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Limit load is the maximum load that a structure can safely carry. It's the load at which the structure is in a state of incipient plastic collapse. As the load on the structure increases, the displacements increases linearly in the elastic range till the load attains the yield value. Beyond this, the load-displacement response becomes non-linear and the plastic or irreversible part of the displacement increases steadily with the applied load. Plasticity spreads throughout the solid and at the limit load, the plastic zone becomes very large and the displacements become unbounded and the component is said to have collapsed.

Bounding Theorems of Plastic-Limit Load Analysis:These theorems provide a way to calculate limit loads without having to solve the boundary value problem in continuum mechanics. Finite element analysis provides an alternative way to estimate limit loads.

Any load above the limit load will lead to the formation of plastic hinge in the structure.
Engineers use limit states to define and check a structure's performance.

References: [http://www.engin.brown.edu/courses/En222/Notes/limitanal/limitanal.htm Brown University Engineering Notes]

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