Spring-damper shock absorbers play key roles in numerous systems - from automobiles to robots. This equipment function to dissipate energy stemming from shocks and vibrations, promoting a more balanced and consistent environment. Think of a car journey over rough terrain, where these absorbers mitigate the ride's strain by reducing disturbances from uneven surfaces. However, creating these important parts isn't a simple task, and consideration must be given to various elements including system demands and workload capacity. Our goal with this article is to provide guidance on the key facets to consider when designing these shock absorbers, enhancing their performance in your respective projects.

Requirements for a Shock Absorber

A shock absorber must fulfill certain performance standards. It should be resilient and strong to tolerate the forces faced during operation. For example, in auto suspension systems, shock absorbers experience high impact forces. In such a scenario, materials like chromium-vanadium alloys, which have high tensile strength, are used to manage these dynamic loads.

The damping qualities are also crucial in shock absorber design. The damping coefficient of a shock absorber must be adjusted in line with its application such that the force applied is balanced to stop the object in time, while not applying a large load on impact.

A shock absorber must convert the kinetic energy from shocks or vibrations into thermal or another non-disruptive form of energy. As an example, in a spring-damper shock absorber used in vehicles, the apparatus should change kinetic energy into thermal energy and disperse this changed thermal energy, supporting smooth operations. This consideration focuses on thermal management in shock absorber design.

In addition, a shock absorber must demonstrate durability and functionality under different environmental conditions. Along with strength, the choice of material should also factor in the resistance to corrosion, temperature fluctuations, and abrasive wear, particularly for use in challenging industrial settings.

Essentially, the design of a spring-damper shock absorber revolves around the balance of these needs with the specific factors of the application.

How to Choose the Spring

The selection of a spring for a shock absorber is an intricate process. The spring's characteristics, such as its spring rate, play a significant role in its operation. A higher spring rate corresponds to a firmer spring, which can accommodate higher than average loads, as seen in off-road vehicles. It provides reliable handling and stability. However, a firmer spring may reduce the ride's smoothness. Balancing necessary load bearing capabilities and comfort level is a critical factor in the decision-making process.

Furthermore, it is important to select the right spring material based on the shock absorber's operating conditions. For example, beyond strength considerations, the material should be able to resist environmental challenges. While steel offers strength, it may not be suitable for corrosion-prone settings. Stainless steel, providing both strength and corrosion resistance, might be a better alternative. In contrast, if the application requires electrical conductivity, copper-based alloys could be appropriate.

Lastly, the fatigue life of the spring should be considered. It refers to the capacity of a spring to withstand load cycles without undergoing deformation. For an automotive shock absorber, a spring with a long fatigue life would require less frequent maintenance, translating directly into extended product life. Despite a potentially higher upfront cost due to the need for superior materials, compromising on spring lifespan and durability could lead to unwanted consequences such as frequent part replacements or even failures.

After you have an idea of the spring you want to use, check out our Compression Spring Calculator to find a spring off the shelf that fits your requirements.

How to Choose the Damper

Designing shock absorbers requires selecting a damper, taking into account three aspects: damping ratio, material, and operating conditions. The damping ratio provides a measurement for the speed at which disturbances are reduced within the system. A higher damping ratio leads to quicker disturbance recovery but may decrease system responsiveness. Engineers need to calculate a damping ratio that matches the project's performance requirements.

The damper material contributes to the functional parameters and the system's operating environment. For instance, aluminum, known for its heat dissipation characteristics, is suitable for high-temperature environments. In contrast, for applications that require high mechanical strength, materials like steel may be more appropriate. Thus, the damper material should be selected based on functional needs and environmental conditions.

Environmental Considerations

In the design process of spring-damper shock absorbers, engineers need to assess the array of environmental conditions where these shock absorbers may be utilized. In context of high temperatures, such as those experienced in an automobile's suspension system, or in potentially corrosive environments, the selection of the correct material is crucial. It is of utmost importance that the chosen material is capable of maintaining its original properties under these harsh conditions, to prevent system failure and reduce product life.

The impact of varying and elevated temperatures on a spring-damper shock absorber becomes noticeable when it causes changes in the original properties of the material. Selecting an appropriate material can help to resolve this problem. For instance, stainless steel is a material which is recognized for its ability to endure high temperatures, and springs that have been coated with powder also show good performance under high temperature conditions. The utilization of these materials could increase the duration of the shock absorber's functional life.

In addition to the choice of materials, one must also consider methods to physically protect the shock absorber. This can involve the use of seals and a protective enclosure to keep dust or water from entering and interfering with the system's functionality. In the case of automobiles, dust capsules or protective boots can fulfill this role, serving to protect the shock absorber system from damaging particles.


The design of spring-damper shock absorbers is dependent on their specifications and usage conditions. Learning about shock absorbers assists in picking the right spring and damper for your design. It's also vital to bear in mind the environmental conditions the damper will face, as they significantly affect the lifespan and operation of the shock absorber. Remembering these factors when designing a shock absorber will ensure its proper function and durability in your project.