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Beam Deflection Test
David Clark
Group C:
David Clark
Jacob Parton
Zachary Tyler
Andrew Smith
10/20/2006
Abstract
If a beam is supported at two points, and a load is applied anywhere on the beam,
the resulting deformation can be mathematically estimated. Due to improper
experimental setup, the actual results experienced varied substantially when compared
against the theoretical values. The following procedure explains how the theoretical and
actual values were determined, as well as suggestions for improving upon the experiment.
The percent error remained relatively small, around 10%, for locations close to supports.
As much as 30% error was experienced when analyzing positions closer to the center of
the beam.
2
Table of Contents
1. Introduction & Background ............................................................ 4
1.1. General Background .............................................................. 4
1.2. Determination of Curvature .................................................... 4
1.3. Central Loading ..................................................................... 4
1.4. Overhanging Loads ................................................................ 6
2. Equipment and Procedure ............................................................ 7
2.1. Equipment .............................................................................. 7
2.2. Experiment Setup ................................................................... 7
2.3. Central Loading ...................................................................... 8
2.4. Overhanging Loads ................................................................ 8
3. Data, Analysis & Calculations ....................................................... 9
3.1. Central Loading ...................................................................... 9
3.2. Overhanging Loads .............................................................. 11
4. Results ........................................................................................ 12
5. Conclusions ................................................................................. 13
6. References .................................................................................. 14
7. Raw Notes ................................................................................... 14
3
1. Introduction & Background
1.1.General Background
If a beam is supported at two points, and a load is applied anywhere on the beam,
deformation will occur. When these loads are applied either longitudinally outside or
inside of the supports, this elastic bending can be mathematically predicted based on
material properties and geometry.
1.2.Determination of Curvature
Curvature at any point on the beam is calculated from the moment of loading (M),
the stiffness of the material (E), and the first moment of inertia (I.) The following
expression defines the curvature in these parameters as 1/ρ, where ρ is the radius of
curvature.
I E
M
⋅
·
ρ
1
Equation 1
Equation 1 does not account for shearing stresses.
Curvature can also be found using calculus. Defining y as the deflection and x as
the position along the longitudinal axis, the expression becomes
2
3
2
2
2
1
1
]
]
]
]
,
`
.

+
·
dx
dy
dx
y d
ρ
Equation 2
1.3. Central Loading
Central loading on a beam can be thought of as a simple beam with two supports
as shown below.
4
Figure 1
Applying equilibrium to the free body equivalent of Figure 1, several expressions
can be derived to mathematically explain central loading.
2
0
2 2
0
0
P
R R P R F
P
R L R
L P
M
R F
ay c ay y
C C A
ax x
· ⇒ + − · · ↑ +
· ⇒ ⋅ + − · ·
· · → +
∑
Equation 3, 4, and 5
Figure 2 and 3 act as free body diagrams for the section between AB and BC
respectively.
Figure 2
Figure 3
Solving the reactions between AB and BC, equation 1 can be expressed as
5
L x
L L P x P
dx
y d
I E
L
x
x P
dx
y d
I E
≤ ≤ + − ·
≤ ≤ ·
2 2 2
2
0
2
2
2
2
2
Equation 6, 7
Integrating twice, Equation 6 becomes
L x
L
C x C
x L P x P
y I E
L
x C x C
x P
y I E
≤ ≤ + + + − ·
≤ ≤ + + ·
2 4 12
2
0
12
4 3
2 3
2 1
3
Equation 8, 9
To determine the constants, conditions at certain positions on the beam can be
applied. Knowing the deflection at each of the supports, as well as the slope at the top of
the curve is zero, the constants can be derived to
48 16
3
0
16
3
4
2
3 2
2
1
L P
C L P C C
L P
C · − · · − ·
Equation 10, 11, 12, and 13
Combining Equations 8 and 9 with 10 through 13, the expressions for deflection
can be expressed as
L x
L L P x L P x L P x P
y I E
L
x
x L P x P
y I E
≤ ≤ + − + − ·
≤ ≤ − ·
2 48 16
3
4 12
2
0
16 12
3 2 2 3
2 3
Equation 14, 15
1.4.Overhanging Loads
Overhanging loading on a beam is similar to that of central loading. In
overhanging loading, a simple beam is supported with two supports and two loads as
shown below.
6
Figure 4
Using similar methods used previously for central loading, the equation for
determination of deflection as a function of position, load, length, stiffness, and geometry
can be derived as
( ) ( ) L x x b a
L P x a P
b a
L
x P
y I E ≤ ≤ + + − − · 0 2
6 2 6
2 3
Equation 16
2. Equipment and Procedure
2.1.Equipment
1. Frame with Movable Knife Edge Supports
2. Metal beam: In this experiment, 2024T6 aluminum was tested. The beam
should be fairly rectangular, thin, and long. Specific dimensions are
dependant to the size of the test frame and available weights.
3. Calipers, Dial Gages, and a Tape Measure: Calipers should be used to
measure the width and thickness of the beam. Dial gages will be used to
measure deflection along the length of the beam. The tape measure is used
to measure the length of the test region.
4. Hangers and Weights:
2.2.Experiment Setup
Set the knife supports at determined positions along the frame and mount the
beam to be tested. The material, width, thickness, and length between supports should be
measured and recorded for later use.
7
2.3.Central Loading
Place dial gages along lengths of the test area (the area between the knife
supports) and set the gages to read zero with no load applied. Adding the hook and
hanger to the center of the beam, record the new readings for the gages. Add new loads
onto the hanger, recording the new deflections for each gage after every loading.
Figure 5
2.4.Overhanging Loads
Dial gages were placed along lengths of the test area and set to read zero with no
applied load. Adding a hook and hanger on each ends extending outside the knife
supports, record the new readings on each of the gages. In discrete intervals, add weights
to both ends of the beam with the hooks applied previously. Record the new deflections
read by the dial gages after each new loading.
Figure 6
Gage 1 Gage 2 Gage 3 Gage 4
L
o
a
d
Gage 1 Gage 2 Gage 3
L
o
a
d
L
o
a
d
8
3. Data, Analysis & Calculations
3.1.Central Loading
Table 1 and 2 catalog the dimensions of the beam, as well as the position of the
gages as measured from one of the two fixed supports.
20.000
1.060
0.140
Beam Dimensions (inches)
Test Length
Width
Thickness
Table 1
Position of Gages (inches)
x1
x2
x3
x4
2.150
6.500
13.500
17.500
Table 2
Table 3 returns the results from six different load configurations.
9
Strep Type Load (lb) Gage 1 (in) Gage 2 (in) Gage 3 (in) Gage 4 (in)
2.500 6.500 13.500 17.500
0 Actual 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
0 Theoretical 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
0 Error 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
1 Actual 0.110 0.003 0.008 0.008 0.004
1 Theoretical 0.110 0.003 0.006 0.006 0.003
1 Error 10.92% 31.31% 31.31% 49.79%
2 Actual 0.610 0.017 0.041 0.041 0.019
2 Theoretical 0.610 0.015 0.034 0.034 0.015
2 Error 13.35% 21.36% 21.36% 28.30%
3 Actual 1.110 0.030 0.076 0.075 0.034
3 Theoretical 1.110 0.027 0.061 0.061 0.027
3 Error 9.92% 23.62% 22.00% 26.17%
4 Actual 1.610 0.045 0.110 0.110 0.050
4 Theoretical 1.610 0.040 0.089 0.089 0.039
4 Error 13.68% 23.36% 23.36% 27.92%
5 Actual 2.110 0.059 0.145 0.145 0.066
5 Theoretical 2.110 0.052 0.117 0.117 0.051
5 Error 13.73% 24.08% 24.08% 28.84%
Deflection Data for Central Loading
Table 3
Deflection Resulting on a Centrally Loaded Beam
0.160
0.140
0.120
0.100
0.080
0.060
0.040
0.020
0.000
0.000 2.000 4.000 6.000 8.000 10.000 12.000 14.000 16.000 18.000 20.000
Position (inches)
D
e
f
l
e
c
t
i
o
n
(
i
n
c
h
e
s
)
Step 0
Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5
Step 0 Theoretical
Step 1 Theoretical
Step 2 Theoretical
Step 3 Theoretical
Step 4 Theoretical
Step 5 Theoretical
Figure 7
10
3.2.Overhanging Loads
20.000
1.060
0.140
13.000
13.000 Distance from right support to edge
Beam Dimensions
Test Length
Width
Thickness
Distance from left support to edge
Table 4
x1 2.5
x2 10
x3 17.5
Position of gages
Table 5
Strep Type Load (lb) Gage 1 (in) Gage 2 (in) Gage 3 (in)
2.500 10.000 17.500
0 Actual 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
0 Theoretical 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
0 Error 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
1 Actual 0.110 0.014 0.035 0.015
1 Theoretical 0.110 0.012 0.028 0.012
1 Error 12.82% 23.40% 20.88%
2 Actual 0.330 0.043 0.107 0.048
2 Theoretical 0.330 0.037 0.085 0.037
2 Error 15.51% 25.75% 28.94%
3 Actual 0.550 0.070 0.172 0.076
3 Theoretical 0.550 0.062 0.142 0.062
3 Error 12.82% 21.28% 22.49%
4 Actual 0.770 0.101 0.252 0.112
4 Theoretical 0.770 0.087 0.199 0.087
4 Error 16.27% 26.92% 28.94%
5 Actual 0.990 0.131 0.320 0.142
5 Theoretical 0.990 0.112 0.255 0.112
5 Error 17.30% 25.36% 27.15%
Deflection Data for Overhanging Loads
Table 6
11
Deflection Resulting from Overhanging Loads
0.000
0.050
0.100
0.150
0.200
0.250
0.300
0.350
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18
Position (inches)
D
e
f
l
e
c
t
i
o
n
(
i
n
c
h
e
s
)
Step 0
Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Step 4
Step 5
Step 0 Theoretical
Step 1 Theoretical
Step 2 Theoretical
Step 3 Theoretical
Step 4 Theoretical
Step 5 Theoretical
Figure 8
4. Results
The theoretical results were not as expected or experienced. There was significant
error between the actual results and theoretical value, especially as the distance studied
approached the midpoint of the beam. Though the difference in inches was small, the
percent error could be as high as 30%.
The main source of error within this experiment occurs due to the improper
testing procedure. As seen in Figure 9, the theory used within this exercise is based upon
a beam with one fixed support allowing one degree of freedom, a second support
allowing two degrees of freedom, and a central load.
12
Figure 9
This produces dramatically different results when compared against the actual
setup. When using two knife supports, the setup contains two supports allowing two
degrees of freedom and a central load. This is pictured in Figure 10.
Figure 10
Since both ends are underconstrained, the analysis for the experiment with the above
theory is not accurate.
Another cause of error in the theoretical is the effect of gravity on the beam. With
no applied load, the equations above would return a zero result. This is inaccurate for
beams that are not specifically supported such that gravitational factors are overcome.
5. Conclusions
When an load is applied to a beam, either centrally over at another point, the
deflection can be mathematically estimated. Due to the error that occurred in this
exercise, it is clear that margins in safety factors, as well as thorough testing, is needed
when utilizing beam design. It is also important to ensure the scope of the testing closely
models realworld practicality.
13
6. References
Gilbert, J. A and C. L. Carmen. "Chapter 11 – Beam Deflection Test." MAE/CE 370 –
Mechanics of Materials Laboratory Manual. June 2000.
7. Raw Notes
Figure 11
14
Figure 12
15
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