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Module 8

General Beam Theory


Learning Objectives
Generalize simple beam theory to three dimensions and general cross sections
Consider combined eects of bending, shear and torsion
Study the case of shell beams

8.1

Beams loaded by transverse loads in general directions


Readings: BC 6

So far we have considered beams of fairly simple cross sections (e.g. having symmetry
planes which are orthogonal) and transverse loads acting on the planes of symmetry. Figure
8.1 shows examples of beams loaded on a plane which does not coincide with a plane of
symmetry of its cross section.
In this section, we will consider beams with cross section of arbitrary shape which are
loaded on planes that do not in general coincide with symmetry planes (or as we will see
later more precisely, with principal directions of inertia of the cross section).
We will still adopt Euler-Bernoulli hypothesis, which implies that the kinematic assumptions about the allowed deformation modes of the beam remain the same, see Section 7.1.1.
The displacement eld is still given by equations (7.4), whereas the strain eld is given
by equations (7.7). It should be noted that the origin of coordinates in the cross section is
still unspecied.

8.1.1

Constitutive law for the cross section

We will assume that the beam is made of linear elastic isotropic materials and use Hookes
law. Since the strain distribution is still bound by the sames constraints, the stress distribution will be as before:
177

MODULE 8. GENERAL BEAM THEORY

178
M2

M2
e2

V2
M3

e3

M2

e2

e2

V2

V3

M3

e3

V2

V3

M3

e3

V3
M2

M2

e2

V2

e3

M2
e3

e2
V2

V2

V3

V3

M3

e2

M3

e3

V3

M3

Figure 8.1: Loading of beams in general planes and somewhat general cross sections

u1 (x1 ) x2 u2 (x1 ) x3 u3 (x1 )]


11 (x1 , x2 , x3 ) = E11 (x1 , x2 , x3 ) = E[

(8.1)

Following with the by now usual plan to build a structural theory, we proceed to compute
the resultants:

Axial force N1

N1 (x1 ) =

11 (x1 , x2 , x3 )dA








=
EdA u1 (x1 )
Ex2 dA u2 (x1 )
Ex3 dA u3 (x1 )
 A  
 A 
 A 


S

S2

S3

N1 (x1 ) = S u1 (x1 ) S2 u2 (x1 ) S3 u3 (x1 )

(8.2)

where S is the modulus-weighted area or axial stiness, S2 , S3 are respectively the modulusweighted rst moments of area of the cross section with respect to the e3 and e2 axes.

8.1. BEAMS LOADED BY TRANSVERSE LOADS IN GENERAL DIRECTIONS

179

Bending moments M2 (x1 ), M3 (x1 )



M2 (x1 ) =

11 x3 dA =








=
Ex3 dA u1 (x1 )
Ex2 x3 dA u2 (x1 )
Ex23 dA u3 (x1 )
 A 
 A 
 A 



A

S3

H23

H22

M2 (x1 ) = S3 u1 (x1 ) H23 u2 (x1 ) H22 u3 (x1 )

(8.3)


M3 (x1 ) =

11 x2 dA =







2

Ex2 dA u1 (x1 ) +
Ex2 dA u2 (x1 ) +
Ex3 x2 dA u3 (x1 )
=
 A 
 A 
 A 



A

S2

H33

M3 (x1 ) =

H23

S2 u1 (x1 )

+ H33 u2 (x1 ) + H23 u3 (x1 )

(8.4)

We note that we have used some of the previously dened section stiness coecients
S, H33 , but we have also introduced some new ones. Summarizing all:

Area:
S = A EdA
S2 = A Ex2 dA
First moment of area wrt e3
First moment of area wrt e2
S3 = A Ex3 dA
Second moment of area wrt e3
H22 = A Ex23 dA
Second moment of area wrt e2
H33 = A Ex22 dA
Second cross moment of area wrt e2 , e3 H23 = A Ex2 x3 dA
Table 8.1: Modulus-weighted cross section stiness coecients

Concept Question 8.1.1. Give an interpretation to the various cross section stiness
coecients by observing the strains and resultant forces they relate
Solution:
S is the direct stiness for axial deformation, i.e. it determines what axial force is
produced per unit axial deformation.
S2 is the cross stiness between curvature in the e3 direction (12-plane) and the axial
force, i.e. it determines what axial force is produced per unit curvature in that plane.
Conversely, it is the cross stiness determining the moment M3 produced per unit axial
strain.
S3 similar discussion to S2
H22 , H33 are the direct stinesses relating section bending strain measure (curvatures)
and corresponding bending moment.

MODULE 8. GENERAL BEAM THEORY

180

H23 is the cross stiness relating curvature in one plane with moment in the other.
These conclusions also apply in inverse form, i.e. by inverting these relations we obtain
coecients that determine the sectional strain measure produced per unit resultant force,
e.g. the curvature in a given plane produced per unit axial force or moments in either plane,
etc.
The main conclusion from this general beam theory is that there is a coupling among all
stress resultants and all strain measures. Specically, this means that a curvature in one
plane can cause not only a bending moment in the respective plane but also a moment in
the plane orthogonal to it as well as an axial force. Also, that the axial strain u1 can cause
moments in both orthogonal planes.
A rst simplication of these expressions is obtained if we rst nd the modulus-weighted
centroid of the cross section xc2 , xc3 and then refer all our quantities with respect to that point
(i.e. place the origin of our axes from where we measure x2 , x3 at that point). In that case,
as we saw before:
S
S
 2 
 3 
xc2 = A

Ex2 dA

= 0, xc3 = A

EdA
  
A

Ex3 dA
= 0,

(8.5)

EdA
  
A

and the coupling between axial and exural quantities disappears, i.e. the sectional
constitutive equations become:
N1 (x1 ) = S u1 (x1 )

(8.6)

c 
c 
M2 (x1 ) = H23
u2 (x1 ) H22
u3 (x1 )

(8.7)

c 
c 
M3 (x1 ) = +H33
u2 (x1 ) + H23
u3 (x1 )

(8.8)

Note that we have also added the superscript ()c to the stiness coecients to make it clear
that now these quantities need to be evaluated using as the origin the modulus weighted
centroid.
In many cases we know the moments and axial force and we are interested in nding the
internal stresses and beam deections. This requires to invert the above relations:
1
N1 (x1 )
S
Hc
H22
u2 (x1 ) = 23 M2 (x1 ) +
M3 (x1 )
H
H
Hc
H23
u3 (x1 ) = 33 M2 (x1 )
M3 (x1 )
H
H
u1 (x1 ) =

c
c
c
c
With H = H22
H33
H23
H23
.

(8.9)
(8.10)
(8.11)

8.1. BEAMS LOADED BY TRANSVERSE LOADS IN GENERAL DIRECTIONS

181

The stresses can then be written as:

11

c
c
c
c
H33
M2 + H23
M3
H23
M2 + H22
M3
N1
=E
x2
+ x3
S
H
H


(8.12)

which can be rearranged in a more useful form as:

11

8.1.2

c
c
c
c
x3 H33
x3 H23
N1 x2 H23
x2 H22

=E
M2
M3
S
H
H


(8.13)

Equilibrium equations

The equilibrium equations for the general beam theory we are developing will be derived with
the same considerations as we did in Section 7.3.2 with two modications: 1) addition of
equilibrium of moments in the e2 direction, 2) contribution of the axial force. Figures 8.2(a)
and 8.2(b) show a free-body diagram of a beam slice subjected to both axial and transverse
loads in two orthogonal but otherwise arbitrary directions (i.e, the loading direction does
not necessarily match the principal axis of the cross section of the beam). The internal and
external loads are shown in preparation for enforcing equilibrium.
From gure 8.2(a) we obtain the following relations for the axial N1 and shear V2 forces,
and the bending moment M3 in the (e1 ,e2 ) plane:

dN1

= p1 (x1 )

dx1

dV
2
= p2 (x1 )

dx1

dM3

+ V2 = x2a p1 (x1 )
dx1

(8.14)

From gure 8.2(b) we obtain the following relations for the axial N1 and shear V3 forces,
and the bending moment M2 in the (e1 ,e3 ) plane:

dN1

= p1 (x1 )

dx

dV
3
= p3 (x1 )

dx1

dM2

V3 = x3a p1 (x1 )
dx1

(8.15)

These equations can be combined by dierentiating the moment equations and replacing

MODULE 8. GENERAL BEAM THEORY

182
e2

V2

e3

V2 +

p1 (x1 )dx1

dV2
dx1
dx1

V3

p1 (x1 )dx1

x2a

V3 +

dV3
dx1
dx1

x3a
e1

p2 (x1 )dx1
M3

M3 +

dM3
dx1
dx1

e1

p3 (x1 )dx1
M2

dx1

M2 +

dM2
dx1
dx1

dx1

(a) (e1 , e2 )

(b) (e1 , e3 )

Figure 8.2: Equilibrium in both, (e1 ,e2 ) and (e1 ,e3 ) planes of a beam slice subjected to axial
and transverse loads in general directions.
the shear force equations in them:
d 2 M3
d
=
(V2 + x2a p1 (x1 ))
2
dx1
dx1
dV2
d
=
+
(x2a p1 (x1 ))
dx1 dx1
d
= p2 (x1 ) +
(x2a p1 (x1 ))
dx1
d 2 M2
d
=
(V3 x3a p1 (x1 ))
2
dx1
dx1
dV3
d
=

(x3a p1 (x1 ))
dx1 dx1
d
(x3a p1 (x1 ))
= p3 (x1 )
dx1
To summarize, the two equilibrium equations are:
d 2 M2
d
= p3 (x1 )
(x3a p1 (x1 ))
2
dx1
dx1
d 2 M3
d
= p2 (x1 ) +
(x2a p1 (x1 ))
2
dx1
dx1

(8.16)

8.1. BEAMS LOADED BY TRANSVERSE LOADS IN GENERAL DIRECTIONS

183

The main peculiarity in these equations is the appearance of the terms involving the axial
distributed force p1 multiplied by the operative moment arm. This is a direct result of the
fact that we cannot assume a priori that this force will be applied at the modulus-weighted
centroid and may, thus, produce a contribution to the bending moment.

8.1.3

Governing equations

Replacing the sectional constitutive laws from Section 8.1.1 into the equations from the
previous section, we obtain the governing equations:


(Su1 ) = p1

(8.17)
c 
c  
(H33
u2 + H23
u3 ) = p2 + (x2a p1 )

c 
c  
(H23
u2 + H22
u3 ) = p3 + (x3a p1 )
Concept Question 8.1.2. Observe the governing equations and try to answer the following
questions:
1. What is the main diculty in solving these equations compared to simple beam theory?
Solution: Clearly, the main problem in solving these equations is that they
constitute a coupled system of ODEs.
2. Can you think of any situations in which the solution of the fourth order coupled
system of ODEs can be avoided?
Solution:
We can avoid solving the system when the beam problem is statically determinate. In
this case we can gure out the resultant force distribution from equilibrium exclusively
and we need only solve the second order equations for the sectional constitutive laws
in order to gure out the stresses and the deections.

Boundary conditions When the system has to be solved, appropriate boundary conditions must be provided. Depending on the type of idealization of the physical system, type
of support and loading, we can have a combination of imposed displacements, constrained
rotations, forces or moments, i.e.
u1 = u2 = u3 = 0

and

u2 = u3 = 0

N 1 = P1

V 2 = P 2 , V 3 = P3

M3 = x2a P1 , M2 = x3a P1

(8.18)

(8.19)

These can be written as a function of derivatives of the beam deections. u1 , u2 and u3 :

MODULE 8. GENERAL BEAM THEORY

184

e3

e1
b

P
ec3

C
ec2

b
xc3

e3
O

O
e2

xc2

Figure 8.3: Cantilever beam with a L-shaped cross section.


Concept Question 8.1.3. bending of a beam with a L-shaped cross section. Let us consider
a cantilever beam with a L-shaped cross section as depicted in Figure 8.3. It is assumed that
the beam is made of a linear homogeneous material, in this context fully described by its
Youngs modulus E = 2 1011 GPa. The cross section of the beam is 0.1 m wide and high
(b); its thickness, t, is equal to 2 mm, and, its length, l, is equal to 2 m. A load P of 200 N
is applied at the free-end of the beam, more precisely at C, it modulus-weighted centroid.
1. Compute the coordinates (xc2 , xc3 ) of the modulus weighted centroid of the section with
respect to the origin O. Solution: We use (8.5) for which we need to compute the
axial stiness (S) of the cross section:
S = Et(b t) + Etb 2Etb
   
e2 beam

e3 beam

as well the rst moments of area w.r.t to e3 (S2 ) and e2 (S3 ) which are equal due to
the symmetry of the cross section:

 bt
 b
S2 =
Ex2 dA = Et
x2 dx2 + Eb
x2 dx2
A
0
bt


 


e2 beam

e3 beam

Etb2
Et
Eb  2
3Etb2
2
2
2
(b t) +
b (b t)
+ Etb =
=
2
2
2
2
Hence, the coordinates of the centroid are:
3Etb2
3b
S2
= 2 =
= xc3
xc2 =
S
2Etb
4

8.1. BEAMS LOADED BY TRANSVERSE LOADS IN GENERAL DIRECTIONS


2. Compute the bending stinesses in the coordinate system (xc2 , xc3 ).
use the relations given in Table 8.1:
c
H33


E(x2

=
A


= Et

3b
4


= Et


x22 dx2 + Eb

b
4
b
t
4

bt
0

(x2


xc2 )2 dx2

+ Eb
 

e2 beam

Solution: We

(x2 xc2 )2 dx2


bt


e3 beam

x22 dx2

 
3 

3
b
b
t
+

4
4






7
27b3
Eb b3
b3
3tb2
3
5
Et b3
3
+
+

+
= Etb
+
= Etb3

3 64
64
3 64 64
16
48 48
24
5
c
= H22
= Etb3
24

Et
=
3

c
H33

b
t
4

xc2 )2 dA

185

c
H23
=




E
=
4

3

3b
4

3 

Eb
+
3

E(x2 xc2 )(x3 xc3 )dA

= E

b
t
4

b
t
4

3b
4





x2 dx2


e2 beam

b
4
b
t
4


x3 dx3 + E



b
t
4


x2 dx2




b
4

3b
4

e3 beam

2

b2
b
b
9b2
t

t
4
16
16
4



tb
2

b2
c
H23
=

b
t
4

E
+
4

x3 dx3




b2

16

b
t
4

tb
2

2  


b2
9b2

16
16



2
b2

Etb3
8
c
c
c
c
H33
H23
H23
=
H = H22

(Etb3 )2
36

3. Compute the maximum tensile and compressive stresses in the L-shaped cross section.
Solution: The maximum tensile and compressive stresses in the
cross section which at the clamped end of the cantilever beam because it is where the
moment M2 is maximum and equal to Pl. Because the load P at the free end of the
cantilever beam is applied at the modulus weighted centroid, the other resultants, M3
and N1 are null. Thus, making use of (8.13), 11 is equal to:
11 = E

c
c
x3 H33
x2 H23
Pl
H

The maximum traction stress is found at point ( 4b , 4b ) and the maximum compressive
stress is found at point ( 4b , 3b
), both at the clamped end of the beam.
4

MODULE 8. GENERAL BEAM THEORY

186

11 = EP l

11 = EP l

b
H
4 33

b
H
4 33

4b H23
3P l
= 2 .
H
ht

+ 3b
H22
9P l
4
= 2 .
H
2h t

4. Determine the neutral axis orientation with respect to e2


Solution: The neutral
axes can be dened as the axes for which the stress 11 = 0:
E

c
c
x3 H33
x2 H23
Pl = 0
H

c
The previous equation denes a line in the (C, ec2 , ec3 ) dened by the equation: x2 H23

c
x3 H33 = 0. Its orientation is thus given by the angle dened as:
 
3
H23
= 30.964
= atan
tan() =
H33
5

8.1.4

Decoupling the problem

In section 8.1.1 we wrote both, the axial force N1 and the bending moments M2 and M3
as a function of the axial and bending sectional stinesses S, S2 , S3 , H22 , H33 , H23 . These
relations were simplied if we referred all our coordinates to the modulus-weighted centroid
of the cross section, in which case S2 = 0 and S3 = 0). From the equations of equilibrium
obtained in section 8.1.2 we obtain the following matrix system:


S
0
0
N1 (x1 )
u1 (x1 )
c
c
H23
M2 (x1 )
u (x1 )
= 0 H22
(8.20)

3
c
c
M3 (x1 )
0 H23 H33
u2 (x1 )
Here, we have a partially uncoupled problem. Indeed, the axial force is only related to the
rst derivative of the displacement along the e1 direction but the displacement components
u2 and u3 are coupled because of the presence of the non-zero cross bending stiness H23 . In
order to solve the partially uncoupled problem, the main idea is to determine the directions
that the axis of the beam should match in order to the problem to be fully uncoupled. In
other words, we want the matrix in equation 8.20 to be diagonal, without any coupling term
which leads to:

c
H23 =
Ex2 x3 dA = 0
(8.21)
A(x1 )