What is a steel beam? (with photos)

Steel beams are commonly used in bridge construction.

Steel beams are used in many architectural and structural engineering applications. They are commonly used to support floors and ceilings in large structures such as commercial buildings and bridges. A steel beam must be designed to withstand forces and stresses while minimizing weight, space requirements and material costs. Incorrectly designed beams can fail prematurely and have catastrophic effects.

Steel beams are used in steel construction.

Designing a steel beam requires an understanding of the forces that will be applied, the length of the span between the supports, the spacing between the beams, the beam material, and how the beam is connected to other structural members. Steel beams are designed to withstand different types of loads and forces depending on the application. Some examples of the types of forces that a steel beam can be exposed to include weight loading, wind lifting, and vibration.

Different types of steel beam designs are available based on loading and mounting configurations. The most commonly used type is the standard open band steel beam (OWSJ). This design consists of two parallel members, known as strings, with a repeating triangular structure located between the strings. There are several other steel beam designs such as sloping, curved or cylindrical top chord, gable and scissor. More complex beam designs are used for special applications and are more expensive than a standard open band beam.

The construction of a joist will influence how much force it can withstand and how it will bend or deflect under load. The deflection of a steel beam depends on its dimensions, how it is supported, the material and where forces are applied. The depth of a beam, which is dictated by the spacing between parallel chords, is a major factor in how much it will deflect under load. Steel is most commonly used for beams used in structural and architectural applications, but beams can also be made from other materials such as aluminum.

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Steel beams are normally designed with a factor of safety. This can result in oversized beams designed to support the anticipated load or to address other factors that cannot be anticipated during beam design. Too large a factor of safety will lead to a larger-than-necessary joist design, requiring more space for installation, causing potential weight issues and resulting in higher fabrication costs. Until recently, steel beams were designed using force diagrams and a series of complex mathematical equations. Today, engineering software is commonly used to analyze and design steel beams to meet performance criteria.

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