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**Effective Teaching and Learning of the Conjugate Beam Method: Synthesized Guiding Rules
**

Ing-Chang Jong University of Arkansas

Abstract There are different established methods in Mechanics of Materials for determining deflections of beams. No matter which established method is used, one rightfully expects an identical solution to be obtained for the same problem. Well, not so fast! One will here see a puzzling scenario where a certain problem is amenable to solution only by the conjugate beam method, but not by any of the other methods at all. A loaded beam in equilibrium on a simple support is employed as an example of the puzzling scenario, solvable only by the conjugate beam method. The root cause of such a scenario lies in the fact that the conjugate beam method uses “support conditions” while all other methods use “boundary conditions” in the solutions. This paper contributes ten synthesized guiding rules for the conjugate beam method to effectively assist in its teaching and learning. Examples having different levels of complexity are included to illustrate the use of these rules. The solutions obtained by the conjugate beam method are checked and interpreted. I. Introduction Mechanics of Materials is either a required or an elective course in most undergraduate engineering curricula. Major established methods for determining deflections of beams, as taught in such a course, may include the following: 1-6 (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) Method of double integration (with or without the use of singularity functions), Method of superposition, Method using moment-area theorems, Method using Castigliano’s theorem, and Conjugate beam method.

The conjugate beam method was first derived, defined, and propounded for determining deflections of beams in 1921 by Westergaard.1 It may well be called a “Westergaard method.” Readers interested in the development of this method are advised to refer to the original paper by Westergaard.1 Additionally, note that this method is one of the established methods for finding deflections of beams in the textbook by Timoshenko/MacCullough2 and that by Singer/Pytel.3 Nevertheless, this method is not easily found in most other textbooks.4,5,6 Solutions using the above methods (a) through (d ) all require that boundary conditions regarding slopes or deflections at two or more different positions of a beam in equilibrium (e.g., zero or a specific slope, zero or a specific deflection, equal slopes, or equal deflections) be known. However, solutions using the above method (e) — conjugate beam method — require, instead, that support conditions regarding the types of support a beam has or the connections between the segments of the beam (e.g., fixed support, roller support, hinge support, internal

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

be known. 1. a hinge or roller support) at its midpoint C as illustrated in Fig.. In the process. amounts of slopes and deflections) are not known. both the boundary condition (zero deflection) and the support condition (simple support) are known.) For each existing support condition of the actual beam. Rule 2: The loading diagram showing the elastic loads acting on the conjugate beam is simply the bending-moment diagram of the actual beam divided by the flexural rigidity EI of the actual beam. the boundary conditions (i. let it be desired to determine the slopes and deflections of an elastic beam AB that has a constant flexural rigidity EI. This is the root cause that leads to a certain puzzling scenario. American Society for Engineering Education . it is simply not enough to allow any of the aforementioned four methods (a) through (d ) to proceed to solve for the deflections of the beam.. which are enough to allow the conjugate beam method to proceed to solve for the deflections of the beam! What happens? Is the conjugate beam method more powerful? III.e. This beam carries a concentrated load P at A and a couple of moment M = PL # at B. but the support conditions (i.e. The first step is to set up an additional beam.1 ■ ■ Rule 1: The length of the conjugate beam is the same as the length of the actual beam.e. called “conjugate beam.e.2 hinge. these two steps are to be guided by some ten rules that are synthesized and inferred by the writer of this paper from the original paper of Westergaard. At the ends A and B. 1 An actual beam (i. a length of 2L. if any. At point C of this beam. Synthesized Guiding Rules for Using the Conjugate Beam Method Westergaard1 propounded a great method. B. The correspondence is given by rules 3 through 7 listed in Table 1. the beam is in equilibrium and will deflect. but earlier textbooks2. A Case in Point: a Beam with a Simple Support and Balanced Loading For example.. and a simple support (i. and C of the beam. Fig. On the other hand. II. free ends) are known. The catch here is that the amount of information we know about the boundary conditions of a beam is not necessarily equivalent to that we know about the support conditions of the same beam.” and the second step is to determine the “shearing forces” and “bending moments” in the conjugate beam.. there is a corresponding support condition for the conjugate beam. there are two major steps in the conjugate beam method. Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004. Actually.3 provided mainly brief and elementary coverage of the conjugate beam method. or free end). we do know the support conditions at points A. physical beam) with a simple support and balanced loading Since we know only a single boundary condition at point C of the beam. (This elastic load is upward if the bending moment is positive — to cause top fiber in compression — in beam convention. Clearly.

Fig. conjugate beam. Illustrative Examples for the Conjugate Beam Method Example 1. 3 the conjugate beam (i.3 Table 1 Corresponding support condition for the conjugate beam Existing support condition of the actual beam Fixed end Free end Simple support at the end Simple support not at the end Unsupported hinge Corresponding support condition for the conjugate beam Free end Fixed end Simple support at the end Unsupported hinge Simple support Rule 3 Rule 4 Rule 5 Rule 6 Rule 7 The slopes and deflections of the actual beam are obtained by employing the following rules: ■ Rule 8: The actual beam.] Rule 9: The slope of (the centerline of ) the actual beam at any cross section is equal to the “shearing force” at the corresponding cross section of the conjugate beam. 2. (This slope is positive or counterclockwise if the “shearing force” is positive — to rotate the beam element clockwise — in beam convention. [Cf. which is acted on by a concentrated force P at its free end A as shown in Fig..e. an additional beam) corresponding to the actual beam in Fig. Determine the slope θA and deflection yA of the free end A of a cantilever beam AB with length L and constant flexural rigidity EI. 2 A cantilever beam (actual beam) Solution.) IV. 3 Conjugate beam (additional beam) corresponding to the actual beam in Fig. (This deflection is upward if the “bending moment” is positive — to cause top fiber in compression — in beam convention. According to the rules 1 through 4 in Sec. 2. 2 Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004. Fig. and even conjugate beam of a conjugate beam are all in static equilibrium. Eq. (29) about the use of conjugate beam of a conjugate beam. III.) ■ ■ Rule 10: The deflection of (the centerline of ) the actual beam at any point is equal to the “bending moment” of the conjugate beam at the corresponding point. we first draw in Fig. American Society for Engineering Education .

4 the free-body diagram for the conjugate beam shown in Fig. 5. and a fixed end at A. Fig. 3. the “shearing force” at A of the conjugate beam) and the reaction “moment” Mc (i.4 Note in Fig. (3) and (4) agree with those obtained by other methods as reported in textbooks. by rules 1 through 4. a free end at B. the slope θA and the deflection yA at the free end A of the actual beam in Fig. III. the same length L as the actual beam.2– 6 The deflections of the cantilever beam and the results in Eqs. (3) and (4) are illustrated in Fig. American Society for Engineering Education . 2 are. we employ the results in Eqs. III.e. equal to the “shearing force” Acy and the “bending moment” Mc at the fixed end A of the conjugate beam in Fig. the free body of the conjugate beam is in equilibrium. 3 that the conjugate beam has. Next. 4 Free-body diagram for the conjugate beam in Fig. respectively. The anA swers in Eqs. the “bending moment” at A of the conjugate beam) have the A following values: Acy = Mc = A PL2 ↑ 2 EI (1) PL3 % (2) 3EI By rules 9 and 10 in Sec.. 3 According to rule 8 in Sec. we readily find that the reaction “force” Acy (i. a linearly varying distributed downward elastic load with intensity equal to zero at A and equal to PL/EI at B.e. Thus.. Fig. 3. 5 Deflections of the cantilever beam (actual beam) in Fig. 2 Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004. Thus. we draw in Fig. (1) A and (2) to obtain the desired solutions as follows: PL2 θA = 2 EI yA = % (3) (4) PL3 ↓ 3 EI Note that yA points downward because Mc causes tension in top fiber of the beam at A.

III.. American Society for Engineering Education . 8 Free-body diagram for the conjugate beam in Fig. since a beam is usually not subjected to axial loads. 7 Conjugate beam corresponding to the Gerber beam in Fig. we draw in Fig. 8 the freebody diagram for the conjugate beam shown in Fig. 7 Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004. (c) the maximum deflection between A and B. (b) the deflections at C and D. and another simple support (e. [This one is intended to illustrate the solution of a rather challenging problem. 6. the same total length of 4L as the actual beam. (d ) the maximum deflection between C and E. 5. According to the rules 1. D. drawn by parts. Fig. 7 that the conjugate beam has. This beam is supported and loaded with a force P at D as shown in Fig. Notice that a simple support can be either a roller support or a hinge support. C. of the actual beam divided by the flexural rigidity EI of the actual beam. 7. Next.g. 3. a free end at A. 6. Fig. an unsupported hinge at B.] Fig. 6 Note in Fig. a roller support) at C. 2. 6. 6 A Gerber beam (actual beam) Solution.5 Example 2. A Gerber beam (Gerberbalken) of total length 4L has a hinge connection at C and constant flexural rigidity EI in its segments ABC and CDE. by these rules.g. a linearly distributed elastic load given by the bending-moment diagram. a simple support (e.. a hinge support) at E. we first draw in Fig. Determine for this beam (a) the slopes at B. 7 the conjugate beam corresponding to the actual beam in Fig. and E. and 7 in Sec.

as follows: c VB = − 6 PL2 48 EI (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) c VD = 7 PL2 48 EI c VE = 19 PL2 48 EI 18 PL2 48 EI 5 PL2 48 EI (V ) c C c C l = − = − (V ) r According to rule 9 in Sec. the slopes at these locations are.6 According to rule 8 in Sec. 8 is in equilibrium. C y . American Society for Engineering Education . and E. as well as just to the left of C. we can readily find that the “shearing forces” at B.” because we can readily write a total c c of three independent equations to solve for the three unknowns By . and E y appearing in Fig. we see that the conjugate beam in Fig. 8 is “statically determinate. Readers can readily verify that the solutions obtained are as follows: By = c Cy = c Ey = 5P 4 (5) (6) (7) 13 PL2 48 EI 19 PL2 48 EI Using Fig. 8 and Eqs. 8. (5) through (7). and just to the right of C in the conjugate beam are. the free body of the conjugate beam in Fig. III. D. Based on the fact that the bending moment at the unsupported hinge at B must be zero plus the fact the entire conjugate beam subjected to only vertical elastic loads is in equilibrium. respectively. III. as follows: θB = 6 PL2 48 EI 7 PL2 48 EI 19 PL2 48 EI = 18 PL2 48 EI 5 PL2 48 EI Z (13) (14) (15) (16) (17) θD = X θE = X (θC )l Z (θC )r = Z Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004. respectively.

respectively. the deflections at these locations are. (5) through (7). respectively. 9 Slopes and deflections of the Gerber beam (actual beam) in Fig. (20) and (21). where the slopes of the beam are zero. we can plot in Fig. (13) through (17) and Eqs. III. we obtain c yF = M F = PL3 54 EI PL (ymax ) AB = 54 EI 3 ↑ (24) (25) c yG = MG = − (126 + 5 15 ) PL3 432 EI ( ymax )CE = (126 + 5 15 )PL3 ↓ 432 EI Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004. 8 and Eqs. as follows: c MC = − c MD = − 14 PL3 48 EI 15 PL3 48 EI (18) (19) According to rule 10 in Sec. 8 and Eqs. 6 Using Fig. we find that the “shearing forces” in the conjugate beam are zero at F and G. By computing the “bending moments” at F and G in Fig. 6. Fig. 9 the slopes and deflections of the Gerber beam in Fig. 8 and applying rule 10 in Sec. which are located with the distances BF = CG = L 3 (22) 15 L (23) 6 The maximum deflections occur at F and G. III. we can readily find that the “bending moments” at C and D in the conjugate beam are. using Fig. American Society for Engineering Education .7 Furthermore. as follows: yC = yD = 14 PL3 ↓ 48 EI 15 PL3 ↓ 48 EI (20) (21) Based on the results obtained in Eqs. (5) through (7).

10 The free-body diagram for the conjugate beam in Fig. 10 the corresponding conjugate beam for the actual beam in Fig. which points out that the conjugate beam of the conjugate beam must also be in static equilibrium. 11 Free-body diagram for the conjugate beam in Fig. Applying rules 1. 1. American Society for Engineering Education . III. we draw in Fig. 12 Conjugate beam of the conjugate beam in Fig. 10 is shown in Fig. 10. and 6 in Sec. II. Taking the “flexural rigidity” of conjugate beam as 1. respectively. 1 Fig. where Acy and Bc y c are the unknown reaction “forces” and Mc and MB are the unknown reaction “moments” at A A and B. 2. and distributed downward elastic loads as shown. 10 Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004. an unsupported hinge at C. These four unknowns at the ends A and B are statically indeterminate. fixed supports at the ends A and B. 10 Conjugate beam corresponding to the actual beam in Fig. Fig. III.8 V. we draw in Fig. 4. Fig. Note that this conjugate beam has the same length of 2L as the actual beam. 12 the conjugate beam of the conjugate beam in Fig. Solution for the Case in Point by the Conjugate Beam Method Let us return to consider deflections of the beam with a simple support and balanced loading in Fig. 11. which illustrates the case in point described in Sec. but they may be determined by fully applying rule 8 in Sec. 1.

11: c M c − L Ay + A L PL2 ⋅ =0 3 2 EI L PL2 ⋅ =0 2 EI (26) c +%Σ MC = 0 . for the entire conjugate beam of the conjugate beam in Fig. (26) through (29) simultaneously for the four unknowns in them. respectively. American Society for Engineering Education . III) cc +%Σ MC = 0 . for just member CB — the right segment of the conjugate beam in Fig. (30) through (33). for the entire conjugate beam ACB in Fig. as follows: θA = 49 PL2 80 EI X (37) Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004.9 For equilibrium of the preceding conjugate beam in Fig. we write (by rule 8 in Sec. 1 are. 11. we write (by rule 8 in Sec. respectively. the slopes at A. III. III) c +%Σ MC = 0 . as follows: c VA = 49 PL2 80 EI 71PL2 80 EI (34) (35) (36) VBc = − VCc = 9 PL2 80 EI According to rule 9 in Sec. 11 are. B. for just member AC — the left segment of the conjugate beam in Fig. 12: L L L PL3 L L L L c L L L PL3 c c ⋅ MA L + ⋅ ⋅ − ⋅ ⋅ Acy L + ⋅ ⋅ By L − ⋅ MB L − ⋅ ⋅ =0 2 5 4 6 EI 3 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 EI (29) Solving Eqs. and C in the actual beam in Fig. we can readily find that the “shearing forces” at A. we get Acy = c By = c MA = c MB = 49 PL2 80 EI 71PL2 80 EI 107 PL3 240 EI 93 PL3 240 EI (30) (31) (32) (33) Using Eqs. 11: c c − MB + L By − (27) + ↑ Σ Fyc = 0 . and C in the conjugate beam shown in Fig. 11: c Ac + By − y PL2 PL2 − =0 2 EI EI (28) For equilibrium of the conjugate beam of the conjugate beam. B.

III. we find that the “shearing force” in the conjugate beam. 11 and applying rule 10 in Sec. 1. which is located with the distance CD = 9L 80 (44) Clearly. therefore. where slope of the beam is zero. By computing the “bending moments” at D in Fig. According to this rule. as well as Eqs. (30) and (31). III. hence the slope of the actual beam. 1 Using Fig. they are to be taken as “negative moments” in beam convention and by rule 10 in Sec. Fig. respectively. American Society for Engineering Education . is zero at D. (37) through (39). as follows: yA = yB = 107 PL3 ↓ 240 EI 93 PL3 ↓ 240 EI (42) (43) Using Eqs. respectively. (30) through (33). using Eqs. 13 the obtained solution for the slopes and deflections of the actual beam in Fig. as follows: c MA = c MB = 107 PL3 240 EI 93 PL3 240 EI % (40) (41) # c c The results in Eqs. 13 Slopes and deflections of the actual beam in Fig. we can readily find that the “bending moments” at A and B in the conjugate beam shown in Fig. a maximum deflection occurs at D. (40) and (41) together with the sketch in Fig. we obtain the following: c yD = MD = 81PL3 12800 EI 81PL (ymax )CB = 12800 EI 3 ↑ (45) Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004. (42) and (43). 11 reveal that both MA and MB cause the top fiber of the conjugate beam in tension.10 71PL2 80 EI 9 PL2 80 EI θB = θC = Z (38) (39) X Furthermore. 11 are. 11 and Eqs. the deflections at A and B of the actual beam in Fig. 1 are. we depict in Fig.

From the geometry in Fig. 1 are amenable to solution only by the conjugate beam method. B″ B′ . and θB /C all check with those for deflections and slopes of the free ends of cantilever beams loaded with a force P and a moment M at their free ends. 13 be repeated here. The beam in Fig. there may exist an infinite number of possible configurations of deflection for the beam in Fig. (37) through (39). Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004. 13. as well as for any beam in stable equilibrium. Unlike all other methods. fixed at C. and is deflected by couple of moment M = PL from CB″ to CB′. (b) a cantilever beam of length L. and is deflected by a force P from CA″ to CA′. For ease of reference. Here. 1. it should properly be recognized as being in neutral equilibrium! In other words. the conjugate beam method can yield a “favored” solution out of a family of possible solutions for the deflections of a beam in neutral equilibrium. Fig. 1 (repeated) Since we have obtained the slope of the tangent drawn at C. Checking and Interpreting the Results Obtained Deflections of the beam with a simple support and balanced loading in Fig. American Society for Engineering Education . we may perform an analytical check of the solutions by regarding the deflected shape of this beam as the elastic curve of two cantilevered beams: (a) a cantilever beam of length L.11 VI. respectively. and (42) through (45). fixed at C. In fact. θA /C . as found in textbooks. let Fig. 1 is not merely in equilibrium. we may analytically check the solutions for the slopes and deflections at the ends A and B of the beam. 13 Slopes and deflections of the actual beam in Fig. we find the following: # AA″ = BB″ = L θC = A″ A′ = yA − AA″ = 9 PL3 80 EI (46) (47) (49) (48) (50) 107 PL3 9 PL3 80 PL3 PL3 − = = 240 EI 80 EI 240 EI 3 EI PL2 49 PL2 9 PL2 40 PL2 − = = 80 EI 80 EI 80 EI 2 EI θ A /C = θ A − θ C = B″ B′ = yB + BB″ = (PL ) L2 93 PL3 9 PL3 PL3 ML2 + = = = 240 EI 80 EI 2 EI 2 EI 2 EI θB /C = θB − θC = − 71PL2 9 PL2 PL2 (PL ) L ML − = − = − = − 80 EI 80 EI EI EI EI We note that the above values for A″ A′ . The solutions obtained by this method have been expressed in Eqs. but not by any other methods.

in 1996-97. and A. 2001.. Timoshenko. Third Edition. In fact. Inc. Van Nostrand Company. Harper & Row. T. It is shown in this paper that the solution obtained by the conjugate beam method checks well analytically with well-known results found in textbooks. Brooks/Cole. pp. the deflection of any beam in neutral equilibrium cannot be investigated and solved by any methods except the conjugate beam method.. 2. and J. F. Pytel. Number 11. Mechanics of Materials.12 VII. If not. Elements of Strength of Materials. Mechanics of Materials. It is the purpose of this paper to share mechanics ideas with fellow mechanics educators by contributing ten synthesized guiding rules for the conjugate beam method to effectively assist in its teaching and learning.D. pp. and a Ph. Jr. M. Concluding Remarks The method of double integration. A. all of them become helpless. and method using Castigliano’s theorem are all well established methods for finding deflections of beams. H. Consequently. 4. no set of detailed guiding rules for the effective teaching and learning of this method has been found in current textbooks. “Deflections of Beams by the Conjugate Beam Method. Singer. there exist puzzling scenarios where deflections of beams in neutral equilibrium are amenable to solution only by the conjugate beam method. method of superposition. 3. Sixth Edition. M. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics in 1965 from Northwestern University. method using moment-area theorems. P. R. Third Edition. pp.. J. an MSCE in 1963 from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. and J. His research interests are in mechanics and engineering education. He served as Chair of the Mechanics Division. 2003. The root cause of such scenarios lies in the use of support conditions versus boundary conditions in the solution. 2004.” Journal of the Western Society of Engineers.. Westergaard. F. Inc. Kiusalaas. Johnston. However.. Gere. MacCullough. Mechanics of Materials.179-181. 1949. Inc. Unfortunately. For deflections of beams. 369-396. E. and G. 6. Fourth Edition. Should this method be included in the mechanics curriculum? Readers are invited to answer this question. References 1. but not by any other methods at all. American Society for Engineering Education . The McGraw-Hill Companies. Beer. Volume XXVI. the conjugate beam method — a fabulous method — can work equally well as (or arguably better than) other established methods.. ING-CHANG JONG Ing-Chang Jong is currently a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Arkansas. Strength of Materials. He received a BSCE in 1961 from the National Taiwan University. 1921. 1987. DeWolf. 5. H.. the conjugate beam method stands out as the only method that is able to pursue and yield a solution for the deflections of a balanced beam with a single simple support. 228232. ASEE. but they all require that the boundary conditions of the beams be known or specified. Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004.... L. Publishers. This study points out that the fundamental prior knowledge about the condition of a beam needed in the solution by the conjugate beam method is a whole lot different from that needed in the solutions by other methods. Brooks/Cole. D. S. Pytel.

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