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The aim of this feature is to share up-dates, design tips and answers to queries. The Steel Construction Institute provides items which, it is hoped, will prove useful to the industry.

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Design of Members Subjected to Torsion

We have recently received a number of questions in relation to structural steel members subjected to torsion. From these calls it is evident that there is some confusion over the difference in behaviour of open and closed crosssections. In response to these queries, it therefore seems timely to present a qualitative background to the theory of torsion. Torsional loading can arise within members in two ways: an externally applied torque; or when the applied load acts eccentrically to the shear centre of the cross-section. In both cases, the member will twist about its longitudinal axis, which passes through the shear centre of the cross-section. Categories of cross-sections Torsional loading has a significant influence on the initial choice of section for maximum structural efficiency. I-shaped sections are particularly poor in resisting torsion while hollow sections can be very effective. A distinction is normally made between these two types of sections, by calling I- and Channel sections (which are poor in resisting torsion), Open Sections (fig. 1); while rectangular and circular hollow sections (which are more effective in resisting torsion), are referred to as Closed Sections (fig. 1).

Reference will be made below to warping , which is best described by considering the rectangular hollow section shown in Fig. 3. In the initial conditions, the ends of the hollow section are rectangular and plane. Suppose that a slit is made along one side of this section (thereby transforming it from a closed section to an open section), and one end is twisted relative to the other. As can be seen in Fig. 3, in response to this applied torque, the ends of the hollow section remain rectangular, but are no longer plane. This distortion of the cross-section is called warping , and is particularly pronounced in I-beams.

Fig. 3 Warping of a split (open) rectangular hollow section The total resistance of a structural member to torsional loading may be considered to be the sum of two components namely, uniform torsion and warping torsion. In some cases, only uniform torsion occurs. Whereas, when both uniform torsion and warping torsion are included in the torsional resistance, the member is in a state of non-uniform torsion. A diagrammatic representation of uniform and non-uniform torsion, on a member composed of an I-section, is shown in Fig. 4. Fig. 1. Open and closed structural sections Location of shear centre and its significance The position of the shear centre is of particular importance in design, since when a load is applied to a member, a torque will develop if the applied load does not act through the shear centre of the cross-section. In these circumstances, the torque is simply equal to the applied load multiplied by its eccentricity from the shear centre. A cross-section having two axes of symmetry has its shear centre located at the centre of gravity of the crosssection (fig. 2a). With one axis of symmetry, the shear centre lies on that axis, but will in general not coincide with the centre of gravity (fig. 2b). However, for a section having skew-symmetry, the shear centre and the centre of gravity do coincide (fig. 2c). For angle sections, the shear centre is located at the intersection of the two legs (fig. 2(d)).

Fig. 4. Uniform and non-uniform torsion of a member composed of an Isection (viewed on plan) Uniform torsion When a member is subjected to uniform torsion (sometimes referred to as pure or St Venant torsion), the rate of change of the angle of twist is constant along the member, and the longitudinal warping deflexions are also constant along the member (fig. 4a). In this case, the torque acting at any cross-section is resisted by a single set of shear stresses distributed around the crosssection (fig. 5). The ratio of the torque T to the twist rotation per unit length, is defined as the torsional rigidity GJ of the member; where G is the shear modulus and J is the torsion constant (sometimes called the St Venant torsion constant).

Fig. 2. Location of shear centre s and centre of gravity c

rigidities are very small, behave in this way. Between these extremes, the applied torque is resisted by a combination of the uniform and warping torsion components, and the member is in the general state of non-uniform torsion. This occurs for intermediate values of the parameter K, as shown in Fig. 7, which are appropriate for most open sections such as hot-rolled I- or channel sections.

Fig. 5. Shear stresses due to uniform torsion of (a) closed sections; and (b) open sections Non-uniform torsion When a member is subjected to non-uniform torsion, the rate of change of the angle of twist varies along the member (fig. 4b and c). In this case, the warping deflexions vary along the member and, to resist the applied torque, an additional set of shear stresses act in conjunction with those due to uniform torsion. The stiffness of the member associated with these additional shear stresses is proportional to the warping rigidity EH; where E is the modulus of elasticity and H is the warping constant. For a member composed of an I-section, the action of warping resistance can be visualised as follows: the torque T is resisted by a moment comprising of forces equal to the shear forces in each flange, which are separated by the lever arm, df equal to the depth between the centroids of the two flanges. If each flange is treated as a beam, the bending moments produced by these forces lead to the warping normal stresses, as shown in Fig. 6b. For an I- or H-section, this approach provides a reasonable approximation, but will generally over-estimate the warping normal stress whilst underestimating the warping shear stress (since the approach ignores the shear stresses from uniform torsion). However, it cannot be readily applied to channel sections; in such circumstances, more rigorous methods of analysis need to be adopted.

Fig. 7. Effect of cross-section on torsional behaviour Whether a member is in a state of uniform or non-uniform torsion also depends on the loading arrangement and the warping restraints. If the torsion resisted is constant along the member and warping is unrestrained (as shown in fig. 4a), then the member will be in uniform torsion, even if the torsional rigidity is very small. If, however, the torsion resisted varies along the length of the member (fig. 4b), or if the warping displacements are restrained in any way (fig. 4c), then the rate of change of the angle of twist rotation will vary, and the member will be in a state of non-uniform torsion. As a result of applying a torque to a member, the torsional stresses induced within the section, which should be considered in design, are: (a) Shear stresses due to uniform torsion. (b) Shear stresses due to warping torsion. (c) Bending stresses due to warping. Each of the above stresses is associated with the angle of twist , or its derivatives. Hence, if is determined for different positions along the member length, the corresponding stresses can be evaluated at each position. Torsion of closed sections As discussed above, the torsional rigidity GJ of a closed section is very large compared with its warping rigidity EH (fig. 7). Therefore, a member composed of a closed section may be considered to be subject only to uniform torsion. For a rectangular or circular hollow section, the uniform torsion will result in a uniform shear stress developing within the walls of the cross-section (fig. 5a). In these circumstances, the problem is statically determinate, and the shear stress as well as the angle of twist may be determined from simple statics. Torsion of open sections As discussed above, for members composed of open sections such as hotrolled I- or Channel sections, the section may be considered to be subject to the general state of non-uniform torsion (fig. 7). In these circumstances, the applied torque is resisted by a combination of uniform torsion and warping torsion components. Uniform torsion If a torque is applied to the ends of a member, in such a way that the ends are free to warp, then the member will only develop uniform torsion (fig. 4a). The resulting shear stresses will vary linearly across the thickness of the element (fig. 5b): they are maximum at the element surfaces, with two equal values, but opposite in direction. These stresses are a function of the rate of change of the angle of twist, and are greatest in the thickest element of the crosssection i.e., typically the flanges in an I-beam. (At junctions between the web and the flanges, the local shear stresses may exceed the stresses in the thickest element of the cross-section; for rolled sections, this effect may be neglected by the designer, as allowance for the root fillet radii are made in determining the torsional constant J in section property tables).

Fig. 6. Warping stresses in an open section member composed of an I-beam Effect of cross-section on torsional behaviour Before examining how different types of sections perform in resisting torsion, it is useful to first introduce the non-dimensional torsion parameter for the member:

For sections that have a very high torsional rigidity GJ compared to their warping rigidity EH, K becomes small; in these circumstances the member will effectively be in a state of uniform torsion (as indicated in Fig. 7). Closed sections, whose torsional rigidities are very large, behave in this way, as do sections whose warping rigidities are negligible, such as angle and Tsections. Conversely, for sections whose warping rigidity EH is very high compared to their torsional rigidity GJ, K becomes very large, and the member is in the limiting state of warping torsion (as indicated in Fig. 7). Very thin-walled open sections, such as light gauge cold-formed sections, whose torsional

Warping torsion When a uniform torque is applied to a member restrained against warping, the section itself will be subject to non-uniform torsion with the rate of change of the angle of twist varying along the length of the member (fig. 4c). The rotation of the section with respect to a restrained end will be accompanied by bending of the flanges in their own plane (sometimes referred to as the Bimoment ). The warping normal and warping shear stresses developed by this condition are shown in Fig. 6. Warping stresses are also generated in members of open section when the applied torque varies along the length, even if the ends are free to warp (fig. 4b). End conditions As discussed above, the end conditions will also greatly influence the torsional stresses along the member. Note that end conditions for torsion calculations may be quite different from those for bending e.g., a beam may be supported at both ends, but torsionally restrained at only one end: the torsional equivalent of a cantilever. Torsional fixity must be provided by at least one point along the length of the member, otherwise it will simply physically twist when the torque is applied. Also, warping fixity cannot be provided without also providing torsional fixity. As a result, there are three possible boundary conditions which may sensibly considered in torsion calculations: (i) Torsion fixed, warping fixed This condition is satisfied when, at the ends of the member, both twisting about the longitudinal axis and warping of the cross-section are prevented (sometimes referred to as a Fixed torsional end condition). Effective warping fixity is practically almost impossible to achieve in most structures. A connexion providing fixity in both directions is not sufficient, it is also necessary to restrain the two flanges either side of the web. Details such as those shown in Fig. 8a need to be provided to achieve this type of boundary condition. It should be noted, however, that the provision of warping fixity does not produce such a large reduction in torsion stresses as is obtained from bending fixity. Therefore, it is more practical to assume warping free connexions (see (ii) below), even when fixity is provided in terms of bending. (ii) Torsion fixed, warping free This is satisfied when the cross-section at the ends of the member is prevented from twisting, but is allowed to warp freely (sometimes referred to as a Pinned torsional end condition). Such a condition may be readily achieved by providing the relatively simple standard connexions, such as shown in Fig. 8b.

(iii) Torsion free, warping free This condition is achieved when the end is free to warp and twist (sometimes referred to as a Free torsional end condition): the unsupported end of a cantilever illustrates this case.

Fig. 8. Practical end conditions The above gives a basic overview of the considerations that should be made in the design process for structural steel sections, which are to be subjected to torsion. Design equations for estimating the stresses due to torsion, in combination with bending, may be found in SCI publication 057 entitled Design of Members Subject to Combined Bending and Torsion. Contact: Dr Stephen Hicks: e-mail: