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Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270

Distribution of support reaction against a steel

girder on a launching shoe
Per Granath*
Division of Steel and Timber Structures, Chalmers University of Technology, S-412 96 Göteborg,

Received 30 October 1995; received in revised form 2 December 1997; accepted 19 January 1998


A bridge girder with a slender steel web being incrementally launched is basically a “patch
loading” problem. This paper reports results from laboratory experiments, finite element analy-
ses and analytical calculations, concerning the distribution of the reaction force against an I-
shaped steel girder launched on a launching shoe with a slide bearing. A girder placed on a
launching shoe, consisting of a tiltable steel bearing with a polythene slide plate on its top,
is investigated. The design calculations for the pertinent load case are generally performed
with equations valid for the case of a uniformly distributed load. The investigations show that
the support reaction has a non-uniform distribution of bearing stress. The results also indicate
that the distribution of the support reaction can be described with an analytical model
developed here.  1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.


bf Width of flange plate
E Young’s modulus of the steel
Eb Secant modulus of elasticity of the slide plate material
I Moment of inertia of the girder
M Global bending moment in the girder
rg Radius of girder curvature due to bending moment
rs Radius of launching shoe
tb Thickness of slide bearing plate

* E-mail:

0143-974X/98/$19.00  1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

PII: S 0 1 4 3 - 9 7 4 X ( 9 8 ) 0 0 0 0 6 - 6
246 P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270

tf Thickness of flange plate

tw Thickness of web plate

1. Introduction

Incremental launching has proven to be an economical and convenient method for

the erection of bridge girders. It means that segments of the girders are assembled
on the ground behind an abutment, joined together and launched out incrementally,
sliding on support bearings, to their permanent position. Designing the bearing
capacity of the girder in the launching stage, mainly concerns finding the capacity
for the web plate. The load case is a “patch loading” problem also often involving
a relatively large bending moment. The web is subjected to both concentrated vertical
load from the launching supports, and horizontal stress due to the global bending
The patch loading problem has been studied by many researchers during the past
decades, see Roberts and Rockey [1], and most recently Johansson and Lagerqvist
[2]. Most researchers concentrate on the ultimate load bearing capacity without tak-
ing any special interest in the magnitude of the flange deformation into the web.
The size of this deformation can be of vital interest when designing for launching.
In addition, some contributions dealing with the patch loading problem, also with
concern to the launching conditions, have been presented [3].
When investigating this patch load problem, by experiments or analyses, the nature
of the launching support needs to be dealt with properly. That is, the distribution
length and also the shape of the distribution of the bearing stress at the support, can
influence the behavior of the web. This subject has so far mainly been dealt with in
two ways, either the force is considered to be uniformly distributed, or the support
is considered to be perfectly plane and stiff. However, the launching shoes are often
slightly curved in the longitudinal direction with the purpose of preventing the girder
from “riding” on the edges due to the global bending of the beam.
At Chalmers University of Technology an ongoing research project deals with the
patch loading problem that occurs when launching slender steel bridge girders. Ber-
gholtz and Granath [4] presented field measurements and found that the distribution
of vertical stress in the web, directly above the launching shoe, was clearly concen-
trated on the center of the bearing. When performing finite element analyses it was
also found that the stress distribution roughly corresponded to an equivalent support
reaction consisting of a uniformly distributed bearing stress along only one third of
the actual length of the shoe. These observed stress distributions indicate that the
girders are not supported along the full length of the launching shoe. Also, Granath
[5] showed that for a slender girder, subjected to a relatively concentrated load, the
ultimate limit state (ULS) is reached well before yielding occurs in the flange, i.e.
while the local curvature of the flange is still not very large. This indicates that the
web plate might lose its load-carrying capacity before the flange can form itself to
rest on the whole length of a curved slide bearing.
P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270 247

Even if the girder is be supported along the whole length of the shoe before the
loading has passed the ULS, it is more likely that the launching situation should be
governed by a serviceability limit state (SLS) defined by limiting the the damage
made to the girders during launching.
To gain deeper understanding of how the web is loaded by the shoe, investigations
have been carried out with (i) experimental studies, (ii) finite element analyses, and
(iii) development of a simple analytical model for the phenomenon. These investi-
gations are presented in Sections 2–4.

2. Experimental investigation

The laboratory experiments were performed as a Master’s thesis by Gustafsson

and Wribe [6]. The aim of the investigations was to study how long the loading
length is for a steel girder on a launching shoe. However, since it would be difficult
to measure the support pressure along the girder, the measurements were instead
made at the steel web directly above the launching shoe. These data were later trans-
lated to a corresponding support pressure along the launching shoe. The tests were
carried out using one launching shoe, one test girder and only one type of slide plate.
However, the tests were performed with different kinds of loading conditions.
The type of launching shoe used is common when launching bridges in Sweden.
It is quadratic 600 × 600 mm with a height of 415 mm. The top plate has a curvature,
which is not perfectly circular, but has a radius within the range of 10–20 m. The
shoe is tiltable at mid-height around a horizontal axis perpendicular to the launching
direction, see Fig. 1. The shoe is intended for working loads up to 800 kN.
The slide plate was made of 30 mm thick polythene. The material is in Sweden
is sold under the name “Andralén Ultra DS”, has an extremely high molecular weight
and very condensed molecular chains which give a high resistance to wear. The plate
was 600 mm long and 400 mm wide.
The welded test girder was 3000 mm long, having flanges 20 × 210 mm and a
web 8 × 500 mm. The girder also had end plates with the dimensions 25 × 210 ×
560 mm. The prescribed characteristic yield stress of the material was 350 MPa.
The strains in the web plate were measured using 22 strain gauges, 11 at each
side of the web. They were placed 20 mm above the bottom flange, with a distance
of 100 mm between them. The gauges measured strain in three directions (0°, 45°,
and 90°), and were 10 mm long. Thus, the strains were measured along a 1 m long
part of the web and on both sides of it, see Fig. 2.

2.1. Test 1—stress straincurve of the slide plate material

To investigate the load–deformation behavior of the slide plate material, 12 test

specimens were fabricated. These circular specimens had a diameter of 100 mm. The
thickness was still 30 mm. Six of them were made from an unused slide plate, while
the other six were cut out from a slide plate that had been used at several bridge laun-
248 P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270

Fig. 1. Launching shoe.

Fig. 2. Launching shoe with test girder.

P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270 249

The specimens were placed between plane steel surfaces, and loaded in com-
pression up to three different load levels (50, 100 and 180 kN) corresponding to
mean stress levels of 6.4, 12.7 and 22.9 MPa. For each load level two previously
used and two unused pieces of material were tested. The loading procedure was
as follows:
1. During 1 min the load was increased from zero to the desired level, while the
deformation was registered every third second.
2. Then the load was kept constant during the next 24 h, while the deformation was
registered at least every 20 min.
Fig. 3 presents results for three specimens of the previously used material, G5,
G3 and G1, one for each load level. These results are representative for all tests.
Some comments can be made regarding the test results:
앫 Due to the dimensions of the test specimens the tests can hardly be regarded as
uniaxial, and therefore the stress/strain ratio is not regarded as Young’s modulus
for the material. Instead it will just be called secant modulus, while the stress
increment/strain increment ratio will be called tangent modulus.
앫 The material is so viscous that the short term tangent modulus is both difficult
to determine and less interesting. However, for stresses less than 10 MPa it is
estimated to be 500–600 MPa.
앫 The long term secant modulus depends highly on the stress level. For stress levels
in the range of 4–10 MPa it is approximately 200 MPa, and for higher stress

Fig. 3. Test results for the slide plate material. The first three diagrams show results from the first minute
of the loading process, while the fourth diagram shows results from the later part of the loading process.
250 P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270

levels, 20 MPa, it decreases to just above 100 MPa. Most of the long term effects
in the secant modulus are reached within 20–30 min after loading.

2.2. Test 2—friction in the tiltable bearing

The aim was to study if friction against rotation, in the tiltable bearing, influences
the distribution of vertical stresses in the web. Fig. 2 shows the test setup. The two
jacks, one load-controlled and the other deformation-controlled, were placed at a
distance of 450 mm from the center of the bearing.
First the jacks were loaded with 150 kN each. Then the deformation-controlled
jack was released to rotate the girder 1.08°, which made the tiltable bearing rotate
0.96°. Now the strains in the web plate were registered, see Fig. 4, in which “front
side” and “back side” refer to the two surfaces of the web plate. During the release
of the jack the load level decreased to 100 kN (while the load-controlled jack still
kept its load at 150 kN). Due to this, the results are somewhat difficult to analyze.
The decrease of load was probably due to friction between the jacks and the girder.
Measurements were also done for smaller rotations, and the test was repeated with
a doubled load level. All results do, however, show the same trend as the one in
Fig. 4. The large value of the peak stress in one of the curves is probably due to
fluctuating strain data.

Fig. 4. Test results from the rotation friction test.

P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270 251

2.3. Test 3—stress distribution and girder curvature

This test, which comprises the main part of the laboratory tests performed, aimed
at investigating the influence of the girder curvature due to global bending moment
on the distribution of the bearing stress in the slide plate.
The setup for the test was in principle the same as the one in Fig. 2, although
now both jacks were hydraulic and load-controlled. The curvature of the girder was
varied by relocating the load cells from positions almost straight above the shoe to
positions at the ends of the girder. The loading was always symmetrical with respect
to the central axis of the bearing. The loading positions used were: 0.20; 0.40; 0.75;
and 1.40 m from the center of the shoe. The tests were performed at the following
load levels: 50; 100; 150; 200; 250; 300; and 350 kN at each load cell.
Strains were registered both immediately after each increase of load, and after
10–15 min when the received strain data had stabilized. Some results are presented
in Fig. 5, where the strains have been used to calculate the corresponding stresses
using the relation
␴vertical = (⑀ + ␯⑀horizontal) (1)
1 ⫺ ␯2 vertical
where E = 210 GPa and ␯ = 0.3.
The tests led to an important observation which is also of interest in launching

Fig. 5. Test results from the girder curvature test. Results are shown for a load level of 200 kN and
load positions 0.20 m and 1.40 m from the center. /1 is taken immediately after loading, and /2 is taken
when the data values had stabilized. Values are shown for both the front side and the back side of the
web plate. The strains were measured 20 mm above the bottom flange.
252 P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270

situations. The stresses varied significantly between the two sides of the web plate.
In some tests this also caused yielding at one side of the web plate. The difference,
in the distribution of stresses, between the two sides was probably due to one, or
some, of the following reasons: the bearing was not perfectly horizontal; the bottom
flange was not perfectly perpendicular to the web; the girder was not placed with
the web vertically; or the loading was not applied vertically. All but the last of these
factors can influence girders being launched. The tensile stress at the back side of
the web could possibly be caused by bending of the web plate due to the mentioned
imperfections. It is possible to estimate the magnitude of the eccentricity by calculat-
ing the area between the front and back curves in the figure. For the test [L200a140/2]
the eccentricity was found to be 0.75 mm, less than a tenth of the web thickness.
For the curve [L200a140/1—Front], the value at the center of the bearing is some-
what lower than the values for the other front curves. However, in the later regis-
tration the corresponding curve [L200a140/2—Front] is more symmetrical. These
differences were quite common during the tests, and that is also why the registrations
were made in two steps.

2.4. Test 4—horizontal friction

When a bridge girder is subjected to horizontal forces by the launching jacks,

friction forces arise between the bottom flange and the slide plate. This combination
of forces causes an unsymmetrical distribution of vertical stress. In this part of the
tests, the girder was pushed horizontally while strains and friction forces were stud-
The test setup was similar to the one for tests 2 and 3, see Fig. 6. The horizontal
force was introduced into the girder as shown in the right part of the diagram. To
make sure all horizontal reaction force was taken up only by the slide plate, a special
arrangement was made. The vertical load was applied via steel rollers. Between the
rollers and the load cells a horizontal massive steel bar was placed, see Fig. 6. The
bar was held still horizontally via another load cell which registered any possible
horizontal reaction forces. No such significant forces occurred.
As common at bridge launchings, the underside of the bottom flange was greased
with soap before the “launching”. However, the steel flange was not painted at all.
Several (eight) conditions of vertical loading were tested. The vertical jacks were
placed 450 and 750 mm from the center of the bearing, and the tests were performed
with the load levels 100, 200, 300 and 350 kN in each jack.
The relation between horizontal load and horizontal displacement are presented
in Fig. 7 for the loading condition: V = 350 kN, a = 450 mm. Also shown is the
change of vertical stress when the horizontal load is applied while the vertical is
held constant.
As can be seen in Fig. 7, the position of the peak stress moved away approximately
10 cm from the center of the bearing. The calculated coefficients of friction are
presented in Table 1, where the mean value is 0.193.
P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270 253

Fig. 6. Test setup for the horizontal friction test.

Fig. 7. Test results for vertical load 350 + 350 kN, each at 450 mm from the bearing center.

2.5. Summary of the experimental test results

The first test showed that the investigated slide plate material is highly viscous.
This makes both testing and design situations more complex. However, in real
launching situations, the load on the slide bearing is incrementally increased during
a longer period of time, so that in design situations the long term “secant modulus”
will be the most interesting one. This modulus varies with the subjected stress.
The second test showed that when the bearing is rotated by the girder, the stress
distribution is still almost symmetrical. The peak value of the stress is probably
not influenced.
In the third test, it was shown that geometrical imperfections can affect the stress
254 P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270

Table 1
Load levels at the overcome of friction for the eight tests

Left vertical load Distance (mm) Right vertical load Horizontal load Friction (␮)
(kN) (kN) (kN)

97.8 450 + 450 109.1 51.4 0.248

196.7 450 + 450 208.5 82.4 0.203
295.8 450 + 450 311.8 120.5 0.198
348.0 450 + 450 360.9 131.2 0.185
100.1 750 + 750 106.3 43.7 0.212
198.5 750 + 750 208.3 67.0 0.165
297.4 750 + 750 308.9 99.5 0.164
347.4 750 + 750 361.3 116.8 0.165

distribution considerably. It was also obvious that the curvature of the girder did not
influence the distribution above the tested bearing.
The fourth test revealed a coefficient of friction varying from 0.16 to 0.25. More-
over it was found that the stress distribution is not symmetrical when friction forces
are present in the bearing.

3. Finite element analysis

Analyses, by means of the finite element method, have been made to simulate the
behavior of the girder in Test 3 (see above). These calculations were performed
using the program ABAQUS [7].
The girder was modeled with 8-node doubly curved shell elements with reduced
integration (S8R), cf. Fig. 8. To model the connection between the web shell
elements and the flange shell elements correctly, gaps were inserted between the
web and the flanges. These gaps were given the size of half the flange thickness,
and the corresponding nodes of the flange and web plates were tied together with
multi-point constraints simulating stiff beams. Since the problem is symmetrical with
respect to a vertical plane through the center of the bearing, only half of the girder
and bearing was modeled.
The slide plate was modeled as a number of spring elements (SPRING2) between
the flange and an “infinitely stiff tiltable bearing”, see Fig. 9. The spring elements
had stiffness only in the vertical direction, and the initial gap between girder and
slide plate (due to the different curvatures of bearing and girder) was taken into
account in the spring characteristics. The springs were included in the model at all
nodes within the area of the slide plate, which means that springs were inserted at
both corner nodes and mid-edge nodes in the 8-node elements of the bottom flange.
To distribute the pressure of the slide plate to the nodes, 3/52 of an elements area
was given to each corner node and 10/52 of the area was given to each mid-edge
node. Hence, the springs at the mid-edge nodes were more than three times stiffer
than the springs at the corner nodes. When doing this, the slide plate was considered
P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270 255

Fig. 8. FE model with shell elements for (half of) the girder and spring elements for the slide plate.

Fig. 9. Modeling of slide plate with spring elements.

to have the same width as the bottom flange. The springs were modeled as non-
linearly elastic, with a stress–strain curve according to the results of Test 1 (see
above). The relationship used is presented in Table 2.
The dimensions of the girder model were chosen according to the experimental
investigation, see above. The tiltable bearing was modeled as fully rigid and analyses
were made for two different radii of the bearing curvature: 10 m and 20 m.
256 P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270

Table 2
Stress–strain curve of slide plate

Stress (MPa) Young’s Modulus (MPa)

0–6.4 200
6.4–12.7 170
12.7–22.9 115
22.9– 100

The material model for the steel was linearly elastic–plastic with a von Mises
yield criterion, an associated flow rule and isotropic hardening. The yield stress was
350 MPa and the stress–strain relation was chosen according to the Swedish codes,
see Table 3. The analyses were taking account of non-linear geometry, and the sol-
utions were found using the Newton–Raphson method.
Calculations have been made for two load cases with point loads placed 0.20 and
1.40 m respectively from the center of the bearing (i.e. the plane of symmetry). This
distance is denoted a. The external load was applied as a point load on a flange
element. Even though this can produce local yielding in the model it is still con-
sidered acceptable since the analyses were made using load control and since yielding
of that region is of no interest for the current problem. The load level used in the
simulation was 200 kN and then the simulations were continued up to failure. To
clarify, the load level 200 kN means that the total load on the bearing is 400 kN.
The vertical stress in the web plate (of the FE model) is presented in Figs 10 and
11, where the FE results are mirrored to make it easier to compare them with the
results of the laboratory tests. The positions of these stress values are the same as
for the ones measured in the laboratory tests, i.e. 20 mm above the bottom flange.
In the FE analyses the stresses were the same at the two sides of the web plate,
while in the laboratory tests they differed between the sides. The fact that the labora-
tory results show a somewhat higher peak stress could be due to the fact that the
FEA were made with an infinitely stiff launching shoe.
All of the following FE results are presented only for the cases with a 20 m radius
of curvature of the bearing.
The overall deformation is shown in Figs 12 and 13.

Table 3
Stress–strain curve of girder steel

Stress (MPa) Strain (%)

0 0
350 0.166
350 1.381
470 4.857
470 ⬁
P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270 257

Fig. 10. Vertical stress when loading 0.20 m from the center.

Fig. 11. Vertical stress when loading 1.40 m from the center.
258 P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270

Fig. 12. Deformation when loaded 0.20 m from the center (magnified 100 times).

Fig. 13. Deformation when loaded 1.40 m from the center (magnified 100 times).

From the results of the FEM simulation it is also possible to study the behavior
of the bottom flange. The vertical displacement of the flange–web-joint is displayed
in Fig. 14. It is seen that the bottom flange is pushed into the web locally above the
slide bearing. This is most obvious for the load case with less bending moment. The
FEA data also showed that these web deformations are within the elastic range, i.e.
there is no yielding in the web at this load.
P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270 259

Fig. 14. Vertical displacement of the bottom flange along the girder.

When examining the curve “a = 200 mm right scale” in Fig. 14 it shows a

0.075 mm dip in the first 15 cm, which as a circular curvature corresponds to a radius
of 150 m. The bending stress in the flange due to this is
Etf 210.103 × 0.020
␴= = = 14 MPa (2)
2rg 2 × 150

The mentioned deformation of the flange will “shorten” it locally, i.e. the part of
the bottom flange that is outside the deformed part will move towards the center of
the bearing. This reduces the overall stiffness of the cross section. For the load case
with more bending moment it also seems like most of the bending deformation of
the girder is produced in that area.
The perfect geometry of the FEM simulation, and the elastic foundation of the
girder, produced a deformation of the bottom flange across the width, see Fig. 15.
(This elastic deformation was not obtained in the laboratory tests, since the flanges
were already deformed in this way due to the welding.)
The resulting pressure in the slide plate is presented in Fig. 16. This pressure was
calculated by taking the forces in the spring elements of the FE model, and dividing
these force values with the “influence area” of each node.

4. Analytical model

Since the purpose of using slide bearings is to obtain longer support lengths, it is
obvious that it would be valuable to have an expression to calculate that length. The
260 P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270

Fig. 15. Vertical displacement of the bottom flange across the girder.

Fig. 16. Calculated pressure in the slide plate.

P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270 261

load level and the distribution of the support pressure govern the loading length. To
model this distribution over the launching shoe, consideration is here taken to both
the curvature of the launching shoe and the curvature of the girder, as well as of
both the original thickness tb and Young’s modulus Eb of the slide plate, which is,
for the sake of simplicity, described as linear elastic.

4.1. Pressure in the slide plate

When a global bending moment influences the girder it obtains a curvature with
a radius
rg = (3)

The launching shoe is seldom perfectly plane. Instead it has a curvature rs, see
Fig. 17. Between the launching shoe and the bottom flange a slide plate distributes
the pressure of the support reaction. Since the modulus of elasticity of the steel in
the girder and bearing is in the order of 1000 times greater than the one of the slide
plate material, the deformation of the slide plate is considered to be the one influenc-
ing the pressure in the plate the most. By calculating the deformation of the slide
plate, the pressure will be found.
We accept the simplification that the pressure at each point of the slide plate
depends only on its actual thickness at just that point, i.e. we neglect the fact that
the plate is a continuum. Now, the actual thickness should most correctly be meas-
ured along a “radial” line (perpendicular to the girder curvature), but since such

Fig. 17. Curvature of girder and launching shoe.

262 P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270

a definition generates quite complicated expressions the actual thickness t is here

approximated to be in the vertical direction, see Fig. 17. The actual thickness t =
t(x) is then
t(x) = t(0) + rs ⫺ rg + √r2g ⫺ x2 ⫺ √r2s ⫺ x2 (4)

The support reaction R can be described with a distributed support reaction q(x)
[force/length], which is the vertical pressure acting between the slide plate and the
bottom flange along an effective support length denominated 2x0. This length varies
with the applied load, i.e. a larger support reaction will produce a longer support


R= q(x)dx (5)
⫺ x0

tb ⫺ t(x)
q(x) = Eb·bf (6)
and by definition
tb = t(x0) (7)
By combining Eqs (4)–(7), R can be calculated as

tb 冉冉 冊 x0
x0 √r2g ⫺ x20 ⫺ √r2s ⫺ x20 ⫺ r2g arcsin + r2s arcsin
rs 冊 (8)

If R is the known variable and x0 the unknown, then x0 can be found through
iteration. Then of course, if 2x0 is larger than the length of the slide plate, it is
necessary to modify the integral in Eq. (5).
To check that the degree of deformation in the slide plate is reasonable, it is
possible to calculate t(x = 0) from Eqs (4) and (7). The distributed support reaction
q(x) can now be found according to Eq. (6) as
 E ·b

 q(x) = b f √r2g ⫺ x20 ⫺ √r2g ⫺ x2 ⫺ √r2s ⫺ x20 + √r2s ⫺ x2 , |x| ⱕ x0
 tb 冊
 q(x) = 0,
 |x| ⱖ x0

It is important to remember that this expression for q(x) does not take account of
local deformation of the bottom flange (bending around an axis along the girder) or
any deformation of the flange into the web. Now, in order to investigate if this
expression well describes the real behavior, it needs to be checked against the labora-
tory results.
P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270 263

In the laboratory the data were measured strains in the web plate, which then
were transformed to stresses. To verify the correctness of the analytical model its
corresponding stresses need to be described and compared with the test data. Eq.
(9) is now used to calculate the stresses in the web plate.

4.2. Stresses in the web plate

The easiest way to calculate stresses in the web plate is, of course, merely to
distribute q(x) over the thickness of the web, i.e. not taking any consideration of the
influence of the bottom flange. A stress distribution calculated according to such a
principle, for the previously studied girder, is shown in Fig. 18. The following input
values have been used in the calculations: Eb = 200 MPa, bf = 210 mm, tb = 30 mm,
rg = EI/M = 486 m, (with E = 210 GPa, I = 651.5 × 10⫺6 m4, M = P × a, P = 200 kN,
a = 1400 mm). The calculations were carried out for two different radii of the bearing
curvature rs: 10 m and 20 m. These calculations yielded values of x0 to 0.164 m and
0.208 m respectively. The vertical stress has then been evaluated as ␴ = ⫺ q(x)/tw
with tw = 8 mm.
Even though the correlation of the curves in Fig. 18 seems to be good, one might
argue that the stresses 20 mm up in the web plate differ substantially from the simple
q/tw description.
To determine the stress distribution further up in the web, some other method has
to be used. These stresses can be approximated in different ways, but here the theory
of elasticity is used and applied to a semi-infinite plate with a straight boundary.
According to Timoshenko [8], a concentrated force P acting perpendicularly to a

Fig. 18. Stress distribution.

264 P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270

straight boundary at a point of that boundary, see Fig. 19, causes a distribution of
stress called “a simple radial distribution”.
With the plate thickness as unity the stresses can be written
2P cos␪
␴r = ⫺
␲ r
␴␪ = 0
␶r␪ = 0

The vertical stress in a horizontal plane mn, at a distance h from the straight
boundary, can then be written
2P 2P h3
␴y = ␴rcos2␪ = ⫺ cos4␪ = ⫺ (11)
␲·h ␲ (h2 + x2)2

To establish expressions for a distributed load q at the boundary, the load can be
divided into forces P = (q dx), and Eq. (11) can be used if integration is done over
the boundary.
Consider a plate with the thickness tw on which a distributed load q(x) is acting
at the boundary between x = x1 and x = x2, see Fig. 19. At a point A at the plane
mn (where x = ␣) the vertical stress is


2h3 q(x)
␴y(␣) = ⫺ dx (12)
␲·tw (h + (x ⫺ ␣)2)2


Fig. 19. Forces at the boundary of a semi-infinite plate.

P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270 265

Now, Eq. (12) can be used to calculate the stresses created by the distributed
support reaction expressed in Eq. (9). By inserting the last expression in the first
and taking x1 = ⫺ x0 and x2 = x0, the vertical stress can be calculated at any point
of the semi-infinite plate. In Fig. 20 that has been made with the same variables as
for Fig. 18, and at a height h = 40 mm (the strain gauges were placed 20 mm above
the 20 mm thick bottom flange).
However, with the q(x) of Eq. (9), the integration had to be performed numerically
except at the line of symmetry, ␣ = 0, where the vertical stress is


2·h3 q(x)
␴y(0) = ⫺ dx (13)
␲·tw (h2 + x2)2

冉 冊 冋册x0 

 
√r2s ⫺ x20 ⫺ √r2g ⫺ x20 arctan $


√r2g + h2
冤 xo √r2g + h2
h √r2g ⫺ x20

 冥

√r + h2
冤 x0 √r2s + h2
h √r2s ⫺ x20

Fig. 20. Stress distribution 40 mm up in the semi-infinite plate.

266 P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270

The vertical stress according to Eq. (13) is also plotted, in Fig. 21, as a function
of the height h.
By regarding the stress distributions in Figs 18 and 20, it is concluded that Eq.
(9) well describes the distribution of the pressure between the girder and the bearing.
In these calculations the influence of the flange has been disregarded. For the
investigated web this seems acceptable. It is in the opinion of the author that also
for more slender webs one may disregard the influence of the flange on the membrane
stress, and the support pressure, especially for load levels at the serviceability
limit state.

5. Conclusions

First of all it is important to point out that only one bearing, one slide plate material
and one girder have been investigated in the laboratory tests.
The support reaction was, of course, found not to be uniformly distributed.
It has been shown that the distribution of the pressure between the girder and the
bearing can be calculated with the analytical model developed here, and also, that
the described FE model can be used to analyze patch loading problems. Both tools
will be valuable in the further research to find acceptable load levels for launching
of bridge girders on launching shoes.

Fig. 21. Vertical stress in the plane of symmetry of the semi-infinite plate.
P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270 267

Fig. 22. Distribution of support reaction along a slide bearing. The support reaction is plotted as
⫺q(x)/tw, and all data apart from rg are the same as those used for Fig. 18.

An example of how the support pressure depends on the radius of the bearing is
shown in Fig. 22, and more formulas are found in Appendix A.


The research presented here is part of a research project performed at the Division
of Steel and Timber Structures, Chalmers University of Technology, under the super-
vision of Professor Bo Edlund. The Development Fund of the Swedish Construction
Industry (Svenska Byggbranschens Utvecklingsfond) is gratefully acknowledged for
financing the project. Other financial contributors include the road and the railway
administrations of Sweden.

Appendix A

Formulas for calculation of distributed support reaction on a slide bearing

The model presented yields four sets of formulas for the contact pressure distri-
bution depending on whether the radius of curvature due to bending of the girder
(rg) is smaller or greater than the curvature of the bearing (rs), and also if there is
contact along the whole bearing or not, see below. This is accounted for by modifying
the integration in the presented derivations.
268 P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270

In the following derivations 2l is used to denomitate the length of the slide plate.

Case 1: rg ⬎ rs and x0 ⬍ l

This case was used in earlier in the paper, and

冕 冕
x0 x0

R= q(x)dx = 2(t(x0) ⫺ t(x))dx =
⫺x0 0

tb 冉冉 冊 x0
x0 √r2g ⫺ x20 ⫺ √r2s ⫺ x20 ⫺ r2g arcsin + r2s arcsin
rs 冊
Now x0 can be found through iteration and the distributed support reaction is

E ·b

 q(x) = b f √r2g ⫺ x20 ⫺ √r2g ⫺ x2 ⫺ √r2s ⫺ x20 + √r2s ⫺ x2 , |x| ⱕ x0
tb 冊
 q(x) = 0,
 |x| ⱖ x0

Case 2: rg ⬎ rs and R ⬎ RCase1(x0 = l)

This case is used for Fig. 22, rs = 100 m, since Case 1 would yield x0 ⬎ l.

R0Case1 = RCase1(x0 = l) =
tb 冉冉
l √r2g ⫺ l2 ⫺ √r2s ⫺ l2 冊
+ r2g arcsin
+ r2s arcsin
rs 冊
The distributed support reaction is now
R ⫺ R0Case1
q(x) = qCase1(x0 = l) +
P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270 269

冉 冊
 

R Eb·bf 1
2 √r2g ⫺ x2 ⫺ √r2s ⫺ x2 ⫺ √r2g ⫺ l2 + √r2s ⫺ l2 + 
= ⫺  

 
2l tb 2 r2g l r2s l
⫺ arcsin + arcsin
l rg l rs
 

Case 3: rg ⬍ rs and x0 ⬎ 0.

This case implies support only at the edges of the bearing. Here

R = 兰q(x)dx = 2(t(x0) ⫺ t(x))dx

冉 冊 冉 冊
 

Eb·bf  (2l ⫺ x0) √r ⫺ x ⫺ √r ⫺ x

0 ⫺ l √r ⫺ l ⫺ √r ⫺ l
2 2

= 
冉 冊 冉 冊

 
tb l x0 l xo
⫺ r2g arcsin ⫺ arcsin + r2s arcsin ⫺ arcsin
rg rg rs rs
 
The distributed support reaction is

q(x) =
tb 冉
√r2g ⫺ x20 ⫺ √r2g ⫺ x2 ⫺ √r2s ⫺ x20 + √r2s ⫺ x2 , |x| ⱖ x0

q(x) = 0, |x| ⱕ x0

Case 4: rg ⬍ rs and RCase3(x0 = 0) ⬍ R

This case was used for Fig. 22 when rs = 1000 m, since Case 3 would yield an
R less then the existing support reaction even for x0 = 0. Thus
R0Case3 = RCase3(x0 = 0)

tb 冉 冉 l

2l(rg ⫺ rs) ⫺ l √r2g ⫺ l2 ⫺ √r2s ⫺ l2 ⫺ r2g arcsin + r2s arcsin
rs 冊
Now the distributed support reaction is
R ⫺ R0Case3
q(x) = qCase3(x0 = 0) +

冉 冊
 

R Eb·bf 1
2 √r ⫺ x ⫺ √r ⫺ x ⫺ √r ⫺ l + √r ⫺ l +
2 2
2 2
2 2

= ⫺  

 
2l tb 2 r2g l r2s l
⫺ arcsin + arcsin
l rg l rs
 
which is the same expression as for Case 2.
270 P. Granath / Journal of Constructional Steel Research 47 (1998) 245–270


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