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Engineering Mechanics

Welcome back to Engineering Mechanics.

This presentation introduces you to engineering structures and the
role of the truss.
My name is Peter Hamilton. I am delivering this presentation on
behalf of Dr Ke Xing.
Remember, that the script is in the notes tab as usual.

Engineering Mechanics
Planar Truss Analysis
Method of Joints

Peter Hamilton
Dr Ke Xing
School of Engineering


This slide is self explanatory.

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Do not remove this notice.

This presentation discusses engineering structures, the

characteristics of a simple truss, and the concepts and techniques
for analysing a truss structure by using the Method of Joints.


Planar Truss Analysis

The Method of Joints


At the end of this module you will:

Understand different types of engineering structures.
Understand the role of trusses in structures.
Be able to represent complex trusses into a simple truss which
enables you to easily analyse the loadings in internal members of
the truss using a technique known as the Method of Joints.

Intended Learning Outcomes

You will be able to:


Understand and differentiate different types of

engineering structures

Understand the characteristics of a simple truss

Analyse and identify directions and magnitudes of

loads in members of a truss

Use Method of Joints

Why do you need to know this. Catastrophic failure of

engineering structure like this bridge can be prevented with a
good understanding of engineering structural analysis.
A structural engineer should be able to design each member of a
structure to carry the intended load safely.

Why do you need to know this?

Image source:

Engineering Mechanics

Engineering structures can be broadly defined as any connected

system of members that has the capacity to support or to transfer
loads and to safely withstand all external loads on it. A member is
a constituent part of any engineering structure.
Large structures must withstand enormous forces and moments
due to their weights and external loads.
An engineering designer should always clearly identify and
analyse all the forces and moments acting on the structure and its
members for safety and design purposes.

Engineering Structures


Image source:
Existing engineering structures have different forms.

What type of structure?

Image source:
By EG Focus [CC-BY-2.0
(], via Wikimedia


What type of structure?

Multiple Kingpost truss

Pratt truss

Questions therefore arise as how structures can be categorised

and how their loadings can be analysed so that they can be safely
used for their intended use.
Many structures such as bridges and roofs mostly uses trusses,
which will be the main focus of this module.
Examples of popular trusses are presented in the slide. They

Howe truss

We will discuss 3 categories of engineering structures:

Trusses, Frames, and Machines

In addition, there are three major categories of structures based

on the type of loadings their members can support or transmit.
They are referred as Truss, Frame or machine.


Structural Categories

What are the main differences between the three categories of

The principle difference between the three lies in the number of
loads applied on the members of the structure.
In a TRUSS each member is a two-force member. From an earlier
presentation, a two-force member is one in equilibrium under the
action of 2 forces only.
On the other hand frames and machines contain at least one
multi-force member. Remember, a multi-force member may have
three or more forces applied on it at different points, or may have
two or more forces and one or more couples.
A Machine is similar to a frame except that it has at least one
moving part which can transmit load.
The following slides look in detail at each type of structure.
Image sources

Engineering Mechanics

A Truss is a framework composed of slender members joined at

their ends by bolted or welded or riveted joints to form a rigid
structure. The commonly used members are I beams, channels,
and bars of different cross sections. Trusses are designed to
support external loads at the members ends. That is, each
member is a two-force member to satisfy equilibrium conditions.

A structure composed of slender members joined
together at the end by welding or bolting
The members are two-force members
It is designed only to support loads, usually
stationary (fully constrained), e.g. roof and bridge

Bridges and roof supports are examples of Trusses.


The second type of structure is a Frame. A frame is similar to a

Truss as it is a structure that is designed to take stationary loads.
However, in contrast to a Truss, which only contains two-force
members, a frame contains at least one multi-force member.

2. Frame

A structure
designed only to
support loads.
It is stationary
and contains at
least one multiforce member.

members as the external load is applied on the mid part of the
rungs, when we land on them.


3. Machine
A structure designed to transmit and modify the
effect of forces
It contains moving parts and at least one multiforce member.

Image source:

The third category of a structure is a Machine. It is similar to a

frame in that it has at least one multi-force member.
A Machine is, however, designed to transmit and modify the effect
of forces. In contrast to a frame, which consisst of only stationary
parts and only supports stationary loads, a machine contains
moving parts and is able to transmit loads.
Automobile engines and cranes are two examples of machines.
Image source:


Structure Analysis


It is necessary in the analysis of a structure, that all of the applied

external loads and internal loads on each member should be be
considered for design and safety evaluation.
in the figure constitutes direct application of the equilibrium of rigid
bodies which was discussed in the previous module.
The internal forces of an engineering structure can be determined
by analyzing separate, free body diagrams of individual members
or a combination of members which requires the application of
Newton's third law.

Engineering Mechanics


example, structures like the Eiffel-tower, and many bridges are

actually formed by the combination of many simple trusses.



A basic truss consists of three bars joined together to form a rigid

frame with a triangle shape. A structure built from this basic form
is known as a simple truss.
Many large and complex trusses are formed through the
combination of many simple trusses, as shown in the slide.
The bars are said to be the members and the contact points
where the bars are connected are called the joints.
When the members of the truss and all external loadings lie
essentially on a single plane, the truss is called a Plane Truss. In
this module, We focus on plane trusses.

Truss- Structure Features





All loadings are applied at the joints
The weight of each member is neglected
Smooth pins


In order to make modelling easier, certain assumptions are made

to assist analysis.
First, all loadings are assumed to be applied only at the joints.
There is no force applied to the bodies of the members. This
condition is satisfied in most trusses.
Second, the weight of each member is neglected. Each member
is regarded as weightless. This assumes that loadings are much
bigger than the weight of individual members. If the weight of a
member must be accounted for, this can be done in such a way
that half of the weight of the member can be applied at each joint
of the member.
Additionally, it is assumed that the members are joined together
by smooth pins which do not prevent rotation. The figures show
members that are bolted together using a gusset plate. In
practice, bolted, welded or riveted connections are commonly
used. However the assumption is valid if the centerlines of the
members are concurrent at the joint.
These three assumptions are the basis for each member to be a
two-force member. That is the member may only be in tension or
Image source

Engineering Mechanics

Two Force Member


Each truss member acts as a two-force member in a state of

The force R is an axial force at points A and B that has the same
magnitude, but in opposite directions, and they share the same
line of application.




Forces on Truss Member




Remember that, when a body is in a state of equilibrium, then

any part of the body is also in a state of equilibrium according to
Newtons 3rd law.
This simple understanding is very important as it forms the basis
for the truss analysis technique known as the Method of Section
which will be discussed later.




Cutting the Truss Member


Direction of Load
Direction of loadtension or compression?
The force R is an axial force either tension or


Please note, when a member is cut, it needs to be replaced

with the force which is exerted by the cut away member.

As discussed previously, each member of a simple truss can only

support tension or compression forces.
The direction of the forces on the contact point follows Newton's
third law.
be in compression and it applies the same and opposite force on
the pin due to action and reaction. Therefore the direction of the
compression force on the pin will be towards the pin.


and the reaction will also be a pulling force on the pin. The
reaction force is drawn acting away from the pin.


Solving truss problems

Fx TBD TBC cos(60) TBA sin(30) 0,

of simple truss should be evident by inspection and the correct

senses of each force can be evaluated applying conditions of
When solving a planar truss problem, remember the following:.
opposite to a force applied by the joint on the member.
Forces applied on a joint are concurrent at the centre of the joint.
equilibrium analysis, it is a good practice to resolve
forces in to Cartesian components. Knowledge of fundamentals of
trigonometry is important in this regard.
Then apply equilibrium equations of forces and moments

Fy P TBA cos(30) TBC sin(60) 0.

Engineering Mechanics

For analysis, three dimensional trusses can be simplified to a

number of planar trusses.

Solving truss problems

Structure simplification:
3-D (space) truss problems can be simplified
into 2-D (planar) truss problems

are responsible for the vertical loadings on the deck.

In this analysis only a statically determinate truss, which can
readily be analysed by equilibrium equations, is considered.
Statically determinate trusses are usually supported by a pinsupport at one end, and a roller support at the other end.

Methods and Approaches

Method of Joints

Method of Sections

How then is the nature and magnitude of internal forces of

members of a planar truss analysed?
There are two techniques that can be used, depending on the
As its name implies, this method focuses on examining the
characteristics of forces acting on the joints, so as to derive the
forces within the members connected with those joints using
Newtons third law.


the body of a structure is examined and the particular portion of

the body is sectioned for analysis. In this way the size of the
problem can be reduced. This method is derived from the fact that
if the rigid body is in equilibrium, then any part of the rigid body is
also in equilibrium.
The Method of Joints focuses on analysis of unknown loads acting
on joints by drawing a free body diagram for each joint.

Method of Joints
What is it?
Analyse the loads acting on each joint.
Use the equilibrium conditions of each joint of the truss.
The forces acting in the members of a truss can be
You have to include all external forces and reaction
forces in supports


Process of Method of Joints

1. Draw a free-body diagram (FBD) for the entire truss

2. Use the equilibrium equations for the entire truss to determine

the reaction forces at the supports of the whole truss.
3. Draw a FBD for each joint: should include all forces acting on
the joint (external forces, reactions and member forces).
Note that the pairs of internal forces in the member should
cancelled each other out in the FBD. Label the forces properly.
Remember that a member in compression pushes on the joint
and a member in tension pulls on the joint


each joint of the truss, the maximum of two unknown forces acting
on the members of a truss at each joint can be determined.
that all external forces and reaction forces exerted at the
supports are identified and analysed considering the equilibrium of
the whole truss.

When applying the method of joints follow these steps.

The first step is to draw a free-body diagram of the entire truss.
This can help to properly identify all external forces applied to the
body of the structure, including those unknown reactions at the
equations for the entire truss to determine those unknown reaction
forces at the supports of the truss.
-body diagram for each joint, and


at the joint are concurrent and we expect a maximum of two

unknown forces, as we can derive only two independent
equilibrium equations of forces in the x and y axis. Because of
action and reaction, a joint applies a force on a member which is
equal and opposite to the force applied by that member on the
member can either be in tension or compression.

Engineering Mechanics

In this method, only two unknown forces at a time on a single joint

first select a joint connected to a
maximum of two members with unknown internal forces.

Process of Method of Joints

4. Choose firstly a joint with 2 unknown forces
determine unknowns using equilibrium conditions.
5. Then choose the next joint with only 2 unknowns
repeat the process until you find all member forces.

In the method of joints, we have only 2 independent

equations Fx 0 , Fy 0 in each joint.

So we can determine only 2 unknowns at a time for each

joint analysis.

members of the truss.

It is recommended to resolve forces into x and y components and
use two equilibrium equations of forces in the x and y axis to find
the unknown forces in each joint.
For example in the truss shown, the two possible joints to start
with are joint A or E which are connected to two members with
unknown forces.
Which joints do you think need to be evaluated next?
In this example of planar truss, vertical forces are applied at joints
A, B, C and E.
First evaluate the reaction forces, represented by RD, R1, R2
considering the free body diagram of the whole truss and
equilibrium equations for coplanar forces.
Then, examine each joint and the forces applied on them. Note
that, since only two unknowns can be solved at each joint, it is
necessary to look for and start the analysis with a joint that only
has two unknown forces applied to it. In this particular case,
choose either joint A or joint C to begin with .



Sample FBD for Method of Joints















Starting from joint A, make a free-body diagram of A with one

identified force and two unknowns. For convenience and
consistency, always assume an unknown force in the member to
be a tension force, unless we can clearly judge the sense of the
force by an observation.
Using the particle equilibrium conditions, find the magnitude and
correct sense of Fab and Fad.


After solving the unknown forces at joint A, move to the next joint
which only has two unknown forces. In this case, joint D is a
correct choice than joint B, as Fad and Rd have been already
identified, while Fbd and Fde are the only unknown forces.
The same procedure is repeated until all unknown forces are
The method of joints is a preferred method when the internal
forces in all members need to be established. However the
method of joints can be quite time consuming to use, particularly if
only forces in a few members located in the middle of a complex

The Drawback of Method of Joints

Method of joints works well when the forces in all
members need to be established
However it will take a long time to calculate a certain
specific member force, or
Sometimes impossible to determine the member forces
because of constraint on the number of unknowns in
each joint.

examined joint by joint to reach the wanted truss

We will therefore need a different, and more flexible technique in
such scenario, such as the Method of Sections.


The Method of sections is based on the principle that if a body is

in equilibrium, then any part of the body should also be in
equilibrium. In the Method of Sections, as the name implies, the
truss is cut into sections in a right way to solve it for the
unknowns. The next presentation will address the Method of
Sections in detail.

Method of Sections


Engineering Mechanics

Quiz time

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Quiz button to edit this quiz

Method of Joints - Key Points

Method of Joints can find all member forces in

some cases.
Reaction forces in the supports need to be found
before starting to find all member forces.

In each joint, up to 2 unknowns in planar truss

problems can be found.


In this Module, the following key concepts
and techniques were discussed
Different types of engineering structures
Simple truss and key techniques for truss
Method of Joints to analyse structures

By now, you should be able to analyse internal forces of members

of planar trusses using the Method of Joints.
To summarise the important steps,
First find the reaction forces at the supports of the truss by
drawing the free body diagram of the whole truss and applying
equilibrium equations for coplanar forces.
Then start solving the internal forces of members at the joint,
which contains at most two unknown forces, using equilibrium
conditions at that joint in two orthogonal coordinate axes say x
and y axes.
Keep on applying the same equilibrium analysis for the other
joints, until analysis of the internal forces of the required members
is complete.
Remember that, using the Method of Joints only two unknowns on
one joint can be solved. Thus the selection of a joint for analysis is
based on the number of members with unknown internal forces
connected to the joint.
In this module, different types of engineering structures, such as
trusses, frames, and machines have been introduced.
You have been introduced to solving the internal forces of
members of a planar truss using the Method of Joints.

Thank you. If you have any questions please raise them in the

Thank you

All images sources are either copyright free, creative commons,

self-drawn or from the textbook.