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Connections between structural members are critical elements that typically govern the performance of structural systems; hence, techniques for monitoring the condition of connections are needed to provide early warning of structural damage. Plastic hinge formation in fasteners frequently occurs in timber connections when the yield capacity is exceeded. An innovative pulse echo testing technique was developed for detecting the formation of a plastic hinge in bolted timber connections and estimating the associated magnitude of connection displacement. A shift in overall signal centroid proved to be the best flTedictor of plastic hinge formation, with a coefficient of determination (R2) of 0.9. As the plastic hinge angle increased, the signal centroid shifted to the right since a higher proportion of pulse energy was forced to undergo multiple transverse wave reflections caused by the deformed geometry of the bolt. Because the determination of a shift in signal centroid requires the availability of prior test information for the initially undeformed fastener, an alternate linear relationship between echo amplitude ratios and plastic hinge formation was also proposed with an adjusted R2 of 0.87. This three parameter regression equation had the advantages of requiring no prior testing information and eliminating ambiguity in signal analysis associated with selection of echo start and end points. Plastic hinge formation was correlated with connection ductility, magnitude of connection overload and energy based measures of connection damage to assess residual connection capacity.


bolt, connection, plastic hinge, waveguide, pulse echo


Originally presented at the 1995 ASAE Annual International Meeting, ASAE Paper No. 954459, American Society of Agricultural Engineers.