Calculation of metal beams

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The calculation of metal beams is an engineering process that involves determining the appropriate dimensions and properties of a steel beam so that it can handle applied loads without experiencing excessive deformations or structural failures.

This calculation is based on principles of material mechanics and aims to ensure the stability, strength, and safety of the structures where these metal beams will be used.

Key factors in the calculation of metal beams


It is crucial to accurately determine the various loads that will act on the beam, such as dead loads (self-weight and permanent elements), live loads (movable loads), wind loads, among others.

Steel Properties

To calculate the strength and deformation of the beams, it is essential to know the mechanical properties of the steel that will be used, such as its yield strength, tensile strength, and modulus of elasticity.

Design factors

These factors, also known as safety coefficients, are applied to the loads to account for uncertainties and variations in actual usage conditions, ensuring an adequate safety margin.

Calculation Methods

There are different methods for calculating metal beams, such as the Allowable Stress Design (ASD) method and the Load and Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) method. These determine how loads and design factors influence the dimensions and load-carrying capacity of the beam.

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Importance of metal beam calculations

  • Structural Safety: Accurate calculations ensure that the beams can withstand the anticipated loads throughout the structure’s lifespan without collapsing or causing damage.

  • Economy: An efficient and well-calculated design allows for the optimization of material usage, resulting in significant economic savings in construction.

  • Regulatory Compliance: Beam calculations must adhere to established engineering regulations and standards to ensure the safety and quality of constructions.

  • Durability: Proper calculations take into account loading conditions and environmental factors, ensuring that the beams are durable and require minimal maintenance.

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Common categories of metal beams in Europe are IPN, IPE, and HEA. Their selection depends on the application, loading conditions, and the need for strength.
The difference lies in the shape and design of the cross-section, which affects their load-bearing properties, stiffness, and specific applications.
The bending moment is calculated from the applied forces and their distances from a specific point along the beam. The shear force is calculated as the algebraic sum of all vertical forces on one side of a point on the beam.
The properties of steel that are considered include yield strength, modulus of elasticity, and tensile and compressive strength.
The yield strength is the point at which steel undergoes permanent deformation, while the ultimate strength is the maximum stress the material can withstand before breaking.
It is crucial to consider the slenderness ratio and provide adequate bracing to prevent lateral buckling.
Proper connections ensure efficient load transfer between elements and contribute to the overall stability and safety of the structure.
Considering seismic loads involves analyzing the geographic location, soil category, and the dynamic response of the structure. For wind loads, factors such as wind speed, building height and shape, and wind exposure must be taken into account.
A simply supported beam has supports at both ends that allow rotation but not horizontal or vertical movement, typically in the form of hinges. On the other hand, a fixed-end beam has at least one end that is fully restrained, preventing any movement or rotation at that point. This distinction is crucial as it significantly affects the distribution of moments and shear forces in the beam, as well as its behavior under loads and maximum deflection.
Allowable deformations depend on the application and use of the structure. They are controlled through proper design and adherence to specific standards.
Additional plates, section reinforcements, or even external reinforcements like structural profiles can be used to increase the load-carrying capacity of the beam.