Components ()
View all results.
Categories ()
View all results.
Sorry, we couldn't find anything for that search.
Recent Searches.
Return to Engineering News

What Does Rigid Mean? An Expert Guide to Material Rigidity in Precision Engineering

Throughout the history of engineering, material selection has always been a key aspect in determining the success of projects. Having a profound understanding of material science and characteristics is not just advantageous – it's essential. 

One key characteristic that many engineers explore is the rigidity of materials, which can play a large role in helping to avoid failure if accounted for correctly.

This article dives deep into the heart of this term, exploring its core definition, distinguishing it from its close relatives, and shedding light on its significance in day-to-day engineering.


So, let's begin to define rigid.

Accu Article Highlighter Divider

What Does Rigid Mean for Precision Engineering?

To define rigid within the scope of materials and precision components, we are specifically looking at the stiffness of a material in response to shear forces being applied to it. 

For clarity, a shear force is a type of force usually imparted on opposite sides of an object that causes parts of it to slide past each other in opposite directions.

So when we ask "What does rigid mean?", in the context of screws for example, we can look at their resistance to bending and deformation when one end is threaded into a workpiece and a load is applied to the other end.

In short, this means that a rigid component will not easily bend, twist, or change shape even when external shear pressures are applied.

This is exceptionally important when it comes to material selection and could mean the difference between using A2 stainless steel bolts and high-tensile steel bolts.

Accu Article Highlighter Divider

Exploring What Is the Definition of Rigid

In a broader sense, the definition of rigid refers to the unyielding nature or inflexibility of an object, system, or set of rules. It denotes a resistance to change, bending, or adaptation. While often used in the context of materials and their mechanical properties, the term can also describe behavioural traits, processes, or regulations that are strict and do not easily accommodate alterations or exceptions.

Accu Article Highlighter Divider

Determining a Material's Rigidity: The How-To Guide

Quantifying or gauging the rigidity of a material is done by calculating the modulus of rigidity, also known as the shear modulus. 

Various tests, tailored to the nature of the material and its intended application are employed especially so that the material can meet certain grades or industry standards.

One such example is ASTM E143, which is often used for structural materials. This test is performed in a rig that applies a shear force to a specific area and measures the displacement length before vs after. This force and displacement length can then be used in a formula to calculate the shear modulus. 

G= (force/area)/(displacement/length)

These tests not only provide quantitative data but also a qualitative understanding of how materials might behave in real-world applications which is indispensable when it comes to engineering anything, be it a skyscraper or medical equipment.

Accu Article Highlighter Divider

Rigidity vs Stiffness: A Fine Line

It's a common misconception to use rigidity and stiffness interchangeably.

In distinguishing rigidity vs stiffness, consider this, rigidity refers to the elastic properties of an object under shear forces whereas stiffness refers to the elastic properties of an object under multiple forces (tensile, compression, shear or torsional).

If we take a bike for example, rigidity is the ability of the frame to withstand the weight of the rider from the seat downwards without breaking, whereas stiffness is the ability of the frame to not flex as it is ridden.

Another example would be a bridge with cars on top. Its ability to withstand the weight of those cars without experiencing failure would be a measure of its rigidity. Whereas the bridge's stiffness would be its ability to stay stable under load and not flex or wobble.

Accu Article Highlighter Divider

Rigidity vs Strength: Resistance vs Endurance

Strength defines a material's endurance – its capacity to withstand external force without experiencing failure. Rigidity vs strength essentially revolves around a material's resistance to change (deformation) versus its resistance to breakage or failure.

The missing piece to this puzzle is knowing the environment and forces that the component needs to endure, which will then determine how strong the component needs to be, but not necessarily how rigid.

Accu Article Highlighter Divider

Rigidity vs Hardness: Deeper Than the Surface

While rigidity is about resistance to shear forces, hardness zeroes in on a material's ability to resist surface deformation – think scratches or indentations. Thus, when contrasting rigidity vs hardness, we're drawing a line between intrinsic shape retention and surface resilience.

Due to the chemical structural alignments that make up different materials, rigidity and hardness can often go hand in hand as they share many key characteristics.

In conclusion, precision engineering thrives on nuances. Truly understanding rigidity, in all its complexity, can significantly impact the choices made in component design, selection, and application. As with every aspect of engineering, data-driven decisions, rooted in clear definitions and distinctions, are the keystones to success.

Accu Article Highlighter Divider


Q: Does rigid mean strong?

A: Rigid denotes resistance to deformation under shear forces, but strength is about resistance to failure. A material can be rigid but might still break under extreme force which is a perfect way of describing brittleness.

Q: Is rigidity the same as stiffness?

A: No. Rigidity speaks to the resistance or an object under only shear forces, while stiffness deals with multiple forces including torsional, tensile or compression.

Q: Can materials be both hard and rigid?

A: Absolutely. A material can resist shear forces (rigidity) and surface indentation (hardness). These are often intertwined.

Q: Does temperature play a role in rigidity?

A: Typically, as the temperature rises, materials may lose some rigidity due to increased molecular movement. This is easier to see on plastic materials which can sometimes lose their rigidity in sunlight.

Q: Are all metals considered rigid?

A: Sadly there is no true answer, however, most metals exhibit rigidity in some form. This degree varies based on the metal type and its chemical lattice structure. For example, mercury is a liquid at room temperature yet still a metal, but something to be considered rigid it must have a set shape.

Accu Article Highlighter Divider