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# METHOD OF JOINTS

The method of joints is one of the simplest methods for determining the force
acting on the individual members of a truss because it only involves two force
equilibrium equations.

Since only two equations are involved, only two unknowns can be solved for at a
time. Therefore, you need to solve the joints in a certain order. That is, you need
to work from the sides towards the center of the truss.

When a force points toward the joint, the member is said to be in compression. If
the force points away from the joint, the member is said to be in tension. It is
often important to know whether a truss member is in tension or in compression
because some building materials have different strengths in compression versus
tension.

Principle

## 1. If possible, determine the support reactions

2. Draw the free body diagram for each joint. In general, assume all the force
member reactions are tension (this is not a rule, however, it is helpful in keeping
track of tension and compression members).

## 3. Write the equations of equilibrium for each joint, Fx 0 Fy 0

4. If possible, begin solving the equilibrium equations at a joint where only two
unknown reactions exist. Work your way from joint to joint, selecting the new joint
using the criterion of two unknown reactions. 5. Solve the joint equations of
equilibrium simultaneously.
Tips

The joints with external supports always connect with two truss members. Thus
many times, the analysis starts from analyzing the supports. Therefore very often
the analysis begins with finding the reaction forces applied at the supports.

## Pay attention to symmetric systems and zero force members. Identification of

these special cases sometimes will make the whole analysis WAY EASIER!!

force.

## Zero-force members may be determined by inspection of the joints.

Case 1: If two members are connected at a joint and there is no external force
applied to the joint

Case 2: If three members are connected at a joint and there is no external force
applied to the joint and two of the members are collinear.
Example:

Consider the following truss. Determine forces AB, BC, and AC.

## MA 0; 500 lb. (10 ft.) Cy(10 ft.) = 0

Cy = 500 lb.

Fy 0; Ay Cy = 0

Ay + 500 lb. = 0

Ay = -500 lb.

Fx 0; Ax + 500 lb. = 0

Ax = -500 lb.
The equations of equilibrium for Joint A:

## FAB = 500 lb. (T)

FAC = 500 lb. (T)
FBC = 707.2 lb. (C)
METHOD OF SECTIONS

If only a few of the member forces are of interest, and those members happen to
be somewhere in the middle of the truss, it would be very inefficient to use the
method of joints to solve for them. In such cases, method of sections is used.

In the method of joints, we are dealing with static equilibrium at a point. This
limits the static equilibrium equations to just the two force equations. A section
has finite size and this means you can also use moment equations to solve the
problem. This allows solving for up to three unknown forces at a time.

Since the method of sections allows solving for up to three unknown forces at a
time, you should choose sections that involve cutting through no more than three
members at a time.

Principle

## If a truss is in equilibrium, then whichever section of the truss being considered

must also be in equilibrium.

The Method of Sections involves analytically cutting the truss into sections and
solving for static equilibrium for each section.

The sections are obtained by cutting through some of the members of the truss to
expose the force inside the members.

In the method of sections, a truss is divided into two parts by taking an imaginary
cut (shown here as a-a) through the truss.
Since truss members are subjected to only tensile or compressive forces along
their length, the internal forces at the cut member will also be either tensile or
compressive with the same magnitude. This result is based on the equilibrium
principle and Newtons third law.

## Procedure for analysis

1. Decide how you need to cut the truss. This is based on: a) where you need to
determine forces, and, b) where the total number of unknowns does not exceed
three (in general).

2. Decide which side of the cut truss will be easier to work with (minimize the
number of reactions you have to find).

## 3. If required, determine the necessary support reactions by drawing the FBD of

the entire truss and applying the equations of equilibrium (E-of-E).

4. Draw the FBD of the selected part of the cut truss. We need to indicate the
unknown forces at the cut members. Initially we may assume all the members are in
tension, as we did when using the method of joints. Upon solving, if the answer is
positive, the member is in tension as per our assumption. If the answer is negative,
the member must be in compression. (Please note that you can also assume forces
to be either tension or compression by inspection as was done in the figures above.)

5. Apply the E-of-E to the selected cut section of the truss to solve for the
unknown member forces. Please note that in most cases it is possible to write one
equation to solve for one unknown directly.

Tips

About the sense of forces, you can always choose to draw an unknown force as
tension. Then if it comes out minus I know it is compression. This is common
practice but not the eleventh commandment.

Example:

## Find the members CD, Cd, and cd.

To find CD:

Md = 0; CD = - 3000

CD = 3000 lb (C)

To find cd:

MC = 0; -15cd -20(4500)+10(3000) = 0

## 15(cd) = 10(3000) 20(4500)

cd = 4000 as assumed

cd = 4000 lb (T)

To find Cd.
2
F = 0; Cd( 13 ) + 4000 3000 = 0
2
Cd( 13 ) = -1000

Cd = 500 13

Cd = 1802.7756 lb (C)

## The forces in the truss can be summarized as:

CD = 3000 lb (C)
cd = 4000 lb (T)
Cd = 1802.7756 lb (C))
1. Determine the force in each member of the truss and state if the members
are in tension or compression. Set P1 = 700 lb and P2 = 400 lb
2. Determine the force on each member of the truss and state if the members
are in tension or compression. Set = 30.
3. Determine the force in each member of the truss, and state if the members
are in tension or compression.
4. Determine the force in each member of the truss and state if the members
are in tension or compression.
5. Determine the force in each member of the truss and state if the members
are in tension or compression.
6. Determine the force in members GF, FB, and BC of the Fink truss and state
if the members are in tension or compression.
7. Determine the force in members FG,GC and CB of the truss used to support
the sign, and state if the members are in tension or compression.
8. Determine the force in members JI, JE, and DE of the truss and state if
the members are in tension or compression.
9. Determine the force in members CD and CM of the Baltimore bridge truss
and state if the members are in tension or compression. Also, indicate all
zero-force members.
10. Determine the force in members LK, LC, and BC of the truss, and state if
the members are in tension or compression.