You only need one unit as a comfort layer that will never take a set,” he says.
Carthage, Missouri-based Leggett & Platt Inc. offers the NanoCoil line, which is being promoted with a new series of whimsical videos based around the adventures of NanoCoil Man. (Check them out at NanoCoilStory.com.)
“Our Nano line is designed to be incredibly durable, comfortable, and offer exceptional support through very high coil counts,” says Jason Jewett, vice president of product development for L&P. “Nano can also be added to a foam core creating a reverse hybrid of sorts.”
A few years ago, Hickory Springs and Leeds, England-based Spinks Springs partnered to bring Posturfil to the United States. It’s a microcoil, which, in Witherell’s words, “has taken off exceptionally well.” Posturfil coils are manufactured with the latest high-speed equipment and are extremely flexible, providing superior motion separation close to the bed’s surface. The two companies offer Posturfil variations made with all types of textiles—everything from spacer fabrics to perforated nonwovens to fabrics coated with temperature-regulating phase-change material or even traditional ticking, Witherell says. At ISPA EXPO, Hickory Springs created a splash introducing Evocoil, with Posturfil coils sewn right into the ticking on the mattress panel.
“Putting that product right on the sleep surface when everyone thought it had to be buried has caused people to rethink how microcoils can be used in a bed,” Witherell says. “It has certainly sparked conversations.”
At Interzum Cologne, Spinks Springs displayed the latest additions to the Posturfil family—micro pocket springs Aerocoil and NatureCoil. Aerocoil has a conical shape that rebounds quickly and is 20% lighter than other microcoils, says Darren Marcangelo, commercial director. NatureCoil, which comes in 22 millimeter or 38 millimeter heights, uses bamboo viscose on one side and calico cotton on the other.
Spinks Springs also showcased its Springs Anywhere technology, which enables mattress makers to design beds with zoned comfort based on coil arrangement, according to Marcangelo. You can position a soft coil or a firm coil anywhere, or rows can be skipped completely in the mattress comfort layer. “It’s perfect for zoning or doing a firm edge support,” he says.
On the edge, again
Not only are springs making their presence felt in the middle and top of mattresses, they also have returned to the edge of the bed.
L&P was one of the first to begin promoting edge-to-edge pocketed coils to replace the foam encasements that swept the industry during the previous 15 years.
“It’s been fun watching it take flight,” Jewett says. “We’re confident the trend will continue as our customers see a lot of advantages to it. It’s important to note that it’s not just about replacing the foam perimeter with a more durable edge but also increasing the throughput for the mattress manufacturer (by speeding up production).”
Nelson Wu, sales director for Andar, Macau-based Macau Commercial & Industrial Spring Mattress Manufacturing, agrees that it is a strong advantage.
“In the past, our customer would have to buy the springs and then have a worker glue the foam encasement and then put the spring into their production,” he says. “What we did this year through our machines, we made this unit a one-step process.”
According to Jewett, edge-to-edge coils offer other advantages. They allow innerspring mattresses to work well with adjustable bases. “In fact, we’ve shown that versus a typical foam rail, it’s about a 23% increase in conformity,” he says. “Most importantly, those products do very well in the world of e-commerce. It’s very tough to compress a foam-encased mattress and get it to recover adequately. The L&P development team designed the ActivEdge line so that it not only recovers, but recovers very quickly without delay for the consumer.”
In response to the industry’s movement away from foam-encased innerspring cores, L&P recently expanded the Activ-Edge offering by introducing the Caliber Edge perimeter line, which allows bedding manufacturers to use the concept in a broader product line.
Other springs suppliers are bringing or have brought out their own brand of coil edge support. Texas Pocket Springs has long promoted the concept that edge-to-edge wrapped coils create a more durable mattress, and it offers a unit with two rows of narrower coils on the seat edge made with a lower gauge wire. UT+C has invested in new machinery and will be debuting its Perimeter Plus in 2018.
But can you bend it?
One early advantage of foam-only mattresses was the ease of compressing, folding and roll packing the bed. But springs have quickly rebounded.
Wu notes that he made a trip earlier this year to study roll-packing products in the United States. “Can you roll pack springs? The answer is yes,” he says.
Pocketed coils can be compressed and rolled, as can microcoils, making them viable components for boxed beds in the growing e-commerce market.
Springs suppliers say adding their products to a mattress makes it more compelling for the online shopper.
“We’ve had customers come to us to get a hybrid story, to get a durability story, to get a better feel story than the traditional (all-foam boxed bed),” Witherell says. “They want that durability.”
As new products are created at L&P,e-commerce is a focus, Jewett says.
“We do rigorous testing on every product we produce now to make sure it can survive the roll-pack process,” he says. “The forces involved with compressing a mattress for e-commerce are quite brutal, and we’re confident our products are designed to withstand it.”
On the horizon
While innersprings have been popular in bedding for decades, the category has evolved to keep up with the changing world. Today’s suppliers already are looking down the road to the next big thing.
Hickory Springs’ Witherell predicts springs are going to continue to grow and evolve.
He also says to look for changes in machinery—the speed, the footprint, the fabrics being used to make a pocket coil. And look for coils to continue to move closer to the surface of the mattress.
At L&P, the future is now, Jewett says. “We have some very cool avenues we’re exploring for the future of innersprings. We may even see a new-to-the-industry category,” he says.
The company also has plans to further address the need for an e-commerce-friendly box spring to go under the mattress.
“We’ll continue to change the way people think about innersprings,” Jewett says. “The quantity of innerspring solutions available to the mattress manufacturer has expanded greatly in the last decade, and we intend to further accelerate the pace.”
Springs: the basics
Coils come in all shapes and sizes. In the support layer, there are the traditional Bonnell coils, which are hourglass shaped with the top and bottom edges knotted; continuous coils, made from a single wire; and encased coils, which are individually surrounded by fabric, which is then glued or welded together.
In an industry in which support, coolness and breathability are buzzwords, springs manufacturers tout the natural benefits of coils. Because coils act as bellows when compressed, airflow is never a problem, they say. The mattress doesn’t have issues with moisture retention or staying cool.
Springs also offer unparalleled support and are exceptionally durable. Innerspring mattresses don’t take on body impressions, makers say.
In addition, coils offer the most diversity of feels in a mattress, says Martin Wolfson, president of Texas Pocket Springs, with headquarters in Alvarado, Texas. “You can adjust the feel by increasing or decreasing the preload that you have,” he says. For example, putting a 10-inch coil inside an 8-inch pocket will feel firmer than putting a 9-inch coil in an 8-inch pocket. “Then you can adjust the feel by the number of coils you have in the unit and the gauge of the wire you’re using to make the coil … or by the number of convolutions in the actual spring,” he says.
Suppliers say springs offer environmental benefits
Suppliers often talk about the benefits of coils—breathability, durability, support. But some say there’s another element that fewer people talk about—sustainability.
Both Martin Wolfson, president of Alvarado, Texas-based Texas Pocket Springs, and Jason Jewett, vice president of product development for Carthage, Missouri-based Leggett & Platt Inc., note that springs have the potential to leave a smaller environmental footprint than other components.
Texas Pocket Springs specializes in glueless pocket coils, opting to weld the fabric together instead of gluing it. It also uses recycled steel in its springs. By adding polylactic acid fabric (the raw material comes from sugar cane or corn), the company makes a biodegradable, recyclable innerspring unit, Wolfson says. “For those manufacturing the natural mattresses, this fits into their story.”
Jewett says L&P pays attention to environmental responsibility and finds coils make less of a negative impact.
“The reduction in the petrochemical content of an innerspring versus an equivalently sized piece of foam is significant,” he says. “We think that is not discussed as often as it should be and is something that does translate well to the consumer.”
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