An Overview of Truss Designs


I want to close the recent examples of trusses by providing a sampler of truss designs. This is far from encyclopedic. In fact, this post is limited to planar trusses.

First, however, let me give you a link to an online calculator. I checked it out on the Howe truss with a snow load.

As you can see, I scaled the loads by a factor of 10. I had to, for the program – not a big deal.

There are plenty of websites with information. You can search for yourself… you could start with the usual wiki article – the merit of which is that it has a lot of external links.

Personally, I have kept a link to bridge trusses in western PA and a link to roof trusses by an Australian contractor.

Okay, what do we have?
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Trusses – Snow Load on Howe, Fink, and Pratt trusses


I want to work another snow load problem… using three different trusses. I found a pair of these, for a Fink truss and a Howe truss, on a professor’s university website – his name is Zig Herzog and his main statics page is this. Individual links for the two problems will follow.

Each of these trusses is 12 meters across the bottom, and 4 meters high. Each has a total snow load of 2400 Newtons. As ever, I have used Mathematica® for the computations and graphics.

One of the things I liked was that Herzog asked us to find the maximum values of stress (both compression and tension), and the total length of the beams used in each truss. In addition to using Fink and Howe trusses, I will do the Pratt truss again, with the parameters of this problem.

The purpose of this post was to see how different the trusses are, under the same load. In one respect they are the same: the maximum values of both compression and tension are the same for all three trusses. And that’s the summary!

Here are screenshots of the author’s assigned problem… for which he does provide solutions, so I’m not giving away any secrets.

For comparison, here’s the Pratt truss I used in the previous post.

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Trusses – Example 4, Pratt roof truss with snow

This problem, like the Howe truss, comes from J.L. Meriam, “Statics”, John Wiley & Sons, 1966.

This diagram actually shows concentrated forces at the joints – which is where they must be for what we’re doing. Nevertheless, the problem as posed says that we have a total weight of 4000 pounds distributed uniformly across the top of the truss. We take the 1000 pounds on each of these four beams, and assign 500 pounds to each of its endpoints. Points A and E have 500 pounds, but the other three joints connect two loaded beams and get 1000 pounds.

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Trusses – Example 3, a Howe truss


This is a sample problem from “Statics”, by J.L. Meriam, John Wiley & Sons, 1966; #105, p. 88.

It is called a Howe truss – or, sometimes, a double Howe truss. Here’s a link that will give you the names of some trusses so you can look for more information. There’s a lot to be had, but it doesn’t seem all that standardized.

And here’s a link to some class notes, in case you want more explanation than I have been providing. And, since this is the third post about trusses, you could go look at my first truss post and my second truss post.

Anyway, we see that it is fixed at points A and G… and it has three external loads, each of 2 kips (a kip is a kilogram-force), at points B, C, I.
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Trusses – Example 2

Let’s try a slightly more complicated truss. You may want to read the previous post, if you have not already.

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Trusses – Example 1

Given the following picture of three beams… with a given force applied at the apex… let’s see if we can work out the internal forces in the beams, and the reaction forces at the two bottom points.

This is an example of a “statically determinate” problem. We will be able to solve this assuming that the three beams do not bend or compress or stretch.
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