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Simply Supported Beam

1) BeamCALC™ Requires Microsoft Excel 2007 or later.
2) Activation ID emailed within one business day of payment.
3) For support contact   beamcalc at wdv . com
4) Read one page tutorial below before use.

Dear BeamCALC User –

Thanks for purchasing BeamCALC™, as easy to use as 1,2,3. Here is a simple example to get familiar with the tool.

Notice that BeamCALC is a series of worksheets. The order of these sheets is significant. At the bottom of the window are a set of tabs that let you select the active sheet.

BeamCALC tabs

You will most often change values in sheets 2 and 3 in beam design or parametric studies. There are ten named sheets that appear after sheet 3. There are five sheets for simply supported beams and five sheets for cantilevered beams. All sheets share the same units, material properties and cross-sectional characteristics. That way you don't have to change these to compare results. The named sheets tell you the shape and stress in the beam and provide useful statistics, like the stress, mass, and volume of the beam.

BeamCALC tabs

If you need to have place two different kinds of loads on one beam, you can use the superposition sheets, but try those after you get simple problems working reliably. Always verify that your work makes common sense. If it doesn't, recheck the inputs. BeamCALC is a useful adjunct to finite element analysis (FEA). If your FEA results do not agree for linearly elastic problems that fit the assumptions in sheet #1, something is wrong with the FEA!

Make sure you read and understand the limitations in sheet #1). These include the limitations of linear beam theory and other limitations: especially self-weight and dead weight. BeamCalc does not include the self-weight of the beam in the stress calculation. It does not account for rust, corrosion, metal fatique or other unknowns.

Getting Started

Go to Spreadsheet #1 and enter your activation id. This is essential for the software to work properly. It can take up to two business days to provide the id, so don't get frustrated. Use the time to get to know the software and plan your problem.

Tip: The main trick to using BeamCALC is to remember that you only provide inputs at the yellow highlighted fields.

Let's solve a practice problem to make sure everything is working as expected.

Problem: We set a five foot Douglas Fir 2x4 on a sawhorse and place an 80 lb anvil on on it. Does it break?

a)      Go to Units spreadsheet (#1) and set the units to “US".

You can use other units later when you have verified your work.

BeamCALC image

b)      Go to Material properties spreadsheet (#2) and set the material to “Douglas Fir: #1 Grade

·         The name must be typed exactly to match any predefined material.
·         When the name matches exactly, values will appear for Elastic Modulus, etc.    
(You can define your own materials, but save that for later.)

BeamCALC image

c)      Go to the Sections worksheet (#3) and set the cross section to “Rectangular".

·         This cross section is used and includes a hollow rectangular beam as well as a beam of solid cross section.

BeamCALC image

d)      IMPORTANT! Scroll down the Sections worksheet (#3) and enter the cross section dimensions in the highlighted boxes. You can use formulas since Excel™ likes that.

·         Our lumber which is commonly called a "2x4" is actually 3.5” by 1.875”.
·         It is not hollow, so we set b and h to zero.
·         Remember that the long axis of the beam is set in the x direction in all cases, and the beams are loaded in the y-z plane.
·         If you have your lumber 90°, you will get an incorrect result.


BeamCALC image

e)      Now we select tab for the Simply Supported Beam – Concentrated Force Worksheet, “Simple - Conc. F

·         Our beam is five feet long.
·         We place an 80 lb anvil halfway in the center.

BeamCALC image

A real anvil has finite width, but we model the problem as though the force of the anvil acts on a knife edge. The graph of the result looks like it has finite width, but this is just a limitation of the graphing utilities of Excel™. The beam is at 65% bending stress and has an average shear stress of 1%. The beam doesn’t fail until it gets to 100% bending stress, but that is a beam of "computer simulated" wood. A real beam might not do as well due to knots, defects, moisture content and other variations.

This example uses a #1 Grade Douglas Fir Beam.

·         How does a #2 Grade Northern Pine beam fare?
·         How about a six foot beam, instead of a five foot beam?
·         If I weigh 180 lbs could I stand in the middle on a 30 inch long Douglas Fir beam  and heft the anvil on an upper shelf?
·         If I could do so, should I do so?

All the best ,

- Van

L. Van Warren MS CS, AE
Warren Design Vision


At the bottom of the spreadsheet workbook, there are a set of tabs.

Click on the 1) Set Units worksheet and enter your activation ID. and review the limitations and assumptions.

 Click on the 2) Choose Material worksheet.

·         Scroll down and find a material or define your own on row 14
·         Note the units carefully on modulus and yield.
·         Enter material name in B7.

Click on the 3) Set Section worksheet.

·         Scroll down and view the three section types.
·         Enter the dimensions for your section type.
·         Enter section name in B8.

Click on the Simple Conc. F worksheet.

·         Enter the load position in cell B10
·         Enter the load force in cell D10
·         Enter the beam length in cell F10.

Examine the values.

·         The load values should make sense.
·         If they don’t, check your spelling of the predefined material name.
·         Click other worksheets that more closely resemble your problem.