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What is a Beam?

Beams are the most common type of structural component, particularly in Civil

and Mechanical Engineering. A beam is a bar-like structural member whose primary

function is to support transverse loading and carry it to the supports. See Figure 1. The

beam, or flexural member, is frequently encountered in structures and machines, and its

elementary stress analysis constitutes one of the more interesting facets of mechanics

of materials. A beam is a member subjected to loads applied transverse to the long

dimension, causing the member to bend. For example, a simply supported beam loaded

at its third-points will deform into the exaggerated bent shape shown in Fig. 1.1.

By bar-like it is meant that one of the dimensions is considerably larger than the

other two. This dimension is called the longitudinal dimension or beam axis. The

intersection of planes normal to the longitudinal dimension with the beam member are

called cross sections. A longitudinal plane is one that passes through the beam axis.

produces compressive longitudinal stresses in one side of the beam and tensile

stresses in the other.

The two regions are separated by a neutral surface of zero stress. The

combination of tensile and compressive stresses produces an internal bending moment.

This moment is the primary mechanism that transports loads to the supports. The

mechanism is illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2.

Before proceeding with a more detailed discussion of the stress analysis of

beams, it is useful to classify some of the various types of beams and loadings

encountered in practice. Beams are frequently classified on the basis of supports or

reactions. A beam supported by pins, rollers, or smooth surfaces at the ends is called a

simple beam. A simple support will develop a reaction normal to the beam, but will not

produce a moment at the reaction. If either, or both ends of a beam projects beyond the

supports, it is called a simple beam with overhang. A beam with more than simple

supports is a continuous beam. Figures 3a, 3b, and 3c show respectively, a simple

beam, a beam with overhang, and a continuous beam. A cantilever beam is one in

which one end is built into a wall or other support so that the built-in end cannot move

transversely or rotate. The built-in end is said to be fixed if no rotation occurs and

restrained if a limited amount of rotation occurs. The supports shown in Fig. 3d, 3e and

3f represent a cantilever beam, a beam fixed (or restrained) at the left end and simply

supported near the other end (which has an overhang) and a beam fixed (or restrained)

at both ends, respectively.

Cantilever beams and simple beams have two reactions (two forces or one force

and a couple) and these reactions can be obtained from a free-body diagram of the

beam by applying the equations of equilibrium. Such beams are said to be statically

determinate since the reactions can be obtained from the equations of equilibrium.

Continuous and other beams with only transverse loads, with more than two reaction

components are called statically indeterminate since there are not enough equations of

equilibrium to determine the reactions.

shape of Fig. 3, it is possible to

observe that longitudinal elements of

the beam near the bottom are

stretched and those near the top are

compressed, thus indicating the

simultaneous existence of both

tensile and compressive stresses on

transverse planes. These stresses

are designated fiber or flexural

stresses. A free body diagram of the

portion of the beam between the left

end and plane a-a is shown in Fig. 4.

A study of this section diagram

reveals that a transverse force Vr

and a couple Mr at the cut section

and a force, R, (a reaction) at the left

support are needed to maintain

equilibrium. The force Vr is the

Fig. 3 Various types of beams and their deflected shapes resultant of the shearing stresses

at the section (on plane a-a) and is called the resisting shear and the moment, M r, is the

resultant of the normal stresses at the section and is called the resisting moment.

Figure 4 Section of simply supported beam.

equations of equilibrium Fy 0 and MO 0 where O is any axis

perpendicular to plane xy (thereaction R must be evaluated first from the free body of

the entire beam). For the present the shearing stresses will be ignored while the normal

stresses are studied. The magnitude of the normal stresses can be computed if M r is

known and also if the law of variation of normal stresses on the plane a-a is known.

Figure 5 shows an initially straight beam deformed into a bent beam.

A segment of the bent beam in Fig. 4 is shown in Fig. 6 with the distortion highly

exaggerated. The following assumptions are now made

i) Plane sections before bending, remain plane after bending as shown in Fig. 5

(Note that for this to be strictly true, it is necessary that the beam be bent only

with couples (i.e., no shear on transverse planes), that the beam must be

proportioned such that it will not buckle and that the applied loads are such that

no twisting occurs.

ii) All longitudinal elements have the same length such the beam is initially

straight and has a constant cross section.

iii) A neutral surface is a curved surface formed by elements some distance, c,

from the outer fibre of the beam on which no change in length occurs. The

intersection of the neutral surface with the any cross section is the neutral axis of

the section.

Mathematical Models

One-dimensional mathematical models of structural beams are constructed on

the basis of beam theories. Because beams are actually three-dimensional bodies, all

models necessarily involve some form of approximation to the underlying physics. The

simplest and best known models for straight, prismatic beams are based on the

Bernoulli-Euler beam theory (also called classical beam theory and engineering beam

theory), and the Timoshenko beam theory.

The classical beam theory for plane beams rests on the following assumptions:

1. Planar symmetry. The longitudinal axis is straight and the cross section of the

beam has a longitudinal plane of symmetry. The resultant of the transverse loads acting

on each section lies on that plane. The support conditions are also symmetric about this

plane.

2. Cross section variation. The cross section is either constant or varies

smoothly.

3. Normality. Plane sections originally normal to the longitudinal axis of the beam

remain plane and normal to the deformed longitudinal axis upon bending.

4. Strain energy. The internal strain energy of the member accounts only for

bending moment deformations. All other contributions, notably transverse shear and

axial force, are ignored.

5. Linearization. Transverse deflections, rotations and deformations are

considered so small that the assumptions of infinitesimal deformations apply.

6. Material model. The material is assumed to be elastic and isotropic.

Heterogeneous beams fabricated with several isotropic materials, such as reinforced

concrete, are not excluded.

Under transverse loading one of the top surfaces shortens while the other

elongates; see Figure 2. Therefore a neutral surface that undergoes no axial strain

exists between the top and the bottom. The intersection of this surface with each cross

section defines the neutral axis of that cross section. If the beam is homogenous, the

neutral axis passes through the centroid of the cross section. If the beam is fabricated of

different materials for example, a reinforced concrete beam the neutral axes

passes through the centroid of an equivalent cross section.

The Cartesian axes for plane beam analysis are chosen as shown in Figure 7.

Axis x lies along the longitudinal beam axis, at neutral axis height. Axis y lies in the

symmetry plane and points upwards. Axis z is directed along the neutral axis, forming a

RHS system with x and y. The origin is placed at the leftmost section. The total length

(or span) of the beam member is called L.

Figure 7.TerminologyandchoiceofaxesforBernoulliEulermodelofplanebeam.

Beam Motion

The motion under loading of a plane beam member in the x , y plane is described

by the two dimensional displacement field

where u and v are the axial and transverse displacement components, respectively, of

an arbitrary beam material point. The motion in the z direction, which is primarity due to

Poissons ratio effects, is of no interest. The normality assumption of the Bernoulli-Euler

model can be represented mathematically as

Note that the slope v = v/ x = dv/d x of the deflection curve has been identified

with the rotation symbol . This is permissible because represents to first order,

according to the kinematic assumptions of this model, the rotation of a cross section

about z positive CCW.

The Bernoulli-Euler or classical model assumes that the internal energy of beam

member is entirely due to bending strains and stresses. Bending produces axial

stresses xx , which will be abbreviated to , and axial strains e xx , which will be

abbreviated to e. The strains can be linked to the displacements by differentiating the

axial displacement u(x ):

Here denotes the deformed beam axis curvature, which to first order is

2 2

d v/dx bending stress = xx is linked to e through the one-dimensional Hookes law

where E is the longitudinal

elastic modulus. The most important stress resultant in classical beam theory is the

bending moment Mz , which

is defined as the cross

section integral

the cross section with respect to the z (neutral) axis. The

bending moment M is considered positive if it

compresses the upper portion: y > 0, of the beam cross

section, as illustrated in Figure 8. This convention

explains the negative sign of y in the above integral. The

product E Izz is called the bending rigidity of the beam

with respect to flexure about the z axis. Figure 8

Beam Deflections

Often limits must be placed on the amount of deflection a beam or shaft may

undergo when it is subjected to a load. For example beams in many machines must

deflect just the right amount for gears or other parts to make proper contact. Deflections

of beams depend on the stiffness of the material and the dimensions of the beams as

well as the more obvious applied loads and supports. In order of decreasing usage four

common methods of calculating beam deflections are: 1) double integration method, 2)

superposition method, 3) energy (e.g., unit load) method, and 4) area-moment method.

The double integration method will be discussed in some detail here.

Deflections Due to Moments: When a straight beam is loaded and the action is

elastic, the longitudinal centroidal axis of the beam becomes a curve defined as "elastic

curve." In regions of constant bending moment, the elastic curve is an arc of a circle of

radius as shown in Fig. 9 in which the portion AB of a beam is bent only with bending

moments. Therefore, the plane sections A and B remain plane and the deformation

(elongation and compression) of the fibres is proportional to the distance

from the neutral surface, which is unchanged in length. From Fig.9:

From which

And finally which relates the radius of curvature of the neutral surface of the beam

to the bending moment, M, the stiffness of the material, E, and the moment of

inertia of the cross section,I.

For most beams the

bending moment is a function

of the position along the beam

and a more general expression

is required.

The curvature equation from

calculus is:

Figure 9 Bent element from which relation for elastic curve

is obtained be simplified because the

slope dy/dx is small and its square is even smaller and can be neglected as a higher

order term. Thus, with these simplifications,

rearranging gives

For the coordinate system shown in Fig. 10, the signs of the moment and second

derivative are as shown. It is also important to note the following physical quantities and

beam action.

that except for the factor EI, the area under the

moment diagram between any two points along

the beam gives the change in slope between the same two points. Likewise, the area

under the slope diagram between two points along a beam gives the change in

deflection between these points. These relations have been used to construct the series

of diagrams shown in Fig.11 for a simply supported beam with a concentrated load at

the center of the span. The geometry of the beam was used to locate the points of zero

slope and deflection, required as the starting points for the construction.

a beam in three-point loading

It is important to remember

that the calculation of deflections

from elastic curve relations is

based on the following

assumptions:

1) The square of the slope of

the beam is assumed to be

negligible compared to unity

2) The beam deflection due

to shear stresses is negligible (i.e.,

plane sections remain plane)

3) The value of E and I

remain constant for any interval

along the beam.

definite steps and the following sequence for these steps is recommended.

1) Select the interval or intervals of the beam to be used; next, place a set of coordinate

axes on the beam with the origin at one end of an interval and then indicate the range of

values of x in each interval.

2) List the available boundary conditions and matching conditions (where two or more

adjacent intervals are used) for each interval selected. Remember that two conditions

are required to evaluate the two constants of integration for each interval used.

3) Express the bending moment as a function of x for each interval selected, and equate

it to EI dy2/dx2 =EIy''.

4) Solve the differential equation or equations form item 3 and evaluate all constants of

integration. Check the resulting equations for dimensional homogeneity. Calculate the

deflection a specific points where required.

Generally deflections due to

shear can be neglected as small

(<1%) compared to deflections due to

moments. However, for short, heavily-

loaded beams, this deflection can be

significant and an approximate

method can be used to evaluate it.

The deflection of the neutral surface,

dy due to shearing stresses in the

interval dx along the beam in Fig. 12 is

such that

Since the vertical shearing stress varies from top to bottom of a beam the

deflection due to shear is not uniform. This non uniform distribution is reflected as slight

warping of a beam. The equation gives values too high because the maximum shear

stress (at the neutral surface) is used and also because the rotation of the differential

shear element is ignored. Thus, an empirical relation is often used in which a shape

factor, k, is employed to account for this change of shear stress across the cross section

such that

(Eq.1)

estimated as:

A single integration method can be used to solve Eq. 1 for the deflection due to

shear. The constants of integration are then determined by employing the appropriate

boundary and matching conditions. The resulting equation provides a relation for the

deflection due to shear as a function of the distance x along the length of the beam.

Note however that unless the beam is very short or heavily loaded the deflection due to

shear is generally only about 1% of the total beam deflection.

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