While most Americans are uneducated when it comes to structural steel design and construction, many can probably identify and name one popular piece of the structural puzzle. The I-beam, also known as an H-beam or W-beam, is one crucial part of many structures that provides vital structural support. As a team of experienced structural steel fabricators in Michigan, we are here to help supply you with the best materials and services in the field. From ornamental metal work to our mobile welding services, Sanilac Steel is here to ensure that your project is done on time and under budget. We are passionate about everything involving steel, which is why today’s blog will look into what an I-beam is and why it is so useful in building design. If you are in need of one of the best steel fabrication companies in the Great Lakes region, be sure to contact Sanilac Steel for a quote!

The Value is in the Design

To start, we will look at the shape of your standard H-beam. The name derives from the shape of the beam itself, when you look at the H sideways (hence the I shape), you’ll see the edges (flanges) and the vertical piece in the middle (web). People will most often ask why these beams are used instead of full rectangular elements, which is understandable. Common sense dictates that a solid beam will be much stronger than it’s alphabetically-shaped cohort, delivering superior support. The benefits of the I-beam derive from two simple factors:

  • Compression. When a solid beam is subjected to stress or pushing forces, it will begin to bend, creating a lot of tension on the side that is being angled away from. The side that is being bent into will experience compression. The middle area of the beam is considered to be on a neutral axis. As you move from the neutral center toward the exterior edges, the force exerted on the materials is proportionally higher. When put under stress, these beams will bend until failure, buckling under the pressure.
  • Weight. Installing solid structural steel beams will quickly add up in terms of weight, creating a series of complications for architects, designers, and engineers. When you think about the load weight of one beam when 80 percent more mass is added, then add up every beam across the span of a skyscraper, it’s easy to see why utilizing a lighter option is the best choice. Being able to find the perfect balance between product density and strength is what helped to build this country.

The web, or center of your beam, resists shear forces while the flanges resist the stress of bending and movement. Utilizing more material along the axial fibers will allow your beam to resist more stress.

Factoring for Success

Designing and erecting structural steel is a complicated balance due to the number of forces at work. Highrise buildings, for example, incorporate a lot more planning to account for wind, temperature fluctuations, and structural concerns. Anyone who is planning on building a structure will need to consider many factors, including:

  • Bending. When forces are exerted on steel, it will bend and yield to these new stresses. I-beams are designed to accommodate these forces to prevent buckling.
  • Buckling. After too much force has been applied, the steel can fail, buckling and collapsing on itself.
  • Deflection. The angle and distance at which the beam is displaced under the weight load is an important part of the process. It’s crucial to find a strength that keeps the beam from deforming and failing.
  • Vibration. The movements from machinery, humans, wind, and more can add up to create constant vibrations, of which steel is often the most resistant. However, long-term vibrations can create numerous problems, especially if the steel connections are not made to withstand the amount of movement.
  • Tension. Proper steel should be chosen to resist axial tensile forces, where tension is placed without the bending and compression we mentioned earlier. It’s important to find a suitable web for your I-beams in order to resist failure under high loads.

A Beam for Every Building

Several options are available to meet the needs of nearly any structure out there. From carbon structural steel to aluminum, you’ll find a product for every application. While many people think of structural support in terms of strength, much of the challenge actually comes from the ability to resist outside forces in terms of movement. The versatility and strength of the I-beam makes it the top choice for builders. When you factor in the affordability, it’s easy to see why people have dubbed it the universal beam (UB).

The art of steel beam fabrication requires plenty of experience and know-how to be done successfully. When you are in need of structural steel fabricators in Michigan, don’t trust your structural need to any regular fabrication company. Sanilac Steel has been working to perfect the process since 1967, and we’re confident that we can handle your job in an accurate, efficient manner. Contact us today to see what our team can do for you!