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Tension vs. torsional stress. Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Tang Yan Song

What Is Torsional Stress? How It Works and How It Is Calculated

Xomety X
By Team Xometry
October 13, 2023
 7 min read
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Torsional stress is one of four common loading mechanisms including: compression, tension, and shear. Torsional stress differs from these because the load is a torque load that is applied transversely rather than longitudinally.

This article will go into detail about what torsional stress is, how it works, and how it is calculated. 

What Is Torsional Stress?

Torsional stress is a form of shear stress experienced by a body when a twisting force is applied. An example of torsional stress can be seen in a car’s axle. A car's engine/gearbox will attempt to turn the car’s axle, while the wheels on the other end of the axle will resist the turning. This will cause torsional stress about the center point of the axle. 

What Is the Importance of Torsional Stress?

It is important to understand the torsional physics applied to a load-bearing shaft, or body, to predict the shaft performance. Torsional stresses may cause elastic or plastic deformation to a shaft, and so shafts must be designed to properly resist torsional stresses. 

How Does Torsional Stress Work?

Torsional stress works in much the same way a bending moment works by applying a force at a distance along a lever arm. The only difference is that in a bending moment, the force is applied parallel to the axis. In torsional stress, the force is applied perpendicular to the axis of rotation. This results in a twisting force being exerted. 

What Causes Torsional Stress?

Torsional stress can be caused by a force couple acting about the center point of a shaft. A couple is two forces that act at the same distance from the point of rotation in an opposite and equal manner. Examples of a force couple causing torsional stress can be found in anything that rotates including: car axles, gear shafts, drills, mandrels, and wind turbine generators. In all of these examples, torsional stress affects the object along the whole length of its axis. 

How Does Torsional Stress Differ From Normal Stress?

Normal stress, such as compression or tension, acts normally on the cross-section of an object. Torsional stress, however, works perpendicular to the cross-section about a center point. For compression and tension to occur, both forces must act concentrically. If the forces are not concentric a shear force will be induced—whereas torsional forces must only be parallel, opposite, and an equal distance away from the midpoint. 

To learn more, see our guide on the Definition of Stress.

Does Torsion Cause Shear Stress?

Yes, torsion does cause shear stress. This is because torsional stress is not applied uniformly between the acting point of the force and the point of rotation. Instead, the force applied starts at zero at the point of rotation and gradually increases along the radius to the acting point of the force. 

What Is the Formula for Torsional Stress?

The magnitude of the torsional stress depends on a few factors including the distance of the applied force from the center of rotation, the twisting moment, and the polar moment of inertia. These factors are all considered in the equation for torsional stress below:

t=Tr/J

Where:

t = Torsional stress

T = Transmitted torque 

r = Distance from the center of rotation

J = Polar moment of inertia area

The radius is measured in meters and the units for torsional stress are given in newton meters or pascals (Pa).

What Does the Torsional Stress Diagram Look Like?

Below is a torsional stress diagram that shows how as the distance from the center of rotation increases so does the amount of torsional stress. Additionally, as the torque load increases so does the angle of rotation which will increase the overall torsional stress at all distances from the center of rotation as seen in Figure 1 below:


Slide 1 of 1
diagram for torsional stress
diagram for torsional stress
diagram for torsional stress

Torsional stress diagram.

Image Credit: https://www.linearmotiontips.com/mechanical-properties-of-materials-shafts-in-torsion/

How To Calculate Torsional Stress?

To calculate the torsional stress, the torsional stress formula must be used. Firstly the value for the variables: the distance between the applied load and the center of rotation, the torque being transmitted, and the polar moment of inertia area must all be identified. Secondly, the values need to be substituted into the torsional stress equations. Then the formula will lead to a value for the torsional stress in pascals. 

How Do Torsion Equation Assumptions Analyze Torsional Stress?

There are a few assumptions that are required to be true to allow the torsion equation to effectively analyze the torsional stress of an object. The assumptions are listed below:

  1. The material must be the same throughout the body.
  2. The load should be uniformly distributed along the shaft axis. 
  3. The torque must not exceed the elastic deformation of the material.
  4. The shaft cross-section has to be circular.
  5. The length of the shaft must not change during loading. 

How Does Torsional Stress Affect the Quality of Materials?

Torsional stresses which are large enough in magnitude can cause plastic deformation of a material. This plastic deformation can cause the material to strain harden making the material brittle and susceptible to cracking and failure. Additionally, torsional stresses are often repeated loads that can fatigue a material over time. 

How Often Does Torsional Stress Occur in Steel?

Torsional stress is only experienced when a torque load is applied to a material. Since steel is often used in applications such as: drive shafts, gears, bearings, hinges, and axles, it is often subject to torsional stresses. These stresses are also loaded repeatably and in quick succession which increases the frequency of torsional stresses. Experiencing these torsional stresses is not necessarily detrimental if the steel part is operating within its designed loading. 

To learn more, see our guide on Steel Metal.

Does Torsional Stress Occur in Titanium?

Yes, titanium experiences torsional stress the same way any other material would experience torsional stress. Whether or not titanium experiences torsional stress will depend on whether the part is subject to a torque load. 

What Is an Example of Torsional Stress?

Torsional stress is experienced in any situation in which rotation occurs. The best example of torsional stress can be found using a drive shaft. One end of the drive shaft, end A, is driven by a power source, and the other end, end B, is transmitting rotational power to a load. The power source at end A is applying a load to the shaft at some distance away from the center of rotation. End B is then providing some resistance to the turning of the drive shaft at some distance from the center of rotation. Torsional stress is the force applied to overcome the resistance.

What Is the Difference Between Torsional Stress and Bending Stress?

Both bending and torsional loads are moments, in which a force is applied at a distance along an arm. However, torsional stress is caused by a force that acts transversely about an axis of rotation; this causes the body to rotate. Conversely, a bending stress acts longitudinally to an axis which causes the body to bend along its axis. 

Summary

This article presented torsional stress, explained it, and discussed how it works and how its calculated. To learn more about torsional stress, contact a Xometry representative.

Xometry provides a wide range of manufacturing capabilities and other value-added services for all of your prototyping and production needs. Visit our website to learn more or to request a free, no-obligation quote.

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Xomety X
Team Xometry
This article was written by various Xometry contributors. Xometry is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, injection molding, urethane casting, and more.