A failing slinky is another intriguing physics phenome that can be easily reproduced with MapleSim.

The bottom of a vertically suspended slinky does not move when the top is released until the slinky is fully collapsed.



To model this realistically in MapleSim, it is necessary to

  • Establish a stretched equilibrium state at the start of the fall
  • Avoid penetration of windings when windings collapse (i.e. get into contact)

The equilibrium state is achieved with the snapshot option. Penetration is avoided with the Elasto Gap component. Details can be found in the attached model.

A good overview of “Slinky research” is given here. The paper provides a continuous description of the collapse process (using an inhomogenous wave equation combined with contact modeling!!!) and introduces a finite time for the collapse of all windings. Results for a slinky are presented that collapses after 0.27s. The attached model has sufficient fidelity to collapse at the same time.

Real Slinkies also feature a torsional wave that precedes the compression wave and disturbs an ideal collapse. This can be seen on slowmo footage and advanced computer models. With a torsion spring constant at hand (are there formulas for coil springs?), it could also be modeled with MapleSim.


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