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A typical graph of a shear force diagram and Bending Moment Diagram.

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be aware of as they dictate beam behaviour when subject to a load

and ultimately represent possible areas or mechanisms for failure. The

main ones being:

of inertia): this depends on the cross section profile of the beam

and is a measure of the resistance of the shape of the beam to

bending.

• Bending moment: usually illustrated on a bending moment

diagram, and often related the deflection of the beam, can be

used to calculate regions subject to maximum bending forces

and consequently most likely to yield. It also illustrates which

sections of the beam are in compression or tension.

• Beam deflection: beam deflection tends to be undesirable and

correlates to the bending moment.

• Shear diagrams: these are used to illustrate stress

concentrations along the beam and provide a means to identify

areas of maximum shear forces where the beam is more likely to

fail by shear.

predict the resistance of the beam to bending and deflection. It is

calculated from the physical cross sectional area of the beam and

relates the profile mass to the neutral axis (this being a region where

the beam is subject to neither compression or tension, as labelled in

figure 5.). It is dependant on the direction of loading; for most beams

except both hollow and solid box and circular sections, the second

moment of area will be different when loaded from a horizontal or

vertical direction.

Figure 5 – a) simply supported beam of length l with no force;

b) simply supported beam subject to point load (force) F at centre

creating bending.

The second moment of area can be calculated from first principles for

any cross section profile using the equation:

The I – beam or Universal beam has the most efficient cross sectional

profile as most of its material is located away from the neutral axis

providing a high second moment of area, which in turn increases the

stiffness, hence resistance to bending and deflection. It can be

calculated using the formula:

web, as loading perpendicular to the web would be less efficient.

Box section

The box section has the most efficient profile in loading both

horizontally and vertically. It has a lower value for second moment of

area so is less stiff. It can be calculated by using the formula:

diagram of the beam profile as shown below, this enables an accurate

representation of the beams behaviour.

magnitude w, across its length, l. Total force on beam being wl.

The beam is simply supported with reaction forces R.

b) shear force diagram shows the regions of maximum shear, for this

beam these correlate to the reaction forces.

The slope of the shear force diagram is equal to the magnitude of the

distributed load.

A positive shear force will cause the beam to rotate clockwise and a

negative shear force will cause the beam to rotate in an anticlockwise

direction.

the beam.

reaction forces, no bending moment is experienced at these points. If

the beam were restricted as in a cantilever situation then bending

moments would be experienced at either end Correlating to the

diagrams of beam loading, shear force and bending moments

maximums and values at distance x along the beam can be calculated

using the following formula:

distance x

distributed load with simple supports as shown. For a cantilever beam,

or one with varying degrees of freedom at the supports (this refers to

restrains in the horizontal direction subjecting the beam to a turning

moment at this location) then different formula will be required. All

formula can be calculated from first principles but for convenience

look-up-tables such as those contained in “Roark’s formulas for stress

and strain” can be utilised.

distance x, ?x are shown to be dependant on the Young’s modulus, E

and second moment of area, I, where as shear force and bending

moment are independent of these beam characteristics.

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