How to Calculate Object Impact Forces

Written by matthew weeks
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How to Calculate Object Impact Forces
A falling object's impact force depends on its mass, its impact velocity, and how far it travels after impact. (Thomas Northcut/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Knowing how to calculate the force of a moving object when it impacts with another object is an important skill with many applications. You may be attempting to determine the type of projectile necessary to break through a barrier. You may be attempting to determine if an object can withstand a fall from a given height. Whatever the case, calculating impact force is a simple process that requires only a few measurements beforehand.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Calculator
  • Mass scale

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  1. 1

    Weigh the impacting object on your mass scale. Be sure you are measuring in kilograms.

  2. 2

    Determine the impact velocity of the object. If the object is falling to the ground, its impact velocity will be equal to the square root of the product of the height of its fall multiplied by 19.6 (two times the acceleration due to gravity). If the object in question is a projectile, the impact velocity will be equal to its launch velocity.

  3. 3

    Square the result calculated in Step 2, and multiply it by one-half of the value of the mass measured in Step 1 to determine the object's kinetic energy.

  4. 4

    Divide the kinetic energy calculated in Step 3 by the distance travelled by the object after the point of impact to determine the impact force of the object in Joules.

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