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Excavator structural stress - hand calculations B.


Excavator design engineers need to be familiar with methods to calculate pivot

forces arising out of the specific kinematics of excavator and structural stresses.
Finite Element Analysis methods notwithstanding, doing calculations by hand
provides engineers with a keen insight on the magnitude of forces at play and
stresses that are set up in his structural designs. These are key inputs to avoid
expensive FEA iterations. This document gives a method to compute section
stresses once pivot forces are know. It is assumed that readers are familiar with
basic strength of materials and applied mechanics concepts.

Below is an image of an excavator dipper arm with bucket in maximum breakout

force position. Just for the purposes of this sample calculation let’s assume the
maximum breakout force is 45kN and acting at the corner of the bucket. Link
lengths and position for maximum force are assumed to be known to arrive at forces
in the links. Section dimensions of Arm structure are given in later images.

Once the Breakout force vector is completely defined it is not necessary to calculate
the link & pivot forces to get sectional stresses. It is given here only to let readers get
a feel for the magnitude of the forces in links arising out of breakout force and the
linkage system. A Breakout force of 4.5 Tons sets-up pin forces of 16.5 Tons in the
Arm. That is what you get as a consequence of the excavator 4-bar mechanism. A
similar feel for forces in boom pivots can rationally explain why an excavator boom
is more generously dimensioned than the Arm.

For sectional calculations, Arm is oriented with the horizontal axis passing through
bucket pivot and the arm cylinder pivot (on the arm). A typical hand calculation of
stresses would require about four to six sections analyzed and about ten sections
analyzed in the boom. Sections in the arm are numbered from 1 to 4. There would
be at least a couple more passing through the two end pivots. We would
demonstrate the hand calculation in section 3-3.

There is nothing sacrosanct about the orientation of the section. Sections can be
taken any which ways but then interpretations of stresses become meaningless
when section orientations results in plate thicknesses very different from actual.
Also one is interested not just in stresses at one section but in a number of sections
along the length of the structure and a non-uniform distribution of sections just
doesn’t help.
LOAD CASE: MAX BREAKOUT FORCE of 45kN (Forces left of section 3-3)

Force at Pin joint F

Subtended angle w.r.t section 5-5
Ff 16414 daN f 1.6 deg

Force at Pin joint J Subtended angle w.r.t 5-5

Fj 13835 daN 87.9 deg


Width of bucket Half width of bucket

Wb 710 mm W hb

Breakout force Subtended angle w.r.t section 5-5

Fbr 4500 daN 54.2 deg

Section properties: 3-3
2 Area moment of Inertia Y-Y Iyy 31924067mm
Sectional area Acc 5369mm

4 4
Area moment of Inertia X-X Ixx 52197335mm Area moment of Inertia, Polar Ip 84121402mm

Dimension to outer fiber of top plate (for stress due to bending about X axis) d bx 127.2mm

Dimension to outer fiber of side plate (for stress due to bending about Y axis of section)
d by 102.5mm

Arm side plate thickness (for stress due to torsion & transverse shear stress) ds 6 mm

Torsion area = Area bounded by the center line of the wall cross-section
At ( 185 6) mm ( 254.4 6) mm

Ixx Iyy
Section modulus X-X Wx Section modulus Y-Y Wy
dbx d by

Shear area
2 2
Areas of side half plates area1 727.2mm area2 1230 mm

First moment of areas for transverse shear stress along X-X

A sx 2 area1 60.6 mm area2 124.2mm

Resolution of forces & moments about axes 5-5

Horizontal component of forces Ffh Ff cos Fjh Fj cos j


Fjv Fj sin j
Vertical component of forces Ffv Ff sin f

Fbrh Fbr cos br

Horizontal component of Breakout force

Fbrv Fbr sin br

Vertical component of Breakout force
Vertical distances from 5-5 axis to section centroid (refer section dimensions above)

254.4 d jv d fv 26.1 mm
d fv 69.8 mm

Horizontal distances to section 3-3 centroid

d fh 800 mm d jh d fh 203.3mm

Stress analysis at section 3-3

Bending moment at section 3-3 Mbx Ffh d fv Ffv d fh Fjh d jv Fjv d jh

Stress due to bending along X-X at 3-3 bx bx 169.541MPa

Bending moment on Arm perpendicular to Axes 5-5 due to bucket corner

M by Fbrh W hb

Stress due to bending along Y-Y at 3-3 by by 30.003MPa

Direct stress due to horizontal components Ffh Fjh 29.616MPa

d A cc

Torsion 3
f Fbrv W hb .f 1.296 10 daN m

Torsional stress s 2 At ds .s 24.283MPa

Transverse/horizontal shear stress due to varying bending moment along X-X

Fjv Fbrv Ffv Asx

h Ixx2 ds h 40.899MPa

Maximum Principal stress bx by d bx by d 2
max 2 2 s h

max 192.05MPa