How to calculate beam stiffness

Written by andrew mayfair
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The stiffness of a beam is a physical property of a material to resist bending and deformation. The stiffness of a beam consists of the ratio of the force applied to the beam to the distance of deformation. Stiffness is reported in units of newtons per metre. Generally, it is important to consider the stiffness of a beam in construction. For example, you may wish to select a less stiff metal beam to construct a more earthquake-safe structure.

Skill level:
Easy

Instructions

1. 1

Apply an even force to the side of the beam. For example, apply a force of 500 newtons.

2. 2

Measure the displacement of the beam from its centre while the force is applied to the beam. For example, the beam may displace 0.2 m (8 inches) with an application of 500 newtons (112 lb).

3. 3

Divide force by displacement to calculate stiffness. In the example, divide 500 newtons by 0.2 m to get 2,500 newtons per meter stiffness. Thus, to displace the beam by 1 m (40 inches), you must apply a force of 2,500 newtons.

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