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7.1: Sign Convention

JoVE Core
Mechanical Engineering

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Sign Convention

7.1: Sign Convention

When analyzing a beam subjected to various loads, it is crucial to understand the internal forces and moments generated within the structure. These internal forces can be broadly classified into normal forces, shear forces, and bending moments. To determine these forces and moments, we use the method of sections and apply a specific sign convention based on their direction and the side of the section being analyzed.

The normal force acts perpendicular to the beam's cross-section and can cause tension or compression within the object. When the normal force creates tension, it is assumed to be positive, whereas when it generates compression, it is considered negative.

Shear force refers to the forces acting tangentially to the cross-section of the beam. These forces typically occur in pairs, with one force acting on the left side of the section and the other on the right side. If the force on the left side is directed downward and the force on the right side is directed upward, the shear force is considered positive, resulting in a clockwise rotation. Conversely, if the direction of the forces on each side is reversed, a negative shear force is produced, leading to a counterclockwise rotation.

The bending moment is the rotational effect caused by an external force acting on the beam. When subjected to such a force, the beam experiences a curvature, which can either be upward (concave) or downward (convex). The sign convention for bending moments dictates that a positive bending moment corresponds to an upward (concave) curvature, while a negative bending moment corresponds to a downward (convex) curvature. This convention plays a vital role in understanding the deformation pattern of the beam and designing appropriate structural elements to resist bending.

In summary, the sign conventions for normal force, shear force, and bending moment are essential tools in structural analysis. They help engineers and designers understand the behavior of structures under various loads, predict potential failure modes, and design robust and efficient structural elements.

Suggested Reading


Normal Force Tension Compression Shear Force Bending Moment Clockwise Rotation Counterclockwise Rotation Concave Curvature Convex Curvature Structural Analysis Sign Convention

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