When designing a mechanical system, the prevention of resonance is a crucial step that often gets missed. This comprehensive guide aims to equip you with the knowledge of how to use springs to achieve this objective. The specific focus is on shifting the system's natural frequency away from resonance.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding Natural Frequency
  2. Spring Selection and Natural Frequency
  3. Evaluating Springs
  4. Case Studies
  5. Conclusion

Understanding Natural Frequency

Natural frequency is defined as the frequency at which a system tends to oscillate in the absence of any driving or damping force. Let's break this down further.

Defining Key Terms


The formula for natural frequency (fn) of a simple harmonic oscillator (neglecting damping and driving forces) is:

fn = (1 / 2π) * √(k / m) 


Please note that this is the basic formula for calculating natural frequency. More complex systems may require different calculations based on their unique attributes.

Spring Selection and Natural Frequency

Selecting the right spring for your system is crucial in controlling the natural frequency. In most mechanical systems, minimizing the effects of external vibrations is a critical design objective. To achieve this, the system's natural frequency should be different from the frequency of these external forces.

Key Considerations

Spring Constants and Types

Different types of springs come with different spring constants. Here are a few examples:

Evaluating Springs

When evaluating different springs for their ability to control the natural frequency, a few key aspects should be considered.

1. Material

The material of the spring affects its spring constant, and in turn, the natural frequency of the system. Springs can be made from a variety of materials, such as stainless steel, copper, bronze, or even plastic.

2. Size

The size of the spring, including the diameter and number of coils, can affect the spring constant and therefore the natural


3. Load

Consider the load that the spring will need to bear. This directly affects the spring constant and the natural frequency of the system.

Mathematically Choosing Springs to Modify System Natural Frequency

To choose springs that will effectively change the natural frequency and decrease resonance, we need to return to our natural frequency equation:

f = (1/2π) * sqrt(k/m)

Note that in many real life scenarios, this natural system frequency is determined experimentally or estimated via modal analysis.

Modifying the overall system stiffness, k, will also modify the natural frequency. When mounting a system on springs, we are essentially adding the springs' stiffness in series with the inherent stiffness of the system. This can be thought of as combining the stiffness of the system with the stiffness of the springs, similar to springs in series. The new total stiffness (k_new) is calculated with the following formula:

1/k_new = (1 / k_oldsystem) + (1 / k_springs)

In this equation, k_system represents the inherent stiffness of the system, and k_springs represents the effective stiffness of the springs used for mounting. Note that if multiple springs are used, k_springs should account for the combined stiffness of all springs. For example, if two springs are used in parallel, k_springs would be equal to k_spring1 + k_spring2.

Case Studies

In this section, we will examine two real-life case studies. They will demonstrate how the right spring selection, taking into consideration the system's natural frequency, contributed to successful outcomes.

Case Study 1: The Tacoma Narrows Bridge

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge is an example of a system that underwent catastrophic failure due to its natural frequency aligning with an external force - in this case, wind-induced vibrations. When the bridge was built in 1940, the engineers did not fully consider the effects of wind on the bridge's natural frequency. As a result, a resonance was created, causing the bridge to oscillate and eventually collapse just months after its completion. Had the engineers considered the effects of the wind and incorporated damping elements (like appropriate springs) into the design to shift the bridge's natural frequency away from the wind's, this disaster could have been averted.

Case Study 2: Vibration Isolation in Skyscrapers

In large structures like skyscrapers, the implementation of tuned mass dampers plays a crucial role in ensuring stability. Tuned mass dampers are large devices that typically consist of a mass, springs, and dampers, and are installed within the building to counteract vibrations. They are specifically designed to absorb and dissipate the energy from mechanical vibrations, thus protecting the building against the swaying caused by wind and seismic activity.

One notable example of this application is the Taipei 101 skyscraper in Taiwan, which incorporates a 660-metric-ton tuned mass damper. Contrary to calling it a pendulum, it’s more accurately a massive steel ball that is suspended from the upper floors of the building and connected to hydraulic dampers. This tuned mass damper is critically tuned to the building’s natural frequency. The function of the springs in this system is to allow the mass to move in opposition to the building’s movement. When the building sways in one direction due to wind or an earthquake, the mass moves in the opposite direction. The dampers dissipate the kinetic energy, preventing it from being transferred back into the building. By carefully selecting and designing the springs and dampers to have a frequency that effectively counteracts the frequencies of common sources of external vibrations (such as wind and earthquakes), the tuned mass damper ensures that the building remains stable and safe even under severe environmental forces. This highlights the critical importance and effectiveness of proper spring selection and tuning in relation to the natural frequency of a mechanical system for vibration isolation.


Selecting the right spring for your system is paramount in managing its natural frequency. To avoid harmful resonance, an understanding of the system's natural frequency is essential. Your spring selection should focus on the spring constant and, therefore, the overall system natural frequency.