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1. any rigid member or structure that is loaded transversely
2. the breadth of a ship or boat taken at its widest part, usually amidships
3. one of the two cylindrical rollers on a loom, one of which holds the warp threads before weaving, the other the finished work
4. the main stem of a deer's antler from which the smaller branches grow
5. a narrow unidirectional flow of electromagnetic radiation or particles
6. the horizontal centrally pivoted bar in a balance
7. off (the) beam not following a radio beam to maintain a course
8. on the beam
a. following a radio beam to maintain a course
b. Nautical opposite the beam of a vessel; abeam


1. The region of sky to which a radio telescope is sensitive, equaling the region it would illuminate were its antennas to be used to transmit signals. In aperture synthesis the primary beam is the region to which the individual antennas are sensitive and defines the maximum size of the synthesized map. The synthesized beam is a theoretical beam pattern corresponding to the Fourier transform of the synthesized aperture and defines the resolution of the map. See also antenna.
2. A well-defined elongated region of space down which energy is passing. In the beam model of double radio sources (see radio-source structure), the central galaxy shoots out two beams in opposite directions in which the energy may be transported by relativistic electrons, low-frequency waves, or some other mechanism. Hot spots are formed where the beams impinge on the surrounding intergalactic medium. See also jet.


A rigid structural member whose prime function is to carry and transfer transverse loads across a span to the supports; as a joist, girder, rafter, or purlin.

arched beam

A beam whose upper surface is slightly curved, similar to a camber beam.

bolster beam

A timber or steel beam that supports the end of a bridge truss on an abutment or pier; it is set perpendicular to the trusses.

box beam

One or more vertical plywood webs laminated to seasoned wood flanges. Vertical spacers separate the flanges at intervals along the length of the beam to distribute the loads and to provide stiffness.

built-up beam

A beam composed of multiple parts, such as a box beam, compound beam, lattice beam, and angle girder.

camber beam

A beam curved slightly upward toward the center.

channel beam

A channel used as a beam, typically with the web in the vertical position.

collar beam

A horizontal member that ties together two opposite common rafters, usually at a point halfway up the length of the rafters below the ridge.

continuous beam

A beam that is continuous over intermediate supports and thus statically indeterminate; as opposed to a simply supported beam.


A beam that runs transversely through the centerline of a structure; any transverse beam in a structure such as a joist.

edge beam

A beam at the edge of a shell plate structure, providing stiffness that provides an increase in the load-bearing capacity.

encased beam

Iron and steel beams that are encased in a variety of materials for protection against fire.

grade beam

Reinforced concrete beam or slab that is normally placed directly on the ground.

hammer beam

One of a pair of short horizontal members, attached to the foot of a principal rafter, located within a roof structure in place of a tie beam.


An iron or steel beam with a symmetrical I-shaped cross section.

laminated beam

A wood beam composed of a series of overlapping wood members that are glued together.

open web beam

A truss with parallel top and bottom chords formed by a pair of angles, employing a web of diagonal struts and used as a beam; the struts connecting the top and bottom chords are also composed of steel bars.

plate girder

A steel beam built up from vertical web plates and horizontal flange plates.

simple beam

A beam without restraint or continuity at the supports, as opposed to a fixed-end beam.


A large horizontal beam in the ceiling of an American colonial timber-framed house.

tie beam

In roof framing, a horizontal timber connecting two opposite rafters at their lower ends to prevent them from spreading.

trussed beam

A beam or purlin stiffened with a tie rod.

welded beam

A large steel I-section, fabricated by welding from plates instead of hot rolling; same as a plate girder.



in engineering a structural element, usually in the form of a girder, which is primarily subjected to bending.

Beams are used extensively in construction and in mechanical engineering in the structures of buildings, bridges, trestles, transport means, machinery, machine tools, and so forth. Beams are manufactured basically out of reinforced concrete, metal, and wood. Depending upon the number of supports and the nature of the support constraints, beams may be differentiated as single-span, multi-span, cantilever, with fixed ends, simple, continuous, and others. According to the shape of its cross section, a beam may be classified as rectangular, T-shaped, I-shaped, box-shaped, and so forth. The most efficient beam cross sections (for bearing capacity as well as for material expenditure)— for example, the I-beams and the box beams—are characterized by a concentration of material at the upper and the lower edges of the cross section, where the maximum normal bending stresses are acting. Rectangular sections are expedient in beams of relatively large height and small width.

Beams may have sections that are constant or variable in their dimensions; a beam with variable cross section permits a decrease in its mass. According to their purpose, beams may be classified as primary (longitudinal beams, which cover a span between supports) and auxiliary (transverse beams, which cover distances between other beams). A system of longitudinal and transverse beams is called a grid of beams.

Reinforced concrete beams are manufactured as monolithic or precast. Monolithic beams are designed, in most cases, as multispan continuous beams. They usually have a rectangular or a T-shaped section; the latter are frequently encountered in ribbed construction (where a monolithic beam is rigidly connected with a slab) and more rarely, in the form of independent beams. Precast reinforced concrete is widely used for single-span beams with various sections, such as rectangular, T-shaped, I-shaped, hollow, and II-shaped. Precast multispan continuous beams are composed of several elements, joined together during the installation process. Prestressed reinforced concrete beams have become widespread.

Metallic beams are utilized, for the most part, for heavy loads. The most effective metallic beams are those with I-shaped (rolled or composite) and box-shaped (composite) sections. Composite beams may have a practically limitless height and bearing capacity.

Wooden beams usually serve to cover short spans and occur in the form of single-span and simple structures. They are made of boards, joists, and logs. In order to increase the bearing capacity of these structures, composite sections are employed, using dowels, pegs, or adhesives.

Calculation of the strength, rigidity, and stability of a beam is usually carried out according to the laws of the strength of materials. Beams are calculated according to loads—that is, dead load (from their own masses and the masses of the structures resting upon them) and live or work load. The determination of support reactions, bending moments, lateral forces, and deflections in statically determinate beams is accomplished analytically or graphically on the basis of the equations of equilibrium. Statically nondeterminate continuous beams are usually calculated with the aid of trinomial equations (equations of three moments) when rigid supports are to be used and equations with five terms when there is elastic displacement. In order to calculate beams which are to lie on a yielding foundation (for example, soil), foundation calculation models are utilized. Selection of the beam section is done basically according to the bending moment (normal stresses) that the beam will have to undergo. Besides this, the section is tested for the action of lateral forces (tangential stresses) and principal stresses. In special cases, beams are calculated for stability. The determination of the tangential stresses in beams was first proposed by the Russian engineer D. I. Zhuravskii.




(or ray), a concept in geometric optics (light ray) and geometric acoustics (sound ray) that designates the line of propagation of the energy flux emitted in a certain direction by a point source of light or sound. In a homogeneous medium a ray is a straight line. A ray in a medium with smoothly varying optical or acoustic properties is curved, and its curvature is proportional to the gradient of the index of refraction of the medium. Upon passing through a boundary that separates two mediums having different indexes of refraction, a ray is refracted according to Snell’s law of refraction. The term “beam” (“ray”) is also used to designate a narrow beam of particles, such as an electron beam or cathode ray.



a linear, usually horizontal supporting member in a building or some other structure. The beams connect, sometimes by hinge joint, the vertical members and serve as supports for other horizontal members and slabs in floors, ceilings, and roofs. Beams are made of metal, reinforced concrete, or wood. They may be of lattice or solid construction (with a rectangular, T, double-T, or some other cross section).


(civil engineering)
A body, with one dimension large compared with the other dimensions, whose function is to carry lateral loads (perpendicular to the large dimension) and bending movements.
(naval architecture)
The width of a ship at its widest point.
A concentrated, nearly unidirectional flow of particles, or a like propagation of electromagnetic or acoustic waves.
Spool-shaped holder, 8 to 12 feet (2.4 to 3.7 meters) in length, on which is wrapped yarn that is to be transferred to the warp holder of a loom.


A structural member that is fabricated from metal, reinforced or prestressed concrete, wood, fiber-reinforced plastic, or other construction materials and that resists loads perpendicular to its longitudinal axis. Its length is usually much larger than its depth or width. Usually beams are of symmetric cross section; they are designed to bend in this plane of symmetry, which is also the plane of their greatest strength and stiffness. This plane coincides with the plane of the applied loads. Beams are used as primary load-carrying members in bridges and buildings.


1. A structural member whose prime function is to carry transverse loads, as a joist, girder, rafter, or purlin. The term beam may be modified by an adjective indicating its location; as, for example, an end beam or side beam. See anchor beam, binding beam, breastsummer beam, camber beam, ceiling beam, collar beam, cross beam, dragon beam, floor beam, ground beam, hammer beam, I-beam, laced beam, perimeter beam, summerbeam, tie beam, top beam, wind beam
2. A group of nearly parallel rays of light.


beamclick for a larger image
A localizer with both front beam and back beam.
i. A processed and directed pulse of energy.
ii. An invisible path produced by radio signals. An aircraft can follow the beam when approaching or going away from a navigational fix. A radar detects an aircraft when it is illuminated by its beam.
iii. A long, heavy, metallic or wooden member in any structure to withstand any bending and I-beam shearing loads.
iv. The direction extending from the side of an airplane at right angles to the plane of symmetry.
v. The breadth at its maximum width of an airplane fuselage, hull, or vessel.


[Star Trek Classic's "Beam me up, Scotty!"] To transfer softcopy of a file electronically; most often in combining forms such as "beam me a copy" or "beam that over to his site". Compare blast, snarf, BLT.
References in periodicals archive ?
05 Longchamp) Imperious when beating the clock at Epsom in June, Sir Michael Stoute's colt was way off beam in Ascot's King George but should be given another chance to show his true colours and enhance his reputation.
Both sides had early chances, Villa's Eric Lichaj being well off beam with a first minute header when it looked easier to score from Barry Bannan's free-kick and Andreas Weimann's cross-shot forcing Pompey goalkeeper Liam O'Brien to tip over.
Of course, my interpretation of what is not an exact science may be off beam.
Any suggestion that he put himself first ahead of the team last week in Nagpur is completely off beam and can only come from someone who does not know or understand him," he added.
It will very much depend on your individual circumstances as to whether the estimate of pounds 183,000 from birth to the age of 21 is correct or way off beam.
I know he loves to play devil's advocate and says things for the sake of stirring controversy, but even by his own standards Mike 'Stevo' Stephenson was way off beam after Wakefield Trinity Wildcats' nerve-jangling triumph over Castleford Tigers.
A recent survey has revealed that many UK drivers are way off beam when it comes to understanding the warning lights on their car dashboard.
Dear Editor, - Your correspondent who suggests that the Hemel Hempsted explosion is getting undue media coverage because it is sited in south east England (Post, Dec 12), is way off beam.
In any event I always thought that licensed zones were off beam because they provide no direction as to where the business is to be done.
Pre-meeting predictions of a one-sided romp for the Tigers proved way off beam, with Des Quinney's bold battlers giving almost as good as they got to stay within six points of the visitors in the first nine races.
r There was enough time for Goode to win the match but he was just off beam and it was Quins - champions two years ago - who nicked the points to get their season off and running.
The sound in the first half of his set is awful - at times it's akin to a stand-up show in an echo chamber and his gag strike rate is off beam as a result.