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Maximum Shear Stress in a Rectangular Cross-Section Subject to Orthogonal Shear Forces

The goal is to determine an appropriate maximum shear stress over a rectangular cross section
subjected to shear forces in two orthogonal directions.

Using vector addition, resolving orthogonal shear forces generates a single shear force. The
resolved shear force acts on a "rotated" rectangular cross section. With the resolved force, the
maximum shear stress on the "rotated" system can be determined.

The maximum shear force is found using the shear force equation for any location in a cross
sectional shape. Choosing proper values for each term will yield the maximum shear stress in
the "rotated" rectangular cross section.

Shear Equation:

where V is the shear force, A
is the area below the line of interest, is the distance from the
centroid of the entire cross section to the centroid of A
, I is the moment of inertia about an axis
perpendicular to the shear force, and w is the length of the line of interest bisecting the cross
section. In our case, the line of interest bisects the rectangle through the centroid at an angle
determined by the shear stress acting in both the x- and y-directions.

For a rotated system:

The shear force,

, is

with a magnitude

the angle from the x-axis to the shear force is


is a unit vector in the x-direction.

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The rotated x-axis, x', is found at an angle from the original x-axis

In order to find A
and the centroid of A
, a coordinate system is placed at the lower left hand
corner of rectangle A. The vertices of A
are found in x
and y
starting at origin and numbered
in a counter clockwise manner with indexing starting at zero.

Area A
is found using the following method

Since the original rectangle area is bisected through it's centroid, the area of A
will always be
half of the original total area, A
= h b.

The coordinates of the centroid for A
are found using the following equations

These coordinates are relative to the coordinate system , by rotating the (C
, C
) by an angle
= -, the distance can be measured against the original origin, O

is found by subtracting

from half the height of the rectangle

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The rotated moment of inertia,

is found using the following equation

Since the original I
and I
are principle area moments of inertia, I
is zero. This results in the
following I value about an axis perpendicular to the direction of the shear force

The length of the line of interest across the "rotated" cross section is found


Using the method described above, the maximum shear stress can be found using the following

The maximum shear stress occurs along the line of interest that bisects the centroid at an angle.
It is important to note that the sign convention for a positive value of is counterclockwise
rotation. Also note, that these formulas have a limit of

; the theory behind the

method is still valid, but the current equations are not robust enough to handle any value of .
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Figure 1: Shear Force on an Arbitrary Shape at an Arbitrary Point of Interest
Figure 2: Resolved Shear Force Acting on A Rotated System
(note that is negative in this figure)