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Moment of Inertia of Simple and Compound Shapes

Moment of Inertia Definition In everyday speech, the word “moment” refers to a short amount of time. In physics and engineering mechanics, moment is the product of a quantity and the distance from that quantity to a given point or axis. For example, in Statics, a force acting on a wrench handle produces a torque, or moment, about the axis of a bolt: M = P ! L . This is the moment of a force. We can also describe moments of areas. Consider a beam with a rectangular cross-section. The horizontal neutral axis of this beam is the x-x axis in the drawing. Take a small area “a” within the cross-section at a distance “y” from the x-x neutral axis of the beam. The first moment of this area is a ! y . The second moment of this area is Ix = ( a ! y ) ! y = ay 2 . In Strength of Materials, “second moment of area” is usually abbreviated “moment of inertia”. If we divide the total area into many little areas, then the moment of inertia of the entire cross-section is the sum of the moments of inertia of all of the little areas. We can calculate the moment of inertia about the vertical y-y neutral axis: Iy = ( a ! x ) ! x = ax 2 . The “x” and “y” in Ix and Iy refer to the neutral axis.

This beam has a depth of 16 cm and a width of 5 cm. We can divide the beam into 8 equal segments 2 cm deep, 5 cm wide, so that each segment has an area a = 2 cm ! 5 cm = 10 cm 2 . The centroid of segment #1 is 7 cm from the x-x axis ( y1 = 7 cm ) ; the centroid of segment #2 is 5 cm from the x-x axis ( y 2 = 5 cm ) ; and so on. We can estimate the moment of inertia for the entire area as the sum of the moments of inertia of the segments, written as

**Ix = ! a i y 2 i where n = the total number of segments, and i = the
**

1

n

**number of each segment (from 1 to n), or:
**

2 2 2 2 2 2 2 Ix = a1y1 + a 2 y2 2 + a 3y 3 + a 4 y 4 + a 5 y 5 + a 6 y 6 + a 7 y 7 + a 8 y 8

= 10 cm 2 ! ( 7 cm ) + 10 cm 2 ! ( 5 cm ) + 10 cm 2 ! ( 3 cm )

2 2

2

+10 cm 2 ! (1 cm ) + 10 cm 2 ! (1 cm ) + 10 cm 2 ! ( 3 cm )

2 2

2

+10 cm 2 ! ( 5 cm ) + 10 cm 2 ! ( 7 cm )

2

2

= 1680 cm 4

© 2011 Barry Dupen

1 of 9

Revised 3 May 2011

5 cm ) 2 2 2 2 +5 cm 2 ( 4. the estimates get closer to the actual solution. twice 12 12 the moment of inertia of a single beam. 3 ment of inertia is Ix = These glued beams share the same neutral axis.Notes for Strength of Materials.7 cm 4 .5 cm ) +5 cm 2 ( 7. we can add the moment of inertia of two cross-sections as long as they share the same neutral axis.5 cm ) 2 2 2 +5 cm 2 ( 4. ET 200 Moment of Inertia of Simple and Compound Shapes We can take the same beam and split it into 16 segments 1 cm deep. 12 The exact solution for the moment of inertia of a 5 cm wide. where b is the width and h is the depth. 12 12 3 Compound Beams Sharing a Neutral Axis Now take the same beam and glue it side-by-side to an identical beam.5 cm ) + 5 cm 2 ( 0. derived bh 3 from calculus: Ix = . The base is twice as wide.5 cm ) + 5 cm 2 ( 2. so the moment of inertia is Ix = Ix1 + Ix2 = = 3 3 b1h1 b h3 b h3 + b2 h2 + 2 2= 1 1 12 12 12 3 3 5 cm (16 cm ) + 3 cm ( 8 cm ) 12 = 1834.3 cm 4 .5 cm ) + 5 cm 2 ( 2.525 cm 4 As the size of the segments drops. Therefore.7 cm 4 © 2011 Barry Dupen 2 of 9 Revised 3 May 2011 .5 cm ) + 5 cm 2 ( 3. we’ll get the actual solution.5 cm ) + 5 cm 2 ( 5.5 cm ) + 5 cm 2 ( 0. The mo- bh 3 10 cm (16 cm ) = = 3413.5 cm ) + 5 cm 2 ( 6.5 cm ) + 5 cm 2 ( 6.5 cm ) 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 +5 cm 2 (1.5 cm ) 2 2 +5 cm 2 (1.5 cm ) + 5 cm 2 ( 5.5 cm ) + 5 cm 2 ( 3. the depth is the same.5 cm ) = 1704. 16 cm deep rectangular beam is Ix = bh 3 5 cm (16 cm ) = = 1706. If we split the beam into an infinite number of infinitely-small segments. 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 Ix = a1y1 + a 2 y2 2 + a 3y 3 + a 4 y 4 + a 5 y 5 + a 6 y 6 + a 7 y 7 + a 8 y 8 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 +a 9 y 2 9 + a10 y10 + a11 y11 + a12 y12 + a13 y13 + a14 y14 + a15 y15 + a16 y16 We can estimate the moment of inertia as: Ix = 5 cm 2 ( 7.

Notes for Strength of Materials. Note: the symbol “d” is also used for the diameter of a circle. The Transfer Formula is I = Io + ad 2 .) " ( 2. ! 2 = 64 64 64 A standard 2" steel pipe has dimensions d1 = 2. the moment of inertia of a circle !d 4 is Ix = . even though they share the same symbol. a = the area of the shape.6657 in. these quantities are different. so: Ix = Ix1 + Ix2 + Ix 3 = 3 3 b1h1 + b2 h2 + b 3h 3 3 12 Hollow Beams Sharing a Neutral Axis If a beam is hollow. . then we can subtract the moment of inertia of the hollow from the moment of inertia of an equivalent solid beam.) 4 ( 4 64 ) = 0. I = moment of inertia about a parallel x'-x' axis. Sometimes we need to calculate the moment of inertia of a beam about a different. where Io = moment of inertia about the x-x neutral axis. From calculus.375 in. © 2011 Barry Dupen 3 of 9 Revised 3 May 2011 . so: Ix = ! ( 2. and d = the distance between the x-x neutral axis and the parallel x'-x' axis (the transfer distance).067 in. 4 The Transfer Formula The moments of inertia calculated in the previous examples were evaluated about the neutral axis of each shape. Ix = Ix1 ! Ix2 3 b1h1 b h3 ! 2 2 12 12 3 3 b h ! b2 h2 = 1 1 12 = 9 cm (16 cm ) ! 7 cm (14 cm ) 12 = 1471 cm 4 3 3 = We can use the same technique for finding the moment of inertia of a hollow tube. therefore the moment of inertia of a hollow circle is 64 Ix = Ix1 ! Ix2 = 4 4 4 "d1 "d 4 " ( d1 ! d 2 ) . and the hollow space shares the same neutral axis as the beam.067 in. ET 200 Moment of Inertia of Simple and Compound Shapes This compound beam can be divided into rectangular segments which share a common neutral axis. and d 2 = 2.375 in. noncentroidal axis.

you may need to include a conversion factor in the calculation.4 and the cross sectional area 12 12 a = 5 in. The moment of inertia about the x-x neutral axis is bh 3 5 in. because in some problems. 3 Io = I = I o + ad 2 = 90 in. Step 1 Divide the compound beam into simple shapes. this beam crosssection consists of two rectangular segments. ( 6 in.2 ( 3 in.) = = 90 in.4 + 30 in. Compound Beams With Different Neutral Axes Some compound cross-sections are made of segments which do not share the same neutral axis.2) 24 48 72 a1 = 8 in. but this method also works for complex shapes made up of many simple shapes. then d = 3 in. ! 12 in. Step 2 Calculate the area. Using the Transfer Formula. = 48 in. of each segment. and label the segments. and the x-x neutral axis of the beam is different from the x1-x1 and x2-x2 neutral axes of segments 1 and 2. Segment #1 #2 Sum a (in.2 If we want to find the moment of inertia about the x'-x' axis at the base of the beam.2 a 2 = 4 in.4 The practical 2 application of the Transfer Formula comes with calculating the moment of inertia of compound beams. then add the results to obtain the total moment of inertia. Be sure to list the units.2 © 2011 Barry Dupen 4 of 9 Revised 3 May 2011 . = 24 in. Using the Transfer Formula. This compound beam can be divided into two segments. we can calculate the moment of inertia of the compound beam.) = 360 in. ET 200 Moment of Inertia of Simple and Compound Shapes For example. ! 3 in. we can calculate the moment of inertia of each segment about the x-x neutral axis of the compound shape.Notes for Strength of Materials. = 30 in. As long as the neutral axes are parallel. a. Enter the areas and their sum into a table. Using a 10-step process. this beam has a width of 5 inches and a depth of 6 inches. we can use the Transfer Formula to find the moment of inertia of the compound beam. For example. ! 6 in.

Segment #1 #2 Sum a (in.2 © 2011 Barry Dupen 5 of 9 Revised 3 May 2011 . etc.5 6 ay (in. ET 200 Moment of Inertia of Simple and Compound Shapes Step 3 Pick a Reference Axis.2) 24 48 72 y (in. Step 4 Draw the distance from the Reference Axis to the centroi- dal axes of the segments. Calculate this distance as y= !ay 612 in. but in practice. Label these distances y1. !a 72 in.5 in.5 6 Step 5 Calculate the product a ! y for each component area. x1-x1 and x2-x2.Notes for Strength of Materials. y2. Enter these values and their sum into the table.3) 324 288 612 Step 6 Draw the distance from the Reference Axis to the x-x cen- troidal axis of the complex shape. or along the centroidal axis of one of the segments.) 13.3 = = 8. Enter these values into the table. you can select any axis. and label it on the diagram. In the- ory.2) 24 48 72 y (in. the math is usually easier if you pick an axis along the top or bottom of the complex shape.) 13. Segment #1 #2 Sum a (in.

4) 600 300 900 Segment 2: a ! d 2 = 48 in. I = !I o + !ad 2 = 594 in.3) 324 288 612 d (in.5 6 ay (in. and I2 are negative numbers. Given the way this beam is drawn.2) 24 48 72 y (in.) = = 18 in.5 in.0 2.. For other compound beams. the area of the hole and the moment of inertia of the hole are negative numbers. then we need the Transfer Formula. Enter the results into the table.0 2.3) 324 288 612 d (in.4) 18 576 594 shape. etc. and enter 2 the results and their sum in the table.2) 24 48 72 y (in. d. Step 10 Use the Transfer Formula to calculate I for the compound Segment #1 #2 Sum a (in.2 ( 5 in.) Io2 = = = 576 in. not a ! d . Thus a1.) = 300 in.5 6 ay (in. and Segment #2 be the hole.0 2. d3.5 ad2 (in. a2y2. a1y1. a2.4 + 900 in.4 2 Step 9 Calculate I for each segment about its centroidal axis: Io1 = bh 3 8 in. for each segment. Segment #1 #2 Sum a (in. you will have to figure out the formulas for d1.) 13.5 Step 8 Calculate the product a ! d for each segment.4 2 Segment #1 #2 Sum a (in.it’s an easy error to make.. ET 200 Moment of Inertia of Simple and Compound Shapes Step 7 Draw the Transfer Distance.2) 24 48 72 y (in. d2. © 2011 Barry Dupen 6 of 9 Revised 3 May 2011 .) = 600 in.) 5. In all calculations.4) 600 300 900 Io (in.) 5.) 13.5 6 ay (in. based on the drawing.) 13. ( 3 in.3) 324 288 612 d (in.5 ad2 (in.4 12 12 Enter these values and their sum into the table. Be sure to calculate a ! d . Let Segment #1 be the solid shape (with no hole). 2 Segment 1: a ! d 2 = 24 in. and I1 are positive numbers.4 = 1494 in. (12 in.) 5. a2d12.2 ( 2.Notes for Strength of Materials.4 12 12 3 3 bh 3 4 in.4 Hollow Beams with Different Neutral Axes If the beam is hollow and the cavity does not share the same neutral axis as the outline of the solid shape. a1d12. d1 = y1 ! y and d 2 = y ! y 2 . This is the distance from the centroidal axis of the segment to the centroidal axis of the complex shape.

and label the segments. y2. ET 200 Moment of Inertia of Simple and Compound Shapes Step 1 Divide the compound beam into simple shapes. Enter these values into the table. and label it on the diagram. Segment #1 #2 Sum a (cm2) 48 -12 36 y (cm) 3 4. x1-x1 and x2-x2.5 ay (cm3) 144 -54 90 © 2011 Barry Dupen 7 of 9 Revised 3 May 2011 .Notes for Strength of Materials. of each segment. Step 2 Calculate the area.5 Step 5 Calculate the product a ! y for each component area. a 2 = " ( 6 cm ! 2 cm ) = "12 cm 2 Step 3 Pick a Reference Axis. Segment #2 is a hole measuring 6 cm wide by 2 cm deep. Segment #1 #2 Sum a (cm2) 48 -12 36 y (cm) 3 4. a1 = 8 cm ! 6 cm = 48 cm 2 Segment #1 #2 Sum a (cm2) 48 -12 36 Step 4 Draw the distance from the Reference Axis to the centroi- dal axes of the segments. etc. Label these distances y1. a. Segment #1 is a solid rectangle measuring 8 cm wide by 6 cm deep. Enter these values and their sum into the table.

5 cm . for each segment. This is the distance from the centroidal axis of the segment to the centroidal axis of the complex shape. Step 8 Calculate the product a ! d for each segment.5 cm ) = 12 cm 4 2 Segment #1 #2 Sum a (cm2) 48 -12 36 y (cm) 3 4.5 cm below the centroidal axis of a solid 6 cm ! 8 cm solid beam. the 10-step procedure is the same. Since d1 = 0. to where more of the material lies. d.it’s an easy error to make.5 2 ad2 (cm4) 12 -48 -36 Segment 2: a ! d 2 = "12 cm 2 ( 2 cm ) = "48 cm 4 2 Step 9 Calculate I for each segment about its centroidal axis: I1 = bh 3 8 cm ( 6 cm ) = = 144 cm 4 12 12 3 I2 = ! 6 cm ( 2 cm ) bh 3 =! = !4 cm 4 12 12 3 Segment #1 #2 Sum a (cm2) 48 -12 36 y (cm) 3 4.5 2 ad2 (cm4) 12 -48 -36 Io (cm4) 144 -4 140 Enter these values and their sum into the table. I = !I o + !ad 2 = 140 cm 4 " 36 cm 4 = 104 cm 4 Some problems have more than two segments.Notes for Strength of Materials.5 ay (cm3) 144 -54 90 d (cm) 0.. Calculate this distance as y= !ay 90 cm 3 = = 2.5 cm !a 36 cm 2 Step 7 Draw the Transfer Distance.. not a ! d . Enter the results into the table. Step 10 Use the Transfer Formula to calculate I for the compound shape. © 2011 Barry Dupen 8 of 9 Revised 3 May 2011 . with more rows in the table. Be sure to calculate a ! d 2 . Segment 1: a ! d 2 = 48 cm 2 ( 0. the centroidal axis of this hollow beam is 0. ET 200 Moment of Inertia of Simple and Compound Shapes Step 6 Draw the distance from the Reference Axis to the x-x cen- troidal axis of the complex shape. Placing a hole in the upper part of this beam shifts the centroidal axis downward. and enter 2 the results and their sum in the table.5 ay (cm3) 144 -54 90 d (cm) 0.

The moment of inertia could be calculated using the 10-step Transfer Formula method with segments #1 (large rectangle).Notes for Strength of Materials. mm2 mm mm mm mm4 m. in. ET 200 Moment of Inertia of Simple and Compound Shapes When is the Transfer Formula Not Needed? Some shapes may look like they require the Transfer Formula. kN mm © 2011 Barry Dupen 9 of 9 Revised 3 May 2011 . Terminology. Symbols. Consider a beam with two hollow sections.2 in. ft.4 ft. in.. but creative segment choices can make the problem very easy to solve. #2 (upper cavity).lb. mm kNm N. subtract the moment of inertia of segment B (two cavities joined together) and add the moment of inertia of segment C (material between the two cavities). Subtract the moments of inertia of the spaces to the left and right of the web from the moment of inertia of a large rectangle. ft..kips lb. in. kips in. diameter of a circle Height of a rectangle Moment of inertia Length Moment Point load Distance from the x-x neutral axis to the centroid of a segment in. The moment of inertia of a wide-flange beam made of welded rectangular plates is easy to solve by adding and subtracting the moments of inertia of rectangular segments. but it is easier to break it into rectangles which share the same centroidal axis. Calculate the moment of inertia of segment A (large rectangle). and #3 (lower cavity). & Typical Units a b d h I L M P y Area Width of the base of a rectangle Transfer distance (in the transfer formula).. in.

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