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Original Title: Methods of Joints & Sections

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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

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).

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.

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

force.

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.

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:

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

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.

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).

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:

To find CD:

Md = 0; CD = - 3000

CD = 3000 lb (C)

To find cd:

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

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)

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.

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