# Which is better for structural support PVC pipe or plywood?

#### AamsterC2

I'm building a structure that will weigh approximately 200lbs (100kg) but that is only for the shell of the structure. So to support it I want something strong with as little deflection as possible as well as being as light weight as possible and I've narrowed down my options to PVC piping or plywood however I've been having some trouble finding out which would work best. I'm sure there's some sort of equation out there for determining the weight and amount of bend in a length of plywood and PVC pipe so if anybody knows that
I'd love to hear it but if not just what do you think would be best?

Edit: What I'm making is a long wing like structure for display, it will be about 10ft (3m) long and I'd like it to last a long time. I'm unsure of what type of plywood I would be using and am open to any suggestions on what would be best

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#### berkeman

Mentor
I'm building a structure that will weigh approximately 200lbs (100kg) but that is only for the shell of the structure. So to support it I want something strong with as little deflection as possible as well as being as light weight as possible and I've narrowed down my options to PVC piping or plywood however I've been having some trouble finding out which would work best. I'm sure there's some sort of equation out there for determining the weight and amount of bend in a length of plywood and PVC pipe so if anybody knows that I'd love to hear it but if not just what do you think would be best?
Can you post a drawing of what you are building? How are you planning on joining the pieces of PVC or plywood? How long is this supposed to last? How are you going to treat/finish the plywood? What grade of plywood are you considering?

#### Dr.D

You give no indication as to the type of loading that you need to support, the time duration of the load, the criticality of the loading, or any of the other necessary information required to give sound advice. Please try again.

#### AamsterC2

Well I'm just asking, I assume in general plywood is stronger, lighter, and more susceptible to bend than PVC piping but I'm not sure.

#### berkeman

Mentor
Well I'm just asking, I assume in general plywood is stronger, lighter, and more susceptible to bend than PVC piping but I'm not sure.
That still is no help. Please answer as many of our questions as you can. Thank you.

#### AamsterC2

That still is no help. Please answer as many of our questions as you can. Thank you.
Ok, thank you for being patient with me

#### Stephen Tashi

Well I'm just asking, I assume in general plywood is stronger, lighter, and more susceptible to bend than PVC piping but I'm not sure.
That assumption doesn't make sense because the susceptibility of a structural member to deformation depends on the members shape as well as its material composition. If you used a flat strip of plywood as a beam it would bend and twist easily. If you cut the strip into 4 pieces and put them together to form a box beam, the beam would have a greater resistance to bending and twisting - hence the need for you to be more specific about your designs.

#### AamsterC2

That assumption doesn't make sense because the susceptibility of a structural member to deformation depends on the members shape as well as its material composition. If you used a flat strip of plywood as a beam it would bend and twist easily. If you cut the strip into 4 pieces and put them together to form a box beam, the beam would have a greater resistance to bending and twisting - hence the need for you to be more specific about your designs.
Which is why I'm asking about the materials, thank you by the way for answering some of my question by telling me that the plywood would bend easily. The design is still open for being changed. I just want to know which material is stronger, which would bend less and which would be lighter for a given length. I'm just trying to understand which material would work better and if making a box beam out of the plywood would make is stronger and less bendable than pvc pipe then that's what I'll use. I'm just looking for a general idea

#### AamsterC2

Since it is confusing I'll make a hypothetical. If I have a 1 meter by 20 cm thick by 20 cm wide piece of plywood and a PVC pipe that is 1 meter by 20 cm diameter with walls 1 cm thick which would be stronger, which would bend less, and which would be the lightest

#### berkeman

Mentor
Since it is confusing I'll make a hypothetical. If I have a 1 meter by 20 cm thick by 20 cm wide piece of plywood and a PVC pipe that is 1 meter by 20 cm diameter with walls 1 cm thick which would be stronger, which would bend less, and which would be the lightest
Comparing a sheet with a tube shape is not a good comparison, IMO. You've already been reminde of a box beam shape, what about an I-beam shape? A triangular beam versus a tubular beam?

What is your design background. It sounds a bit like we should send you off with some reading assignments before we can be of much help. What ME reading have you been doing so far?

#### AamsterC2

some reading ideas might be helpful, I'm aware that a triangular or box like beam would make plywood stronger and less flexible but I don't know how that would then compare to the PVC

#### berkeman

Mentor
some reading ideas might be helpful, I'm aware that a triangular or box like beam would make plywood stronger and less flexible but I don't know how that would then compare to the PVC
There are so many things involved in this. Like my joining question, and the questions about beam shapes. There's lots to learn, and it's fun learning that helps you build better structures.

Okay folks -- let's make some suggestions of some good intro ME/structural education sites that the OP can read through. I'm off to make a list...

#### AamsterC2

Thank you very much, I'm sorry I'm ignorant about this I thought it would be simple. You're an amazing help ^-^

#### berkeman

Mentor
Thank you very much, I'm sorry I'm ignorant about this I thought it would be simple. You're an amazing help ^-^
No need to be sorry! We all learned this stuff at one time or another.

#### Stephen Tashi

Since it is confusing I'll make a hypothetical. If I have a 1 meter by 20 cm thick by 20 cm wide piece of plywood and a PVC pipe that is 1 meter by 20 cm diameter with walls 1 cm thick which would be stronger, which would bend less, and which would be the lightest
We can answer the question of which beam would be heavier by computing the volumes of the two constructions and looking up the density of PVC and the density of plywood. As I read the internet, the density of pine plywood is about 600 kg/ m^3 and the density of PVC is about 1300 kg/m^3.

The question of how much each beam will bend depends on what kind of load we assume, but we could assume a uniform load. We need to look up the modulus of elasticity for plywood and for PVC.

As I read the internet, the modulus of elasticity for plywood is about 6.8 x 10^9 Pa and the modulus of elasticity for PVC is about 3.2 x 10^9 Pa.

Other forum members should check whether I looked that data up correctly before we proceed.

If those numbers are correct then, as a generality, plywood is stiffer and lighter than PVC, but , as another generality, beams with a round cross section have some advantage over solid cross section beams if both are constructed using the same amount of material. It would involve considerable labor to make a round beam out of plywood.

Mentor

#### Stephen Tashi

Courses in "The Great Courses" series of DVDs aren't cheap, but I recommend "Understanding The World's Greatest Structures" as one of the best of that series. It contains an intuitive discussion of structural elements - columns, beams, arches, etc.

#### AamsterC2

I'll read all those and get back to this tomorrow, thank you again for your help

#### AamsterC2

So I read all the pages online, very interesting

#### rbelli1

Gold Member
I've narrowed down my options to PVC piping or plywood
How did you come to this conclusion?

There may be other options you didn't think of. A drawing would be helpful as berkeman suggested.

BoB

#### AamsterC2

I want to minimize the weight as much as possible at this point since the other materials are going to make it fairly heavy and I'll post sketches of it tomorrow

#### AamsterC2

How did you come to this conclusion?

There may be other options you didn't think of. A drawing would be helpful as berkeman suggested.

BoB
How do I post a drawing?

#### berkeman

Mentor
How do I post a drawing?

#### AamsterC2

Oh, well I feel dumb now xD And I had to kind of just sketch it on google paint but my plan is to have one solid support base and beam, then the wings can be slide on or off if it needs to be moved or repaired

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#### berkeman

Mentor
I'm building a structure that will weigh approximately 200lbs (100kg) but that is only for the shell of the structure. So to support it I want something strong with as little deflection as possible as well as being as light weight as possible and I've narrowed down my options to PVC piping or plywood however I've been having some trouble finding out which would work best. I'm sure there's some sort of equation out there for determining the weight and amount of bend in a length of plywood and PVC pipe so if anybody knows that
I'd love to hear it but if not just what do you think would be best?

Edit: What I'm making is a long wing like structure for display, it will be about 10ft (3m) long and I'd like it to last a long time. I'm unsure of what type of plywood I would be using and am open to any suggestions on what would be best
Oh, well I feel dumb now xD And I had to kind of just sketch it on google paint but my plan is to have one solid support base and beam, then the wings can be slide on or off if it needs to be moved or repaired
So the support structure is the "T" in your sketch? And the load is the brown hanging part?

"Which is better for structural support PVC pipe or plywood?"

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