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Steel structures have peculiar behaviour compared to concrete structures in the sense that on the
steel structures if the load is increased, some of the sections in the structure develop yield stress.
Any further increase in the stress causes the structure to undergo elasto plastic deformations and
some of the sections may develop a fully plastic condition at which a sufficient number of plastic
hinges are formed, transforming the structure into a mechanism. This mechanism collapses
without noticeable additional loading. A study of the mechanism of failure and knowledge of the
load causing the mechanism is necessary to determine the load factor. A structure is designed so
that its collapse load is equal to or higher than the working load multiplied by the load factor


The material is homogeneous and isotropic.

Member cross-section is symmetrical about the axis at right angles to the axis of bending.

Cross-section which were plane before bending remain plane after bending.

The value of modulus of Elasticity of the material remains the same in tension as well as in

Effects of temperature, fatigue, shear and axial force are neglected.

Idealized bi-linear stress-strain curve applies.


Results in a consistent margin of safety for all structures, independent of the degrees of static
Results in a considerable cost savings for bending type indeterminate structures.
Determinate beams yields the same design as by structural design.
Tension and compression members yields same design.
Is not suitable for situations where fatigue stresses are a problem.
Must have a ductile material to employ plastic design.
Plastic hinge is assumed to be confined at a point along the beam length.

Relatively simpler procedures are involved.

Ultimate loads for structures and their components may be determined.
Sequence and final mode of failure may be known and the capacity at relevant stages may be


Mechanism condition: The ultimate or collapse load is reached when a mechanism is formed.
The number of plastic hinges developed should be just sufficient to form a mechanism.

Equilibrium condition : Fx = 0, Fy = 0, Mxy = 0

Plastic moment condition: The bending moment at any section of the structure should not be
more than the fully plastic moment of the section.

M Moment corresponding to working load

My Moment at which section develops yield stress
MP Moment at which entire section is under yield stress

In structural engineering beam theory the term, plastic hinge, is used to describe the
deformation of a section of a beam where plastic bending occurs.

It is that cross-section of a member where bending stresses are equal to yield stresses.

Number of Plastic Hinges

The number of Plastic Hinges required to convert a structure or a member into a mechanism is
one more than the degree of indeterminacy in terms of redundant moments usually.

Thus a determinate structure requires only one more plastic hinge to become a mechanism, a
stage where it deflects and rotates continuously at constant load and acquires final collapse.

Therefore N = n+ 1
N = Total number of plastic hinges required to convert a structure into a mechanism.
n = degree of indeterminacy


The ratio of the load causing collapse to the working load is called load factor.

The load factor is dependent upon the shape of the section as the working load is dependent on I
and Z values and the collapse load is dependent upon the shape of the section.
Load factor = Mp / M


This is defined as :
Factor of Safety = First yield load/ Working Load
The FoS is an elastic analysis measure of the safety of a design.
Complete Collapse
In the cases considered so far, collapse occurred when a hinge occurred for each of the number
of redundants, r, (making it a determinate structure) with an extra hinge for collapse.

Thus the number of hinges formed,

h =r + 1
(the degree of indeterminacy plus one).

Partial Collapse
This occurs when h < r+1 , but a collapse mechanism, of a localised section of the structure can
form. A common example is a single span of a continuous beam.

Over-Complete Collapse
For some frames, two (or more) possible collapse mechanisms are found (h = r+1 ) with the
actual collapse load factor.

Therefore they can be combined to form another collapse mechanism with the same collapse
load factor, but with an increased number of hinges,

h > r+1 .


When a system of loads is applied to an elastic body, it will deform and will show a resistance
against deformation. Such a body is known as a structure.

On the other hand if no resistance is set up against deformation in the body, then it is known as
a mechanism.

Various types of independent mechanisms are identified to enable prediction of possible failure
modes of a structure.