Stresses that won't bring on a headache

Mechanics of Materials. First edition - Mechanics of Materials. First edition
November 28, 2003

Both these textbooks are aimed at students of engineering or applied science who have completed a basic statics course. They join a number of existing textbooks on the mechanics of materials that provide a fundamental resource for both undergraduate and postgraduate students studying aeronautical/aerospace, civil and mechanical engineering-related degree topics.

The emphasis by Andrew Pytel and Jaan Kiusalaas, in their revised edition of an earlier work, is perhaps more suitable for undergraduate students wanting a more clearly guided approach to the application of the introductory material at an earlier stage of an engineering programme of study. However, the later five chapters provide more depth and reference to advanced topics such as inelasticity, non-linearity and dynamic loading.

Madhukar Vable provides an in-depth and thorough coverage of the theoretical aspects of the subject throughout the book. He includes problems intended to "stretch" the students' understanding and appreciation of the complexities involved and the book is perhaps therefore better suited to the advanced-level undergraduate or revising postgraduate student.

Both books include chapters covering the principal topics of stress, strain, torsion, bending, deflection of beams, column and plane stress-strain.

In addition, Vable includes explicit consideration of fundamental mechanical properties of materials and aspects of design and failure. Vable has moved away from the traditional approach to the treatment of mechanics of materials - that of application primarily in structural analysis. The book also covers new applications that have been designed with the specific properties of modern composite materials and polymers in mind, such as directional strength and stiffness.

Pytel and Kiusalaas provide additional material on asymmetric bending and curved beams as well as on dynamic loading, strain energy theorems and inelastic action.

In this substantial revision, they have also included problems to be solved using numerical approaches. They suggest using high-level programming languages such as MathCad or Matlab, thus minimising the programming effort involved.

As one might expect, the underlying structure of both books is similar.

Fundamental theory is presented, then illustrated by worked/sample problems and finally reinforced by problems for the reader to tackle.

Vable provides explicit notes for both student and instructor on the use of the textbook; each topic is also summarised, giving reference to the historical context and the formulas and points to be remembered.

Both textbooks use a mix of imperial or US measurements and SI units in the worked examples and the problems. Although this is of clear value in producing a single textbook for the two principal markets, many non-US based students may find the inclusion of problems that use imperial units unhelpful.

On the plus side, both books are beautifully illustrated with numerous diagrams (two-colour) and monochrome photographs in places.

I have recently designed a new first-year undergraduate taught module incorporating elements of strength of materials for a combined class of aerospace, civil, mechanical and medical engineering students. I have used both these books in the preparation of the programme and included them in the recommended reading for the module; both offer some refreshing elements in this traditional yet developing field.

Colin Howard is senior tutor in engineering, University of Surrey.

Mechanics of Materials. First edition

Author - Andrew Pytel and Jaan Kiusalaas
Publisher - Thomson Brooks/Cole
Pages - 545
Price - £32.99
ISBN - 0 534 42168 7

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