Sustainable, breathable, durable — innersprings deliver innovative solutions to some of mattress makers’ most pressing concerns
Mattress makers can count on coils to satisfy myriad manufacturing and product design goals, according to innerspring suppliers.
Do you want the sleep environment to stay cooler? The space inherent within innerspring units creates good airflow, they say.
Are you looking for durable materials? Steel coils hold their shape and function well over the long term.
Do you want to reduce body impressions? Microcoils in the comfort layers won’t let you down.
“Innersprings play a significant role in providing sleepers with a great experience and will continue to do so as new strides in innerspring advancements occur,” says Cody Messner, vice president of sales for Leggett & Platt Inc.’s Bedding Group in Carthage, Missouri. “Leggett & Platt innersprings … deliver many benefits: resisting sagging and body impressions, reducing partner disturbance, improving durability and consistency, and enhancing air circulation, which leads to improved cooling/temperature regulation in order to experience optimal rest. It’s important to note innersprings are not limited to the mattress core and improve the sleep experience when incorporated into perimeters of mattress cores and within the comfort layer.”
Innerspring mattresses have long been the dominant mattress construction, particularly in the United States, but “with the introduction of viscoelastic foams, we experienced a significant challenge for the innerspring market,” says industry veteran Pat Flippin, who is director of sales for UT+C, a supplier of bedding components with a U.S. office in Danville, Virginia. UT+C’s supply partner, Correct, is a contract bedding manufacturer based in Nowe Skalmierzyce, Poland.
But, Flippin says, advancements in coil units have revitalized the category. And suppliers are responding to bedding manufacturers’ new needs.
“We feel we are the leader in innovative solutions for the ever-changing mattress industry and at no time in our over 70 years of innovation has more change occurred in the bedding industry than in the past five years,” says Brian Akchin, vice president of sales for A&S Innersprings USA in Windsor, Connecticut. A&S is part of Agro International GmbH & Co. KG in Bad Essen, Germany, which has produced innersprings since 1948 and now operates plants in Germany, Poland, Spain, South America and the United States.
Today, most innerspring advancements are being made in pocketed coils rather than traditional Bonnell or LFK units, with the latter two “being pushed into the lower priced items in the market,” says Tim Witherell, vice president and general manager for bedding at Hickory Springs, a components supplier in Hickory, North Carolina.
“Pocketed innersprings have become a major part of most mattress manufacturers’ requirements in recent years, and the trend is continuing in the markets we supply internationally,” adds Darren Marcangelo, managing director of Spinks, the springs division of bedding producer Harrison Spinks, based in Leeds, England.
Another change: Mattress manufacturers are seeking low-profile innerspring units to meet the construction and shipping requirements of boxed beds. The units also accommodate changing consumer preferences for sleeker bedrooms.
Here we’ll unwind other key trends in innersprings and look at some of the newest and most popular offerings from suppliers.
Better for boxed beds
The first boxed beds were all-foam constructions, and innerspring suppliers saw that if they were going to retain market share, they would need to create foldable, rollable and compressible units for the rapidly growing direct-to-consumer sales channel.
Innerspring suppliers say their units have properties well-suited for boxed mattresses.
“Our Micro products can be easily rolled and folded for boxed bed applications and can really add exceptional comfort to a foam construction,” Marcangelo says. The company’s pocketed Micro units are made of thin wire gauges and are available with a variety of zone configurations and fabric options. Spinks’ Micro Duo is a coil-in-a-coil construction.
Texas Pocket Springs’ Quadcoil unit can be folded and rolled, making it “the ideal unit for a hybrid boxed bed,” says Martin Wolfson, chief executive officer of the company, which has headquarters in Keene, Texas, outside Dallas. Texas Pocket Springs has been producing pocketed coils for more than 25 years using patented machinery. It offers units in heights from 2 ½ inches to 9 inches.
The company’s popular flat-top Quadcoil unit includes an outer belt that ensures the coils remain upright. The construction also prevents coils from hitching onto adjacent coils, creating a “very stable innerspring that will keep its form and shape, both in the manufacturing process and in normal to severe mattress use,” Wolfson explains.
Proper edge support has long been a mattress selling point. It keeps people from sinking into the bed when they sit on the perimeter and prevents sleepers from rolling off the side during the night. But in a boxed bed, edge support takes on new value, helping a mattress quickly return to its original shape after consumers unwrap it.
“The role of the innerspring in today’s market becomes even more important as the industry moves more and more into selling direct-to-consumer boxed beds. Hybrid products that use innersprings with enhanced edges, like our RelaxGuard, outperform those produced with a foam edge when unrolled by the consumer,” A&S Innersprings’ Akchin says.
Mattress manufacturers increasingly are interested in L&P’s full-perimeter innerspring products, including the patented Caliber Edge and the patent-pending Quantum Edge and Quantum Edge Elite, Messner says.
“These edge products support the demand for compressed hybrid mattresses and the growth in online channels,” Messner says. “The units have the added benefits of improving manufacturing efficiencies and reducing the number of components needed, when compared with producing foam-encased mattresses.”
To help create mattresses best suited for boxing, innerspring suppliers like L&P also are looking for ways to make lighter coil units that reduce the overall weight of mattresses, thus bringing down the costs to ship them, Messner says.
Is it sustainable?
Innerspring suppliers point to their products as among the most sustainable components in bedding, made as they are from recycled steel that is recyclable again at the end of a mattress’ life. As Messner notes, L&P’s innersprings “contain between 90% to 95% recycled steel.”
“End-of-life recycling is becoming more and more of how the industry will have to operate in the future,” Spinks’ Marcangelo says. “Making sustainable mattresses has to be the focus that the industry works together on to avoid such huge numbers (of mattresses) ending up in landfills or being incinerated. Trying to develop products that will help the mattress industry make more sustainable mattresses is key to our future strategic goals.”
But some pocketed springs can complicate sustainability goals. Both the steel coils and the fabric that encase them can be recycled, but when the two components are glued together, separating them takes additional time at recycling plants, and some glues can contaminate the fabric.
So, suppliers are coming up with new ways of producing fabric-encased springs.
As part of its green initiative, Agro offers A.NEXT Uni-Pocket PES, which uses recycled nonwovens, Akchin says. Both the glue and fabric are polyester-based so that after being separated from the wire, they can “be melted and reused without further separation,” according to the company.
“As the world looks for more and more environmentally sustainable products, we are well-prepared for the future with our A.NEXT Uni-Pocket PES that addresses the need for a greener innerspring,” Akchin says.
Texas Pocket Springs uses its Glueless pocketed coil assembler to “produce a unit that is 100% recyclable,” Wolfson says. It employs a thermally welded bond instead of a glued bond to affix the fabric to the wire. The company partners with Spinks to distribute the equipment in Europe.
“We are witnessing that sustainability in the furniture industry is becoming more than just a catch phrase,” Wolfson says. “Our customers are requesting more glueless units than ever before.”
The company plans to introduce advancements to its Glueless technology at ISPA EXPO 2022, which will be March 8-10 in Orlando, Florida. “We are working on a glueless system that will enable us to gluelessly attach a scrim sheet to the top and bottom of a glueless innerspring unit,” Wolfson says.
Spinks offers Flexecore, which Marcangelo describes as “our innovative, patented glueless innerspring system that makes end-of-life recycling much easier due to no contamination of the nonwoven with glue.” Spinks manufactures Flexecore in the United Kingdom. Through a partnership, Hickory Springs produces and distributes Flexecore in North America.
Hickory Springs’ Witherell notes that the product was granted Greenguard Gold Certification, and says that his company is expanding its capacity to produce innersprings by adding equipment to its plants in Phoenix and Sheboygan, Wisconsin. “This will allow us to service national accounts with multiple locations, reducing freight costs and lead times for our customers,” Witherell says.
Innersprings have broken the binds that once kept them confined to the mattress core and now appear in every portion of the bed, providing comfort, as well as support.
UT+C offers its patented Foam Pocket Spring, in which various sizes and shapes of foam can be inserted into wire coils. “This combination of wire and foam within a single unit can produce any level of support and comfort that both the manufacturer and consumer are looking for,” Flippin says.
Spinks is developing a 3 ½-inch Flexecore unit that Marcangelo says “will make an ideal pillow-top.” It also will be suitable for use with the company’s 5-inch and 7-inch Flexecore and Micro products.
Made from recycled steel and using ultrasonic welds, L&P’s pocketed NanoCoil microcoil is an environmentally friendly option for the sleep surface, Messner says. It is available in heights from 1 inch to 1 ½ inches, and in plush and firm feels. NanoCoil units resist body impressions and sagging on the mattress surface and can be zoned for additional comfort.
Claiming territory reserved for “commodity base foam,” L&P also has introduced Eco-Base. “This product is attached to our ComfortCore (innerspring) products and shipped to our customers ready to insert into the mattress manufacturing process,” Messner says. “It improves the shape and stability performance of core units. … Customers should experience improved throughput, along with an opportunity to reduce SKUs and overhead costs.”
The Sobering Reality of the Supply Chain
The advancements in innersprings are giving mattress manu-facturers new ways of using them, but suppliers say they are frustrated by worldwide supply chain delays and shortages that can make it challenging to get their components to producers.
“At this time, manufacturers are looking for reliability of supply,” says Tim Witherell, vice president and general manager for bedding at Hickory Springs in Hickory, North Carolina. “Raw material shortages, labor challenges and logistical obstacles seem to be the norm these days. We’re working harder every day to try to help solve our customers’ problems.”
Pat Flippin agrees. “In the unprecedented period starting in 2020 affecting the supply of components (including wire and nonwoven materials) and continuing today, the focus has been on availability of product,” says Flippin, director of sales for UT+C in Danville, Virginia.
But, Flippin says, when shortages and delivery delays eventually abate, “I feel there will be ‘bottled-up’ ideas and products that will surface.”