Compression springs work by resisting and pushing back against any downward or inward force that tries to squash and hold them in a compressed state. They push back against these forces, always seeking to return to their natural open or slightly extended state when not held under pressure.
Another effective way to answer the question ‘how do compression springs work?’ is to contrast them with different types of springs. Nearly all springs in widespread use are described and defined by the way they should be loaded.
Common examples of products that rely on different types of loads, torques and forces to coil springs include (ex)tension and (ex)torsion models.
- A tension spring is designed to create a pulling force. It is installed and held under tension while fully extended and will immediately try to return to a fully contracted state when released. In this sense, it effectively performs as the opposite of a coil spring
- A torsion spring is held in twisted rotation around its central axis, such that it wants to snap back when pressure is released (or applied, in the case of an extorsion spring). Clothes pegs, chair adjustment controls, workshop clamps, and many types of hinges are all everyday examples of a torsion/extorsion spring in action
The amount of force that a compression spring can resist - in other words, the overall strength, stiffness, or spring rate of a given product - depends on various metrics and specifications. These include its physical design, material strength, and manufacturing methods.
However, generally, the best way to manufacture a compression spring to be stronger or weaker is to adjust the ratio of wire diameter to overall spring diameter. Thicker wire or a narrower coil will make the spring rate higher, while thinner wire or a larger diameter coil will result in a weaker spring force.