Preventing beam buckling

Print edition : August 21, 2015

The buckling of beams can be tuned by adding elliptical holes into them. Photo: Corentin Coulais/University of Leiden/American Physical Society

SLENDER beams used as structural elements can buckle when compressed, which could lead to instability and mechanical failure. A Dutch research group has shown that a beam’s stability can be adjusted after it has buckled by adding a series of elliptical holes into it. The work was published on July 21 in Physical Review Letters.

Guided by numerical simulations, the authors used 3D printing to realise holey beams with different geometries and showed that their response to compressive stress could be tuned by varying design parameters. The approach might lead to strategies to engineer mechanical elements with well-defined buckling properties. The researchers also found that “runaway buckling” can result from differences in the material’s resistance to stretching and squeezing, and this can arise when the beam is very wide or has near-circular holes.

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