Finding the Perfect Material

Just how do you choose a material for a spring? Rule of thumb and ‘well, we’ve always used this for similar stuff, so we’ll go with it again’ will often work, but there are occasions when there may be a special requirement in the design of a spring that means reaching for the specification sheets before we start to find a material that will do the job.

For many years IST’s Spring Material Selector CD was the first port of call for members wanting to quickly find a material to meet a specific need.  In 2012, the CD was retired and replaced by an online service – the Spring Material Selector (SMS) ( which provides a searchable database of over 600 material specifications.

In this article I’ll show you how this list can be reduced to a more manageable size by using the SMS’s  search function.   If you’d like to try this out yourself, contact Joe Pritchard ( ) for a free trial account on the SMS.

When you start searching with the SMS, you’ll see the Search Dialogue, listing the 653 material specifications currently in the database.

We can now reduce this number by selecting search criteria from the left of the dialogue.  For example – we’re looking to design a constant force spring for use in a system carrying high temperature steam (over 100 C) in a marine / brine contaminated atmosphere.

The first step is to select the spring type – SMS supports a range of different spring types – not just the common Compression, Extension, Torsion, etc. We realise that not all materials are suitable for all types of spring design.  After selecting from the list you’ll see that the list of available material specifications has now been reduced to 96.

We can also select the temperature range – let’s try a temperature range of 150-200°C – and also specify the Environment as ‘Marine Environment’ – we now get a much more manageable list of 23 materials that meet the criteria you’ve entered.

We can now start looking at these materials by selecting them from the list of specifications and examining them side by side, if we want to.

The SMS will allow you to produce a ‘datasheet’ in PDF format of any or all of the material specifications that you have found, that you can print off or email to colleagues.

The best way to see the value in the SMS is to take out a trial subscription with us; contact me, Joe Pritchard ( and I’ll be delighted to set you up a week’s free trial.

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