Shear strength

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Mam Tor road destroyed by subsidence and shear, near Castleton, Derbyshire. SubsidedRoad.jpg
Mam Tor road destroyed by subsidence and shear, near Castleton, Derbyshire.

In engineering, shear strength is the strength of a material or component against the type of yield or structural failure when the material or component fails in shear. A shear load is a force that tends to produce a sliding failure on a material along a plane that is parallel to the direction of the force. When a paper is cut with scissors, the paper fails in shear.


In structural and mechanical engineering, the shear strength of a component is important for designing the dimensions and materials to be used for the manufacture or construction of the component (e.g. beams, plates, or bolts). In a reinforced concrete beam, the main purpose of reinforcing bar (rebar) stirrups is to increase the shear strength.


A shear force is applied to the top of the rectangle that deform the rectangle into a parallelogram. Having a higher shear modulus of elasticity increases the force needed to deform the rectangle. Shear stress simple.svg
A shear force is applied to the top of the rectangle that deform the rectangle into a parallelogram. Having a higher shear modulus of elasticity increases the force needed to deform the rectangle.

For shear stress applies


is major principal stress and
is minor principal stress.

In general: ductile materials (e.g. aluminum) fail in shear, whereas brittle materials (e.g. cast iron) fail in tension. See tensile strength.

To calculate:

Given total force at failure (F) and the force-resisting area (e.g. the cross-section of a bolt loaded in shear), ultimate shear strength () is:

For average shear stress


is the average shear stress,
is the shear force applied to each section of the part, and
is the area of the section. [1]

Average shear stress can also be defined as the total force of as

This is only the average stress, actual stress distribution is not uniform. In real world applications, this equation only gives an approximation and the maximum shear stress would be higher. Stress is not often equally distributed across a part so the shear strength would need to be higher to account for the estimate. [2]


As a very rough guide relating tensile, yield, and shear strengths: [3]

MaterialUltimate Strength RelationshipYield Strength Relationship
SteelsUSS = approx. 0.75*UTS SYS = approx. 0.58*TYS
Ductile IronUSS = approx. 0.9*UTSSYS = approx. 0.75*TYS .
Malleable IronUSS = approx. 1.0*UTS
Wrought IronUSS = approx. 0.83*UTS
Cast IronUSS = approx. 1.3*UTS
AluminumsUSS = approx. 0.65*UTSSYS = approx. 0.55*TYS

USS: Ultimate Shear Strength, UTS: Ultimate Tensile Strength, SYS: Shear Yield Stress, TYS: Tensile Yield Stress

There are no published standard values for shear strength like with tensile and yield strength. Instead, it is common for it to be estimated as 60% of the ultimate tensile strength. Shear strength can be measured by a torsion test where it is equal to their torsional strength. [4] [5]

MaterialUltimate stress (Ksi)Ultimate stress (MPa)
Fiberglass/epoxy (23 o C) [6] 7.8253.9

When values measured from physical samples are desired, a number of testing standards are available, covering different material categories and testing conditions. In the US, ASTM standards for measuring shear strength include ASTM B769, B831, D732, D4255, D5379, and D7078. Internationally, ISO testing standards for shear strength include ISO 3597, 12579, and 14130. [7]

See also

Related Research Articles

Stress (mechanics) Physical quantity that expresses internal forces in a continuous material

In continuum mechanics, stress is a physical quantity that expresses the internal forces that neighbouring particles of a continuous material exert on each other, while strain is the measure of the deformation of the material. For example, when a solid vertical bar is supporting an overhead weight, each particle in the bar pushes on the particles immediately below it. When a liquid is in a closed container under pressure, each particle gets pushed against by all the surrounding particles. The container walls and the pressure-inducing surface push against them in (Newtonian) reaction. These macroscopic forces are actually the net result of a very large number of intermolecular forces and collisions between the particles in those molecules. Stress is frequently represented by a lowercase Greek letter sigma (σ).

Stress–strain curve

In engineering and materials science, a stress–strain curve for a material gives the relationship between stress and strain. It is obtained by gradually applying load to a test coupon and measuring the deformation, from which the stress and strain can be determined. These curves reveal many of the properties of a material, such as the Young's modulus, the yield strength and the ultimate tensile strength.

Dynamic mechanical analysis is a technique used to study and characterize materials. It is most useful for studying the viscoelastic behavior of polymers. A sinusoidal stress is applied and the strain in the material is measured, allowing one to determine the complex modulus. The temperature of the sample or the frequency of the stress are often varied, leading to variations in the complex modulus; this approach can be used to locate the glass transition temperature of the material, as well as to identify transitions corresponding to other molecular motions.

Compressive strength Capacity of a material or structure to withstand loads tending to reduce size

In mechanics, compressive strength or compression strength is the capacity of a material or structure to withstand loads tending to reduce size. In other words, compressive strength resists compression, whereas tensile strength resists tension. In the study of strength of materials, tensile strength, compressive strength, and shear strength can be analyzed independently.

A Newtonian fluid is a fluid in which the viscous stresses arising from its flow, at every point, are linearly correlated to the local strain rate—the rate of change of its deformation over time. That is equivalent to saying those forces are proportional to the rates of change of the fluid's velocity vector as one moves away from the point in question in various directions.

Shear stress Component of stress coplanar with a material cross section

Shear stress, often denoted by τ, is the component of stress coplanar with a material cross section. It arises from the shear force, the component of force vector parallel to the material cross section. Normal stress, on the other hand, arises from the force vector component perpendicular to the material cross section on which it acts.

Dislocation Linear crystallographic defect or irregularity

In materials science, a dislocation or Taylor's dislocation is a linear crystallographic defect or irregularity within a crystal structure that contains an abrupt change in the arrangement of atoms. The movement of dislocations allow atoms to slide over each other at low stress levels and is known as glide or slip. The crystalline order is restored on either side of a glide dislocation but the atoms on one side have moved by one position. The crystalline order is not fully restored with a partial dislocation. A dislocation defines the boundary between slipped and unslipped regions of material and as a result, must either form a complete loop, intersect other dislocations or defects, or extend to the edges of the crystal. A dislocation can be characterised by the distance and direction of movement it causes to atoms which is defined by the Burgers vector. Plastic deformation of a material occurs by the creation and movement of many dislocations. The number and arrangement of dislocations influences many of the properties of materials.

Mohr–Coulomb theory is a mathematical model describing the response of brittle materials such as concrete, or rubble piles, to shear stress as well as normal stress. Most of the classical engineering materials somehow follow this rule in at least a portion of their shear failure envelope. Generally the theory applies to materials for which the compressive strength far exceeds the tensile strength.

The maximum distortion criterion states that yielding of a ductile material begins when the second invariant of deviatoric stress reaches a critical value. It is a part of plasticity theory that mostly applies to ductile materials, such as some metals. Prior to yield, material response can be assumed to be of a nonlinear elastic, viscoelastic, or linear elastic behavior.

Mohrs circle Geometric civil engineering calculation technique

Mohr's circle is a two-dimensional graphical representation of the transformation law for the Cauchy stress tensor.

Work hardening

Work hardening, also known as strain hardening, is the strengthening of a metal or polymer by plastic deformation. Work hardening may be desirable, undesirable, or inconsequential, depending on the context.

Torsion (mechanics) Twisting of an object due to an applied torque

In the field of solid mechanics, torsion is the twisting of an object due to an applied torque. Torsion is expressed in either the pascal (Pa), an SI unit for newtons per square metre, or in pounds per square inch (psi) while torque is expressed in newton metres (N·m) or foot-pound force (ft·lbf). In sections perpendicular to the torque axis, the resultant shear stress in this section is perpendicular to the radius.

Yield (engineering) Phenomenon of deformation due to structural stress

In materials science and engineering, the yield point is the point on a stress-strain curve that indicates the limit of elastic behavior and the beginning of plastic behavior. Below the yield point, a material will deform elastically and will return to its original shape when the applied stress is removed. Once the yield point is passed, some fraction of the deformation will be permanent and non-reversible and is known as plastic deformation.

Critical resolved shear stress

Critical resolved shear stress (CRSS) is the component of shear stress, resolved in the direction of slip, necessary to initiate slip in a grain. Resolved shear stress (RSS) is the shear component of an applied tensile or compressive stress resolved along a slip plane that is other than perpendicular or parallel to the stress axis. The RSS is related to the applied stress by a geometrical factor, m, typically the Schmid factor:

Flexural strength

Flexural strength, also known as modulus of rupture, or bend strength, or transverse rupture strength is a material property, defined as the stress in a material just before it yields in a flexure test. The transverse bending test is most frequently employed, in which a specimen having either a circular or rectangular cross-section is bent until fracture or yielding using a three point flexural test technique. The flexural strength represents the highest stress experienced within the material at its moment of yield. It is measured in terms of stress, here given the symbol .

Plane stress

In continuum mechanics, a material is said to be under plane stress if the stress vector is zero across a particular plane. When that situation occurs over an entire element of a structure, as is often the case for thin plates, the stress analysis is considerably simplified, as the stress state can be represented by a tensor of dimension 2. A related notion, plane strain, is often applicable to very thick members.

Viscoplasticity Theory in continuum mechanics

Viscoplasticity is a theory in continuum mechanics that describes the rate-dependent inelastic behavior of solids. Rate-dependence in this context means that the deformation of the material depends on the rate at which loads are applied. The inelastic behavior that is the subject of viscoplasticity is plastic deformation which means that the material undergoes unrecoverable deformations when a load level is reached. Rate-dependent plasticity is important for transient plasticity calculations. The main difference between rate-independent plastic and viscoplastic material models is that the latter exhibit not only permanent deformations after the application of loads but continue to undergo a creep flow as a function of time under the influence of the applied load.

Material failure theory is an interdisciplinary field of materials science and solid mechanics which attempts to predict the conditions under which solid materials fail under the action of external loads. The failure of a material is usually classified into brittle failure (fracture) or ductile failure (yield). Depending on the conditions most materials can fail in a brittle or ductile manner or both. However, for most practical situations, a material may be classified as either brittle or ductile.

Fiber-reinforced composite

A fiber-reinforced composite (FRC) is a composite building material that consists of three components:

  1. the fibers as the discontinuous or dispersed phase,
  2. the matrix as the continuous phase, and
  3. the fine interphase region, also known as the interface.

The unified strength theory (UST). proposed by Yu Mao-Hong is a series of yield criteria and failure criteria. It is a generalized classical strength theory which can be used to describe the yielding or failure of material begins when the combination of principal stresses reaches a critical value.


  1. Hibbeler, Russell. Mechanics of materials. ISBN   1-292-17828-0. OCLC   1014358513.
  2. "Mechanics eBook: Shear and Bearing Stress". Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  3. "Shear Strength of Metals".
  4. "Shear Strength - Instron". Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  5. Portl; Portl, bolt com; Bolt; Company, Manufacturing; St, Inc 3441 NW Guam; Portl; PT547-6758, OR 97210 USA Hours: Monday-Friday 6 AM to 5 PM. "Calculating Yield & Tensile Strength". Portland Bolt. Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  6. Watson, DC (May 1982). Mechanical Properties of E293/1581 Fiberglass-Epoxy Composite and of Several Adhesive Systems (PDF) (Technical report). Wright-Patterson Air Force, Ohio: Air Force Wright Aeronautical Laboratories. p. 16. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 October 2018. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  7. S. Grynko, "Material Properties Explained" (2012), ISBN   1-4700-7991-7, p. 38.