# How to Build a Simply Supported Beam Analysis Spreadsheet

In this post, I’m going to walk you through crafting a simply supported beam calculator right in Microsoft Excel. Yes, you heard that right. Excel isn’t just for finance and data analysis; it’s a powerful ally for engineering challenges as well.

Our spreadsheet will be set up with basic inputs like length, Young’s modulus, and area moment of inertia, ensuring your calculations are precise from the get-go. But we won’t stop there. I’ll show you how to harness the power of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) to manage those complex calculations with ease and present your results in a clear, visually appealing manner.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or new to the game, this guide will equip you with the tools you need to make Excel your go-to for engineering applications. Let’s get started and unlock the full potential of Excel in your engineering projects!”

The first step in creating your beam calculator is setting up the input sections of the spreadsheet. You’ll want to start with a section for basic inputs, including the system of units (inch or metric), the length of the beam, Young’s modulus, and the area moment of inertia. This setup ensures that your calculations are based on consistent units, avoiding common errors that can arise from unit discrepancies.

=IF(units=””metric””, metric_value, inch_value)`

By using a simple IF statement, you can make your spreadsheet adaptable to either metric or inch units, based on the user’s preference. This approach simplifies the input process and makes the spreadsheet more user-friendly.

Next, you’ll move on to the load input section. This part of the spreadsheet allows you to specify up to five different loads, which can be either concentrated or uniform. To accommodate more loads, you could expand this section.

While Excel is powerful on its own, some calculations can become overly complex when confined to cell formulas. This is where Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) comes into play. By creating custom user-defined functions in VBA, you can significantly simplify your spreadsheet’s layout while handling more complex conditional logic.

## Implementing VBA Functions

Consider the calculation of reaction forces at the supports of the beam. The method to calculate these forces varies depending on whether the load is concentrated or uniformly distributed. With VBA, you can create a single function that handles both scenarios by checking the type of load and applying the correct formula.

This function takes the load type and relevant parameters as inputs and returns the reaction force. It significantly reduces the complexity that would otherwise be necessary directly in Excel cells.

## Plotting Results: Visual Data Representation

After calculating the necessary values, presenting the results in a clear and understandable way is crucial. Excel shines in this area with its charting capabilities.

By dividing the beam into segments and calculating the deflection, shear, and moment for each segment, you can plot these values to create visual representations of the beam’s behavior under the applied loads.

## Creating Charts in Excel

To plot the results, you can set up tables that segment the beam and use the previously defined VBA functions to calculate the values for each segment. Summing the contributions from each load, based on the principle of superposition, gives you the total deflection, shear, and moment at every point along the beam.

## Dynamic Axis Titles

A subtle but powerful feature you can add to your charts is dynamic axis titles that change based on the units selected by the user. This is achieved through simple concatenation formulas that reference the cell containing the unit selection.

= “Position (” & D9 & “)”

Where `D9` contains the unit (inches or millimeters), this formula creates a dynamic title that updates automatically when the unit changes, and improves the user experience by matching the chart titles to the selected units.

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