It is important to know how the shear forces and bending moments vary along the length of a beam that

is being designed. Graphs are used to describe the change of shear forces and moments. These graphs are called shear and moment diagrams. Employing these diagrams, the maximum and minimum shear and moment are easily identified and located.

Constructing shear and moment diagrams is similar to finding the shear and moment at a particular point on a beam structure. However, instead of using an exact location, the location is a variable distance 'x'. This allows the shear and moment to be a function of the distance, x. In theory, this appears to be simple, but the equations can be complex, especially with distributed loads that are also a function of the location, x. Also, if there are multiple loads or supports, more than one function must be developed, i.e. one shear and moment function for each section or span of the beam.

Tensile stresses and compressive stresses increase proportionally with bending moment, but are also dependent on the second moment of area of the cross-section of the structural element. Failure in bending will occur when the bending moment is sufficient to induce tensile stresses greater than the yield stress of the material throughout the entire cross-section. It is possible that failure of a structural element in shear may occur before failure in bending, however the mechanics of failure in shear and in bending are different. The bending moment at a section through a structural element may be defined as "the sum of the moments about that section of all external forces acting to one side of that section". The forces and moments on either side of the section must be equal in order to counteract each other and maintain a state of equilibrium so the same bending moment will result from summing the moments, regardless of which side of the section is selected.

Of course any "pin-joints" within a structure allow free rotation. it is sensible to calculate moments at both ends of the element. . If clockwise bending moments are taken as negative.Moments are calculated by multiplying the external vector forces (loads or reactions) by the vector distance at which they are applied. then a negative bending moment within an element will cause "sagging". centre and end of any uniformly distributed loads. at the beginning. and a positive moment will cause "hogging". and directly underneath any point loads. and so zero moment occurs at these points as there is no way of transmitting turning forces from one side to the other. It is therefore clear that a point of zero bending moment within a beam is a point ofcontraflexure—that is the point of transition from hogging to sagging or vice versa. When analysing an entire element.

where negative moments are plotted to scale above a horizontal line and positive below. and parabolically over uniformly loaded sections. Bending moment varies linearly over unloaded sections.It is more common to use the convention that a clockwise bending moment to the left of the point under consideration is taken as positive. . when positive. Critical values within the beam are most commonly annotated using a bending moment diagram. sagging.e. indicates a curvature that is 'lower at the centre' i. When defining moments and curvatures in this way calculus can be more readily used to find slopes and deflections. This then corresponds to the second derivative of a function which.

or pound-foot or foot-pound (ft·lb). . Moments and torques are measured as a force multiplied by a distance so they have as unit newtonmetres (N·m). The concept of bending moment is very important in engineering (particularly in civil andmechanical engineering) and physics.exists in a structural element when a moment is applied to the element so that the element bends.

Another application of shear and moment diagrams is that the deflection can be easily determined using either the moment area method or the conjugate beam method. Using these diagrams the type and size of a member of a given material can be easily determined. .are analytical tools used in conjunction withstructural analysis to help perform structural design by determining the value of shear forceand bending moment at a given point of an element.

Although these conventions are relative and any convention can be used if stated explicitly. practicing engineers have adopted a standard convention used in design practices. .

Likewise the normal convention for a positive bending moment is to warp the element in a "u" shape manner (Clockwise on the left. and counterclockwise on the right). and down on the right). Another way to remember this is if the moment is bending the beam into a "smile" then the moment is positive. with compression at the top of the beam and tension on the bottom. .The normal convention used in most engineering applications is to label a positive shear force one that spins an element clockwise (up on the left.

.Normal positive shear force convention (left) and normal bending moment convention (right).

the positive shear convention was chosen to be up from the left. . A clear understanding of most beams that are analyzed can be found here. both in forces and supports that we use to understand how beams are loaded. The positive bending convention was chosen such that a positive shear force would tend to create a positive moment. Since a horizontal member is usually analyzed from left to right and positive in the vertical direction is normally taken to be up. and to make all drawings consistent down from the right. This shows most of the conventions.This convention was selected to simplify the analysis of beams.

4. 3.Cut the beam (one cut for each beam segment). It should be noted that this example is fairly simple with one load type and simple supports. 2. draw a FBD. and solve for the unknown M and V at the cut in terms of x. More complex examples are given below with multiple beam segments and loads.The general steps for shear and moment diagrams are as follows: 1. .Plot the moment and shear equations developed in step 3. the sign convention is important and is reviewed below. Also.Construct a free-body-diagram (FBD) and solve for all unknown reaction forces.Identify all information and draw diagram (similar to all static or mechanics problems).


Since concrete is weak in tension the most important part of designing a member with. Once the reaction loads have been determined the loading diagram can be drawn .An exception to using the normal convention is used when designing concrete structures. From the service loads and the structural configuration the reaction loads can be determined using one several structural analysis methods including finite element method and static analysis.


the sign convention is important so viewers will know what direction the beam is bending or shearing. This means the direction is opposite on the right and left faces of the cut. Notice. all internal moments and shears need to cancel out if the cut section is reassembled. it is assumed that a positive moment causes a beam to bend downward as shown in the diagram. Each textbook can have different conventions. . so it is important that you check what directions are positive or negative.When constructing shear and moment diagrams. as shown. Generally. A positive shear will skew the beam with the left side going up and the right going down.

.One confusing aspect of developing moment and shear diagrams is the need to have separate moment and shear functions for each beam segment. Then the M and V is determined for that cut and plotted. After each section is cut. then a FBD is drawn for either side of the beam. The diagram at the left gives various beams and typical loadings. This is because a single function cannot model the moment (or shear) change over a load or support (it is a discontinuous function). just like a single section beam discussed above. Each new beam section will have its own moment and shear equations as a function of the location. x.

120 lb + 72 lb = 0 RA = 48 lb . ΣMA = 0 (10 ft) RB . The first step is to draw a FBD of the whole beam and solve for the reactions. The simple support beam at the left has a single point load between the supports.(6 ft)(120 lb) = 0 RB = 72 lb ΣFy = 0 RA .Moment and shear diagrams are best understood by examining an example.

With the loading diagram drawn the next step is to find the value of the shear force and moment at any given point along the element. a distributed load. The supports include both hinged supports and a fixed end support. For a horizontal beam one way to perform this is at any point to "chop off" the right end of the b The example below includes a point load. and an applied moment. The first drawing is the situation of the element or what most people call a free body diagram .

Therefore. the discarded right beam section needs to be replaced by unknown an internal shear force and moment. Remember. the sections must be evaluated separately and each will have their own moment and shear equations. V1 an M1. as shown. ΣFy = 0 48 lb .Determine Beam Section Section (1). to the right of the applied load.x (48 lb) = 0 M1 = 48x ft-lb . to the left of the applied load. The left beam section must stay in static equilibrium.V1 = 0 V1 = 48 lb ΣMcut = 0 M1 . will have an expression for the shear force and bending moment that will differ from the section (2). cut section (1) a distance x from the left side and form a FBD. Section (1) (0 ≤ x ≤ 6 ft) First.

. V2 an M2 to distinguish them from section (1) shear and moment equations. the left side will be examined. The left or right section can be discarded. The location for maximum and minimum shear force and bending moment are easily found and evaluated.x (48 lb) + (x . The internal loads are labeled.6)(120 lb) = 0 M1 = 720 .Section (2) (6≤ x ≤ 10 ft) Now the next and last section can be cut.120 lb . applying the static equilibrium equations gives. as shown. ΣFy = 0 48 lb .V2 = 0 V2 = -72 lb ΣMcut = 0 M2 . Again. For consistency with section (1). The plots are given at the left. Again.72x ft-lb Plot Shear and Moment Diagrams The functions for V and M for both beam sections can be plotted to give the shear and moment over the length of the beam. form a FBD.

The second drawing is the loading diagram with the reaction values given without the calculations shown. . The example is illustrated using imperial units. Below the moment diagram is the stepwise functions for the shear force and bending moment with the functions expanded to show the effects of each loading on the shear and bending functions. The third drawing is the shear force diagram and the fourth drawing is the bending moment diagram. For the bending moment diagram the normal sign convention was used.


The first step obtaining the bending moment and shear force equations is to determine the reaction forces. This is done using a free body diagram. .

R_a=25.6 [This set of equations cannot be solved.Solving this system of linear equations. Multiple moment equations are not independent] After the reaction forces are found. The location and number of external forces on the member determine the number and location of these pieces.3 and Mc=-14. .5 R_C =3. write the y = Ax form and "A" is singular .there are more unknowns than static equilibrium equations.3 R_B= -3. you then break the beam into pieces. The first piece always starts from one end and ends anywhere before the first external force.

By summing the forces along this segment and summing the moments. the equations for the shear force and bending moment are obtained. Taking the second segment. As the section of the beam moves towards the external force.V is defined to be the shear force at a particular instant. the location of the shear force changes. This makes the shear force in terms of the location of the bar ( in this example ‘x’). M is defined as the moment and is a function of x. ending anywhere before the second internal force: .

e (x-10) the moment location is defined in the middle of the distributed force. This is where (x+10)/2 is derived from. the force will be multiplied by the distance after 10 ft. The tricky part of this moment is the distributed force. i. This is due to the fact that the moment is the integral of the shear force. Taking the third section: .Notice that because the shear force is in terms of x. which is also changing. the moment equation is squared. Since the force changes with the length of the segment.

Taking the fourth and final segment: .Notice that the distributed force can now be considered one force of 15 kips acting in the middle of where it is positioned.

there is a gap between the two equations.3. there is a discontinuity of 50. Another note on the shear moment diagrams is that they show where external force and moments are applied. At section 3 on the moment diagram.3. The moment diagram is a visual representation of the area under the shear moment diagram. With no external forces. The discontinuities on the graphs are the exact magnitude of either the external force or external moments that are applied. the moment equation will be in terms of x. The length of this gap is 25. at x = 10 on the shear force diagram. This is from the applied moment of 50 on the structure. If the shear force is linear over an interval. the moment equation will be quadratic. The maximum and minimum vales on the graphs represent the max forces and moments that this beam will have under these circumstances. For example. the exact magnitude of the external force at that point. It is important to note the relationship between the two diagrams.By plotting each of these equations on their intended intervals. If the shear force is constant over an interval. the piecewise functions should attach and show no discontinuity. That is. . you get the bending moment and shear force diagrams for this beam. This gap goes from -10 to 15. the moment is the integral of the shear force.

shear.Since this method can easily become unnecessarily complicated with relatively simple problems. Since a distributed load varies the shear load according to its magnitude it can be derived that the slope of the shear diagram is equal to the magnitude of the distributed load. it can be quite helpful to understand different relations between the loading. The first of these is the relationship between a distributed load on the loading diagram and the shear diagram. The relationship between distributed load and shear force magnitude is: V = dM/dx . and moment diagram.

and a linearly varying shear magnitude as a result of a constant distributed load. Similarly it can be shown that the slope of the moment diagram at a given point is equal to the magnitude of the shear diagram at that distance.Some direct results of this is that a shear diagram will have a point change in magnitude if a point load is applied to a member. The relationship between distributed shear force and bending moment is .

This relationship may be helpful in determining both the moment and shear diagram without calculating the actual function. Derivation of this relationship is done in the Integration of Load Equation. .

and a constant distributed load will lead to a quadratic moment diagram. By calculus it can be shown that a point load will lead to a linearly varying moment diagram. . the moment diagram will have a constant value over that length. Also if the shear diagram is zero over a length of the member.A direct result of this is that at every point the shear diagram crosses zero the moment diagram will have a local maximum or minimum.

In practical applications the entire stepwise function is rarely written out. For constant portions the value of the shear and/or moment diagram is written right on the diagram. and slope or the portion of the member are all that are required . this occurs whenever a distributed load is applied to the member. and for linearly varying portions of a member the beginning value. end value. The only parts of the stepwise function that would be written out are the moment equations in a nonlinear portion of the moment diagram.

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