Using Mohr’s Circle for Plane Stress

Mohr's circle is a handy tool for determining principal stresses in a body under plane stress.  We will dive into the basics of Mohr's circle and how it is easily created using MEboost.

Mohr's Circle Basics

When conducting critical plane analysis, Mohr's circle can be used to determine the critical plane where maximum damage occurs.  Let's start with some definitions.

Principal Planes  In an element under plane stress, there are two planes where shear stress is zero.  These are referred to as the principal planes.

Principal Stress A tensile or compressive stress that acts perpendicular to a principal plane.

Consider the element below that is under plane stress.

We need to define a convention for shear.  Shear that results in clockwise rotation is positive, and shear that results in counterclockwise rotation is negative.  In the element above, we see that shear xy is negative, and shear yx is positive.  When Mohr's circle is plotted, we will see how this affects the principal plane angles.

To illustrate, let's consider an example.  Stress values are:

  • Stress in x direction: 10,000 psi
  • Stress in y direction: 5,000 psi
  • Shear: -2,000 psi

Positive stress is tensile, and negative stress is compressive.

To create Mohr's circle, we plot two points: (stress x, -shear xy) and (stress y, shear yx).  Shear is the vertical axis and stress is the horizontal axis.  A line is drawn between these points, and a circle is drawn that goes through both points.  A Mohr's circle is shown below with labels to illustrate the properties.

Properties of Mohr's Circle

Mohr space refers to properties of Mohr's circle.  Real space refers to properties of the actual element under stress.

  • The principal stresses, σ1 and σ2, are located on the horizontal axis where shear is zero.
  • Mohr space: the principal planes are 180 degrees apart.  Real space: the principal planes are 90 degrees apart.
  • Mohr space: the principal planes are located at an angle of 2Θ from the red line.  Real space: the principal planes are at an angle of θ from the x-direction.
  • Maximum shear is at the top and bottom of the circle.
  • Mohr space: maximum shear occurs 90 degrees from the horizontal axis.  Real space: maximum shear occurs at 45 degrees from the principal planes.
  • The radius of the circle is maximum shear.  Alternatively, it is 0.5(σ1 - σ2).

Principal Planes

The principal planes of the element are shown below.

Drawing the Circle with MEboost

In the MEboost ribbon, clicking on the Mohr's Circle button will show the Mohr's Circle form.  Using the example above, we enter stress values in the form.  The value and sign for shear stress is for shear xy.

After clicking the Create button, a report will be created in a new worksheet.

In addition to the chart, the report also shows the values of principal stresses and the principal plane angle.


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