A joint-like component of a mandrel assembly which attaches balls to each other and to the nose of the mandrel shank. The link originates from a segmented tool patented in the 1890’s to form the spouts of tea kettles and underwent considerable refinement until the late 1950’s with the introduction of the universally flexing H-style link. The H-style link remains the predominant style today with the only major improvement being the development of the single-piece poppet variety in the late 1980’s.
An alternative to link construction of a mandrel assembly is cable construction. The mandrel (or insert) link, center link, and end link are replaced by a cable which strings a series of balls together. One end of the cable is anchored inside the mandrel shank and the other is capped with a small ball or plug. A spring mounted over the anchor usually provides the tension that prevents the cable from drooping under the weight of the balls. Although cable construction overcomes the inherent weaknesses of the H-style link design at the extreme ends of its range of performance, cables lack the durability, easy replacement of components, and reliability in high production of links.