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OPTI 221 Mechanical Design in Optical Engineering

Equilibrium Concurrent Force Systems

Chapter 3 Equilibrium Concurrent Force Systems

Particle A large or small body can be considered as a particle when the size or shape
of the body has no effect on the response of the body when subjected to a system of
forces. Under these conditions, the mass (inertia) of the body can be assumed to be
concentrated at a point.
Newtons First Law

R = F = 0
The above equation is a sufficient condition for the equilibrium of a particle.

Newtons First Law

R = F = 0
Newtons Second Law
F = ma
Therefore for equilibrium to exist:
Equilibrium of a particle in 3D
R = Rx + Ry + Rz = 0
R = Rx i + Ry j + Rz k = 0
R = Fx i + Fy j + Fz k = 0

The above equation is satisfied only if:

Rx = Rx i = Fx i = 0 Fx = 0
Ry = Ry j = Fy j = 0 Fy = 0
Rz = Rz k = Fz k = 0 Fz = 0

OPTI 221 Mechanical Design in Optical Engineering

The scalar equations of equilibrium require that the algebraic sum of the x, y and z
components of all the forces acting on the particle be equal to zero. Since we have
three equations, these simultaneous equations can be solved for at most three
unknowns: angles and/or magnitudes of forces shown on the free body diagram (FBD).
In the scalar notation: each of the three scalar equations for equilibrium requires the
resolution of vector components along a specified x, y or z axis. The sense of direction
for each component is accounted for by an algebraic sign. If a force has an unknown
magnitude, then the arrowhead sense of the force on the FBD can be assumed. If the
solution yields a negative scalar, this indicates that the sense of the force acts in the
opposite direction.

Graphically, if a particle is in equilibrium under a system of forces, then the polygon of

force will form a closed loop.
The above is only possible with a complete and accurate free body diagram (FBD). The
FBD is the road map for writing the equations of equilibrium. Most engineers consider
a FBD to be the single most important tool for the solution of mechanics problems.

Note: Because an object is in static equilibrium does not imply it is stable. A system
may be in stable or unstable equilibrium.

Free Body Diagrams

Step 1. Determine which body or combination of bodies is to be isolated. The body
chosen will usually involve one or more of the desired unknown quantities.
Step 2. Next, isolate the body or combination of bodies chosen with a diagram that
represents its complete external boundaries.
Step 3. Represent all forces that act on the isolated body as applied by the removed
contacting bodies in their proper positions in the diagram of the isolated body. Do not
show the forces that the object exerts on anything else, since these forces do not affect
the object itself.
Step 4. Indicate the choice of coordinate axes directly on the diagram. Pertinent
dimensions may also be represented for convenience. Note, however, that the free-
body diagram serves the purpose of focusing accurate attention on the action of the
external forces; therefore, the diagram should not be cluttered with excessive
information. Force arrows should be clearly distinguished from other arrows to avoid
When these steps are completed a correct free-body diagram will result. Now, the
appropriate equations of equilibrium may be utilized to find the proper solution.

OPTI 221 Mechanical Design in Optical Engineering