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# MECH 321 - Solid Mechanics II Week 12, Lecture 1 Columns and Critical Loads

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## Columns and Critical Loads

Up until now we have analyzed members for strength and deflection while assuming that they were always stable. Long and slender members (columns) that are loaded in compression may deflect laterally to a point where they are no longer stable. That is, they buckle. Quite often the buckling of a column can lead to sudden and dramatic failure of a structure or mechanism.
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## Columns and Critical Loads

Special attention must be given to the design and analysis of columns so that they can safely support their intended loads without buckling. The largest axial load that a column can support when it is just on the verge of buckling is called the critical load, Pcr. Any additional load will cause the column to buckle and therefore deflect laterally.

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## Columns and Critical Loads

To better understand this instability, we think of the column as a two-bar mechanism. The bars are weightless (no inertia) and perfectly rigid (infinite stiffness). The bars are connected with pins at their ends. When the bars are vertical, the spring (stiffness k) is unstretched.
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## Columns and Critical Loads

If a small force, P, is applied to the column, we can disturb the mechanism from its equilibrium position by displacing the pin at A by a small amount, .

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## Columns and Critical Loads

If we then look at the free body diagram for the column when the bars are displaced The applied load, P, produces two horizontal components Px = P tan . The spring produces a restoring force F = k.

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## Columns and Critical Loads

The horizontal components tend to push the pin (and the bars) further out from the equilibrium position. The spring force tries to restore the pins (and the bars) to the equilibrium position.

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## Columns and Critical Loads

Because is small, = (L/2) and tan approximately equals . Therefore, the restoring spring force becomes F = k L/2 And the disturbing force is 2Px = 2P

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## Columns and Critical Loads

If the restoring force is greater than the disturbing force, that is kL/2 > 2P, then, we can solve for P, which gives

kL P< 4
If..

Stable Equilibrium

kL P> 4

Unstable Equilibrium

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## Columns and Critical Loads

That is, if a load, P, is applied that is large enough to cause an unstable equilibrium condition and a slight displacement occurs at A, the mechanism will tend to move out of equilibrium and not be restored to its original position. If the load, P, is smaller than the unstable equilibrium load (less than kL/4) and a slight displacement occurs at A, the mechanism will tend to move back to equilibrium (be restored to its original position).
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## Columns and Critical Loads

The intermediate value of P, is defined as kL/2 = 2P, and is called the Critical Load.

kL Pcr = 4

Neutral Equilibrium

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## Columns and Critical Loads

The three different states of equilibrium (Stable, Unstable, and Neutral) are shown graphically at the side.

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## Columns and Critical Loads

The transition point where the load is equal to the critical value P = Pcr is called the Bifurcation point. Physically, Pcr represents the load for which the mechanism is on the verge of buckling.

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## Columns and Critical Loads

Note that Pcr may not be the largest value of P that the mechanism can support. If a larger load is placed on the bars, the mechanism may have to undergo a further deflection before the spring is compressed or elongated enough to hold the mechanism in equilibrium.

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## Columns and Critical Loads

Critical buckling loads on columns supported in ways other than pinned can be obtained in the same way as above. In engineering design and analysis the critical load is considered to be the largest load a column can support. Like the two-bar mechanism, a column can support more load than Pcr, but it may need to deform an unacceptably large amount. These large deflections are generally not tolerated.
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## Columns and Critical Loads - Summary

kL P< 4

Stable Equilibrium

kL P> 4
kL Pcr = 4
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Unstable Equilibrium

Neutral Equilibrium

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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

Again here we will consider (and determine the critical buckling load for) a column that is pin supported at both ends. This type of column is called an ideal column. It is considered to be perfectly straight before loading, made of a homogeneous material and the load is applied through the centroid of the cross section. It is further assumed that the column acts in a linear elastic manner and it buckles in a single plane.
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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

For such an ideal column the axial load P, could theoretically be increased until failure occurred by either fracture or yielding of the material. However, in reality when the critical load Pcr is reached and the column is on the verge of buckling, a small lateral force, F, will cause the column to deflect laterally and when the lateral force is removed the column will remain in the deflected position.

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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

Any slight reduction in the axial load below Pcr will allow the column to straighten out. Any slight increase in the axial load above Pcr will cause further increases in lateral deflection. Whether or not a column will remain stable or become unstable when subjected to an axial load depends on its ability to restore itself to a straight position, which is based on its resistance to bending.

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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

In order to determine the critical load and the buckled shape of a column we need to apply an equation that relates the internal moment on the column to its deflected shape.

d v EI 2 = M dx

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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

This equation assumes that the deflections are small and that the deflections occur only in bending. When the column is in the deflected position the internal bending moment can be determined by using the method of sections. Any deflected section treated as a free body diagram can be used to find the value of M.

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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

The internal moment is M = -Pv (using the positive sign convention in the previous diagram)

d v EI 2 = Pv dx

d v P + v = 0 2 dx EI
2

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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

The general solution to this homogeneous, second order linear differential equation is...

P P + C2 cos x x v = C1 sin EI EI
The two constants of integration are determined from the boundary conditions at the ends of the column. These are, v = 0 at x = 0 and v = 0 at x = L.

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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

From these boundary conditions...

C2 = 0

P =0 C1 sin L EI

The equation containing C1 is satisfied if C1 = 0, but this is a trivial solution in which the column must always remain straight even though an increasing load would cause the column to become unstable.

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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

The other possibility is for...

P =0 sin L EI
This is the case when...

P L = n EI

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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

Or when...

n EI P= 2 L
2 2

n = 1, 2 ,3 ...

The smallest value of P is obtained when n = 1, so the critical load for the column is therefore...

Pcr =

2 EI
L2
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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

This load is sometimes referred to as the Euler load. The corresponding buckled shape is defined by...

v = C1 sin

x
L

The constant C1 represents the maximum deflection, vmax, which occurs at the midpoint of the column.
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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

Note that n represents the number of waves in the deflected shape of the column. If n = 2 then two waves will appear in the buckled shape. In this case the column will support a critical load of 4Pcr just prior to buckling. Because this value is 4 times the critical load and the deflected shape is unstable, this form of buckling (and the shapes associated with higher values of n) will never exist (practically speaking).
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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

Like the two-bar mechanism, we can show the load-deflection characteristics of the ideal column. Again the bifurcation point represents the state of neutral equilibrium, where P equals the critical load.
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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

Note that the critical load is independent of the strength of the material used in the column.

Pcr =

2 EI
L2

The critical load depends on the columns dimensions (L and I) and the materials modulus of elasticity (E). For this reason columns made from materials that do not vary significantly in terms of E, will not vary significantly in terms of critical load.
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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

Note also that the load carrying capacity of a column will increase as I (the moment of inertia of the cross section) increases.

Pcr =

2 EI
L
2

Efficient columns are designed so that most of the columns cross-sectional area is located as far away as possible from the principal centroidal axis for the section. That is, hollow sections are more economical than solid sections.
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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

A column will buckle about the principal axis of the cross-section having the least moment of inertia (the weakest axis). Unequal rectangular sections (as shown) will tend to buckle about the weakest axis (the a-a axis in this case). A balanced design (equal moments in all directions, circular) is best.
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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

For the purposes of design it is more useful to write the equation for the critical load of a column in terms of the I = Ar2, where r is the radius of gyration of the cross-sectional area.

r= I/A
This allows the critical load equation to be written as... 2 2

Pcr =

E (Ar
L
2

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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

Re-arranging the critical load equations gives...

E P = 2 A cr (L / r )
2

cr =

(L / r )

2E

r= I/A

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## Eulers Formula for Pin-Ended Columns

The ratio L/r is known as the slenderness ratio. It is a measure of a columns flexibility and is used to classify columns as long, intermediate, or short.

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Pcr =

2 EI
L
2

cr =

(L / r )

2E

r= I/A

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## Eulers Formula for Columns with other types of Supports

Many times columns are supported in others ways than with pinned ends. Consider the case where a column is fixed at the base, but free at its top. Determination of the buckling load in this case follows the same procedure as for pinned columns (see Hibbeler pg. 676).
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## Eulers Formula for Columns with other types of Supports

We will jump to the solution.

Pcr =

2 EI
4 L2

Note that a column with a fixed support at its base but free at the top can carry only the critical load that can be applied to a pin-supported column.

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## Eulers Formula for Columns with other types of Supports

To this point, L has represented the unsupported distance between the points of zero moment. This distance is called the columns Effective Length, Le. For the case of a pin-supported column Le = L. In the case where the column is free at one end and fixed at the base, Le = 2L.

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## Eulers Formula for Columns with other types of Supports

Two other examples of common end supports are shown here. Rather than use effective length, many design codes use a dimensionless coefficient, K, called the effective-length factor (Le = KL).
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## Eulers Formula for Columns with other types of Supports

Using the effective-length factor, K, Eulers formula for critical load becomes...

Pcr =

2 EI
( Le )
2

2 EI
( KL) 2

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