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What's the Difference Between a Wave Spring and a Coil Spring?

Nov. 28, 2023

Both wave springs and coil springs belong to the compression spring family. Although both serve the main purpose of offering axial load, wave springs possess distinct advantages and differences compared to traditional coil springs.


Wave Springs Save Space

The primary benefit of utilizing a wave spring lies in its ability to save axial space. Whether applied in static or dynamic scenarios, wave springs can be the optimal choice when space is limited.

The prominent distinction between a wave spring and a coil spring is their height. Despite delivering equivalent force and deflection, a wave spring occupies significantly less axial space. Wave springs can achieve up to a 509% reduction in height, primarily due to two key 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.


A flat wire coil spring, despite having a thinner cross-section than a regular coil spring, demands a greater free height to generate a similar load output. Conversely, a wave spring, also featuring a thin cross-section, requires the least free height. This is attributed to its distinctive Crest-to-Crest design, enabling comparable spring rates to a coil spring while offering space-saving advantages in the axial dimension.


Wave Spring

Frequently Asked Questions About Coil Springs vs. Wave Springs


1. Can a wave spring replace a coil spring?

Wave springs can generate similar forces to traditional coil springs while occupying about half the height. However, directly substituting a wave spring for a coil spring in an existing application isn't feasible without resizing the spring cavity. To harness all the benefits, wave springs must be specifically designed for the application.


2. Does a wave spring function the same as a coil spring?

Yes, both wave springs and coil springs apply force axially when compressed. A wave spring begins at free height and compresses to a work height, similar to a coil spring. The difference lies in energy storage and release: wave springs bend like a simple beam, transmitting complete axial load as their waves flatten, whereas coil springs twist during compression, potentially causing some force misalignment with the axis.


3. Can a wave spring match or exceed the spring rate of a helical coil spring?

In most cases, modifications like altering the number of waves, material thickness, or turns allow a wave spring to match or surpass the spring rate of a coil spring. Unlike coil springs that tolerate the spring rate, wave springs are load-toleranced at a working height.


4. Are wave springs cheaper than coil springs?

Wave springs can result in overall cost savings for the entire assembly. Their Crest-to-Crest design reduces the spring cavity, leading to smaller assemblies and significant cost reductions in the surrounding components. While wave springs might have a higher individual piece price, the overall assembly cost can be lower when designed into the application.


Key Points

- Both wave springs and coil springs transmit axial load but differ in their optimal applications.

- Wave springs excel in tight radial and axial spaces.

- Wave springs deliver comparable force and deflection in up to 50% less space than coil springs.

- Smaller and lighter assemblies with wave springs can lead to substantial cost and material savings during production.

Wave Spring