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What's the difference between a wave spring and a coil spring?

Jul 02, 2023

By Sponsored Content | November 3, 2022

Custom or standard, Smalley takes great pride in its unparalleled dedication to delivering quality wave spring solutions for a variety of industries. Both wave springs and traditional coil springs fall under the category of compression springs. While the primary function of a compression spring is to provide axial load, wave springs have a few key differences and advantages when compared to coil springs.

Wave Springs Save Space

The key advantage of using a wave spring is in the axial space savings. Whether it is a static or dynamic application, wave springs may be the ideal solution where space is a constraint.

The apparent difference between a wave spring and a coil spring is the height. A wave spring can provide the same force and deflection as a coil spring but in considerably less axial space. Wave springs have up to a 50% reduced height, mainly because of the following two design features:

(1) Flat Wire

Coil springs are typically made of round wire, while wave springs use flat wire. Flat wire takes up less vertical space than round wire, which contributes to the reduction in work height.

(2) Waves

Just as the name implies, a wave spring has multiple waves per turn. The wave design contributes to the load output of the spring. In the image below, we have a flat wire coil spring, a traditional coil spring, and a wave spring, respectively.

Because a flat wire coil spring has a thinner cross-section in comparison to the coil spring, a taller free height is required to achieve a similar load output. On the other hand, a wave spring also has a thin cross-section, yet has the lowest free height. This is due to the unique Crest-to-Crest design, which allows for similar spring rates to a coil spring, but with axial space-saving capabilities.

Now that you understand the most notable difference between a coil spring and a wave spring, let's go over some commonly asked questions.

The difference between a wave spring and a coil spring lies in the way they store and release energy. Wave springs rely on bending, similar to a simple beam, whereas coil springs are torsional. As a load is applied, the waves on the wave spring begin to flatten to provide an upward force, allowing for complete axial load transmission. Coil springs, on the other hand, twist as they compress, so not all the force is necessarily aligned with the axis.

Bottom line? Wave springs may potentially have a higher piece price, but overall cost savings may be seen when designing a wave spring into your application.

Other applications where an alternative spring should be used is in cases where extension or torsion is required. Wave springs are designed for compression only.

Key Points

Interested in learning more about wave springs? Check out our new E-Book below.

Sponsored content by Smalley

Custom quality wave spring solutions compression springs provide axial load advantages Wave Springs Save Space axial space savings Wave springs have up to a 50% reduced height (1) Flat Wire (2) Waves Crest-to-Crest design Can a wave spring replace a coil spring? cannot be directly substituted for a coil spring application Does a wave spring provide the same function as a coil spring? bending torsional complete axial load transmission Can a wave spring be made with the same or higher spring rate, compared to a helical coil spring? Are wave springs cheaper than coil springs? save you money when considering the whole assembly Bottom line? So you’re telling me a wave spring can make my assemblies smaller and potentially save me money, why wouldn't I use this for everything? I’m using a coil compression spring in my assembly and am ready to switch to a wave spring design to help with space savings. What do I need to know to find the wave spring best suited for my application? Spring Application Checklist Key Points transmit axial load differ in the applications for which they are best suited for for tight radial and axial spaces same force and deflection as a coil spring in up to 50% less space Significant cost savings may be seen with a smaller, more light-weight assembly Interested in learning more about wave springs? Check out our new E-Book E-Book below.