# Understanding Section Modulus for Structural Steel Bending

Section modulus is a term that not many people are familiar with, but this term is something that bending and rolling companies deal with on a daily basis. Section modulus is a geometric property for a given cross-section used in the design of steel beams or flexural members. The relationship between many geometric properties such as tension, compression and shape of the member lead to the calculation of its section modulus.

There are two types of section modulus; the “elastic section modulus” and the “plastic section modulus”.  A bender roller company puts their focus on the elastic section modulus. The elastic model is used by bender roller companies to determine the section modulus needed to bend a steel member.  For comparison, changing the roll orientation of a structural steel member can also greatly change the section modulus information required.  Bending steel channels the hardway can increase the modulus by at least 500%, and in some cases, the section modulus increases by over 1000% due to rolling against the strong-axis of the channel web instead of rolling with the flanges in or out.

Bender roller companies usually have a range of machines with different maximum section modulus capabilities. A 3X3 rolling machine has a maximum section modulus of 1.3 to 1.9 cubic inches, where as a 13X13 rolling machine has a maximum section modulus of 80-290 cubic inches. Obviously the larger pieces of metal will require a higher maximum section modulus, so ensuring the piece to be formed is on the proper machine will improve bending quality and lessen the labor involved.  A good comparison would be to imagine two weightlifters trying to lift the same weight.  If you have a smaller person who normally lifts in the 100-150lb range and another who lifts in the 150-200lb range, they both can lift a 150lb weight, but it will be easier for the one who normally lifts more to do it for an extended time, and his form will be better.

Some of the largest machines can even have section modulus capacities that near or even exceed 1000 cubic inches. These larger machines are usually specialized beam bending machines.  They have been specially developed for heavy beam bending. These machines are equipped with features that enable an adjustable bending distance and simultaneous movement of the pushing and pulling rolls.

It is extremely important the estimators and operators are familiar with the section modulus of every member that comes through the doors of a bending and rolling company.  Not knowing the section modulus of a member or not knowing the capabilities of a machine could lead to ruining the material or even seriously damaging their machine.