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# Civil Engineering

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## Truss Analysis Method of Joints

by C E on MARCH 19, 2011

Method of joint is a structural analysis method to determine the internal forces of members in a truss.
This method is derived based on the equilibrium conditions at joints. It is basically a special case of
equilibrium of concurent (intersecting) forces. In this case rotational or moment equilibrium is readily
satisfied at the joint. Therefore in the method of joint for plane truss there are only two equilibrium
equations required:

## Procedure for method of joints:

Select a joint having at least one known force and at most two unknown forces (because we have
only two equilibrium equations). If the joint is located at the support, we may need to first
determine external reactions at the truss supports.

Draw the free-body diagram (FBD) for the selected joint. Make sure that all known and unknown
forces are accounted for. For the unknown forces, the direction of the forces need to be assumed.
My recommendation is to always assume that the unknown forces are in tension. Negative value
from the analysis means that the actual force direction is reverse and the member is in
compression.

Orient the x and y axes so that the forces can be easily resolved into their x and y components.

Apply the equilibrium equations and solve for the unknown member forces and check the their
directions.

Continue the same process to another joint until all internal member forces in a
truss structure are solved.

As you can see, the method of joints is straight forward and not difficult. You just need to be smart in
selecting the sequence of joints need to be solved because the maximum unknown forces that can be
solved using this method is two. Thus sometimes method of joints cannot be applied for a particular joint

because it has more than two unknow forces. In this case normally we solve it by first solving its
neighborhood joints.

Thus the method of joints is basically a method to determine the internal forces in the members of truss
structures by satisfying the equilibrium conditions of forces at each joint of the truss.

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## Why Truss Analysis

Why should we analyze a truss?.This is because if you want to design truss members, and its
joints properly, you should have clear knowledge of what is the load carried by each

Fig.1 Determination of internal forces help in proper design of truss joints and members

## Assumptions behind Truss Analysis

Before going to truss analysis,lets see the main assumptions behind it.

Truss members are connected at their ends only, and they are connected by
friction-less pins. So you don't have to consider any secondary bending moment
induced do to force of friction.
Truss is loaded only at joints.
Weight of truss members can be neglected, compared to load acting on the truss.

## Nature of load in truss members

Force developed in a truss member is always axial. It can be either tensile, or compressive.

## Fig.2 Forces in truss members either tensile or compressive

If a member is under tensile load, this will be the direction of internal force developed .So you can
notice that, under tensile load, internal force developed in the member is directed away from the

joint. Similarly in case of compressive force, the internal force developed in the member is directed
towards the joint.

## Fig.3 Direction of internal forces developed in tensile and compressive case

Method of Joints
The most common way to determine forces inside a truss is method of joints. The basic
concept of method of joints is that, since the truss is in equilibrium, each joint in truss will
also be in equilibrium. The procedure for method of joints is as follows.

## 1. Determination of reaction forces

For this purpose we can use 3 equilibrium equations of truss. That is sum of horizontal
force is zero, sum of vertical force is zero, and moment acting at any point in truss is
zero.

## 2. Applying equilibrium of joint concept

After determining the reaction forces, next step is to apply concept of equilibrium of
joints. Consider a joint, where there are not more than 2 members, in which forces are
unknown. 2 unknowns, because, we have got only 2 equations of equilibrium to solve
them. Joint is in equilibrium in x direction, and joint is in equilibrium in y direction. So we
can solve for both the unknown forces.

Please note that we cannot use equilibrium of moment at a joint because, moment
produced by member forces in a joint is zero, since all forces are passing through same
point.

Fig.5 Concept of equilibrium is applied to a joint, where not more than 2 forces are unknown

## 3. Moving to the Next Joint

Once you are done with one joint, you can move to next joint. And do the same analysis
there. The procedure is repeated till we have solved all the unknown forces in truss.

Fig.6 After solving forces around one joint, you can move to next joint as shown

## Method of Joints - Example

Now lets do a sample problem. Stress analysis of following structure, which is used to lift
weight. One end of that is connected to a roller and other end to a pin.

## Fig.7 A sample problem

So first step, determination of reaction forces from free body diagram. Since one end is connected by a
roller, reaction force will be purely vertical. At the other end both, vertical and horizontal reaction
forces are present. As the whole structure is under static equilibrium, we can use 3 equilibrium
equations to solve for 3 components of reaction.

## Fig.8 Free-body diagram and determination of reaction forces

Now analysis at each joint. Lets assume that all members are under tension. So forces are moving
away from joint. Internal forces developed and number of unknown forces around each joint is as
shown here.

## Fig.9 Number of unknown forces around each joint

It is clear that, we could start our analysis, either from joint A, or from joint D, both are having 2
unknowns. Other joints are having 3 unknown forces. Lets start with joint A. Forces in both members
can be solved using the equilibrium formulae.

## Fig.10 Forces around Joint A is solved using the 2 equilibrium equations

If sign of any force comes negative, that means that member is under compression.
Now we can move to point B, there number of unknowns are 2 now. Using the same concept
we can solve for forces in members 3, and 5. Now the only unknown force remaining is in
member 4. Which can be easily solved by considering equilibrium at point C or point D.You
have to just by consider any of one equilibrium equation for this.