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Welded joints with structural hollow sections
Steve Whitﬁeld (M)* and Christopher Morris*, of Corus Tubes explain why designers should understand how their decisions affect joint capacity, fabrication and erection
Introduction Structural hollow sections are widely used within the construction industry for both their economics (strength to weight ratio) and aesthetics. Whilst tubular trusses/frames are carefully designed and member sizes economically selected according to member forces, little thought is usually given to how they connect together and their structural strength as a welded joint. Yet welded joints are an integral part of the structure, serving to hold the individual members of that frame together. The effectiveness of those joints ultimately determines the success of the structure in terms of capacity (supporting the building frame) and aesthetics. The capacity of structural hollow section welded joints is determined by member sizes, steel grades and joint geometry (ratios, angles, etc.). As all these factors are decided at the initial design stage, the design engineer has already determined the welded joint capacity. All too often however it is left to the fabricator to check and design the welded joints. At this stage it can be too late to change section sizes, grades or geometry to achieve the required joint capacity. Without giving due consideration at the design stage, there is little, if anything, that can increase the joint capacity at a later date. Therefore to obtain a technically secure, economically viable and architecturally pleasing structure, the designer must, from the earliest stages of the design process, be aware of the effect any decision made on the joint capacity, fabrication and erection of the structure – and ultimately delivery of the finished building. The key to successful welded joint design is to look at joint capacity at the initial frame design stage. This article therefore aims to provide an overview of a selection of straightforward checks that can be carried out on welded joints to ensure the capacity of all joints is sufficient, relative to the member forces within the frame. In doing this, designers can avoid time consuming, expensive and visually distracting problems later on. Types of joints There are five main classifications of joint types – ‘T’, ‘Y’, ‘X’, ‘N’ and ‘K’ joints’. ‘N’ and K-joints can be sub-divided into ‘gap N- or K-joints’ and ‘overlapping N- or K-joints’, depending on whether the bracings gap or overlap. Whilst there are more complex joint types, all joints can be categorised as one of these types for simplicity. The joint type is dictated by the geometry of the structure but they must be defined to enable identification and reference to the relevant joint capacity equations. A T-joint is where the brace is 90° to the chord, while less than 90° is termed as a Yjoint. Both are treated in exactly the same way. An N-joint has one vertical brace (90° to the chord) and one diagonal brace (less than 90°) while a K-joint has both bracings less than 90° to the chord. Again, both N-joints and K-joints are treated the same. Figure 1 shows typical welded joint designations. Structural hollow sections are available in circular (CHS), square (SHS), rectangular (RHS) and elliptical (EHS) profiles. The decision of which structural hollow section profile to use is usually made at the initial design stage. It may be influenced more by aesthetics than ease of fabrication, economics or even ease of joint capacity calculation. When joining square or rectangular hollow sections, the flat faces enable simple straight cuts to the brace member. However, a more complex profile is required if joining circular hollow sections as the brace has to fit around the curved shape of the chord – the chord is the continuous member while the brace ‘sits’ on, or joins the chord. Profiling the end of bracings requires either paper templates (created using profiling software or CAD) and flame or plasma cut by hand or specialist profile cutting machinery – increased complexity resulting in more expense. Specification of the shape of a hollow section should centre on aesthetics and suitability for the job. For RHS N- or K-joints, a gap joint requires a single cut on each brace, while a partial overlap joint requires a double cut on
1 Typical welded joint designations
T (or Y) joint
Gap K (or N) joint
Overlap K (or N) joint
14 The Structural Engineer 87 (21) 3 November 2009
and K-joints). with different combinations of profiling for CHS or RHS – which shows the different options in economic order.4 and 7. bracing angle and chord factored to yield stress ratio. Parameters vary depending on the type of joint. K-joints with an overlap Whilst overlap joints have an associated cost premium as a result of the overlap they also have the added benefit of increased capacity. so the importance of carefully selecting the appropriate tube sections at the initial design stage can clearly be seen. Providing the eccentricity is within the parameter limits (0. Joint failure modes Having considered the aforementioned parameters to ensure maximum joint capacity. this is not true of triangular or bow shaped trusses as they follow the same shape as the bending moment diagram so the chord forces tend to be consistent along the truss. and when gap or overlap parameters are considered. Additional moments due to eccentricity are therefore likely to be greater at the end of the truss. If any of the parameters are exceeded then all failure modes must be considered. Typically in parallel chord trusses. as can be seen in Table 1. effects are the same as with gap joints for chord width to thickness ratio. the non-critical failure modes could become critical and would therefore need to be considered. T-. gap and overlap: (Applicable to N. Gap and overlap parameters have precedence over eccentricity limits. four additional parameters are also considered for overlap joints (Fig 4). the chord member should be checked for any additional moments due to eccentricity. design is a compromise. All joint capacity equations are tested with material and geometry complying with these parameters. only known critical failure modes are shown when within the joint parameters listed in the standard.5 provides guidance on which should be considered for each type of joint. a number of design parameters must next be considered. bracing forces are at a maximum at the ends and minimum at the centre of the truss. Failure to ensure the selected sections comply with the joint parameter limits often results in section sizes requiring changing at a later stage – usually at the fabricators. All of these design parameters necessitate that checks are made with reference to specific welded joint design codes1 to ensure each one is within the joint design parameters. The following parameters should be considered: Eccentricity. it may be necessary to create some joint eccentricity in order to bring the gap or overlap within parameters. This has a major implication for cost. After establishing the eccentricity and gap or overlap of a joint. X. In frames with ‘N’ shaped bracings the geometry usually determines the requirement for an overlap joint. the critical failure modes are known for each type and load of joint. while chord forces are the reverse. zero eccentricity is what designers’ want as introducing eccentricity generates additional moments. when checking the joints. Fig 5 gives a brief description of the failure modes: BS EN 1993-1-81 sections 7. However. which coincides with minimum chord forces. 2 Effect of changing gap or overlap on eccentricity With zero eccentricity joint geometry forms a gap Increasing gap generates positive eccentricity Reducing gap generates negative eccentricity The Structural Engineer 87 (21) 3 November 2009 15 . However. Exceeding the eccentricity limits requires the additional moments to be taken into consideration in the joint design.55 above the centre line). Outside parameter limits the equations may not be valid and other failure modes may apply. Hence there is usually sufficient chord capacity to cope with additional moments and concerns with introducing eccentricity are usually unfounded. and after the material has already been ordered. These parameters affect the joint capacity and are all related to the member sizes. Therefore. However. moments due to joint eccentricity need not be considered in the joint design. Hence the importance for simple initial checks to keep within the parameter limits1. if the joint is outside the parameters. However. a 100% overlap only requires a single cut.Increase in fabrication costs RHS chord – gap joints RHS chord – 100% overlap joints CHS chord – gap joints RHS chord – partial overlap joints CHS chord – 100% overlap joints CHS chord – partial overlap joints Table 1 Economics of welded joints the overlapping brace adding to the cost. For CHS overlap joints. Y-. so the non-critical modes are not listed to reduce the amount of calculation work. zero eccentricity is our starting point and the geometry will determine if the joint is a gap or overlap joint. However. It is important to note that. Zero eccentricity (centrelines of bracings intersecting on the chord centreline) is assumed in the initial design – usually a wire frame. grades and geometry.and K-joints with a gap Fig 3 shows how the ratios of various parameters affect the joint capacity. the joint can then be checked by looking at the various different joint failure modes. but needs to be checked nonetheless. the complexity of the profile and double cut may not be quite so significant if specialist machinery is used. Design parameters Having identified the type of specified joint(s) in the structure to be checked. When within the joint parameters. Ideally.25 below and 0. similar to other joint design guides. there are then a number of additional parameter effects that need to be considered. In terms of design parameters. There are six possible recognised joint failure modes. In both cases.
There are design compromises to be made with any joint in terms of framing economics and meeting joint capacity requirements. Contacts Corus Tubes: For information on free installation of our welded joint software. web: www. Part 1-8: Design of Joints is the most recent guide available and should be referred to for further information on subjects referenced in this article. thick overlapped brace Reduce the ratio by using a high yield. crushing or instability (crippling or buckling) of the chord side wall or chord web Chord face Use of IT software In line with the current standard1. Key to the delivery of a successful welded joint is making certain that it is designed in line within existing design parameters so the joint can be checked using standard equations. The deformation of the chord face is also limited to an acceptable amount Yielding. whilst at the same time meeting its aesthetic objective. or a CPD presentation on welded joints in hollow sections contact Corus Tubes (tel: 01536 404 561. Corus Tubes has developed its own spreadsheets for tubular joint design and CSC has software capable of assessing and designing welded hollow section joints. K.cscworld. Rectangular Hollows Section (RHS) Joints Under Predominantly Static Loading Corus.com). X-. the software is based on the requirements set out by all existing design guides.com). Summary By not giving due consideration to joints at the design stage any number of problems can arise that will impact on project schedules. CSC (UK) Ltd: For more information on welded joint software for hollow sections contact CSC (tel: 0113 239 3000. Part 1-8: Design of Joints British Standards Institution: UK National Annex to Eurocode 3: Design of steel structures Part 1-8: Design of joints CIDECT: Design Guide. and in order to help designers and architects consider joints at the initial design stage. Reference 1 British Standard BS EN 1993-1-8:2005: Eurocode 3: Design of Steel Structures.or N-joints with a gap 4 Effect of parameter changes on joint capacity for K. creating cracking in the welds or brace member Brace Chord or brace local buckling Failure of a brace or chord member at the joint location due to nonuniform stress distribution 5 Further reading For further information on welded joints design please refer to the following: British Standards Institution: BS EN 1993-1-8:2005: Eurocode 3: Design of Steel Structures. thicker chord to increase the joint capacity Increase the ratio by using a wider brace and narrower chord width to increase the joint capacity Joint parameter Overlapped bracing width to thickness ratio Overlapped bracing to chord strength ratio Overlapping bracing to overlapped bracing strength ratio Change required to increase joint capacity Overlapped brace width Overlapped brace thickness Reduce the ratio by using a small. However using the joint design guides to examine welded joints from the early concept design stage will ensure delivery of the most effective joint and avoid having to address problems later on in the project. This can be by using a thicker chord with higher yield Reduce the ratio by using a thicker overlapped brace with higher yield compared to the overlapping brace Gap between bracings Overlap A smaller gap increases joint capacity Increasing the overlap increases load transfer brace to brace with less through the chord resulting in increased joint capacity 3 4 3 Effect of parameters on joint capacity for T-. Circular Hollow Section (CHS) Joints Under Predominantly Static Loading CIDECT: Design Guide. Y-. leading to delays that can be both time consuming and expensive. thick chord compared to the overlapped bracing Overlapped brace yield x thickness chord yield x thickness Bracing angle Reducing the brace angle increases joint capacity Overlapping brace yield x thickness Overlapped brace yield x thickness Bracing to chord strength brace yield x thickness chord yield x thickness Reducing the ratio increases joint capacity.Joint parameter Chord width to thickness ratio Bracing width to chord width ratio Change required to increase joint capacity Reduce the ratio by using a smaller. Capable of carrying out assessments for welded tubular joints. computer software has been developed to check the joint parameters and calculate the joint capacity of the various possible failure modes mentioned in this paper.or N-joints with an overlap 5 Joint failure modes Failure mode Description Plastic failure of the chord face (plastiﬁcation). Tubes: Design of SHS Welded Joints *Steve Whitﬁeld is Technical Marketing Manager. Chord side wall Chord shear Shearing of the chord between bracings of a K-joint or an X-joint Chord punching shear Crack initiation in the chord leading to the brace member punching through the chord member Reduced brace effective width (caused by non-uniform stress distribution across the brace) resulting in insufﬁcient brace crosssectional area leading to overload. Corus Tubes 16 The Structural Engineer 87 (21) 3 November 2009 . Corus Tubes Christopher Morris is Senior Engineer. meaning that in checking the viability of joints at an early stage. web: www. causing additional work for both the engineer and fabricator. there is confidence they will have sufficient capacity and problems at a later stage are avoided.corustubes.
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