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Compression vs. Tension Springs

For the general public most springs look alike, such as the tension and compression springs. However, they are designed to perform much different tasks. Their similarities exist in the design. Both are made up of a coil spring that is devised for elasticity and strength, but that is where their likeness ends. The main difference is that tension springs are meant to hold two things together while compression springs are designed to keep components from coming together. While they work in opposition with each other, they are both necessary for different products.


Compression Springs

Compression springs are not wound as tightly and are often made from a larger gauge wire. Its design is meant to resist compressive forces, and when it is in an extended position it is actually at rest. This type of spring is the most common kind and it is used in many different machinery and products. Examples include watches, mattresses, mobile phones, electrical switches, compressors, door locks, and pogo sticks. Compression springs are used in almost every industry, including infrastructure, automation, pulp and paper, and power generation.


Tension Springs

Tension springs are wound very tight and when they are coiled tightly together they are considered to be at rest. This spring type is designed to permit an outside force to produce tension and then it pulls the components back together. You can tell the difference between a tension spring and a compression one because the tension kind has a hook, screw plug, or loop attached to one of the ends for attachment purposes. Tension springs are found in trampolines, garage doors, industrial robots, and door locks.


Types of Spring Materials

Both tension and compression springs can be made up of a variety of materials, depending on the application, temperature, stress, and risk of corrosion. Examples of spring materials include:

  • Stainless steel
  • Copper alloys
  • Cold drawn and cold rolled low-alloy steel
  • Cold drawn wire
  • Titanium alloys
  • Bainite hardened strip
  • Hardenable spring steel


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