Coplanar Forces • When multiple forces act on a body,
the net force, also called the resultant
force, is the sum of the individual
ME 202 forces.
• Since we model forces as vectors, we
can find the resultant of a system of
forces by vector addition.

1 2

Adding Coplanar Forces: 1 Adding Coplanar Forces: 2

• Adding coplanar, parallel forces, is easy. 3uˆ + − 0.8uˆ
= 2.2uˆ
• Adding coplanar, perpendicular forces is easy.
• When we add coplanar forces, they are
usually neither parallel nor perpendicular. But 2uˆ
+ 1.2 vˆ = 2uˆ + 1.2 vˆ
if we use Cartesian components, adding the
forces is still easy. 1.2 vˆ
3 4
Adding Coplanar Forces: 3 Adding Coplanar Forces: 4
Let the unit vectors pointing in the directions of
• Define a common coordinate the coordinate axes be iˆ and ˆj and let
system in the plane. v1 = 3iˆ + 2 ˆj
• Resolve each force into Cartesian v = −6iˆ + 3 ˆj

components parallel to the
Then the resultant of these two vectors is
coordinate axes.
v1 + v 2 = ( 3 − 6 ) iˆ + ( 2 + 3) ˆj
• Add components to obtain the
resultant. = −3iˆ + 5 ˆj

5 6

If the resultant force
on the car is 950 N Equate components to get two equations:
θ = 50 ! acting along the x
axis, what are the
FA cos 20˚+ FB cos 50˚= 950 N [1]
! of FA FA sin 20˚−FB sin 50˚= 0 [2]
and FB ?
Solve [1] and [2] simultaneously to get
! !
FA + FB = 950 N iˆ FA =
sin 50˚
( 950 N ) = 774 N
sin 70˚
( ) ( )
FA cos 20˚ iˆ + sin 20˚ ˆj + FB cos 50˚ iˆ − sin 50˚ ˆj = 950 N iˆ FB =
sin 20˚
( 950 N ) = 346 N
sin 70˚
Collect components:
N. B. sin 70˚= sin 20˚cos 50˚+ cos 20˚sin 50˚
( FA cos 20˚+FB cos 50˚) iˆ + ( FA sin 20˚−FB sin 50˚) ˆj = 950 N iˆ

Coplanar Forces

2 When we add vectors, the sum is called the resultant of the added vectors. Since forces are vectors, the sum
of a set of forces is also called the resultant.

3 Coplanar forces lie in the same plane. The first two of the cases mentioned on this slide - parallel forces and
perpendicular forces - are illustrated on the following slide.

The process for dealing with the third case is described on slide 5.

4 When the lines of action of two forces are parallel, the direction of each force is  ± uˆ , where  uˆ is a unit vector.
The resultant is then the sum of the forces’ scalar parts multiplied by the unit vector.

When the lines of action of two forces are perpendicular, each is a scalar multiplied by a unit vector. But be-
cause the two unit vectors are mutually perpendicular, they cannot be combined. The resultant is neither
parallel to nor perpendicular to either of the added vectors.

5 The process described here is illustrated on the following slide.

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6 Note that parallel components can be combined, but perpendicular components cannot be combined.

7 This is one of many problems that can be solved by understanding the meaning of “resultant.” The key to the
problem is the first equation, which states that the resultant is the sum of the two forces. This is a vector equa-
tion, not simply a scalar equation.

Note that rather than asking for the resultant, the problem gives the resultant and asks for two other things.
For coplanar forces, we have only two coordinate directions. For either direction, the components on both
sides of any vector equation must be equal. This gives two independent scalar equations, one for the  iˆ com-
ponents and one for the  ˆj components. Given these two equations, it is possible to solve for two unknown

8 The two scalar equations shown here come from the fact that in the vector equation on the previous slide, the
 iˆ component on the left must equal the  iˆ component on the right, and similarly for the  ˆj components.

The results shown here follow from algebra that you should have learned long ago. Can you easily reproduce
these results? If not, you should practice solving two equations with two unknowns.

The final note on this side shows that a trigonometric identity (with which you should be familiar) has been
used to make the equations more compact.

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