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Blodgetts Basics

Another Advantage of Stiffeners

ll too often, a designer will

add stiffeners to a weldment
haphazardly. This may give
the designer a warm and fuzzy
feeling while adding little or
nothing structurally. In other
situations, stiffeners can be
critical to the performance of the
product since a properly placed
stiffener can increase the capacity
of the member it supports. The
reason for this increase in
capacity may not be readily
apparent, however.
Consider the assembly illustrated in Figure 1. The applied
moment results in compressive
forces in the flange, called F1 and

F2 in the drawing. Simple statics

require these two forces to be balanced by a third force. In the center of the width of the flange, the
web permits the application of a
component force, called FC.
Away from the web and at the
outside edge of the flanges, there is
no material available to permit the
application of FC, and thus FC approaches a value of zero (Figure 2).
Once again, statics require equilibrium; with FC equal to about zero,
the forces F 1 and F 2 at this point
must be close to zero. At this location, the flange is only minimally
effective in transferring the load.
The net effect is that the forces in

the flange are not uniform. Peak

stresses occur near the location of
the web, and decrease to nearly zero
at the tips, as shown in Figure 3.
When a stiffener is added as
shown in Figure 4, the resisting
force F C can be applied to the
whole width of the flange, including the tip, and in turn, F1 and F2
can be increased in magnitude. In
other words, adding a stiffener increases the capacity of the member
supported by that stiffener. The
stress distribution is now more
uniform, as depicted in Figure 5.
Real-Life Example
A manufacturer of oil pumping

Figure 3

Figure 1

Figure 4

Figure 5
Figure 2


July 2006


equipment called me a few years

back to ask for help with what he
assumed was a welding problem.
The product was an oil jack
pump walking beam (Figure 6)
that was failing after several
months of service. Figure 7
shows the universal socket and
bracket assembly attached to the
bottom of the beam. The universal socket eliminates the application of forces except those resulting from the vertical load. When
the beam is horizontal, only vertical forces are applied to the
beam. As the beam pivots, however, the vertical forces result in
a longitudinal force in the beam.
When the universal socket is
pulled down, a tensile force is
applied to the beam, and resisted
by the pivot (Figure 8). Pushing
the socket up creates the opposite condition.
The 90 degree intersection between the bracket assembly and
the beam is similar to the situation
illustrated in Figure 1. Without
any stiffeners in the beam, the
load distribution shown in Figure
3 exists in the beam flange as well.
With enough load cycles, the
beam of the jack pump eventually
cracked, and the tip broke off.
Since the cracking occurred
near the weld, the manufacturer
decided the weld must be somehow deficient. However, my
analysis showed that the primary
cause was a design flaw. The design did not include a stiffener that
would have made the flange more
uniformly loaded.
Fortunately, the solution was
straightforward. The manufacturer added a stiffener in the
proper position (Figure 9), making the tips of the beam flange
more effective and resulting in a
more uniform stress distribution
in the flange.

July 2006

Figure 6
Figure 7

Figure 8

Figure 9

Omer W. Blodgett, Sc.D., P.E., senior design consultant with The Lincoln Electric Co., struck his first arc
on his grandfathers welder at the age of ten. He is the
author of Design of Welded Structures and Design of
Weldments, and an internationally recognized expert
in the field of weld design. In 1999, Blodgett was
named one of the Top 125 People of the Past 125
Years by Engineering News Record. Blodgett may be
reached at (216) 383-2225.