enter image description here

These are cross sections of identical shipping containers, except one is rotated 45 degrees. The cross sections are squares, 3 meters to a side. I drew dashed lines to show where they're suspended by a crane.

Note also I put a cross beam inside of them, connected at the corners.

In general, which orientation can hold more weight? Does it matter?

(If you need more specifications, I can make them up. But the idea is that they're the same thing, just rotated 45 degrees, so I didn't think the exact width of the walls and beams mattered so much.)

The purpose here is to make a very heavy-duty shipping container than can hold bulk ores, which can be very dense. (Imagine lead ore, granite, etc.) That's why I put a cross beam, to help the container stay rigid. So I want to know the most efficient way of orienting the container.

Note, I don't know what tags are good for this question. I looked for something along the lines of "abstract". Feel free to help me with tags.

  • $\begingroup$ What are the shapes used in the mines? $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ The strongest shape is a sphere. Everything else is a compromise, and while the diamond cross section might be better, you have to consider what sort of bracing and framing is used for each configuration. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 18:40

1 Answer 1


Assuming you don't need to be concerned about crane operation and packing, the diamond shape is better, or ideally a geometry that would look like a tear drop.

A tear drop container, and to some extend the diamond shape in your image, has it's bottom surface similar the shape of a plane deflected to the limit under stress, thus undergoing mostly tension, which is the most effective and economical application of steel.

The top half of diamond container is roughly along the angle of repose of most granular materials, hence minimum stress.

But the square cross section can be easily stacked up on a ship deck up to dozens of tiers and is much easier to handle with a crane rig in packs of two or even four. It also has lower center of mass and overall height, easier for transportation and fitting into train cars and old railroad tunnels..

  • $\begingroup$ The square is definitely easy to pack and stack with today's vehicles, but the way i imagined it, the diamonds could stack like honeycombs in pyramid fashion. I think the real nuisance would be designing the flatbed train car or the shipping barge to have the triangular hollow slots to hold the bottom ones. P.S., is there any way to tell how much stronger the diamond would be? If it's a factor like the square root of 2, 1.414, then 40% stronger might make it worthwhile for some things. $\endgroup$
    – DrZ214
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 0:07

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