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# EM 424: 3-D Mohr’s Circle

## If we write the stresses on an arbitrary cutting plane whose unit normal is n in

term of the principal stresses and their coordinate directions (see Fig. 1) then we have:

(n)
x2 T
σ p2
N = σ nn
S
σ p1 n
x1

σ p3 principal
x3 directions
Fig. 1

T1(n) = n1σ p1
T2(n) = n2σ p2
T3(n) = n3σ p3

## N ≡ σ nn = σ p1n12 + σ p2 n22 + σ p3 n23

2
S = T1 ( ) + (T ) + (T ) − N
( n) 2 ( n) 2
2
( n) 2
3
2

2 2 2
n1 + n2 + n3 = 1

which can be considered to be three equations for the unit normal components (squared)
in terms of N , S , and the principal stresses, whose solution is

2
S 2 + (N − σ p2 )(N − σ p3 )
n = ≥0
1
(σ p1 − σ p2 )(σ p1 − σ p3 )

2
S 2 + (N − σ p1 )(N − σ p3 ) (1)
n = ≥0
2
(σ p2 − σ p3 )(σ p2 − σ p1 )

S 2 + (N − σ p1 )(N − σ p2 )
n =
2
≥0
3
(σ p3 − σ p1 )(σ p3 − σ p2 )
EM 424: 3-D Mohr’s Circle

## If we order the three principal stresses such that

σ p1 > σ p2 > σ p3

## then the inequalities of Eq. (1) imply that

S 2 + (N − σ p2 )(N − σ p3 )≥ 0

S + (N − σ p3 )(N − σ p1 )≤ 0
2

S + (N − σ p1 )(N − σ p2 ) ≥ 0
2

## which can be also rewritten equivalently as

2 σ p2 + σ p3  2  σ p2 − σ p3  2
S +N−  ≥ 
 2   2 
 σ + σ p3   σ p3 − σ p1 
2 2
(2)
S +  N − p1
2
 ≤ 
 2   2 
 σ + σ p2  2  σ p1 − σ p2  2
S 2 +  N − p1  ≥ 
 2   2 

If we plot the two quantities S and N, the three inequalities in Eq. (2) can be interpreted
geometrically as the regions exterior or interior to three circles (see shaded region of Fig.
2)
EM 424: 3-D Mohr’s Circle

τ2
σp3 τ1 σ c3 σ p1
p2
c2 N
c
1
τ3

Fig.2

## whose centers are at

σ p2 + σ p3
c1 =
2
σ + σ p3
c2 = p1
2
σ + σ p2
c3 = p1
2
EM 424: 3-D Mohr’s Circle

σ p2 − σ p3
τ1 =
2
σ p3 − σ p1
τ2 =
2
σ p1 − σ p2
τ3 =
2

which are also the three extreme values of the total shear stress.
Since all the possible stresses on any cutting plane lie within the shaded region of
Fig. 2 and not just on the three Mohr’s circles, this 3-D figure is not too convenient to use
to find stresses in general (it’s better to find them directly from the stress transformation
equations). However, the 3-D Mohr’s circle construction is useful to locate the planes of
extreme shear with respect to the principal directions. For example, we see that there are
planes of extreme shear when

σ p1 + σ p2
N=
2
 σ p1 − σ p2 
2

S =
2

 2 

so that from Eq. (1) we can solve for the squares of the components of the unit normal.
we find:

2 1 2 1 2
n1 = , n2 = , n3 = 0
2 2

Similarly, when

σ p1 + σ p 3
N=
2
 σ p1 − σ p 3 
2

S2 =  
 2 

we find

2 1 2 1 2
n1 = , n3 = , n2 = 0
2 2

## and finally, for

EM 424: 3-D Mohr’s Circle

σ p2 + σ p3
N=
2
 σ p2 − σ p3 
2

S =
2

 2 
we have

2 1 2 1 2
n2 = , n3 = , n1 = 0
2 2

## Summarizing all these results

n1 n2 n3 S2 N
0 ±1/√2 ±1/√2 (σp2-σp3)2/4 (σp2+σp3) /2
±1/√2 0 ±1/√2 (σp1-σp3)2/4 (σp1+σp3) /2
±1/√2 ±1/√2 0 (σp1-σp2)2/4 (σp1+σp2) /2

which indicates that that the planes of extreme shear all lie at ±45° from the principal
directions. Figure 3 shows one of these cases explicitly:

x
2

τ 3 = σp1 - σp2 2
σ p1 + σ
p2
τ3 σ p1
2 n

45
x1 x3

σ p2

Fig. 3