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Shear Stiffness of Cross sections

The shear stiffness k of an arbitrary cross sections is normally denoted with GAs. In this latter
expression the As is the reduced cross sectional area and not the entire area which is taken in to
account for tension or compression. The correction is required since fibers in the cross section at
different vertical positions have different shear deformations due to the shear stress distribution
which is not constant over the depth of the cross section. In order to model the continuous cross
section as a discrete model with shear stiffness k and average shear deformation γ1 both models
should store the same amount of deformation energy when loaded in shear with a shear force D.
The discrete model is given in figure 1, due to a shear force D the beam with length dx shows a
shear deformation γ1. Each fiber in this model has the same shear deformation and hence a constant
shear stress.

D dx

γ1 dw

y x

Figure 1 : Discrete model z

Applying the standard (continuous) beam model, a parabolic shear stress distribution is observed as
can be depicted from figure 2. Each fiber now has a different shear deformation.

Figur 2 : Fiber model for beams

For a specific fiber at a distance z from the neutral axis the shear deformation becomes:
τ ( z)
γ ( z) =
With the known distribution of the shear stresses over the depth of the beam, the shear deformation
can be found for each fiber.

Ir J.W. Welleman march 2006 1

Both models should store the same amount of deformation energy Ev. For a small part of the beam
with length dx this deformation energy can be written as:
Discrete model

Ev = 12 D × dw = 12 D × γ 1dx with: D = k × γ 1 (1)

Fiber model
z = h2 τ2
Ev = ∫ bdxdz (2)
z =− h2 2G
Both expressing should lead to an equal amount of deformation energy from which the expression
for the shear stiffness k can be obtained.

Example : Rectangular Cross section

The shear stress distribution for a rectangular cross section (width b and depth h) can be found with
the well known structural mechanics formula for shear stresses:

D × S z( a )
τ ( z) = (3)
b × I zz
⎛ h2 ⎞
6× D × ⎜ − z2 ⎟
τ ( z) = ⎝ 4 ⎠

In this expression the first order (area) moment is denoted with S z(a ) 1.

If this expression is substituted in (2), the result must be equal to (1) which leads to:
z = h2 τ2
∫z =− h2 2G
bdxdz = 12 D × γ 1dx

bdx z = h2 2
2G ∫z =− h2
τ dz = 12 D × γ 1dx
⎛ ⎛ h2 ⎞⎞
z= 2 ⎜
h 6 × D ⎜ − z2 ⎟ ⎟
b ⎜ ⎝ 4 ⎠ ⎟ dz = D × γ

G z =− h ⎜ bh 3
⎟ 1
⎜ ⎟
⎝ ⎠
6D 6D
γ1 = = with: D = k × γ 1
5Gbh 5GA
5 GA
k = GA = with: η = 1, 2
6 η

This method can also be applied to other shaped cross sections. One remark however is essential,
expression (3) is only valid for cross sections with at least one axis of symmetry. For
inhomogeneous or unsymmetrical cross sections expression (3) can not be applied. An alternative
method is given in the literature1.
See Engineering Mechanics, Volume 2, C. Hartsuijker and J.W. Welleman, Springer, ISBN 987-1-4020-4123-5, 2007.

Ir J.W. Welleman march 2006 2