Stresses in Arches

An arch is a curved beam, the radius of curvature of which is very large relative to the depth of the section. It differs from a straight beam in that: (1) loads induce both bending and direct compressive stresses in an arch; (2) arch reactions have horizontal components even though loads are all vertical; and (3) deflections have horizontal as well as vertical components (see also Arts. 5.6.1 to 5.6.4). Names of arch parts are given in Fig. 5.93.

The necessity of resisting the horizontal components of the reactions is an important consideration in arch design. Sometimes these forces are taken by the tie rods between the supports, sometimes by heavy abutments or buttresses.
Arches may be built with fixed ends, as can straight beams, or with hinges at the supports. They may also be built with a hinge at the crown.

Three-Hinged Arches

An arch with a hinge at the crown as well as at both supports (Fig. 5.94) is statically determinate. There are four unknowns two horizontal and two vertical components of the reactions but four equations based on the laws of equilibrium are available: (1) The sum of the horizontal forces must be zero. (2) The sum of the moments about the left support must be zero. (3) The sum of the moments about the right support must be zero. (4) The bending moment at the crown hinge must be zero (not to be confused with the sum of the moments about the crown, which also must be equal to zero but which would not lead to an independent equation for the solution of the reactions).

Stresses and reactions in threehinged arches can be determined graphically by taking advantage of the fact that the bending moment at the crown hinge is zero. For example, in Fig. 5.94a, a concentrated load P is applied to segment AB of the arch. Then, since the bending moment at B must be zero, the line of action of the reaction at C must pass through the crown hinge. It intersects the line of action of P at X.
The line of action of the reaction at A must also pass through X. Since P is equal to the sum of the reactions, and since the directions of the reactions have thus been determined, the magnitude of the reactions can be measured from a parallelogram of forces (Fig. 5.94b). When the reactions have been found, the stresses can be computed from the laws of statics (see Art. 5.14.3) or, in the case of a trussed arch, determined graphically.

Two-Hinged Arches

When an arch has hinges at the supports only (Fig. 5.95), it is statically indeterminate, and some knowledge of its deformations is required to determine the reactions.
One procedure is to assume that one of the supports is on rollers. This makes the arch statically determinate. The reactions and the horizontal movement of the support are computed for this condition (Fig. 5.95b). Then, the magnitude of the horizontal force required to return the movable support to its original position is calculated (Fig. 5.95c). The reactions for the two-hinged arch are finally found by superimposing the first set of reactions on the second (Fig. 5.95d).
For example, if x is the horizontal movement of the support due to the loads, and if x is the horizontal movement of the support due to a unit horizontal force applied to the support, then

where M  moment at any section resulting from loads
N  normal thrust on cross section
A  cross-sectional area of arch
y  ordinate of section measured from A as origin, when B is on rollers
I  moment of inertia of section
E  modulus of elasticity
ds  differential length along axis of arch
dx  differential length along horizontal

where   the angle the tangent to the axis at the section makes with the horizontal.
Unless the thrust is very large and would be responsible for large strains in the direction of the arch axis, the second term on the right-hand side of Eq. (5.169) can usually be ignored.
In most cases, integration is impracticable. The integrals generally must be evaluated by approximate methods. The arch axis is divided into a convenient number of sections and the functions under the integral sign evaluated for each section. The sum is approximately equal to the integral. Thus, for the usual two-hinged arch,

(S. Timoshenko and D. H. Young, Theory of Structures, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York; S. F. Borg and J. J. Gennaro, Modern Structural Analysis, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, Inc., New York.)

1 thought on “Stresses in Arches”

  1. There are a handful of ONE-HINGED arches out there. I intend next summer–if there IS a next summer–to go look at a few as an excuse to visit Pittsburgh, PA. The hinge is at the crown point I think you called it. Would appreciate a discussion. Yes, there are hingeless arches.
    I am an old-fashioned person so I am in to trusses (mostly 19th-century bridge trusses) and the peculiar American preference for pin-connected structural joints instead of the riveted joints preferred by Europeans. Both style of structures then did have a predilection for occasional spectacular collapse.

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