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CE 331, Spring 2004 Truss Deflections -Theory 1/8

These notes show the development of the procedure for calculating deflections of trusses.
We will use three relations in this procedure:
(1) Axial deformation due to axial load ( = )
(2) Superposition (the total deflection is equal to the sum of the deflections due to each
member deformation ( X = Xi , where N = the number of members in the truss).
i =1
X piU X
(3) Reciprical Deflections ( = )
i UX
The final equation for calculating truss deflections is formed by substituting the equations
from (1) and (3) into (2):
X = i i piU X
Ai E

We will illustrate the development of the procedure using the simple example structure
shown below.

E = 29,000 ksi
A1 = 1 in2 3
A2 = 2 in2
3,V = ? 1
3,H = ?
2 8ft

1 2

8ft 6ft

Figure 1. Example structure used for development of procedure.

We want to calculate the vertical and horizontal deflection of Joint 3 (3,Vand 3,H) due to the
30k load.
CE 331, Spring 2004 Truss Deflections -Theory 2/8

(1) Axial deformation due to axial load. The first step is to calculate the elongation or
shortening () of each member using the familiar equation from mechanics of materials:

The bar forces (p) for this structure can be calculated by first finding the reactions (note that
the horizontal reactions at the supports must be equal and opposite). The bar forces and
member lengths are indicated in the figures below.

18.183k C 21.429k C
11.314ft 10.0ft

12.857k 12.857k
12.857k 17.143k

Figure 2a. Bar forces due to 12k load Figure 2b. Member lengths
The calculation of the member axial deformation is summarized in the table below.

Table 1. Calculation of member deformations.

Member # P, k L, in A, in2 , in
1 -18.183 11.314ft x 12in/ft = 135.8in 1.0 -0.0851
2 -21.429 10.0ft x 12in/ft = 120.0in 2.0 -0.0443

Exercise: Approximate 3,Vand 3,H. We can approximate the deflection of Joint 3 by

drawing the deflected shape of the structure.
1) Draw the undeformed structure using dashed lines to a scale of 1 = 2.5 (one little
square on engineering paper = 0.5)
2) Draw the member deformations () to a scale of one little square = 0.01. (This
represents a magnification of 600.) Fold a piece of engineering paper in half to make
a ruler and lay this ruler along each member to measure 1 and 2.
3) Draw lines perpendicular* to the ends of Members 1 and 2 using your folded piece of
engineering paper as a square. The intersection of these lines represents the deflected
position of Joint 3.
4) Measure 3,Vand 3,H using your engineering-paper ruler.
CE 331, Spring 2004 Truss Deflections -Theory 3/8

2 = 0.0443in
0.0851 = 1
-0.083in 3,V

3,H -0.037in

Figure 3. Member deformations and new location of Joint 3.

Why perpendicular lines? To find the new position of Joint 3, we should really let the ends
of Members 1 and 2 swing arcs about their pinned supports (see figure below).

Figure 4a. Finding new position of Joint 3 after member deformations.

But since the deflections are very small (remember, we magnified the deflections by a factor
of 600 in our hand drawing), we can approximate these arcs with perpendicular lines. The
unmagnified deflected shape is shown in the figure below left, and the magnified deflected
shape is shown in the figure below right.
CE 331, Spring 2004 Truss Deflections -Theory 4/8


Figure 4b. Deflected shape from RISA, no

magnification. Figure 4c. Magnified view of deflected shape
at Joint 3.

(2) Calculate the deflection letting only one member deform at a time (superposition).
It would be complicated to calculate the deflection of a joint for this simple example
structure, and virtually impossible for a realistic and more complicated structure. For linear-
elastic structures (e.g. those made of steel loaded below the yield point), we can say that the
total deflection of a joint due to the deformations of its members is equal to the sum of the
joint deflections due to each member deformation using the principle of superposition.
CE 331, Spring 2004 Truss Deflections -Theory 5/8

31, H = -.0688in

-0.0516in = 31, V
-0.0833 = 3, V

3, H = -0.0371in

Figure 5a.Deflection due to both member Figure 5b. Deflection due to Member 1
deformations deformations only.

32, H = 0.0316in

32, V = -0.0317in

Figure 5c. Deflection due to Member 2

deformations only
CE 331, Spring 2004 Truss Deflections -Theory 6/8

Calculation using geometry of deflection at Joint 3 due to Member 1 deformation only

a = d1 = -0.0851in
b = a cos(45o) = -0.0602in d
36.87o = tan-1(6/8)
o in
c = a cos(45 ) = -0.0602
d = 90o 45o 36.87o = 8.13o b
e = a tan(d) = 0.0122
f = e sin(45o) = 0.0086in e
o in f 45o
g = -e cos(45 ) = -0.0086 g c
1 in
3, H = g + c = -0.0688

31,V = b - f = -0.0516in

Figure 6. 31, H and 31,V calculated using geometry.

We could do a similar calculation to calculate the deflection at Joint 3 due to deformation of

Member 2 only. Updating Table 1, we copy 31, H and 31,V columns (6) and (8), respectively,
of row 1 in Table 2 below. And we copy the corresponding numbers for deformations due to
Member 2 into the same columns, row 2. The sum of columns (6) and (8) is the deflections
we are after.

(3) Reciprical Deflections. To have a practical procedure applicable to all trusses, we need

a method for calculating 3i, H and 3i, V without using geometry. We need a way to go from
the member deformations (the s in column (5)) to the deflections at a desired joint due to

i 3i, H
those deformations (the s in columns (6) and (8)). To calculate 3, H we need , and

i 3i, V
to calculate 3, V we need . These ratios are shown in columns (7) and (9) of Table 2.

Table 2. Calculation of member deformations.

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9)
Member # P, k L, in A, in2 , in

3i, H , in 3, H
3i, V , in 3i, V
i i
1 -18.183 135.8in 1.0 -0.0851 -0.0688 0.808 -0.0516 0.606
2 -21.429 120.0 2.0 -0.0443 0.0316 -0.713 -0.0317 0.716
Sum -0.0372 -0.0833
CE 331, Spring 2004 Truss Deflections -Theory 7/8

Bar forces due to unit loads. Observe the bar forces in the example structure due to a unit
positive horizontal load (Figure 6a) and a unit positive vertical load (Figure 6b).

0.808k T 0.714k C 0.606k T 0.714k T

Figure 7a. Bar forces due to unit load at Figure 7b. Bar forces due to unit load at
Joint 3 in the horizontal direction. Joint 3 in the vertical direction.

The numbers from Figure 7a match those of column (7) in Table 2. In equation form:

3i, H p iU 3, H
= .
i U 3, H
In words:
the deflection at Joint 3 in the horizontal the bar force in Member 1 due to a unit load
direction due to the deformation of at Joint 3 in the horizontal direction
the deformation of Member 1 the unit load at Joint 3

We can also match the number from Figure 7b to those of column (9) in Table 2 and produce
the following equation:

3i, V U
pi 3,V
i U 3,V
Note all that has changed is the subscript H was replaced with the subscript V.

A general form of the equations above can be written by substituting X for either 3, H or 3, V.
X represents both the Joint and the direction of the deflection for which we are looking.

Xi piU X
= (Eqn 1.)
i UX

This equation can be rearranged by multiplying both sides by Li/(AiE) to yield:

pXi iU X
pi UX

The equation above is a form of the reciprocal deflections relation. We will use Equation
1 above in our procedure to calculate truss deflections.
CE 331, Spring 2004 Truss Deflections -Theory 8/8

Summary of procedure for calculating truss deflections.

(1) Calculate the member deformations due to the applied load (i) using the equation
(2) Apply a unit load at the joint and in the direction of the desired deflection (UX) and
calculate the bar forces due to this load ( piU X ).
(3) Calculate the deflection due to each member deformation ( Xi ) by multiplying the
from step (1) by the bar forces ( piU X ) from step (2).
(4) Sum the Xi to get the deflection at the joint.