This guide presents a detailed exploration of progressive springs, their distinctive properties, and the use of variable spring rates to improve design effectiveness and efficiency.

1. Overview of Progressive Springs

Progressive springs, also known as variable rate springs, are unique mechanical components that possess an increasing spring rate. This essentially means that as the spring is compressed, the resistance to deformation (spring rate) increases. Unlike their constant rate counterparts, progressive springs offer a soft initial spring rate that stiffens under load.

2. Characteristics of Progressive Springs

Progressive springs are often identified by their non-linear load-deflection curves. A key characteristic is the increasing stiffness when subjected to higher loads, offering a versatile performance that can adapt to changing conditions.

Coil Spacing

Progressive springs often have variable coil spacing, with coils closer together at one end. Under light loads, the close-coiled sections collapse first, providing a softer response. As load increases, the wider-spaced coils begin to engage, leading to a stiffer overall spring rate.

Material Selection

Spring steel, particularly oil-tempered or chrome-silicon alloys, are commonly used materials for progressive springs due to their high tensile strength and resilience. Depending on the specific application, other materials such as phosphor bronze, stainless steel, or Inconel may be utilized.

3. Variable Spring Rates: Advantages and Applications

Variable spring rates can offer a range of benefits, primarily enhanced adaptability and versatility.


A variable spring rate can adapt to changing loading conditions, providing soft response under light loads and a stiff response under heavy loads. This property is advantageous where dynamic load changes occur.


Variable spring rate allows a single spring to perform multiple roles, from light to heavy-duty tasks, enhancing its versatility.

4. Examples of Progressive Springs in Industry

  1. Mountain Bikes: High-performance mountain bikes often use progressive springs in their suspension systems. During regular biking, the initial soft response of the spring provides a comfortable ride. But on rougher trails or during jumps, the spring rate increases to absorb larger impacts and protect the rider and frame from damage.

  2. Aircraft Landing Gears: Variable spring rates are crucial in aircraft landing gears, where they absorb the high-impact loads of landing and soften the contact with the ground. The variable rate allows the gear to adapt to different landing speeds and weights, offering a safer, smoother landing.

  3. Vehicle Suspension Systems: In automotive engineering, progressive springs are extensively used in vehicle suspension systems. They provide a smooth ride during normal driving conditions, but when the vehicle encounters rough terrain or high-speed cornering, the spring rate increases to improve handling and prevent bottoming out.

  4. Furniture and Seating: Progressive springs are also used in furniture design, particularly in seating. Under normal loads, the springs offer a comfortable, soft response. But when heavier loads are applied, the springs stiffen, maintaining the integrity and durability of the seat.

By understanding the principles and practical applications of progressive springs and variable spring rates, engineers can make more informed decisions on spring selection and design improvements. These concepts offer tools to enhance performance, versatility, and adaptability of systems, elevating the engineering solutions to a new level of efficiency.