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Buckling Experiments:

Experimental Methods in
Buckling of Thin-Walled
Basic Concepts, Columns, Beams
and Plates Volume 1

Buckling Experiments: Experimental Methods in Buckling of Thin-Walled Structures: Basic Concepts, Columns, Beams and
Plates Volume 1. J. Singer, J. Arbocz and T. Weller Copyright 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buckling Experiments:
Experimental Methods in
Buckling of Thin-Walled
Basic Concepts, Columns, Beams
and Plates Volume 1

J. Singer
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Israel

J. Arbocz
Technical University Delft, The Netherlands

T. Weller
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Israel


This book is printed on acid-free paper. 
Copyright 1998 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York. All rights reserved.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:

Singer, J.
Buckling experiments: experimental methods in buckling of thin
-walled structures/J. Singer, J. Arbocz, T. Weller.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Contents: v. 1. Basic concepts, columns, beams, and plates.
ISBN 0-471-95661-9 (v. 1 : cloth)
1. Buckling (Mechanics) Experiments. I. Arbocz, Johann.
II. Weller, T. III. Title.
TA410.S57 1997
624.10 76 dc21
Printed in the United States of America.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2


Vol. 1: Basic Concepts, Columns, Beams and Plates



Abbreviated Contents of Vol. 2: Shells, Built-up Structures and

Additional Topics




Experiments as Essential Links in Structural Mechanics


The Role of Experiments in Structural Stability


Motivation for Experiments


Bridging Gaps Between Disciplines



Concepts of Elastic Stability



Physical Concepts
Their Meaning

Types of Observed Behavior and

Instability of Columns
Instability of Plates
Instability of Columns with Compound Cross-Sections
Effect of Modal Coupling
Buckling of Frames
Lateral Buckling of Beams
Instability due to Patch Loading
Buckling of Beam-Columns
Buckling of Rings and Arches
Buckling of Shallow Arches
Buckling of Circular Cylindrical Shells
a. Axial Compression
b. Combined External Pressure and Axial Compression
c. Combined Torsion and Axial Compression
d. Combined Bending and Axial Compression



2.1.12 Buckling of Shells of Revolution
a. Externally Pressurized Shallow Spherical Caps
b. Toroidal Shell Segments under External Pressure

p D pe 
c. Toroidal Segments under Axial Tension
d. Domed (torispherical) End-Closures under Internal
2.1.13 Inuence of Nonlinear Effects
a. Axially Compressed Cylindrical Shells
b. Bending of Cylinders Ovalization of the Cross-Section
c. Plastic Buckling


Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures



Static Versus Kinematic Approach

Approximate Solutions of Bifurcation Problems
a. The Rayleigh Ritz Method
b. Galerkins Method
Computational Tools for Bifurcation Problems
a. The BOSOR-4 Branched Complex Shell of
Revolution Code
b. Finite Element Formulation of Bifurcation Problems





Postbuckling Behavior of Structures





Asymptotic Imperfection Sensitivity Analysis



Initial Postbuckling Behavior of Columns

Initial Postbuckling Behavior of Plates
Initial Postbuckling Behavior of Shells
Experimental Verication


Direct Solutions of the Nonlinear Stability Problem








Elastic Postbuckling Behavior of Columns

Plastic Postbuckling Behavior of Columns
Postbuckling Behavior of Plates
a. Perfect Plates
b. Imperfect Plates
Postbuckling Behavior of Circular Cylindrical Shells
a. Perfect Shells
b. Imperfect Shells
Concluding Remarks



Elements of a Simple Buckling Test

Axial Compression


a Column Under

Columns and Imperfections




Von Karm



The Basic Elements of a Buckling Experiment







Demonstration Experiments




University College London Initial Postbuckling Experiments

Mechanical Models

Southwells Method




Derivation of Southwell Plot for a Column


Application to von Karm


Application of the Southwell Method to Columns, Beam

Columns and Frames




Lundquist Plot
Donnells Applications of the Southwell Plot
Applications to Frames and Lateral Buckling of Beams
Southwells Method as a Nondestructive Test Method

Remarks on the Applicability of the Southwell Plot










Theory and Practice


Mathematical and Physical Modeling


Dimensional Analysis




The Procedure in Dimensional Analysis

The Buckingham Pi Theorem





The Concept of Similarity

Model Laws

Application to Statically Loaded Elastic Structures




Prescribed Loads
Displacements and Strains

Loading Beyond Proportional and Elastic Limits


Buckling Experiments




Similarity Considerations for Buckling

Choice of Materials for Buckling Experiments
Elasto-Plastic Buckling
Goodier and Thomsons Experiments on Shear Panels

Scaling of Dynamically Loaded Structures




Free Vibrations
Impact of a Rigid Body on a Structure
Scale Model Testing for Impact Loading
Plates Subjected to Impulsive Normal Loading
Response of Structures to Blast Loading

Scaling of Composite Structures





Problems in Scaling of Laminated Composites

Scaling Rules for Laminated Beams and Plates
Scaling for Strength and Large Deections of
Scaling of Composite Plates
Scaling of Composite Cylindrical Shells





Model Analysis in Structural Engineering





Model Analysis as a Design Tool

Model Analysis in Vibration Studies
Buckling Experiments on Models of a Composite Ship
Hull Structure
Design of Thames Barrier Gates
Photoelastic Models


5.10 Analogies




Columns, Beams and Frameworks




Buckling and Postbuckling of Columns








Crippling Strength






Column Curves and Secondary Effects in Column

Column Testing
Test Procedures
a. Preparation of Specimens
b. Initial Dimensions
c. Aligning the Column Specimen
d. Instrumentation
e. Testing
f. Presentation of Test Data
g. Evaluation of Test Results
Columns in Offshore Structures
End-Fitting Effects in Column Tests
Crippling Failure
Gerards Method for Calculation of Crippling
Crippling Strength Tests
Crinkly Collapse
Thin-Walled Cold-Formed and Welded Columns


Torsional-Flexural and Distortional Buckling




Torsional Buckling
Torsional-Flexural Buckling Tests
Distortional Buckling

Lateral Buckling of Beams




Lateral instability of beams

Prandtls Lateral Buckling Experiments
Other Early Lateral Buckling Tests
Recent Lateral Buckling Investigations

Interactive Buckling in Columns and Beams




Mode Interaction and Early Studies

Interactive Buckling Experiments





Beam-Columns as Structural Elements

Recent Experiments on Tubular Beam-Columns



Buckling of Frameworks




Frame instability
Tests on Model Frames
Behavior of Connections
Seismic Loads on Multi-Story Frames
Space Structures



Arches and Rings





Shallow Arches









Arches Under Concentrated Loads

a. Circular Arch
b. Sinusoidal Arch
Arches Under Uniform Pressure Loading
Additional Empirical Investigations

Rings and High Rise Arches




Rings Contact Buckling

High Rise Arches

Lateral Buckling of Arches




Theoretical Background
Experimental Studies



Plate Buckling



Buckling and Postbuckling of Plates





Historical Background
Effective Width
Postbuckling Behavior and Secondary Buckling
Inuence of Geometric Imperfections
Inuence of Residual Stresses

Experiments on Axially Compressed Plates




The US Bureau of Standards Test Setup

Needle and Roller Bearings and Knife Edges for
Simple Supports
The ETH Zurich and US Navy DTMB Plate Buckling Tests
The Cambridge University Finger Supports
Other Examples of Simple and Clamped Supports
Loading Systems
Large Test Rigs
Special Loading Systems for Annular Plates
Deection Measurement
8.2.10 Controlled (Deliberate) Initial Deections



Determination of Critical Load and Southwells Method

in Plates




Denition of the Buckling Load in Plates

Southwells Method in Plates






Pivotal Plots for Plates

More Recent Applications of Southwell Plots and
Summary of Direct Methods for Determination of Buckling
Loads in Plates


Experiments on Shear Panels




Buckling and Postbuckling of Shear Panels

Experiments on Plates Subjected to Shear Picture Frames
Strength Tests on Plate Girders Under Shear
Technion Repeated Buckling Tests on Shear Panels
Aerospace Industrial Test Setups

Web Crippling




Web Crippling Due to Concentrated or Patch Loads

Web Crippling Tests

Biaxial Loading




Plates Under Multiple Loading

Biaxial In-Plane Compression Tests

Guidelines to Modern Plate Buckling Experiments




Guidelines or Ideas for Future Tests

Noteworthy Details in Some Modern Plate Tests
Imperial College London High Stiffness Test Machine



Author Index to Vol. 1


Subject Index to Vol. 1


Abbreviated Table of
Contents - Vol. 2

Vol. 2: Shells, Built-Up Structures and Additional Topics


Shell Buckling Experiments



Buckling and Postbuckling Behaviour of Axially
Compressed Cylindrical Shells
Model Fabrication for Isotropic Shells
Test Setups for Cylindrical Shells Under Axial Compression
Recording of Buckling and Postbuckling Behaviour
Southwells Method for Shells
Shells Under External Pressure, Bending or Torsion
Combined Loading
Conical Shells
Spherical Shells
Toroidal Shells, Torispherical Shells, Buckling Under
Internal Pressure
Shells Subjected to Transverse Shear Loads

Initial Imperfections

Early Incomplete Imperfection Surveys
Early Complete Imperfection Surveys
The Awakening of Imperfection Measurement Awareness
Complete Imperfection Surveys on Large or Full Scale
Cylindrical Shells
Imperfection Surveys on Large Shells of Revolution
Recent Laboratory Scale Imperfection Measurement
Evaluation of Imperfection Data


Abbreviated Table of Contents - Vol. 2


Characteristic Initial Imperfection Distributions

Imperfection Data Banks
Probabilistic Design Methods
Residual Stresses
Imperfection Measurements and Data Banks in Columns
and Plates
10.14 Concluding Remarks


Boundary Conditions and Loading Conditions



Stiffened Plates



Global and Local Buckling of Stiffened Shells

Model Fabrication for Stiffened Shells
Experiments on Stiffened Cylindrical Shells Subject to
Axial Compression
Experiments on Stiffened Cylindrical Shells Under
External Pressure, Bending and Torsion
Stiffened Conical and Spherical Shells
Experiments on Stiffened Curved Panels
Special Stiffened Shells

Composite Structures


Built-Up Structures, Local and General Instability

Buckling and Postbuckling Strength of Stiffened Plates
on Stiffened Plates Subjected to Axial Compression
Sandwich Plates

Stiffened Shells


Boundary Conditions in Column Buckling

Boundary Conditions in Plate Buckling
Conditions in Buckling of Circular Cylindrical Shells
Concluding Remarks

Flat Panels
Wing Box Structures
Curved Panels and Shells

Nondestructive Buckling Tests


Nondestructive Methods for Buckling Tests

Vibration Correlation Techniques (VCT)
Static Nondestructive Methods

Abbreviated Table of Contents - Vol. 2


Plastic Buckling Experiments



Inuence of Holes, Cutouts and Damaged Structures



Dynamic Buckling Phenomena

Impact Induced Buckling Experiments
Propagating Buckles

Thermal Buckling and Creep Buckling



Effect of Holes and Cutouts on Plates and Shells

Experiments on Plates with Holes and Cutouts
Experiments on Shells with Holes and Cutouts
Stability and Strength of Damaged or Dented Shells

Buckling Under Dynamic Loads and Special Problems



Plastic Buckling Phenomena

Plastic Buckling Experiments
Combined Loading Tests in Plastic Buckling
Southwells Method in the Plastic Range
Some General Remarks on Plastic Buckling

High Temperature Testing
Thermal Buckling
Creep Buckling

Some Comments on Measurements


Displacement Sensors
Optical Methods
Data Acqusition Systems
Additional Sensing Devices

Author Index (for Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)

Subject Index (for Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)



The motivation to write this book was the realization that in the vast literature
on buckling of thin-walled structures, and in particular in the many textbooks
that have appeared during the last few decades, the experiments have usually been
relegated to the background and to the secondary task of verication of theory. The
authors felt therefore, that a book written from the viewpoint of the experimenter,
emphasizing the strong interdependence of experiment and theory, giving a detailed
and critical review of the many important buckling experiments carried out all over
the world, in short a handbook assessing the state-of-the-art was direly needed.
The book does not provide cookbook recipes, but rather presents selected
typical experiments, which are often described in great detail, with some comments
focusing on questions raised during the tests, the methods employed and the actual
test atmosphere. The choice of adopting or rejecting a certain technique is then
left to the judgment of the reader. In some cases minute details of an experiment
were presented, since we felt that the accumulated experience would be useful to
the less experienced experimenter.
The wise experimenter should approach his tests with a fairly sound theoretical
background. We felt therefore that a certain amount of theory is essential also in
this book. Hence a brief review of buckling and postbuckling theory and numerical
analysis is presented in Chapters 2 and 3, and additional brief introductions to
specic topics precede other chapters. The aim of these reviews is to remind
the reader of the theoretical basis, with emphasis on the buckling phenomena and
behavior, and of the computational tools available, and also to provide the essential
information for simple calculations.
Most of the fundamental theoretical ideas presented in Chapters 2, 3 and 5 are
based on many earlier texts referred to at the end of each chapter. As appropriate
to a book devoted to experimental methods, the theoretical derivations are rather
concise, but are up-to-date and include some novel approaches.
In a state-of-the-art handbook one cannot expect all readers to follow the text in
an orderly fashion, more probably they will often try to obtain specic information
for their problem by perusal of just the specic chapter of interest. We have also
tried to accommodate these readers, though they will nd it helpful to refer back
to other chapters, as indicated in the chapter of their main interest. As the book



is primarily concerned with test setups and procedures, there is a slight overlap
between the chapters that are ordered according to the type of structural element
tested. For example, some of the test rigs in Chapter 8 have also been employed
for stiffened plates, primarily covered by Chapter 12. Or some of them have been
built for metal and composite plates, mainly referred to in Chapter 14. Similarly,
some of the test rigs and procedures of Chapter 9 cover stiffened or composite
shells as well, pertaining to Chapters 13 and 14, respectively. We have, however,
made an effort to avoid actual duplications, and instead have referred the reader
where appropriate to the discussion in the relevant chapter.
One of the guide lines (or Leitmotivs) throughout the book has been to
emphasize the potential interaction between the disciplines. For instance, the civil
engineering tests and aerospace experiments have been intentionally intermingled,
to point out the similarity in problems and phenomena.
On initial compilation of the book, the authors considered the advisability of
discussing some of the older experiments, in view of the rapid development of
instrumentation and data acquisition and reduction system, that makes the earlier
equipment obsolete. However, as the work progressed it became clear that the
classic experiments of Fairbairn, von Karman, Prandtl and some other outstanding
investigators of the rst half of the twentieth century, certainly deserve serious
discussion on account of the questions they asked which have proved sustainable
and are still fully applicable today. Furthermore, the very extensive stiffened shell
experiments of the sixties and seventies, primarily motivated by the golden age
of space launcher development, outshine most more recent tests. They therefore
justify detailed consideration, as they are still the main source of experience (or
data bank) to which a young experimenter should turn to.
Though fairly extensive, the lists of references (well over 2000) are by no means
all inclusive. Most of the signicant experiments have been quoted, but certainly
not all. For example, due to limited accessibility, the references from the former
Eastern Block are rather sparse. However, in their choice of references the authors
have endeavored to emphasize how there important research activities transcend
national boundaries and specic disciplines. They expose buckling experimentalists
to the vistas of benets to be gained from the experience accumulated throughout
the many laboratories all over the world, as well as clarifying the disadvantages
of restricting themselves only to their immediate eld of application.
Due to the special nature of the book, the authors requested information from
many colleagues at universities, research institutes and industry all over the world,
to amplify the data available in the literature. Gratitude is expressed to the hundreds
of colleagues who kindly provided the valuable information, photographs and
sketches on their experimental investigations, that assisted in the accurate, complete
and up-to-date presentation of their work. Obviously all this information is appropriately acknowledged throughout the book. In some sections, it was felt tting to
quote verbatim from some papers, reports and correspondence, and this is shown
in the text by bracketing with double quotation marks.
The senior author (J. Singer) would like to express his appreciation to the late
Professor Charles (Chuck) D. Babcock of the California Institute of Technology,



with whom he shared the initial stages of conception of the idea of the book in
the early eighties.
The senior author thanks in particular, Professors P.C. Birkemoe, (University
of Toronto), S.R. Bodner (Technion), C.R. Calladine (Cambridge University),
G.A.O. Davies (Imperial College London), D. Durban (Technion), G.D. Galletly
(University of Liverpool), S. Kyriakides (University of Texas), A. Libai

(Technion), N.W. Murray (Monash University, Melbourne), H. Ory

Aachen), K.A. Stevens (Imperial College London), who were so kind to read
portions of the manuscript and whose comments contributed to the relevant
The authors would also like to thank Mrs. B. Hirsch of Technion, Mrs. A. van
Lienden-Datema of TU Delft, Ms. S. Bryant of Caltech and Ms. Kirsten
Maclellan of UCLA for their devoted typing of the manuscript; Mrs. R.
Pavlik and Mrs. D. Rosen of Technion, Mrs. P.E.C. Zwagemaker of TU Delft
and Mrs. B. Wood of Caltech for preparation of drawings, and the librarians
Mrs. S. Stern, Ms. A. Szmuk and Ms. S. Greenberg of Technion, Mrs. J. Anderson
and Mrs. P. Gladson of Caltech, and Mr. W. Spee of TU Delft for their kind
assistance. Thanks also to Mr. A. Grunwald, chief technician of the Technion
Aerospace Structures Laboratory for his many-faceted assistance.
The authors would also like to extend their thanks to the Lena and Ben Fohrman
Aerospace Structures Research Fund, the Jordan and Irene Tark Aerospace Structures Research Fund and the Caltech Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Scholars
Fund for their generous support.
Thanks are also due to the editors and staff of John Wiley & Sons for their
continuous cooperation.
Last but not least, a word of praise to our wives Shoshana Singer, Margot Arbocz
and Ruth Weller. It is no exaggeration to say that without their encouragement and
patient understanding we could not have completed this book.
Josef Singer
Johaum Arbocz
Tanchum Weller



Experiments as Essential Links in Structural


Stress analysis, structural analysis, or structural mechanics is the engineering discipline, the purpose of which is the determination and improvement of the strength
and stiffness of structures and machines. There are two approaches towards this
goal: theoretical mechanics, focusing in recent years increasingly on numerical
mechanics, and experimental mechanics, with a mushrooming capacity of data
acquisition and reduction. The two approaches are intrinsically complementary,
though this is sometimes forgotten. In 1950 Hetenyi [1.1] presents the close relation
between theory and experiment as: Experimental stress analysis strives to achieve
these aims (of determination and improvement of strength) by experimental means.
In doing so it does not remain, however, a mere counterpart of theoretical methods
of stress analysis but encompasses those, utilizing all the conclusions reached by
theoretical considerations, and goes far beyond them in maintaining direct contact
with the true physical characteristics of the problems under considerations.
A decade or so later Drucker [1.2], [1.3] pointed out, however, that all too
often, experimental work in applied mechanics is thought of only as a check on
existing theory or as a convenient substitute for analysis. This is a valid but a rather
inferior function of experiment. The greater and essential contribution is to guide
the development of theory by providing the fundamental basis for an understanding
of the real world. He then concluded that a researcher who remained in any
eld would have to participate in both theory and experiment in order to remain
Drucker concluded his 1962 General Lecture [1.2] with a warning that there is a
strong steady drift of far too large a fraction of the best students to theory only, and
that . . . Unless appreciable numbers of the most qualied students aim at combined
experimental and theoretical research, the storehouse of physical information will
be depleted by the tremendous emphasis on analysis and theory, and the theorist
will be reduced to playing useless games. Experiment is essential, it is vital, and it
is creative. Over the years, experiment alone provides the basis for the renement
and extension of existing theory and the development of new theory.

Buckling Experiments: Experimental Methods in Buckling of Thin-Walled Structures: Basic Concepts, Columns, Beams and
Plates Volume 1. J. Singer, J. Arbocz and T. Weller Copyright 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


An example in the eld of elastic stability of what Drucker referred to as playing

useless games was presented by Koiter, in his 1985 Prandtl Lecture [1.4], where
he discussed the physical signicance of instability due to non-conservative, purely
conguration-dependent, external loads. Koiter reminds the reader that . . . In the past
decades much attention has been paid to stability problems of elastic structures under
the action of non-conservative purely conguration-dependent loads, e.g. so-called
follower forces whose directions follow deections of the structure . . .. In evaluating
the physical signicance or rather insignicance of such follower forces, Koiter
quotes remarks by Herrmann in the latters 1967 review article [1.5]: It is a peculiar
feature of stability problems of elastic systems subjected to (non-conservative)
follower forces that their analysis arose not out of a desire or need to consider a
system which presented itself in engineering practice or in the research laboratory,
but rather because the ctitiously applied follower forces acting on a given system
were arbitrarily prescribed to depend in a certain manner on the deformation. The
motivation of much if not most of the work mentioned in this survey appears to
have been sheer curiosity in determining the sometimes unexpected behavior of an
imagined system, rather than an explanation of observed phenomena.
Koiter then emphasizes that: The italicized emphasis of ctitiously applied
follower forces and imagined system is the present writers. Engineers are
indeed rightly concerned about the complete lack of a physical justication of the
concept of follower forces in the analysis of stability problems by many authors.
Not a single experimental verication of this concept is to be found in the extensive literature. The invalid example by Willems [1.6] was soon exposed [1.7], and
one wonders at the optimism expressed by some authors, e.g. [1.8], that Becks
result (for follower forces) can probably be experimentally veried. Koiter then
continues that: The domain of the theory of elastic stability is conventionally
restricted to the stability of equilibrium of elastic structures under the action of
static, purely conguration-dependent external loads and concludes that: Since
no physical example of non-conservative, follower type of purely congurationdependent external loads is available, we are entitled to restrict our attention to the
stability of elastic equilibrium under the action of static conservative loads. One
may reect, that if emphasis would have been placed on accompanying experimental research, the large volume of rather academic studies might have perhaps
been directed into more fruitful avenues.
In his 1967 Murrey Lecture [1.3], Drucker struck a more optimistic note than in
1962, and pointed out that experimental work was beginning again to take a more
important place in solid and structural mechanics research. Unfortunately this trend
was reversed again in the last decade, and Druckers 1962 warning [1.2], which
was quoted earlier, is today once more very appropriate.
Drucker then emphasized again the essentially complementary nature of experiment and theory, stating: Theory awaits experiment and experiment awaits theory in
a wide variety of elds. Often the two must go hand in hand if any signicant progress
is to be made. Then he emphasizes the basic similarity between a good experiment
and a good theory and states that: The most important thought process that goes
into the planning of an experiment is exactly the same as in the development of a

The Role of Experiments in Structural Stability

theory. Success in either requires identication of the essential variables and parameters along with an appropriate limitation of the objective of theory or experiment.
. . . The choice of environment for static or dynamic problems of elastic response,
of ow, or of fracture in all but the best-known examples, involves all the elements
of thought which enter into the development of a theory. For example, questions
like how does the response of a part under examination affect the environment or
boundary conditions? require both precise theory and careful experiments.
Hence theoretical and experimental mechanics have to progress hand in hand.
And as the rapid advances in computational methods and tools have enormously
broadened the horizons of theory, so have the triumphs of microelectronics and
ever more efcient computers brought about a virtual revolution in instrumentation,
introducing so-called intelligent instruments, which have multiplied our measurement capabilities and accuracies (see for example [1.9] or [1.10]). However, as in
theory so in experiment, it is the basic thought process that precedes the actual
study, which guides and harnesses these capabilities.


The Role of Experiments in Structural Stability

Structural stability research in the 19th century was primarily experimental, or more
precisely, empirical. Near the turn of the century theoretical studies took the lead
and continued to do so in the 20th century, unfortunately in many cases without
correlation with experiments. Koiter painted this state of affairs in the Opening
Lecture of the 1974 IUTAM Symposium on Buckling of Structures [1.11]: To put
it mildly, buckling theory and experiments have not always co-existed in harmony.
One should remember that though judiciously chosen mathematical models may
predict the expected physical behavior, it is up to careful experiments to verify this
predicted behavior and validate the calculations. Furthermore, the experiments may
bring out elements of behavior of real structures, which have not been considered
in our, by necessity, simplied models. This second role of experimentation is
often overlooked.
The pattern of research in structural stability for many years has been one of
extensive theoretical studies combined at the most with corroborating experiments.
As pointed out by Chilver [1.12], this has been very useful in the study of essentially neutral equilibrium problems of elastic stability. But in cases of extreme
instability, theory has only been a guide to practical behavior, and much of our
present useful design knowledge is based on careful experiments. The important
problems of stability, and in particular, postbuckling behavior, are not always
amenable to complete analysis, and accurate analyses may be rather difcult and
the computations very cumbersome. For example, Zandonini, in a 1983 review of
the stability of steel compression members [1.13], states that since the problem
of determining the ultimate strength of a column (in the presence of geometrical
imperfections and residual stresses) can only be solved analytically in a very limited
number of cases, the experimental approach and inelastic second order numerical
analysis have become fundamental tools. Note that if this is the state-of-the-art


in the case of columns, the importance of experimental studies for other more
complex structures becomes evident.
And indeed, more prominence has been given in recent years to experimental
studies in buckling research and their interaction with theory, as is apparent, for
example, in reviews of the state-of-the-art of shell stability (like [1.14] [1.18]).
The trend in structural stability has been towards more awareness of the potential
of experimental studies and a beginning of more cooperation between theoretical
and experimental research. An interesting example of this awakening awareness
is the acknowledgement by two eminent theoreticians, Budiansky and Hutchinson,
in their 1979 survey of buckling [1.19], that with respect to practical design optimization problems dominated by buckling behavior theory lags experiment. They
pointed out that a remarkable series of tests conducted in the mid-forties at NACA
Langley ([1.20] and [1.21]) provided an experimental optimization, or minimum
weight designs, for stiffened at panels. In these tests over 150 2024-ST aluminum
alloy zee- and hat-stiffened panels, having systematically varied congurations,
were tested for ultimate compressive strength m Figure 1.1 (from [1.21]) shows

z-stiffened panels

m, ksi

Hat-stiffened panels





L/ C


, ksi

Figure 1.1 Experimental optimization, or minimum weight designs, for stiffened at panels.
Ultimate compressive strength tests of over 150 2024-ST aluminum alloy zeeand hat-stiffened panels, carried out at NACA Langley in the mid-forties, yielded
envelope curves for the two types of stiffeners (from [1.21])

Motivation for Experiments

a comparison of the envelope curves of the ultimate compressive strengths

minimum weight designs for the two types of stiffeners, where Pi L/ C is the
appropriate structural index, with Pi the load-per-unit-width of panel, L the panel
length and C an end-xity coefcient. The most striking feature of these 50-yearold experimental results is that they show (at least for equal sheet and stiffener
thicknesses) a superior structural efciency of zee- over hat- stiffeners. These
experimental results automatically incorporate the effects of certain representative
initial imperfections, not to mention plasticity, discrete rivet attachments, nite
corner radii and they stand as a challenge to theoreticians to conrm or refute
them, and deduce analogous results for other congurations and materials.
However, it is important to remember that, just as it is unwise to regard experiments as only a check on existing theory, it is as imprudent to be too practical
and base ones design on empirical data only, especially if this data was obtained
under conditions which differ signicantly from that of the actual structure. In
structural stability the proper marriage of theory and experiment is essential, as
Sechler emphasized again in 1980 in relation to shell research ([1.22]), and only
when they go hand-in-hand is there rapid progress.


Motivation for Experiments

With the rapid development in computers in the last decades the question of why
continue to do experiments? has often been asked in many elds of applied
mechanics. As the computational tools improved and expanded, the idea that
computer simulations can replace the experiments has been voiced occasionally.
For example, in the early sixties computer simulated experiments became popular
and, in the excitement about their advantages and potential, their limitations were
forgotten. For instance Johnston in 1961 [1.23] claimed: There are many advantages in simulated tests, carried out with the aid of a computer, in comparison
with real tests in an actual testing machine. No machining is involved, no materials need be acquired, and there is no scatter in the test results! Moreover, the
precision of results, although based on a simulated and idealized material, permits
a study of details of behavior that is not possible in ordinary laboratory tests. It
would be impossible to completely duplicate the observations that may be made
on the basis of the simulated tests reported in this paper. It was forgotten that the
simulation was so successful because the physical phenomena in this case were
well known and had been extensively explored by very many real experiments.
New phenomena have still to be found and properly understood in physical tests,
before even the powerful computers of today can give a reliable simulation and
then extend the range of parameters.
In a similar vein was the false 1975 prediction for aerodynamics that Wind
tunnels in 10 years will be used only to store computer print out.
Hence it is worth the while to reect in more detail on the purpose of experiments
in the computer era. The question was examined for shell buckling in two reviews


in the eighties ([1.17] and [1.24]); it will now be re-examined in the broader
context of buckling and postbuckling behavior of structures. One can enumerate
eight primary motives:




Better understanding of buckling and postbuckling behavior and the primary

factors affecting it. In addition to the buckling loads, careful experiments
in which the parameters are varied one at a time yield the behavior of
the structure just before, at and after buckling, and accentuate the main
parameters affecting this behavior. Such a philosophy of research type
experimental programs has been strongly advocated for shells by Sechler
[1.22] for many years, and has been implemented in some test programs, for
example in [1.25]. Based on these observed parameters numerical schemes
can be developed, veried, and can also be employed for experiments on
the computer to extend the range of the parameters tested. One should
remember that computer methods, like for example nite element analysis,
can converge to non-realistic behavior, unless the physical phenomena are
well understood, or at least well described by appropriate experimentation,
to permit reliable modeling.
To nd new phenomena. This reason is a direct extension of the rst one
and has been stressed by Drucker ([1.2] and [1.3]), Sechler [1.22] and many
others. In buckling and postbuckling experiments, the new phenomena are
likely to be unexpected behavior patterns or mode interactions.
To obtain better inputs for computations. The mathematical models employed
in modern large multi-purpose computer programs can simulate real
structures fairly closely for buckling, but the simulation depends very much
on the input of correct boundary conditions, in particular joints or bonds,
on material properties, imperfections, residual stresses and load applications.
This has been emphasized by recent experience and denitely applies also
to postbuckling. Better inputs can be provided by subsidiary tests like stubcolumn tests for properties of columns or stiffeners, or multiaxial material
tests for more complicated structures or loading conditions. Often improved
inputs can be obtained from appropriate nondestructive tests: for example,
boundary conditions by vibration correlation techniques, imperfection shapes
and amplitudes by imperfection scans, load transfer and eccentricities by
strain measurements and vibration correlation techniques, residual stresses
by X-ray techniques etc. Fully automated recording in experiments has
just begun and much closer interaction between test and computation
is developing.
To obtain correlation factors between analysis and test and for material
effects. Even when large powerful programs are employed, test results may
still differ considerably from predictions. These differences are partly due to
inaccuracies of inputs and partly to variations in buckling and postbuckling
behavior of the mathematical model and the structures tested. They can all be
lumped for design purposes in a correlation factor. The advantage of such a
correlation factor is the overall correlation it provides for the designer, but its

Motivation for Experiments





weakness is that it is completely reliable only for the structures tested. One
can statistically evaluate a large number of tests to obtain overall lower bound
correlation factors, a method employed extensively for shells, where they
are called knock-down factors, but this results in very conservative design.
Other statistical evaluations are extensively employed for columns and plates,
especially for civil and marine engineering design codes, and these too tend
to be conservative. Hence correlation factors should be more specialized.
Since many experiments are on laboratory scale structures, extensive studies
comparing the results of laboratory scale and large scale tests are needed
to reassure the experimenter and to guide the designer, in particular for
dynamic loading. Correlation type experiments will therefore continue to be
a major task of research and industrial laboratories for quite some time to
come, as they provide the designer with essential correction factors which
include the effects of new materials and manufacturing techniques and, to
some extent, bridge the gap between the buckling and postbuckling behavior
of the computation model and the realistic structures.
To build condence in multipurpose computer programs. Extensive experimental verication is an essential element for condence in a large computer
program. This is therefore a primary motive for buckling and postbuckling experiments, which becomes more important, as the programs become
more sophisticated and ambitious. Though some developers of programs have
promoted and applied extensive experimental conrmation, more correlations of the results obtained from computer programs with test results are
required, as pointed out for example for shells in [1.26]. An example of extensive experimental verication, as well as careful examination of boundary
conditions by combined experimental and numerical studies, is the effort of
Bushnell in building condence in his BOSOR4 and 5 shell programs ([1.27]
and many others).
To test novel ideas of construction or very complicated elements of a
structure. Exploratory tests of new concepts have been used extensively by
aeronautical, civil, mechanical and ocean engineers, and will continue to be
an important tool. Furthermore, if the structure is elaborate and has many
openings with complicated stiffening and load diffusion elements, model
testing may sometimes be less expensive and faster than computation with a
large multipurpose program, even in the detail design state.
For buckling under dynamic loading and in uid-structures interaction
problems. These are areas where computation is cumbersome, expensive,
and difcult to interpret reliably. Experiments may therefore be preferable at
this stage, though they too present many difculties. Theory and numerical
computations should follow these experiments closely, to reinforce and
broaden the partial understanding of the phenomena that the experiments
will provide.
For certication tests of full scale structures. This is the typical industrial
task (see for example Figure 1.2), which will continue till model experiments


Figure 1.2 A modern full scale aircraft certication test. The Boeing 757 airliner lower forward
fuselage during a test, which illustrates combined compression and shear dominated
buckling (typical of semi-monocoque construction). The photo was taken at 100
percent design limit load (courtesy of the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company)

are sufciently advanced and integrated with computation to eliminate the

necessity for them. Here computerization of data acquisition and reduction has made great strides, and has signicantly advanced the accuracy
of measurement and interpretation.
Examination of these motives, originally proposed for shells at a Euromech
Colloquium in 1980 [1.24], and recent experience reinforces the conclusion that the
computer does not replace the experiments. It may change their purpose somewhat,
it modies the techniques, it broadens the capability to acquire results and it can
use the experimental results to improve the computations. The presence of the
computer in the experimental scene enhances and develops new techniques and
capabilties. As pointed out by Birkemoe of the University of Toronto in 1994 (see
[8.162]): High speed and high quality data acquisition, combined with on-line use
of the data for control of the loading and/or the response of a boundary condition,
present a framework for improved experimental demonstration of stability limits in
structures. Furthermore, Improvements in user software for the test environment
continue to make . . . computer control easier. The experiment remains an essential
link in the analysis also in the computer era, and its scope and usefulness are even
greater today.
It appears therefore that experiments are indeed essential tools in structural
stability research. Why do many investigators still shy away from them? One reason

Bridging Gaps Between Disciplines

may be the initial difculties facing the inexperienced researcher. To quote, for
example, from a 1967 predominantly theoretical doctoral thesis in civil engineering
Postbuckling Behavior of Tee Shaped Aluminum Columns by R. Hariri [1.28]:
The author experienced a great deal of difculties and some experiments in the
early stages yielded surprising and unexpected results. He then concludes this
paragraph: However, the experiences gained and the guidance obtained cannot
be overlooked. One purpose of this book is to reduce the difculties in the early
stages and open up the wide horizons of experimental research, and the potential
guidance to the physical phenomena it can provide, to more of the younger, as yet
inexperienced, investigators.


Bridging Gaps Between Disciplines

As the reader may have noted, the authors of this book hold the view that experiment and theory are complementary and that real progress is contingent upon
experiment and theory proceeding hand-in-hand. Hence, though the book is devoted
to experimental methods, the next two chapters present a discussion and summary
of physical and theoretical concepts as well as analytical and computational tools.
In addition to bridging the gap between the theoretician and the experimentalist,
we also attempt to bridge the gap between the different engineering disciplines
which have to deal with buckling problems. As did the medieval guilds from which
they originated, the various engineering professions tended to keep to themselves,
to their institutions and societies, and develop their own traditions and methods.
Technology transfer between the different disciplines has really only started in
recent decades, and structural stability has been one of the more active elds of
this transfer of knowledge and techniques.
As an example of the difference in approach of civil and aerospace engineers,
one may consider H-section columns. The aeronautical engineers of the late thirties
were interested in the strength of aluminum-alloy extruded H-section columns,
and extensive tests were carried out at the U.S. National Bureau of Standards and
the Aluminum Company of America, under the sponsorship of NACA [1.29], to
provide column curves. These test columns were slender but did not have very thin
webs. Thin-web cross-sections were also widely used as stiffeners in the aircraft
industry, but these were usually made from bent sheet. The local failure modes
(buckling of outstanding anges as plates), that occurred in these thin-web columns
were also studied extensively in the thirties.
The civil engineers rst considered rolled H-section columns, which also did
not have thin webs. Then heavy welded H-sections were studied and used in practice. The civil engineers studied columns made of structural steel, since this was
the material employed in civil engineering structures. Already the rolling process
introduced some residual stresses, but in welded columns these increased signicantly, and the effect of residual stresses on the buckling strength became a major
concern. However, little attention was paid to thin-web columns until the early
eighties, when their use increased in manufactured metal building, and a detailed



experimental study on buckling of thin-web welded H-columns was carried out (see
for example [1.30]). Again the major concern of the civil engineering researchers
was the inuence of residual stresses, and they utilized the experience accumulated
by their colleagues. There has, however, been only very little, if any, use by civil
engineers of the aeronautical research and experience, maybe because in this case it
dates back primarily to the thirties and forties, or perhaps because the aeronautical
engineers did not seriously consider this effect of residual stresses. But there could
be more mutual enrichment, or technology transfer, as occurred for example in the
case of stiffened shells in offshore structures, where the aeronautical experience
has been absorbed by the marine and civil engineers (see for example [1.31]).
The civil engineers have been and still are preoccupied with design codes, whose
purpose is to ensure safe structures even when designed by independent engineers
who do not have large staff and extensive computing facilities at their disposal,
and to serve as tools for the proof engineers and licensing ofcials in their certication tasks.
Other engineering disciplines have their design codes too, but rely more on
extensive computational and experimental proof of sufcient strength for safety
and certication. An aerospace engineer, for example, will therefore be surprised
at the continuous correlation and comparison with different design codes in most
experimental and theoretical studies reported in civil engineering publications. His
civil engineering colleague on the other hand will similarly be astonished both
at the numerous different loading cases computed and at the extent of full-scale
limit load, ultimate load and fatigue testing required in aerospace practice, as
well as at the very limited employment of design codes. These different approaches
and practices should, however, not deter researchers and engineers of different
disciplines to use each others investigations, and in particular experimental studies.
By referring to examples from different disciplines and pointing out the similarities
we will try to guide the reader in this direction.
It is of interest to note that civil engineers themselves have in recent years
been clamouring for conning their codes, which had become far too detailed,
to principles of design, identifying structural requirements which must be satised for different classes of structures [1.32]. These more basic codes would be
supplemented by cross references to data sheets which give design procedures
satisfying these principles, but leave the designer the choice of method best suited
to his requirements. The data sheets or data banks would replace voluminous
codes crammed with complex formulae. This trend, which also facilitates international agreement, will bring civil engineering practice closer to the approach of
other engineering disciplines, like aerospace or mechanical.
Professor Dowling of Imperial College, London who made this appeal in 1981,
also pointed out in 1982 a somewhat absurd situation that had arisen in the design
codes for the strength of webs of plate girders [1.33]. He stressed that there would
be large differences in the designs for the same loading produced to the relevant
Swiss, German, British or U.S. codes, and indicated that disparities exist between
the new and draft codes in many countries. Dowling then pleaded for involvement
of the appropriate international bodies to coordinate efforts towards unied research



and codes for plates and concluded optimistically that If it was possible to produce
the European Column Strength Curves through international cooperation, surely it
is possible to produce European, or indeed World Plate Strength Curves. Then a
welded steel plate might not know it has changed strength as it crossed the border
between Austria and Germany! The gap between countries and disciplines appears
indeed to be narrowing.
Another gap that requires some bridging is a kind of generation gap. When
searching the literature for previous studies, the young researcher or test engineer will usually focus his attention on recent publications, as he will assume
that only experiments carried out with modern instrumentation and techniques can
be of any relevance to his present-day problem. Furthermore, since his search
will nearly always be carried out with a computerized literature search, which
practically excludes any publications earlier than 25 years prior to the date of
search, many important earlier studies will have escaped his notice. A danger of
rediscovering America with more modern means is then imminent. Hence the
authors wish to stress that one should also look to earlier experimental studies,
which, though carried out with less sophisticated instruments, often excelled in the
planning and logic of the experiments and in pin-pointing essential primary and
secondary effects. This is not surprising, since the tests were often carried out by
some of the outstanding scientists and engineers of the time. We will even show
some examples of important experiments, performed more than 90 years ago, but
whose logic and results are still applicable today. The authors hope the reader will
develop respect for the ancients also in experimental mechanics.




Hetenyi, M., Handbook of Experimental Stress Analysis, 1st ed., John Wiley & Sons,
New York, 1950, Preface.
Drucker, D.C., On the Role of Experiment in the Development of Theory, General
Lecture, Proc. 4th US National Congress of Applied Mechanics, ASME, 1962, 15 33.
Drucker, D.C., Thoughts on the Present and Future Interrelation of Theoretical
and Experimental Mechanics, William M. Murrey Lecture 1967, Experimental
Mechanics, 8, (3), 1968, 97 106.
Koiter, W.T., Elastic Stability, 28th Ludwig Prandtl Memorial Lecture, Zeitschrift
fur Flugwissenschaften und Weltraumforschung, 9, (4), 1985, 205 210.
Herrmann, G., Stability of Equilibrium of Elastic Systems Subjected to Nonconservative Forces, Applied Mechanics Reviews, 20, 1967, 103 108.
Willems, N., Experimental Verication of the Dynamic Stability of a Tangentially
Loaded Cantilever Column, Journal of Applied Mechanics, 33, 1966, 460 461.
Huang, N.C., Nachbar, W. and Nemat-Nasser, S., On Willems Experimental Verication of the Critical Load in Becks Problem, Journal of Applied Mechanics, 34,
1967, 243 245.
Kolkka, R.W., On the Non-Linear Becks Problem with External Damping, International Journal of Non-Linear Mechanics, 14, 1984, 497 505, (in particular paragraph
2 of the introduction).















Pindera, J.-T., Patterns and Trends of Advanced Experimental Mechanics, Proceedings of the 11th Canadian Congress of Applied Mechanics, University of Alberta,
Edmonton, Canada, May 31 June 4, 1987, A206 A207.
Hirschfeld, T., Instrumentation in the Next Decade, Science, 230, 1985, 486 491.
Koiter, W.T., Current Trends in the Theory of Buckling, in Buckling of Structures,
Proceedings of IUTAM Symposium on Buckling of Structures, Harvard University,
Cambridge, USA, June 17 21, 1974, B. Budiansky, ed., Springer-Verlag, Berlin,
1976, 1 16.
Chilver, A.H., The Role of Experimentation in the Study of Elastic Stability of
Structures, in: Stability, Solid Mechanics Division, SM Study No. 6, University of
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 1972, 63 84.
Zandonini, R., Recent Developments in the Field of Stability of Steel Compression Members, in Stability of Metal Structures, Proceedings, 3rd SSRC International
Colloquium, George Winter Memorial Session, Toronto, Canada, Structural Stability
Research Council, 1983, 1 19.
Arbocz, J., Past, Present and Future of Shell Stability Analysis, Zeitschrift fur Flugwissenschaften und Weltraumforschung, 5, (6), 1981, 335 348.
Tennyson, R.C., Interaction of Cylindrical Shell Buckling Experiments with Theory,
in: Theory of Shells, W.T. Koiter. and G.K. Mikhailov, eds., North-Holland Publishing Co., 1980, 65 116.
Valsgard, S., and Foss, G., Buckling Research in Det norske Veritas, in: Buckling
of Shells in Offshore Structures, J.E. Harding, P.J. Dowling, and N. Agelidis, eds.,
Granada, London, 1982, 491 548.
Singer, J., The Status of Experimental Buckling Investigation of Shells, in: Buckling
of Shells, E. Ramm, ed., Proceedings of the State-of-the-Art Colloquium, Stuttgart,
Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, 1982, 501 533.
Babcock, C.D., Shell Stability, Journal of Applied Mechanics, 50, 1983, 935 940.
Budiansky, B., and Hutchinson, J.W., Buckling: Progress and Challenge, in: Trends
in Solid Mechanics, J.F. Besseling and A.M.A. van der Heyden, eds., Delft University Press, 1979, 93 116.
Schuette, E.H., Charts for the Minimum-Weight Design of 24S-T Aluminum-Alloy
Flat Compression Panels with Longitudinal Z-Section Stiffeners, NACA Report
No. 827, 1945.
Hickman, W.A., and Dow, N.F., Compressive Strength of 24S-T Aluminum-Alloy
Flat Panels with Longitudinal Formed Hat-Section Stiffeners Having a Ratio of
Stiffener Thickness to Skin Thickness Equal to 1.00, NACA TN 1439, 1947.
Sechler, E.E., The Role of Experimentation in Shell Research, in: Mechanics Today,
5, S. Nemat-Nasser, ed., Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1980, 439 449.
Johnston, B.G., Buckling Behavior Above the Tangent Modulus Load, Journal of
the Engineering Mechanics Division, American Society of Civil Engineers, 87, EM6,
Paper 3019, Dec. 1961, 79 99.
Singer, J., Buckling Experiments on Shells a Review of Recent Developments, Solid
Mechanics Archives, 7, 1982, 213 313.
Singer, J., Arbocz, J., and Babcock, C.D., Buckling of Imperfect Stiffened Cylindrical Shells under Axial Compression, AIAA Journal, 9, (1), 1971, 68 75.
Buchert, K.P., Practical Application of Shell Research, in: Buckling of Shells in
Offshore Structures, J.E. Harding, P.J. Dowling, and N. Agelidis, eds., Granada,
London, 1982, 257 283.








Bushnell, D., BOSOR 5 Program for Buckling of Elastic-Plastic Complex Shells of

Revolution Including Large Deections and Creep, Computers and Structures, 16,
1976, 221 239.
Hariri, R., Post Buckling Behavior of Tee Shaped Aluminum Columns, Doctoral
Thesis, University of Michigan, 1967, University Microlms International, Ann
Arbor, Michigan.
Osgood, W.R., and Holt, M., The Column Strength of Two Extruded AluminumAlloy H-Sections, NACA Report No. 656, 1939.
Avent, R.R., and Wells, S., Experimental Study of Thin-Web Welded H-Columns,
Journal of the Structural Division, Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers, 108, (ST7), 1982, 1464 1480.
Singer, J., Buckling, Vibrations and Postbuckling of Stiffened Metal Cylindrical
Shells, Proceedings of BOSS 1976 (1st International Conference on Behavior of OffShore Structures), Norwegian Institute of Technology, Trondheim, Norway, August
1976, 765 786.
Dowling, P.J., Editorial, The Journal of Constructional Steel Research, 1, (3), 1981,
1 2.
Dowling, P.J., Editorial, The Journal of Constructional Steel Research, 2, (3), 1982, 1.

The Concepts of
Elastic Stability

Before one can carry out meaningful experiments on buckling of structures one
has to understand the basic phenomena of structural instability and recognize
the different type of buckling behavior that may occur. Though this book deals
primarily with experimental methods and test results, and it is assumed that the
reader is somewhat familiar with the analysis of buckling, the theoretical concepts
of the basic instability phenomena and the numerical methods used to arrive at
numerical solutions are reviewed in this and the following chapter. This summary
will be brief and the reader may wish to consult some of the well known texts,
like [2.1] [2.8], for a broader introduction and more detailed treatment.


Physical Concepts
and Their Meaning

Types of Observed Behavior

All structural designers know that their structure must satisfy two basic criteria,
1. the strength criterion, which states that under the specied (foreseeable)
loading conditions the maximum stresses may not exceed the allowable stresses
anywhere in the structure;
2. the stiffness criterion, which species the maximum allowable deections
under the different loading conditions in order not to hinder proper operation
or to avoid undesirable and potentially dangerous behavior such as utter or
mechanical vibrations.
What often is overlooked is that by carrying out the usual stress and deformation
analysis with the many easily available nite element codes one obtains no information as to the stability behavior of the structure. It is by now well known that
thin-walled slender structures, or structures which contain slender members subject
to compressive stresses, may initially fail in one of the many possible instability

Buckling Experiments: Experimental Methods in Buckling of Thin-Walled Structures: Basic Concepts, Columns, Beams and
Plates Volume 1. J. Singer, J. Arbocz and T. Weller Copyright 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

modes, which in turn may signicantly affect the strength or stiffness behavior of
the whole structure. This is especially true for the current trends in design where
with the use of structural optimization techniques one is often producing highly
stressed structures of very slender proportions.
With the sudden and often unexpected occurrence of partial or total structural
failure due to different forms of (at least initially) elastic instabilities, one has
come to rely on so-called buckling tests to provide the data for the development of
safe and reliable design recommendations, as pointed out in Chapter 1. However,
before one can carry out meaningful experiments on buckling of structures, one
has to understand the basic phenomenon of structural instability and recognize the
different types of buckling behavior that may occur during the loading process of
an experiment. In the following, the occurrence of different types of instabilities
will be discussed on hand of relatively simple examples.


Instability of Columns

The problem of a slender, perfectly straight, centrally compressed column, built

in vertically at the base and free at the upper end (see Figure 2.1a) has been rst
solved by Leonard Euler in 1744 [2.9]. He found as the smallest critical load
Pc D

2 EI
4 L2


where E is Youngs modulus, I is the moment of inertia of the cross-section and

the corresponding buckling mode is shown in Figure 2.1b. Euler has assumed in
his work that the cross-section of the column does not distort during buckling and
failure and that the wavelength of the buckling mode is of the order of the column
The buckling load for other boundary conditions can be found easily by direct
solution of the corresponding eigenvalue problem. Thus for simply supported
boundary conditions one must solve (see, for example, [2.1] or [2.2])
wiv C k 2 w00 D 0

wDw D0

for 0  x  L
at x D 0, L

Figure 2.1 Eulers problem


Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


where  0 D d/dx and k 2 D P/EI. Its solution is

Pn D n2 2


wn D Cn sin kn x;

kn D

Pn /EI.


The smallest or critical buckling load occurs for n D 1. Notice that the higher
order buckling loads can be attained only by using very slender columns and
by applying external constraints at the points of inection to prevent the lateral
deection associated with the lower order modes.
The perfect column assumption is unrealistic. Using an initial imperfection of
the form
w0 x D W01 sin 
and a large deection theory Rivello [2.10] has obtained the results shown in
Figure 2.2. From this gure one can draw the conclusion that the straight position
is the only equilibrium conguration for a column with vanishingly small imperfections until P D Pc . Close to and at P D Pc the deections of a column with
vanishingly small imperfections grow very fast and are approximately given by
Eq. (14.56) of [2.10] until on the concave side the stresses in the extreme ber
exceed the proportional limit. As can be seen from Figure 2.2 also columns with
measurable imperfections do not bend appreciably until P is very nearly equal
to Pc . Due to these rapidly increasing bending deformations the stresses on the
concave side soon exceed the yield stress and in practical applications collapse of
slender columns occurs at P slightly below but close to Pc .
The dotted curves in Figure 2.2 representing the yield stress limits were also
obtained by Rivello [2.10] for a column with homogeneous cross-section using
an idealized linearly elastic and perfectly plastic material behavior. The dotted

Figure 2.2

Nonlinear behavior of perfect and imperfect columns (from [2.10])


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

curves were computed for an idealized H section made of 7075-T6 aluminum

alloy, whereby it was assumed that the web has negligible resistance in bending
and extension but is rigid in shear. It has been shown in [2.4] that if one considers
eccentrically applied axial loading in place of geometric initial imperfections, one
obtains curves similar to the ones shown in Figure 2.2. The instability theory of
Euler accurately describes the buckling behavior of slender columns with solid
or thick-walled cross sections. To obtain a direct measure of slenderness it is
customary to rewrite Eulers formula (Eq. 2.3) as
c D

D 2


where  = radius of gyration of the cross-section (D I/A). Experimental evidence
indicates that for values of the slenderness ratio L/ > 80 Eulers formula predicts
the buckling load of columns quite accurately. For values of the slenderness ratio
20 < L/ < 80 one can get reasonably accurate predictions by using Shanleys
tangent modulus theory [2.11], which essentially consists of replacing in Eq. (2.5)
the modulus of elasticity E by the tangent modulus Et . Finally, for values of the
slenderness ratio L/ < 20 failure occurs mainly by plastic crushing of the crosssection and c is equal to the compressive strength of the material. For metals one
usually uses c D cy , where cy is the compressive yield strength of the material.
For thin-walled columns Eulers assumptions that the cross-section does not
distort during buckling and that the wavelength of the buckle is of the order of
the column length must be reexamined. Such columns can be thought of as an
assemblage of thin plates. Thus before addressing the local instability and failure
analysis of thin-walled columns, rst the stability analysis of thin plates loaded by
in-plane forces shall be considered.


Instability of Plates

The buckling load of a simply supported rectangular thin at plate of width b and
length a, subjected to a uniform compressive force per unit length N D h on the
edges x D 0 and x D a while the boundaries y D 0 and y D b are unrestrained
against in-plane motion (see Figure 2.3) has rst been derived by G.H. Bryan in
1891 [2.12]. Using the deection mode shape
w D Wmn sin
where m, n D 1, 2, . . .

Figure 2.3

Plate subjected to in-plane compressive loading

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning

he found as the smallest critical stress

2 E
c D kc
121  2 


where the plate buckling coefcient kc is the minimum value of

2 a
kmn D




obtained for a given plate aspect ratio a/b by proper selection of the integers m
and n. From Eq. (2.8) it is obvious that the minimum value of kmn occurs when
n D 1. To minimize Eq. (2.8) with respect to m, one plots kc as a function of a/b
for different values of m, as shown in Figure 2.4. The minimum value of kc , which
is then used in Eq. (2.7) is given by the lower envelope of the curves, indicated
in Figure 2.4 by the solid line. Considering the case of a long plate (say, a/b 3)
then kc 4.0 and for  D 0.3 Eq. (2.7) becomes
c D 3.615E
For a short plate (say, a/b < 1) one can see from Figure 2.4 that m D 1. Hence
Eq. (2.8) becomes kc D b/a2 [1 C a/b2 ]2 . If a/b 1 then kc D b/a2 and
Eq. (2.7) becomes
2 E
c D
121    a
Notice that if we consider
the plate to behave as a simply supported column with
L D a and  D h/ 12 then Eq. (2.5) yields c D 2 E/12 h/a2 . A comparison
of the two expressions indicates that if one replaces in the column equation E
by E/1  2  one obtains Eq. (2.10), the so-called wide column formula. This
difference is due to support that the strips, which make up the wide column, give

Figure 2.4

Compressive buckling coefcients for simply supported plates


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

to each other. Or in other words, the restraint against anticlastic bending in the
plate causes biaxial stresses which result in the 1  2  term.
The buckling loads of uniform rectangular plates under constant normal edge
forces have been determined for various boundary conditions either by solving the
appropriate differential equations or by using the Rayleigh Ritz method. In these
simple cases the in-plane stress resultant forces equal the applied edge forces and
the buckling stress can be calculated from Eq. (2.7). However, the value of the
buckling coefcient kc depends upon the type of loading and the edge restraints.
Results from Figure 14 of [2.13] are shown in Figure 2.5 and give the values of kc
as a function of a/b for unaxial compression with various combinations of simply
supported, clamped and free edges.
Notice that kc is essentially independent of the restraint at the loaded edges
when a/b > 3. However, in these cases kc depends strongly upon the restraint of
the unloaded edges. The buckling coefcient kc is nearly constant for long plates
a/b > 3, and as can be seen from Eq. (2.9) c does not depend on a and is
inversely proportional to b2 . This is contrary to the behavior of the column or the
wide column (when a/b2 1) where as can be seen from Eqs. (2.5) and (2.10)
the length rather than the width is the critical dimension and the important restraint
conditions are at the loaded rather than at the unloaded edges.
It is naturally unrealistic to assume that the plate is perfectly at. Using a large
deection theory and an initial imperfection of the form
w0 x, y D W11 sin  sin  .

Figure 2.5 Compressive buckling coefcients for rectangular plates with various boundary
conditions (from [2.13])

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Figure 2.6 Postbuckling stress distributions for plates with uniformly displaced loaded edges
(from [2.14])

Coan [2.14] obtained solutions for the buckling and the postbuckling behavior of
rectangular plates with uniformly displaced loaded edges and either undistorted or
stress-free unloaded edges. As can be seen from Figure 2.6a in the postbuckling
region the axial compressive stress x is no longer uniformly distributed over the
loaded edges as it is before buckling occurs. Instead it has a maximum value at the
simply supported unloaded edges that are held straight. Of considerable importance
are the in-plane stresses y that arise in the postbuckling region. Notice that in the
central region of the plate the y stresses are tensile in character and thus they
stiffen the plate considerably against further lateral deection. These membrane
stresses together with the fact that the unloaded edges are restrained against outof-plane deection explain why the plate, unlike the column (where there are no
such middle surface forces), can carry axial loads that are much higher than the
buckling load. Notice further that there are no resultant forces in the y-direction
thus the unloaded edges are free to move uniformly, that is v D constant. On the
other hand, as can be seen from Figure 2.6b if the unloaded edges of a plate
are stress free then a contraction occurs at the central region. The absence of
membrane forces in the y-direction accounts for the fact that such a plate carries
smaller postbuckling loads than those of a plate with straight unloaded edges.
The bending (out-of-plane) deformation at the center of perfect and imperfect square plates subjected to uniform end-shortening are shown in Figure 2.7.
Comparing these curves with the corresponding column curves of Figure 2.2 one
sees that, unlike for columns, for plates sizeable postbuckling stresses are possible.
Notice that following buckling, the stiffness of the plate decreases; however, failure
occurs only when the axial stress at the unloaded edges reaches the yield stress of
the material used. The buckling and postbuckling behavior of plates subjected to
shear loading is discussed in Chapter 8, Sub-section 8.4.1.


Instability of Columns with Compound Cross-Sections

The different failure modes that can occur with a thin-walled column of varying
length can best be illustrated by considering the lipped channel section shown


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.7

Nonlinear behavior of perfect and imperfect plates (from [2.15])

Figure 2.8

A lipped channel section

in Figure 2.8. Assuming that the lateral deection of the cross-section from the
line of action of the compressive load varies sinusoidally along the length of the
column, then sufciently long columns will buckle in global or overall modes,
where the half wavelength  of the sinusoidal buckle is equal to the length of a
simply-supported column.
Considering Figure. 2.9 one sees that, depending on the value of the slenderness
parameter /b global buckling can take the form of a exural mode (Euler mode,
/b 50), in which the cross-section translates but does not rotate, or the form
of a torsional mode (/b D 10), in which the cross-section rotates but does not
translate. There is also a third global mode, called the torsional-exural mode, in
which the section, as shown in Figure 2.10, both rotates and translates.
In most applications of thin-walled open sections, there exists at least one
axis of symmetry, as illustrated in Figure 2.8. For torsional-exural instability
of such cases, for example in [2.2], the following characteristic equation has been
P  Pz fI0 /AP  Py P  P   P2 y02 g D 0


Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Figure 2.9 Buckling behavior of thin-walled columns (from [2.16])

2 EIy
Py D

2 EIz
Pz D

P D A/I0 

2 E


I0 D Iy C Iz C Ay02 C z02 
D Wagner Torsion-Bending Constant
J D Torsional Constant
y0 , z0 D coordinates of the Shear Center S.C.
If Pz is the smallest of the three roots of Eq. (2.12), the column will buckle in
pure bending. Otherwise, the buckling will be combined bending and twisting.
If the cross-section has two axes of symmetry, y0 D z0 D 0 and Eq. (2.12)
simplies to the form
P  Pz P  Py P  P  D 0.


In this case the three roots are Py , Pz and P and the column will buckle in pure
bending or pure twisting, depending on which of the three roots is the smallest.


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.10

Torsional-exural buckling mode of a thin-walled column

(from Ref. 16.157, Volume 2)

Also illustrated in Figure 2.9 are cases of local instability in which the crosssection distorts without translation or rotation. Thus, when the slenderness ratio
/b D 0.75 one gets a local buckling mode, where all the junctions between the
plate elements remain straight while the centers of the plates deect out-of-plane
as shown. Interestingly enough, when the slenderness ratio /b D 4.0 one gets
another form of local buckling, where only some of the junctions between the
plate elements remain straight. This type of buckling is called ange buckling or
distortional buckling.
Test on short, thin-walled columns show that often, after local buckling has
occurred, the columns still have the ability to carry a greater load before general
failure takes place. Further, it appears that in cases where local buckling occurs
at relatively low stress levels, the stresses at general failure (or crippling) will be

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning

Figure 2.11


Stress distribution after local buckling

noticeably higher. On the other hand, if local buckling takes place at relatively high
mean stress levels (say, at 0.7 cy ) then the buckling and the crippling stresses are
practically the same. Figure 2.11 displays the stress distribution on a thin-walled
cross-section after local buckling has occurred but prior to crippling or failure.
Bending deections become large after the anges buckle, and crippling occurs
when the stresses at the supported (essentially straight) edges of the anges reach
the compressive yield stress cy .
The nonlinear behavior associated with large displacements and plasticity has
prevented the development of a satisfactory analytical solution for the crippling
stress crip of arbitrary thin-walled cross-sections. Hence semi-empirical formulas
are used which are discussed in Chapter 6.


Effect of Modal Coupling

The application of structural optimization techniques has resulted in an increased

use of thin-walled compression members in modern vehicle design like aircraft,
ships, railway, trucks and other applications such as off-shore structures etc. The
initial idea that optimum design requires the equality of the local buckling load
P and the Euler buckling load PE has turned out to be incorrect. Several authors
(for example [2.17] and [2.18]) have shown that when simultaneous or nearly
simultaneous buckling modes do exist nonlinear coupling phenomena can result
in a compound mode of failure whereby explosive like collapse of thin-walled
columns may occur.
To illustrate the importance of modal coupling Van der Neuts analysis [2.17]
of an idealized thin-walled compression member will be used. As can be seen
from Figure 2.12 the idealized built-up column consists of two axial load carrying
anges of width b and thickness h. The anges are held a distance 2c apart by
webs, which are rigid in shear and laterally (normal to mid-plane of ange) but
have no stiffness in the axial direction. The ange plates are assumed to be simply


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.12

Van der Neuts idealized column (from [2.17])

supported along their longitudinal axes by the webs. The length of the column is
L, where h b L and both ends are assumed to be pin-jointed.
Obviously, there exist two important critical loads for this built-up column. If
the ange plates remain unbuckled, the column will become unstable at the overall
Euler buckling load
PE D  2 2 .
Conversely, if the column axis remains straight, the simply-supported ange plates
become unstable at the local buckling load
P D 2kc



where for simply supported edges kc D 4 and D D Eh3 /121  2  is the bending
stiffness of the ange plate.
Van der Neut assumed that the column has failed once its centroidal axis rst
bends at P D Pb , the bending buckling load. This appears to be a reasonable
assumption because although an Euler column exhibits a stable symmetric bifurcation point its postbuckling strength is very limited. One can actually distinguish
three separate cases.
If PE < P , the column fails by simple Euler buckling at Pb D PE .
If P < PE , the simply supported anges will buckle at P D P . This stable
symmetric buckling does not, however, exhaust the load carrying capacity of the
anges (modelled as simply supported plates), which can carry an appreciable
axial load in the initial postbuckling region with an effective (reduced) Youngs
modulus of
E where
1/2.45 [2.17]. Ultimately the column fails in overall
Euler buckling at Pb D
PE . Of course, this approach assumes that the effective
E is smeared out over the whole length of the column.
We have the domain of compound failure at Pb D PE D P , where overall buckling and local buckling occur simultaneously.
These three separate domains of buckling behavior are shown in Figure 2.13.
Van der Neut has shown by an Engesser Karman double modulus analysis [2.11]
that the column is in neutral equilibrium when
P D  2

1 C


Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning

Figure 2.13


Column buckling loads (Pb vs L)

Further he demonstrated that for L2 < L < L0 the equilibrium at P is stable,

whereas for L0 < L < L1 the equilibrium at P is unstable and collapse will occur
explosively. Notice that by equating
Pb D 
one can derive the following expressions for L2 and L0 :

L0 D
L1 D 0.761L1 ; L2 D
1/2 L1 D 0.639L1 .



To investigate the effect of imperfect anges it is convenient to replot the

results of Figure 2.13 in the form shown in Figure 2.14. Notice that in the range
1 < PE /P < 1.725, a range that is used frequently in aerospace applications, the
perfect column collapses explosively.
Assuming that the two anges have the same initial imperfection in the form of
the buckling mode pertaining to the lowest local buckling load,

Figure 2.14

Column buckling loads (Pb /P vs PE /P )


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

w D h sin  cos 
where is the ange waviness parameter, Van der Neut obtained the relation
between the axial load in the imperfect plate strip and the corresponding endshortening via a Rayleigh Ritz type approximate solution of the nonlinear plate
equations. Since the two anges have identical imperfections, the column axis will
remain straight under the load P until the overall bending load Pb is reached.
Using PE as a measure of the column length, Van der Neut [2.17] obtained the
buckling curves of columns with imperfect anges shown in Figure 2.15. The
broken line for D 0 is the limit of the smooth curves > 0. Notice that initial
waviness of the anges reduces the column failure load Pb considerably when
the ratio PE /P is close to 1.0. This severe imperfection sensitivity is due to the
modal interaction between the two buckling modes corresponding to PE and P ,
respectively. Notice that the magnitude of the imperfection sensitivity decays as the
ratio PE /P changes from unity. It is interesting that all imperfection curves pass
through a single point PE /P D 2.0. It appears that Pb < P when PE /P < 2.0.
For PE /P > 2 the initial waviness appears to be benecial.
This example illustrates very well the fact that in general unconstrained structural optimization, whereby here the Euler buckling load of the compound column
and the local buckling load of the anges occur simultaneously, may lead to
increasingly severe instabilities with pronounced imperfection sensitivity due to the
nonlinear coupling action of the failure modes involved. Mode interaction effects
in columns and plates will be further discussed in Chapters 6 and 4, Volume 2.


Buckling of Frames

Frames, both planar (a two-dimensional frame that is constrained to deform only

in the plane of the frame) and spatial, are structural members that are frequently

Figure 2.15

Buckling loads of columns with imperfect anges [2.17]

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


used in many different engineering applications. Thus it is not surprising that

their structural behavior has been studied widely, especially in civil engineering.
Recently, the increasing slenderness resulting from improved design procedures
has emphasized the stability problems of frames that may arise.
Considering a simple framework, if the joints are pinned the frame will become
unstable when the Euler load is rst attained in one of the members, which will
then be the only one to exhibit signicant distortion. If, however, the members are
rigidly connected at the loaded joint, then the load necessary to cause instability
in one member is enhanced by the other member(s) which restrain the rotation at
the joint, and therefore affect the stiffness of the compressed member.
Thus each member of a frame with rigid joints can be thought of as a bar with
elastically restrained ends. Hence it is often possible to analyze the stability of a
given framework based on the solution of the following model problem. Consider
the column of length L with a constant stiffness EI and spring supported at both
ends shown in Figure 2.16.
The critical value of the axial compressive load P can be obtained by solving the
following 2-point boundary value problem
wiv C k 2 w00 D 0
EIw000 C Pw0 D k1 w

for 0   L


at x D 0


at x D L


EIw00 D 1 w0
EIw000 C Pw0 D k2 w
EIw00 D 2 w0
where  0 D d/dx, k 2 D P/EI, k1 and k2 are linear spring constants, while 1 and
2 are torsional spring constants.
It has been shown in [2.2] and [2.4], for example, that the characteristic equation
of this problem can be written as
1  1  2  1 2 2  1 2  2 2 C 1 1 2 4 C 2 1 2 4  sin 
C 2 C 1 2 C 2 2  1 1 4  1 2 4  2 1 4  2 2 4  cos   2 D 0
, 2 D
 D kL, k D
, 1 D
, 2 D
, 1 D
1 L
2 L
k1 L
k2 I3

Figure 2.16

Elastically supported column


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

are nondimensional parameters, with 1 and 2 dening the rotational elastic

restraints and 1 and 2 the lateral ones.
To illustrate the use of this equation the stability behavior of the portal frame
shown in Figure 2.17 will be investigated. In this case one is interested in nding
the smallest possible load Pc which will cause the frame to buckle. To accomplish
this, one must consider all possible modes of buckling, compute for each mode the
corresponding buckling load and nd through comparison the critical buckling load
Pc . The different buckling modes are shown in Figure 2.18. Notice that there is no
possibility of a sway buckling mode when the horizontal bar buckles symmetrically.
At rst, the rotational elastic restraint provided to the vertical bars by the horizontal bar must be calculated. This can be done by considering a simply supported
beam subjected to end couples M2 .

Figure 2.17

Figure 2.18

Clamped portal frame

Buckling models for the clamped portal frame

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


From beam theory the end rotation 2 is found to be for the

symmetric case:

2 D

M2 Lh

hence 2 D


and the rotational elastic restraint provided by the horizontal bar is

1 L
2 D
2 EI h L v
Similarly for the
antisymmetric case: 2 D

M 2 Lh

hence 2 D


and the rotational elastic restraint provided by the horizontal bar is

1 L
2 D
6 EI h L v
Notice that if EI/Lh D EI/Lv then for the
symmetric case

2 D

antisymmetric case

2 D



If side motion is suppressed (no sway buckling) then one must solve the buckling
problem shown in Figure 2.19.
The characteristic equation (Eq. (2.24)) becomes then for the
symmetric case
F D  sin  C 4 C 2  cos   4 D 0
antisymmetric case F D 5 sin  C 12 C 2  cos   12 D 0.


The lowest roots of these transcendental equations can easily be found numerically
via Newtons Method, yielding for the
2 EI
D 5.0182; P D 25.1822 2 D 2.5515 2
2 EI
antisymmetric case  D
D 5.5272; P D 30.5498 2 D 3.0953 2 .
symmetric case


Figure 2.19

Buckling model of the vertical bar


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.20

Sway buckling model of the vertical bar

To obtain the characteristic equation for the sway buckling case shown in
Figure 2.18c one must solve the buckling problem displayed in Figure 2.20. In
this case Eq. (2.24) reduces to
F D 6 sin  C  cos  D 0.


When deriving this equation one must divide Eq. (2.24) by 2 and then take the
limit as 2 ! 1. The lowest root of Eq. (2.27) is

D 2,7165;

P D 7.3792

2 EI

Comparison of the three buckling loads computed indicates that the characteristic
equation for the critical load of the clamped portal frame is given by Eq. (2.27).
Therefore, as the load P is increased slowly from zero, the frame will sway buckle
when P reaches the value of the lowest root that satises Eq. (2.27).
For other worked out examples of frame buckling the interested reader should
consult [2.1], [2.2] and [2.4].


Lateral Buckling of Beams

In general, structural members whose primary function is the transfer of loads

which act perpendicular to their longitudinal axis by bending, are called beams.
Often, by proper design one can ensure that the applied loading acts through the
shear center of the beam cross-section, thereby eliminating any twisting action.
Moreover, in many applications the structure is so arranged that the resulting
bending may be regarded as taking place effectively in the plane of symmetry of the
beam. In such cases major axis bending can be considered as the principal design
variable. Due to this fact the type of cross-section selected is usually relatively
weak in both minor axis bending and twisting. These slender beams loaded in a
plane of symmetry may buckle laterally as shown in Figure. 2.21.
An approximate analysis of lateral instability in terms of a thin-walled elastic
beam theory has been presented in [2.1] and [2.2] (as well as in many other texts).

Physical Concepts

Figure 2.21

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Failure of beam by lateral buckling (courtesy of Prof. Yuhshi Fukumoto)

Consider the beam with two planes of symmetry shown in Figure 2.22. This beam
is loaded only in the xz-plane. That is, it is subjected to transverse forces acting
in the z-direction and to bending couples M0 . Notice that the transverse forces
cause additional bending moment My and when the beam is displaced laterally
the transverse loading also causes a relatively small twisting moment Mx . As
long as the load on the beam remains below the critical value, the beam will
be stable. However, as the load is increased a critical value is reached when a
slightly deected and twisted form of equilibrium becomes possible. The initial
plane conguration of the beam is now unstable, and the lowest load at which this
deected condition occurs is called the critical load of the beam. The deection of
the beam is described by the displacement components v and w of the centroid of
the cross-section and by the angle of rotation  of the cross-section. The axes ,

,  represent coordinates of the deformed conguration and the angles of rotation


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.22

Beam in undeformed and deformed conguration symbols and sign convention

v0 and w0 and the angle of twist  are assumed to be small. The sign conventions
for positive moments acting at section AB on the portion of the beam to the left
of the section are shown in Figure 2.22.
The equations of bending and twisting of the buckled beam have been derived,
for example in [2.2], as

EIz v00 D M


EIy w00 D M


E000  GJ0 D M


where  0 D d/dx and it is assumed that  is sufciently small so that the curvatures
and exural rigidities in the
 and  planes may be replaced by their values in
the yx and zx planes.
In these equations Iy and Iz are the principal moments of inertia of the crosssection about the y and z axes, respectively. Similarly, the quantities M
and M
represent the bending moments about
and  the axes. Further, GJ is the torsional
rigidity and E is the warping rigidity. Notice that for small angles of rotation and
a small angle of twist, the bending and twisting moments acting on a deformed
cross-section parallel to the deformed axes ,
,  can be expressed in terms of
Mx and My , the twisting and bending moment acting on the same cross-section
parallel to the undeformed axes x and y. If one neglects products of small angles
and small twisting moments then these expressions are (see also Figure 2.22),
M D Mx C My v0


D M y


M D My .


As an example of beams with doubly symmetric cross-sections let us consider

the case of the simply supported I-beam of Figure 2.22 subjected to the end couples
M0 only. The moments Mx and My acting on section AB on the portion of the

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


beam to the left of the section are

Mx D 0;

My D M0 .

From Eq. (2.29) one obtains M D M0 v0 , M

D M0 , M D M0  and then the
governing Eq. (2.28) can be written as
EIz v00  M0  D 0

Ely w D M0
E000  GJ0  M0 v0 D 0.


Notice that Eqs. 2.30a and 2.30c must be solved simultaneously. By differentiating
the last equation once, one can then eliminate the v00 term with the help of the rst
equation yielding
Eiv  GJ00  0  D 0.
The general solution of this constant coefcient differential equation may be written
(see [2.2])
 D C1 ex C C2 ex C C3 cos x C C4 sin x

1/2 1/2

C 2 0

E Iz

1/2 1/2


GJ 2
C 2

E Iz



and the constants C1 , C2 , C3 , C4 must be evaluated from the boundary conditions.

For a simply supported beam where the ends are free to warp, x D 0 at x D 0, L.
It has been shown in [2.2] that this implies at 00 D 0 at x D 0, L. If, in addition, the
ends are prevented from rotating about the longitudinal axis, then  D 0 at the ends.
Thus the boundary conditions for the simply supported I-beam of Figure 2.22 are
 D 00 D 0

at x D 0, L.


The characteristic equation of the problem then becomes

sinh L sin L2 C 2 2 D 0.


But , and sinh L are nonzero quantities. Thus the characteristic equation
reduces to
sin L D 0
with eigenvalues L D m, where m is a positive integer. Substitution and
regrouping yields


 m 2
GJ 2
C 2
E Iz


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

It can be seen by inspection that the critical (the smallest) value of M0 occurs
when m D 1. Hence the critical value of M0 is

4 EIz E 2 EIz GJ
Mc D
with the corresponding buckling mode (see also [2.2])
 D C4 sin  .


Notice that the maximum angle of twist occurs at the midspan. Also the magnitude
of the critical moment given by Eq. (2.38) does not depend on the exural rigidity
EIy of the beam in the vertical plane. This is due to the fact that Eq. (2.28b) is
uncoupled from the other two equations. The assumption that the deections in the
vertical plane are small is justiable when the exural rigidity EIy in the vertical
plane is very much greater than the lateral rigidity EIz .
The interested reader may consult [2.1] [2.3] of [2.19] for an extensive list
of worked out examples and an exhaustive discussion of the different problems
associated with the phenomena of lateral buckling of beam-like structures.


Instability Due to Patch Loading

Another type of initially localized lateral instability may occur if the introduction of
the transverse loading into the thin-walled web of a beam is not properly designed.
Consider the thin-walled structural member shown in Figure 2.23 subjected to
a partial in-plane compressive edge loading. The roller supports could be adjusted
so as to ensure that the load was applied to both webs. This test set-up can be
considered representative of a steel ooring system. In a test program carried out by
K.C. Rockey and his co-workers [2.20] it was found that if the depth-to-thickness
ratio of the web is sufciently high, then the web will buckle before it fails, where
failure of the test panels was dened by the deformation of a localized yield curve
under the patch load. This program represents an excellent example of the use
of a combination of numerical and experimental methods to arrive at a relatively
simple semi-empirical design formula for a pressing technical problem.

Figure 2.23

Sketch of the test set-up (from [2.20])

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Using the nite element method Rockey and Bagchi [2.21] derived the following
formula for the critical value of the compressive patch load Pc which will cause
buckling of a rectangular plate
2 D
DK 2
d h


where D D Eh3 /121  2  is the exural rigidity of the plate. The nondimensional
buckling coefcient K is shown in Figure 2.24 for the case where the patch load
on one longitudinal edge is supported by shear forces on the two transverse edges.
In [2.20] and [2.21] interaction curves are also presented for the cases where an inplane bending moment or an in-plane shear stress acts in addition to the stress eld
set up by the patch loading. Loads were applied to the test specimens in small increments in the elastic range, and in even smaller increments after yielding has begun.
The lateral deection of the web was recorded using a specially designed recording
device consisting of seven movable linear-displacement transducers, which could
be adjusted to any position desired. Figure 2.25 displays the variation of the lateral

Figure 2.24

Compressive buckling coefcients for different patch loadings (from [2.20])

Figure 2.25 Lateral displacements at central section under various loads (from [2.20])


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

deection across the central section of the panel for a typical test. Notice that the
largest deformations are located in the upper half of the panel adjacent to the patch
load. In the inelastic range, all plastic ow was allowed to take place at each load
increment before any lateral deection readings were taken.
In all tests, failure occurred by the formation of a local yield curve as shown
in Figure 2.26. Notice that the yield curve corresponds closely to a segment of a
circle with a width equal to that of the patch load.
The primary purpose of the test program was to determine the ultimate load
carrying capacity of the webs of a sheet steel ooring system. Rockey et al. [2.20]

Figure 2.26 Panel after failure showing yield curve (from [2.20])

Figure 2.27 Variation of Pu /Pc vs d/h for a square web b/d D 1

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


found that for d/h  250 there exists a linear relationship between the ultimate
failure load Pu and the theoretical buckling load Pc given by Eq. (2.40). By curve
tting the experimental results shown in Figure 2.27 they obtained the following
semi-empirical formula

c d
D 103 4.5 C 6.4
b h
Notice that for d/h > 250 the relationship between the ultimate failure load Pu
and the theoretical buckling load Pc becomes nonlinear.


Buckling of Beam-Columns

Slender beams subjected to both axial compression and bending are called beamcolumns. As an example of beam column analysis let us consider the case of
a simply supported beam with a doubly symmetrical cross-section subjected to
compressive loads P and end moments M0 as shown in Figure 2.28. The loads P
are applied at the centroid of the cross-section and Iy Iz . Thus the member can
bend in the xz-plane or bend and twist out of that same plane.
The analysis follows closely the one described earlier in section 2.1.6 for the
lateral buckling of beams. Using the symbols and the sign convention dened in
Figure 2.22, the equations of bending and twisting of the buckled beam-column
have been given earlier by Eqs. 2.28. Differentiating the last equation with respect
to x yields
EIz v00 D M


EIy w D M


Eiv  GJ00 D M0


where  0 D d/dx and M , M

, M are the twisting and bending moments acting
at section AB on the portion of the beam to the left of the section and parallel
to the deformed axes ,
, . The additional bending moments due to the axial
load P acting at the deformed cross section are M
D Pw and M D Pv. The
rate of change of the twisting moment for a doubly symmetrical cross-section
(where y0 D z0 D 0) has been shown in [2.2] to be M0 D I0 /AP00 , where I0 is
the polar moment of inertia. From Eqs. 2.29 the corresponding quantities due to
the end moments M0 are M0 D M0 v00 , M
D M0 and M D M0 . Introducing

Figure 2.28 Beam-column in undeformed conguration


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

these quantities into Eq. (4.42) one obtains after some regrouping the following
governing equations for the beam-column,
EIz v00 C Pv  M0  D 0


EIy w00 C Pw D M0


Eiv  GJ00 C

I0 00
P  M0 v00 D 0.


Notice that the second equation is uncoupled from the other two equations. It
governs the bending in the xz-planes and because of the presence of the term Pw
the bending is nonlinear. The general solution of Eq. (2.43b) is
w D C1 sin kx C C2 cos kx C



where k 2 D P/EIy and the constants C1 and C2 can be evaluated from the specied
boundary conditions. For simply supported ends w D 0 at x D 0, L and the solution
fsin kL  sin kx  sin kL  xg.
P sin kL
Notice that as the load P approaches the value Py D 2 EIy /L 2 , the eigenvalue
for loss of stability by bending in the xz-plane, the factor sin kL in Eq. (2.45)
approaches zero and the magnitude of the displacement w approaches innity.
For values of P smaller than Py , the allowable values of P and M0 are limited
by the strength of the beam-column material.
To investigate the lateral-torsional instability of the beam-column Eqs. (2.43a)
and (2.43c) must be solved simultaneously. For simply supported boundary conditions at x D 0, L
 D 00 D 0 and v D v00 D 0
solutions of the form
 D A1 sin  ;

v D A2 sin 



satisfy the specied boundary conditions identically, and upon substitution into
Eqs. (2.43a) and (2.43c) for nontrivial solution yield the following characteristic
I0 /AP  PPz  P  M20 D 0
where P and Pz are dened by Eq. (2.13).
For given values of M0 (or for a beam-column subjected to eccentric compressive
loads P which cause end moments M0 D Pe), the critical load Pc is the smaller of
the two roots of Eq. (2.48).
Conversely, for given values of P, the critical end moment Mc is
Mc D fP  PPz  PI0 /Ag1/2 .


Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


For additional examples dealing with the behavior of beam-columns under

different lateral loads the interested reader may consult [2.1], [2.3] or [2.22].


Buckling of Rings and Arches

The stability behavior of thin rings and arches exhibit several features that are not
encountered when one is dealing with straight columns and at plates. Thus, for
instance, the perfect thin ring under lateral loading undergoes a nonzero lateral
displacement w prior to loss of stability, whereas for perfect columns and plates
w D 0 for the unbuckled state.
For a complete historical sketch of investigations dealing with the buckling of
thin circular rings the interested reader should consult [2.1]. The following analysis
based on a small strain, moderate rotation theory is due to Brush and Almroth [2].
They based their ring-bending theory on the simplifying assumption that normals to
the undeformed centroidal surface remain straight, normal and inextensional during
deformation. Thus the extensional strain of a circumferential line element located
at a distance z from the centroidal surface (see Figure 2.29) can be expressed in
terms of centroidal-surface relations as follows;
N D C z



1 0
v C w C 2 ;

v  w0 ;


1 0


and  0 D d/d .
It has been shown by Bodner [2.23] that a ring subjected to a uniform external
pressure is a conservative system. Thus the governing equilibrium equations can
be conveniently derived by the stationary potential energy criterion, which states
that a conservative system is in equilibrium if its potential energy is stationary
(see for example [2.24] or [2.25]). Further, for a conservative system the change
in potential energy of the applied loads as the structure deforms is the negative
of the work done by the loads during the deformation. This yields the following

Figure 2.29

Circular ring subjected to uniform external pressure


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

variational problem

D Um C Ub C p  D


F , v, v0 , w, w0 , w00 R d D 0


EA 2 2
R d
2 0

EI 2 2
 R d
Ub D bending energy D
2 0
p D potential of the applied load.

Um D membrane energy D


When working with external pressure it is customary to distinguish between

uid pressure loading and centrally directed pressure loading. In the rst case the
pressure at each point on the ring surface remains normal to the surface as the
ring deforms (the so-called live load). In the second case the pressure remains
centrally directed at each point on the ring surface (the so-called dead load). As
a consequence of these assumptions the potential energy of the applied load differs
considerably for these two cases, yielding for

1 2
Fluid pressure loading: p D q
v  vw C v w C w  R d

1 2
Centrally directed pressure loading: p D q
v R d .
The condition that D 0 implies that the integrand in Eq. (2.52) must satisfy the
corresponding Euler equations of the calculus of variation. The Euler equations for
an integrand of the form as indicated in Eq. (2.52) are
d F

d v0
d2 F
d F
D 0.

w d w0 d 2 w00
Calculating the required partial derivatives for uid pressure loading, substitution
and regrouping yields


v0 C w
v0 C w 1 v  w 0 2
1 v  w0 2
v  w0 00


v  w0
qR v  w0



v  w0 000
v0 C w 1 v  w 0 2
v C w 1 v  w0 2



v  w0
qR v0 C w


Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Under axisymmetric loading circular equilibrium congurations of the ring exist

for all values of the applied load q < qc . The critical load qc is the smallest load
for which the ring may be maintained in equilibrium in an adjacent noncircular
To investigate the possible existence of adjacent equilibrium position one gives
small increments to the displacement variables
v D v0 C vO

w D w0 C wO


where v0 , w0 are the circular prebuckling solutions and vO , wO are small noncircular
perturbations at buckling. Direct substitution into Eqs. (2.57a) and (2.57b) and
deletion of squares and higher order products of the perturbation quantities yields
a set of nonlinear governing equations for the prebuckling quantities v0 , w0 and
a set of linearized stability equations governing the perturbation quantities vO , w.
Notice that the nonlinear equations governing the prebuckling state variables v0 ,
w0 are identical to Eq. (2.57).
Recalling that for a circular prebuckling state v0 and all derivatives of v0 and w0
are identically zero, Eq. (2.57a) is identically satised and Eq. (2.57b) reduces to
D 0.
For thin rings w0 /R 1, thus w0 D qR2 /EA. Notice that for the prebuckling
v0 D 0, w0 D 
the linearized stability equations become
EAR2 Ov0 C w
O 0 C EIOv  wO 0 00 D 0


O  EIOv  wO 0 000 C qR3 wO 00 C w

O D0
EAR2 Ov0 C w


O For a complete ring the boundary

a set of homogeneous linear equations in vO and w.
conditions simply require that vO , wO and their derivatives be periodic in . Thus a
solution of the form
vO D B cos n
wO D C sin n
where B, C are constants and n is a positive integer, satises the periodicity
condition and reduces the solution of the set of differential equations to a simple
matrix eigenvalue problem. The roots of the characteristic equation can be put into
the form
n2  1
qn D
n D 1, 2, 3, . . . .
1 C I/AR2
For n D 1 the eigenvalue is q1 D 0. However, the corresponding eigenvector
vO D B cos

wO D B sin


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

represents a rigid body translation and not a noncircular buckling mode. The ring
is thought to be constrained against such translation and one considers only buckling modes for which n is greater than unity. The smallest eigenvalue is seen to
correspond to n D 2 (ovalization of the ring) and since for thin rings I/AR2 1
its value is
qc D 3 3 .
This result, obtained by Bresse in 1866 [2.26] and independently in 1884 by
Levy [2.27] is considered to be the classical solution for a ring subjected to external
uid pressure.
It may be of some interest to mention here that besides the uid pressure loading,
which best represents the real load case of external pressure, and the centrally
directed pressure loading with a lowest eigenvalue of qc D 4.5EI/R3 [2.28], the
case of a thin ring loaded by external pressure, where the load remains parallel to
its original direction has also been solved. Though it is difcult to conceive of a
practical application for this last case, Singer and Babcock [2.29] have shown that
such a thin ring is unstable as a rigid body and will rotate under arbitrarily small
pressure that remains parallel to its original direction.
Equations (2.61) can also be used to investigate the buckling behavior of the
high circular arch under normal pressure loading shown in Figure 2.30. Notice that
in this case it is assumed that initially the arch is uniformly contracted so that a
fundamental state exists, which is identical to that of the complete ring. Then at
the instant of buckling the supports become immovable and the arch buckles in an
antisymmetric mode as shown in Figure 2.30. If the arch is simply supported at
both ends, then the boundary conditions at D are
wO D 0;


Figure 2.30

EI 0
Ov  wO 00  D 0;


EA 0
Ov C wO 00  D 0.

Pinned circular arch submitted to uniform external pressure


Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Notice that a solution of the form


wO D C sin

vO D B cos


where B, C are constants and n is a positive integer satises the above simply
supported boundary conditions identically and reduces the solution of the set of
differential equations (2.61) to a simple matrix eigenvalue problem. For this case
the roots of the characteristic equation can be put in the form
qn D

[n/2  1] EI
1 C I/AR2 R3

n D 1, 2, 3, . . . .


The critical condition corresponds to n D 1. Thus for thin arches, where I/AR2 1

1 3.
qc D

This solution was obtained by Hurlbrink in 1908 [2.30] and independently by
Timoshenko in 1910 [2.31].
Notice that when D  one obtains a complete ring and from Eq. (2.68) qc D 0.
As has been pointed out in [2.4], this unrealistic result is due to the fact that for
D  one has a complete ring with a hinge, which is free to rotate as a rigid body
about this hinge for arbitrarily small pressure. That the continuous complete ring
corresponds to D /2 can be deduced also from the fact that then Eq. (2.68)
reduces to Eq. (2.64). Solutions for other boundary conditions and for arches of
other forms can be found in [2.1], [2.4] and [2.8].
Finally, it must be mentioned that the above results derived by assuming the
buckling modes given by Eq. (2.62) or Eq. (2.66) are not applicable to shallow
arches. The low arch problem will be treated in the next section.


Buckling of Shallow Arches

Transversely loaded shallow arches represent a class of widely used structural

elements. Their stability behavior differs from those of the preceding examples in
that the fundamental path is not identied with w D 0 (zero lateral displacement)
prior to loss of stability. On the contrary, the fundamental path is highly nonlinear
and depending on the value of the dimensionless rise parameter K it exhibits limit
point and bifurcation points in the load versus lateral displacement plane.
To illustrate these points the stability behavior of the clamped shallow arch under
dead pressure loading shown in Figure 2.31 will be investigated. The analysis is
based on the work by Schreyer and Masur [2.32] and of Kerr and Soifer [2.33]. To
derive the equilibrium equations the stationary potential energy criterion, described
in the previous section, will be used. For shallow arches (for arches where the


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.31

Clamped circular arch under uniform pressure

arch rise H is small compared to the arch span 2b) one assumes that the rotation
behaves very much like that of a straight beam, thus

1 0


Further, following Koiters work (see [2.34], it will be assumed that the potential
energy of the applied pressure may be represented by
p D q
wR d .

With the help of Eqs. 2.51 2.54 the Euler equations of the variational problem
can then be written as
N0 D 0


M00  RN C Nw00  qR2 D 0


where  0 D d/d and use has been made of the constitutive equations



Notice that Eq. (2.71a) can be integrated directly yielding

N D constant D N0 .


This result, that the in-plane force N is constant is very useful, for it can be used
to obtain an exact, closed form solution for the complete nonlinear buckling and
post-buckling problem of shallow arches. Notice that Eq. (2.71b) can be put into
the form
wiv C 2 w00 D 2 R[1  qO K/ 2 ]
where 2 D N0 R2 /EI, qO D qR2 h/EI and the dimensionless rise parameter K D
2 R/h. The general solution of this linear ordinary differential equation with

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


constant coefcients is
w D A1 C A2 C A3 sin C A4 cos C R/2[1  qO K/ 2 ] 2 .


Recalling that for clamped arches the boundary conditions at D are

w D w0 D 0;



then one can attempt to evaluate the four constants A1 , A2 , A3 , A4 from the rst
two conditions. It is found that whereas A1 and A4 can be determined uniquely,
nonzero values of A2 and A3 are possible only if the characteristic equation
tan D


is satised.
Considering, at rst, the case when the characteristic equation is not satised (that is, tan 6D ) then A2 D A3 D 0, and Eq. (2.75), the general solution,

cos  cos 1

w D hK[1  qO K/  ]
Notice that this expression is even in , thus it represents the solution for the
symmetrical deformations. Further it should be noted that in this equation is as
yet an unknown parameter, which by denition is related to the constant in-plane
force N0 . Its value can be determined from Eq. (2.73) and the remaining boundary
conditions v D 0 at D .
To achieve this one rewrites Eq. (2.73) with the help of Eqs. (2.51) and (2.69)
and then integrates the resulting equation from  to C yielding

N0 R
0 2
v d D

 w  w  d .

Notice that the left-hand side vanishes identically because of the boundary
conditions v D 0 at D . Substitution for w and w0 from Eq. (2.78) and then
performing the integrals one obtains

4     3  cot    cot

2       cot    cot

1  4
C   cot    cot D 0. 2.80
3 K2
Equations (2.78) and (2.80) represent the exact solution for the symmetrical deformations. For a given value of the nondimensional rise parameter K one can obtain
a numerical solution as follows. Initially, for a pre-selected set of -values one


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

solves for the corresponding values of qO using Eq. (2.80). Next, for each pair of
 and qO values one calculates the corresponding radial displacement w0/h
from Eq. (2.78). The results for the rst buckling mode using K D 10 are shown
in Figure 2.32. Notice that two limit points are obtained, an upper limit point at
qO u D 2.2681


qO L D 0.4808.


and a lower limit point at

Let us now consider the case when A2 and A3 are not identically equal to
zero. Earlier it was found that for such nonsymmetric deformation to occur the
characteristic equation tan D must be satised. Its roots are
D 4.4934, 7.7253, . . . .
Notice that
D constant D 4.4934 D

N0 R2




implies that N0 is constant not only throughout the arch but it remains constant
throughout the nonsymmetrical deformations shown in Figure 2.32. N0 is equal
to its value at the bifurcation point and is denoted by N0 . Thus the bifurcation
pressure is obtained by substituting the characteristic equation tan D into
Eq. (2.80) of the symmetrical equilibrium branch. This results in the following

Figure 2.32

Load-displacement curves for K D 10 (from [2.33])

Physical Concepts

equation for qO b

which yields

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning



qO b2  qO b
5 K

32 1
qO b D

4 K2




From the discriminant of this equation it follows that for bifurcation to take place
Since the lowest value of is 4.4934, it follows from Eq. (2.87) that when
K  5.024 the shallow arch deforms only symmetrically. Instability will then occur
at the upper limit point in what is known as snap-through buckling or oil-canning.
In the present case for K D 10 and D 4.4934 one obtains from Eq. (2.86)
the following bifurcation pressures;
qO b D 1.9098 and qO b D 0.51131.


Notice that qO b D 1.9098 corresponds to the bifurcation point A, whereas qO b D

0.5131 corresponds to the bifurcation point B in Figure 2.32.
It can easily be shown that when the characteristic equation tan D is
satised then
A2 D A3 cos .
The corresponding radial displacement becomes
w D ws  A3 [  cos  sin ]


where ws is given by Eq. (2.78) with replaced by . The only remaining

unknown constant A3 is determined from the boundary conditions v D 0 at D
rewritten in the form given by Eq. (2.79). Substituting for w and w0 from Eq. (2.90)
and carrying out the integrals yields

25 K
A3 D 2
 qO 2 
3  4
Equations (2.90) and (2.91) constitute the exact solution for the nonsymmetrical
Notice that for D 0, K D 10 and D 4.4934 Eq. (2.90) reduces to the
equation of a straight line, it becomes

D 7.7775  3.8509Oq.



The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Schreyer and Masur [2.32] have carried out an extensive investigation as to the
character of the buckling behavior of shallow arches under dead pressure loading as
a function of the dimensionless rise parameter K. Their results can be summarized
as follows:

< K < 2.85

2.85 < K < 5.02

5.02 < K < 5.74
5.74 < K

very shallow arch, no buckling occurs

symmetric limit point (or snap), buckling occurs at qO D qO u
(see Figure 2.32)
asymmetric bifurcation point occurs after the limit point
asymmetric bifurcation occurs at point A (see Figure 2.32)
before the limit point

For further results the interested reader may consult [2.1], [2.4] and [2.5].


Buckling of Circular Cylindrical Shells

Thin-walled shells are frequently used structural elements in such diverse applications as cooling towers, legs of offshore bore islands, aircraft fuselages or as the
main load carrying elements of aerospace launch vehicles. The popularity of shells
is due to the fact that they are very efcient load carrying structures. However,
unfortunately, often they are prone to catastrophic elastic instabilities. Thus a
thorough understanding of the stability behavior of thin-walled shells is a must
for all those who employ them. This was realized already in the last century, as
pointed out in the historical introduction to Chapter 9, Volume 2.
Circular cylindrical shells will be treated separately because their stability
equations are much simpler than those of shells of general shape, and thus can
be used very conveniently to illustrate the different types of instabilities that may
occur. In the present analysis the relatively simple Donnell type shell theory
will be employed. These equations give accurate results for cylindrical shells
whose displacement components in the deformed conguration are rapidly varying
functions of the circumferential coordinate. For the sign convention used see
Figure 2.33.
In the age of computerized shell stability analysis the interest in using the
Donnell type shell equations has practically disappeared. However, their relative
simplicity makes them ideally suited for rapid approximate analytical developments and hence also for the following introductory analytical examination of
shell stability.
The Donnell equations are based on the following middle-surface kinematic
x D u,x C 12 x2
y D u,y C C 12 y2
xy D u,y C v,x C x y

x D w,x

x D x,x

y D w,y

y D y,y
xy D 21 x,y C y,x 


Physical Concepts

Figure 2.33

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Circular cylindrical shell symbols and sign convention

Comparing the circumferential rotation y with the one used for the ring problem
in Eq. (2.51) one sees that according to Donnells approximation the circumferential displacement component v is neglected relative to the gradient of the normal
displacement component in the circumferential direction w,y .
Employing the stationary potential energy criterion, the following set of
nonlinear governing equations are derived in [2.2] for isotropic circular cylindrical
Nx,x C Nxy,y D 0


Nxy,x C Ny,y D 0


Ny C Nx w,xx
D p.

Mx,xx C Mxy C Myx ,xy C My,yy 

C 2Nxy w,xy C Ny w,yy


Three equations in three variables, the displacements u, v, w may be obtained by

introduction of the isotropic constitutive equations
Nx D Cx C y 

Mx D Dx C y 

Ny D Cy C x 

My D Dy C x 

Mxy C Myx
Nxy D C
D D1  xy
and the kinematic relations from Eq. (2.93) into Eq. (2.94). The extensional
and the bending stiffness parameters are, respectively, C D Eh/1  2  and
D D Eh3 /121  2 .
A simpler set of two equations in two variables w and f can be derived as
follows. Notice that if one denes an Airy stress function f such that
Nx D f,yy ,

Ny D f,xx ,

Nxy D f,xy



The Concepts of Elastic Stability

then the in-plane equilibrium equations (2.94a) and (2.94b) are identically satised. The remaining out-of-plane equilibrium equation (2.94c) and the compatibility
x,yy C y,xx  xy,xy D w,2xy w,xx w,yy C w,xx
yield upon substitution and regrouping
f,xx  f,yy w,xx  2f,xy w,xy C f,xx w,yy  D p
r4 f  Ehw,2xy w,xx w,yy C w,xx  D 0

Dr4 w C


r4   D  ,xxxx C 2 ,xxyy C  ,yyyy .


These equations were rst presented by Donnell as three equations in 1933 [2.35].
When talking about buckling of thin-walled shells one must distinguish between
collapse at the maximum point of a load-deection curve and bifurcation buckling,
the same types of behavior as encountered earlier by shallow arches. Thus if
one employs the general nonlinear analysis governed by Eqs. (2.98), the axially
compressed perfect isotropic shell initially deforms axisymmetrically along the
path OA (see Figure 2.34) until a maximum (or limit) load A is reached at point
A. However, in this case there exist many bifurcation points along the fundamental
path between O and A. Hence, once the lowest bifurcation load c is reached, the
initial failure of the perfect structure will be characterized by a rapidly growing
asymmetric deformation along the path BD with a decreasing axial load . Notice
that in this case, the (axisymmetric) collapse load of the perfect structure A is of
no engineering signicance.
The linearized stability equations for the determination of the critical load c at
the bifurcation point can be derived by the application of the adjacent equilibrium
criterion. To investigate the existence of adjacent equilibrium congurations one

Figure 2.34

Bifurcation point and limit point via nonlinear analysis

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


assumes that the two variables w, f are given by

w D w0 C w,

f D f0 C f


where w0 , f0 represent the prebuckling solutions along the fundamental path and w,
f represent small perturbations at buckling. Direct substitution of these expressions
into Eqs. (2.98a) and (2.98b) and deletion of squares and products of the perturbation qualities, yields a set of nonlinear governing equations for the prebuckling
quantities w0 , f0 which are identical in form to Eq. (2.98), and a set of linearized
stability equations governing the perturbation quantities w,
O f
O D0
f,xx  LNL f0 , w
O  LNL w0 , f
O  Eh wO ,xx C Eh LNL w0 , w
r4 f
O D0

Dr4 wO C


LNL S, T D S,yy T,xx  2S,xy T,xy C S,xx T,yy .


a. Axial Compression

First consider the stability of a cylindrical shell that is simply supported at its
ends and subjected to a uniformly distributed axial compressive load P. Under
this loading the prebuckling deformation of the shell is axisymmetric as shown in
Figure 2.35a. The critical load Pc is the lowest axial load at which the axisymmetric
equilibrium state ceases to be stable.
Assuming that the shell is sufciently long so that the effect of bending of the
shell wall close to the ends can be neglected, then the prebuckling state can be
approximated by the following membrane state
Nx0 D 


Ny0 D Nxy0 D 0,

w0 D constant


where D Nx /Nc and Nc D Eh2 /cR. See also below an alternate denition given
for by Eqs. (2.110) and (2.111).

Figure 2.35

Axially compressed cylinder


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Thus the axisymmetric form in Figure 2.35a in effect is replaced by that in

Figure 2.35b. Notice that this membrane state satises the nonlinear governing
equations of the prebuckling path, Eq. (2.98), identically and reduces the linearized
stability equations, Eq. (2.100) to the following set of constant coefcient equations
Dr4 wO C

f,xx C
wO ,xx D 0
O  Eh wO ,xx D 0.
r4 f


Recalling that for constant D and simply supported boundary conditions wO D

wO ,xx D 0 at x D 0, L, then these equations admit separable solutions of the form
wO D A sin m

cos n ,

O D B sin m x cos n y

leading to a standard eigenvalue problem with the eigenvalues

1 2m C n2 2
c,mn D
C 2
m C n2 2



and the eigenfunctions

O D h sin m

cos n ,

O D  Eh
sin m cos n
2c 2m C n2 2




2 Rh




2c R
2 Rh


31  2 .


Notice that the eigenvalues c,mn depend not only on the geometric parameters
but also on the axial and circumferential wave numbers m and n.
For cylinders of intermediate length, a close estimate of the smallest eigenvalue
may be obtained directly by analytical minimization of c,mn with respect to the
quantity mn D 2m C n2 2 /2m in Eq. (2.105). Differentiation leads to the result
that c,mm is a minimum for
mn D

2m C n2 2
D 1.


Thus all mode shapes which satisfy Eq. (2.108) have the same (lowest) eigenvalue
of c D 1. Regrouping Eq. (2.108) one gets the well known Koiter circle [2.36]
2m C n2  m D 0


which is the locus of a family of modes belonging to the lowest eigenvalue

c D

D 1.


Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Notice that Eq. (2.110) is normalized by

c D

31  2  R


the critical buckling stress for axially compressed circular cylindrical shells, derived
shortly after the turn of the century independently from each other by Lorenz [2.37]
and [9.44], Timoshenko [9.45] and Southwell [9.29], Volume 2. See also the historical review of shell buckling in Chapter 9, Volume 2.
For short cylinders, because m and n are integers the analytical minimization to
arrive at Eq. (2.108) is inadmissible. In such cases Eq. (2.105) must be evaluated
repeatedly for different values of m and n in a trial-and-error procedure to determine
the critical load. If the cylinder is so short that

R 2

> 2c
then during buckling only a half-wave in the axial direction will be formed and
the smallest value of Eq. (2.105) is obtained for n D 0. Thus

1 Rh  2
D c,m0 D
c D

Rh  2
2c L

2c L
By taking the length of the cylinder shorter and shorter, the second term in
Eq. (2.113) becomes smaller and smaller in comparison with the rst term. Thus,
by neglecting it one obtains
Rh   2
c D
4c L
2 E
c D
121    L
which is Eulers formula for a wide column, i.e. a at plate that is simply
supported at the loaded edges and free along the unloaded edges.
A very long cylinder can buckle as an Euler column with undeformed crosssection (m D n D 1). The Donnell formulation used does not yield the correct
result for this case as can be seen from Figure 2.36a. Comparing these results with
the values displayed in Figure 2.36b, which are based on Loves theory (Eq. (i) on
p. 464 of [2.1]), one sees that Donnells approach also yields somewhat inaccurate
results for moderately long cylinders. The differences between the predictions of
the two theories can be seen more precisely in Figure 2.37. Notice that the results
of Loves theory show the proper limiting behavior for very long shells.
The Euler buckling load of very long thin-walled cylinders can be obtained by
setting I D R3 h and A D 2Rh in the appropriate column Eq. (2.3) yielding
E R 2
c D
D 2 2 D 2
2 L


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.36a

Figure 2.36b

Buckling diagram for axial compression based on Donnells theory, R/h D 1000

Buckling diagram for axial compression based on Loves theory, R/h D 1000

Physical Concepts

Figure 2.37

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Comparison of buckling load predictions based on Donnell and Love type theories

Additional results dealing with orthotropic and anisotropic shells can be found, for
example, in [2.38], [2.39], [2.40] and [2.41].
b. Combined External Pressure and Axial Compression

If the shell is simply supported at its ends then under the simultaneous action of
uniform lateral pressure and axial compression the prebuckling deformation of the
shell is axisymmetric as shown in Figure 2.38a. The critical pressure pc is dened
as the lowest pressure at which the axisymmetric form loses its stability.
Again it is assumed, for simplicity, that the shell is sufciently long so that the
prebuckling state can be approximated by the following membrane state;
Nx0 D 


Ny0 D pe R D pN e


w0 D constant .
Notice that thus, in effect, the axisymmetric form in Figure 2.38a is replaced by
that in Figure 2.38b. It can easily be veried that this membrane state satises
the nonlinear governing equations of the prebuckling path, Eq. (2.98), identically
(whereby p D pe ) and reduces the linearized stability equations, Eqs. 2.100, to
the following set of constant coefcient equations;
Dr4 wO C

Figure 2.38

Nxy0 D 0;

f,xx C pN e
wO ,yy C
wO ,xx D 0

Cylinder subjected to uniform external lateral pressure



The Concepts of Elastic Stability

wO ,xx D 0.
The boundary conditions and the separable solutions are the same as for the
preceding example. The use of Eqs. (2.104) leads to a standard eigenvalue problem
with eigenvalues

1 2m C n2 2

2m C n2 2
r4 f

A single parameter eigenvalue can be obtained introducing the relation

D RO pN e


where RO is a nondimensional constant. Notice that if RO D 0 the pressure acts only

on the lateral surface, whereas if RO D 1/2 then the pressure contributes also to axial
compression through the end plates, forming the so-called hydrostatic pressure case.
With the help of this expression the eigenvalues can be written as

2m C n2 2
pN c,mn D
C 2
O 2m C n2 
m C n2 2
The eigenfunctions are the same as for the preceding example (see Eqs. (2.106)).
Considering Eq. (2.121), a distinct eigenvalue corresponds to each pair of values
m and n and it is seen that the smallest eigenvalue corresponds in every case to
m D 1. For particular values of L/R and R/h, the n corresponding to the smallest
eigenvalue may be determined by trial-and-error.
Numerical results based on Eq. (2.121) are shown in Figure 2.39. From these
curves, calculated for different R/h ratios, it is seen that for shorter tubes the
critical external pressure pc increases rapidly as the ratio L/R decreases. On the
other hand for long tubes, for L/R > 50 say, the critical external pressure does not
depend on the length. Its value can also be deduced from Eq. (2.64), the critical
pressure for a ring subjected to external uid pressure, as follows. Recalling that
the compressive force per unit length Ny acting on the elemental ring of unit width
is equal to pc R, then from Eq. (2.64)
Nyc D pc R D 3



If one now replaces E by E/1  2  and sets I D h3 /12, then Eq. (2.122) yields
pc D
41    R
the critical buckling pressure for long tubes subjected to uniform external pressure.
It also becomes apparent from the results displayed in Figure 2.39 that for n D 4
or less there is a noticeable difference between the predictions of Eq. (2.121), which
is based on Donnells theory, and the results of the Love theory of [2.1] (Eq. (d) on
p. 496). For n D 2, as well known, the Donnell values are about 33 percent too high.

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Figure 2.39 Buckling diagram for uniform external lateral pressure

As described in the historical review of shell buckling in Chapter 9, Volume 2

the rst investigations of the stability of externally pressurized tubes were made
by Southwell [9.26] and [9.29], Volume 2) and von Mises [9.27] and [9.31],
Volume 2). For results dealing with orthotropic and anisotropic shells the reader
may consult [2.42], [2.43] and [2.44].
c. Combined Torsion and Axial Compression

Assuming, for simplicity, that the shell is sufciently long, then the prebuckling
solution under the simultaneous action of axial compression and torsion can be
approximated by the following membrane state;
Nx0 D 


Ny0 D 0;

Nxy0 D



where Mt is the applied torsional moment.

w0 D constant 2.124


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Direct substitution shows that this membrane state satises the nonlinear
governing equations of the prebuckling path, Eqs. (2.98) identically and that the
linearized stability equations, Eqs. (2.100), are reduced to the following set of
constant coefcient equations;
Dr4 wO C

f,xx  2N
wO ,xy C
wO ,xx D 0
O  Eh wO ,xx D 0.
r4 f


Notice that these equations differ markedly from the previously derived stability
equations (see Eqs. (2.103) and (2.118)) in that in the out-of-plane equilibrium
equation one encounters both odd and even derivatives of wO with respect to the
same independent variable. This indicates that one can no longer satisfy the stability
equations by using separable solutions in the form of simple products of sines and
cosines. Physically this means that there are no generators which remain straight
during buckling and which form a system of straight nodal lines for a buckled
Under torsional loading the buckling deformation of a cylindrical shell consists
of a number of circumferential waves that spiral around the cylinder from one end
to the other. If one now assumes that the buckling mode is represented by


wO D h
Cmn sin m
sin n C h
Dmn sin m
cos n
an expression that satises simply supported boundary conditions wO D wO ,xx D 0 at
x D 0, L, then an approximate solution of the linearized stability equations can be
obtained as follows.
First, the compatibility equation (2.125b) is solved exactly for the stress function
O in terms of the assumed radial displacement w.
O Since it is assumed that the shell
is sufciently long so that the effect of bending of the shell wall close to the
ends can be neglected, only a particular solution of equation (2.125b) needs to be
considered. Secondly, the equation of equilibrium (2.125a) is solved approximately
O and wO and then applying Galerkins procedure. Carrying
by substituting therein f
out the steps yields for a given number of circumferential full waves n the following
homogeneous system of two simultaneous algebraic equations;
Mm Cmn C Nmj Djn D 0
m D 1, 2, 3, . . . , N
Nmj Cjn C Mm Dmn D 0

Mm D m Nc,mn


Physical Concepts

Nmj Djn

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


jm Djn ;
m 2  j2

Nmj Cjn



jm Cjn
m 2  j2


2m C n2
Nc,mn D

m n
2 n
n 2m C n2

jm D 1 if j m D odd integer
D 0 otherwise.
Using matrix notation Eqs. (2.127) can be put into the form of a standard eigenvalue problem
[[A]  N [B]]X D 0

which can be solved routinely on a digital computer. Since the structure buckles
at the lowest stress at which instability can occur, for a given shell N is minimized
with respect to the circumferential wave number n. This is done by truncating the
determinant of the coefcients of Eq. (2.129) and nding the lowest eigenvalue
by matrix iteration. The size of the determinant is increased until the eigenvalue
converges to the desired accuracy (say, ve signicant gures).
Results for R/h D 1000 and different L/R ratios are displayed in Figure 2.40.
As can be seen, for shorter shells the critical normalized torque parameter Nc
increases rapidly as the ratio L/R decreases. Notice also, that by taking the radius
of the cylinder larger and larger, while keeping its length constant, the lower bound
festoon curve for Nc approaches the critical shear load of an innitely long strip
with simply supported edges obtained by Southwell and Skan [2.45]

c D 5.35

2 D
L2 h


where again D D Eh3 /121  2 .

Limiting results for large values of L/R, when the shell will buckle with two full
waves in the circumferential direction, have been derived, for example, in [2.2]
using Donnells theory yielding
c D 0.272
and in [2.1] using a Love type theory yielding
c D 0.236
1  2 3/4



Once again, as noted earlier, for n D 2 Donnells equations are inaccurate.

Also shown in Figure 2.40 are solutions based on the following buckling mode

wO D hCmn sin m  n


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.40 Buckling diagrams for cylinders subjected to torsion

where Cmn is a constant and m, n are integers. Equation (2.133) satises the
requirement of periodicity in the circumferential coordinate, but does not satisfy
any of the commonly used boundary conditions at the cylinder ends. Consequently,
this simple expression may only be used for sufciently long cylinders, whose end
conditions have little inuence on the magnitude of the critical load.
Using the Donnell type theory and proceeding as outlined earlier one obtains a
particularly simple solution of the linearized stability equations (2.125) with the
following expression for the eigenvalues

1 2m C n2 2

Nc,mn D
m n
n m C n 
2 n
where Nc,mn D xy /c . Notice that the eigenvalues Nc,mn depend not only on the
geometric parameters and the specied axial load D /c , but also on the axial
and circumferential wave numbers m and n.
Timoshenko used expressions similar to the one given by Eq. (2.133) to solve
Love type stability equations in [2.1]. His solution curve agrees well for n 4 full
waves in the circumferential direction with the one based on Donnells stability
equations. However, for large values of L/R when the shells buckle with two full

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


waves in the circumferential direction, one can observe the well known fact that
Donnells equations yield about 10 per cent higher values than solutions based on
the more accurate Love type theory.
The rst investigation of buckling of cylindrical shells under torsion is due
to E. Schwerin [2.46]. Buckling under torsion is further discussed in Chapter 9,
Volume 2. For a complete review of the torsion problem the interested reader may
consult Yamakis book [2.47].
d. Combined Bending and Axial Compression

If a cylindrical shell is relatively short and the shell edges are held circular, then
the circumferential attening of the cylinder cross section caused by the bending
moment can be neglected. In this case the prebuckling state under an external load
consisting of combined bending and axial compression can be approximated quite
accurately by the following membrane state;
Nx0 D 

RO a C RO b cos

Ny0 D Nxy0 D 0,

w0 D constant


RO a D


RO b D

Nc D



N0 D


Nb D


31  2 .

Notice that this membrane state does not satisfy rigorously the nonlinear
equations governing the prebuckling state, Eqs. 2.98. However, because of its
simplicity it has been widely used in the literature (see [2.40], [2.48] and [2.49]) to
obtain approximate solutions. The linearized stability equations (2.100) then reduce
to the following set of variable coefcient equations
wO ,xx D 0
Dr4 wO C f
O  Eh wO ,xx D 0.
r4 f
If one now assumes that the buckling mode is represented by

wO D h sin m
Cmn cos n
L nD1


an expression that satises simply supported boundary conditions wO D wO ,xx D 0 at

x D 0, L, then an approximate solution of the linearized stability equations can be
obtained as follows.
First the compatibility equation (2.136b) is solved exactly for the stress function
f in terms of the assumed radial displacement w.
O Here it is assumed that the


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

effect of bending of the shell wall close to the ends can be neglected. Thus only
a particular solution of equation (2.136b) needs to be considered. Secondly, the
equation of equilibrium (2.136a) is solved approximately by substituting therein
O and wO and then applying Galerkins procedure. Carrying out the steps yields
for a given number of axial half waves m the following homogeneous system of
algebraic equations;
 c,mn  RO a Cmn  21 RO b [1 C 1n  0N Cm,n1 C 1  0n Cm,nC1 ]
n D 1, 2, 3, . . . , N

2m D m2


Rh   2

2m C n2


C  2 m 2
m C n

2 Rh
n D n
2c R



31  2 

and 1n , on , oN are Kronecker deltas.

Using matrix notation Eq. (2.138) can be put into the following form;

c,m0  RO a

 12 RO b
c,m1  RO a
 1 RO b

 21 RO b

c,m2  RO a

 21 RO b
 21 RO b

c,mN1  RO a
 21 RO b





 21 RO b . . .
c,mN  RO a

This tridiagonal matrix eigenvalue problem can be solved very conveniently by a
recursive Gaussian elimination scheme originally derived by Potter [2.50] and used
later extensively by the Harvard group under Budiansky [2.51]. Either the normalized axial load parameter RO a D  or the normalized bending moment parameter
RO b can be chosen as the eigenvalue, whereby in each case the other load parameter has a specied xed value. Since the shell buckles at the lowest stress at
which instability can occur, the eigenvalue chosen is minimized with respect to
the axial half-wave number m. This is done by truncating the size of the matrix
in Eq. (2.140) for a given value of m and nding the lowest eigenvalue by matrix
iteration. The size of the determinant is increased until the eigenvalue converges
to the desired accuracy (say, ve signicant gures).
Numerical results for R/h D 100 and different L/R ratios are displayed in
Figure 2.41 for pure bending (RO a D 0). Notice that for shorter shells the normalized
bending stress ratio RO b increases rapidly as the ratio L/R decreases. Further,
whereas for shorter shells (L/R < 0.5, say) for certain L/R ratios RO b may vary
noticeably, for longer shells (L/R > 1.0, say) the critical normalized bending stress
ratio RO b can be set equal to the lower bound of the festoon curves of about 1.014.

Physical Concepts

Figure 2.41

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Variation of buckling stress ratio with cylinder length R/h D 100

Thus for pure bending the maximum critical bending stress is only slightly higher
than the critical stress for axial compression only.
Here it must be mentioned that the statement made in [2.1] on p. 483 about the
maximum critical stress for bending alone is 1.3 times the critical stress for pure
compression does not hold in general. It is only true for the particular set of geometric
and material properties used by Flugge [2.48] for his habilitation paper.
Finally to check whether it is safe to neglect the effect of ovalization of the
circular cross-section caused by the applied bending moment one can use the
results of [2.52] here reproduced in part in Figure 2.42. The authors of this paper

Figure 2.42

Comparison of collapse moments of cylinders under pure bending with classical

results (from [2.52])


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

used the two-dimensional nite difference code STAGS [2.53] to calculate the
collapse bending moment while taking the effects of boundary conditions and
geometric nonlinearities in the prebuckling state into account. As can be seen from
Figure (2.42) for shells of moderate length (L/R < 3, say) the results obtained with
Eq. (2.140) are quite accurate.


Buckling of Shells of Revolution

Besides circular cylindrical shells many structural applications of thin-walled shells

consist of general shells of revolution, the middle surface of which is obtained by
rotating a plane curve about an axis in the plane of the curve (see Figures 2.43
and 2.44). The lines of principal curvature on a shell of revolution are called the
parallels and the meridians. The parallels are formed by the intersection of planes
normal to the axis of revolution with the shell surface, whereas the meridians are
the intersections with the shell surface of planes that contain the axis of revolution.
Points on the middle surface are referred to coordinates  and , where  denotes
the angle between the axis of revolution and a normal to the surface, whereas
is the circumferential coordinate. The principal radii of curvature of the surface in
the - and direction are R and R , respectively. It is convenient to introduce an
additional variable r dened as
r D R sin .

Figure 2.43

Shell of revolution notation and sign convention

Figure 2.44 Meridian of a shell of revolution


Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Then, as can be seen from Figure 2.43

ds D R d;

ds D r d .


Furthermore, from Figure 2.44

dr D ds cos 


Combining the last two equations one obtains the additional relationship
D R cos .


Notice that for a shell of revolution the geometric quantities are independent of
the circumferential coordinate .
In this section the relatively simple Donnell Mushtari Vlasov type quasishallow equations will be used, which are based on the following middle-surface
kinematic relations
 D  C 2
D C 2
 D  C 

 D , C


1 r 1

C , .
2 R r

For quasi-shallow shells the terms containing u and v are omitted from the rotation
expressions, thus



D  w,

u, C w

v, C u cos  C w sin 
r v
C u, .
R r , r



Employing the stationary potential energy criterion, the following set of nonlinear
equations are derived in [2.2] for isotropic shells of revolution;
rN , C R N ,  R cos N D rR p


rN , C R N , C R cos N D rR p



The Concepts of Elastic Stability

rM ,
C R M , C cos M , C M C M  ,

C 2 R

 [rN  C rN , C R N C R N  , ] D rR p. 2.148c

The variables R , R and r characterize the shape of the middle surface of the
undeformed shell, and are functions of  alone. Three equations in the three variables u, v, w, which denote middle surface displacement components in the ,
and normal directions, respectively, can be derived by introducing the isotropic
constitutive equations
N D C C  

M D D C  

N D C C  

M D  C  


M C M 

D D1  
and the kinematic relations from Eq. (2.145) into Eq. (2.148).
The linearized stability equations for the determination of the critical load at the
bifurcation point may be obtained from the nonlinear equilibrium Eqs. (2.148) by
application of the adjacent equilibrium criterion. To investigate the existence of
adjacent equilibrium congurations one assumes that

u D u0 C uO ,

v D v0 C vO ,

w D w0 C wO


where (u0 , v0 , w0 ) represents the equilibrium whose stability is under investigation,

(u, v, w) is an adjacent equilibrium conguration at the same value of applied load
as the conguration (u0 , v0 , w0 ) and (Ou, vO w)
O is an arbitrarily small incremental
displacement. Direct substitution of these expressions into Eqs. (2.148) and deletion
of squares and products of the perturbation quantities, yields a set of nonlinear
governing equations for the prebuckling quantities (u0 , v0 , w0 ) which are identical
in form to Eqs. (2.148), and a set of linearized stability equations governing the
perturbation quantities (Ou, vO w).
If the applied load is axisymmetric, then the deformation prior to the loss of
stability is also axisymmetric. If, further, one assumes that the prebuckling rotations
are zero then the axisymmetric equations governing the prebuckling state become

rM0 ,

rN0 ,  R cos N 0 D rR p


rN 0 , C R cos N 0 D rR p


 cos M 0 ,  rN0 C R sin N 0  D rR p (2.151c)


and the linearized stability equations are

O  , C R N
O  ,  R cos N
O D 0
r N


O , C R cos N
O  D 0
O  , C R N
r N


Physical Concepts

O  ,
r M


Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


O , C M
O  C M
O  ,
O ,  cos M

O  C R sin N
O   fN0 r O  , C N 0 r O ,
O  ,  r N
cos M
C N 0 R O , C N 0 R O , g D 0

O  D CO C O 

O  D DO  C O 


O D DO C O  

O  D C


O  C M
D D1  O


O  D

uO , C w

O D Ov, C uO cos  C wO sin 
r vO
C uO ,
O  D
R r , r

O D  wO ,


O D  wO ,

O  D

1 O


cos  O

O D O , C

1 r 1O

O  D
C , .
2 R r
In the following these stability equations will be used to solve buckling problems
of common structural congurations other than cylindrical shells which can be
represented by symmetrically loaded shells of revolution.
a. Externally Pressurized Shallow Spherical Caps

A shallow section S0 of a complete spherical shell is imagined to be isolated as

shown in Figure 2.45. To satisfy the shallowness criterion the rise H of the shell
must be much smaller that the base radius a. The position of a point on the middlesurface is described by polar coordinates r, . Notice that R D R, a constant and
sin  D r/R. Furthermore, approximately, cos  D 1 and dr D R d. Thus
 , D  ,r .



The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.45

Shallow spherical cap notation and sign convention

Using these approximations the axisymmetric equations governing the prebuckling

state (Eqs. 2.152) become with p D p D 0 and p D pe
rNr0 ,r  N 0 D 0


rNr 0 ,r C Nr 0 D 0
rMr0 ,rr  M 0,r  Nr0 C N 0  D pe
and the linearized stability equations reduce to
O r ,  N
O D 0
O r ,r C N
r N


O r ,r C N
O , C N
O r D 0
r N


O r ,rr C M
O ,  M
O r ,  N
O ,r C M
O r C M
O r ,r C M
r M
 frNr0 O r ,r C rNr 0 O ,r C Nr 0 O r, C N 0 O , g D 0.
Assuming that prior to buckling the perfect spherical shell is in a uniform membrane
state of stress then
Nr0 D N 0 D  12 pe R, Nr 0 D 0
with an associated uniform inward radial displacement of
w0 D pe

1   R2
2 Eh


Notice that this uniform membrane state of stress satises the axisymmetric
equations governing the prebuckling state identically and that this prebuckling
state is rotation free. Substitution into the linearized stability equations yields
O r ,r C N
O r ,  N
O D 0
r N


O , C N
O r D 0
O r ,r C N
r N


Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


O r ,rr C M
O ,r C M
O r C M
O r ,r C M
O ,  M
O r ,
r M
O  C pN e Rfr O r ,r C O , g D 0.
Introduction of the appropriate incremental constitutive and kinematic relations for
the stress and moment resultants leads after some regrouping to a coupled set of
three homogeneous equations in uO , vO , w.
O As has been shown, for instance in [2.2],
a simpler set of two equations in two unknowns can be derived as follows. If one
O such that
denes an Airy stress function f
1 O
1 O
O ,rr ; N
O D f
O r D  f
Nr D f
,r C 2 f, :
,r C 2 f,
then the in-plane equilibrium equations (Eqs. (2.161a) and (2.161b)) are identically
satised and, with the help of the appropriate constitutive and kinematic relations
O and M
O r the out-of-plane equilibrium equation (Eq. 2.161c) can be
O r, M
for M
reduced to
1 O
C pe Rr2 wO D 0
DrwO C r2 f
r2   D  ,rr C  ,r C 2  ,
r4   D r2 r2  .


O and wO is the compatibility equation that as has

A second equation in terms of f
been shown in [2.2] can be written as
1 4O
r f  r2 wO D 0.
The homogeneous Eqs. (2.163) and (2.166) have nontrivial solutions only for
discrete values of the external pressure pe . The smallest such value is the critical
pressure pe .
A particularly simple solution was presented by Hutchinson in [2.54]. Using the
coordinate transformation
x D r cos ,

y D r sin


the Laplacian operator reduces to the cartesian form. That is

r2   D  ,rr C  ,r C 2  , D  ,xx C  ,yy
Applying this transformation it is seen that Eqs. (2.163) and (2.166) admit separable
solutions of the form
wO D A cos x cos y
O D B cos x x cos y y


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

leading to a standard eigenvalue problem with the eigenvalues

pN D

D 2x C 2y  C 2
x C 2y 



2c R



2c R


c D



31  2 

and x , y are integers.

Notice that a close estimate of the smallest eigenvalue may be obtained
directly by analytical minimization of pN with respect to the quantity D 2x C 2y
Eq. (2.170). Differentiation leads to the result that pN is a minimum for
D 2x C y2 D 1.


Thus all mode shapes which satisfy Eq. (2.171) have the same (lowest) eigenvalue
of pN D 2. Thus the critical pressure for externally pressurized (shallow) caps is
pc D 2 c D 
31  2  R
This is the same result that was obtained for a complete spherical shell using
Legendre functions pn cos  by Flugge ([2.55], p. 477) and by Timoshenko and
Gere ([2.1], p. 517).
It is interesting, that if one calculates the corresponding critical stress from
Eq. (2.159) then


Nr0 D N 0 D c h D 
31  2  R
c D  

31  2  R

the same magnitude as the critical stress for an axially compressed cylindrical shell
of radius R and wall-thickness h (see Eq. (2.111)). Finally, it must be remembered
that the assumed functions in Eq. (2.169) of the separable solution do not satisfy
the boundary conditions at the edges of the spherical cap. Thus the validity of
the present simplied analysis is limited to cases where the wavelengths of the
buckling pattern are small compared to the radius of the shell or what is the
same if the wave numbers x and y are both large compared to unity.
b. Toroidal Shell Segments under External Pressure p D pe 

As mentioned earlier the middle surface of a shell of revolution may be formed

by rotation of a plane curve about an axis in the plane of the curve. If the plane

Physical Concepts

Figure 2.46

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Toroidal shell segments notation and sign convention

curve is a circular arc of radius R D b then the surface formed is a segment of a

torus. As can be seen from Figure 2.46 for the middle surface of the segment of a
toroidal shell
R D b, R D a and r D a  b1  sin .
Further, for a sufciently shallow L/R 1 segment in the region of the equator
of the torus, the angle  is approximately equal to /2. Then cos  D 0, sin  D 1
and r D a. The governing equations can further be simplied if one introduces
x and y as axial and circumferential coordinates, as indicated in Figure 2.46.
Notice that
dx D Rx d D b d and dy D Ry d D a d .
The equations governing the membrane prebuckling state (Eqs. (2.151)) become
Nx0,x D 0


Nxy0,x D 0


Nx0 Ny0


and the linearized stability equations reduce to

O xy,y D 0
O x,x C N
O xy,x C N
O y,y D 0

O x,xx C M
O xy C M
O yx ,xy C M
O y,y 
 [Nx0 O x C Nxy0 O y ,x C Ny0 O y C Nxy0 O x ,y ] D 0



O x D COx C Oy 

O x D DO x C O y 

O y D COy C Ox 

O y D DO x C O y 

O xy D C

O xy

O xy C M
O yx
D D1  Oxy



The Concepts of Elastic Stability

O x D uO ,x

O x D wO ,x

O x D O x,x

O y D vO ,y

O y D wO ,y

O y D O y,y


O xy D 21 O x,y C O y,x .

O xy D uO ,y C vO ,x

Stability analysis of both bowed-out and bowed-in shallow toroidal shell segments
under three different loading conditions have been presented by Stein and McElman
in [2.56] and Hutchinson in [2.57].
O such that
Introducing an Airy stress function f
O ,yy ,
Ox Df

O ,xx ,
Oy D f

O ,xy
O xy D f


then the in-plane linearized stability equations (Eqs. (2.176a) and (2.176b)) are
identically satised and the out-of-plane stability equation (Eq. (2.176c)) can be
written as
Dr4 wO C f
O ,xx C 2Nxy0 wO ,xy C Ny0 wO ,yy  D 0.
,yy D f,xx  Nx0 w


O is provided by the appropriate compatibility

A second equation involving wO and f
condition, which can be derived by eliminating the in-plane displacements uO , vO in
the strain displacement relations of Eqs. (2.178). This yields
1 4O
r f  wO ,yy  wO ,xx D 0.


Assuming that the prebuckling state is torsion free, that is Nxy0 D 0, and using the
simply supported conditions
O Df
O ,xx D 0
wO D wO ,xx D f

at x D 0, L


then together with Eqs. (2.180) and (2.181) one has a linear eigenvalue problem
for determining the critical buckling load. Using the eigenfunction
wO D h sin m sin n
O D  Eh m C n a/b sin m x sin n y
2c 2m C n2 2

separation of variables yields the following characteristic equation

2m C n2 a/b2 Eh2
2 2
m C n  C
C Nx0 2m C Ny0 n2  D 0
2m C n2 2
2m D m2

ah   2
2c L

n2 D n2




31  2 .



Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Assuming now that the perfect shallow toroidal segment is loaded by uniform
external lateral pressure only, then the corresponding membrane stress state
Nx0 D 0,

Ny0 D pe a,

Nxy0 D 0


satises the equations governing the prebuckling state (Eqs. (2.175)) identically
and from the characteristic Eq. (2.184) one obtains the following expression for
the eigenvalue;



pN c,mn D 2 2m C n2 2 C m 2 n 2 2
m C n 
where pN c,mn D pe /Eh2 /ca2 . The critical buckling pressure pN c corresponds to the
minimum value of pN c,mn among all possible integer values of m and n. It is easily
shown that for the two loading conditions considered in this section the minimum
value of pN c,mn always occurs for m D 1 if n is treated as a continuous variable.
This is valid if n is sufciently large, which must be checked a posteriori. Notice
that the restriction to n > 4, say, is necessary in any case since Donnell type
equations are used.
Considering the predicted critical buckling pressures plotted in Figure 2.47, one
must notice the signicant difference between the predicted buckling strengths
of the bowed-out Ry /Rx > 0 and Ry /Rx > 0 the bowed-in shells which have
otherwise essentially the same dimensions.
Considering now the hydrostatic pressure case there is a prebuckling axial
compressive stress in addition to the circumferential stress. Notice that the

Figure 2.47

Buckling diagrams for toroidal shell segments under external lateral pressure


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

membrane stress state

Nx0 D  21 pe a,

Ny0 D  12 pe a2  a/b,

Nxy0 D 0


satises the equations governing the prebuckling state (Eqs. (2.175)) identically
and that the characteristic Eq. (2.184) yields now the following expression for the



C n2 2 C m 2 n 2 2
pN c,mn D 2
m C 2  a/bn2
m C n 
where pN c,mn D pe /Eh2 /ca2 . Once again the critical buckling pressure pN c corresponds to the minimum value of pN c,mn for m D 1 and treating n as a continuous
variable. From the plots of the predicted critical buckling pressures shown in
Figure 2.48 one must conclude that the trends are similar to those of the lateral pressure case, that is, there is signicant discrepancy between the buckling pressures
of the bowed-out Ry /Rx > 0 and the bowed-in Ry /Rx < 0 shells.
Notice that when Ry /Rx D 1 the shell is locally spherical at each point on its
surface and the prebuckling stresses are exactly those corresponding to a complete
spherical shell of similar radius and thickness, namely Nx0 D Ny0 D  21 pe a. As
can be seen from Figure 2.48 the critical buckling pressure of the Ry /Rx D 1.0
case for Z 3 is also that for a complete spherical shell
pc D 2.0

31  2 



Figure 2.48 Buckling diagrams for toroidal shell segments under hydrostatic pressure

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


c. Toroidal Segments under Axial Tension

The prebuckling state of stress of a perfect toroidal shell segment carrying a

uniformly distributed tensile axial force N0 at its edges is
Nx0 D N0 ,

Ny0 D N0 a/b,

Nxy0 D 0


as can easily be derived from the equations governing the prebuckling state
(Eqs. (2.175)). Notice that buckling is due to the compressive circumferential stress
Ny0 , which will be induced only if Ry /Rx > 0. In other words, buckling under a
tensile force occurs only for the bowed-out shells. The characteristic Eq. (2.184)
yields in this case the following expression for the eigenvalue

2m C n2 a/b2
2 2
m C n  C
c,mn D
2n2 a/b  2m 
2m C n2 2
where c,mn
D N0 /Eh2 /ca. The critical normalized axial tensile force T
c correT
sponds to the minimum value of c,mn for m D 1 and treating n as a continuous
variable. Results of such buckling load calculations are shown in Figure 2.49,
whereas a typical buckling mode is displayed in Figure 2.50. In all cases the
buckled shape is similar to that of a cylinder which buckled under radial pressure,
with one half-wave in the axial direction and many small waves in the circumferential direction.

Figure 2.49 Buckling diagrams for bowed-out toroidal shell segments under axial tension


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.50

Typical buckling mode of a bowed-out toroidal shell

segment under axial tension

d. Domed (torispherical) End-Closures under Internal Pressure

This problem is of special interest to designers of pressure vessels, many of which

have torispherical domes as end-closures. As in the case of shallow toroidal shell
segments under axial tension buckling is caused by the occurrence of compressive
circumferential stresses, which are induced by the internal pressure over parts of
the end-closure (see also Figure 2.51).
The possibility of nonaxisymmetric buckling of internally pressurized torispherical end-closures was rst predicted by Galletly in [2.58]. Applying the membrane
equations of an axisymmetric shell of revolution with no torque acting to the torispherical end-closure shown in Figure 2.52 (a torispherical shell is a toroidal shell
jointed to a spherical cap) one gets
rN   R N cos  D 0


D p.


Solving the second equation for N and substituting it into the rst equation, one
obtains after multiplying the resulting equation by sin  and some regrouping
r sin N  D R R p sin  cos 
an expression that can be integrated directly yielding
R R p sin  cos  d
r sin  0



Ways to evaluate the constant of integration involved are discussed in great detail
by Flugge in [2.55] (see pp. 23 48). Recalling that and that r D R sin  and that
dr D R cos  d (see Eqs. (2.142) and (2.143)) then
r dr
R sin2  0
an integral that can be evaluated independently of the shape of the meridian yielding
N D 12 pR .


Physical Concepts

Figure 2.51

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Simple rig to demonstrate buckling due to internal pressure (courtesy of Prof.

G.D. Galletly)

Figure 2.52 Torispherical end-closure notation and sign convention


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

The hoop stress resultant N can then be found from Eq.(2.193b) yielding

N D pR 2 
Considering the torispherical end-closure depicted in Figure 2.52 both radii of
curvature are positive, therefore for internal pressure p > 0 the meridional stress
resultant N will always be positive (tensile). Notice that the hoop resultant N
can be positive or negative, depending on the ratio R /R . From Eq. (2.198) it is
evident that if
then N will be negative (compressive). The existence of compressive hoop stresses
due to internal pressure indicates that buckling with an asymmetric buckling mode
may occur.
To calculate the critical buckling pressure one must solve the linearized stability
Eqs. (2.153), whereby with no external torque applied N 0 D 0. The other two
prebuckling stress resultants N0 and N 0 are given by Eqs. (2.197) and (2.198),
respectively. Furthermore, as can be seen from Figure 2.52, the prebuckling stress
resultants N0 and N 0 are not constant but vary with  . As a matter of fact, the
presence of a stress-discontinuity in N 0 at the point B indicates that for a rigorous
solution one must use the bending theory to patch up the membrane solutions
for the torus and the spherical cap. Since, however, the bending solutions have a
boundary layer type behavior one may use, as a rst approximation, the membrane
To solve the resulting variable coefcient linearized stability equations for the
rather complex meridional geometry of the torispherical shells one must rely on
numerical methods. Galletly and his coworkers have performed extensive experimental and numerical studies using the BOSOR-4 and BOSOR-5 shell of revolution
codes (see [2.59] [2.63]) to provide buckling and collapse data for the design of
internally pressurized dished ends.


Inuence of Nonlinear Effects

In the preceding chapters the linearized stability equations are used to obtain the
buckling loads of the structures considered. Although buckling is a nonlinear
phenomena for many applications the use of the linearized stability equations,
which are amenable to analytical treatment, yields results that are suitable for design
purposes. As has been pointed out in [2.2], there are three situations, however, in
which a nonlinear analysis is needed.
1. In the applications considered up to now, it is assumed that the prebuckling
deformation is rotation free and the primary equilibrium paths are governed
by membrane stress states. If, however, one wants to satisfy the boundary
conditions from the outset, then the prebuckling deformation of cylindrical and

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


general shells contains rotation from the beginning of the loading process. In
these cases the linearized stability equations have variable coefcients which
must be solved for from the nonlinear equilibrium equations governing the
prebuckling state.
2. Up to now the determination of the buckling load consisted of solving
the linearized stability equations for the critical load, at which the primary
equilibrium path in the load-displacement plane is intersected by a secondary
equilibrium path. It has been shown in advanced texts on stability (see, for
instance, [2.6] and [2.36]) that equilibrium on the primary path becomes
unstable at such point and that structural behavior beyond the bifurcation point
is governed by conditions on the secondary path. There are cases where the
behavior of the structure can only be explained if the shape of the secondary
path is known. Such a knowledge is needed to explain why a at plate develops
considerable postbuckling strength, for example, but a cylindrical shell under
axial compression buckles abruptly and even explosively.
In the following chapter Koiters linearized theory for initial postbuckling
behavior is presented. In Koiters work the shape of the secondary equilibrium
path near bifurcation (see Figure 2.34) plays a central role in determining
the inuence of initial geometric imperfections. If the initial portion of the
secondary path has a positive slope (like for plates), then the structure can
develop considerable postbuckling strength and loss of stability of the primary
path does not result in structural collapse. However, when the initial portion
of the secondary path has a negative slope (like for cylindrical shells) then
in most cases buckling will occur violently and the magnitude of the critical
load is subject to the degrading inuence of initial geometric imperfections.
Unfortunately, the information given by Koiters theory is limited to the immediate neighborhood of the bifurcation point. Thus a nonlinear solution must be
carried out if the shape of the secondary equilibrium path in the more advanced
postbuckling region is needed.
3. Finally, in the most general case, when both geometric and/or material nonlinearities are included in the analysis, loss of stability occurs at a limit point
rather than at a bifurcation point. In such cases the critical load must be
determined through solution of the nonlinear equations of equilibrium.
In the following, examples illustrating the effects of nonlinear behavior are
a. Axially Compressed Cylindrical Shells

To solve for the axisymmetric prebuckling deformation shown in Figure 2.35a, one
must specialize the nonlinear equilibrium Eqs. (2.98) for axial symmetry. Assuming
w D hW C hw0 x

 y 2 C R2 f0 x



The Concepts of Elastic Stability

W D  /c is the uniform increase in radius due to the Poissons effect and
c D 31  2 , then substitution into Eqs. (2.98a) and (2.98b) yields for axial
compression only p D 0

where  0 D R

w0iv C 4cR2 /h2 f000 C 4cR/h w000 D 0


fi0v  cw000 D 0


 . Equation (2.200b) can be integrated twice yielding
Q 1x C C
f000 D cw0 C C


Q 2 D 0 because of the circumferential periodicity condition (see, for

Q1 D C
where C
example, [2.64]). Substituting this expression into Eq. (2.200a) one gets
w0iv C 4cR/h w000 C 4c2 R2 /h2 w0 D 0


where it is assumed that the axial coordinate x is zero at the midpoint of the shell.
If at both edges identical boundary conditions are specied then the prebuckling
displacement must be symmetric about x D 0 and therefore only even functions
are included in the solution of Eq. (2.302) and the boundary conditions need only
to be enforced at x D L/2. Consequently the solution is
w0 x D C1 sinh x sin x C C2 cosh x cos x

D 1


D 1C



For simply supported boundary conditions (w0 D W , w000 D 0 at x D L/2) the
constants of integration become
C1 D ; C2 D

a1 D W 2c/Rh cosh cos C 1  sinh sin

1  cosh cos  sinh sin
a2 D W 2c/Rh

D 1  2 2c/Rh cosh2  sin2
This solution was rst obtained by Foppl in 1926 [2.65]. As can be seen in
Figure 2.53 the disturbance due to the restraint at the cylinder edge spreads over
a large part of the cylinder as the axial load increases. When D 1, the displacement pattern becomes purely sinusoidal ( D 0) and the lateral displacements grow
without bound.
Notice that thus the axisymmetric collapse load is identical with the critical
buckling load obtained from a bifurcation analysis with membrane prebuckling

Physical Concepts

Figure 2.53

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Prebuckling deformation due to end-constraint

(Eq. 2.110). However, the use of the rigorous prebuckling solution (Eq. 2.203)
may result in a lower eigenvalue. That is bifurcation buckling into asymmetric
modes may occur before the axisymmetric collapse load is reached. The possible
asymmetric buckling modes consists of deformation patterns in which the
lateral displacement varies harmonically in the circumferential direction. Thus if


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

one assumes
O D hWx
cos n



O D ERh Fx
cos n

then upon substitution into the linearized stability equations separation with respect
to the circumferential space variable y is possible. The condition of continuity in
the circumferential direction will be satised if n, the number of circumferential
waves, is an integer. Upon substitution of Eqs. (2.203) and (2.206) into Eqs. (2.100)
one obtains
O 00 C n4 W
O C 4c
O iv  2n2 W

R2 00
O C 4c  W
O 00 C n2 w000 F

O D0
C 4c2 n2 w0 W
O iv  2n2 F
O 00 C n4 F
O  cW
O 00  c n2 w000 W
O D0


where  0 D Rd/dx . These are linear differential equations with variable coefO DF
O D 0, solutions which
cients. For a given n besides the trivial solution W
satisfy specied boundary conditions exist for particular values of . The lowest
of these values represents the critical load of the cylinder.
All the known solutions of this variable coefcients eigenvalue problem were
obtained by numerical methods. Stein in [2.66] obtained solutions for simply
Ox D N
O xy D W
O 00 D 0 using an energy-based
supported boundary conditions N
nite difference approach. Independently Fischer in [2.67] presented similar soluO x D vO D W
O 00 D 0. Almroth
tions for slightly different boundary conditions N
in [2.68] published an extension of Stein and Fischers work using nite difference approximations to solve the stability Eqs. (2.207) for eight different sets
of boundary conditions. As can be seen from Table 2.1, which also includes
results from [2.69] where Hoff and Soong rigorously satised the same boundary
conditions for the linearized stability equations but used a membrane prebuckling
solution, the use of rigorous (nonlinear) prebuckling solution may in some cases
result in a signicant decrease of the critical buckling load. Notice, however, that
the very low critical buckling loads for the SS1 and SS2 cases are caused not by
the use of the rigorous (nonlinear) prebuckling analysis, but rather by the weak
O xy D 0 .
boundary support in the circumferential direction N
b. Bending of Cylinders

Ovalization of the Cross-Section

When the stability of circular cylindrical shells under combined bending and axial
compression is discussed in Sub-section 2.1.11, it is explicitly stated there that
the solution is only valid for relatively short shells were the shell edges are held
circular. It is well known that bending of long thin-walled shells induces ovalization

Physical Concepts

Table 2.1

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning

Inuence of prebuckling deformations and boundary conditions

on the axial buckling load (isotropic shell, R/h D 1000,
L/R D 1.0)

Boundary conditions



Nx D Nxy D w D w,xx D 0
u D Nxy D w D w,xx D 0
Nx D v D w D w,xx D 0
u D v D w D w,xx D 0
Nx D Nxy D w D w,x D 0
u D Nxy D w D w,x D 0
Nx D v D w D w,x D 0
u D v D w D w,x D 0

Prebuckling solutions used

(Ref. 2.69)
(Ref. 2.68)



of the cross-section, the so-called Brazier effect [2.70]. In such cases the prebuckling deformation is obviously not rotation free and thus a bifurcation analysis based
on membrane prebuckling is not a rigorous solution.
To take the effect of ovalization into account when discussing stability consider
a long cylindrical shell subjected to a bending moment which causes the curvature
shown in Figure 2.54. Notice that due to this curvature the longitudinal tensile and
compressive stresses will have components directed towards the midplane of the
curved shell. The effect of these components is to atten the cross-section of the
shell and this attening results in a decrease of the resistance to the applied bending
moment. Thus, as shown in Figure 2.55, a plot showing the applied bending
moment M versus curvature 0 must have a decreasing slope. This leads to a
maximum (a limit point) and collapse of the shell results.
To calculate the value of the maximum bending moment at the limit point Brazier
considered the shell deformation to occur in two steps. First a long shell is thought
of bent into a circle with large radius b forming a toroidal shell, whereby it is
assumed that the deformation that occurs during this process is described by St.
Venants theory of bending. Next the cross-section is allowed to assume additional
displacements vO , wO so directed that the applied forces do no work. Thus these
additional displacements can be calculated from the condition that the strain energy
on the deformed body must be a minimum.
Considering a cross-section of the toroidal shell with a moving coordinate system
as shown in Figure 2.54 (notice that here w is positive inward) and assuming that
the displacement of the centerline of the cylinder is equal to zero, then St. Venants
(linear) solution of the bending problem yields the following displacements
v0 D  21 0 a2 sin


w0 D 21 0 a2 cos .
For a thin-walled shell the work due to shell-wall bending in the axial direction
may be omitted in comparison with the membrane strain energy. Hence the total


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.54

Bent cylindrical shell element notation and sign convention

Figure 2.55 Equilibrium paths for bent cylindrical shell

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning

strain energy per unit length is



2x d




 2 d



x D 0 [a  w cos  v sin ]


v, C w, .


v D v0 C vO


Using the assumptions that

w D w0 C wO
and that the incremental eld is inextensional
O D0
D Ov,  w
one can express both x and  as a function of v only. If, in addition, one uses
Braziers assumption that vO , wO a then the total strain energy per unit length of
the toroid (Eq. (2.209)) becomes
Eah 2
02 [a2  2av, C 0 a2 cos ] cos2  av sin 2
2 0

v, C v, 
d .
121  2  a2
The variational equation U D 0 yields the following Euler equation
vvi C 2viv C v00 D N sin 2


where  0, and N D 18 02 a5 1  v2 /h2 . The general solution of this linear,
inhomogeneous ordinary differential equation can readily be found. The constants
of integration are evaluated by symmetry and continuity considerations in the
circumferential direction and by discarding of rigid body displacements. The nal
solution is
sin 2
cos 2 C 0 a2 cos .
Notice that the term containing  is very small. If contains St. Venants displacements (Eq. (2.208)) plus a rigid body motion which is immaterial. Substituting
these expressions into Eq. (2.214) and carrying out the integrals one obtains

3 2 a4
2 Ea h
U D 0
1  0 2 1   
4 h


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

By Castiglianos Second Theorem the bending moment acting at a section of the

toroid is

3 3 a4
D Ea h 0  0 2 1    .
2 h
The maximum value of M occurs when M/0 D 0, that is when
02 D c2 D

2 h2 1
9 a4 1   2

Thus at the limit point the maximum value of bending moment is

2 2 Eh2 a
Mc D
1  2



Substituting Eq. (2.219) into Eq. (2.216) one obtains

a sin 2


w D a cos 2 C p
cos .
1  2 2 a


The form of the cross-section at this point is shown in Figure 2.56.

In recent years, thanks to considerable research effort sponsored mainly by the
off-shore industry, much has been learned about the elastic-plastic response and
the various instabilities which govern the behavior of circular shells under bending.
Some of this is discussed in Chapters 9 and 16, Volume 2 and more information
can be found in recent papers by Kyriakides and his co-workers ([2.71] and [2.72]).
c. Plastic Buckling

Up to now in all cases discussed it is assumed that instability occurs before any of
the bers in the structure reaches the yield stress of the material. This assumption

Figure 2.56

Cross-sectional shape immediately before buckling (from [2.70])

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


is valid for sufciently slender structural elements, where at least one dimension is
relatively small in comparison with the others. For thicker components instability
may occur at load levels where at least in parts of the structure stresses do exceed
the proportional limit. In such cases the stability analysis must be based on the
nonlinear material behavior depicted in the stress-strain diagram of Figure 2.57.
One feature that causes a lot of difculties is the fact that the unloading of the
material follows a different path than the loading. Thus, as seen in Figure 2.57,
if the material is stressed to a value of 0 and a positive (loading) increment of
strain is imposed, the resulting increment in stress is
 D Et
where Et is the slope of the tangent to the stress-strain curve at the point under
consideration. For a negative (unloading) increment of strain the increment in
stress is
 D E
where E is Youngs modulus, the slope of the unloading curve (which is identical
to the slope of the linear elastic portion of the loading curve).
The inelastic buckling of columns under axial compression has been the subject
of extensive theoretical and experimental investigations for over a century. Thus
it can be used conveniently to illustrate the steps involved in the determination of
inelastic (or plastic) buckling loads.
One model of buckling is based on the assumption that the equilibrium of a
straight column becomes unstable when under the same axial load there are adjacent equilibrium positions innitesimally close to the straight equilibrium position.
Then as the column undergoes a small lateral displacement w, the stresses on the
concave side increase according to the constitutive law of the compressive stressstrain diagram (see Figure 2.57), whereas the stresses on the convex side decrease
according to Hookes law. If one assumes that after bending the cross-sections
remain plane and normal to the center line of the column, then one obtains the
stress distribution shown in Figure 2.58b. Notice that at every cross-section there
is a straight line, the axis of average stress, along which the stress 0 remains

Figure 2.57

Typical compressive stress-strain diagram


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.58

Inelastic buckling of a column notation and sign convention

After buckling, at any cross-section the moment of the stresses about the
centroidal axis of the cross-section must equal the moment of the applied load about
the same axis. Since the moment of the average stresses 0 about the centroidal
axis is zero, one can express this condition as (see [2.1], [2.7] and [2.73])

E  0 z dA C
Et   0 z dA D Pw


where A1 and A2 are the parts of the cross-sectional area on the two sides of the
axis of average stress, which are subjected to a decrease and an increase of the
average compressive stress 0 , respectively. It is easy to show (see, for instance,
[2.1], p. 164) that
d2 w
 0 D z 2 .
Thus upon substitution and regrouping Eq. (2.222) can be written as
Er I

d2 w
C Pw D 0
dx 2


Er D EI1 C Et I2 /I



z2 dA;

I1 D

z2 dA.

I2 D



The last two integrals are the moments of inertia of A1 and A2 with respect to
the axis of average stress. In order to evaluate I1 and I2 it is necessary to locate

Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


the axis of average stress. This can be done by recalling that at any cross-section
the resultant of the stress distribution must be equal to the applied load. Since, by
denition, the average stress 0 D P/A, therefore this condition implies that

E  0  dA C
Et   0  dA D 0.


By substituting   0  for from Eq. (2.223) and regrouping one obtains

z dA C Et
z dA D 0.


But these integrals are, respectively, the negative of the rst moment of A1 and
the rst moment of A2 with respect to the axis of average stress. Denoting these
quantities by S1 and S2 , respectively, Eq. (2.228) becomes
ES1 D Et S2 .


This expression can be used to locate the axis of average stress for a given average
stress 0 at which the tangent modulus is Et . Once this is done, the values of I1
and I2 can be computed from Eq. (2.226) and from Eq. (2.225) one can evaluate
the reduced modulus Er as a function of E and Et . Notice that Er is not only
a function of the average stress 0 (because of Et ) but also of the shape of the
cross-section. See [2.1] and [2.73] for sample calculations.
The solution of Eq. (2.224) gives the critical inelastic buckling load for a simply
supported column as
Pc D 2 Er 2 .
An expression that is similar to the Euler buckling load (compare with Eq. (2.3))
with the reduced modulus Er replacing the modulus of elasticity E.
The reduced modulus or double-modulus theory is often called the
Consid`ere Engesser von Karman theory after the scientists who around the turn
of the century had rst proposed and developed it (see [2.74] [2.76]).
A second possible model of buckling is based on the assumption that the bending
of an initially straight column will begin as soon as the tangent modulus load is
exceeded. Assuming further, that at least initially, the straight column will start
to deect laterally under increasing loading, Shanley in 1947 [2.11]) by way of a
simple model and careful experimentation claried the signicance of Engessers
tangent modulus load [2.75] and the role of the reduced modulus load of von
Karman. It is now accepted that the tangent modulus load
Pc D 2 Et



is the lowest possible bifurcation load at which the straight conguration loses its
uniqueness but not its stability.
Experimental determination of the inelastic buckling load shows that the
maximum column load will lie somewhere between the loads predicted by the


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

tangent modulus and the reduced modulus formulations. These two values can
thus be considered as the lower and the upper bounds of the critical inelastic
buckling load for axially compressed columns.
The uniaxial elastic-strain hardening plastic behavior of most structural materials
used in aerospace and off-shore applications is adequately described by the simple
three parameter strain-stress relationship proposed by Ramberg and Osgood [2.77];

where the parameters E, and n are material constants which must be obtained
by tests. Notice that for  D 0, Eq. (2.232) yields d/d D E. This slope is equal
to the modulus of elasticity at the origin and it can be obtained from the experimental curve in the usual manner. The remaining two parameters are determined
by requiring the empirical curve, given by Eq. (2.232), to coincide with the experimental curve at secant moduli of 0.7 E and 0.85 E. Notice that above the proportional limit the secant modulus is dened as the ratio stress divided by strain.
Recalling that when the stress is equal to 0.7 the strain is equal to 0.7 /E, and
when the stress is equal to 0.85 the strain is equal to 0.85 /E, then by substituting
in turn the coordinates of these points into Eq. (2.232) one obtains

E n1
7 0.7

ln0.7 /0.85 


respectively. Finally, one can calculate the tangent modulus Et from Eq. (2.232)
Et D
0.7 /0.85 
The three parameters of the Ramberg Osgood method E, 0.7 , n are tabulated
for a wide variety of materials in [78].
As a further possible mode of buckling let us consider the rigid-perfectly plastic
behavior of the column with rectangular cross-section b h (b > h) depicted in
Figure 2.59. Under axial load a plastic hinge forms at the central cross-section. The
assumed stress distribution shown in Figure 2.60 can be interpreted as follows, the
central portion of width h, carries the axial load P while the outer portions provide
the reduced plastic moment MIP . Thus
P D y bh1
M0p D y bh2  h12 
Eliminating h1 between these equations one obtains
M0p D Mp 1  P2 /Pp2 



Physical Concepts

Types of Observed Behavior and Their Meaning


Figure 2.59 Plastic mechanism of a simply supported column

Figure 2.60

Stress distribution at the plastic hinge

Mp D 41 y bh2

full plastic moment of the cross-section 2.239a

Pp D y bh

squash load of the cross-section.


From equilibrium considerations at the plastic hinge (see Figure 2.59)

M0p D Pwc .
Eliminating M0p between Eqs. (2.238) and (2.240) one obtains

2wc 2 2wc
P D Pp





This equation gives the load carrying capacity of an axially compressed column
once a plastic hinge has formed. It is plotted in Figure 2.61 together with the elastic


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.61

Collapse behavior of an axially compressed column

response curve of a column with a half-wave sine initial imperfection of amplitude

hN1 . In addition the gure displays the actual response of the real column, which
begins to depart from the elastic curve at point B, when the rst ber reaches the
yield stress. The real column attains its maximum load carrying capacity at a limit
point, after which it decreases and approaches the theoretical rigid-plastic curve
When using the rigid-perfectly plastic approximation it is assumed that there is
no strain hardening, since only in this case are the plastic hinges concentrated in a
very short length of the column. If strain hardening is of major concern then one
must rely on Hills bifurcation criterion for elastic-plastic solids (see [2.79] and
[2.80]). For an extensive review on plastic buckling the interested reader should
consult [2.81] by Sewell.


Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures

The applications presented so far serve a dual purpose. First, the reader is introduced by means of relatively simple examples to the concept of structural stability.
Secondly, he acquires basic skills to solve those buckling problems that occur
frequently in practice.
When investigating the stability behavior of a structure under a given load one
is really concerned whether the corresponding equilibrium conguration is stable
or unstable. Thus at rst, the analyst must solve for the equilibrium conguration
and then investigate whether the equilibrium state found is stable or unstable.
Referring to the load-displacement curves shown in Figure 2.34 each point on
a path represents an equilibrium position of the structure. From the form of the
curves it is obvious that the governing equilibrium equations are nonlinear. At
parts of the load-displacement curves the equilibrium is stable, at other parts
it is unstable. The critical load is dened as the smallest load at which the

Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures


equilibrium of the structure fails to be stable as the load is slowly increased

from zero.
The critical load may occur at the limit point of the fundamental equilibrium path,
that is, at the point where the load is a relative maximum. Another possibility for
reaching the critical load occurs when the primary (or fundamental) path emanating
from the origin is intersected by a secondary equilibrium path. At the point of
intersection, the so-called bifurcation point the equilibrium equations have multiple
solutions, one corresponding to each branch.
Thus the structural analyst must, in principle, always deal with two sets of
equations, one which governs equilibrium and the second which yields information
about the stability behavior. The equilibrium equations are often nonlinear, whereas
in most cases the stability equations used are linearized.
The fact that for stability investigations one must rely on nonlinear equilibrium
equations is due to the concept of instability used, namely that at the critical load
more than one equilibrium position exists. Since for linear theory of elasticity there
is a uniqueness proof (that is, for a given load there is one and only one solution),
obviously one cannot base the derivation of stability analysis on it.
In general, the nonlinear equilibrium equations can be derived either by establishing the equilibrium of forces and moments on a slightly deformed element, or
by using the stationary potential energy criterion (see, for example, [2.1] and [2.2]).
On the other hand, the linearized stability equations can be obtained either by the
method of adjacent equilibrium, or by the minimum potential energy criterion. In
the following the different approaches shall be illustrated by examples.


Static Versus Kinematic Approach

The energy criteria of equilibrium and stability, which state that a conservative
system is in equilibrium if its total potential energy is stationary, and the equilibrium is stable if its total potential energy is a minimum, is applied in the following
to nding the critical load of the prismatic column subjected to compressive end
loads P shown in Figure 2.1. Its total potential energy may be written (see, for
instance, [2.2])
D U m C U b C p

EA L 2
Um D extensional energy D
2 0 x

EI L 2
Ub D bending energy D
2 0 x

p D potential of the applied load D P[uL  uo]

u,x dx




The Concepts of Elastic Stability

x D extensional strain of the centroidal axis D u,x C 21 w,x


x D curvature of the centroidal axis D w,xx .


The requirement that if the column is in equilibrium its total potential energy
must assume a stationary value yields the following variational problem:
D Um C Ub C p  D
Fx, u, u,x , w, w,x , w,xx  dx D 0.

The condition that D 0 implies that the integrand (the functional F) in

Eq. (2.245) must satisfy the corresponding Euler equations of the calculus of
variation, which in this case are
d F

dx u,x


d2 F
d F
C 2
D 0.

w dx w,x
dx w,xx


Calculating the required partial derivatives, substitution and regrouping yields

EAx  D N D 0


EIw,xx   Nw,x  D 0.
dx 2


The rst of these equations can be integrated yielding N D constant D P. The
second equation becomes then for EI D constant
Elw,xxxx C Pw,xx D 0.


This is the equilibrium equation of an axially compressed perfectly straight

column. For any w that satises this equation and the specied boundary conditions
at x D 0 and x D L, the total potential energy is stationary. Whether is also
a relative minimum (that is > 0) will next be investigated.
The character of the total potential energy for a given equilibrium conguration may be determined by examination of the change in total potential energy
corresponding to an arbitrary innitesimal virtual displacement of the structure from the given equilibrium position. In terms of a Taylor series expansion the
change in the total potential energy is

1 2
C 3 C


where the terms on the right are linear, quadratic, etc., respectively, in the innitesimal virtual displacements. Recalling that the rst-order term vanishes identically
for equilibrium congurations, hence the sign of is governed by the sign of

Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures


the second variation. For sufciently small values of the applied load, it can be
shown that the second variation is positive denite. The critical load is dened as
the smallest load for which the second variation no longer is positive denite.
To obtain the expression for 2 one assumes in Eqs. (2.242) (2.244) that
u D u0 C uO ;

w D w0 C wO


where u0 , w0 denote the conguration whose stability is under investigation and uO ,

wO are innitesimally small increments. Substituting into Eq. (2.242) and regrouping
yields the following expression for the second variation

1 2
1 L
3 2 2
EA uO ,x C u0,x wO ,x C 2w0,x uO ,x wO ,x C w0,x wO ,x C EIw,
O xx dx
2 0
Recalling that for the undeected form of the column
u0 D 


w0 D 0


hence Eq. (2.251) becomes

2 D

C EIwO ,xx
 PwO ,x
g dx.


This quadratic form is seen to be positive denite for sufciently small values
of the applied load P. The critical value of P is the smallest load for which the
denite integral ceases to be positive denite.
The criterion for the limit of positive-deniteness for a continuous system is
attributed to Trefftz [2.82]. Considering Eq. (2.253), for a small value of P, 2 >
0 for all nonzero variations uO , w.
O For large values of P, 2 < 0 for some variations
uO , w.
O As P is increased from zero, a value is reached (say, P D Pc ) at which 2
is for the rst time zero for at least one variation uO , w.
O It is still positive for all
other variations uO , w.
O Thus for P D Pc , 2 assumes a stationary value for the
particular set of variations uO , w.
O Then
2  D 0.


Hence, on the basis of Trefftz criterion, the stability equations for the critical
load are given by the Euler equations for the functional in the second-variation
expression. For a functional of the form of the integrand in Eq. (2.253) the Euler
equations are given by Eq. (2.246), where
F D EAOu,x
C EIwO ,xx
 PwO ,x


Calculating the required partial derivatives, substitution and regrouping yields

uO ,xx D 0


EIwO ,xxxx C PwO ,xx D 0.



The Concepts of Elastic Stability

These are the uncoupled stability equations of the axially compressed column.
The variational approach yields also the natural boundary conditions that must be
satised in order for 2  D 0 to hold. Thus at x D 0, L
O D EAOu,x D 0 or
either N

Ou D 0


O D EIwO ,xx D 0 or wO ,x D 0
either M


either ElwO ,xxx C PwO ,x D 0 or wO D 0


The general solution of Eq. (2.256b) is

wO D C1 sin kx C C2 cos kx C C3 x C C4


where k 2 D P/EI. This solution must satisfy for the clamped-free column of
Figure 2.1 the following boundary conditions
at x D 0 :

wO D wO ,x D 0

at x D L :

wO ,xx D 0;

wO ,xxx C k 2 wO ,x D 0.


This requirement leads to four homogeneous algebraic equations in the four

constants C1 , . . ., C4 . For a nontrivial solution to exist (that is, all four constants
are not identically equal to zero) the determinant of the coefcients of the Ci0 s must
vanish. Expansion of the determinant yields the following characteristic equation
4 EI
n D 1, 2, . . . .
4 L2
The smallest buckling load occurs for n D 1. Thus
cos kL D 0 ! Pn D 2n  12


2 EI
4 L2
the value found by Euler in 1744. The buckling mode is

wO D C2 cos 
1 .
The fact that for the column buckling both the equilibrium Eq. (2.248) and the
stability Eq. (2.256b) are identical is an exception. These equations are usually
different. Notice also that the form of the stability equations depends on the
prebuckling (undeected) solution used. This point will be discussed further in
Section 2.2.4b.
Turning now to the problem depicted in Figure 2.62, where the compressive load
P at the free end does not remain xed in its direction but follows the deformation
of the body in some manner, then the work done by the end load P in reaching
the nal position is path dependent and one is dealing with a nonconservative
force. That in such cases a stability based on the energy criteria may fail to yield
the correct answer can easily be demonstrated for the present case. The boundary
conditions at the free end now are
Pc D

at x D L :

wO ,xx D wO ,xxx D 0.


Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures


Figure 2.62 Column loaded by a follower force

Applying the boundary conditions specied by Eqs. (2.259a) and (2.263) to the
general solution for wO given by Eq. (2.258) yields the following system of linear

sin kL
cos kL
D 0.
 cos kL sin kL
But here the determinant of the coefcient matrix is not equal to zero since
sin2 kL C cos2 kL D 1.


Hence the only admissible solution is the trivial one, namely C1 D C2 D C3 D

C4 D 0. This would imply that in this case the column does not buckle. This is
obviously incorrect.
For nonconservative problems one must always use the kinetic approach, where
one starts with the equations governing small free vibrations of the elastic structure
at some level of the external loading (treated as a xed quantity) and then tries to
nd at what level of the external loading the free vibrations cease to be bounded
in the small.
If  denotes the mass per unit volume then the equation of motion of the column
depicted in Figure 2.62 under a constant axial load P is
N ,tt
w,xxxx C k 2 w,xx D w
K2 D





Using separation of variables

Wx, t D Wx eit


N 2W D 0
W,xxxx C k 2 W,xx  


one obtains
an ordinary differential equation with constant coefcients, whose solution can be
written as
Wx D C1 sin x C C2 cos x C C3 sinh x C C4 cosh x



The Concepts of Elastic Stability



N 2
k &
1C 1C 4
D p

N 2
k &
D p
1 C 1 C 4 .



Applying the boundary conditions specied by Eqs. (2.259a) and (2.263) one
obtains the following characteristic equation
4 C 4   22 2 cos L C cosh L C 2  2  sin L sinh L D 0
But now from Eqs. (2.271a) and (2.271b)
N 2
4 C 4 D k 4 C 2
2 2 D 2 N


2  2 D k 2
Substituting into Eq. (2.272) and regrouping yields
2 C  sin L sinh L C 22 1 C cos L cosh L D 0




PE D  2


2 D 2 N


# %

L D 
1C 1C4


# %

L D 
1 C 1 C 4


The transcendental Eq. (2.274) can be solved repeatedly for the frequencies 1
and 2 by assigning different positive values to , starting from zero. From the
results plotted in Figure 2.63 one sees that the unloaded natural frequencies (and
the corresponding eigenfunctions) of the column change with increasing loading
. It is also clear that as long as < 2.0316 (the load at which the two frequencies
1 and 2 coalesce) the motion is oscillatory and hence stable. For > 2.0316 the
frequencies become a complex conjugate pair. From Eq. (2.268) it is evident that
the negative imaginary part results in unbounded oscillation and is hence unstable.
Thus the critical value for the follower force P shown in Figure 2.62, also
called Becks problem who was rst to obtain the correct solution (see [2.83]), is
D P/PE D 2.0316, or
Pc D 2.03162 2 .

Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures

Figure 2.63


Characteristic curve for the cantilever column loaded by a follower force

A comparison with Eulers solution for a xed load given by Eq. (2.1) indicates
that the same column can carry about an eight times larger follower load. For
more information about the stability of nonconservative structural congurations
the interested reader should consult [2.84] and [2.85].


Approximate Solutions of Bifurcation Problems

In most of the cases considered up to now the nding of the critical buckling load
has been reduced to the solution of a linearized eigenvalue problem. In general the
differential equations involved can be written as
Lw  Mw D 0


where L and M are linear, homogeneous differential operators of order 2p and

2q respectively, with p > q. Any solution w must satisfy Eq. 2.277 at every point
of the region R. Associated with the differential equation there are p boundary
conditions that the function w must satisfy at every point of the boundary C of the
region R. The boundary conditions are of the type
Bi w D 0

i D 1, 2, . . . , p


where the Bi are linear, homogeneous differential operators involving derivatives

normal to the boundary and along the boundary through order 2p  1.
The eigenvalue problem consists of nding the values of the parameter , for
which there are nonvanishing functions w which satisfy the differential Eq. (2.277)
and the boundary conditions specied by Eq. (2.278). Such parameters are called
eigenvalues (say, buckling loads) and the corresponding functions are called eigenfunctions (say, buckling modes).
Unfortunately, in general, the solution of the eigenvalue problem for continuous
systems is not a straightforward matter. Exact solutions have been found only for
uniform systems with relatively simple boundary conditions. In other cases one
must rely on approximate solutions.


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Before turning to the presentation of the different methods that are available to
obtain approximate solutions, one may want to summarize those denitions that
are frequently used in the literature dealing with eigenvalue problems.
When speaking of trial functions one often distinguishes the following classes
(see [2.86]).
1. Admissible functions: These are arbitrary functions which satisfy all the
geometric boundary conditions of the eigenvalue problem and are 2p times
differentiable over the region R.
2. Comparison functions: These are arbitrary functions which satisfy all boundary
conditions (geometric and natural) and are 2p times differentiable over the
region R.
3. Eigenfunctions: These are the solutions one is trying to obtain which, of course,
satisfy all boundary conditions (geometric and natural) and the differential
equation of the eigenvalue problem.
The eigenvalue problem dened by Eqs. (2.277) and (2.278) is said to be selfadjoint if, for any two arbitrary admissible or comparison functions w1 and w2 , the

w1 Lw2  dR D
w2 Lw1  dR

w1 Mw2  dR D

w2 Mw1  dR


hold true. Whether a specied system is self-adjoint or not can be established by

means of integration by parts.
Further, if for any such comparison function w

wLw dR 0

the operator L is said to be positive. The operator L is said to be positive denite

if the integral is zero only if w is identically zero. There is a similar denition with
respect to the operator M. If both L and M are positive denite, the eigenvalue
problem is said to be positive denite, in which case all eigenvalues i are positive.
For further details about the nature of the different types of eigenvalue problems
the interested reader may consult [2.24] and [2.86].
a. The Rayleigh Ritz Method

One of the approaches that can be used to obtain an approximation for the critical
buckling load of a structure without having to derive and solve the linearized
stability equations is the Rayleigh Ritz method. Its use is based on the Trefftz

Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures


criterion, which denes the critical load as the smallest load for which the second
variation of the potential energy assumes a stationary value.
To apply this method one assumes a solution in the form of a linear combination
of trial functions wi , which satisfy at least all the geometric boundary conditions
of the problem. Hence

wn D
ai wi

where the wi are known, linearly independent functions of the spatial coordinates
over the region R and the ai are unknown coefcients to be determined. This
assumed form wn is substituted into the second variation of the potential energy
2 of the problem. After carrying out the integrals involved, the coefcients ai are
determined so as to render the expression for the second variation of the potential
energy 2 stationary. The necessary condition for this to occur is that
2  D

 a1 C
 a2 C C
 an D 0.


Since the variations a1 , a2 , . . ., an are arbitrary nonzero quantities this condition

is satised if and only if
  D 0 i D 1, 2, . . . , n


a set of homogeneous, linear algebraic equations. The simultaneous solution of

these equations constitutes a matrix eigenvalue problem which can be solved easily
by standard methods.
As an illustration of the application of the Rayleigh Ritz method to buckling
load calculations, consider the problem depicted in Figure 2.64 involving the effect
of non-uniform in-plane compressive loading on the stability of a simply supported
rectangular thin at plate of width b and length a where

Nx0 D  N0 C N1  N0  sin 
D N1 C 1   sin 
and D N0 /N1 . Notice that D 1 implies uniform loading.
Such non-uniform in-plane loading is typical of ight vehicles exposed to thermal
heating. Thermal stresses, induced by non-uniform temperature elds acting on the

Figure 2.64

Plate subjected to non-uniform in-plane compressive loading


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.65

Distribution of in-plane stresses for D 1.75

structure, are self-equilibrating since they are not the result of externally applied
loads. Therefore the stress distribution over a cross-section of the structure must
have compressive as well as tensile stresses. Notice that for D 1.75 Eq. 2.284
yields the in-plane stress distribution shown in Figure 2.65, which closely approximates the distribution of thermal stresses over the width of a panel considered
in [2.87].
For this case the second variation of the total potential energy is found to be
(see, for instance, p. 93 of [2.2])

1 2
O x C vO,y C 2u,
O x vO,y C
O y C vO,x  dx dy


fNx0 wO ,x
C Ny0 wO ,y
C 2Nxy0 wO ,x wO ,y g dx dy


fwO ,xx
C wO ,yy
C 2wO ,xx wO ,yy C 21  wO ,xy
g dx dy 2.285

Since in this case the in-plane and the out-of-plane stability equations are uncoupled, and guided by the results for the buckling of a rectangular plate under uniform
axial loading (see Eq. (2.6)) one can obtain a solution by assuming the following
displacement functions (see [2.87])
uO D vO D 0


wO D C11 sin i sin  C C13 sin i sin 3
which satisfy the displacement boundary conditions of the problem
wO D wO ,xx D 0

at x D 0, a

wO D wO ,yy D 0

at y D 0, b


and hence are admissible.

Substituting these functions into the second variation of the total potential energy,
Eq. (2.285), which includes the prebuckling resultants (Nx0 from Eq. (2.284) and
Ny0 D Nxy0 D 0), one obtains after carrying out the integrals involved and some

Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures


regrouping the following expression




2 D D
C C213

ab i 2
ab i 2  2
C11 C C13 C N1  N0 


 C211 C C11 C13  C213



where D D Eh3 /121  2 .

By Trefftzs criterion instability occurs whenever 2  D 0 . Assuming that
i D a/b and minimization with respect to the free parameters C11 and C13 yields
the following set of algebraic equations

 N1 C
1   C11 C
1  C13 D 0

 N1 C
N1 1  C11 C 100D
1   C13 D 0 (2.289b)
where D N0 /N1 . These homogeneous equations constitute a standard eigenvalue
problem. Notice that for a single mode solution (if C13 D 0) the eigenvalue is
N1 D k c D
kc D
For the two mode solution expansion of the stability determinant yields the
following characteristic equation
N1 C cD2
aN21 C bD


8 2
aD C
1   C
1  2 2.292a

1   C 4 C
b D  100 C
c D 400.
The critical buckling load is the smaller of the two roots. Hence
N1 D k c D




The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.66

Buckling coefcients for non-uniform in-plane compressive loading


b2  4ac
Either Eqs. (2.290b) or (2.293b) can be used to calculate the buckling coefcient kc
for a simply supported rectangular plate loaded by a non-uniform in-plane compressive loading. As can be seen from Figure 2.66 little improvement is obtained by
using the second term in the assumed solution for w.
O Both equations yield kc D 4 for
D 1, which agrees with the previously obtained result for a long simply supported
plate under uniform in-plane compression (see Eq. (2.7) and Figure 2.4).
To obtain the value for for which the resultant compressive load acting on
the plate is zero, one integrates the value of Nx0 given by Eq. (2.284) from y D 0
to y D b and sets the resulting force equal to zero. This yields the value of D
2  2 , which gives a buckling coefcient of kc D 6.8496 if one uses the
single mode solution, and a buckling coefcient of kc D 6.6519 if the two mode
solution is employed.
kc D


b. Galerkins Method

To obtain an approximate solution of an eigenvalue problem one can also employ

Galerkins method, so named after the Russian naval engineer who rst proposed
it in 1915 (see [2.88]). In this method one attempts to nd an approximate solution
of the governing differential equation directly. This is done by assuming a solution
in the form of a series of comparison functions
wn D


ai w i



where the wi are known, linearly independent functions which satisfy all the
boundary conditions and are 2p times differentiable, whereas the ai are unknown

Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures


coefcients to be determined. In general the series solution will not satisfy the
differential equation dening the eigenvalue problem unless, by some coincidence,
the assumed series solution is composed of the eigenfunctions of the problem. Thus
upon substitution of the assumed solution in the differential equation
Lw  Mw D 0


an error n will be obtained so that

n D Lwn   ^n Mwn 


where ^n is the corresponding estimate of the eigenvalue . At this point one
requires that the weighted error n integrated over the region R be zero. As
weighting functions one uses the n comparison functions wi . These conditions can
be written as follows

wn  dR D 0 j D 1, 2, . . . , n.

Consider now


wn Lwn  dR D
wj Lwi  dR D
kij ai

where the coefcients kij are given by

j D 1, 2, . . . , n

kij D kji D

wj Lwi  dR


and are symmetric if the operator L is self-adjoint. Similarly one can write


wn Mwn  dR D
wj Mwi  dR D
mij ai j D 1, 2, . . . , n

where the coefcients mij are given by


mij D mji D

wj Mwi  dR


and are symmetric if the operator M is self-adjoint.

With Eqs. (2.297) through (2.301) one can reduce the solution of the original
continuous eigenvalue problem specied by (Eq. 2.295) to the following system
of n simultaneous equations


kij  ^n mij ai D 0

j D 1, 2, . . . , n



The Concepts of Elastic Stability

which are known as Galerkins equations. They represent a matrix eigenvalue

problem for an n-degree-of-freedom system which can be solved easily by standard
To illustrate the use of Galerkins method for buckling load calculations consider
the case of an axially compressed imperfect cylindrical shell. If w is positive
outward and
wN D hN1 cos i
where i is an integer, then the nonlinear Eqs. (2.98) become (see [2.2])
f,xx  ff,yy w,xx C wN ,xx   2f,xy w,xy C f,xx w,yy g D p

r f  Eh w,xy  w,xx C wN ,xx w,xy C w,xx D 0.

Dr4 w C


and the linearized stability Eqs. (2.100) assumes the form

O D0
O  LNL w0 C w,
N f
f,xx  LNL f0 , w
O  Eh wO ,xx C EhLNL w0 C w,
r4 f
N w
O D 0.
Since the loading, the boundary conditions and the initial imperfection (see
Eq. (2.303)) are axisymmetric, therefore the prebuckling solution will also be
axisymmetric, namely
w0 D h C w x
Dr4 wO C

Eh2 1 2
y C f x
cR 2
where the term  /c represents the Poissons expansion and is needed to satisfy
the circumferential periodicity condition (see [2.64]). A substitution of Eq. (2.306)
into Eq. (2.304) and regrouping yields for p D 0
f0 D 

Eh3 2 N
f,xx C
w,xx D
 1 cos i x
cR i
w D0
R ,xx
where i D i/L. If one neglects the effect of the boundary conditions on the
prebuckling solution (as is usually done for this type of analysis) then one must nd
only a particular solution of Eq. (2.307). The use of the method of undetermined
coefcients yields easily
W x D h
1 cos i x


f x D

Eh3 1
1 cos i x
2c i ci 


Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures

ci D
i C 2




is the classical axisymmetric buckling load and 2i D i2 Rh/2c/L2 .

Specializing the linearized stability Eqs. (2.306) to the axisymmetric imperfection Eq. (2.303) and the axisymmetric prebuckling state Eq. (2.308) yields
Eh2 N1
f,xx C
wO ,xx C
cos i x wO ,yy
R ci 
N1 ci
O ,yy D 0
C 2i
cos i x f
R ci 
O  Eh wO ,xx  2c Eh 2i i ci cos i x wO ,yy D 0
r4 f
R ci 
Dr4 wO C


a set of homogeneous, linear partial differential equations with variable coefcients.

If one assumes that the buckling mode is represented by
wO D Cm sin m

cos n


which satises simply supported boundary conditions at the shell edges

wO D wO ,xx D 0

at x D 0, L,


then the linearized stability equations can be solved as follows. First an exact particO p of the compatibility Eq. (2.310b) is solved for by the method of
ular integral f
undetermined coefcients. This guarantees that a kinematically admissible displacement eld is associated with an approximate solution of the other equation. An
approximate solution of the equilibrium Eq. (2.310a) by Galerkins method is then
equivalent to an approximate minimization of the second variation of the potential energy by the Rayleigh Ritz method. This guarantees that the eigenvalue so
obtained is an upper bound to the actual buckling load. Straightforward calculation
yields the following characteristic equation
 ci  2  c,mn   C  ci  C1 ci C C2 N1 iD2m
C C3  C4 im  2ci N12 D 0


where the axisymmetric buckling load ci is given by Eq. (2.309) and the asymmetric buckling load c,mn by Eq. (2.105). The coefcients are

c 2i n2
2i  m
c n2
C1 D
2 2m
2m C n2 2 2im C n2 2
2 2m

c2 4i n4
c2 4i n4
C3 D
2 m
2 m im C n2 2
iCm C n2 2 im C n2 2


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.67


Effect of axisymmetric imperfection on the buckling load of axially compressed


Rh   2
Rh   2
; 2im D i  m2
2c L
2c L

Rh 1 2
; c D 31  2 
n2 D n2
2c R

2iCm D i C m2

iD2m D generalized Kronecker delta D 1 if i D 2m
D 0 otherwise.
The solution of this problem was rst carried out by Koiter [2.89]. Using an imperfection in the form of the classic axisymmetric buckling mode
L 2c
wN D h1 cos icl  where icl D
he found that the minimum buckling load occurred when i D 2m for some value
of n. To obtain the results shown in Figure 2.67 one must nd the smallest value
of which for a given axisymmetric imperfection N1 amplitude satises Eq. 2.313.
The reduced circumferential wave number n is a free parameter in this equation,
with the restriction that the actual wave number n must be an integer.


Computational Tools for Bifurcation Problems

The majority of stability problems that arise at present in practical structural applications cannot be solved analytically. It might be possible, that after a number of
simplifying assumptions have been introduced one is able to obtain an approximate
solution via the Rayleigh Ritz or the Galerkin methods discussed earlier. However,

Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures


in nontrivial applications these methods may require considerable analytical and

computational effort before an approximate solution can be obtained.
Thus the point is soon reached where one looks towards the supposedly easier
approach offered by todays general purpose computer codes. A word of caution
is appropriate here. One should not expect that complicated structural stability
problems involving thin-walled plate and shell components, where nonlinear effects
play an important role, can be solved routinely without much effort and thought by
any of the many codes that are currently available. A thorough understanding of
the shell and stability theory involved supplemented by a good working knowledge
of the computational algorithms used are the prerequisites the analyst must possess
in order to be able to arrive at the appropriate solutions. Otherwise the chances are
high that incorrect or unreliable solutions will be obtained.
A comprehensive review of the currently available computer codes with buckling
analysis capabilities is beyond the scope of this book. Interested readers should
consult [2.90] and [2.91]. The state-of-the-art of buckling load calculations for
shells of revolution with very general wall construction loaded by a general axisymmetric load system will be described in the following section using one of the more
popular nite difference codes available.
a. The BOSOR-4 Branched Complex Shell of Revolution Code

Although the BOSOR-4 program [2.92] represents the codication of three distinct
analyses, namely:
1. a linear stress analysis for axisymmetric and nonsymmetric behavior of axisymmetric shell systems submitted to axisymmetric and nonsymmetric loads;
2. a nonlinear stress analysis for axisymmetric behavior of axisymmetric shell
3. an eigenvalue analysis in which the eigenvalues represent buckling loads or
vibration frequencies of axisymmetric shell systems submitted to axisymmetric
In the following only the nonsymmetric bifurcation problem from a nonlinear
axisymmetric prebuckling state will be discussed.
The independent variables of the analysis are the meridional arc length s,
measured along the shell reference surface and the circumferential coordinate .
For the cases considered it is possible to eliminate the circumferential coordinate
1. in the nonlinear prebuckling analysis of axisymmetric behavior of axisymmetric shell systems is not present;
2. in the bifurcation (eigenvalue) analysis the buckling modes (eigenvalues) vary
harmonically around the circumference.
The advantages of being able to eliminate one of the independent variables is very
signicant. The number of calculations performed by the computer for a given mesh


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

point spacing along the arc-length s is greatly reduced, leading to great savings
in computer time. The disadvantage is, of course, the restriction to axisymmetric
structures, though in [2.92] and [2.93] methods are described by which BOSOR 4
can be used to analyze nonsymmetric structures of prismatic form.
The analysis is based on energy minimization with constraint conditions. The
total potential energy of the system involves:

strain energy of the shell segments Us ;

strain energy of the discrete rings Ur ;
potential energy of the applied line loads and pressures p ;
energy of constraint of the constraint conditions Uc .

The components of energy and the constraint conditions are initially in integrodifferential forms. They are then expressed in terms of the shell reference surface
displacement components ui , vi , wi at the nite difference mesh points and the
Lagrange multipliers i . The integration is performed numerically by the trapezoidal rule.
In the nonlinear prebuckling analysis the energy expression has terms linear,
quadratic, cubic and quartic in the dependent variables. The cubic and quartic terms
arise from the rotation squared terms which appear in the constraint conditions
and in the kinematic expressions for the reference surface strains 1 , 2 and 12 . To
satisfy the equilibrium condition the energy, now in an algebraic form, is minimized
with respect to the discrete dependent variables. The resulting set of nonlinear
algebraic equations are solved for the displacement components at the mesh points
by the Newton Rhapson method. Stress and moment resultants are calculated in a
straightforward manner from the constitutive equations and the strain-displacement
The results from the nonlinear axisymmetric prebuckling analysis are then used
in the eigenvalue analysis for buckling. The prebuckling meridional and circumferential stress resultants N10 and N20 and the meridional rotation 0 appear as
known variable coefcients in the second variation of the total potential energy
expression which governs buckling. This expression is a homogeneous quadratic
form. The values of the variable load, which render the quadratic form stationary
with respect to innitesimal variations of the dependent variables, represent buckling loads. These eigenvalues are calculated from a set of linear homogeneous
Shell strain energy
Consider the typical shell segment shown in Figure 2.68.
The strain energy in the shell wall can be written in the form [2.94]

Us D 2
bc[C]fg C 2bNT cfg r d ds
dCe D
bNT c D bNT1 , NT2 , 0, MT1 , MT2 , 0c

shell wall stiffness matrix 2.317a

thermal stress and moment resultants

Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures


Figure 2.68 Typical shell segment notation and sign convention (from [2.94])

and the strain-displacement relations are

u0 C w/R1 C 21  2 C  2 
vP /r C ur 0 /r C w/R2 C 12  2 C  2 

uP /r C rv/r0 C 
f"g D 12 D



/r C r 0 /r
P C r 0 /r C v0 /R2 
 D w0  u/R1 ;

D w/r
P  v/R2 ;


 D 21 uP /r  v0  r 0 v/r 2.317c

Dots indicate differentiation with respect to , primes indicate differentiation with

respect to s. Positive values of u, v, w,  and  are shown in Figure 2.86. The quantities R1 and R2 are the meridional and circumferential principal radii of curvature.
For a similar expression of the strain energy of a discrete ring see [2.94].
Potential energy of mechanical loads

Two types of loads are permitted in the

1. surface tractions p1 , p2 and p3 ;

2. line loads and moments V, S, H and M, which act at ring centroids and at
shell segment boundaries.
These loads are shown in Figures 2.68 and 2.69.
The potential energy associated with the surface tractions is for live loads [2.94]

p1 D 
p 1 u C p 2 v C p3 w  p 3
R1 R2
C p3

R1 R2

C p03 uw r d ds


whereas the potential energy associated with line loads at a given ring station can
be written as

p2 D  Vuc C Svc C Hwc C Mrc d .


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

Figure 2.69

Discrete ring with centroidal displacement and forces (from [2.94])

Since all energy expressions must be expressed in terms of the same dependent
variables, therefore it is necessary to replace the ring displacements uc , vc , wc by
equivalent expressions in terms of the shell reference surface displacements u, v,
w. These variable transformations and expressions for energy of constraint Vc
are given in [2.94].
The total energy of the system is obtained by summing over all shell segments,
discrete ring stiffeners and junctures.
When one attempts to solve the bifurcaFormulation of the stability problem
tion buckling problem of a complex, branched, ring-stiffened shell structure under
various systems of loads it is convenient to consider some of these to be known
and constant (or xed) whereas the remaining ones are assumed to be unknown
eigenvalue parameters (or variable).
The notion of xed and variable systems of loads helps in the formulation
of a sequence of simple classical eigenvalue problems for the solution of problems
governed by nonclassical eigenvalue problems. To illustrate the different types
of instability behavior consider the shallow spherical cap under external pressure
shown in Figure 2.70.
Deep spherical caps fail by bifurcation buckling where nonlinear prebuckling
effects are not important. On the other hand very shallow caps fail by nonlinear
axisymmetric collapse or snap-through buckling at pn , not by bifurcation buckling at pb or pnb . Finally, there is an intermediate range of cap geometries that

Figure 2.70

Stability behavior of an externally pressurized shallow spherical cap

Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures


buckle by bifurcation buckling where the critical pressures are affected by nonlinear
prebuckling behavior. The analysis of this intermediate class of spherical caps is
simplied by the concept of xed and variable pressure. Figure 2.70 shows
the load-deection curve of a shallow spherical cap in this intermediate range. To
calculate the nonlinear bifurcation pressure pnb it is useful to consider it composed
of two parts
pnb D pf C pv
pf D a known or xed quantity;
pv D an undetermined or variable quantity.
The xed portion pf is an initial guess or the result of a previous iteration. The
variable portion pv is the remainder, which can be determined from a reasonably
simple eigenvalue problem. It is clear from Figure 2.70 that if pf is fairly close
to pnb , then the behavior in the range p D pf C pv is reasonably linear. Thus
the eigenvalue pnb can be calculated by means of a sequence of linear eigenvalue
problems. This procedure results in nding ever smaller pv values which are added
to the pf results from the previous iterations.
To illustrate the reduction of the bifurcation stability analysis to the solution
of a matrix eigenvalue problem consider the shell strain energy and the potential
energy of the surface tractions given by Eqs (2.316) and (2.318). This total potential
energy, denoted by , is quadratic in the shell reference surface displacement
components u, v, w and can be written in the form

D 21
bc[C]fg C 2bNT cfg C bdc[P]fdgr d ds

[P] D



p1/R1 C 1/R2 

bdc D bu v wc


and the other matrices have been dened earlier.

All expressions are referred to the undeformed surface of the shell. Next the
energy is expanded in a Taylor series about some equilibrium position by letting
u D u0f C u0v C uO
v D v0f C v0v C vO


w D w0f C w0v C wO
where uO , vO , wO are innitesimal variations from the equilibrium state given by
u0f C u0v , vf0 C vv0 , w0f C w0v . Substituting Eq. (2.323) into the total potential energy


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

as given by Eq. (2.321) one obtains after some regrouping

D  0 D C 12 2 C
where contains all rst order terms in the variations and 2 contains all the
second order terms. Because the system is in equilibrium the rst variation is
zero. The stability behavior is then governed by the second variation 2 , which
after some regrouping can be put into the following form

b1 c[C]f1 g C 2b2 c[C]f0 g C fNT g C bc[P]fgr ds d 2.324
2 D
b0 c, b1 c, b2 c D zero, rst and second order terms in the variations uO , vO , wO
bc D bOu vO wc

1  2 C  2 
u00 C w0 /R1
2 0
vP 0 /r C u0 r 0 /r C w0 /R2
2  0 C 0 

uP 0 /r C rv0 /r

f"0 g D f"01 g C f"02 g D

C 0 0


P 0 /r C 0 r 0 /r

2P 0 /r C 0 r /r C v0 /R2 


uO 0 C w/R
O 1 C 0 O C 0 O

O 2 C 0 O C 0 O
vO /r C uO r /r C w/R

uO /r C rOv/r C 0 O C 0 O

f"1 g D

O 0

O . /r C r
O 0 /r
2O /r C r /r C vO /R2 

f"2 g D


O 2 C O 2 
1 O2

C O 2 



Next the prebuckling strain vectors f"01 g and f"02 g are divided into xed and
variable parts
g C f"01
f"01 g D f"01

f"02 g D f"ff02 g C f"f02v g C f"02


Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures


f"ff02 g D

f 2
f 2
2 [0  C 0  ]
f 2
f 2
2 [ 0  C 0  ]

f f
0 0



0f 0v C 0f 0v

f v
f v
0 0 C 0 0

0f 0v C 0v 0f
f"f02v g D





v 2
v 2
2 [0  C 0  ]
v 2
v 2
2 [ 0  C 0  ]

0v 0v



The linear innitesimal strain vector f"1 g can be divided into three components


f"1 g D f"11 g C f"1f g C f"1v g


uO 0 C w/R
O 1
O 2
vO . /r C uO r 0 /r C w/R

uO . /r C rOv/r0

f"11 g D


O . /r C r
O 0 /r
2O . /r C O r 0 /r C vO 0 /R2 


0f O C 0f O
f O C  f O
 f O C O f

f"1 g D 0


0v O C 0v O
0 C 0 O
0 O C O 0 .
f"1v g D



Finally, the pressure-rotation matrix [P], Eq. (2.322a), and the thermal load
vector bNT c, Eq. (2.322b), can also be considered split into xed and variable
[P] D [Pf ] C [Pv ]; bNT c D bNTf c C bNTv c.
With these denitions one can rewrite part of the integrand of Eq. (2.324) as
2b"2 c[C]f"0 g C fNT g C 2["2 ]fN0f g C fN0v g C fN0vv g


fN0f g D [C]f"f01 g C f"ff02 g C fNTf g



The Concepts of Elastic Stability

fN0v g D [C]f"v01 g C f"f02v g C fNTv g

fN0vv g


02 g


Notice that the expressions given by Eq. (2.331) actually represent a quadratic
form. To indicate this explicitly the following change in notation is introduced.
2b"2 cfN0f g C fN0v g C fN0vv g D bc[N0f ] C [N0v ] C [N0vv ]fg


bc D bO O c

[Nf0 ] D N12

[N0vv ]





[N0v ] D Nv
N1f C N2f 


N1v C N2v 


N1 C N2 

Assuming now that the variable parts are proportional to a scalar quantity ,
then upon substitution and regrouping the second variation 2 from Eq. (2.324)
can be written

2 D
A1 C A2 C 2 A3 r ds d
A1 D b11 C f1 c[C]f11 C f1 g C bc[Pf ]fg C bc[N0f ]fg


A2 D 2b1v cCf11 C 1f g C bc[Pv ]fg C bc[N0v ]fg


A3 D b1v c[C]f1v g C bc[Nvv

0 ]fg.


In this expression the dependent variables uO , vO , wO are functions of the arc length s
and the circumferential coordinate . Additional details describing the contributions
of discrete rings and constraint conditions to 2 are given in [2.62]. The dependence can be eliminated from the analysis by the following Fourier series
uO s,  D uO n s sin n
vO s,  D vO n s cos n


O  D wO n s sin n .
Upon substitution into Eq. (2.335) and carrying out the -integration will result in
an expression where the circumferential wave number n appears as a parameter and
where the corresponding expressions A1n , A2n , A3n are now functions of s only.

Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures

Figure 2.71


Finite-difference discretization: the nite-difference element (from [2.92])

To eliminate the s-dependence and to reduce the second variation of the total
potential energy 2 to an algebraic form the nite-difference discretization shown
in Figure 2.71 is used. Notice that the Ou and Ov points are located halfway
between adjacent w
O points. The energy contains up to rst derivatives in uO and
vO and up to second derivatives in w.
O Hence, the shell energy density evaluated at
the center of the length  (the point labeled E) involves the following seven points
bqi c D bwO i1 , uO i , vO i , wO i , uO iC1 , vO iC1 , wO iC1 c.


The energy per unit circumferential length is simply the energy per unit area
multiplied by the length of the nite-difference element i , which is the arc length
of the reference surface between the adjacent uO or vO points. Thus
Ei D bqi c[B]T [C][B]fqi gi


where the matrices [B] and [C] represent the kinematic relation and the constitutive
law, respectively. In [2.95] it is shown that this formulation yields a (7 7) stiffness
matrix corresponding to a constant-strain, constant-curvature-change nite element
that is incompatible in normal displacement and rotation at its boundaries but that
in general yields very rapidly converging results with increasing density of nodal
points. Notice that two of the w-points
lie outside of the element.
Summing over all the nite-difference elements of length i the second variation
of the total potential energy 2 can be written as
2 D bqc[K1 ] C [K2 ] C 2 [K3 ]fqg.


By Trefftzs criterion instability occurs whenever 2  D 0. Minimization of

Eq. (2.340) with respect to the dependent variables uO i , vO i , wO i and the Lagrange
multipliers results in the following eigenvalue problem
[K1 ] C [K2 ] C 2 [K3 ]fqg D 0.


The eigenvalues of this quadratic eigenvalue problem are extracted by means of

the method of inverse power iterations with spectral shifts. For details the interested
reader should consult [2.62].


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

To demonstrate the capabilities of a modern shell of revolution code and to

illustrate the need for using rigorous nonlinear prebuckling analysis the stability
behavior of the very thin cylinder under axial compression from [2.92] is considered. Using the dimensions of this shell (radius R D 500 in., thickness h D 1 in.,
length L D 2000 in., Youngs modulus E D 107 psi and Poissons ratio v D 0.3)
one obtains from Eq. (2.111) its classical buckling load as
Nc D c h D 12104 lb/in.
In Figure 2.72 the discrete model of the same shell used for the BOSOR-4 runs is
shown. Notice that the cylinder is treated as being symmetric about the midlength,
and the 1000 in. half cylinder is divided into two segments: a 200 in.-long edge
zone segment with 83 mesh points, and an 800 in.-long interior segment with
99 mesh points. Simple support conditions are applied at the edge, and symmetry
conditions at the midlength. The sequence of wave number and load search, carried
out automatically by BOSOR-4 and described with some detail in [2.92], nally
yielded a critical buckling load of 10274 lb/in. and a buckling pattern consisting of
n D 18 full waves in the circumferential direction. The prebuckling displacement
at the predicted critical load and the axial dependence of the buckling mode are
shown in Figure 2.72.
Notice that the use of a rigorous prebuckling and buckling analysis resulted
in a 17.8 percent decrease of the predicted buckling load when compared with
the classical result of Eq. (2.111), which is based on a membrane prebuckling
analysis. It may be of interest to point out that the edge-buckling type behavior
here encountered might be missed if one does not use a ne enough mesh.

Figure 2.72

Buckling of an axially compressed cylinder (from [2.92])

Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures


b. Finite Element Formulation of Bifurcation Problems

A discussion of the computational tools available for bifurcation problems would

be incomplete without mentioning the very popular nite element method. In the
following the energy criteria of equilibrium and stability will be discussed in the
form proposed by Zienkiewicz [2.96].
If a conservative system is described by n generalized coordinates qi , i D
1, 2, . . . , n, then to total potential energy of the system can be written
D q1 , q2 , . . . , qn .


D 0


Equilibrium is satised if
which implies the following set of n nonlinear algebraic equations;


i D 1, 2, . . . , n.


The equilibrium conguration is stable if the total potential energy is a relative

minimum, i.e.
2 D

qi qj > 0 i, j D 1, 2, . . . , n
qi qj


where repeated indices indicate summation. Notice that in this case the associated
positive denite matrix Vij D 2 /qi qj has all positive eigenvalues r . If the
matrix Vij evaluated at an equilibrium point has any negative eigenvalues then
the total potential energy function attains local maxima in the directions of the
corresponding eigenvectors and the system is in a state of unstable equilibrium.
The transition from stable to unstable equilibrium occurs when at least one
eigenvalue, say 1 , becomes zero. The matrix Vij is then singular and the corresponding point on an equilibrium path is called a singular (or critical) point.
Singular points indicate either that there is a bifurcation of the equilibrium path
into other, stable or unstable branches or that a limit point has been reached. It
is therefore important to detect and calculate singular points in addition to stable
points on an equilibrium path.
Turning now to the nite element formulation, let the displacements at any point
within an elastic body be dened as a column vector fug, then
fug D [H]fqg


where the components of [H], the shape functions, are so chosen as to give the
appropriate nodal displacements when the coordinates of the corresponding nodes
are inserted and fqg contains all the nodal displacements. Notice that this and the
following expressions are to be interpreted as applying to the whole structure under
With the displacements at all points within the body known one can proceed to
calculate the generalized strains (extensional strains and curvatures), which can be


The Concepts of Elastic Stability

written in matrix notation as

f"g D [B]fqg
D [B0 ] C [BL ]fqg


where [B0 ] is the matrix obtained from the linear innitesimal strain analysis and
[BL ] contains the contributions of the nonlinear strain components. Notice that [B0 ]
is independent of fqg whereas [BL ] is usually a linear function of fqg (see [2.96],
p. 414).
Next, assuming general linear elastic behavior, the relationship between stresses
and strains will be of the form
[] D [C]fg


where [C] is the elasticity matrix containing the appropriate material properties.
Finally, following [2.96] the variational form of the overall equilibrium condition
can be written as

D fgT fg dv  fqgT fP g D 0

where the column vector fP g contains all the external nodal forces due to the
imposed loads and the integral is carried out over all the elements of the structure
under consideration. It is easily seen that the rst term of this equation represents
the variation of the strain energy U of the structure while the second term is
the variation of the potential of the applied loads p . Using Eq. (2.347) one can
rewrite Eq. (2.349) as


D fqg
dV  fP g D 0

The stability criterion involves the second variation of the total potential energy.
Computing it one gets


D  D fqg
[B] fg dV C [B] fg dV

is independent of fqg, therefore fPg

N D 0.
Notice since fPg
With the help of Eqs. (2.347) and (2.348) it is straight forward to rewrite
Eq. (2.351) as

T fg dV C [B]
T [C][B]fqg

2 D fqgT
dV .

The rst term of this equation can generally be written as (see [2.96] and [2.97]
for details)

T fg dV D [K ]fqg

where [K ] is a symmetric matrix which depends on the stress level and is called
from Eq. (2.347)
the initial stress or geometric matrix. Finally, substituting for [B]

Mathematical Models for Perfect Structures


and regrouping, the second variation of the total potential energy can be written in
the following quadratic form
2 D fqgT [KT ]fqg > 0
where [KT ] D [K ] C [K0 ] C [KL ] is the tangent stiffness matrix and

[K0 ] D [B0 ]T [C][B0 ] dV



[KL ] D

[B0 ]T [C][BL ] C [BL ]T [C][B0 ] C [BL ]T [C][BL ] dV


Notice that [K0 ] represents the usual small displacements stiffness matrix, whereas
the matrix [KL ] is due to the large displacements and is variously known as the
initial displacement or large displacement matrix.
Thus, when the nite element discretization is employed, Eq. (2.354) represents
the stability criterion of an equilibrium conguration. From the theory of quadratic
forms one knows that a stable equilibrium conguration is ensured if the tangent
stiffness matrix
[KT ] D [K ] C [K0 ] C [KL ]
has no negative eigenvalues. A critical point is reached when [KT ] has at least
one zero eigenvalue. Thus the stability of an equilibrium conguration can be
determined by solving the eigenvalue problem
[KT ]fXr g D r fXr g


at the current equilibrium state, where r is the rth eigenvalue and fXr g is the
corresponding eigenvector.
Notice that the computation of the critical point must be done in two steps. First,
the equilibrium conguration associated with a given load level P is computed.
Next, the stability of this conguration is examined by calculating the eigenvalues
of [KT P], the tangent stiffness matrix evaluated at the load P.
This method of determining the stability of a conservative system is very accurate, however it can be computationally expensive because it involves the solution
of a quadratic eigenvalue problem for the critical load (see also Eq. (2.341)).
Cheaper methods of estimating the critical load are available. These methods are
usually referred to as linearized buckling analyses, where the critical load is calculated based on a linear extrapolation of the behavior of the structure at a small
load level.
Considering Eqs. (2.355), (2.356) and (2.357) one observes that only the matrices
[K ] and [KL ] depend on the load level P. As a rst approximation these matrices
can be assumed to be only linearly proportional to the applied load. Then the
tangent stiffness matrix at some level P can be approximated as
[KT P] D [K0 ] C

[K P] C [KL P]



The Concepts of Elastic Stability

where the initial stress matrix [K ] and the large displacement matrix [KL ] are
both evaluated at a small load level P. If one assumes further that the critical
load can be approximated by P, then the condition for a singular point (i.e.,
a singular tangent stiffness matrix) becomes a standard matrix eigenvalue problem.
Once the lowest eigenvalue 1 is found, the critical buckling load is equal to
1 P and the buckling mode is given by the eigenvector fX1 g.
An additional simplication is frequently used. It is based on the argument that
at the low load level P the displacements fug are so small that one can neglect
the contribution of the large displacement matrix [KL ]. This leads to the classical
initial stability problem
[K0 ] C r [K P]fXr g D 0


frequently used for investigating the stability of structures consisting of struts,

plates and shells.
One must realize here that strictly speaking this approach can only give physically signicant answers if the elastic solution based on the small displacement
stiffness matrix [K0 ] yields such deformations that the large displacement matrix
[KL ] is identically zero. Zienkiewicz warns explicitly in [2.96] and [2.97] that this
only happens in a very limited number of practical situations (such as a perfectly
straight column under axial load). Thus in real engineering applications the stability
problem should ultimately always be investigated by using the full tangent stiffness matrix. That is, the step-by-step formulation given by Eq. (2.358) should be
There are many commercially available nite element codes with buckling
analysis capabilities such as NASTRAN [2.98], ADINA [2.99], MARC [2.100],
ANSYS [2.101], and ABAQUS [2.102], just to name a few. A comprehensive
review of these and other codes is obviously beyond the scope of this book. Interested readers should consult [2.90] and [2.91] for further information.

2.1 Timoshenko, S.P. and Gere, J.M., Theory of Elastic Stability, McGraw-Hill, New
York, 1961.
2.2 Brush, D. O. and Almroth, B. O., Buckling of Bars, Plates and Shells, McGraw-Hill
Book Company, New York, 1975.
2.3 Allen, H.G. and Bulson, P.S., Background to Buckling, McGraw-Hill, New York,
2.4 Simitses, G.J., An Introduction to the Elastic Stability of Structures, Prentice-Hall,
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1976.
2.5 Dym, C.L., Stability Theory and Its Applications to Structural Mechanics, Noordhoff Int. Publishing, Leyden, 1974.
2.6 Thompson, J.M.T. and Hunt, G.W., A General Theory of Elastic Stability, John
Wiley & Sons, London, 1973.
2.7 Gerard, G., Introduction to Structural Stability Theory, McGraw-Hill, New York,



2.8 Puger, A., Stabilitatsprobleme der Elastostatik, Springer Verlag, Berlin, 1975.
2.9 Euler, L., De curvis elasticis, Leonhard Eulers Elastic Curves, translated and annotated by W.A. Oldfather, C.A. Ellis, and D.M. Brown, reprinted from Isis, 20, (58),
1933, The St. Catherine Press, Bruges, Belgium.
2.10 Rivello, R.M., Theory and Analysis of Flight Structures, McGraw-Hill, New York,
2.11 Shanley, F.R., Inelastic Column Theory, Journal of the Aeronautical Sciences, 14,
(5), May 1947, 261 268.
2.12 Bryan, G.H., On the Stability of a Plane Plate under Thrusts in its Own Plane with
Applications to the Buckling of the Sides of a Ship, Proc. London Math. Soc., 22,
1891, 54 67.
2.13 Gerard, G. and Becker, H., Handbook of Structural Stability, Part 1: Buckling of
Flat Plates, NACA TN 3781, 1957.
2.14 Coan, J.M., Large-Deection Theory for Plates with Small Initial Curvatures Loaded
in Edge Compression, ASME Journal of Applied Mechanics, 18, (2), June 1951,
143 151.
2.15 Hu, P.C., Lundquist, E.E. and Batdorf, S.B., Effect of Small Deviations from Flatness on Effective Width and Buckling of Plates in Compression, NACA TN 1124,
2.16 Notenboom, R.P., Finite Strip Elements in Thin Plate Buckling Analysis, Report
LR-642, Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Delft,
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The Concepts of Elastic Stability

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Parameters, NACA TN 902, July, 1943.
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Postbuckling Behavior of



The chances for a successful correlation between the test data and the applicable theoretical results will be greatly enhanced if one tries to take into account
already at the planning stage all those factors that may affect the outcome of the
In the last 50 years or so extensive experimental and theoretical research
programs have been carried out in the aerospace, (sub) marine, pressure vessel
and off-shore industries trying to establish a reliable design basis for buckling
sensitive applications. It has been found that, in these cases, great care must be
taken in dening the boundary conditions adequately, one has to check whether
inelastic effects will occur, and one has to investigate whether the buckling load is
sensitive to the unavoidable initial imperfections always present in real structures.
Depending on the application, initial imperfections could have different meanings. Unwanted load eccentricities by columns, slight deviations from atness by
plate assemblies or minute waviness along the generator of a cylindrical shell are all
examples of initial (geometric) imperfections. Theoretical and experimental investigations have shown that the degree to which the presence of initial imperfections
will affect the occurrence of the bifurcation buckling load depends on the particular combination of external load and the type of structure under consideration. In
some cases the buckling load at a bifurcation point is not necessarily equal to the
maximum load the structure can support. In other cases, the predicted bifurcation
buckling load of the structure can never be reached in experiments.
As a general result one can state that in order to characterize the buckling
behavior of a slender, thin-walled structure one must investigate both its (bifurcation) buckling and its postbuckling behavior under the specied external loading.
In the following, typical characteristic postbuckling behaviors will be illustrated
using different structural elements.
The exact solution of the postbuckling behavior of a perfect column is known. As
pointed out in [2.2] and as can be seen in Figure 2.2 the postbuckling curve of an

Buckling Experiments: Experimental Methods in Buckling of Thin-Walled Structures: Basic Concepts, Columns, Beams and
Plates Volume 1. J. Singer, J. Arbocz and T. Weller Copyright 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

axially compressed perfectly straight column is tangent to the horizontal line at the
bifurcation point P/Pc D 1.0, where the lateral deection is zero. Notice that the
solution curves for columns with small initial imperfections closely approximate
the perfect curve. Thus one can expect a good agreement between the theoretical
predictions and the experimental results. However, it must be remembered that the
postbuckling curves shown in Figure 2.2 are only valid up to the proportional limit
of the material.
From the equilibrium paths for initially perfectly at and for slightly imperfect
plates shown in Figure 2.7 it is evident, that plates subjected to in-plane compression will carry additional load after buckling if the unloaded edges are supported.
Further it can be seen, that the buckling of imperfect plates appears to be so
gradual that it becomes difcult to decide at precisely what load the buckling may
be said to occur. Notice that also in this case the solution curves for small initial
imperfections follow closely the theoretical curve for the perfect plate both in the
prebuckling and in the postbuckling regions. Thus once again one can expect a
close agreement between test results and theoretical predictions.
Quite another type of behavior appears to predominate when one considers the
correlation between theoretical and experimental results for axially compressed
cylindrical shells as attempted by Flugge [2.48], Lundquist ([9.53], Volume 2),
Donnell ([9.54], Volume 2) and others. As can be seen in Figure 3.1 (from [9.103],
Volume 2) the tests reveal a wide scatter in the experimental results, with experimental buckling loads for very thin shells (R/h > 1000) as low as 20 percent
of the theoretical values. The reason for this behavior becomes evident if one
considers the postbuckling equilibrium paths for axially compressed cylinders
calculated by von Karman and Tsien [3.1] using a nonlinear theory. As can be
seen in Figure 3.2, their results show that the postbuckling equilibrium path drops
sharply downward from the bifurcation point. Although von Karman and Tsien
did not analyze initially imperfect shells, their results suggest that equilibrium

Figure 3.1 Test data for isotropic cylinder under axial compression (from [9.103], Volume 2)


Figure 3.2


Theoretical postbuckling curves for axially compressed cylindrical shells

paths for shells with initial imperfections might have the form as indicated by
the dashed curve in Figure 3.2. This conjecture was conrmed by the well known
analysis of initially imperfect cylindrical shells presented by Donnell and Wan in
1950 [3.2].
Rigorous conrmation of the inuence of initial imperfections was given by
Koiter. Thanks to his pioneering work [2.36], rst published in 1945, and the
efforts of many investigators since then, the theory of imperfection sensitivity
of elastic and inelastic structures is well developed, and today one has a thorough
understanding of the principal factors that must be considered for a reliable prediction of the buckling load. What often is missing, however, are the experimental
data (read information about the initial imperfections present in the structure and
precise denition of the boundary conditions) needed for a successful prediction.
See Chapters 10 and 11, Volume 2 for further details.
In Koiters theory the initial postbuckling behavior plays a central role. When
the initial portion of the secondary path emanating from the bifurcation point
has a positive slope, considerable postbuckling strength can be developed by the
structure, and loss of stability on the primary path does not result in structural
collapse. On the other hand, when the initial portion of the secondary (postbuckling)
path has a negative slope, the buckling is sudden, explosion-like and the magnitude
of the critical collapse load is subject to the inuence of initial imperfections.
Koiters theory is exact in the asymptotic sense, that is, it is exact at the bifurcation
point itself and a close approximation for postbuckling congurations near the
bifurcation point.
Summarizing, in order to obtain an estimate of the critical load levels of imperfect structures one can rely either on the predictions of an asymptotic analysis
or one can choose to consider the results of a general nonlinear analysis. In the
following both approaches will be described in more detail.



Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

Asymptotic Imperfection Sensitivity Analysis

The Koiter type asymptotic analysis consists basically of a perturbation expansion

about the lowest (critical) eigenvalue of the structure. That is, one is interested
in the variation of  with  in the vicinity of the bifurcation point  D c of the
perfect structure, where  is the loading parameter and  is the suitably normalized
amplitude of the buckling mode. If the structure possesses a unique buckling mode
associated with the lowest buckling load, then its buckling and initial postbuckling
behavior can be represented by

D 1 C a C b 2 C


where a and b are the rst and the second postbuckling coefcients, respectively.
Figure 3.3 illustrates the case when a < 0 and b > 0, whereas Figure 3.4a and 3.4b
show the cases when a D 0, and b > 0 or b < 0, respectively. Notice that in all
the gures initially, along the prebuckling branch the buckling displacement  of
the perfect structure is identically zero for increasing load  until the bifurcation
load c is reached. Also the name bifurcation buckling gives a tting description
of the transition of the state of the structure from the fundamental equilibrium path
to the buckled path (in either direction) at  D c .
To answer the question, what shall be the behavior of the structure when it
is subjected to a load that is increased slowly from zero, one has to introduce

Figure 3.3 Asymmetric equilibrium paths for a < 0 and b > 0

Figure 3.4

Symmetric equilibrium paths for a D 0 (case a: b > 0; case b: b < 0)

Asymptotic Imperfection Sensitivity Analysis


a suitably chosen initial imperfection into the mathematical model. Thus, if one
assumes a small, stress free, initial imperfection of amplitude N then one can
describe the variation of  with  in the vicinity of  D c by the following
expression [3.3].
  c  D ac  2 C bc  3 C  c N    c N C


where and are the so-called rst and second imperfection form factors. Notice
that, as can be seen from Figure 3.4, this expression is chosen so as to have the
correct limiting behavior, namely

lim lim  D c and lim  D 0 if N 6D 0.



If the initial imperfection is assumed to have the shape of the critical buckling
mode and one uses a membrane prebuckling analysis then D D 1 and Eq. (3.2)
reduces to

 C a 2 C b 3 C D N
the form originally proposed by Koiter [2.36].
As can be seen from Figures 3.3 and 3.4 the shape of the secondary equilibrium
path plays a central role in determining the inuence of the initial imperfections.
When the initial portion of the secondary path slopes upward then the structure
can develop considerable postbuckling strength, and the loss of stability of the
primary (fundamental) path does not result in structural collapse. However, when
the initial portion of the secondary path slopes downward, then in most cases
buckling will occur violently and the magnitude of the critical load c of the
real (imperfect) structure is lower than the bifurcation buckling load c of the
corresponding idealized (perfect) structure.
Notice also that in the case of asymmetric equilibrium paths the sign of the
initial imperfection plays an important role. In Figure 3.3 a positive N produces
an imperfect sensitive conguration, with the buckling load of the real (imperfect)
structure s less than c , the bifurcation buckling load of the perfect structure. On
the other hand, a negative N has no degrading effects so far as elastic buckling is
For the cases with symmetric equilibrium paths, as can be seen from Figure 3.4
the sign of the initial imperfection is immaterial. Whether the buckling load of the
structure is imperfection sensitive or not is governed by the sign of the second postbuckling coefcient b. Notice that in these cases the rst post-buckling coefcient
a is identically equal to zero.
What makes the use of asymptotic methods so attractive is that the postbuckling
coefcients a and b are properties of the perfect structure. Hence their computation
does not involve the shape and the size of the expected initial imperfections. With
the knowledge of the postbuckling coefcients one can make qualitative predictions
about the nature of the experimental results.
Thus, if the postbuckling path of the loaded structure has a limit point, then the
buckling load s is sensitive to initial imperfections. In this case the experimentalist


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

must expect that the test results will be in general lower than the predictions based
on the stability analysis of the perfect structure. Furthermore, the results of repeated
buckling tests are probably going to exhibit noticeable scatter.
On the contrary, if the postbuckling path of the loaded structure is monotonically
increasing, then initial elastic buckling will not result in a collapse of the structure.
It can be loaded further and one says that the structure has additional postbuckling
strength. In this case the test results will, in general, agree quite well with the
theoretical predictions of the stability analysis of the perfect structure. Also the
scatter of the results of carefully executed repeated buckling tests should be slight.


Initial Postbuckling Behavior of Columns

To investigate the initial postbuckling behavior of an axially compressed, simply

supported, slender column one must rst develop an asymptotic expression for the
total potential energy valid in the neighborhood of the critical load. It has been
shown that the small parameter  involved can be taken as the amplitude of the
buckling mode (see [3.4]). Recalling from Chapter 2, Subsection 2.2.1

EI L 2
EA L 2
x dx C
x dx C P
u,x dx
2 0
2 0
x D u,x C 12 w,2x .


It has been shown by Dym ([2.5], pp. 71 72) that if the column is assumed to
be incompressible during its bending from the straight line conguration, then the
deformed length of a line element dx D dx, the undeformed length of the same
line element. Thus one must require
1 C u,x 2 C w,2x D 1

u,x D  w,2x  w,4x 

1 2 3 4
x D 
D w,xx 1 C w,x C w,x C .
1  w,2x


Thus the potential energy of an axially compressed, incompressible x D 0,

slender column can be written

1 L
1 L
P 4
EIw,xx Pw,x  dx C
EIw,xx w,x  wx dx C
2 0
2 0
To determine the characteristic form of for a particular equilibrium conguration
w D w0 one examines the change in the total potential energy corresponding
to an arbitrary virtual displacement w1 of the structure. Thus let
w D w0 C w1 .


Asymptotic Imperfection Sensitivity Analysis


Substitution and regrouping yields

D  0 D C 12 2 C

1 3

1 4


where for an initially straight column w0 D 0 and

D 0
1 2

 equilibrium condition



1 3

1 L
P 4
1 4
2 0


The stability equation for the determination of the classical buckling load may
now be obtained from the second variation expression 2 by Trefftz criterion
2  D 0


yielding for simply supported boundary conditions w1 D w1,xx D 0 at x D 0, L

Eulers problem (see Eq. (2.2)). The lowest eigenvalue is given by
Pc D



and the corresponding buckling mode is

w1 D wO D C sin



An equation for the secondary (postbuckling) equilibrium path may be obtained

from the expression for by application of the stationary potential energy criterion. However, the resulting differential equation will be nonlinear in the nite,
incremental displacement component w1 .
On the other hand, for points on the postbuckling equilibrium path sufciently
close to the bifurcation point the incremental displacement component w1 is of the
form of the classical buckling mode w.
O Thus, by limiting the range of validity of
the postbuckling analysis to a sufciently small neighborhood of the bifurcation
point, one can assume that the small nite displacement component w1 is of the
form of the buckling mode. Thus using Eq. (3.11b) an approximate expression
for the total potential increment can be obtained by evaluating the integrals
indicated. Thus




 P C2
2 L


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures


x P 4 


 3P C4
8 L

4 D 12


1 2

C 3 C 4 C D
Pc L1   2 C Pc L

4 C

where  D P/Pc , Pc D EI

/L2 and  D C/L close to the bifurcation point is a
small quantity. Notice that here c D 1 and hence because of Eq. (3.1) close to the
bifurcation point the following expression holds

D 1 C a C b 2 C .


Thus upon substitution and regrouping Eq. (3.14) becomes


Pc L1   2 C Pc L 4 C O 5 .


Equilibrium along the postbuckling path implies that

Hence for  6D 0


 D 0.

1   C 2

Pc L D 0



this implies for  6D 0 that


2 2


or recalling that here c D 1, one can also write

D 1 C 2 .


Comparing this expression with Eq. (3.1) one concludes that the axially compressed
simply supported slender column has a stable, symmetrical postbuckling behavior

a D 0 and b D
D 1.2337 > 0.

Asymptotic Imperfection Sensitivity Analysis

Figure 3.5


Axial load vs lateral deection for a column

As can be seen in Figure 3.5 the asymptotic solution based on Eq. (3.20) compares
favorably with the rigorous postbuckling solution of the elastica of [2.5] for values
of  < 0.3.


Initial Postbuckling Behavior of Plates

In the following a formal procedure for obtaining the equations governing the
buckling and postbuckling states is presented. This procedure was developed by
Budiansky and Hutchinson [3.5] based on the original work by Koiter [2.36]. For
simplicity the derivation will be presented for the case of isotropic elastic plates
under in-plane edge loads (see Figure 2.3 for the sign convention used).
Using an Airy stress function such that Nx D f,yy , Ny D f,xx and Nxy D f,xy
the nonlinear von Karman Donnell type governing equations are
Dr4 w  f,yy w,xx  2f,xy w,xy C f,xx w,yy  D 0
r f


 w,xx w,yy  D 0.


For the sign convention shown in Figure 2.3 one has the following straindisplacement relations
x D u,x C 12 w,2x

x D w,xx

y D v,y C 12 w,2y

y D w,yy

xy D u,y C v,x C w,x w,y

xy D 2w,xy .

For isotropic plates the constitutive equations can be written as

Nx D Cx C y 

Mx D Dx C y 



Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

Ny D Cy C x 
Nxy D C

My D Dy C x 



Mxy D D



1  2
121  2 


are the extensional and bending stiffnesses, respectively.

Assuming that the eigenvalue problem for the buckling load Nc will yield a
unique buckling mode w1 with the associated stress function F1 , a solution
valid in the initial postbuckling region is sought in the form of the following
asymptotic expansions

D 1 C a C b 2 C


w D W0 C W1 C  2 W2 C


f D F0 C F1 C  2 F2 C


where W1 will be normalized with respect the plate thickness h and W2 is
orthogonal to W1 in some appropriate sense.
A formal substitution of this expansion into the governing equations and
regrouping by powers of the small parameter  generates a sequence of equations
for the functions appearing in the expansions.
Notice that by assuming that the unloaded edges are free to expand, the following
membrane prebuckling state
x D F,yy D N0

D Ny0 D 0

u0 D x0 x

v0 D y0 y

w0 D 0


x0 D


y0 D



satises the governing equations of the zero order state identically. Further, the
equations governing the rst order state are reduced to the following set of
linearized stability equations
Dr4 W1 C N0 W,xx


r4 F1 D 0.


These uncoupled, constant coefcient partial differential equations admit separable

solutions of the form
W1 D Wmn sin m
sin n

F1 D 0.


Asymptotic Imperfection Sensitivity Analysis


Notice that the expression assumed for W1 satises simply supported boundary
conditions at all edges. Substitution into Eq. (3.28a) yields the characteristic
equation with the eigenvalues
N0,mn D D

kmn D


C n2



Notice that the critical buckling load Nc is obtained when for a given plate
aspect ratio a/b the plate buckling coefcient kmn assumes its minimum value. As
discussed in Chapter 2 the minimum value of kmn occurs for n D 1 and different
integer values of m, which depend on the specied plate aspect ratio a/b. See
Figure 2.4 for further details.
Introducing the classical plate buckling load Nc
2 E
Nc D c h D
121   b
then in Eq. (3.25a)

p and c D


Notice that in this case, for sufciently long (say a/b > 1) simply supported plates
c D 1.
The equations governing the postbuckling or second order elds are
Dr4 W2 C Nc W,xx

Eh 2
r4 F2 D EhW,xy
yy  D
2 mn

cos 2m
C cos 2n


2  n


These equations admit separable solutions of the form

W2 D 0

D A1 cos 2m
C A2 cos 2n

Eh  n a 2 2
32 m b

Eh m b 2 2
Wmn .
A2 D
32 n a

A1 D




Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

General expressions for the postbuckling coefcients a and b have been derived
by Budiansky and Hutchinson [3.5]. Alternative derivations of a and b are
presented, among others, in [3.3], [3.4] and [3.6]. For the case under consideration
these expressions reduce to

F,xx W,y W,y 2F,xy W,x W,y CF,yy W,x W,x

y W,y 2F,xy W,x W,y CW,y W,x


dS C
C F,yy W,x W,x
xx W,y W,y 2F,xy W,x W,y
C F,yy
x W,x



P xx





Notice that for the membrane prebuckling state specied by Eq. (3.26a)
P 0
P 0
xx D F,xy D 0;

P yy
D Nc .


Thus Eq. (3.39) reduces to

2 ab
O D Nc
W2mn m



Since by Eq. (3.29b) F1 D 0 and by Eq. (3.35a) W2 D 0, the evaluation of the
postbuckling coefcients is greatly simplied. In this case Eqs. 3.37 and 3.38 yield

1 Eh
2 2
Nc 16 b2 mn



C n4

 a 2



Assuming that the buckling mode given by Eq. (3.29a) is normalized to one by
the wall-thickness h, then Wmn D h. Substituting for Nc from Eq. (3.32) one gets

 a 2
mb 2
b D 1  
Thus a simply supported isotropic elastic plate under in-plane edge load has
a stable, symmetrical behavior. For a square plate a/b D 1 and the initial

Asymptotic Imperfection Sensitivity Analysis

Figure 3.6


Uni-axial compression vs lateral deection for a square plate

postbuckling behavior is described by

D 1 C b 2


where using D 0.3

1  2  D 0.34125 > 0.
As can be seen in Figure 3.6 for  < 1.0 (say) the asymptotic solution based on
Eq. (3.46) agrees closely with the solution of the geometrically nonlinear theory
of plates of [2.14].


Initial Postbuckling Behavior of Shells

The imperfection sensitivity of eccentrically stiffened cylindrical shells under

combined axial compression, external (or internal) pressure and torsion can also be
investigated within the context of Koiters theory. Figure 3.7 displays the notation
and sign convention used. Notice that the out-of-plane displacement w is taken to
be positive outward.
The nonlinear Donnell type equations appropriate for eccentrically stiffened
cylindrical shells have been derived by different authors (see, for instance, [3.7],
[3.8] and [3.9]). Written in terms of w and f (an Airy stress function) these
equations are
LH f  LQ w D w,xx  LNL w, w
LD w C LQ f D  F,xx C LNL f, w C p


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

Figure 3.7

Notation and sign convention for eccentrically stiffened shells

where the linear differential operators are

LD   D Dxx  ,xxxx C Dxy  ,xxyy C Dyy  ,yyyy
LH   D Hxx  ,xxxx C Hxy  ,xxyy C Hyy  ,yyyy


LQ   D Qxx  ,xxxx C Qxy  ,xxyy C Qyy  ,yyyy

and the nonlinear differential operator is
LNL S, T D S,xx T,yy  2S,xy T,xy C S,yy T,xx .


Subscripts following a comma denote partial differentiation. These equations are

applicable to ring- and stringer stiffened shells if the stiffener properties are
smeared out to arrive at effective bending, stretching and eccentricity coupling
stiffnesses for the skin-stiffener combination. The parameters Dxx , H,xx , Q,xx , . . .,
etc. are listed in [3.10].
To calculate the postbuckling coefcients a and b for the case where a unique
buckling mode W1 and F1 corresponds to the critical (lowest) buckling load c ,
one begins by assuming a solution valid in the initial postbuckling regime in the
form of the asymptotic expansions given by Eq. (3.25). A formal substitution of
this expansion into Eq. (3.48) and regrouping by powers of  generates a sequence
of linear equations for the functions appearing in the expansion.
If one neglects the effect of the prebuckling edge constraints, then the following
membrane prebuckling solution
W0 D hW C Wp C Wt 

1 2 1
 y  pN e x  N xy


satises the governing equations of the zero order state identically. The quantities W , Wp and Wt are evaluated by enforcing the periodicity condition (see
[3.6] for details). Furthermore,  is the nondimensional axial load parameter  D
cR/Eh2 N0 , pN e is the nondimensional external pressure pN e D cR2 /Eh2 pe  and
N is the nondimensional torque parameter N D cR/Eh2 Nxy , positive counterclockwise.

Asymptotic Imperfection Sensitivity Analysis


The set of equations for W1 and F1 yields the following classic eigenvalue
LH F1   LQ W1  D

1 1
R xx




LD W1  C LQ F1  D  F,1
R xx

In Eq. (3.52b) the user can select the eigenvalue c to be the critical value of
either the normalized axial load , or the normalized external pressure pN e or the
normalized torque N . The remaining two load parameters are then held xed.
Approximate solutions of this standard eigenvalue problem have been presented
by many authors. See, for instance, Hutchinson and Amazigo [3.7], Seggelke and
Geier [3.11], Block et al. [3.12] and Khot and Venkayya [3.13], just to name a
From the next higher-order terms in the expansion one gets the governing
equations for W2 and F2
LH F2   LQ W2  

1 2
W, D W,xy
R xx

LQ F2  C LD W2  C

1 2 Eh2
2N W,xy
CpN e W,yy
F, C
R xx

D LNL F1 , W1 



whereby one of the three load parameters , pN or N is the eigenvalue c selected

above when solving the classic eigenvalue problem.
The same general expressions for the postbuckling coefcients a and b, quoted
earlier as Eqs. (3.37) and (3.38), are also valid for this case. It is easily veried that
the rst postbuckling coefcient a is identically zero for an asymmetric buckling
mode. Therefore, it is necessary to solve for W2 and F2 in order to calculate
the second postbuckling coefcient b. It is shown in [3.7] that Eqs. (3.53a) and
(3.53b) admit separable solutions of the form


W2 D h
Aj sin j
C cos 2n
Bj sin j


R jD1



F2 D
Cj sin j
C cos 2n
Dj sin j



where c D 31  2 . The coefcients are determined by the Galerkin procedure.
Notice that each individual term in the series in Eqs. (3.54) and (3.55) satises
simply supported boundary conditions W2 D W,2
D F,2
xx D F
xx D 0 at x D
0, L. Finally, the postbuckling coefcient b is calculated by evaluating the integrals
indicated in Eq. (3.38) to obtain


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures


N j C Dj  C 2
N j C Cj 

c jD1,3,...
4m2  j2

Q depends on the choice of c .

where the value of
Thus for axial compression (c D , both pN e and N xed)
2 2
Q D 2m C p  n .

2m C 2p 


Notice that for a specied internal pressure pN e D pN i  the eigenvalue must be
replaced by O c D c  21 pN i . Further for external lateral pressure (c D pN e , both 
and N xed)
Q D m C p 2

whereas for hydrostatic pressure (c D pN e ,  D 21 pN e and N xed)


2m C p 2 n2
1 2
2 m C p  C 2n


Finally for torsional loading (c D N , both  and pN e xed)


Q D m C p  n

m  p


n 2 Rh
2m D m C K

2p D m  K
 n 2 Rh
n2 D
R 2c


Notice that in these expressions m, n are integers denoting the number of half waves
and the number of full waves in the axial and in the circumferential directions,
respectively, whereas K is a real number called Khots skewedness parameter
[3.13] denoting the inclination of the nodal lines of the buckling pattern with
respect to the axis of the shell.
The series in Eq. (3.56) can be evaluated numerically to any degree of accuracy
desired. This solution was rst obtained by Hutchinson and Amazigo in 1967 (see
[3.7]) using an asymmetric imperfection in the form of the critical buckling mode
N D hN2 sin m

cos y  K x


where in the absence of torsional loading K D 0. The coefcients Aj , Bj , Cj and

Dj are listed in [3.14].

Asymptotic Imperfection Sensitivity Analysis


Knowing b one can use Eq. (3.4) and the condition for the occurrence of a limit


to obtain a relation between the limit load s of the imperfect structure and the
bifurcation load c of the perfect structure. Notice that for a D 0 straightforward
calculations yield the formula

s 3/2 3 p
3bjN2 j

for b < 0


rst presented by Koiter in 1945 [2.36]. Thus, for symmetrical bifurcation (a D 0)

if the second postbuckling coefcient b is negative, the equilibrium load decreases
following buckling and the buckling load of the real (imperfect) structure s is
expected to be imperfection sensitive.
Since the sixties many papers have been published dealing with the imperfection
sensitivity of different shells of revolution loaded by various types of external loads.
Following the standard set by the Harvard group under Budiansky and Hutchinson
it has become a widely accepted practice to display the results of such investigations
in the form shown in Figure 3.8. By plotting the normalized buckling load c and
the corresponding second
postbuckling coefcient b versus Batdorfs Z-parameter,
where Z D L /Rh 1  2 , it is possible to display both the critical buckling
load and a measure of its imperfection sensitivity for a wide range of possible
shell congurations in a single gure.
When trying to assess the imperfection sensitivity of the critical buckling load
one must remember, that this form of the so-called b-factor method can only be
applied in cases of symmetric bifurcation and when just a single non-axisymmetric
buckling mode is associated with the critical buckling load. To estimate the degree
of imperfection sensitivity as a function of the magnitude of the postbuckling
coefcient b, one can use the curves shown in Figure 3.9. For the sake of calibration
a curve taken from Koiter [2.36], showing the effect of axisymmetric imperfections
on the buckling load of axially compressed isotropic cylinders, is also included in
Figure 3.9. For authoritative reviews and for more detailed results the interested
reader should consult [3.15] and [3.16].
Recent investigations [3.17] and [3.18], have shown that the trends predicted
by a Koiter type asymptotic imperfection-sensitivity analysis are reliable, if in the
calculation of the eld functions needed to evaluate the postbuckling coefcients
one employs rigorous nonlinear prebuckling analysis and satises the appropriate
boundary conditions exactly. Furthermore, it can be stated that with the availability
of computer codes like DISDECO [3.18], SRA [3.19] and FASOR [3.20] and with
the current generation of high-speed desk-top workstations, it has become feasible
for all structural engineers to use Koiters Imperfection Sensitivity Theory in every
day design practice (see also Sub-section 3.3.5 on this topic).


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

Figure 3.8 Classical buckling load and imperfections sensitivity of simply supported, stringer
stiffened cylinders under axial compression (As /ds h D 0.506, Els /Dds D 2.69,
es /h D 1.71, GJs /Dds D 3/40)


Experimental Verication

The best known experimental verication of the predictions of the asymptotic

imperfection sensitivity theory is due to Roorda [3.21]. He tested the two-bar frame
shown in Figure 3.10. Since a real structure is never totally free of imperfections
the vertical leg tended to bend to the right or to the left as soon as the load
was applied. Roorda found that by placing the load at a distance q0 D 0.0013L

Asymptotic Imperfection Sensitivity Analysis

Figure 3.9


Variation of buckling load with imperfection amplitude for various values of b

to the right of the centerline of the vertical leg he could practically eliminate this
tendency. Provisions were then made to apply the load at any distance q to the
right or the left of the centerline of the vertical leg. In the test program the frame
loaded by a slightly eccentric load applied at q 6D q0 represented an equivalent
slightly imperfect frame, where the load eccentricity q  q0  played the role of
the initial imperfection L.
In the tests the rotation A of joint A was measured optically and it was used
as the displacement parameter in plots of the equilibrium paths (thus  D A ). In
Figure 3.11 results of two of the tests for the smallest eccentricity jq  q0 j that
could be achieved are displayed where  D P/Pc and
Pc D 1.406

Figure 3.10



Two-bar frame subjected to eccentric load


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

Figure 3.11

Comparison of theoretical and experimental equilibrium paths (from [3.21])

is the classical buckling load of the two-bar frame shown in Figure 3.10. Negative
values of A represent counter-clockwise rotations of joint A. For small values of A
one can see the excellent agreement between the experimental points and the asymmetric equilibrium paths predicted by the asymptotic theory. For counter-clockwise
rotations the equilibrium path exhibits a limit point at about s D 0.99. Experimental limit loads s for values of q < q0 , which produces a counter-clockwise
initial rotation, were obtained by applying the load at other locations. Figure 3.12
displays a comparison between the experimental limit loads s plotted as a function
of the load eccentricity ratio q/L with the locus of the limit point predicted by the
asymptotic theory
N sD0
1  s  C 4aN 
where N is an equivalent imperfection form factor. From the theoretical solution
of [2.2] one obtains

Figure 3.12 Comparison of theoretical and experimental limit point loci (from [3.21])

Asymptotic Imperfection Sensitivity Analysis

a D 0.380 and N D 0.871.



Using these numerical values in Eq. (3.66) to obtain the solid line in Figure 3.12
one sees that once again the agreement is excellent. The curve is seen to have
the characteristic parabolic form with a vertical tangent at N D q  q0 /L D 0.
Thus in this gure the ratio N D q  q0 /L represents an equivalent imperfection
Turning now to more complicated structures it soon becomes evident that there
are less results available and that due to the mathematical complexities of the
asymptotic theory extrapolation of the published results to more general structural
congurations requires considerable theoretical and practical insight and experience.
Considering again the postbuckling equilibrium paths in Figure 3.2 for an axially
compressed initially perfect cylindrical shell and one of the possible curves for a
slightly imperfect shell, one can conclude the following
1. The bifurcation buckling load of the perfect structure represents the ultimate
load carrying capability of the structure.
2. The collapse load of the imperfect structure may be considerably lower than
the bifurcation buckling load of the perfect structure.
3. The collapse loads of nominally identical structures may vary widely due to
the random nature of the initial deviations (imperfections) from the perfect
That the scatter in buckling loads for nominally identical cylindrical shells is
caused by the small unintentional differences in the initial shape can also be
deduced from the results displayed in Figure 3.13. The upper part contains the
results of a large number of buckling experiments under hydrostatic pressure
marked by circles and a solid line depicting the theoretical buckling pressure for
perfect cylinder. Notice that for Z-values between 10 and 100 there are larger
deviations between the experimental results and the theoretical predictions than
for higher Z-values. This trend is also predicted by the second postbuckling coefcient b, plotted in the lower part, since for decreasing values of Z the value of b
becomes more negative thus indicating increasing imperfection sensitivity. In the
upper part of Figure 3.13 the following normalized external pressure is used
pN D


2 D

where D D

121  2 


The degree of imperfection sensitivity depends not only on the shell geometry
and on the boundary conditions used but also on the external load applied to the
shell. In the upper part of Figure 3.14 the results of a large number of buckling
experiments under torsion are shown marked by circles. Also included is a solid
line depicting the theoretical buckling coefcient for perfect cylinders. Notice that
the second postbuckling coefcient b, plotted in the lower part, predicts that for all
values of Z larger than, say ve, the buckling loads are sensitive to initial imperfections. These predictions are for the most part conrmed by the test results of the


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

Figure 3.13

Comparison of theoretical and experimental values for isotropic cylinders

subjected to hydrostatic pressure

upper part. Unfortunately there is little experimental data available for shell geometries with Z-values between 10 and 50 where maximum imperfection sensitivity
is predicted. In the upper part of Figure 3.14 the following normalized torsional
buckling coefcient is used
L2 h
Kt D 2 c

where c D Nxy /h.

Asymptotic Imperfection Sensitivity Analysis

Figure 3.14


Comparison of theoretical and experimental values for isotropic cylinders

subjected to torsion

Considering the results of the correlation studies presented, one sees that for
those structures that are insensitive (or not very sensitive) to initial imperfections
there is a good agreement between the predictions of the asymptotic theory and
the available experimental results. Even for imperfection sensitive structures like
thin-walled shells the asymptotic theory appears to predict the trend correctly. Thus
a question comes automatically to ones mind: Why is the asymptotic imperfection sensitivity theory not used more often in practical applications? Partially
the answer may lie in the fact that whereas in many cases the predictions of the


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

asymptotic theory have been conrmed by subsequent full nonlinear solutions to

be accurate up to imperfection amplitudes of the order of one shell wall thickness, there are also examples where the range of validity of the asymptotic theory
is too small to be of any practical value as has been shown for oval cylinders
[3.22] and elliptical cones [3.23] under axial compression. Another reason why
the asymptotic imperfection sensitivity theory is not used more often is because
very little is known about the deviations from the nominal shape of real life structures such as aircraft fuselages, launch vehicle shells, submarine hulls, silos, large
containment vessels, off-shore shells etc. It is encouraging to see that the need for
detailed initial imperfection surveys on large scale and full scale structures and the
establishment of Initial Imperfection Data Banks is being recognized by a growing
number of investigators. It is the authors opinion that the existence of extensive
data on characteristic initial imperfection distributions classied according to fabrication processes is one of the prerequisites for better and more reliable buckling
load prediction. This point is discussed in more detail in Chapter 10, Volume 2.


Direct Solutions of the Nonlinear Stability Problem

As has been pointed out earlier, in many cases one can use Koiters theory to
make a fairly accurate estimate of the initial postbuckling behavior of real (read
imperfect) structures. Unfortunately, the validity of the information provided by
the asymptotic approach is strictly speaking restricted to the immediate neighborhood of the corresponding bifurcation point. Thus, in order to establish the range
of validity of the asymptotic analysis, or whenever the shape of the (secondary)
equilibrium path in the more advanced postbuckling region is needed, one must
solve the nonlinear stability problem. Such will be the case, for instance, if both
geometric and material nonlinearities are included in the analysis.


Elastic Postbuckling Behavior of Columns

The equation governing the large displacement deformations of elastic columns

can best be derived by using the stationary potential energy criterion. For slender
columns one can assume that the column is incompressible during its bending from
the initial straight line conguration. Thus its potential energy may be written
D U b C p


where Ub and p are the bending energy and the potential of the applied load
(see Eqs. (2.243b) and (2.243c)), respectively. As can be seen from Figure 3.15
and as has been described in detail in [2.5] on pp. 71 72, in view of the condition
of incompressibility
u,x D cos   1.


Direct Solutions of the Nonlinear Stability Problem

Figure 3.15


Geometry of deformed column

Further, the true curvature of the deformed curve is

x D

D .


Thus Eq. 3.70 becomes





dx C P

cos   1 dx.


A straightforward use of the variational statement of equilibrium

D 0
yields the following two-point boundary value problem
C P sin  D 0
dx 2
M D EI D 0


for 0  x  L


at x D 0, L.


The solution of this equation is rather involved because of the nonlinearity inherent
in the term sin . Solutions in terms of complete elliptic integrals of the rst kind
Kq have been presented in [2.1] and [2.5]. For a simply supported column one


D Kq

1  q2 sin2 
q D sin


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

q sin  D sin



and is the unknown slope at the column ends. One can also calculate the
maximum deection in terms of P/PE yielding
 w 2  wx D L/2 2  2 2  P 
q2 .


For details of the solution the interested reader should consult [2.5].
Equations [3.75] and [3.77] can be used to plot the curve labelled exact solution
in Figure 3.5.
Considering this solution curve, notice that it is tangent to the horizontal line
at /c D 1, where the deection is zero  D 0. Thus an increase in the axial
compression P (or ) corresponding to a small increment in the buckling deection
w1 (or ) is a small quantity of second order. This explains why when one uses
the linearized stability equations (Eqs. (2.2) or (2.256b)) to calculate the critical
buckling load Pc , the buckling deection w1 D wO is found to be indenite. Notice
that, as indicated also in Figure 2.2, the solution curve represented by Eq. (3.77)
can only be used up to the proportional limit of the material. Beyond this limit
the resistance of the column to bending diminishes and in order to obtain the
proper postbuckling solution curve the inelastic behavior of the material must be
accounted for.


Plastic Postbuckling Behavior of Columns

In Chapter 2 the plastic buckling case of an axially compressed column has been
formulated as a bifurcation problem leading to the well-known reduced modulus
buckling formula of Considere Engesser von Karman (see Eq. (2.230)). To investigate the postbuckling behavior of the column, the problem must be reformulated
as a response problem. This will be done at some length following basically von
Karmans approach [2.76]. It serves as a lucid account of how one can combine the
results of carefully done experiments with physical insight to arrive at an useful
engineering solution of a pressing problem.
Using the sign convention shown in Figure 3.15 one sees that if the applied
compressive force has a slight eccentricity e, one has bending and axial compression acting simultaneously. Assuming in the plastic analysis that plane sections
remain plane also during plastic deformation results in a linear distribution of the
normal strain. Thus the strain at any point is
D 0 C
where 0 is the strain caused by the centrally applied axial load P. Furthermore,
in the plastic analysis the normal stress distribution is given by the stress-strain
curve of the material used, shown here in Figure 3.16.

Direct Solutions of the Nonlinear Stability Problem


Figure 3.16 Stress-strain diagram

Notice that the position of the neutral axis does not necessarily coincide with
the centroidal axis. Its position is determined by the values of 1 and 2 , the
elongation and contraction of the extreme bers and the value of 0 . By using the
static equilibrium equations

 dA D P

z dA D M D P0


one can calculate the position of the neutral axis and the radius of curvature R.
Introducing the notation
h 1 h2
and recalling from Eq. (3.78) that dz D Rd one can rewrite Eq. (3.79) as

h 1
P D b
 dz D bR
 d D b
D 1  2 D

Dividing by the cross-sectional area bh one obtains the average compressive stress
c as

1 1
c D
Notice that the integral in this expression represents the shaded area under the
stress-strain curve in Figure 3.16. Equation (3.83) can be used to calculate the value
of 2 corresponding to any assumed value of 1 provided the axial load P is known;
or one can assume both 1 and 2 and calculate the corresponding value of P.
Using the same notation one can rewrite also Eq. (3.80) as


12 1
z dz D bR
  0  d D
  0  d
where for a rectangular cross-section I D bh3 /12. As can be seen, the integral
in this expression represents the rst moment of the shaded area for the given


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

stress-strain diagram with respect to the vertical axis A-A in Figure 3.16. Since
the ordinates in the gure represent stresses and the abscissas represent strains the
integral has the same dimensions as the modulus E. Thus Eq. (3.84) can be put in
the form


  0  d.


Q for a given material is function of D 1  2 . By varying

The magnitude of E
1 and 2 in such a manner that c calculated from Eq. (3.83) remains constant,
one obtains EQ as a function of for any given value of c . The resulting relations
were calculated by Timoshenko and Gere for a given structural steel (see [2.1],
p. 170) and are presented here in Figure 3.17. Using these curves with Eq. (3.85)
one can calculate the bending moment M as a function of D 1  2 D h/R for
any given value of c . The resulting curves are displayed in Figure 3.18.
Next, using the curves of Figure 3.18 the shape of the deection curve for an
eccentrically loaded column can be obtained from Eq. (3.83) by numerical integration. The details of this method are discussed at some length in von Karmans
paper of 1910 (see [2.76]) and shall not be repeated here. The calculations are best
carried out in terms of dimensionless ratios. Thus nally one obtains for specied

Figure 3.17

Q vs for specied values of c (from [2.1])

Equivalent plastic modulus E

Direct Solutions of the Nonlinear Stability Problem

Figure 3.18


Equivalent plastic bending moment vs for specied values of c (from [2.1])

values of c and eccentricity ratio e/h, the deection wmax /h as a function of the
normalized length L/h of the columns. Several curves of this type, calculated by
von Karman [2.76] for steel having a yield stress of about 45 000 psi using various
values of c and e/h D 0.005, are shown in Figure 3.19. Notice that instead of
values of L/h, values of the slenderness ratio L/ are used as ordinates in this
gure. From the points of intersection of horizontal lines and the curves, designated as points M, N and Q, one obtains a relation between the direct compressive
stress c and the deection wmax for a given slenderness ratio L/ and an assumed
load eccentricity e.
Cross-plotting these values von Karman obtained the curves shown in
Figure 3.20 using different values of load eccentricity and a slenderness ratio

Figure 3.19

Variation of deection with slenderness ratio for specied values of c (from



Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

Figure 3.20

Postbuckling curves for an imperfect column including material nonlinearities

(from [2.76])

of L/ D 75. Notice that in this gure for any eccentricity the load initially
increases with increasing deection. However, contrary to the elastic case, where
the curves with different load eccentricities approach the same critical buckling
load asymptotically (see also Figure 2.2), in the plastic buckling case the maximum
load carrying capacity of the column is noticeably decreased even for small values
of load eccentricity. Thus the critical buckling load of an axially compressed
column becomes imperfection sensitive if buckling occurs at stress levels higher
than the yield point of the material, whereby the load eccentricity e is the initial
imperfection. Notice further, that beyond the limit load a column can carry for a
given slenderness ratio and assumed load eccentricity, increase in deection will
proceed with a diminishing of the load.


Postbuckling Behavior of Plates

Thin-walled plates are widely used in all branches of engineering technology. Their
popularity arises from the fact that a slender compressed plate is able to support
loads greater than that which causes the plate to buckle. The postbuckling strength
exhibited by thin-walled panels often leads to the use of structural elements with
compound cross-sections which operate within the postbuckling range under certain
loading conditions. In order to be able to exploit these characteristics of plate
structures optimally the designer must be aware of their postbuckling behavior.
To get an initial indication, one can use the results of the initial postbuckling
theories based on Koiters work. However, to verify the predictions of the asymptotic theory and to investigate the load carrying capacity of plates in the deep
postbuckling range one must solve the nonlinear equations directly.

Direct Solutions of the Nonlinear Stability Problem


a. Perfect Plates

The nonlinear von Karman Donnell type equilibrium equations of a at isotropic

plate under edge compression are (see, for instance, [2.2], p. 87)
Nx,x C Nxy,y D 0


Nxy,x C Ny,y D 0


D4 w  Nx w,xx C 2Nxy w,xy C Ny w,yy  D 0.


By introducing the constitutive and kinematic relations (Eqs. (3.22) and (3.23)),
the in-plane equilibrium equations can be written in terms of the displacements u
and v as
1 C 
u,yy C
w,x w,yy
v,xy D w,x w,xx 
u,xx C
1 C 
w,y w,xy

1 C 
u,xy D w,y w,yy 
w,y w,xx
v,xx C v,yy C
1 C 
w,x w,xy

For a square plate a D b the out-of-plane displacement w is given by
w D W11 sin

an expression that satises simply supported boundary conditions at all edges. After
substituting for w on the right hand side of Eqs. (3.88a) and (3.88b) one can use
the method of undetermined coefcients to obtain the following particular integrals
(see Figure 2.3 and [2.5])
u D 0 x C u20 sin 2
C u22 sin 2
cos 2

v D v0 y C v02 sin 2
C v22 cos 2
sin 2


W11 2
u20 D v02 D  1   a

W11 2
u22 D v22 D
The terms 0 x and v0 y have been added in Eqs. (3.90) and (3.91) in order to allow
for constant in-plane displacements at the shell edges. Notice that 0 is the applied
end-normal-strain at x D a. The total potential energy of the system can be written
(see, for instance, [2.2], p. 84)
D Um C Ub C p




Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

1   2
xy dx dy
x C y C x y C
0 0

1 2 2
1 2
1 2
C a a
u,x C w,x C u,x C w,x u,y C w,y
2 0 0

u,y C v,x C w,x w,y u,y C v,x C w,x w,y  dx dy 3.94a

D a a 2
1   2
x C y C x y C
Ub D
xy dx dy
2 0 0
D a a
w,xx C w,yy 2 dx dy
2 0 0

Um D


and C and D are the extensional and bending stiffnesses, respectively (see
Eq. (3.24)). Notice that use has been made of the fact that if w D 0 at all four
edges of the plate the contribution of the Gaussian curvature term to the bending
strain energy is zero. Furthermore the potential of the external load is
 a a
 D aN0 [ua  u0] D N0
u,x dx dy.

Substituting for u, v and w from Eqs. (3.89) (3.91), carrying out the integration
and regrouping, one obtains

1 Ea2 h

W11 2
0  2 0 v0 C v0 C 1 C v0  0 
2 1  2


4 h 2 W11 2
W11 4
C [4  1  2 ]
 N0 a2 0 3.95
12 a
For equilibrium the total potential energy must be stationary; that is, its rst variation must equal zero. Thus, remembering that the edge displacement jux D ajD
0 a is prescribed, it follows that

v0 C
W11 D 0

D 0. This yields the following equations

W11 2
v0 D 0 
1 C 



D 0.
31  2  a


implying that


Direct Solutions of the Nonlinear Stability Problem

The last equation obviously has two solutions. Either





31  2 

D 0.




Notice that this last equation implies that real solutions can exist only if the
prescribed end-normal-strain 0 > c , where

c D
31   a
Thus one can distinguish three regimes. Initially, when the applied normal strain
0 < c
there is no normal deection only shortening of the plate. This is the prebuckling
state where

D 0.

Buckling occurs, that is
6D 0, whenever 0 D c . Finally, in the postbucka
ling region, whenever
0 > c
the normal deection is given by

0  c .


Calculating the corresponding stress elds one obtains for the prebuckling state
x D Eh0 ;

Ny0 D Nxy
D 0.

At buckling, when 0 D c

2 E
D Nc D Ehc D 
121  2 

h D Nc .

Finally, in the postbuckling region (where 0 > c )

Nx D x h D
c 2 C
 1 1  cos 2





Evaluating the average value of Nx one obtains for a square plate a D b

h a
Nx ave D hx ave D
x dy D  0 C c .
a 0


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

Plotting from this equation x jave vs 0 in Figure 3.21 one sees that the plane
continues to carry increased loading beyond buckling at one-half of the rate prior
to buckling. Thus at buckling the plate has lost only a part of its load carrying capability. This implies that a redistribution of the normal stress takes place. Looking
at Figure 3.22, where using Eq. (3.105) the distribution of the axial stress x as a
function of y is plotted for different values of end-shortening ratios 0 /c one sees
that after buckling the additional loading is carried by parts of the plate near the
edges. It is interesting that the center of the plate carries only the critical stress c
at which buckling occurs, even as the plate is being further compressed.
For efcient design the postbuckling strength of plates must be taken into
account. This has led to the concept of effective width beff , which denotes that
portion of the plate width b that is actively carrying the applied load. If one identies that ratio beff /b with the ratio of the average stress after buckling for a given
value of 0 , to that of the stress carried by the unbuckled plate at the same value
0 , then one obtains a convenient expression to calculate beff .

Figure 3.21

Average stress vs prescribed normal strain for a buckled plate

Figure 3.22

Redistribution of normal stresses in a buckled plate

Direct Solutions of the Nonlinear Stability Problem

Notice that since, by denition

x jave

 0 C c  D






Thus, for the square plate at buckling where 0 /c D 1, beff D a; that is, the whole
plate is carrying the uniformly distributed applied load. On the other hand, in the
deep postbuckling region, say at 0 /c D 10, beff D 0.55a; that is, only a fraction
of the whole plate is actively carrying the applied load.
For design purposes it is convenient to express the results of the postbuckling
analysis in terms of an effective width beff over which the stress is considered to
be uniform, as shown in Figure 3.23b. Hence
Px D hbeff max


where max is the maximum stress at the plate edges y D 0, b. A widely used
approximate expression for beff is ([3.24], Eq. 7)

c 1/2
beff D b
where c is the classical critical stress for the given boundary condition. Using
the square plate considered above, and assuming that at the plate edges max /c D
0 /c D 10, Eq. (3.110) yields
beff D 0.316a.

Figure 3.23

Alternate stress distribution in a buckled plate (from [2.2])


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

More accurate expressions to calculate beff are to be found in [3.25] [3.27]. A

detailed description and a historical review of the concept of effective width is
presented in Chapter 8.
b. Imperfect Plates

To account for the effect of a small initial curvature (read, imperfection) one can
use the von Karman-Donnell type imperfect plate equations
Dr4 w  ff,xx w,yy C wN ,yy   2f,xy w,xy C wN ,xy 

r4 f D

C f,yy w,xx C wN ,xx g


fw,xx w,yy C 2wN ,yy   2w,xy w,xy C 2wN ,xy 
C w,yy w,xx C 2wN ,xx g


where the shape of the small initial imperfection is given by

N mn sin m
sin n

N y D W


Assuming that the out-of-plane displacement w can be represented by the afne

wx, y D Wmn sin m
sin n

then upon substituting and regrouping the compatibility equation (3.112) becomes

Eh  m
2  n
N mn  cos 2m
C cos 2n

Wmn Wmn C 2W
r4 f D
This equation admits a particular solution of the form
fx, y D  N0 y 2 C A1 cos 2m
C A2 cos 2n


Eh  na 2
N mn 
Wmn Wmn C 2W
32 mb
Eh mb 2
N mn 
Wmn Wmn C 2W
A2 D
32 na
A1 D



and N0 is the applied uniformly distributed compressive edge load.

Substituting the above expressions for w,
N w and f in the out-of-plane equilibrium
Eq. (3.111) yields the residue x, y; Wmn , which is then minimized by Galerkins
procedure. Evaluation of the integral involved
 a b
x, y; Wmn  sin m
sin n
dx dy D 0
0 0

Direct Solutions of the Nonlinear Stability Problem


yields after some regrouping the following nonlinear algebraic equation

2  n
2 2
N mn 
Wmn  N0
Wmn C W

Eh  m
2  n
m b 2  n a 2
N mn 
Wmn Wmn C W
16 a
N mn  D 0.
Wmn C 2W


Introducing the notation


N0 D c h

c D

N mn D hN
2 E
121  2 

Wmn D h



makes it possible to rewrite Eq. (3.119) as


 a 2
N C 2
pc,mn   C 1  2 
C n4

1 mb
2 a
c,mn D kmn D
4 a
For a square plate Eq. (3.122) is then used to plot the curves for N > 0 shown
in Figure 3.6. More accurate solutions using a truncated double Fourier series
representation for w,
N w and f have been obtained by Levy [3.28], Hu et al. [2.15]
and Coan [2.14].


Postbuckling Behavior of Circular Cylindrical Shells

In modern engineering design stiffened or unstiffened shells play an important role

when it comes to weight critical applications, since these thin-walled structures
exhibit very favorable strength over weight ratios. Unfortunately, they are also
prone to buckling instabilities.
In the following ways to obtain the equilibrium paths for initially perfect
and imperfect circular cylindrical shells subjected to axial compression will be
a. Perfect Shells

In order to arrive at their pioneering results depicted in Figure 3.2, describing the
postbuckling behavior of axially compressed perfect isotropic cylindrical shells,


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

von Karman and Tsien [3.1] had to solve the nonlinear governing equations of the
problem. They employed the stationary potential energy criterion to derive a set
of three nonlinear algebraic equations in terms of the unknown amplitudes f0 , f1
and f2 of the out-of-plane displacement w. To obtain a plausible form for w von
Karman and Tsien relied heavily on the known experimental results. They based
their analysis on the following assumed displacement function

D f0 C f1 C f1 cos m cos n C cos 2m C cos 2n
R 4
R 4

C f2 cos 2m C cos 2n
Notice that the term f0 C 1/4f1  allows for the shell to expand radially. Further,
by letting f0 D f2 D 0, f1 D 1, Eq. 3.124 reduces to

1 1
cos m cos n C cos 2m C cos 2n
4 2
R 4
R 4
mx C ny
mx  ny
which is the well-known diamond shaped pattern observed at large values of the
wave amplitude in the stable postbuckling region.
Notice further, that by setting
D cos2

f0 C 14 f1 D 0;

4 f1

C 21 f2 D 0 and 21 f1 D 1.

Equation (3.124) reduces to

D cos m cos n
which corresponds to the well known checkerboard type buckling pattern obtained
at the bifurcation point of the classical linearized stability theory valid, strictly
speaking, for innitesimal values of the wave amplitude. With other values of the
parameters f0 , f1 and f2 , wave patterns intermediate between these two limits can
be obtained. Notice that the wavelengths in the axial and circumferential direction
are 2
R/m and 2
R/n, respectively.
It is important to remember that with the appearance of high-speed photography
it was possible to show that indeed this latter incipient buckling mode plays an
important role at the beginning of the buckling process ([9.73], Volume 2).
Von Karman and Tsien dened failure as the transition from the stable prebuckling to the stable postbuckling conguration. Such a transition would occur at the
lowest bifurcation point along the prebuckling path or earlier, if through external
disturbances enough energy was imparted to the system to overcome the energy
barrier represented by the unstable portion of the postbuckling path. Since it is
difcult to determine the magnitudes of these disturbances in advance, it has been
suggested to use the minimum of the postbuckling curve as a safe design value in
practical engineering, thus lending theoretical support to the Lower Bound Design

Direct Solutions of the Nonlinear Stability Problem


Von Karman and Tsiens work [3.1] on the postbuckling behavior of perfect
cylindrical shells has been followed by renements and extensions by many investigators ([3.29] [3.32] and [9.189], Volume 2). In general all investigators used
the same method for nding equilibrium congurations in the postbuckling range.
That is, initially the potential energy of the system was expressed in terms of
nite displacements and then the equations governing the equilibrium congurations were found by the application of the principle of stationary potential energy. It
was felt that by using a sufciently rened expression for the out-of-plane displacement w, the nite displacement analysis would yield an accurate prediction of the
postbuckling minimum load LB (see Figure 3.2). Thus using
1 1

ajk cos j cos k


x D


y D


and j C k D even

terms have been added successively to the displacement function until no signicant
change occurred in the magnitude of the minimum postbuckling load. The system
of simultaneous nonlinear equations obtained by minimizing the total potential
energy with respect to the generalized coordinates x , y and the aij of the shell
were solved by the Newton Raphson iterative method. In Figure 3.24 the result
of Kempner [3.31], who kept the three coefcients a20 , a11 and a02 , is shown as
case I with LB D 0.301. Almroths result [3.32], who kept the nine coefcients
a20 , a11 , a02 , a40 , a31 , a22 , a13 , a60 and a33 , is shown as case II with LB D 0.108.
In a 1966 paper Hoff et al. [3.33] have suggested that if the number of terms in
the expression for the radial displacement w (Eq. (3.127)) approaches innity, then
the minimum of the postbuckling equilibrium curve approaches zero, whereas at
the same time also h/R ! 0. This mathematical limit is naturally of little use in
engineering applications.

Figure 3.24

The search for the postbuckling minimum


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

Figure 3.25

Experimental postbuckling curves (from [34]) (R/h D 394, L/R D 2.3)

Experimental results published by Esslinger and Geier [3.34] have shown conclusively that axially compressed, thin-walled, nite length cylinders possess a low
but nonzero minimum postbuckling load-carrying capacity (see Figure 3.25). It has
been argued to use this value as a possible design load on the grounds that the
cylinder would always support at least this much load, and that even the presence of
initial imperfections would not reduce the critical buckling load below this value.
However, because of the often very low postbuckling minima, for weight sensitive
applications this approach will denitively result in technically unacceptable solutions. Also for other applications the practical use of this idea is questionable, since
up to now there are no universally accepted postbuckling lower-bound buckling
loads for axially compressed cylindrical shells. Nevertheless, in the past few years
there have been new attempts, [3.35] and [3.36], to revitalize the lower-bound
design approach as a possible value for residual strength after damage. However,
it remains to be seen whether signicant advances will be achieved.
b. Imperfect Shells

In order to account for the effect of small, stress free deviations of the shell midsurface from the circular cylindrical shape, for orthotropic shells under combined
axial compression, lateral pressure and torsion one must solve the following
Donnell Mushtari Vlasov type imperfect shell equations
w,xx  LNL w, w C 2w
N Cp
LQ f  LD w D  f,xx C LNL f, w C w
LH f  LQ w D


where both the initial geometric imperfection wN and the out-of-plane displacement
w are taken to be positive outward. The linear and nonlinear operators have been
dened earlier (see Eqs. 3.49 3.50).

Direct Solutions of the Nonlinear Stability Problem


If we assume that the initial radial imperfection is given by

wN D hN1 cos i

C hN2 sin m
cos y  K x


then any equilibrium state of the circular cylindrical shell under combined axial
compression , lateral pressure pN and torsion N can be represented by
w D hW C Wp C Wt  C h1 cos i
C h2 sin m
cos y  K x 2.130a

1 2 1
O  pN e x 2  N xy C f
where the quantities W , Wp and Wt are (as mentioned earlier) evaluated by
enforcing the periodicity condition and
O D   RO p.


The prescribed value of RO depends on the loading case considered.

Notice that because of the sign convention used (w and wN are positive outward)
for internal pressure pN D pN i , whereas for external pressure pN D pN e . Recall further
that  is the nondimensional axial load parameter  D cR/Eh2 N0 , pN e is the
nondimensional external pressure pN e D cR2 /Eh2 pe , pN i is the nondimensional
internal pressure pN i D cR2 /Eh2 pi  and N is the nondimensional torque parameter
N D cR/Eh2 Nxy , positive counter-clockwise. Thus it can easily be shown that
for an axially compressed pressurized cylindrical shell the nondimensional axial
load parameter is
O D   12 pN i
In the absence of torsional loading (if N D 0) Khots skewedness parameter K , a
real number which was introduced to denote the inclination of the nodal lines of
the buckling pattern with respect to the axis of the shell [3.13], is identically equal
to zero.
An approximate solution of the nonlinear governing equations is obtained as
follows. First, the compatibility equation (3.128a) is solved exactly for the stress
O in terms of the assumed radial displacement w and the specied initial
function f
imperfection w.
N In this solution, only the effect of initial imperfections on the buckling load is of interest. Hence only a particular solution of Eq. (3.128a) needs to
be considered. Second, the equation of equilibrium, Eq. (3.128b) is solved approximately by substituting therein for f, w and w,
N and then applying Galerkins
procedure. This procedure yields the following set of nonlinear algebraic equations
in terms of the unknown amplitudes 1 and 2
ci  ^1 C D1 1 C D2 2 C D3 1 2 C D4 22 C D5 1 22 D ^N1


^c  ^2 C D6 2 C D7 1 C D8 12 C D9 1 2 C D10 22 C D11 12 2 C D12 23

D ^ C K^ N2



Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

where K^ is dened below. The coefcients D1 through D12 are listed in [3.37].
These equations describe the prebuckling, buckling and postbuckling behavior
of perfect N 1 D N2 D 0 and imperfect shells N 1 6D 0, N2 6D 0 under combined
loading. Solutions are obtained by Riks path following technique [3.38] whereby
one of the three load parameters O or pN e or N  is selected as the variable load ^.
The remaining two load parameters are assigned xed values. Further, ci is the
axisymmetric buckling load


N xx C
2i D
ci D
N xx
2i H
and ^c is the asymmetric buckling load for the specied values of m, n and K .
For ^ D , both pN c and N xed

TN 4,p,n
TN 3,m,n
^c D 2
TN 1,m,n C TN 2,p,n C
 2pN e n2
m C 2p 2
TN 5,m,n TN 6,p,n

K^ D

 2N m  p n




2m C 2p


whereas for ^ D pN e , both O and O xed

^c D 2

K^ D

TN 4,p,n
TN 3,m,n
O 2m C 2p 
TN 1,m,n C TN 2,p,n C
NT5,m,n TN 6,p,n

 2N m  p n


1 2
O m C 2p  C 2N m  p n



and for ^ D N , both O and O xed

TN 4,p,n
TN 3,m,n
^c D
TN 1,m,n C TN 2,p,n C
2m  p n 2
TN 5,m,n TN 6,p,n

O m C p   2pN e n
K^ D

O 2m C 2p  C 2pN e n2 g.
2m  p n

The coefcients used are listed in [3.14].


Direct Solutions of the Nonlinear Stability Problem


The 2-modes solution was rst employed by Hutchinson in 1965 for isotropic
shells [3.39] and was extended by Arbocz in 1973 to orthotropic shells [3.10]. It
is available as one of the computational modules in DISDECO [3.18]. Hutchinson
has restricted his imperfections to the form of the classic buckling modes. In the
present analysis the imperfections are quite general. However, as has been shown
in [3.39] and [3.10] in order to activate the nonlinear interaction between the
axisymmetric and the asymmetric modes the condition i D 2m must be satised.
The form of the 2-modes simplied imperfection model of Eq. (3.129) is dictated
by the results of a 1976 paper by Arbocz and Sechler [3.40], in which the effect
of different boundary conditions was investigated.
Figure 3.26 displays traces of the response curve in the load () vs amplitude
of the asymmetric displacement (2 ) plane for the axially compressed stringer
stiffened shell AS-2 of [1.25]. Notice that initially both the perfect shell and the
shells with axisymmetric imperfection have zero asymmetric deection until the
bifurcation point is reached. Following bifurcation the axial load initially decreases
with increasing asymmetric deection 2 .
On the other hand, as can be seen from Figures 3.27 and 3.28, the buckling
behavior of a shell with asymmetric imperfection only or with both axisymmetric and asymmetric imperfections is characterized by the occurrence of a limit

Figure 3.26

Theoretical Postbuckling curves for axisymmetric imperfections


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

Figure 3.27

Figure 3.28

Theoretical Postbuckling curves for asymmetric imperfections

Theoretical Postbuckling curves for both axisymmetric asymmetric imperfections

Direct Solutions of the Nonlinear Stability Problem


The comparison of the predicted imperfection sensitivity by the asymptotic

Koiter type analysis with the results obtained by the 2-modes solution of the
nonlinear governing equations reveals excellent agreement for axisymmetric imperfections only (see Figure 3.29), and good agreement for asymmetric imperfections
only (see Figure 3.30). The explanation for the increasing differences between
the two approaches in the case of increasing asymmetric imperfections shown in
Figure 3.30 is given by the fact that the perturbation approach used for the b-factor
N whereas the 2-modes solution keeps terms up
method neglects terms of order ( )
to and including order ( N 2 ).
Finally in Figure 3.31 the effect of both axisymmetric and asymmetric imperfections on the buckling load of unpressurized cylinders is displayed.


Concluding Remarks

The reader may have asked himself how it is that the authors of a book on buckling
experiments spend so much space on covering the stability theory of thin-walled

Figure 3.29

Critical bifurcation load vs axisymmetric imperfection amplitude (curves obtained

by axibif and twomod are practically identical)


Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

Figure 3.30

Critical limit load vs asymmetric imperfection amplitude (for N D 0)

structures. This has to do with the conviction of the authors that theory and
experiments must go hand-in-hand if the sometimes very complicated structural
stability problems of everyday practice are to be solved successfully. Before doing
experiments it is especially important to carry out the initial stability analysis of
the perfect structure with great care and accuracy. In addition, if one nally has
found the lowest (critical) buckling load and the corresponding buckling mode (or
modes) it is necessary to investigate whether it has a stable or unstable postbuckling behavior. With the advanced computational software and hardware currently
available a nal accurate check using a full nonlinear calculation based on the
measured initial imperfections (see Chapter 10, Volume 2 for further details) and
employing careful modeling of the experimental boundary conditions (see also
Chapter 11, Volume 2) must become a standard practice. Only then can one assert
with reasonable accuracy what will be the expected behavior of the real (hence
imperfect) structure under the sometimes manifold loading conditions it may be
exposed to during its functional life time.


Figure 3.31


Critical limit load vs asymmetric imperfection amplitude (for N D

6 0)




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Axial Compression, Journal of the Aeronautical Sciences, 8, 1941, 303 312.
Donnell, L.H. and Wan, C.C., Effect of Imperfections on Buckling of Thin Cylinders
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Cohen, G.A., Effect of a Nonlinear Prebuckling State on the Postbuckling Behavior
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Postbuckling Behavior of Structures

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Block, D.L., Card, M.F. and Mikulas, M.M. Jr., Buckling of Eccentrically Stiffened
Orthotropic Cylinders, NASA TN D-2960, 1965.
Khot, N.S. and Venkayya, V.B., Effect of Fiber Orientation on Initial Postbuckling
Behavior and Imperfection Sensitivity of Composite Shells, Report AFFDL-TR-70125, Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Arbocz, J., The Effect of Initial Imperfections on Shell Stability An Updated Review,
Report LR-695, Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Aerospace Engineering,
Delft, The Netherlands, September 1992.
Koiter, W.T., Elastic Stability and Postbuckling Behavior, Proceedings Symposium
on Nonlinear Problems, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1963, 257 275.
Hutchinson, J.W. and Koiter, W.T., Postbuckling Theory, Applied Mech. Rev., 23,
1970, 1353 1366.
Arbocz, J., Comparison of Level-1 and Level-2 Buckling and Postbuckling Solutions,
Report LR-700, Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Aerospace Engineering,
Delft, The Netherlands, November 1992.
Arbocz, J. and Hol, J.M.A.M., Shell Stability Analysis in a Computer Aided
Engineering (CAE) Environment, in: Proceedings 34th AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS/ASC
Structures, Structural Dynamics and Materials Conference, April 19 22, La Jolla,
California, 1993, 300 314.
Cohen, G.A., User Document for Computer Programs for Ring-Stiffened Shells of
Revolution, NASA CR-2086, March 1973.
Cohen, G.A., FASOR A Second Generation Shell of Revolution Code, Computers
& Structures, 10, 1979, 301 309.
Roorda, J., Stability of Structures with Small Imperfections, Journal Eng. Mech.
Div., ASCE, 91, (EM1), 1965, 87 106.
Kempner, J. and Chen, Y.N., Buckling and Postbuckling of an Axially Compressed
Oval Cylindrical Shell, Proceedings 70th Anniversary Symposium on the Theory of
Shells to Honor Lloyd Hamilton Donnell, University of Houston, Houston, Texas,
1967, 141 183.
Almroth, B.O., Brogan, F.A. and Marlowe, M.B., Collapse Analysis for Elliptic
Cones, AIAA Journal, 9, (1), January 1971, 32 37.
van der Neut, A., Postbuckling Behavior of Structures, NATO AGARD Report 60,
Koiter, W.T., The Effective Width at Loads far in Excess of the Critical Load for
Various Boundary Conditions, (in Dutch), NLL Report S287, Amsterdam, 1943.








Cox, H.L., The Buckling of a Flat Plate under Axial Compression and its Behavior
after Buckling, Aeronautical Research Council, R. & M. 20201, 1945.
Vilnay, O. and Rodney, K.C., A Generalized Effective Width Method for Plates
Loaded in Compression, Journal of Constructional Steel Research, 1, (3), May 1981,
3 12.
Levy, S., Bending of Rectangular Plates with Large Deections, NACA TN 846,
May 1942. (Also available as NACA TR 737, 1942.)
Legget, D.M.A. and Jones, R.P.N., The Behavior of a Cylindrical Shell under Axial
Compression when the Buckling Load has been Exceeded, ARC R. & M. 2190, 1942.
Michielsen, H.F., The Behavior of Thin Cylindrical Shells after Buckling under
Axial Compression, Journal Aeronautical Sciences, 15, 1948, 738 744.
Kempner, J., Postbuckling Behavior of Axially Compressed Cylindrical Shells,
Journal Aeronautical Sciences, 21, 1954, 329 342.
Almroth, B.O., Postbuckling Behavior of Axially Compressed Circular Cylinders,
AIAA Journal, 1, (3), March 1963, 630 633.
Hoff, N.J., Madsen, W.A. and Mayers, J., Postbuckling Equilibrium of Axially
Compressed Circular Cylindrical Shells, AIAA Journal, 4, (1), January 1966,
126 133.
Esslinger, M. and Geier, B., Buckling and Postbuckling Behavior of Thin-Walled
Circular Cylinders, Deutsche Luft- und Raumfahrt FB 69 99, 1966.
Croll, J.G.A., Towards Simple Estimates of Shell Buckling Loads, Der Stahlbau, 44,
1975, 243 248 and 283 285.
Wittek, U. and Kratzig, W.B., Ein Masstab fur die Beurteilung der Imperfektionsunempndlichkeit allgemeiner Schalen, Schalenbeultagung Meersburg, 1976, Sonderheft der DFVLR, 1976, 170 182.
Arbocz, J., Potier-Ferry, M., Singer, J. and Tvergaard, V., Buckling and PostBuckling, Lecture Notes in Physics No. 288, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg,
1987, 83 142.
Riks, E., The Application of Newtons Method to the Problem of Elastic Stability,
ASME Journal of Applied Mechanics, 39, 1972, 1060 1066.
Hutchinson, J.W., Axial Buckling of Pressurized Imperfect Cylindrical Shells, AIAA
Journal, 3, (8), August 1965, 1461 1466.
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Journal, 14, (11), November 1976, 1611 1617.

Elements of A Simple
Buckling Test A Column
under Axial Compression


Columns and Imperfections

In order to appreciate the nature of the experimental approach, let us rst consider
a simple buckling test a column under axial compression. The column is not
only the earliest and classic example of elastic instability and postbuckling studies,
dating back to Eulers work in 1744 ([2.9] and [4.1]), but is also the element that
has been the subject of the most extensive experimental and theoretical studies
since the experimental investigations of Petrus van Musschenbroek in 1729 [4.2].
Musschenbroek had discovered by experiment that the buckling load was inversely
proportional to the square of the length of the column, a result later deduced
theoretically by Euler. Salmons 1920 treatise [4.3] summarizes most of the column
studies till 1920, lists nearly 400 references, and shows how experiment and theory
advanced hand in hand.
If one studies the experimental work on buckling of columns carried out at the
turn of the century, one is amazed at its high quality. Maybe one should not be
surprised, since it was performed by some of the giants of mechanics, like von
Karman ([4.4] and [2.76]) and Prandtl [4.5], who in their doctoral dissertations
combined outstanding analysis with outstanding experiments.
It is certainly illuminating to review such a classic set of tests, for example von
Karmans 1907 10 experiments [4.4]. In the introduction, the main purpose of
the work is stated to be the experimental proof of the formulae for the buckling
strength of shorter columns, which buckle inelastically. Von Karman points out,
however, that the experiments presented an opportunity to investigate the inuence
of exact centering of the columns, as well as the postbuckling behavior after the
peak load has been exceeded.

Buckling Experiments: Experimental Methods in Buckling of Thin-Walled Structures: Basic Concepts, Columns, Beams and
Plates Volume 1. J. Singer, J. Arbocz and T. Weller Copyright 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

A Column under Axial Compression

One can generalize von Karmans comments on the inuence of centering of

the columns, to the inuence of imperfections in columns, of which eccentricity of
loading is only one. These imperfections can be divided according to their effect
into three groups, more or less along the lines suggested by Salmon [4.3]:
1. Eccentricity of Loading:

2. Initial Curvature:
3. Reduction in Strength of Material:

Eccentricity of the load.

Variations in the modulus of elasticity.
Inequality of areas and shape of
Nonhomogeneity of material.
Initial curvature.
Variations in the modulus of elasticity.
Residual stresses.
Nonhomogeneity of material.
Flaws and local defects, like voids and
delaminations in composites.

Eccentricity of loading is the imperfection that attracted most of the attention

of the investigators in the 19th century and in the beginning of the 20th. Both
methods of estimation and determination from experiment were extensively tried,
and besides the non-central application of the load, the variations in modulus
were considered to be of primary importance. Based on their experiments and the
accumulated experience, many investigators proposed likely values for eccentricity
of loading 2 D L/70 to L/150, where L is the length of the column.
The inuence of initial curvature was seriously considered only at the turn of
the century. To assess this inuence, Salmon collected experimentally observed
initial curvatures and deduced from his nearly randomly chosen points (Figure 42
of [4.3]) an empirical probable initial deection 1 D L/750. The effects of initial
curvature are similar to those of eccentricity of loading and hence the two effects
can be combined into an equivalent initial deection, D 1 C 2 .
The third imperfection, reduction in strength of the material, was of concern
already to investigators at the beginning of this century, but the great inuence of
residual stresses on the strength of columns and plates in compression has only
been elucidated in recent decades (see [4.6] or [4.7]). The effects of aws and local
defects, and in particular those of voids and delaminations in composites, are still
the subject of intensive studies.



Von Karm

Returning now to the von Karman experiments, he emphasized the importance of

load eccentricity, by comparing the load-deection curves of his rather precisely
centered columns with those of Tetmajer [4.8] and those of Kirsch [4.9] as can be
seen in Figure 4.1 (reproduced from [4.4]). It can be clearly seen in the gures
that the very careful centering of von Karmans columns, yielded load-deection


Von Karm


Figure 4.1 Load-deection curves of von Karmans columns compared with those of Tetmajer
and of Kirsch (from [4.4])

curves that closely approximate those of an ideally perfect column; whereas the
load-deection curve of a typical Kirsch column, with noticeable load eccentricity,
differs signicantly in behavior, and even the careful tests of Tetmajer exhibit some
eccentricity of loading effects, appearing as deections already at the lower loads.
The gure also indicates why columns with appreciable load-eccentricity will yield
collapse loads that are signicantly below the Euler load the buckling load of an
ideal centrally loaded column.
Von Karmans tests at the University of Gottingen were carried out in a 150ton hydraulic compression testing machine with a 1000 mm long working section,
permitting slender specimens with a convenient cross section of the order of 20
30 mm2 . In the tests, the testing machine was not loaded beyond 20 percent of its
capacity. This ensured a relative rigidity of the test setup, and eliminated possible
eccentricity of loading resulting from bending of the two pillars of the machine.
Careful compression tests on very short specimens to evaluate the compressive
material properties, preceded the buckling tests. This was not the usual procedure at
the time and only became standard, as a stub-column test procedure, in the sixties.
Von Karman designed special end xtures (Figure 4.2) which facilitated accurate
placing of the centerline of the column on the loading line. This xture permitted
readjusting of the position of the column under load, that led to more accurate
centering. In describing these very neat xtures, he gave credit to Consid`ere [2.74]
for rst using readjustable end xtures and to Prandtl [4.5] for the achievement of
a near theoretical behavior, of negligible deection before the buckling load is
approached, by extremely careful centering of his test columns.
Von Karman pointed out two sources of error connected with the attachment of
the test specimens. The rst error is inclusion of the practically rigid end xtures


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

A Column under Axial Compression

Figure 4.2 Von Karmans end xtures for column tests (from

in the effective length of the tested columns. This error may be assessed by an
approximate evaluation of the equivalent length of an entirely elastic column. Von
Karman calculated the necessary length correction and showed it to be small, less
than 0.3 percent even for rigid ends extending over 10 percent of the total length.
The calculation was for elastic buckling. For inelastic buckling the correction is
even smaller, since then the deection curve deviates from the elastic sine curve
by limiting its curvature to the middle position of the columns and the ends remain
nearly straight, coinciding with the tangential rigid ends.
The second error can be due to the friction of the knife edges in their bases,
which would increase the measured buckling load and perhaps make them exceed
the theoretical Euler load, which is an upper bound. From his results in the elastic
range, which generally deviated from the Euler load by less than 1 1.5 percent,
von Karman concluded that this error also was not signicant.
These apparently minor details are pointed out here, since they signify some
elements of the methodology of careful buckling experiments: readjustment of
specimen positions in end xtures under load, assessment and compensation for end
xture rigidity and consideration of secondary effects like friction and justication
of their neglect by comparison with well established earlier results.
Von Karman continued many of his tests well into the postbuckling region (see
Figure 4.3), since he realized that the postbuckling behavior is of importance for the
understanding of the buckling behavior. The results (see Figure 4.3) show that for
the long columns, the theoretically predicted elastic behavior of constant load with

The Basic Elements of a Buckling Experiment


Figure 4.3 Postbuckling load-deection curves for von Karmans long and short columns
(from [4.4])

increasing deection is indeed conrmed experimentally (for example in column

no. 1). For short columns, however, the behavior differs and the load decreases
very signicantly with increasing deection, due to inelastic effects (for example
in column no. 6). These inelastic effects were the prime interest in von Karmans
thesis, and indeed have since been the main topic of experimental studies of the
buckling of columns.


The Basic Elements of a Buckling Experiment

In this chapter a simple buckling test was considered of a centrally compressed

column. One should remember, that a simple column, a perfectly straight, uniform
column, loaded centrally through frictionless pin-ends, is an idealized compression
member, and though it is the basic theoretical element for the study of buckling
and postbuckling of structures, it is not found in real structures! As has been stated
by many investigators (for example, [2.7], [4.7], [4.10] or [4.11]), the strength of
practical columns depends on the initial geometric imperfections (usually called
initial out-of-straightness in columns), eccentricities of load, transverse loads, the
boundary conditions, local buckling (if the column is thin-walled or built-up), the
homogeneity of the material and residual stresses. Many tests on columns did not
isolate these various effects and hence fairly wide scatter bands resulted for column
curves. The modern test procedures and a discussion of these effects are presented
in Chapter 6.
Having studied the classic column tests of von Karman and briey looked at the
different imperfections that affect a column test, one can discuss and summarize
the basic elements of a buckling test. The rst question one has to address is what
is the aim of the buckling experiment? Is the aim to explore the physical behavior


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

A Column under Axial Compression

near, at and after buckling, or is the aim only verication of the theory derived for
a perfect structure, a perfect column in our simple buckling test? Is it verication
of an exact theory for the perfect structure or an approximate one, that predicts the
behavior of a simplied model; or is the aim to verify a theory for an imperfect
structure, closer to the real one?
One has to remember that, as was discussed in Chapter 2, classical
buckling bifurcation buckling occurs only in ideal perfect structures. Real
imperfect structures begin to deform from the initiation of loading, and buckling in
an engineering sense occurs when the lateral (escaping) deformations grow at an
increasing rate. This difference between the theoretical bifurcation behavior of an
ideal column and the behavior of real columns is very clearly shown in Figure 4.1,
especially for the Kirsch column. But even von Karmans carefully made, centered
and tested columns show to some extent the behavior of real columns, though they
approach that of the theoretical model very closely.
Hence, if the aim of the experiments is to verify the theory for a perfect structure, methods are needed that correlate the test results on real structures with
the predictions for an idealized structure. The most widely used method is that
proposed by R.V. Southwell in 1932 for simply supported columns [4.12], often
called the Southwell Plot. In this method, the deection w is plotted versus w/P
and the slope of the resulting straight line yields the buckling load of the corresponding perfect column. Details of the Southwell method, its limitations and its
extensions will be discussed later. One should remember that the main value of
methods like the Southwell plot is to provide a correlation between experiments on
real imperfect structures and theoretical predictions, i.e. to facilitate the verication
of theory.
But experiments aim not only to verify theories, they explore the physical
behavior near buckling, at buckling and in the postbuckling range and they also
yield empirical data upon which design guidelines can be based.
The design of a proper experiment is determined by its main purpose. If it aims
at verication of theory, the experiment should be carried out under as perfect
conditions as possible, with specimens made as accurately and measured as carefully as possible, and from a material whose composition can be conveniently
controlled and measured, and with boundary conditions that can be determined
as accurately as possible and simulated adequately in the theory. If the physical
behavior is to be explored, and primarily in the postbuckling range, specimens
made of materials that behave elastically much beyond the buckling loads (for
example, polyesters like Mylar, Melinex or Diafoil), may be preferable though
their behavior signicantly differs from that of structural materials used in practice. On the other hand, if the data obtained in the experiment is to be employed
for design guidelines, the specimens should simulate the real structure, as well
as boundary conditions and environment. The effects of scaling have to be well
understood in all the cases to ensure correct interpretation of the results.
Hence, how does one plan a simple buckling experiment, say, one for simple
columns, to be used for verication of the inelastic column theory? This is exactly
the experimental task faced by von Karman in his classical 1907 10 tests, discussed

Demonstration Experiments


earlier in this chapter and can be used as an example. Von Karman indicated how he
planned his experiments. He indeed carried out his experiments under as perfect
conditions as possible. The steel specimens were machined and measured as accurately as the then prevalent techniques permitted, the chemical composition of
the steel was ascertained and the measurements of mechanical properties were
extended to include compression tests on very short specimens cut from the same
bars as the buckling specimens. The specimens varied from long ones, serving as
reference tests for elastic buckling, to shorter ones in the range relevant to the
inelastic theory to be veried. Boundary conditions were controlled by the special
end xtures (Figure 4.2) permitting centering under load, and the relative rigidity
of the test setup was assured by designing the specimens to require always less
than 20 percent of the load capacity of the testing machine. Measurement instruments were 1910 state of the art, but their accuracy was invoked only where the
experimenter felt the measurement was essential (though he checked his predicted
unimportant displacements). The experiments were designed for verication of
a theory, though as was mentioned earlier, von Karman intentionally extended
his aim beyond that, to better understanding of the inuence of eccentricity and
the postbuckling behavior of his columns. The effects of residual stresses, were,
however, not considered; they dominate modern column analysis and experiments,
and will be discussed in Chapter 6. There also the column curves which guide the
designer are discussed and evaluated.


Demonstration Experiments

There are other types of experiments which can be called demonstration experiments. These are experiments specially designed to bring out certain phenomena
or effects, this being achieved by exaggeration of certain properties or geometries,
much beyond their magnitude in real structures, or by replacing the structure by
a mechanical model which simulates the essential behavior of the structure under
load. Such experiments have been employed extensively for the study of equilibrium paths and initial postbuckling behavior of imperfect structures, primarily
frames, trusses and arches, as well as for teaching demonstrations and for study of
postbuckling behavior of shells, which will be discussed in Chapter 9, Volume 2.


University College London Initial Postbuckling Experiments

In the sixties a series of experiments were performed, by Roorda, Brivtec and

Chilver at the Department of Civil and Municipal Engineering, University College
London, to verify theories developed there for the initial postbuckling behavior
of imperfect structures, which are essentially of the demonstration type ([3.21],
[4.13] [4.15]). As an example, one of these experiments from Roordas thesis a
simple strut loaded eccentrically at one end ([4.14] or [3.21]) is described in
detail. Figure 4.4a shows the loading arrangement schematically. The strut is a


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test


A Column under Axial Compression


Figure 4.4 Roordas experiment on a simple strut loaded eccentrically at one end (from [4.14]):
(a) loading setup schematic, (b) screw arrangement for offset loading

high strength steel strip of a nominal rectangular 1 inch 1/16 inch cross section
and length L D 23 inches. The point of application of the load at the top of the strut
has a small variable eccentricity d, introduced with a screw arrangement shown
in Figure 4.4b (taken from a second similar experiment in [4.14], on a strut with
offset loading at both ends). The lower end here remains in a xed position and is
simply a knife-edge led on the end of the strut resting in a V-groove. The load
W on the strut, consists of lead shot 2W applied through a rigid load beam. Due
to the eccentricity d, there is a small external moment Wd applied at the upper
end of the strut, in addition to the axial force W. In the limit, when d vanishes,
the strut is a centrally loaded column. The rotation  at the top end represents the
displacement parameter and is measured optically, as the load is gradually varied.
It was found that in order to obtain a centrally loaded column, a small negative
eccentricity had to be introduced to overcome the initial curvature of the strut and
come near a point of bifurcation. The natural experimental equilibrium path for
the centrally loaded column, I in Figure 4.5, was traced simply by adding lead
shot to the loading pan, the path being stable throughout. To obtain the complementary path, II in Figure 4.5, the direction of the buckling wave was changed
manually, while the load was kept constant at a point slightly above the ideal
critical load, W/Wcr  D 1 in Figure 4.5. The system remained in a stable position
on the complementary path. To obtain further points on this path the load was gradually decreased, until the point of minimum load B was reached, whereupon the
strut jumped back to the stable position in the natural buckling shape direction I.
Interpolation of the two branches of the load W-rotation  plot yielded the ideal
experimental critical load Wcrexp at A (which was then used to non-dimensionalize
the plot in Figure 4.5).
The experimental critical load (W ) versus eccentricity (d) behavior was obtained
in another experiment in which d was varied (see Figure 4.6). At each value of d,
the point of minimum load on the complementary equilibrium path (B in Figure 4.5)
was found by gradually decreasing the load along this path (as before in the case
of central loading), until snap-through to the opposite direction of buckle occurred.

Demonstration Experiments

Figure 4.5 Roordas strut experiment


equilibrium paths (from [4.14] and [3.21])

The resulting plot is shown in Figure 4.6. The offset d0 /L of the experimental
curve from the load axis, is the amount of eccentricity necessary to just balance the
effect of other unknown imperfections, such as the initial curvature of the column,
as mentioned earlier for the case of the centrally loaded column. The photographs
in Figure 4.7, taken from another demonstration model, show how the column may


Mechanical Models

As an example of a different type of demonstration experiment, one on the mechanical models of Walker, Croll and Wilson [4.16] is discussed. These mechanical
models consist essentially of two rigid links connected at a pin joint B (see
Figure 4.8a). The other ends of the links are also pinned, one being xed spatially
at A and the other to C free to move in the longitudinal direction. Lateral loading
W at joint B may be applied independently of the longitudinal loading P at joint
C. Rigidity of the models is achieved by attaching various combinations of linear
coil springs to joints B and C and a torsion spring at joint B. The frame which


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

Figure 4.6 Roordas strut experiment

[4.14] and [3.21])

A Column under Axial Compression

experimental critical load versus eccentricity d (from

houses the models is shown in Figure 4.9, with a typical two-link model (3) in
position. It consists of a base (1) with two long outrigger arms (2) used for lateral
loading and restraint, their length ensuring practically normal lateral loading and
restraint over the expected deformation range of the model. The moving end of the
model (3) is mounted on the frame by means of a cross-member (4), connected
through linear bearings in housings (5) to run on rigidly aligned parallel hardened
circular surfaces (6). This assures a precise axial movement. Sprung buffers (7)
are clamped on these runners (6) as a safety measure to prevent damage to the
bearings of the model when violent dynamic action occurs. The pinned joints of
the model are, of course, provided with ball bearings (8); the central joint has two
ball bearings and a trunnion (9), to which the loading wires may be connected.
Longitudinal loading P is provided by wires (10) connected to the linear bearing
housings at one end, passing around ball bearing pulleys (11) and pinned to a distribution bar (12) at the other end. A loading pan is hooked on to this distribution bar.
Longitudinal restraint when required is provided by springs (13), or wires, which

Demonstration Experiments


Figure 4.7 Unbuckled and stable, buckled forms of a strut in another of Roordas demonstration experiments (from [4.14])

Figure 4.8 Mechanical demonstration model for bifurcation behavior (from [4.16]): (a) schematic presentation of model, (b) the model for stable symmetric bifurcation

are hooked to a ring on the underside of the cross-member (4). A screw arrangement (14) is provided to accommodate varying lengths of springs, or to control
the displacement of the cross-member. The rods on the adjustment screws (15) all
have ats milled on one side to eliminate rotation when an adjustment is made,
and thrust ball races (16) are provided to further ease these adjustments.
Lateral loading W is applied by connecting a wire to the central trunnion (9),
passing it over a ball bearing pulley and hooking on a loading pan. Lateral restraint,


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

A Column under Axial Compression

Figure 4.9 Mechanical model demonstration experiment for buckling behavior

(from [4.16])

test setup

when needed, is provided by springs (18) attached to the other side of the trunnion
by means of a short wire. A second adjustment screw (19) is also provided to
accommodate varying lengths of spring and, in addition, to impose prescribed
geometrical imperfections into the model.
An optical method is used to measure the angular displacement of the links (3).
A narrow beam of light from a projector is passed through a collimating lens
and reected from a mirror on to a large circular screen. The mirror (28), shown
in Figure 4.10 is arranged so that the reecting surface is over the center of the
pivot (8).
The torsional spring, when required, as in the case of symmetric bifurcation to be
discussed (Figure 4.8b), is mounted on the model coaxially with the central bearing
as shown in Figure 4.10. This consists of a coil spring (31) clamped between two
arms (32), which when rotated relative to one another set up a torsional restraint
to the deformation.
Many details of the test setup have been described to indicate the design considerations and various capabilities of such a demonstration test rig. Tests on one of the
models, Model III (of [4.16]) for stable symmetric bifurcation, are now discussed.
The model, outlined in Figure 4.8b, demonstrates bifurcation at a critical load, Pcr ,
from a primary path to a stable secondary path, a behavior which characterizes the
buckling of perfect slender columns and perfect thin plates subjected to in-plane

Demonstration Experiments


Figure 4.10

Mechanical model demonstration experiment for buckling behavior

test setup for stable symmetric bifurcation (from [4.16])

detail of

Figure 4.11

Mechanical model for stable symmetric bifurcation the inuence of small initial
imperfections 0 on the load versus angular displacement behavior (from [4.16])

edge loading. The load paths of the model, with increasing small initial deection 0 (at zero load), are shown in Figure 4.11, and illustrate the inuence of
small imperfections on its non-linear behavior. The initial imperfections 0 may be
obtained by attaching a small weight W which applies a constant lateral load, as
P increases. Alternatively, the torsion spring B can be adjusted to give the model


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

A Column under Axial Compression

a small geometric imperfection at zero load with no lateral load. The two types
of imperfections are analogous to small lateral loadings which may be present in
real columns or plates, and to out-of-straightness or out-of-atness occurring in
practical columns and plates. Comparisons of the effects of these two types of
imperfections on the model (for example, Figure 16 of [4.16]) showed them to be
very similar, as is the case in columns and plates. Hence the model demonstrates
the behavior of imperfect columns and plates very well. Many other types of nonlinear stability behavior are clearly demonstrated by other models in [4.16], which
makes the test rig a very useful demonstration tool.


Southwells Method
Derivation of Southwell Plot for a Column

Southwell [4.12] searched for a method that would enable one to obtain the theoretical buckling stress of a perfect column from experiments on real imperfect
columns. He pointed out that the load-deection curves (P versus w) may be
approximated by rectangular hyperbolas, having as asymptotes the axis of zero
deection and the horizontal line P D PE . This hyperbolic relationship had been
known many decades earlier, as for example in Ayrton and Perrys papers [4.17],
but Southwell recognized that by a suitable change of coordinates, any such hyperbola may be transformed into a straight line, of which the slope is the measure
of PE .
Let us briey rederive the Southwell plot for a simply supported column,
following essentially Southwells derivation, except that we use the more
appropriate 4th order equilibrium equation, as used in the derivations for imperfect
columns in textbooks (like [2.4], pp. 64 68, [4.18], pp. 230 242 or [4.19],
pp. 12 15) or in recent discussions of the application of the method (for example
[4.20]). The equilibrium equation of an imperfect (initially crooked) column is
wiv C 2 w00 D 2 w000


where wx D the additional lateral deection measured in tests

w0 x D the initial deection (imperfection)
2 D P/EI


and the boundary conditions for simple supports are

w0 D w00 0 D wL D w00 L D 0.


Representing the additional deection by a Fourier series




Wn sin



Southwells Method


and the initial deection by a Fourier series

w0 x D


W0n sin



and substitution in Eq. (4.1) leads to


n2 2 EI
n2 PE
Wn D W0n
D W0n
PL 2
and hence to


n2 PE





where PE D 2 EI/L 2 , the Euler Load. The maximum deection W D wL/2 is
W D W1  W3 C W5 
where Wn is given by Eq. (4.6). When the buckling load is approached, or as
Southwell noted if P is a fairly considerable fraction of PE
W1 D W01
and the fundamental mode predominates. Hence as P ! PE , the imperfection
component that represents the buckling mode is the one that is primarily magnied.
We can therefore write
W0 D
and the expression for W can be rearranged as

 W0 .


The inverse slope of the plot of W/P versus W, the Southwell plot (Figure 4.14a),
yields the buckling load of the corresponding perfect column.



Application to von Karm


Southwell applied his method to the columns tested by von Karman [4.4] and
Figure 4.12 (from [4.12]) shows the Southwell plots for the eight slender columns
of the von Karman tests, whose slenderness ratio (L/) (where  is the minimum
radius of gyration of the cross section) is greater than 90. Note that only at the
higher values of W (or in the gure) the relation is linear and the procedure
justied. As a matter of fact, Southwell rejected all points for P < 0.8Pc , on
grounds that when both load and deections are small their ratio / will not be


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

Figure 4.12

A Column under Axial Compression

Von Karmans data on compressed columns plotted in the linear form by Southwell (from [4.12])

determinable with any accuracy, and only then applied the method of least squares
to the remaining points. The results of Figure 4.12 were excellent in no case did
the critical load derived from the Southwell plot differ by more than 2.2 percent
from the classic Euler load.
For the medium L/ D 45  90 and thick L/ < 45 groups of von
Karmans struts the method failed (to predict the Euler load), since practically
all measured deections were already in the inelastic range.
Southwell concluded that it appeared that the method has given good results
in every case where these could be expected, but that only trial can show whether
in any instance sufcient observations can be taken of deections which on the
one hand are large enough to give reasonable certainty of /P, and on the other
hand are not so large that the material has ceased to be elastic. This is a valid
assessment of the method even today, if one expects the method to yield the elastic
buckling load of the corresponding perfect structure, the Euler load in the case of
the column. The Southwell method can, however, be extended to plastic buckling as
will be shown in Chapter 16, Volume 2, but then it predicts the plastic bifurcation
load of the corresponding perfect structure, the reduced modulus load according to
the Karman Engesser theory in the case of a column, instead of the elastic one.
In passing, it is of interest that among the many papers reporting tests on columns
up to 1932, Southwell could nd only two papers that recorded related data of load
and central deection for centrally loaded struts, von Karmans 1910 paper [4.4]
and Robertsons 1925 paper [4.21]. He recommended that future experimenters
should publish such complete tables, and indeed the usefulness of the Southwell
plot has since motivated more complete data recording. With modern data acquisition systems, large amounts of simultaneous data of loads and displacements

Application of the Southwell Method to Columns, Beam Columns & Frames


are usually recorded in buckling experiments, but are not always reported. When
publishing his data, the experimenter should give some thought to the future investigators, who may want to use his data for comparison with new theories and
experiments. Some recent proposals for standardization of presentation of imperfection measurements are discussed in Chapter 10, Volume 2.


Application of the Southwell Method to Columns,

Beam Columns and Frames

Southwells method has been widely used. Already in 1932 it was applied successfully to experiments on the stability under shearing forces of a at elastic strip
[4.22]. Then in the second half of the thirties the method was extended and applied
to other structures and theoretically justied in some cases, [4.23], [4.24] and
[4.26]. Southwell [4.12] stated that the main interest of the method lies in its
generality, a challenge that was taken up by stability researchers in the decades
that followed.
Fisher [4.23] extended Southwells method to the case of a spar under combined
axial and transverse loading, a typical loading for an aeroplane spar in test or
ight. The theory was broadened to the general beam column and veried by
good agreement with experiments on eccentrically and transversely loaded solid
rectangular spars. Ramberg, McPherson and Levy [4.24] applied the method to
experiments on axially loaded sheet-stringer panels, and obtained good results for
the stringers attached to sheets, irrespective of failure being in a twisting or bending
mode, or a twisting-bending mode. They could not apply the Southwell method to
the sheet between stringers, due to lack of the bending strain below buckling (and
not because the method was not applicable to plates, as will be discussed in detail
in Chapter 8).


Lundquist Plot

One of the difculties in the application of the Southwell method is that it requires
the initial deection reading to be taken at zero load, where deection measurements are often questionable. A zero-point correction may therefore be necessary.
One way to apply a zero-point correction was suggested by Southwell: replacing
of versus /P by   0  versus   0 /P, where 0 represents the zero-point
correction, which is chosen from some trial values as the one giving the straightest
line in the upper portion of the plot.
Another method to reduce low-load irregularities was given by Lundquists
generalization of the Southwell plot [4.25], for the incremental deections of a
simply supported column due to incremental loads above initial values Pi and i .
Equation (4.11) then becomes
W  i   PE  Pi 

W  i
P  Pi



Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

a1 D

A Column under Axial Compression


1  Pi /PE 


W0 . The Lundquist
Note that a1 approximates i , and when Pi is very small a1 D
Plot (Figure 4.14c) is therefore similar to the Southwell plot and consists of a
plot of W  i /P  Pi , versus W  i , whose inverse slope yields PE  Pi ,
and whose horizontal intercept is a1 .


Donnells Applications of the Southwell Plot

In 1938 Donnell [4.26] reviewed the applicability of the Southwell method and
extended it considerably, discussing the justication for various cases. First he
considered a hinged strut with continuous elastic support. From the vanishing of
the total energy change due to a virtual displacement dWn , he obtained


n2 2 EI
C 2 2 D
W0n C Wn
W0n C Wn
where Pn is the critical load for the nth type of displacement for the strut without
any initial curvature, and is the spring constant per unit length (with dimension
force divided by length squared), usually called the modulus of foundation. When
W0n D 0, Eq. (4.13) reduces to the classical formula for a simply supported column
on an elastic foundation originally derived by Engesser in 1884 ([4.27], or see for
example [2.1], p. 98), and in turn to Eulers formula when D 0. As for the simple
column, Eq. (4.13) can be rewritten as

Wn D Pn
which is similar to Eq. (4.11) and represents the Southwell method for a column
on an elastic foundation.
This application of Southwells method has not been veried experimentally,
but the case of a column with a single mid-point elastic support has been analyzed
and experimentally veried by Hayashi and Kihira [4.28] for a range of spring
constants (see Figure 4.13).
Donnell suggested an alternative manner of plotting the results. If Eq. (4.13) is
solved for Pn , one writes

Pn D P C W0n
Differentiating Eq. (4.15), remembering that W0n and Pn are constant with respect
to Wn and Pn , one obtains

0 D dP C W0n d

Application of the Southwell Method to Columns, Beam Columns & Frames

Figure 4.13


Southwell plot for a column with a single mid-point elastic support of different
spring constants k (from [4.28])

and hence
W0n D 



If one plots, therefore, experimental values of P and P/Wn  against each other
(Figure 4.14d), a straight line is obtained whose intercept on the P axis is Pn and
whose negative slope is W0n . This may be a little more convenient for determination of the critical load Pn , since the slope has not to be measured. Furthermore
since measurements are usually taken at equal increments of load, the points are
more evenly spaced. Donnells proposal has not been widely accepted, except
as a basis for the force/stiffness method [4.29], which is essentially the Donnell
plot with abscissa and ordinate interchanged, and which will be further discussed
in Chapter 8 in this Volume and Chapter 15, Volume 2. Most investigators have
continued to use the original Southwell plot.
Before discussing the extension of Southwells method to plates (which will
be considered in Chapter 8), Donnell singled out one plate problem, which is
in a class by itself, the at panel hinged on three sides and free on the fourth
(Figure 4.15). This is so, because a good approximation can be obtained by
assuming the deformed shape to be a developable surface, so that the extensional
stresses can be neglected in the strain energy. The initial deection and additional


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

Figure 4.14

A Column under Axial Compression

Different forms of Southwell plots: (a) the original Southwell plot [4.12],
(b) Southwell plot for nth critical load, (c) the Southwell Lundquist plot
[4.25], (d) Donnells alternative manner of presenting the Southwell plot [4.26],
(e) Southwell plot expressed in strains, bending strain b and average axial
strain c

deection can be assumed as

n W0n sin
n Wn sin

w0 D


Application of the Southwell Method to Columns, Beam Columns & Frames

Figure 4.15


Flat panel hinged on three sides and free on

the fourth, subjected to unidirectional in-plane

where L is the length and b the width of the at panel, x the axial and s the lateral
coordinate. Again from energy considerations he obtained


Et3 b
n2 2 61  v
W0n C Wn 121  v2 
W0n C Wn
where t is the thickness of the panel and Pn is the critical axial load for the nth
type of displacement, with no initial curvature. Equation (4.18) is essentially the
same as that for a column and hence application of the Southwell plot is justied.
One may note that, following Donnell, the Southwell method was formulated here,
and in Figures 4.14b and 4.14d, for the nth critical load, instead of the lowest one
as usual, to show that it can be employed also for higher critical loads. This has
been discussed by Donnell [4.26], who suggested that harmonic analysis should be
used in conjunction with Southwells method, and by Tuckerman [4.30], who also,
with the aid of McPherson and Levy, demonstrated experimentally the application
to the second and third critical load of a column. Figure 4.16 shows a typical
Lundquist Southwell plot for the rst and second modes of an eccentrically loaded
column formulated in strains instead of displacements.
Strains are often employed instead of displacements in the Southwell method
(see also Figure 4.14e) since strains can be conveniently measured with strain


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

Figure 4.16

A Column under Axial Compression

Southwell Lundquist plots for the rst and second modes of an eccentrically
loaded column (from [4.30])

gages. One can readily show that the use of bending strains b instead of the
lateral deection W, is permissible. For from elementary bending theory, the axial
D zw,xx
and the bending strain b is the difference between x at the extreme bers, z D
h/2 and z D h/2, and is proportional to x z D h/2 and thus to w,xx . Hence if
Eq. (4.11) is differentiated twice with respect to x it becomes
w,xx x D L/2
 w0,xx x D L/2
as W D wx D L/2, etc. One can therefore write
w,xx x D L/2 PE

x x D L/2 PE

x x D L/2
 w0,xx x D L/2




 W0,xx .
Sometimes the load P is replaced by the average axial strain c , which is proportional to it, and then the Southwell plot is b /c  versus b (see Figure 4.14e).
The at panel of Figure 4.15 is also of considerable practical signicance, as it
represents the equal legged angle, a widely used structural element. Bridget, Jerome
and Vosseller [4.31] carried out at Caltech in 1933 a series of tests on compressed
duralminum angle columns, under the guidance of Donnell, and showed the applicability of the Southwell method irrespective of failure in the column or plate
mode. They used the Southwell method for better presentation of their results,
since it eliminated most of the imperfection effects (geometric imperfections, load
eccentricities and minor variations in stress distributions) related to specic specimens. This smoothing, very useful in parametric studies, is demonstrated very
clearly in Figures 4.17 and 4.18 (reproduced from [4.31]). Figure 4.17 shows the
critical loads, for the cases in which plate buckling occurred, as recorded from tests
without the use of the Southwell method, whereas Figure 4.18 shows the buckling
load of the specimens computed by Southwell method from the same set of data,
resulting in a signicant reduction of scatter.
b PE

Application of the Southwell Method to Columns, Beam Columns & Frames

Figure 4.17


Experimental buckling loads P versus width of sides W for angle columns, as

measured (for the case in which plate buckling occurred, from [4.31])

In passing, it may be mentioned that Bridget et al. designed their experiments

with great care, (see also [2.1], p. 403) in particular with respect to the boundary
conditions. They employed the idea of varying end conditions, by enabling
movement of the support ball position under load, to eliminate initial load
eccentricities and to counteract initial curvature or crookedness, originated by
von Karman [4.4].
Though some applications of the Southwell plot to other structures have been
considered, the discussion so far has dealt primarily with simply supported columns
for which Southwell derived his method. As has been shown, the theoretical basis
has been broadened in 1938 by Donnell [4.26] and then in 1939 by Tuckerman
[4.30], who showed that by applying Westergaards general theory for buckling
of elastic structures [4.32], Southwells method or Lundquists modication can
be generalized and applied to a broader class of structures. His elegant derivation,
however, did not yield detailed justications for practical structures beyond those
considered earlier.


Applications to Frames and Lateral Buckling of Beams

Ariaratnam [4.33] demonstrated analytically that the method also applies to

columns with different combinations of end conditions and with varying exural
rigidity, as well as to plane frameworks. His derivation considered combinations
of pin end, xed end and free end boundary conditions for the column. For
frameworks, justication of the validity of Southwells method was presented both
for buckling in the plane of the structure and for lateral buckling out of its plane.
Ariaratnams analysis justied earlier intuitive extensions of Southwells method


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

Figure 4.18

A Column under Axial Compression

Smoothing data with the Southwell method: buckling loads P versus width
W, computed by the Southwell method from the same data as in Figure 4.17
(from [4.31])

to experiments on frameworks like that of Merchant [4.34], who only proposed

the extended method for in-plane buckling; that of Murray [4.35] who applied the
method to lateral buckling of the members of a truss and used it to determine the
experimental buckling load, which was 8 percent below his approximate theoretical
prediction for lateral buckling; and those of Gregory [4.36] [4.39] who applied
the method to tests of in-plane and out-of-plane (torsional-exural) buckling of
triangular frames and lattice girders. Gregory used strains and not displacements
and his experimental results yielded very consistent linear Southwell plots. The
buckling loads obtained from those plots were very close to the theoretical
predictions for the corresponding perfect frames: between 3.2 percent above and
4 percent below the theoretical values. In one case [4.38] the maximum load
reached in the test was 9 percent below that obtained from the Southwell plot,
which was about 1 percent below the theoretical value.
Southwells method has also been extended by Horton, Cundary, and Johnson,
in their 1967 review of the application of the method to elastic column and plate
structures [4.40], to lateral buckling of beams. By the Rayleigh Ritz method
approximate relationships between the load and both the lateral and torsional
deformations were derived for the case of a deep beam subjected to a concentrated force applied in the plane of the beam. Assuming single term expressions
for initial and total deections and rotations, an approximate relationship between
load and rotation, for small rotations, was arrived at

Application of the Southwell Method to Columns, Beam Columns & Frames


 D Pcr




which is of the Southwell type.

Massey [4.41] had shown earlier experimentally that the Southwell method could
be adapted to lateral instability of rectangular section aluminum alloy beams, loaded
with a concentrated vertical load at midspan. The predictions, using a modied
Southwell plot, were 0.72 3.7 percent above the experimental collapse loads, for
the three beams tested. Way [4.42] re-examined the problem experimentally, rst
repeating Masseys work and then extended it to large deections and beams elastically restrained at midspan. He showed that the Southwell plot of /P versus
, for example for the typical plot shown in Figure 4.19 (from [4.42]), where is
the lateral midspan deection (proportional to  of Eq. 4.23), yields a critical load
prediction 3.3 percent above the test value. Ways other experiments also yielded
similar agreement between the Southwell plot predictions and test values.
Leicester [4.43] extended the validity of the Southwell method by presenting
a theoretical justication for beam-columns. He also considered the special case
of a beam loaded through its shear center which requires a modication to the
Southwell plot. Then for experimental verication, tests on two beams, one loaded
through the shear center and one loaded off the shear center, were carried out.
The test specimens were made of hardwood (Leicester worked at the Division of
Forest Products of CSIRO, Australia), and had signicant imperfections purposely
imparted by an interesting process. Each beam was soaked in water and allowed to
dry for half a day while subjected to 90 percent of its Euler load. This procedure
caused the beams to develop a permanent set with a shape close to that of the
buckling mode, and hence made them very appropriate specimens for verication of

Figure 4.19

Southwell plot for lateral instability of a deep beam subjected to a concentrated

load at its midspan (from [4.42])


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

A Column under Axial Compression

the Southwell method. One can nearly classify them as demonstration experiments
of the kind discussed in Section 4.4.


Southwells Method as a Nondestructive Test Method

Another aspect of Southwells method was already pointed out by Donnell in 1938
[4.26] its usefulness as a nondestructive test method. It permits the stability limit
to be determined without destroying the structure. This advantage of the Southwell
method was exploited by Wilson, Holloway and Biggers [4.44] in their experiments
on expensive tapered column models, by carrying their tests, and the data recording,
only up to loads which gave a denite straight line on the Southwell plot. Thus they
prevented damage due to plastic bending which would have occurred at the highload nonlinearities of the plot. The use of the Southwell plot as a nondestructive
test method has been extensively studied for shells with as yet not completely
conclusive results and will be discussed in Chapters 9, 13, and 16 of Volume 2.
For columns, the Southwell method is universally accepted as a nondestructive
test technique for determination of elastic stiffness properties of actual structural
components. When the struts have very small initial curvatures, as is common
with modern manufacturing quality control, deection measurement errors are
introduced because the deections remain relatively small with load. Hence an
alternative method of testing has been proposed by Tsai [4.45] to load the strut with
an intentional eccentricity to compensate for the low initial geometric imperfection.
Essentially this proposal uses and emphasizes the well known concept of approximate equivalence of the effects of initial curvature and load eccentricity, which
has been employed sometimes in column tests to counteract the initial curvature
of the specimens (see [2.1], pp. 28 36, 190 192).
Rederiving the Southwell type equation in the presence of a predetermined load
eccentricity e at both ends of the strut, it becomes instead of Eq. (4.11)



W D PE  W0  e
1 .
2 PE
Simplication of Eq. (4.24), by expanding the cosine, series conversion and multiplication, yields a rst order approximation
 W0  e D PE
 W0  1.234e.
For W0 D 0 this equation is identical to one derived by Sechler in 1952 [4.46].
Equation (4.25) is very close to a similar approximate formula
 W0  e D PE
 W0  1.273e

derived in the early thirties ([2.1], p. 191). With a reasonable load eccentricity e,
the deections would be larger at low axial forces and hence the accuracy of the
measurements for the Southwell plot would improve. It has to be remembered,

Remarks on the Applicability of the Southwell Plot


however, that this method is useful only when the column is very straight, and
in introducing the load eccentricity care has to be exercised that the test points
remain in the elastic regime.


Remarks on the Applicability of the Southwell Plot

As has been shown, Southwells method has been applied successfully to many
types of columns, beam-columns and frameworks, and has been modied and
extended for more convenient use. The 1939 warning of Ramberg et al. [4.24]:
that it must not be concluded from the success of Southwells method in all those
cases in which the existence of a straight-line relation . . . was established over a
large range of deformations, that Southwells method is applicable to the whole
range of primary instabilities that may be encountered in monocoque construction,
has been heeded and theoretical justications have been derived for various types
of structures, as pointed out in this chapter. Extensions to plates and shells and
plastic buckling have been widely studied and are discussed in Chapters 8, (this
volume) and 9, 13 and 16 of Volume 2. The general conclusion is that, with certain
signicant limitations, the Southwell plot, and its extensions, have a general validity
for practically all linear instability problems and sometimes even beyond that.
The limitations of the applicability and validity have been pointed out by many
investigators (e.g., [4.20] and [4.26]) and have been elucidated by Roorda [4.47].
Recalling rst the differences between various types of buckling behavior
(Figure 4.20) he explains:
In the linear theory of elastic stability, any perfect structural system that yields
a well-behaved eigenvalue problem gives rise to the load-deection characteristic
depicted in Figure 4.20(a). The trivial (unbuckled) solution D 0 is crossed by the
horizontal line P D PCR at the point of bifurcation. This type of characteristic might
be described as a neutral characteristic and it arises purely from the linearization
of the problem. Small imperfections give rise to equilibrium paths in the form of
rectangular hyperbolas as shown. In essence, Southwells method is based on the
neutral characteristic.
In the nonlinear theory of elastic stability the post-buckling behavior is generally
not of the neutral type but takes one of three forms, depending on the nature of
the nonlinearities in the system (in the following, the deections are considered to
be nite but relatively small so that only the initial post-buckling behavior need
be considered). The possible load-deection curves are depicted in Figure 4.20(b),
4.20(c) and 4.20(d), and may be described as the asymmetric, stable-symmetric, and
unstable-symmetric characteristics, respectively. The corresponding load-deection
curves for an imperfect system are also indicated on the diagram. These are now
not rectangular hyperbolas but have the perfect equilibrium curves as asymptotes.
. . . It now becomes evident that a post-buckling behavior other than the neutral
type gives rise to a curved Southwell line.
. . . Typical Southwell lines corresponding to the four buckling types, namely
neutral, asymmetric, stable-symmetric, and unstable-symmetric, are drawn in


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

Figure 4.20

A Column under Axial Compression

Different types of buckling behavior (perfect structures are presented by solid

lines and imperfect ones by broken lines): (a) neutral load-deection characteristic
(arising from linearization of the problem), (b) asymmetric load-deection
characteristic, (c) stable-symmetric load-deection characteristic, (d) unstablesymmetric load-deection characteristic

Figure 4.21(a), 4.21(b), 4.21(c) and 4.21(d), respectively. The initial slope in each
case is 1/PCR . For the neutral case, this slope is maintained for all values of . For
the asymmetric case, the slope decreases as increases in the positive direction
and increases as increases in the negative direction. For the stable symmetric
and unstable symmetric cases, the slope decreases and increases, respectively, as
jj increases.
On the basis of these diagrams, it is now possible to draw certain conclusions
regarding the validity of the Southwell procedure as the measured deections
become large.
For the neutral buckling characteristic there is no problem. The asymmetric buckling characteristic is the most interesting. If in an experimental structure the imperfections are such that they generate a load-deection curve with monotonically
increasing load (positive deections in Figure 4.20(b)), then the best straight line
tted to the experimental points in a Southwell plot will have a slope which is
less than the true slope at zero deection. Hence, the Southwell procedure would
overestimate the critical load. If, on the other hand, the imperfections generate a load
deection curve in which the load reaches a local maximum (i.e. negative deections
in Figure 4.20(b)), then the Southwell procedure underestimates the critical load.. . .
A steep ideal post-buckling curve may give rise to a considerable discrepancy.
Similarly, in the case of symmetric buckling characteristics (Figures 4.20(c,d)),
the following conclusion is drawn: The Southwell procedure overestimates the critical load for a stable symmetric characteristic and underestimates it for an unstable
symmetric characteristic, regardless of the sense of the initial imperfections.. . .
The sharper the initial curvature in the ideal post-buckling path, the greater the
difference between PCR and its estimated value.

Remarks on the Applicability of the Southwell Plot

Figure 4.21


Southwell lines corresponding to the four types of buckling behavior shown

in Figure 4.20 (from [4.47]): (a) neutral, (b) asymmetric, (c) stable symmetric,
(d) unstable symmetric

Roorda summarizes this exposition with advice to the experimenter. If the

Southwell procedure is applied to structures other than the column, great care
must be taken in the interpretation of the results. Correct interpretation of the
Southwell plot for such structures depends upon a knowledge of the post-buckling
behavior of the idealized structure.
In other words, for column type structures, as discussed here and in Chapter 6, for
which the postbuckling behavior is neutrally stable and the bifurcation modes are
well separated, the Southwell method is a convenient and reliable tool for prediction
of the critical load of the perfect structure. For other types of structures, like plates,
which have stable symmetric postbuckling behavior, or shells, which have unstable
symmetric postbuckling behavior, the Southwell method has limitations, which are
discussed in more detail in Chapters 8 (this volume) and 9, Volume 2.
In Roordas paper [4.47] two experiments of the demonstration type are
presented to conrm the arguments and to emphasize the proper interpretation
procedure, a Warren truss and a shallow frame. Here the Warren truss (Figure 4.22)
will be discussed. It consisted of triangulated frames made of high tensile steel
strips of 1 in. by 1/16 in. cross section. The truss had a span of 36 in. and the
members were rigidly jointed by xing the ends in slotted joint blocks, made
from Duraluminum rods of 1.5 in. diameter, as shown in Figure 4.23(a). The truss
was supported on knife edges with a roller support (Figure 4.23(b)) at one end to
prevent horizontal reactions. The load was applied vertically at one of the joints in
the top chord and transmitted to the truss through a double knife edge and movable
knife seat arrangement (Figure 4.23(c)). The two knife seats could be moved to


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

Figure 4.22

A Column under Axial Compression

Buckling modes of a Warren truss (from [4.47]): (a) unbuckled form, (b) stable
buckling, (c) unstable buckling

positions near the joint by turning the screws, thus allowing slight variations of
the eccentricity of loading. The rotation of the loaded joint served as a deection
parameter and was measured optically during the loading process. A semi-rigid
loading device, consisting of a spring-balance and screw jack combination, was
used so that unstable branches of the load-deection curves could be traced. Two
such load-deection curves were obtained, one for a value of load eccentricity
which induced counter-clockwise joint rotation (unstable mode of buckling) and
the other for a slightly different eccentricity which induced clockwise joint rotation
(stable mode of buckling). These curves appear in Figure 4.24. The dotted portion
in the unstable load-deection curve could not be obtained due to insufcient
rigidity of the loading device.
Although in real structures the perfect post-buckling curve can never be attained,
it is clear from these experimental results that this curve would have a nite slope

Remarks on the Applicability of the Southwell Plot

Figure 4.23


Roordas Warren truss experiment details (from [4.14]): (a) the truss tested,
(b) the roller support, (c) frame joint detail with loading arrangement


Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

Figure 4.24

Experimental load

A Column under Axial Compression

joint rotation curves for Roordas Warren truss (from [4.47])

at the point of bifurcation, i.e. the experimental system gives rise to an asymmetric
buckling characteristic.
Plotting the experimental points in accordance with the Southwell procedure
yields the curve shown in Figure 4.25 which is of the type shown in Figure 4.21(b)
(i.e., there is no reversal of curvature as the curve passes through the origin). The
correct buckling load is given by the inverse of the slope of the tangent to the
curve at the origin, and is approximately equal to 65.0 lb. One should note that
due to the curvature of the Southwell plot, it is important to use the tangent at the
origin for a correct interpretation. Photographs of the two buckling modes for this
experimental system are shown in Figure 4.22.
Before closing this section it should be noted that, as pointed out by Bushnell [4.48], the Southwell method can also be used for a non-experimental
task in conjunction with computer programs to ascertain certain unknown or
doubtful characteristics of a complicated structure, such as effective stiffness or
boundary conditions. These characteristics would be changed in repeated runs of
the computer program until the critical bifurcation load predicted by the program
agrees with that from the Southwell plot. Jones, Costello and Reynolds [4.49]
applied the Southwell plot in this non-experimental mode to evaluate their


Figure 4.25


Southwell plot for Roordas Warren truss (from [4.47])

numerical calculations for buckling of a ring, as well as a ring-stiffened cylinder

under external pressure.





Euler, L., Sur le force des colonnes, Mem. de lAcad. de Berlin, Berlin Annee 1759,
XIII, 252 257. English Translation by Van der Brock, Am. J. Physics, 15, July 1947,
309 318.
van Musschenbroek, P., Introductio ad cohaerentiam rmorum in Physicae
experimentales et geometricae Dissertationes, Lugduni (Leiden) 1729, 652 660 and
Table 27.
Salmon, E.H., Columns A Treatise on the Strength and Design of Compression
Members, Oxford Technical Publications, London, 1921.
von Karman, Th., Untersuchungen u ber Knickfestigkeit, Mitteilungen u ber
Forschungsarbeiten auf dem Gebiet des Ingenieurwesens, Verein Deutscher
Ingenieure, Heft 81, Berlin, 1910.
Prandtl, L., Kipp-Erscheinungen, Inaugural Dissertation, Ludwig-MaximiliansUniversitat Munich, 1899, Buchdruckerei Robert Stich, Nurenburg.
Beedle, L.S. and Tall, L., Basic Column Strength, Proc. American Soc. of Civil Engineers, 86, (ST-7), July 1961, Proc. Paper 2555, 139, 173.
Tall, L., Centrally Compressed Members, in Axially Compressed Structures, Stability
and Strength, R. Narayanan, ed., Elsevier Applied Science Publishers, London, 1982,
1 40.











Elements of A Simple Buckling Test

A Column under Axial Compression

von Tetmajer, L., Die Gesetze der Knickungs-und der zusammengesetzten Druckfestikeit der technisch wichtigsten Baustoffe. 3rd edn., Franz Deuticke, Leipzig and
Vienna, 1903.
Kirsch, B., Ergebnisse von Versuchen u ber die Knickfestikeit von Saulen mit fest
eingespannten Enden, Zeitschrift d. Verein deutscher Ingenieure, Berlin, June 3, 1905,
907 915.
Palmer, A.C., Structural Mechanics, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1976, 202 206,.
Kirby, P.A. and Nethercot, D.A., Design for Structural Stability, Granada Publishing,
London, 1979.
Southwell, R.V., On the Analysis of Experimental Observations in Problems of
Elastic Stability, Proc. Royal Society, (London), Series A, 135, 1932, 601 616.
Brivtec, S.J. and Chilver, A.H., Elastic Buckling of Rigidly-Jointed Braced Frames,
Journal of the Engineering Mechanics Division, ASCE, 89, (EM6), Proc. Paper 3736,
1963, 217 255.
Roorda, J., Instability of Imperfect Elastic Structures, Ph.D. Thesis, University of
London, 1965.
Roorda, J., Experiments in Post-Buckling in Buckling of Elastic Structures, Solid
Mechanics Division, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 1980, 73 93.
Walker, A.C., Croll, J.G.A. and Wilson, E., Experimental Models to Illustrate the
Non-Linear Behavior of Elastic Structures, Bulletin Mech. Engineering Education,
10, 1971, 247 259.
Ayrton, W.E. and Perry, J., On Struts, The Engineer, Dec. 10, 1886, 464 465, Dec.
24, 1886, 513 515.
Hoff, N.J., The Analysis of Structures, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1956, 230 242.
Murray, N.W., Introduction to the Theory of Thin-Walled Structures, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1984, 12 15.
Spencer, H.H. and Walker, A.C., Critique of Southwell Plots with Proposals for
Alternative Methods, Experimental Mechanics, 15, (8), 1975, 303 310.
Robertson, A., The Strength of Struts, Selected Paper No 28, Institution of Civil
Engineers (UK), 1925.
Gough, H.J. and Cox, H.L., Some Tests on the Stability of Thin Strip Material Under
Shearing Forces in the Plane of the Strip, Proc. Royal Society (London), Series A,
137, 1932, 145 157.
Fisher, H.R., An Extension of Southwells Method of Analyzing Experimental Observations in Problems of Elastic Stability, Proc. Royal Society (London), Series A, 144,
1934, 609 630.
Ramberg, W., McPherson, A.E. and Levy, S., Experimental Study of Deformation
and of Effective Width in Axially Loaded Sheet-Stringer Panels, NACA TN 684,
Lundquist, E.E., Generalized Analysis of Experimental Observations in Problems of
Elastic Stability, NACA TN 658, 1938.
Donnell, L.H., On the Application of Southwells Method for the Analysis of Buckling Tests, Stephan Timoshenko 60th Anniversary Volume, McGraw-Hill, New York,
1938, 27 38.
Engesser, F., Die Sicherung offener Brucken gegen Ausknicken, Zentralblatt der
Bauverwaltung, 1884, (40), 415 417 and 1885, (7), 71 72.
Hayashi, T. and Kihira, M., On a Method of Experimental Determination of the
Buckling Load of an Elastically Supported Column, Proc. 10th Japan Congress on
Testing Materials, 1967, 163 165.











Jones, R.E. and Green, B.E., Force/Stiffness Technique for Nondestructive Buckling
Tests, Journal of Aircraft, 13, April 1976, 262 269.
Tuckerman, L.B., Heterostatic Loading and Critical Astatic Loads, Research Paper
RP1163, Jour. Res. National Bureau of Standards, 22, 1939, 1 18.
Bridget, F.J., Jerome, C.C. and Vosseler, A.B., Some New Experiments on the Buckling of Thin Wall Construction, Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical
Engineers, 56, 1934, 569 578.
Westergaard, H.M., Buckling of Elastic Structures, Transactions of the American
Society of Civil Engineers, 85, Paper 1490, 1922, 566 676.
Ariaratnam, S.T., The Southwell Method for Predicting Critical Loads of Elastic
Structures, Quarterly Journal of Mechanics and Applied Mathematics, 14, Pt. 2,
1961, 137 153.
Merchant, W., The Failure Load of Rigid Jointed Frameworks as Inuenced by
Stability, The Structural Engineer (UK), 32, 1954, 185 190.
Murrey, N.W., A Method of Determining an Approximate Value of the Critical
Loads at which Lateral Buckling Occurs in Rigidly Jointed Trusses, Proc. Institution
of Civil Engineers (UK), 7, 1957, Paper 6209, 387 403.
Gregory, M., The Use of the Southwell Plot on Strains to Determine the Failure Load
of a Lattice Girder when Lateral Buckling Occurs, Australian Journal of Applied
Science, 10, (4), 1959, 371 376.
Gregory, M., The Buckling of an Equilateral Triangular Frame in its Plane, Australian
Journal of Applied Science, 10, (4), 1959, 377 387.
Gregory, M., The Application of the Southwell Plot on Strains to Problems of Elastic
Instability of Framed Structures, where Buckling of Members in Torsion and Flexure
Occurs, Australian Journal of Applied Science, 11, (1), 1960, 49 64.
Gregory, M., The Use of Measured Strains to Obtain Critical Loads, Civil Engineering and Public Works Review (UK), 55, (642), Jan. 1960, 80 82.
Horton, W.H., Cundary, F.L. and Johnson, R., The Analysis of Experimental Data
Obtained from Stability Studies on Elastic Column and Plate Structures, Israel
Journal of Technology, 5, (1 2), 1967, 104 113.
Massey, C., Southwell Plot Applied to Lateral Instability of Beams, Engineer, 218,
(5666), Aug. 1964, 320.
Way, E.R., The Lateral Instability of a Simply Supported Deep Beam Subjected to a
Concentrated Load at its Centroid, Engineer Thesis, Stanford University, California,
Leicester, R.H., Southwells Plot for Beam Columns, Journal of the Engineering
Mechanics Division, ASCE, 96, (EM6), Proc. Paper 7750, 1970, 945 965.
Wilson, J.F., Holloway, D.M. and Biggers, S.B., Stability Experiments on the Strongest Columns and Circular Arches, Experimental Mechanics, 11, (7), 1971, 303 308.
Tsai, W.T., Note on Southwells Method for Buckling Tests of Struts, Journal of
Applied Mechanics, ASME, 53, 1986, 953 954.
Sechler, E.E., Elasticity in Engineering, Dover Publications, New York, 1968, 364.
Roorda, J., Some Thoughts on the Southwell Plot, Journal of the Engineering
Mechanics Division, ASCE, 93, (EM6), Proc. Paper 5634, 1967, 37 47.
Bushnell, D., Computerized Buckling Analysis of Shells, Martinus Nijhoff,
Dordrecht/Boston, 1985.
Jones, R.F., Costello, M.G. and Reynolds, T.E., Buckling of Pressure Loaded Rings
and Shells by the Finite Element Method, Computers and Structures, 7, 1977,
267 274.



Theory and

Mathematical and Physical Modeling

Before continuing the discussion of buckling and postbuckling experiments on

columns, it may be useful to pause and consider the general problem of modeling.
First we have to differentiate between physical and mathematical modeling. A
physical model represents the real world, the real physical engineering problem, by
identifying the primary factors that affect the behavior of a structure (in our case)
and describes a simpler structure, or one more amenable to testing and measurements, that still demonstrates the main response behavior of the real structure.
A mathematical model on the other hand is an abstraction of the real problem
in the conceptual world, it is the physical problem transformed into an idealized
image that has built-in assumptions and approximations, but constitutes the basis
for analysis and predictions. Often the physical model leads to the mathematical
one, but it must be remembered that the mathematical model is an idealized abstract
representation of the physical one.
Mathematical modeling is an essential step in the process of analysis, computation and prediction, (see for example [5.1]), whereas physical modeling leads to
experimental investigations, to model analysis of structures.
In civil engineering primarily, structural modeling has been extensively used for
more than half a century as an experimental method for solution of strength and
deformation problems of structures. It has been considered as a parallel design tool
to analysis (see for example [5.2]) and has been the subject of special textbooks (for
example [5.2] or [5.3]) and numerous papers. Since most experimental studies on
buckling and postbuckling behavior of structural elements, also in other engineering
disciplines, are carried out on models of the actual structures, appropriate modeling
is indeed an essential part of experimental investigation.
The theory of models, and in particular dimensional analysis, can be an important
guide to the experimenter in the choice of his models. Hence, though the principles
of dimensional analysis are usually well known to scientists and engineers and are

Buckling Experiments: Experimental Methods in Buckling of Thin-Walled Structures: Basic Concepts, Columns, Beams and
Plates Volume 1. J. Singer, J. Arbocz and T. Weller Copyright 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.



Theory and Practice

given in many textbooks (for example [5.3] [5.11]), the main concepts are briey
reviewed in the following section.


Dimensional Analysis

Dimensional analysis is a method by which information about a phenomenon is

deduced from one postulate that the phenomenon can be described by a dimensionally correct equation among certain variables. Dimensional analysis does not yield
a complete solution nor does it reveal the complete character of the phenomenon,
but it reduces the number of variables in a problem. This makes it an important
mathematical tool for experimentalists.
In its simplest form, dimensional analysis can be used to check the dimensional
correctness of equations and to classify them into homogeneous and nonhomogeneous ones. An equation is dimensionally homogeneous, if its form does not
depend on the fundamental units of measurement, or in other words if the equation
is valid in all consistent systems of units. A more interesting application of dimensional analysis is the prediction of the qualitative form of unknown mathematical
relationships among physical quantities, whose quantitative relationship can then
often be determined by experiments.


The Procedure in Dimensional Analysis

The rst step in the dimensional analysis of a problem is to decide what variables
enter the problem, a decision which, to be meaningful, requires some understanding
of the physical nature of the problem. When the dimensions of these variables have
been determined they are grouped into dimensionless products.
Consider for example, (as in [5.4]) a classical problem of uid dynamics, a
smooth spherical body of diameter D immersed in a stream of incompressible
uid moving at a velocity V. The drag force F on the body is represented by an
equation of the form
F D fV, D, , 
in which  is the mass density of the uid,  is the coefcient of viscosity of the
uid (the ratio of the viscous shear stress to the normal velocity gradient) and f
is an unspecied function. Equation (5.1) only says that the drag F depends on the
variables V, D,  and , without indicating the nature of this relationship. As will
be shown shortly, in order to be dimensionally homogeneous Eq. (5.1) must have
the following form:
F/V2 D2  D f1 VD/.
The function f1 is still unknown, but it depends now on only one variable (VD/)
instead of the four separate variables V, D,  and . Note that the expressions
(F/V2 D2 ) and (VD/) are dimensionless. Such groupings are called dimensionless products. In general, if L denotes a length, the dimensionless product (VD/)

Dimensional Analysis


is called Reynolds number (usually denoted by R), and the dimensionless product
(F/V2 D2 ) is called a pressure coefcient (often denoted by P), since (F/L 2 ) can
be interpreted as a pressure.
The projected area of a sphere A D /4D2 and hence Eq. (5.2) may be written,
F/V2 A D 1/28/f1 R


where the term 8/f1 R D CD is called the drag coefcient. The equation for
the drag of a sphere may therefore be written, in the well known form,
F D 1/2CD V2 A


CD being a function of R. Typical experimental results are usually plotted as

CD versus R, and the plot provides information about the drag forces on smooth
spherical bodies of all sizes in incompressible uids with any density and viscosity,
owing at any velocity.
Obviously many other dimensionless products can be formed from the variables
F, V, D, ,  of the example considered, but they will all be found to be of the
R a Pb
where a and b are constant exponents. On the other hand the products R and P are
independent of each other, in the sense of each not being a product of the other,
as can be immediately seen here from the fact that  occurs only in R and F only
in P. Other dimensionless products formed will not be new ones, since they are
all expressible in terms of R and P, as per Eq. (5.5).


The Buckingham Pi Theorem

Generalizing the discussion, one arrives at the following denition: A set of

dimensionless products of given variables is complete, if each product in the set is
independent of the others, and every other dimensionless product of the variables
is a product of powers of dimensionless products in the set.
This leads to Buckinghams theorem: If an equation is dimensionally homogeneous it can be reduced to a relationship among a complete set of dimensionless
products. The theorem was stated by Buckingham in 1914 [5.12], without a
rigorous proof, was discussed in detail by Bridgman in 1922 [5.13], restated and
proved by van Driest in 1946 [5.14], and presented in 1951 with an algebraic
proof in Langhaars book [5.4]. Buckingham denoted the independent dimensionless products or groups Pi terms, and they are usually designated as i . Hence
the theorem is known as the Buckingham Pi Theorem. A corollary to the theorem,
which may be considered the second part of the theorem, states in general terms
that: the number of independent dimensionless products required to express a
relationship between the variables in any phenomenon is equal to the number of
derived variables involved n, minus the number of dimensions m, or primary variables, in which these quantities may be measured. The number of  terms is
therefore (n  m).



Theory and Practice

In the example considered, the sphere immersed in a stream of incompressible

uid, F, V, D,  and  are the nD 5 derived variables. After choosing mD 3 of
these such that they contain among them all the primary dimensions (say, V, D and
), one forms dimensionless products with the remaining m  nD 2 variables as

1 D Va Db c 
2 D Vd De f F
In terms of the primary dimensions M, L, T these products are:
 a  c  

1 D

 d  f 

2 D


For 1 , 2 to be dimensionless, the exponents for each of the primary dimensions

must vanish. Hence

L : a C b  3c  1 D 0
T : a  1 D 0
M: cC1D0
yielding a D b D c D 1

L : d C e  3f C 1 D 0
T : d  2 D 0
M: fC1D0


yielding d D e D 2 and f D 1. The two dimensionless products are therefore:

1 D /VD D 1/R
and 2 D F/V2 D2  D P
Buckinghams theorem asserts here that if we assume that the ve variables are
related by a dimensionally homogeneous equation, similar to Eq. (5.1),
fF, V, D, ,  D 0


this equation reduces to

f1 , 2  D 0 or

fP, R D 0


which can also be written as P D f1 R, which is Eq. (5.2).


The Concept of Similarity

Dimensional analysis yields a general theory of model design by establishing the

proper relations between the model and its prototype. Usually geometric similarity is maintained, which means that the parts of the model have the same shape



as the corresponding parts of the prototype. In general there is a point-to-point

correspondence between a model and its prototype, called homology in geometrical terminology. Two points that correspond to each other are homologous, and
parts of the model and its prototype are homologous if there is a point-to-point
correspondence between them.
Similarity extends to other characteristics besides geometry, like mass distribution or stiffness. For example, in an aircraft wing-utter model similarity of
mass distribution is required, if not for all the details of the structure at least in
a restricted sense, such that the ratio of masses of segments of the wing and its
model, which are included between homologous cross sections, has to be constant,
i.e. similarity of the spanwise distribution of mass. Furthermore, chordwise distributions of mass, in the same restricted sense, and spanwise distributions of mass
moments of inertia are to be similar, and the ratio of stiffnesses of homologous
cross sections of the wing and its model has to be constant.
Applying dimensional analysis, the general equation for the prototype may be
written as
p D f1p , 2p , . . . np 
where the s are a complete set of dimensionless products. For the model, a
similar equation holds
m D f1m , 2m , . . . nm .
If the model is designed and tested so that
1m D 1p

2m D 2p

nm D np
one obtains

f1p , 2p , . . . 2n  D f1m , 2m , . . . 2m 

or p D m



and model and prototype are completely similar. The general Eqs. (5.12) and
(5.13) and their equality, Eq. (5.15), emanate from Buckinghams theorem.
Equation (5.14) are sometimes called the design conditions and Eq. (5.15) the
prediction equation, and if all the design conditions are satised the model is called
a true model, as complete similarity is assured, provided that all the pertinent
quantities were included in the dimensional analysis that yielded the Pi terms.


Model Laws

The concept of similarity can also be expressed in a different form, as model laws.
For example, the dimensionless equation dening the drag on a body in a stream
of incompressible uid (Eq. (5.2)), which was derived earlier, can be considered
as follows: If a geometrically similar model is to be tested, the Reynolds numbers



Theory and Practice

R of model and prototype should be equal, or

VL/m D VL/p .


This equation may be written as



Kv D Vm /Vp
KL D Lm /Lp
K D m /p
K D m /p etc.


These Ks are called scale factors. It should be noted that Eq. (5.17) expresses the
requirements of similarity in terms of scale factors, in this case. Such expressions
of these requirements are known as similarity conditions.
Equations (5.2) and (5.17) yield the scale factor for the drag force
KF D K K2V K2L D K2 /K .


Equations (5.17) and (5.19) represent the model law for the problem of a body
immersed in a stream of compressible uid.
To express the concept of similarity in terms of scale factors more generally,
two homologous (corresponding) rectangular Cartesian space reference frames are
selected (xp , yp , zp ) and (xm , ym , zm ), with which points in the prototype and the
model are designated respectively. The model and prototype systems are related
by equations dening homologous (corresponding) points and times.
xm D Kx xp

ym D K y yp
zm D Kz zp

tm D K T tp
The constants Kx , Ky , Kz are the scale factors for lengths in the x, y and z
directions. For geometric similarity,
Kx D Ky D Kz D KL .


For a distorted model, two length scale factors are usually equal, and one
unequal, for example Kx D Ky 6D Kz . In such a case the ratio (Kz /Kx ) is known
as the distortion factor. The constant Kt is called the time scale factor. It should
be remembered that in transient phenomena, states that occur at homologous times
are considered and not simultaneous states.
Kinematic similarity denotes similarity of motions and can be dened as
follows (see for example [5.4]): The motions of two systems are similar, if
homologous particles lie at homologous points at homologous times. Homologous

Application to Statically Loaded Elastic Structures


(corresponding) points and times are dened by Eq. (5.20). With kinematic
similarity, corresponding components of velocity or acceleration are similar. For
geometric similar systems, satisfying Eq. (5.21), the velocity scale factor is:


Ka D am /ap D KL /K2t D K2V KL .


and the acceleration scale factor:

Dynamic similarity occurs if the homologous parts of two systems experience

similar net forces. For geometric similarity and for similar mass distributions,
indicated by the existence of a scale factor for mass
Km D mm /mp ,


the scale factor of the total force is

KF D Km KL /K2t .


Note that models which satisfy similarity conditions for mass and elasticity (as
mentioned for the example of an aircraft wing-utter model), are usually known
as dynamically similar models.
It may be noted that complete similarity is sometimes called replica modeling,
especially in cases of structural response to transient loads, which are discussed
in a later section. A replica model is dened as a model which is geometrically
similar in all respects to the prototype and employs identically the same materials
at similar locations [5.33]). For geometric similarity with different materials, the
term dissimilar material modeling is often employed, which however assumes
constitutive similarity for the materials. Constitutive similarity means that model
and prototype materials have homologous constitutive properties and homologous
stress-strain curves. Materials possessing constitutive similarity will have identical
scaled strength and stiffness properties.


Application to Statically Loaded Elastic Structures

Prescribed Loads

Consider now the application of dimensional analysis to statically loaded elastic

structures. The structure itself may be specied by the modulus of elasticity E and
Poissons ratio , by one length  and the ratios r1 , r2 , etc. of all other lengths
to . The loads may be concentrated loads, distributed ones and moments, but for
simplicity only concentrated loads will be considered here. These may be specied
by one of them P and the ratios r11 , r21 , etc. of the other loads to P. The directions
of the loads may be specied by 1 , 2 , etc. A particular stress component at
some point x, y, z, will be given by a relation
D f1 x, y, z, E, , P, , r1 , r2 . . . , r11 , r21 . . . , 1 , 2 . . .




Theory and Practice

assuming isotropy, homogeneity and Hookes law. Since only two primary
variables, or fundamental units, are required here for the measurement of all the
n quantities in Eq. (5.26), force and length, m D 2, and hence n  2 independent
dimensionless products form a complete set of dimensionless products. In the
present case these dimensionless products can be determined intuitively, but will
then also be rederived by a formal systematic approach. Writing the dimensionless
products intuitively, the complete set of dimensionless products consists here of
 , E, x/, y/, z/, P/E2 , , r1 , r2 . . . , r11 , r21 . . . , 1 , 2 . . .


and by Buckinghams theorem Eq. (5.26) reduces to

 /E D f[x/, y/, z/, P/E2 , , r1 , r2 . . . r11 , r21 . . . , 1 , 2 . . .]. 5.28
Note that Poissons ratio  and the other ratios, r1 , r2 etc., are dimensionless
quantities. For the formal determination of the dimensionless products, only one
load P and one dimension x will be considered, for simplicity. Hence there are
n D 6 variables and Eq. (5.26) is replaced by
D f2 x, E, , P, .


Since only two fundamental units are required here, force and length, one has to
choose m D 2 variables from Eq. (5.29) such that they contain these two dimensions, say E and . One of the variables in Eq. (5.29), Poissons ratio , is already
a nondimensional quantity. Therefore one forms dimensionless products with the
remaining n  m  1D 3 variables as follows:

1 D Ea b P
2 D Ec d .

e f
3 D E  x
In terms of the two primary dimensions F, L these products are:


1 D


2 D


3 D


For 1 , 2 , 3 to be dimensionless, the exponents for each of the primary dimensions must vanish. Hence

L : 2a C b D 0
yielding a D 1 and b D 2, and
L : 2c C d  2 D 0


Application to Statically Loaded Elastic Structures


yielding c D 1 and d D 0, and

L : 2e C f C 1 D 0

yielding f D 1. The three dimensionless products are therefore:

1 D P/E2  sometimes called the strain number

2 D  /E

3 D x/



and hence
f3 1 , 2 , 3 , 


 /E D f[x/, P/E2 , ].


which can also be written as

If P and  were chosen as the m D 2 variables from Eq. (5.29), instead of E, ,

the same process would have yielded an alternative grouping of dimensionless
products instead of Eq. (5.35).

or more conveniently the strain numberP/E2 ,

1 D E2 /P since any inversion of a dimensionless product

only changes the unknown function of the products . 5.35A

2 D  2 /E

3 D x/
This would give an alternative equation to Eq. (5.37),
P/E2 , ].
 2 /P D f[x/,


With the additional ratios r1 , r2 etc. and the dimensionless products (y/) and
(z/), obtained in the same manner as (x/), Eq. (5.37) would again become
Eq. (5.28). With the grouping of Eq. (5.35A) an alternative equation to Eq. (5.28)
would result,
y/, z/, P/E2 , , r1 , r2 . . . , r11 , r21 . . . , 1 , 2 . . .]
 2 /P D f[x/,
It may be noted, that a more precise formulation of the corollary to Buckinghams
Pi Theorem (or its second part) would be that the number of dimensionless products in a complete set is equal to the total number of variables minus the rank of
their dimensional matrix as stated by Langhaar [5.4]. To apply this formulation
here one would write the dimensional matrix of the n variables of Eq. (5.26) and
nd that the rank1 of this matrix is 2 (see for example [5.10] p. 284). The number of
dimensionless products necessary for a complete set is therefore n  2, as obtained
1 In algebra, the rank of a matrix is said to be r, if the matrix contains a nonzero determinant of order r,
and all determinants of order greater than r that the matrix contains have the value zero.



Theory and Practice

earlier from consideration of fundamental units required for the measurement of

all the n variables.
Equation (5.28) is now applied to both model and prototype. For geometric
similarity r1 , r2 , . . . have to be the same for both model and prototype. Making r11 ,
r21 , . . . and 1 , 2 . . ., the same for both means similarity of load distribution, and
making (x/), (y/), (z/) the same means that the stress is measured at the point
in the model corresponding to the equivalent point in the prototype (homologous
points). Complete similarity is obtained when all the independent dimensionless
products of Eq. (5.28) are the same for model and prototype. Then
 m /Em  D  p /Ep 
or p D Ep /Em  m .


The scaling rules for the loads are evident from

Pm /Em 2m  D Pp /Ep 2p 
or Pm /Pp  D Em /Ep m /p 2


and corresponding expressions for other types of loads.


Displacements and Strains

Similar dimensional analyses for a displacement u, or for a strain yield


u/ D f4 [x/, y/, z/, P/E2 , , . . . , ]


 D f5 [x/, y/, z/l, P/E2 , , . . . , ].


um /m  D up /p  and m D p .


It is important to point out here that the displacements have not been assumed to
be small. The similarity rules discussed apply, therefore, also to large deformations
of exible structures (made of a material obeying Hookes law), where the stresses
and displacements are not in general proportional to the loads. For example, very
exible steel springs or thin plates compressed beyond buckling are in this class,
as long as the proportional limit is not exceeded.
The dimensional analysis also shows how curves of data obtained in model
tests should be plotted to apply directly to the prototype. For example, if a stress
is plotted versus a load P, the curve showing ( 2 /P) versus the strain number
(P/E2 ) is a graphical representation of Eq. (5.28A), or the curve of ( /E) versus
(P/E2 ) represents Eq. (5.28). With the similarity conditions being satised, these
curves are identical to the corresponding one obtained from data measured on the
prototype. In elastic structures, the strain number (P/E2 ) has therefore a similar
role to that of the Reynolds number in uid dynamics.

Application to Statically Loaded Elastic Structures


If the structure is not all of the same material, one has to include in the list of
variables the moduli E, E1 , E2 , etc., and Poissons ratios , 1 , 2 , etc. Additional
dimensionless groups (E1 /E), (E2 /E), etc., and 1 , 2 , etc., will then appear, which
have to be the same for model and prototype to satisfy the similarity conditions.
For stiff structures, where the deformations do not signicantly affect the action
of the loads, the stresses, strains and displacements are always linear functions
of the load (as follows from the linearity of the basic differential equations and
boundary conditions of the classical theory of elasticity). For such linear structures the dimensional analysis becomes simpler. Since must be proportional to
P,  /E in Eq. (5.28) cannot be an unknown function of (P/E2 ), and therefore the
right-hand side of Eq. (5.28) f[. . .] should be independent of the group (P/E2 ).
Hence Eq. (5.28) can be written
 /E D P/E2 g1 [x/, y/, z/, , r1 , r2 . . . , r11 , r21 . . . , 1 , 2 . . .] 5.43
and for geometrical and load distribution similarity g1 [. . .] becomes a constant k1 ,
identical for model and prototype, and
 /E D k1 P/E2 .


It should be remembered that when other types of loads are also acting, their portion
of stress can be simply added to Eq. (5.44), since the principle of superposition
holds here.
In the same manner Eqs. (5.40) and (5.41) simplify to

u/ D k2 P/E2 
D k3 P/E2 
where also k2 and k3 are the same constants for model and prototype. Note that
since E cancels in Eq. (5.44) it conrms the well known result that stresses (or
forces, like redundant reactions) are independent of Youngs modulus E.
The preceding discussion considered problems of prescribed loads. Alternatively,
certain displacements, dened by a displacement U and the ratios of the others to
it, can be prescribed. The problem then becomes that of determining the stress ,
displacement u and strain e in terms of U, the relevant ratios (assumed to be the
same for model and prototype) and the other variables specifying the structure. In
the same manner as before, dimensional analysis yields expressions for prescribed
N 1 [U/, x/, y/, z/, , r1 , r2 . . . , ]
 /E D f

N 2 [U/, x/, y/, z/, , r1 , r2 . . . , ]

u/ D f

 D f3 [U/, x/, y/, z/, , r1 , r2 . . . , ]
which correspond to Eqs. (5.28), (5.40) and (5.41) for prescribed loads. When
there is no restriction to small deformations, geometrical similarity and identity of
Poissons ratios and (U/) values must be assured. Identity of (U/) values means
that the model must reach a geometrically similar deformed state as the prototype.
Then the stress, displacement and strain of Eqs. (5.46) are identical for model and



Theory and Practice

prototype. For linear structures, Eqs. (5.46) simplify, in the same manner as for
prescribed loads, to

 /E D K1 U/
u/ D K2 U/

 D K3 U/
where K1 , K2 , K3 are the same constants for model and prototype.


Loading Beyond Proportional and Elastic Limits

For loading beyond the proportional and elastic limit, Goodier [5.9] indicated that
the one-dimensional curved stress-strain relations may be expressed in the form
 /E D f


in a selected unit system, where, E is an appropriately chosen value for Youngs

modulus, as for example the initial slope of the curve, and f is a function,
involving suitable numbers, that describes or approximates the measured stressstrain curve. The function f may be for example
 /E D  m


which is a three parameter representation of the experimental nonlinear stress-strain

curve, where E, and m have to be obtained by tting the experimental curve. In
Figure 5.1 it is shown that such a representation is essentially similar to another
commonly used representation, the Ramberg Osgood method [2.77]:
D  /E C  /En


Figure 5.1 Representation of curved (nonlinear) experimental stress-strain curves: A point A

on the experimental curve can be obtained by adding BA horizontally to the linear
stress-strain relation, i.e. D  /E C  /En , Ramberg-Osgood [2.77], or by
subtracting CA vertically from the linear relation,  /E D  m , Goodier [5.15]

Buckling Experiments


One can note in Figure 5.1 that a typical point A on the experimental curve can
be obtained either by adding BA D  /En horizontally (to the linear strain value
at stress A) according to Eq. (5.50), or by subtracting CA D m vertically (from
the linear stress value at strain A) according to Equation (5.49). Equation (5.49)
will remain valid when the unit of stress is changed, since and E will retain
the same ratio. The nonlinear stress-strain relations between all six components of
stress and the six components of strain can in a similar manner be written in terms
of a chosen E and a function f, which consists of numbers that do not change
with change of system of units, as discussed in detail in [5.15].
With the new meaning of E, as expressed by Eq. (5.48), the conclusions
of the previous sections hold, except for the change in the denition of
E. With geometrical similarity, using the alternative formulation Eq. (5.28A),
 m 2m /Pm D  p 2p /Pp  at the same strain number (P/E2 ). For the nonlinear
stress-strain relation there is, however, no freedom of choice of a different material
for the model. The numbers appearing in the stress-strain relation Eq. (5.48) must
be the same for model and prototype. As shown in [5.15], the strict condition of
identical material may be relaxed to a requirement of model material stress-strain
relations being obtainable by an afne transformation from those of the prototype.
If parts of the structure are in the plastic regime, their behavior can still be
represented by a curved stress-strain law. Even if the loading causes the stress at a
point not to increase monotonically, but to alternate increases with decreases, the
similarity is still preserved, provided model and prototype go through the same
strain number (P/E2 ) in the same sequence.
Note that the important nding of Goodier is that, with care and some restrictions, similarity rules are valid also for nonlinear material behavior and in the
plastic regime. Thus their guidance for experimental studies extends also to large
and plastic deformations, as for example in postbuckling studies.


Buckling Experiments
Similarity Considerations for Buckling

As was pointed out in Section 5.4, curves like ( 2 /P), (u/) or versus the
strain number (P/E2 ) obtained from a model are valid also for the corresponding
prototype, even when the displacements are large. A buckling phenomenon would
appear as a sudden growth of (u/) at a certain value of (P/E2 ). Since the curve
is valid for all geometrically similar elastic structures (made of a material obeying
Hookes law), all these similar structures will buckle in the same manner at the
same strain number (P/E2 ). This can be expressed as
Pcr /E2  D C


where C is the same dimensionless number for all similar structures. Note that
buckling at a denite strain number is analogous to the onset of turbulence at a
denite Reynolds number in a given type of uid ow.



Theory and Practice

Following the arguments of Section 5.5, the conclusion of Eq. (5.51) can be
extended to buckling in the plastic regime, except that now the material has to
be the same for model and prototype. The material and hence E being the same,
both model and prototype will buckle at the same value of (P/2 ), or at the same
critical stress cr .
It may be useful to amplify these arguments, originally presented by Goodier in
[5.9] and [5.15], by a more detailed discussion (following a presentation by Chilver
in [1.12]). Considering the general problem of elastic buckling of a structure,
under a well-dened loading system, it is assumed that buckling can be dened
in some appropriate form, such as the development of gross deformations. Where
the loading is due to some external force, such as an external point load, stress or
pressure, and the critical value of this force at which buckling develops is required,
the dimensional analysis of the problem is relatively simple. It is rst supposed that
the material of the structure is isotropic and homogeneous with Youngs modulus,
E, and Poissons ratio, . Then, for geometrically similar structures, the critical
value of the load, P
Pcr D fE, , 
where  is a typical linear dimension. Dimensional analysis then gives
Pcr /E2  D f.


Buckling is usually a structural problem at the extremes of the geometric forms, and
in many such cases, as for example slender columns or thin plates, its dependence
on Poissons ratio  is weak. For materials of the same Poissons ratio, f can
be replaced by a constant C, which reduces Eq. (5.53) to Eq. (5.51). This will also
hold approximately for the many cases of materials with dissimilar Poissons ratios
where buckling is not strongly dependent on .


Choice of Materials for Buckling Experiments

Comparing now the elastic buckling behavior of a given structure and that of a
geometrically similar model structure, not necessarily made of the same material,
but of an elastic material of the same Poissons ratio , Eqs. (5.53) or (5.51) yields
the simple scaling law
Pcr.m /Pcr.p  D Em /Ep m /p 2


which is the same as Eq. (5.39) derived for any static load. Hence a small-scale
model, in a relatively exible material, can be used effectively to enable useful
experiments to be carried out at relatively low loads.
If the structures are considered in terms of stresses, the scaling rule is
 cr.m / cr.p  D Em /Ep 


the same as Eq. (5.38) for any static load. Thus if model and full-size structure
are of the same material, the critical stresses are equal. Note that for complete

Buckling Experiments


geometrical similarity and no dependence on Poissons ratio,

One can now write

 cr /E D constant C.


 cr /E D  cr / y  y /E


where y is the yield stress of the material. Then for geometrical similarity
 cr / y m D  cr / y p [ y /Ep / y /Em ].


Hence a suitable choice of material for the model can usually eliminate plastic
buckling effects in the model. The yield stress, or rather the ratio ( y /E) is therefore
of prime importance in designing a model. For example, a high strength steel model
will give, compared with a mild steel prototype,
 cr / y m D order f1/5 cr / y p g.


This means that the high strength steel model will buckle at a stress far below
yielding, whereas it might have been at or beyond yielding in the mild steel
full-scale structure. The model would therefore also permit study of postbuckling
behavior while remaining elastic.
The need to increase ( y /E) to study elastic buckling phenomena, and especially
postbuckling behavior, is reected in the materials used for recent postbuckling
studies. For example, high-strength steel strip and sheet have been used successfully
in the study of the stability of framed structures and at plates. Polyester lms have
been used extensively to study the stability of shells, and many shell buckling
problems have been studied by using electrolytically deposited nickel or copper
Some typical examples for ( y /E) are:
1. Structural steel

 y /E D 0.0013.

2. Medium strength steel (AISI 4130 drawn tubes, used for example in test specimens of stringer-stiffened cylindrical shells [9.206, Volume 2])  y /E D
3. High strength steel (17-7 PH heat treated after hydrospinning, used for
test specimens of ring-stiffened conical shells [9.149, Volume 2])  y /E D
4. Aluminum alloy (7075-T6 drawn tubes used, for example, for test specimens
of stringer-stiffened cylindrical shells [13.52, Volume 2])  y /E D 0.0072.
5. Mylar polyester lms (used, for example, for test specimens of cylindrical
shells [9.263, Volume 2])  y /E D 0.0210.
6. Electroformed nickel (used for test specimens of complete spherical shells
[9.90, Volume 2])  y /E D 0.0018.
The values indicate the relative suitability of the materials for models in postbuckling studies.




Theory and Practice

Elasto-Plastic Buckling

Whereas the modeling of structures to simulate elastic buckling is relatively simple,

the situation becomes more complex for collapse involving inelastic effects. Instead
of the curved strain hardening stress-strain relation assumed in Section 5.5, the
material is now assumed to be sharp yielding, as structural steel, and that strain
hardening after yielding may be ignored. For complete geometric similarity, one
can write
max D fE, y , 
where max is a maximum external stress of the system, such as the average
compressive stress for collapse of a column or plate, and y is the yield stress.
Weak dependence on Poissons ratio is assumed and  is therefore omitted from
Eq. (5.60), though one could include it easily if desired.
In the dimensional analysis, the dimensionless products are determined formally
with Buckinghams Pi theorem. Again only m D 2 fundamental units are required
here, force F and length L, and hence, since the number of variables in Eq. (5.60)
n D 4, n  m D 2. Choosing y and  as the m D 2 variables from Eq. (5.60), one
forms dimensionless products with the remaining n  m D 2 variables as follows:
a b

1 D y  E D
 L c  L  .
c d

2 D y  max D
For 1 , 2 to be dimensionless, the exponent for each of the primary dimensions
must vanish, and this yields a D c D 1 and b D d D 0. Hence
 D f1 [E/ y ,  max / y ]


or in a more convenient form

N y /E.
 max / y  D f


Hence if full-size structure and model are of the same material, max is the same.
Furthermore, where ( y /E) is the same for the full-size structure and the model,
the values of ( max / y ) are the same. Thus when modeling in the same material is
difcult, such a suitable choice of ( y /E) leads to model results, from which max
for the full size structure can immediately be found from
max .p D max .m  y.p / y.m .


In cases where plastic collapse follows the initial development of elastic buckling, some progress can be made by assuming that the elastic buckling stress, cr ,
for a perfectly-elastic material plays a role in determining the maximum stress,
max . Suppose, for complete geometric similarity,
max D f y , cr , 


Buckling Experiments


omitting again the dependence on Poissons ratio. Then, dimensional analysis

yields, in a similar manner to Eqs. (5.61) to (5.63),
N y / cr .
 max / y  D f


For columns, for example, this suggests a simple interaction curve between
( max / y ) and ( max / cr ) since Eq. (5.66) may be written as

N  max / cr  y / max  .
 max / y  D f
Figure 5.2 shows the results of some pin-ended column tests by Chilver [1.12]
on a light-alloy material. Here the yield stress is taken as reasonably well-dened
by the 0.2 percent proof stress of the material. A well-dened interaction curve
emerges between  max / y  and  max / cr , where the right side represents the
region where elastic buckling predominates and the left side the shorter columns
that fail primarily by yielding.
In [1.12], Chilver also examined the collapse stresses obtained on axially
compressed plates, square tubes channel sections, I sections and other open sections
made of a range of materials and observed that Eq. (5.66) was indeed applicable
with relatively small scatter. The appropriate functional form for simply supported
plates was found to be

 max / y  D fp  y / cr 1/2
with fp nearly a linear relation of  y / cr 1/2 . In Figure 5.3 the experimental
collapse stresses of compressed channel sections of different materials (Figure 5

Figure 5.2 Pin-ended column tests on a light-alloy material ( y D 0.2 proof stress), showing
interaction curve between ( max / y ) and ( max / cr ), (from [1.12])



Theory and Practice

Figure 5.3 Experimental collapse stresses of axially compressed channel sections and simply
supported plates made of different materials (from [1.12]), , represent channel
sections, and , ,

of [1.12]) are superimposed on the collapse stresses of simply supported plates

of different materials (Figure 2 there) to emphasize the applicability even more.
Chilver found that for all the experimental results he examined, the collapse stress
max is indeed a function of the local elastic buckling stress cr , represented approximately by Eq. (5.68).
It should be pointed out that Eqs. (5.66) and (5.68) were derived for a perfectly
elastic-plastic material, which represents structural steels fairly accurately. For
strain-hardening materials, they are only approximate, unless the restrictions of
Section 5.5 apply, i.e. or the material of model and prototype is identical, or the
stress strain curves of the model material can be obtained from those of the prototype material by an afne transformation.


Goodier and Thomsons Experiments on Shear Panels

In order to test the validity of similarity principles for thin-walled structures

representing typical aeronautical structural elements, which buckle elastically and
plastically, Goodier and Thomson performed in 1944 at Cornell University a series
of experiments on square thin sheets in shear, with or without holes [5.15]. Square
panels of thin 2024 aluminum alloy sheet were tested in a hinged frame made of
relatively rigid angle irons (see Figure 5.4). Three sizes of frames, scaled, relative
to the smallest, in the ratios 3.20, 1.99, 1.00 (and made as nearly geometrically

Buckling Experiments

Figure 5.4 Goodier and Thomsons Cornell University experiments on shear panels
frame (from [5.15]): (a) test setup, (b) details of test frame



similar as possible), and specimens, with two sizes of central lightening holes or
without, and of ve thicknesses (from 0.02000 to 0.06400 ) were made. The thin
shear panels represented a problem of large displacements extending also beyond
the elastic limit.
If the bars of the hinged frame are taken to be rigid, the variables are: the
diagonal deections , the stresses , the strains , the external shearing load P,



Theory and Practice

the geometric variables of the plate, the side of the square a (see Figure 5.4), the
thickness of the sheet t and the diameter of the central hole D, and the material
constants E and , where below the elastic limit E is Youngs modulus, and if
there is plastic deformation or a curved stress-strain relation, E is a dimensional
constant as dened in Section 5.5. Dimensional analysis of the variables, in the
manner discussed earlier, then yields seven dimensionless products (since n D 9
and m D 2 here), which may be written in the form of the following relations:

/a D f1 P/Ea2 , t/a, D/a, 

 /E D f2 P/Ea2 , t/a, D/a, 

 D f3 P/Ea2 , t/a, D/a, 
Hence, if the model is of the same material as the prototype, the curves of
/a versus the strain number (P/Ea2 ), of ( /E) versus (P/Ea2 ) and of versus
(P/Ea2 ) are the same for all panels in which (t/a) and (D/a) are the same. Here,
since the strain and the diagonal displacement can be measured directly, the
test curves are (/a) and versus the strain number.
The test specimens are arranged in groups with the same (t/a) and (D/a) values,
or very nearly the same, depending on available standard sheet thicknesses. Similarity is conrmed if all members of each group fall on the same dimensionless
curve, as for example one of the curves in Figure 5.5.

Figure 5.5 Goodier and Thomsons Cornell University experiments on shear panels curves
of tensile and bending strains, as well as nondimensional diagonal and lateral
displacements versus the strain number (P/a2 E), here the ordinates, for plates
without holes of three sizes (from [5.15]). Values for the small frames are designated , for the medium sized ones and for the large ones . Similarity is
clearly conrmed in (a) and (c), whereas in (b) and (d) there is more scatter

Scaling of Dynamically Loaded Structures


The experiments were carried out by loading the hinged frame, which was
supported laterally, by means of a hydraulic jack (see Figure 5.4a). The diagonal
deection was measured with a mechanical dial gage. Note that is independent
of any rotation of the supporting wall, unless such rotation causes bending of the
frame. The strains were measured with strain gages, which were attached, in plates
without holes, along the center line of the diagonal tension fold, that appears after
buckling. In plates with holes, the strain gages were placed at the edge of the holes
at the positions of maximum bending and maximum tension. The maximum lateral
buckling deection w was measured at the middle of plates without holes, and
in plates with holes at the edge of the hole along a line parallel to the diagonal
tension lines (here at 42 to the horizontal).
In Goodier and Thomsons NACA TN 933 [5.15], curves of tensile strain t ,
bending strain b , nondimensional diagonal displacement (/a) and nondimensional
lateral displacement (w/a) were plotted versus the strain number (P/Ea2 ) for all
the similarity groups. In Figure 5.5 one set of these curves, for plates without
233 (actually 228, 230, 240) is reproduced from that
holes D/a D 0 and t/a D
NACA TN. In the gures, represents measured values for the small frames, x
values for the medium sized frames and o values for the large frames. Similarity is
clearly conrmed in Figures 5.5(a) and (c) for tensile strain and diagonal displacement, while for the bending strain and lateral displacement in (b) and (d) there is
more scatter. This scatter is primarily due to errors of measurement. Indeed the
measurement of lateral deections was pointed out to be unreliable and inuenced
by rotation of frame edges. Also the bending strains were very sensitive to errors in
positioning of strain gages and their relative size. However, as a whole, similarity
was demonstrated in [5.15] by all the curves to a reasonable degree, the scatter
diminishing when the group included only two scaled frames.
Since the tests extended well into the plastic region, the results conrm the
validity of the similarity principles, not only for elastic buckling but also for
inelastic postbuckling behavior.
One notes that in buckling experiments simple dimensional analysis can be a
helpful guide in the design of meaningful experiments and that it can be extended
also to deal with yielding and collapse conditions. One of the weaknesses of
the dimensional analysis approach is that geometric imperfections, which have
a signicant effect on buckling behavior, are not included in it. If a structure is
strongly imperfection sensitive, even careful experiments will demonstrate strong
scatter. The experiments themselves therefore may present an indication or warning
of imperfection sensitivity, even if theoretical consideration have not brought
it out.


Scaling of Dynamically Loaded Structures

Since dynamic loads are often the cause of buckling of structures, the similarity
and scaling conditions for time-variant problems have also to be considered.




Theory and Practice

Free Vibrations

Free vibrations of an elastic frictionless system represent a simple example of a

time-variant phenomenon. For geometrically similar systems, the frequency of
any specied natural mode of vibration depends on an overall scale length , and
mass density , Poissons ratio  and Youngs modulus E. Hence
D f, , E, .


In the dimensional analysis there are n D 5 variables,

p m D 3 fundamental units
and therefore two dimensionless products 1 D  /E and , which are found
in the usual manner described in Section 5.2. Hence

f1  /E,  D 0
which can also be written as


f2 .


Since the vibrations are small, the dependence on Poissons ratio, f2 , may be
approximated by a proportionality relation k. Then Eq. (5.74) can be replaced by

k E
The resulting model law is
K D 1,




where the K0 s are the relevant scale factors, KL D m /p , etc. The condition K D
1 may often be disregarded, as Poissons ratio has only a negligible effect. If
the model and the prototype are made of the same material, P anyhow and also
KE D K D 1. Then Eq. (5.76) reduces to
K KL D 1


yielding, for example, a double frequency for a half-size model.


Impact of a Rigid Body on a Structure

The impact of a moving rigid body on a structure is another simple example of

dynamic loading. The damage (like bending or fracture) at some distance from the
point of collision depends on the mass m and velocity V of the incident body, but
has been found to be practically independent of the size of this body (except for
very high speed impact ballistics). Hence one can assume the same length scale

Scaling of Dynamically Loaded Structures


factor for the incident body and the structure. With geometrical similarity the size of
the striking body and the impacted structure are then determined by a characteristic
length . The maximum stress at any point depends therefore on m, V, , the
mass density of the structure  and on E and . As discussed in Section 5.5, E
and  can also characterize a material with a nonlinear stress-strain behavior, but
the effects of rate of loading were not considered there. For simplicity these strain
rate effects are neglected here, i.e. E and  are assumed to be insensitive to strain
rate, but this makes the analysis inapplicable to very high-speed impacts. Hence
D f, , E, , m, V


There are n D 7 variables, m D 3 fundamental units, and therefore four dimensionless products are yielded by the dimensionless analysis:


1 D


2 D


3 D

4 D 
These products are again obtained in the manner described in Section 5.2. One
may note that, as pointed out in Section 5.4, there are alternative groupings of the
dimensionless products, depending on the choice, in the dimensional analysis, of
the variables that contain the fundamental units. These alternative groupings can,
however, be converted from one to another by multiplication or division of the
s by each other. Here, one alternative grouping would be (m/3 ), (E/V2 ),
( /V2 ), . Dividing the second and third product by the rst yields essentially
the same grouping as in Eq. (5.79).
Equations (5.79) can be written as

E3 m
2 3
, .
D mV  f1
mV2 3
If the model and the prototype are made of the same material KE D K D K D 1,
Eq. (5.80) yields the following model law:
K D 1,

K D 1,

Km D K3L .


This implies that a model and its prototype, geometrically similar and made of the
same material, experience the same stresses when impacted by bodies moving at
the same speed V, provided the masses of the striking bodies are proportional to
the linear dimensions of the structures cubed. Note that the model law of Eq. (5.81)
includes the three conditions given in the equation, as well as the requirements of
the same material for model and prototype KE D K D K D 1.
In this case, if the damage is determined by the stresses, the model and prototype
suffer the same overall damage. One may note that, to be precise, only the onset of



Theory and Practice

damage is entirely determined by the stresses, whereas its propagation depends also
on the inelastic deformation and failure mechanisms which may scale somewhat
differently. Hence the statement, though valid, may involve some approximation.
In the collision of two model vehicles or ships, for example, the models suffer the
same damage as the full scale vehicles or ships that collide at the same speed as
the models, provided models and prototypes are made from the same material, and
are geometrically similar. One should remember that complete geometric similarity
means here that the masses of the models vary as their linear dimensions cubed,
which satises the last requirement of Eq. (5.81).
For dissimilar materials, for example if two materials are to be used for the
model and the prototype respectively, for which KE D K D  and K D 1, the
model law would become
K D KE D K D ,

K D 1,

KV D 1 and Km D K K3L


Obviously, Eq. (5.81A) reduces to Eq. (5.81) for identical materials,  D 1.

As an example of the model law for dissimilar materials, of the type presented by
Eq. (5.81A), one may consider a half-scale aluminum alloy model of a steel prototype structure. Here Youngs modulus of the model is 0.35 that of the prototype,
Em D 0.35Ep , its mass density is also 0.35 that of the steel prototype, m D 0.35p ,
and Poissons ratio of both steel and aluminum alloy is approximately 0.3. The
model law Eq. (5.81A) becomes therefore for this example:
K D KE D K D 0.35
Km D K K3L D 0.35 0.53 D 0.0438
K D 1 and KV D 1


Hence a mass of 0.0438 that striking the prototype, which impacts the aluminum
model with the same velocity, will produce on the model a maximum stress of
0.35 that acting at the corresponding point of the steel prototype.
If the half-scale model and prototype were of the same material, model law
Eq. (5.81) would apply and then a mass of 1/8 that striking the prototype would
cause the same maximum stress on the model as that appearing at the corresponding
point of the prototype.
Strain-rate effects were neglected in the preceding elementary dimensional analysis for impact, but they are signicant for strain-rate sensitive materials, like hot
rolled mild steels (see for example [5.16] [5.19]). Material strain-rate effects do not
scale properly and appear as a size effect, which causes laboratory models to be
stronger than the corresponding full-scale structures (see [5.19], [5.20], or [5.21]).
Other phenomena associated with the impact process, like certain non-linear
load-displacement characteristics of structures, crack propagation and dynamic
tearing, also cause deviations from the elementary geometrical scaling. Detailed
experimental studies have therefore been carried out to examine the validity of
impact scaling laws and to explore the deviations observed (for example [5.22]
to [5.24]).

Scaling of Dynamically Loaded Structures



Scale Model Testing for Impact Loading

A typical study, aimed at establishing how reliable scale model testing is for
impact loading, is the experimental investigation of Booth, Collier and Miles on
welded steel plate structures [5.23]. They carried out a series of 13 drop tests on
one-quarter scale to full-scale thin plate mild steel and stainless steel structures.
Four types of specimens were tested, two groups of square cellular (eggbox) structures, one group fabricated from mild steel plates and one from stainless steel; and
two groups of plate girders shown in Figure 5.6, both manufactured from mild
steel plates, but one mounted on a 5 inclined baseplate. Each type of structure
was made in three different scales: 1/4, 1/2 and F/S for the eggbox structures,
and 1/3, 2/3 and F/S for the plate girders. One model was repeated. Geometric
similarity was aimed at and quality assurance checks were carried out to achieve
it as far as possible. The specimens of each group were subjected to the same
impact velocity, as required for scaling, by dropping the scaled test weights (their
masses being proportional to the scale cubed, according to Eq. (5.81)) from the
same drop height. From the model law the stresses, and also the strains, will then
be the same. The deformations are the strains multiplied by the relevant length,
which is scaled. Hence the deformed shapes of the specimens should be geometrically similar and proportional to the scale. However, in the tests considerable
deviations from similarity were observed, as shown for example for one group in
Figure 5.7.
For comparison of post-impact deformations, precise pre- and post-impact
measurements were carried out, the principal ones being the axial (vertical)
deformations at 10 points round the edges of the top plates of all specimens, with
additional points for the eggbox specimens. The deformations were normalized
with respect to the values measured on the full scale. The normalized vertical
N are plotted on a log scale in Figure 5.8. If linear scalability
deformations U
applied, these normalized deformations should equal the geometric scale factor
, but in Figure 5.8 it is evident that the measured deformations for the models
are signicantly less.
Since the impact velocity V is the same for all the tests here, and the arresting
length is proportional to the scale , the strain rate P is proportional to 1/. For
the small scale model the strain rate is therefore larger, resulting in a higher ow
(yield) stress for the strain rate sensitive steel. As the energy to be absorbed (the
kinetic energy) per unit volume is the same there, the plastic deformation for the
small scale model should be less.
This strain rate effect is signicant, which is also corroborated by the fact that
the results for the less strain rate sensitive stainless specimens in Figure 5.8 do not
deviate as much as the mild steel ones from linear scalability.
The overall strain rate effect, however, does not sufce to explain quantitatively
the signicant deviations from linear scaling observed in Figure 5.8, as shown by
Calladine (Appendix 6.III of [5.23]) and later by Jones [5.21], who re-evaluated
the test results after an overall compensation for the actual dynamic yield stress.
The corrections were in the right direction, but insufcient.



Theory and Practice

Figure 5.6 Scale model testing for impact loading drop tests on mild steel plate girders by
Booth et al. at Ove Arup and Partners, London. Full scale specimen that was
tested concurrently with its 1/3 and 2/3 scale geometrically similar models (from
[5.23]): (a) Dimensions (in mm) of full scale plate girder, (b) side view of full
scale specimen

Scaling of Dynamically Loaded Structures



One should point out here, that intuitive plots like Figure 5.8 are of limited value,
since they represent arbitrary selections of incomplete groups of variables, which
may work if there is only one signicant dimensionless group. It is preferable
to plot all the proper dimensionless groups (resulting from dimensional analysis)
against one another, then to assess their relative importance, and nally plot only
the principal ones.
In Figure 5.8 apparently other factors, in addition to the overall strain rate factor,
inuence the scaling. For example, the strain rate effect may also have changed



Theory and Practice

Figure 5.7 Drop tests by Booth et al. on mild steel plate girders deformed shape of models
and full scale specimen dropped from the same height, producing the same height,
producing the same impact velocity (from [5.23]): (a) 1/3 scale plate girder, (b)
2/3 scale plate girder, (c) full scale plate girder

Scaling of Dynamically Loaded Structures


Figure 5.8 Scale model testing for impact loading: Drop tests on steel eggbox specimens and
plate girders by Booth et al. evaluation of scalability of normalized deformations
(from [5.23] with some omissions for clarity). Note that the measured deformations
for the models are signicantly below the linear scalability line

the mode of deformation (see [5.25]) and thus the modal distribution of energy, or
inertia effects may be important.
Calladine and his students, [5.23], [5.26] and [5.27] emphasized the importance
of inertia effects in structures of the type tested by Booth et al. They point out
(in [5.26]) that structures can be classied into two types, type I, for which inertia
effects are insignicant, and type II, for which they are important.



Theory and Practice

Figure 5.9 Calladines classication of structures into type I and type II in quasi-static
conditions (from [5.26]): (a) Load-deection curves, and (b) energy-deection
curves for idealized structures, where F represents load, s deection and U energy

Typical load-deection curves for the idealized type I and type II structures in
quasi-static conditions are shown in Figure 5.9(a), and the corresponding energydeection curves obtained by their integration are shown in Figure 5.9(b). Type
I has a at-topped load deection curve, and a corresponding linear energydeection curve, whereas type II has a steeply falling load-deection curve, and
a corresponding nonlinear energy-deection relation U / s1/2 . Laterally loaded
beams, plates and shell elements usually exhibit behavior of type I. Behavior of
type II occurs in structures that have a high initial load before buckling initiates, which falls off rapidly after buckling and collapse, like columns or in-plane
compressed curved panels and shells.
The eggbox structures and plate girders tested by Booth et al [5.23] can probably
be classied as type II structures, for which transverse inertia effects are signicant.
These inertia effects are related to the transverse acceleration of the structural
elements and the rapid rotation of the plastic hinges, which are more pronounced
in type II structures. Furthermore, in such structures a substantial fraction of the
incident kinetic energy will be lost in the initial impact and will not be available for
bending deformations of the structure. In [5.27] Tam, under the guidance of Calladine, carried out a careful experimental study on the dynamic collapse mechanism
of typical type II structures. With the aid of high-speed photography, piezoelectric
transducers and pairs of strain gages at different locations, two primary consecutive
stages of energy dissipation were identied. In stage 1, immediately after impact,
energy was lost in inelastic collision between the falling mass and impacted structure by means of axial squashing. During stage 2, the remaining energy of the
falling mass was dissipated within the specimen by means of rotation of the plastic
hinges. The results of the experimental study supported the theoretical concept of
energy loss due to inelastic impact, proposed by Zhang and Yu [5.28] as the mechanism of energy dissipation in type II structures, and served as the basis for the
improved model of [5.27].
Application of dimensional analysis to the dynamic response showed that it is not
possible to maintain the equality of all the independent dimensionless groups [5.27].

Scaling of Dynamically Loaded Structures


In particular the different dimensionless groups due to inertia effects and strain-rate
effects cannot be maintained simultaneously. The more important dimensionless
groups for model testing have therefore to be chosen from physical considerations,
as is customary in uid dynamics, but for tests of energy absorbing structures there
is as yet insufcient experience for a judicious choice.
The difference in scaling requirements for inertia effects and for elementary
geometric scaling may provide the missing part to the explanation of the observed
deviations from linear scalability in the tests of Booth et al. (Figure 5.8).
Calladine and English [5.26] tested experimentally two simple types of mild
steel specimens: thick walled tubes compressed between parallel plates and pairs
of joined pre-bent plates (see Figure 5.10a), whose measured load deection
curves approximated type I and II structures respectively. The results presented
in Figure 5.10b show clearly that, whereas the quasi-static deections (Vo D 0)
of the two types of structures are nearly equal, their dynamic deections differ
signicantly. The dynamic deections of the type II specimens are much less than
those of the corresponding type I specimens indicating a stiffening inertia effect

Figure 5.10

Cambridge experiments on energy absorbing structures: (a) specimens before

and during deformation and method of loading for type I and type II structures,
(b) experimental results obtained by Calladine and English for the two types of
structures. The kinetic energy delivered was kept constant at 122 J (from [5.26])



Theory and Practice

in the dynamic behavior of type II structures. A similar but more extensive test
program was later carried out by Tam and Calladine [5.27], which also included
scaled specimens. The results of the experimental investigations in [5.27] conrm
the different dynamic behavior of the two types of structures and the scaling
difculties inherent in type II structures.
In the test program of [5.27], the mild steel specimens were very nearly identical
to those shown in Figure 5.10. 186 specimens were tested, 36 representing type I
structures and 150 representing type II structures, of which 85 were geometrically
scaled to 1.56 of the original or approximately so, and 23 were made of aluminum
alloy. As a result of a limitation on the amount of kinetic energy that could be
delivered from the drop-hammer to the specimens, the width of the up-scaled mild
steel specimens did not scale according to the geometric scale-factor. It was shown,
however, that the mode of collapse was independent of the width of the specimens
and hence the scaling of the width could be relaxed.
To facilitate comparison of the behavior of the two types of structures and of
scale effects in the dynamic test results, a dimensional analysis was carried out in
[5.27]. In order to incorporate the load-deection characteristics of the structure
into the formulation, the quasi-static energy deection-curves (like Figure 5.9) were
used to interpret the nal shortening of structure in the dynamic tests. The quasistatic energy, which would be required to give the same nal shape as that in the
structure tested dynamically, is dened as a new parameter SE. This parameter
accounts for the load-deection characteristics and also, as a rst approximation,
for the strain-hardening effects. The ratio (KE/SE), the ratio of the kinetic energy
used in the dynamic test to the quasi-static energy required to give the same
nal deformed shape of the structure tested dynamically, emerges therefore as an
indicative parameter.
For the S1 specimens, representing type I structures the ratio (KE/SE) was
found to depend more strongly on the impact velocity Vo than on the mass ratio 
(between hammer and specimen). This suggests that indeed the strain-rate effects
must dominate the dynamic behavior of type I structures. For the S2 specimens,
representing type II structures, the ratio (KE/SE) was found in [5.27] to depend
more strongly on  than on Vo , which suggests that inertia effects indeed dominate
the deformation process in type II structures. Furthermore, for type I structures the
ratio (KE/SE) was found to increase with increasing impact velocity Vo . This
points again, in type I structures, to the important role of strain-rate effects, which
are augmented with Vo and reduce the dynamic deections. For the same deection,
requiring the same SE, more KE is therefore required with growing Vo , yielding
the observed increase in (KE/SE) with increasing Vo .
On the other hand, for type II structures the ratio (KE/SE) was found to increase
with decreasing mass ratio  and decrease slightly with increasing impact velocity
Vo . This behavior of the type II structures emphasizes the role of the inertia effects,
which are augmented with increase in the mass of the structure, i.e. decrease in
, and thus reduce the dynamic deections. For the same deections, requiring
the same SE, more KE is therefore needed for smaller m, yielding the observed
increase in (KE/SE) with decreasing  (see Figure 5.11). Also, for the same KE

Scaling of Dynamically Loaded Structures

Figure 5.11


Cambridge experimental study of dynamic collapse mechanism of type II

structures comparison of experimental results with theory (from [5.27]):
(a) mild steel 0.64 scale models S2a, (b) mild steel full scale prototype S2c
specimens. In the tests both mass ratio  and impact velocity Vo were varied. The
data points in the gure are experimental values of the ratio of kinetic energy to
quasi-static energy (KE/SE), while the solid lines represent (KE/T2 ) from theory
(T2 being the energy available for rotation of plastic hinges, which in the absence
of strain rate effects would be equal to SE). For clarity, only values for two typical
mass ratios  have been plotted in the gures

an increase in Vo means a smaller hammer mass G, which for the same  requires
a smaller structure mass m. Thus an increase in Vo reduces the inertia effects
(which depend on m), permitting larger dynamic deections that would require a
larger SE to reach them. The result would be the observed decrease in (KE/SE)
with Vo for type II structures (which can also be seen in Figure 5.11).



Theory and Practice

The aluminum alloy type II specimens, tested in [5.27], exhibited similar trends,
of increase in (KE/SE) with decreasing  and decrease in (KE/SE) with increasing
Vo , as observed in the mild steel specimens. Since aluminum alloy is strain-rate
insensitive over a wide range of strain rates, this substantiates the role of inertia
effects in the dynamic behavior of type II structures.
For the same amount of kinetic energy delivered to S1 (type I) specimens and to
S2a (type II) specimens, even though the quasi-static deections are approximately
equal, the dynamic deections of S2a specimens were found (in [5.27]) to be
considerably less than those of the S1 specimens.
For the type II specimens scalability was also studied. In Figure 5.11 (which
is taken from Figure 5.10a and 5.10b of [5.27]) the ratio (KE/SE) versus Vo is
plotted for the type II S2a and S2c specimens at two typical mass ratios  D 245.3
and  D 409.0. Specimens S2a represent the models here at a scale of 0.64 of the
prototypes S2c, though, as pointed out, the width of the specimens was not scaled
geometrically. One notes that the values of (KE/SE) are larger for the model
than for the prototype, and therefore the deections are smaller for the model. For
example, at Vo D 4 m/sec and  D 245.3,
KE/SEmodelS2a D 1.70

KE/SEprototypeS2c D 1.53

Since here Vo and G are identical (for an identical  and mmodel D mprototype , as
a result of the width limitation in these tests, Gmodel D Gprototype ) the KE energy
imparted is the same. Therefore the ratio of the quasi-static energy SE, required
for the same nal shape as that in the dynamic tests, is
D 0.90.
The quasi-static energy SE is proportional to u and hence the ratio of deections
is for these conditions,

SEmodel 2
D 0.81.
The model deection relative to its scale D 0.64 (height or thickness) is therefore 0.81 0.64 D 0.52 that of the prototype. If simple linear scaling applied, the
relative deection of the model would have been 0.64 that of the prototype.
Comparison of this experimental relative deection obtained here, in this example
from Tams tests [5.27], with the corresponding deection ratio 0.475 that would
appear from the results of Booth et al [5.23] presented in Figure 5.8, shows a
similar magnitude. This indicates that the structures tested in [5.23] exhibit a similar
behavior to those of [5.27], that of type II structures, with the accompanying scaling
The experiments of Booth et al and the work by Calladine and his students point
out some of the difculties of model testing for impact loading. It is evident that, in

Scaling of Dynamically Loaded Structures


spite of the recent clarication of the physical process, additional experimental and
theoretical investigations of scaling of dynamically loaded structures are warranted,
in particular of type II, since at present no comprehensive rules for scaling of such
structures can be formulated. This need has also been stressed by other authors
(see for example [5.21]), and further studies in this direction have been and are
being carried out.


Plates Subjected to Impulsive Normal Loading

A recent similarity study carried out on thin plates subjected to impulsive normal
loading, a commonly encountered case of dynamic loading, presents another good
example of the use of dimensionless parameters for providing prediction guidelines.
In their review of experimental investigations on impulsively loaded thin plates
Nurick and Martin [5.29] compared the data collected with the aid of dimensionless
numbers. First they tried Johnsons dimensionless damage number [5.30]:



where , V and are, as before, the material density of the plate, the impact
velocity and the maximum stress respectively ( being denoted here as d the
damage stress). Note that of Eq. (5.82) can be obtained from the dimensionless
products obtained earlier in Eq. (5.79), since from there
3 /1  D [3 /m/ 3 /mV2 ] D V2 /  D .


Comparison of the results of the plate experiments reviewed showed that

predicts an order of magnitude deformation, characterizing the regime of response
behavior. Since does, however, not consider the method of impact, the target
geometry and dimensions, and the interpretation of the damage stress, considerable
variations appear, as can be seen in Figure 5.12 (reproduced from [5.29]) which
shows a plot of deection-thickness ratios for circular plates of varying dimensions
and material properties. The abscissa in this gure is the square root of Johnsons
damage number written in terms of impulse
0 D

A20 t2 


where I is the total impulse, A0 is the area of the plate over which the impulse is
imparted, I0 D I/A0  and t is the thickness of the plate. One may note that since
the impulse imparted I D VA0 t,
0 D

V2 2 A20 t2
D .

A20 t2 
A20 t2


In order to provide a suitable means for comparison of experimental results from

different investigations, with less variations than those in Figure 5.12, Nurick and



Figure 5.12

Theory and Practice

Thin circular plates subjected to impulsive loading deection thickness ratio

versus square root of Johnsons damage number for different plate geometries
and loading conditions (from [5.29]). The lines represent the least squares t to
the respective data: (1) Nurick et al. [5.30], R D 50 mm, t D 1.6 mm, mild steel
uniformly loaded; (2) Wierzbicki and Florence [5.31], R D 50 mm, t D 6.3 mm,
mild steel uniformly loaded; (3) Bodner and Symonds [5.32], R D 32 mm, in (a),
(c), (d) t D 1.9 mm, mild steel, in (b) t D 2.3 mm, titanium; (a), (b) uniformly
loaded, (c) loaded R0 /R D 1/2, d loaded R0 /R D 1/3)

Martin formulated an extension to Johnsons damage number . Their modied

damage number
incorporates geometry factors

and . The rst

D [0 A0 /A2 ]1/2


where A is the total area of the plate and is a number dened by the geometry
of the plate (e.g. in a rectangular plate is the ratio of length to breadth, or in a
circular plate D 1).  is the relationship between the distance from the center of
the plate to the nearest boundary and the plate thickness (e.g. for a circular plate
 D R/t). A loading parameter , which accounts for the effect of partial loading
is also included in . For circular plates it is assumed to be
 D 1 C lnR/R0 


where R0 is the radius of the loaded area (e.g. for uniform loading over the full
area of the plate  D 1).
A dimensionless plot of central deection-thickness ratio versus the modied
damage number  for experimental results on circular plates is shown in Figure 5.13
(reproduced from [5.29]). The data are for steel, titanium and aluminum plates,
some with partial and some with uniform loading, from the tests of [5.31] [5.33]

Scaling of Dynamically Loaded Structures

Figure 5.13


Thin circular plates subjected to impulsive loading deection thickness ratio

versus the modied damage number c , for steel, titanium and aluminum plates,
showing least squares correlation (solid line) bounded each side by a one
deection-thickness ratio (broken lines) condence limit (from [5.29]). Most of
the data points lie within these bounds

and some others cited in [5.29]. The experimental results in Figure 5.13 are bounded
on either side of the least square t by a one deection-thickness ratio condence
limit, and most of the data points lie within these bounds. A similar good t within
such bounds was shown in [5.29] also for rectangular plates.
The modied damage number  proposed by Nurick and Martin appears therefore to be a reliable dimensionless parameter for scaling of plates subjected to
impulsive normal loading.
For example, for circular plates, the geometry number D 1 by denition, and
the scalability requirement is


m D 0m A0 /Am m m D 0p A0 /Ap p p D p .




Theory and Practice

For geometric similarity

m D Rm /tm  D Rp /tp  D p
and for loading similarity

m D p .


Substituting 0 from Eq. (5.83A) into Eq. (5.87) yields, with Eqs. (5.88)
and (5.89),
m D Im / m1/2 m
A0m /A0m tm R02  D Im / m1/2 1/m
tm R02  D p .


Hence, if model and prototype are of the same material, m D p ,

 m / p  D Im /Ip 2 tp /tm 2 Rp /Rm 4 .


For a half scale mode, tp D 2tm and Rp D 2Rm , and hence

 m / p D Im /Ip 2 22 24 D Im /Ip 2 .


An impulse of (1/8) the prototype impulse will therefore result in the same
damage stress in a half scale similar model of the same material as in the prototype


Response of Structures to Blast Loading

The response of structures to blast loading is another example of dynamic loading

which very often necessitates small scale model tests. Hence extensive efforts have
been devoted to derivation of appropriate model laws and their verication by
experiments (see for example [5.34] [5.45]). Baker, Westine and Dodge summarized in their book [5.34] the experience and state of the art (in 1973) of scale
modeling of structures subjected to blast loading. They also presented detailed
methodologies for the application of dimensional analysis to a broad spectrum of
dynamically loaded structures.
As mentioned earlier, the modeling employed in the response of structures to
blast loading can be either replica modeling (geometric similarity with identical
materials) or dissimilar material modeling (geometric similarity with different
materials). Before scaling the response of the structure, a blast scaling law has
to be derived. Such a law is Hopkinsons blast scaling law, rst formulated in
1915 [5.36], and derived in detail in [5.34]. It implies that, if the same materials
(explosive and uid medium through which the blast wave is transmitted) are
employed in model and prototype and geometric similarity is ensured, the pressure,
velocity, density, etc. are identical at homologous times and locations. As shown in
the derivation in Chapter 4 of [5.34], the time scales in Hopkinsons law directly
as the length scale factor , or
Hopkinsons blast scaling has been conrmed experimentally by many investigators
over a wide range of distances and explosive source energies, as pointed out in

Scaling of Dynamically Loaded Structures


Chapter 4 of [5.34]. Other blast scaling laws which have been proposed are also
discussed there, with one, Sachs scaling law [5.37], being a generalization of
Hopkinsons law which accounts for changes in ambient conditions, like altitude.
Sachs law has also been veried by many tests.
The scaling of the small-deection elastic response of structures to blast loading
was rst presented by Brown [5.38] for replica modeling. Following [5.35], the
modeling can be described by imagining the following experiment: An energy
source of characteristic dimension d is initiated a distance R from an elastic structure of characteristic dimension L, producing a transient pressure loading on the
structure of amplitude P and duration T, and causing the structure to respond
in its natural modes of vibration with periods 1 , 2 , . . . , n , and corresponding
displacements amplitudes X1 , X2 , . . . , Xn (see Figure 5.14). Strain-time histories

Figure 5.14

Bakers replica scaling of response of structures to blast loading (from [5.35]):

(a) blast wave scaling, (b) scaling of response to blast wave



Theory and Practice

of response of the structure are characterized by the periods n and the corresponding strain amplitudes en . Let the entire experiment be scaled geometrically
by a scale factor , making the energy source of characteristic dimension d and
locating the structure of characteristic dimension L at a distance R from the
source. Then, replica modeling predicts that the pressure loading on the structure
will be similar in form to that obtained in the rst (full-scale) experiment, with
amplitude P and duration T; and that the structural response will also be similar in
character, with the natural periods being 1 2 , . . . , n and displacement amplitudes X1 X2 , . . . , Xn , and strain amplitudes e1 , e2 , . . . , en (see Figure 5.14b).
The blast scaling is Hopkinsons blast (scaling as shown in Figure 5.14a).
In the analysis summarized in this conjectured experiment, gravity effects in
both uid and solid media were neglected, as well as heat conduction and viscosity
effects in uid media and strain-rate effects in solid media.
Baker showed in [5.35] that the replica modeling, which applies to the smalldeection response of elastic structures, describes the large-deection response as
well, with similar neglects. He also showed there, by arguments similar to those
presented in Section 5.5, that replica modeling should also apply to elastic-plastic
response of structures to blast loading.
There has been extensive experimental verication of the replica structural
response law summarized in Figure 5.14, for small-deection and large-deection
elastic response, as well as for elastic-plastic response.
A typical example for elastic response modeling are the tests of Hanna, Ewing
and Baker on four geometrically scaled model steel containment shells for nuclear
reactors subjected to internal blast [5.39]. The shells were thin-walled cylindrical
shells (R/t D 240) with hemispherical ends of 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and full scale. Geometrically similar charges were detonated at homologous locations within the shells
and strains were measured with 16 strain gages located at homologous positions
and at the same orientations. The shells were half buried to assess the effect of
earth support. Peak strains for homologous locations on the shells were in general
similar, and the records obtained at scaled times showed similarity between corresponding traces. The results of the study veried that the elastic response of each
shell could be predicted from measurements of the response of any other model
shell, with the aid of the replica model laws for structural response.
Another example of replica modeling of elastic response is the study by Denton
and Flathau of semicircular buried arches, of 1/3, 2/3 and full-scale, subjected to
external over-pressures [5.40]. Peak strains and deections were measured and the
results scaled quite well.
Baker [5.35] and Ewing and Hanna [5.41] studied larger-deection response of
slender cantilever beams to blast loading. The beams were made of 6061 aluminum
alloy and were of 1/4, 1/2 and full-scale. Small-deection and large-deection
elastic response, as well as permanent plastic deformation, were measured and the
results veried the predictions of the replica model laws also for large elastic and
plastic response to blast loading.
The application of replica response modeling to explosive forming, which
involves large plastic deformations, has been veried experimentally on aluminum

Scaling of Dynamically Loaded Structures


specimens by Ezra and his co-workers [5.42] and [5.43]. Its application to punchimpact loading has been veried for mild- and stainless-steel plates by Duffy
et al. [5.24], by comparison of half- and full-scale tests (with maximum scaled
differences within 10 percent).
In order to allow more freedom in dynamic model testing, replica response
modeling laws have been extended to dissimilar material modeling, where the
dissimilar materials are restricted here to materials possessing constitutive similarity, i.e. having identical (or nearly identical) stress-strain curves, as for example
the annealed brass and annealed aluminum in Figure 5.15 (reproduced from [5.44]).
Though dissimilar material modeling had been used before, it was rst systematically studied and veried by Baker and Westine in 1969 [5.44]. The general blast
response scaling law for dissimilar material structures differs from replica scaling
in that the requirements on the model and prototype materials are now
/0 m D /0 p


 i /Em D  i /Ep


 i /Ci m D  i /Ci p


E/a0 m D E/a0 p


where,  is the density of the material, 0 the density of the ambient atmosphere, i the stresses, E the elastic modulus of the material, Ci its plastic moduli
and a0 is the sound velocity in the ambient atmosphere. From Eq. (5.93a) it is
apparent that testing in identical atmospheres requires identical materials, whereas

Figure 5.15

Bakers modeling of blast response to structures stress-strain curves for materials possessing constitutive similarity used in shock-tube tests of cylindrical shells
(from [5.35])



Theory and Practice

testing at a reduced or increased atmosphere requires a different model material.

Equations (5.93b) and (5.93c) are the requirements of constitutive similarity, and
if model and prototype are tested at the same temperature (yielding the same
a0 ), Eq. (5.93d) requires equality of the ratios E/ for model and prototype. This
requirement that KE D K can often be satised, as shown in the example of an
aluminum alloy model for a steel prototype earlier in this section (see Eq. (5.81b)).
Baker and Westine [5.44] veried the dissimilar materials blast response scaling
law experimentally for clamped-end cylindrical shells and for cantilever beams. The
cylindrical shell prototypes for air-blast loading under sea-level ambient conditions
were of heat-treated Inconal X (an iron-nickel-cobalt alloy), while the model shells
1/3p ), and were blast loaded in a
were of 6061-T6 aluminum alloy (with m D
1/3 density atmosphere, as required by Eq. (5.93a). (E/) for model and prototype
materials are practically equal, as required by Eq. (5.93d), and their stress-strain
curves are very similar, satisfying Eqs. (5.93b) and (5.93c) approximately. Another
series of clamped cylindrical shells were subjected to long-duration blast loading
in a shock tube, the test being in the quasi-static regime, where the model law
only dictates geometric similarity and constitutive similarity for the materials. In
these tests the prototypes were made of annealed aluminum alloy and the 1/3
scale models of annealed brass, the two materials having very similar stress-strain
curves indeed (see Figure 5.15). The correlation between model and prototype
structural response was generally good for the cylindrical shells, and even better
for the cantilever and pin-ended beams tested in a similar manner (see [5.44]),
except for the comparison between steel prototype beams and lead-plastic models
(for which constitutive similarity was not preserved, on account of a steep strainhardening of the lead-plastic). For the cylindrical shells there is signicant scatter
in the results due to the failures being caused by buckling, for which in cylindrical
shells scatter is usual, on account of their sensitivity to initial imperfections. For
the quasi-static regime experiments, the internally trapped air was not properly
scaled and the internal pressure in the aluminum prototype was too high, which
stiffened their postbuckling behavior and reduced their inelastic response. But, in
spite of the scatter, the results of all the experimental investigations carried out
by Baker and Westine, demonstrated clearly that elastic-plastic structural response
modeling with dissimilar materials is feasible and permits a signicant broadening
of response modeling techniques.
One may note that scale modeling of structures subjected to impulsive normal
loading or to blast loading appears to yield fairly reliable results, which were
veried by a considerable spectrum of experiments. This seems at rst surprising
in view of the difculties in scaling of dynamically loaded structures experienced by
Booth et al. [5.23] and by Calladine and his students, [5.26] and [5.27]. But a closer
study of the experimental investigations summarized in [5.29] and [5.34], shows
that these tests deal with type I structures, according to Calladines classication,
whose behavior agrees well with the scaling laws, whereas the difculties and
signicant discrepancies arise in type II structures.
An additional verication of the scalability of type I mild steel structures
subjected to dynamic lateral loads, was presented by two series of preliminary

Scaling of Composite Structures


scaled experiments carried out by Donelan and Dowling [5.45] in preparation for
drop tests on Magnox fuel transport asks. Models of 1/3, 1/2 and full scale were
employed and the dynamic behavior could indeed be obtained from the models.
One can therefore conclude that scaling under dynamic loading of type I structures can be employed with condence, whereas for type II structures no comprehensive scaling rules can yet be formulated and further studies are needed to
develop such reliable rules. It is therefore important to study the quasi-static
load-deection behavior of the structure to be scaled, before one embarks on the
application of geometrical scaling for dynamic loading. Furthermore, as pointed
out by Jones in [5.21] and [5.46], this conclusion applies only to ductile dynamic
response whereas geometrical scaling does not apply when tearing, cutting or
ductile-brittle transitions occur during a structural response.


Scaling of Composite Structures

Problems in Scaling of Laminated Composites

Laminated ber composite structures are widely used in modern aerospace, marine
and automotive vehicles, on account of their high strength- and stiffness-to-weight
ratios. Since no design data base, comparable to that available for steel and
aluminum structures, has yet been assembled, the designers have to resort to extensive testing. Full scale prototype testing is, however, very expensive, especially
with advanced composites, which has motivated scale-model testing and development of scaling rules, aimed at making the interpretation of the model tests more
Advanced ber reinforced composite materials consist of thin, stiff, strong bers
(for example, carbon, boron, glass or aramid bers), with diameters of about
6 20 m (0.00015 0.0005 in.) embedded in a comparatively low performance
matrix. The usual matrix materials are thermosetting resins (primarily epoxy resins)
or thermoplastic resins (like polyetheretherketone PEEK or polyethersulphone
PES). The material is built up of laminae, each having a thickness of about 0.13 mm
(0.005 in.) and a specied direction of the bers. This lamina thickness has become
a standard for Graphite Epoxy composites and many others, so that the thickness
of laminates is usually specied only in terms of the number of laminae in the
For similarity, scaling of composite structures should ideally include also scaling
of the microstructure of the material, namely, laminae thickness and ber diameter
should also be scaled. This is practically impossible, as pointed out by Morton
[5.47] who studied the scaling of laminated ber composites very extensively.
When damage occurs, the inability to scale the laminae and bers presents a serious
limitation on the modeling of laminated composites, since there are frequent interactions between microstructural and macrostructural properties. But for overall
structural response, prior to substantial damage, scaling rules that do not scale
the microstructure sufce, even in the case of impact loading, as was shown by



Theory and Practice

experiments on laminated composite beams and on laminated composite plates

([5.47] [5.51] and [5.53], [5.54], respectively).


Scaling Rules for Laminated Beams and Plates

Morton derived such scaling rules for laminated beams subjected to transverse
impact loading using dimensional analysis [5.47], and similar scaling rules were
derived by Qian and Swanson [5.53] from the differential equations governing the
impact response of transversely impacted orthotropic laminated plates.
These rules show that if the geometry of the beams or plates is scaled as 
(assuming that the lay-up can be scaled, which in practice is only rarely feasible),
the maximum strain in the beams or plates is constant with scaling if the impact
velocity V is unchanged. Also the contact force scales as 2 , and if the contact area
scales geometrically the contact pressure (or stress) is unchanged. If the impactor
also scales geometrically, the impact mass scales as 3 . The time of response will
also be scaled, the time to maximum load and strain scaling as . It is assumed that
the same material is being used in model and prototype. Note that the events in a
smaller model ( < 1) will therefore appear to occur faster than in the prototype.
For example, a 1/5 scale model will reach its maximum strain in 1/5 the time it
takes the prototype to do so.
In terms of scale factors, the model law is, as in Eq. (5.81),
K D 1, KV D 1, Km D K3L
with KT D KL and K D 1,


where KL D  and T represents the time of response and the strain, and with the
requirements for the same material now being KEij D Kij D K D 1, where Eij
and ij are the equivalent directional elastic properties of the laminate (assuming
appropriate scaling of the lay-ups).
The scaling laws are essentially the same as those derived in Section 5.7 for the
impact of a rigid body on a structure, summarized in Eq. (5.81), or as the replica
structural response law for blast loading, summarized in Figure 5.14b. Hence, prior
to signicant damage, the model laws for the overall structural response of laminated ber composite structures are unaffected by the nature of their microstructure.
This conclusion for dynamically loaded structures will certainly hold also for statically loaded ones (assuming again appropriate lay-up scaling).


Scaling for Strength and Large Deections of Composites

When substantial damage occurs, matters are more complicated, since the failure
mechanisms of laminated composites are not yet well understood. As pointed out
by Morton [5.47], different damage mechanisms may appear, including ber fracture, delamination and matrix cracking, and there are frequent interactions between
micro- and macrostructural properties. All damage modes start on a microscopic

Scaling of Composite Structures


scale and eventually interact with the macroscopic scale on a laminate level. For
example, a matrix microcrack may grow across a lamina until it reaches the interlaminar boundary, and then either delamination or ber fracture occurs, or both.
Furthermore, the notch-sensitivity of laminated composites, depends not only
on the sensitivity of each lamina, but also on the lay-up of the laminae. Also
the rate-sensitivity depends on the bers (for example, glass and aramid bers
are highly rate-sensitive, whereas carbon bers are rate-insensitive), on the matrix
(thermoplastics being more rate-sensitive than the epoxy resins), and on the lay-up
of the laminae.
Hence the scale modeling of laminated composite structures when substantial
damage occurs is complex, the choice of scaling parameters is difcult and extensive testing is required to establish guidelines for this choice. As yet, few tests have
been performed and insufcient information is available for appropriate scaling
Morton [5.47] tested a series of scaled laminated composite beams, supported
on rollers and impacted centrally by a free falling mass. The specimens were
fabricated from unidirectional carbon/epoxy (AS4/3502) prepreg in four types
of lay-ups: A 902C2 ; B C45C1 , 45C1 s ; C 90C1 , 0C1 s ; and D quasiisotropic 45 , 90 , 45 , 0 s . The scaled laminates were produced with  D 1, 2
and 3 (8-, 12- and 16-ply), except the quasi-isotropic lay-up, which was only made
with  D 1, 2 (8- and 16-ply). The beam dimensions and impactor shape and mass
were scaled approximately according to the scaling laws (5.81A). The use of the
same prepreg material and forming the lay-ups by scaling as indicated, with sufcient number of plies for each orientation, ensured the similarity of elastic behavior
in all the scale models.
From recorded strain output traces (strain versus time), the duration of impact
and the maximum strain were obtained as output parameters. The duration of
impact should scale with the scale factor , and therefore the measured durations
divided by  should be constant. The results satised this requirement within 10
percent as is shown for example in Figures 5.16(a) (d), reproduced from [5.47].
The differences in the elastic parts of Figures 5.16(a) (c) is attributed primarily to
departure from scaling in the thickness of the beams, since the molded thicknesses
of the laminates did not scale exactly, though the number of plies did. For the
quasi-isotropic laminates (lay-up D), on the other hand, the scaling of the molded
thickness was nearly exact and therefore the elastic parts of Figure 5.16(d) practically coincide, as expected. An elastic analysis in [5.47] predicts that the impact
durations should be independent of the impact velocity, which is conrmed by
the test results in Figure 5.16. Deviations from the behavior indicates the initiation of impact damage, which invalidates the scaling laws and the elastic analysis
employed in predicting the behavior.
When damage occurs signicant size effects appear. Figure 5.16 clearly shows
that damage occurs at higher impact velocities in the smaller specimens than in
the corresponding larger ones. In general, small scale models are observed to
be stronger than their respective prototypes and to carry proportionally higher
post-damage loads. This is probably due to macrostructural fracture effects, which

Scaled normalized impact durations for composite beams at various normalized impact velocities (from [5.47]): (a) lay-up A, (b) lay-up
B, (c) lay-up C, (d) lay-up D


Figure 5.16

Theory and Practice

Scaling of Composite Structures


tentatively indicate that the absolute size of matrix cracks rather than their scaled
size are important in laminated composites, and hence are more detrimental in the
large prototype than in its model.
Similar agreement with scaling law predictions was found for the normalized
impact force in the elastic part, and similar deviations after impact damage occurs
were observed, with small scale models being consistently stronger.
In similar studies on the response of Graphite Epoxy beam columns by Jackson
and Fasanella [5.48] [5.51] the emphasis was on large deection response. First
the scaling effects in static large deection response was studied and then the
scaling in similar dynamic responses was investigated. The scaled beams were
loaded in a beam-column fashion by an eccentric axial load (see Figure 5.17).
This structural conguration, though simple, possessed such interesting features as
large deections, combined tensile and compressive loading, and global failures.
The beams were made of a high modulus graphite ber and an epoxy matrix
system designated as AS4/3502, in four different laminate stacking sequences:
unidirectional, angle ply, cross ply and quasi-isotropic. The full scale beam was
3 in. (7.62 cm) wide, with a 30 in. (76.2 cm) gage length and 48 plies thick, with
an average ply thickness of 0.0054 in. (0.137 mm).
For the static tests, the scale model beams were constructed by applying seven
different geometric scale factors, 1/6, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 and 5/6 to the full

Figure 5.17

NASA Langley experiments on the scaling of the response of Graphite-Epoxy

beams test setup (from [5.48]): (a) schematic drawing of the exural test
conguration, (b) details of the scaled hinge-beam attachment



Theory and Practice

scale beam dimensions (see Figure 5.18). The thickness dimension was scaled
by reducing the number of layers in each angular ply group of the full scale
laminate stacking sequence, which consisted of at least six plies of similar orientation. Using this approach, it was not possible to make a 1/2 or 3/4 scale quasiisotropic beam.

Figure 5.18

NASA Langley scaling experiments on Graphite-Epoxy beams statically tested

scaled beams, 1/6 scale to full scale (from [5.50]): (a) failed unidirectional beams,
(b) failed quasi-isotropic beams

Scaling of Composite Structures


It should be noted that ideally, in true replica models of the prototypes, the
microstructure should also be scaled. This would involve scaling of the individual
lamina thicknesses and ber diameters for each scale model, which is not practical.
Scaling by reduction of number of layers was therefore used as an approximation.
The beams were machined from panels which were hand layed-up from prepreg
tape and cured according to manufacturers specications. Slight variations were
observed in the thickness dimensions of the cured specimens, the maximum deviation in normalized thickness being 6 percent. For each laminate type and size of
beam, three replicate tests were carried out.
For the impact tests, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, 5/6 and full scale beams were fabricated,
and the specimens with the scaled eccentric hinges of Figure 5.19 were placed and
loaded in a drop-tower (described in detail in [5.49] and [5.50]).
For the statically loaded beams, the normalized load versus end displacement
plots (the vertical load was normalized by the corresponding Euler buckling load

Figure 5.19

NASA Langley scaling experiments on Graphite-Epoxy beams dynamically

tested 1/2 scale and full scale beams (from [5.49] or [5.50]): (a) dynamically
failed unidirectional beams, (b) dynamically failed quasi-isotropic beams



Figure 5.20

Theory and Practice

NASA Langley scaling experiments on Graphite-Epoxy beams experimental

normalized load versus end displacement for statically loaded scaled beams, 1/6
scale to full scale (from [5.50]): (a) unidirectional beams, (b) quasi-isotropic beams

and the end displacement by the gage length) were plotted for the four lay-ups. The
curves for the unidirectional and quasi-isotropic beams, shown in Figure 5.20, and
those for cross ply beams and angle ply specimens (shown and discussed in [5.48]
and [5.50]) which are roughly similar, indicate that the response scales well at small
end displacements for all lay-ups. The unidirectional (Figure 5.20a) and cross ply
beam responses scaled as predicted by the model law even at large displacements,

Scaling of Composite Structures


whereas for angle ply and quasi-isotropic beams (Figure 5.20b) some deviation
from scaled response was observed, due to damage initiation.
Jacksons experiments therefore verify and amplify the earlier conclusions of
Morton [5.47] about the scalability of the elastic or small deection structural
response of composite structural elements. Also in the dynamic tests the initial
response scaled adequately for all the lay-ups. For the unidirectional beams the load
and strain responses also scaled according to the model law at large deections
(see for example Figure 5.21a), but for angle ply, cross ply and quasi-isotropic
beams scaling of load and strain histories, at large deections, was found to be
inconsistent (see for example Figure 5.21b). The deviations from scaled response
at large deections were observed to depend on the laminate stacking sequence.
The models (in [5.48] [5.50]) were tested until failure. In general, failure modes
were consistent between scale models within a laminate family, both for static
loading (see, for example, Figures 5.18(a) and (b)) and for dynamic loading (see
Figures 5.19(a) and (b)). However, a signicant scale effect was observed in
strength, as can also be clearly seen in the normalized load versus end displacement
curves (Figures 5.20(a) and (b)), where the smaller scale model beams failed at

Figure 5.21

NASA Langley scaling experiments on Graphite-Epoxy beams midpoint strain

versus scaled time plots for scaled dynamically loaded beams, 1/2 scale and full
scale (from [5.50]): (a) unidirectional beams, (b) quasi-isotropic beams



Theory and Practice

higher normalized loads and much higher normalized end displacements than their
full scale prototypes. Since the usual failure theories for composites cannot predict
this scale effect, there appears to be a scale effect in the failure behavior, as was
also pointed out by Morton [5.47]. A similar scale effect in strength was also
observed in the dynamic tests, [5.49] and [5.50].
This strength scale effect was also studied by Kellas and Morton in an extensive series of tensile tests on replica model bars [5.52]. The specimens were all
of AS4/3502 Graphite-Epoxy, in four different lay-ups and four different scaled
sizes, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and full-scale. The full scale specimen was 32 plies thick, and
the thickness was again scaled by reducing the number of layers in each angle
ply group. As in the bending experiments, also in the tensile tests, the stiffness at
small strains was independent of specimen size. There was, however, also here a
signicant scale effect in tensile strength, the small scale models failing at significantly higher normalized loads than their prototype. In Figure 5.22 (from [5.51])
this strength scale effect is summarized for both tension and bending, showing
its magnitude and dependence on the lay-up of the composite structure.


Scaling of Composite Plates

Another series of experiments, aimed at evaluating the scaling laws, on scaled

laminated carbon/epoxy (AS4/3501-6) plates impacted laterally by cylindrical
projectiles, were carried out by Qian et al. [5.53] and [5.54]. Five sizes of
geometrically scaled square plates with  D 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, from 50 mm 50 mm
by 1.072 mm thick to 250 mm 250 mm by 5.36 mm thick (from 2 by 2 by
0.042 inch to 10 by 10 by 0.211 inch), were tested. The corresponding lay-up was
[72 , 02 ]s with  the geometric scaling factor and the specimens being 8-, 16-,
24-, 32- and 40 ply.
The plates were clamped on two opposing edges and free on the other two
edges. The clamped edges were normal to the 0 degree bers, whose direction is
designated as the X direction. The projectiles were shot from a horizontal air gun
at the plates in a vertical position. The impactors were also scaled geometrically,
requiring ve different barrels, their mass varying as the cube of the scale factor ,
and at each scale three different tip congurations were tested. All plate sizes were
tested at four impact velocities, V D 4.57, 12.2, 18.3 or 24.4 m/s (15, 40, 60 or
80 ft/s). For each condition, four specimens were tested, one of them instrumented
with strain gauges (the strain gauge sizes were scaled geometrically with the plates).
An extensive series of tests indeed.
The strain response (in the Y direction, parallel to the clamped edges) is shown
for three sizes of specimens in Figure 5.23 (reproduced from [5.53]), all for the
same impact velocity of 4.57 m/sec (15 ft/sec), which is believed to be below
the threshold for damage formation. The time has been divided here by the scale
factor  to show how the strain traces nearly coincide, since according to the
scaling laws the time scales as . The results in Figure 5.23 show indeed that
the dynamic response scale is in close agreement with the scaling rules derived.
Similar agreement is found for other strain traces, and the strain predicted from the

Scaling of Composite Structures

Figure 5.22


Jackson and Mortons summary of strength scale effects for Graphite-Epoxy

beams (from [5.51]): (a) normalized strength versus specimen size for four
laminates loaded in tension, (b) normalized failure load versus scale factor for
unidirectional, angle ply, cross ply and quasi-isotropic beams subjected to exural

dynamic plate analysis also compares quite well with experiment. The experiments
therefore verify the scaling laws for overall structural response during impact at
moderate damage levels.
The experiments were designed so that signicant damage would be developed
in the plates impacted at the higher velocities. The damage then took the form of
contact point indentation, matrix cracking, broken bers and delamination. With
damage, the scaling laws will become more complicated than those derived for the
linear structural response. This is apparent in Figure 5.24 (reproduced from [5.54])
presenting the delamination areas determined by C-scan for three specimen sizes
at a constant impact velocity of 12.2 m/s (40 ft/s). If the size of the delaminations



Theory and Practice

Figure 5.23

Impact tests of ve scaled composite plates comparison of strain response

behind impact point, showing time scaling, for the same impact velocity of
4.57 m/s (from [5.48])

Figure 5.24

Scaling effects in the impact response of composite plates increase in delamination area with specimen size for centrally impacted plates at a constant impact
velocity of 12.2 m/s (from [5.49])

were governed by the simple geometric scaling, the delamination area would scale
as 2 . The measured delaminations are however signicantly larger for the larger
specimens, a size effect which is apparently consistent with fracture mechanics.


Scaling of Composite Cylindrical Shells

Recently Swanson, Smith and Qian extended the studies to the response of cylindrical lament wound carbon/epoxy (IM7/55A) cylindrical shells impacted by
cylindrical projectiles [5.55]. Two sizes of cylindrical shells were designed so
that all geometric parameters were scaled by a factor of approximately 3.3. The

Scaling of Composite Structures


scaling included the thickness of the ply groups, the cylinder diameters and wall
thicknesses, and the sizes of the projectiles. The experimental set-up was similar
to that employed in the earlier tests, [5.53] and [5.54].
Scaling rules, developed by Christoforou [5.56] from the differential equations
governing the impact response of transversely impacted laminated cylindrical shells,
were employed for the scaling of the impact experiments. Again also for cylindrical
shells, if their geometry is scaled as  (assuming that the lay-up too is scaled) the
strain is constant if the impact velocity is unchanged. The contact force scales then
as 2 , the time of impact duration scales as  and the impact mass scales as 3
(the projectiles are scaled geometrically). All as in beams and plates.
Though the detail scaling of the lay-up was not complete (the basic ber diameter
and number of bers per windings were not scaled), these scaling rules proved to
be quite accurate for impact velocities below the damage threshold. An example
is shown in Figure 5.25, where typical strain responses of the small and large
cylinders appear to compare rather well. As in the beam and plate test results,
the time scale in this gure is divided by the geometric scale factor , according
to the scaling rules. These studies on cylindrical shells were limited to structural
response below the level of damage formation.
It should be pointed out that to date all the experiments verifying the scalability of dynamically loaded laminated composite structures deal only with type I
structures, according to Calladines classication, and the reservations regarding
the scalability of type II structures, discussed in the previous section, apply here
as well.

Figure 5.25

Scaling of composite cylindrical shells typical comparison of strain gauge

response between small and large cylinders, illustrating scaling of strain and time
scale (from [5.55])



Theory and Practice

It can be concluded that the buckling of composite structures, which is essentially

a structural response, can be scaled reliably, whereas for postbuckling behavior,
which may involve signicant damage, scaling requires great caution, and additional experimental studies are warranted to develop appropriate guidelines.
Some recent studies on the impact behavior of quarter-scale of model composite
sailplane fuselage segments [5.57] indicate that there is room for optimism. Since
qualitative comparisons with eld observations of actual crash damage in composite
sailplanes, with that in the model impact tests simulating typical nose-down crashes,
showed that the model failed in the same failure mode as the full-scale fuselages
and at appropriately scaled loads.


Model Analysis in Structural Engineering

Model Analysis as a Design Tool

Structural modeling has been used extensively, primarily in civil engineering, as an

experimental method to supplement and even replace analysis. Model analysis of
structures, as an alternative to theoretical analysis, initiated in the rst decades of
the 20th century and reached maturity and widespread use in the second half of the
century (in Germany for example, model-analysis called there Modellstatik is
considered a special discipline, with a special chair and institute in at least one
university). Model analysis employs measurements on a scale model to determine
the stresses, deformations, strength and failure modes of the prototype, whereas
theoretical analysis uses an imaginary mathematical model for the same predictions. The proponents of model analysis claim (see for example [5.2]) that their
model simulates the real structure more realistically (in particular with regard
to material behavior, boundary conditions, loading conditions and possibly also
imperfections) than the idealized mathematical model of the analysts, the idealizations being imposed by theoretical limitations and the extent of the computational
efforts. With the rapid development of more sophisticated computational methods
and faster computers, the theoretical simulations have recently improved signicantly, but in many cases the economics are still in favor of model analysis as a
design tool. Hence, though modern computer aided design is slowly conquering the
eld, model analysis remains a viable tool, especially for new structural concepts
and materials, whose behavior is not yet well known.
Model analysis used to be divided into two basic methods (as in [5.3]): (a) the
indirect method, which determines the inuence lines of frameworks, and (b) the
direct method, that measures the stresses and deformations of the structure. The
indirect method with its simple celluloid models, which was widely used up to the
sixties is now only of historic interest, since inuence lines are today determined
much easier and faster with a computer. The direct method, on the other hand,
continues to serve as a valuable design tool.
For buckling problems, model experiments are mostly used to study behavior
of new structural concepts and to verify theoretical and numerical methods on

Model Analysis in Structural Engineering


relatively simple structural elements under well dened conditions. Such experiments cannot precisely be classied as model analysis proper. Combinations of
theoretical and numerical methods with series of increasingly more realistic model
studies, which can be considered an extended model analysis, are however often
employed in the design process of civil, marine and aerospace structures, where
buckling is the governing parameter. Some examples will demonstrate this.


Model Analysis in Vibration Studies

One illustrative example of the use of model analysis, not for a buckling problem
but for a related one, are the vibration studies on various machine structures and
their supporting elements carried out on plastic models by Wright and Bannister at
the Westinghouse Research Laboratories in 1970, [5.58] and [5.59]. They strongly
advocate the use of plastic models, made from plexiglas (acrylic resins) or Tenite
II (cellulose acetate butyrate) for analysis and design improvement of complicated
structures on economic grounds, stating that for complex structures, a model is
often the cheapest computer one can buy. This statement may not be entirely
accepted today, but their next one, a model study gives good physical understanding of the behavior of the entire structure is certainly still very valid and
Wright and Bannister noted that dissimilar materials models are valuable for
vibration studies on complex structures. They showed that plastic models have
several advantages for static and vibration tests: (1) deections under given applied
loads are large and easily measured, whereas the required driving forces are small;
(2) model natural frequencies are relatively low, allowing for the use of smallmodels measuring equipment with limited upper frequency response; (3) model
cost is low; (4) structural modications can easily be made; and (5) since the
required impedances of the model are much smaller, high-impedance foundations
are easily provided.
Using dimensional analysis, they generated in [5.59] a replica model law for
elastic vibrations of complex structures for dissimilar materials. For the simplest
case, of a freely suspended structure with solid joints, there are seven independent variables: L a characteristic length, c the velocity of sound in the material,
 its mass density,  its Poisson ratio,  the damping loss factor (representing
uniformly distributed material damping of the complex-modulus type), Fi the sinusoidal driving force, and its circular frequency. Note that the longitudinal speed
of sound c is an alternative
to Youngs modulus E, for specication of the elastic
properties, since c D E/. Also introduction of the damping loss factor  brings
in material damping, which is an inelastic effect, into elastic vibrations.
It should be remembered that the velocity of sound is the material property of
prime importance in natural frequency tests. Hence it must be measured at the
ambient temperature of the model test at all frequencies of interest. In [5.58] the
velocity of sound c and the damping loss factor  were determined by measuring the
resonant and antiresonant frequencies of free-free columns and beams, machined
from the actual batch of plastic used to construct the model.



Theory and Practice

Since there are three fundamental dimensions, there will be four Buckingham
pi terms:

1 D L/c

2 D Fi /c2 L 2 

3 D 

4 D 
Satisfaction of the pi terms of Eq. (5.94) (as a matter of fact usually only the
rst two of them exactly, as will be discussed below), and some other physical
relationships (like Hookes law), yields similarity conditions for the model vibration
tests (only the important ones are listed):

K D Kc /KL
for frequency

for strain
K D 1

for stress
K D K Kc
for velocity

KF D K K2c K2L for force

KK D K K2c KL for stiffness

where the K0 s are the scale factors,

K D m /p
Kc D cm /cp

K D m /p


For example, for a 1/6 scale model of a steel prototype (KL D 1/6), the scale
factors for a steel model and plexiglas or Tenite II models would be as shown in
Table 5.1.
It was found difcult to satisfy also 3 and 4 . Poissons ratio of plexiglas, for
example, is about 0.38 versus  D 0.28 for steel, a 35 percent difference, but resulting
only in an error of about 4 percent in the natural frequencies, which can be corrected
if the structure is not too complex. On the other hand, the damping loss factor
for the plastic material is at least an order of magnitude higher than that of steel,
which makes plastic models inaccurate in scaling response amplitudes near resonance
peaks. Frequencies and mode shapes are, however, modeled very accurately.
Table 5.1:

Scale factors for 1/6 scale models of a

steel prototype

Scale Factor



Tenite II





Model Analysis in Structural Engineering

Figure 5.26


Comparison of scaled vibration amplitudes in a submarine propulsion unit and its

Plexiglas model (from [5.59])

Wright and Bannister also extended the dimensional analysis to structures with
joint friction, with impedance terminations, suspended in an inviscid uid, and
located in an incompressible uid (see [5.59]). For these more complicated cases,
some of the new pi terms may also be difcult to satisfy. For example for joint
friction, the coefcient of friction  is different for steel and plastic contacts. But
sometimes judicious matching may overcome such problems. For example, the
material damping of plexiglas is approximately equal to the joint damping of some
large bolted and welded steel machinery structure at low frequencies.
Hence in spite of inaccuracies in some pi terms (which can be assessed), modelprototype comparisons show often good agreement, as for example the scaled
vibration amplitudes in the submarine propulsion unit and its plexiglas model in
Figure 5.26 (reproduced from [5.59]).


Buckling Experiments on Models of a Composite Ship

Hull Structure

Another example is the buckling experiments carried out at the U.K. Naval
Construction Research Establishment in the early seventies on four small-scale
plastic models, representing the bottom structure of a prototype glass berreinforced plastic minesweeper ([5.60]). During the design of the hull structure,
serious problems of elastic instability were encountered, which arose mainly as a
result of the high strength, low stiffness characteristics of the hull material (whose
tensile and compressive strength equalled the yield strength of mild steel, but



Theory and Practice

whose E was only seven percent that of steel). The need for high strength under
explosive loads and fabrication considerations led to the adoption of a transversely
framed hull, in which buckling could be expected to cause catastrophic failure, with
practically no postbuckling reserve of strength. Theoretical studies [5.61] predicted
that, under longitudinal compression, failure of transversely framed bottom and
deck panels would occur by local instability. Four forms of local instability
were indicated for the panels stiffened by transverse top-hat frames, shown in
Figure 5.27. Types-3 and -4 forms of instability had been overlooked by previous

Figure 5.27

Smiths buckling experiments on models of a composite ship hull

structure forms of local instability in panels with transverse top-hat frames (from

Model Analysis in Structural Engineering


design methods, and type-3 buckling was now predicted to occur at signicantly
lower stresses than in the other modes. The model experiments were therefore
carried out primarily to demonstrate the existence of the predicted critical type-3
instability, but also to verify the predicted buckling stresses and check the validity
of the assumed boundary conditions.
The structural modeling was carried out in two stages: First, compression tests
on two small-scale at rectangular panels with transverse top-hat frames (see
Figure 5.28a), and secondly tests on two further models, one representing the

Figure 5.28

Smiths buckling experiments on models of a composite ship hull structure test

rig for Perspex models 1 and 2 of a transversely stiffened panel under longitudinal
compression (from [5.60]): (a) the transversely stiffened panel (schematic), (b) the
test rig



Theory and Practice

complete vee-bottom structure of the ship and the other representing a full 3dimensional ship compartment, for evaluation of the assumed boundary conditions.
The models were all made of Perspex (polymethylmethacrylate), whose high
strength to stiffness ratio1 (about 5 8 times that of aluminum alloy) allows elastic
instability to develop in many practical structural forms long before material failure
The 1524 mm 622 mm and 1524 mm 533 mm Perspex rectangular panels
were supported in the test rig (Figure 5.28b) at their end and sides by steel tie-bars,
having bottle-screws to allow vertical adjustment. These tie-bars were pin-jointed
at one end to a heavy steel reaction frame and at the other end to the edge of
the test panel. Vertical displacement was thus restrained at the edges of the panel,
with negligible restriction of in-plane displacements and edge rotation, closely
approaching classical simple supports. Similar supports were employed recently by
Minguez [8.61] for the unloaded edges of his plate tests discussed in Chapter 8,
the tie-bars being replaced there by longer tensioned steel wires (see Figures 8.37
and 8.38) to ensure an even better approach to simple supports. The loaded ends
of the panels were reinforced here by steel sandwich plates, which distributed the
concentrated jack loads uniformly to the panel, but no doubt restricted the inplane displacements and rotation of the loaded edges. Since, however, the critical
buckling form was a many wave local instability, the reinforcements only reduced
the risk of premature failure at the ends and had negligible inuence on the local
instability of the panels away from the two edge bays. Strain gage measurements
on the panels veried that the tie-bar supports indeed ensured negligible load loss
to the test rig (less and 2 percent).
The deection proles were measured along the centerline of each panel at
selected load steps and well dened buckling patterns could be discerned. The
type-3 instability, which was overlooked by conventional design methods, but
was predicted by the studies of [5.61] to be critical, was indeed demonstrated
experimentally to be critical (very clearly so in one of the at panels and in the
two larger models of the second stage, but less obviously in the second at panel).
The results of the two at panels indicated that panels, stiffened by transverse
top-hat frames and having small imperfections, are likely to fail catastrophically
at a load close to the initial buckling stress, with little if any postbuckling reserve
of strength. The model analysis therefore emphasized important aspects of the
behavior of the structure, which were not obvious from the calculations.
In the second stage of modeling, the Perspex models and their supports in the
test rig were similar to the at panels, but represented the actual combination of
panels and boundary conditions. The aim of the model of the full width vee-bottom
structure, comprising two panels similar to those tested in stage one, and incorporating a stiff keel girder, was to verify that under buckling conditions the deadrise
angle and keel girder would impose a plane of antisymmetry at the centerline.
The results veried this and indicated that the torsional stiffness of the keel girder
1 The strength to stiffness ratio can be expressed as that of the ultimate stress to Youngs modulus.
0.03 for tension and  u /E
In perspex  u /E D
D 0.05 for compression or bending, compared to
 u /E
D 0.006 for both loading cases in a typical aluminum alloy 2024-T3.

Model Analysis in Structural Engineering


augmented the compressive strength of the panels. The purpose of the model of the
complete ship compartment was to check the design assumption that the curvature
at the ships bilges would resist buckling sufciently to impose longitudinal node
lines, which would limit the effective transverse span of the bottom panels, an
assumption which was indeed conrmed. Both models of the second stage also
clearly demonstrated the dominance of the type-3 local instability.
Though the results of the small scale Perspex model tests were not considered
sufcient by the designers for complete assessment of the collapse behavior, and
therefore additional tests were later carried out on large-scale GRP panels and hull
sections, the small-scale models provided the initial guidelines on the buckling and
collapse behavior and an assessment of the design assumptions. They therefore
represent a good example of extended model analysis.


Design of Thames Barrier Gates

The design of the Thames Barrier gates is an example of the use of comprehensive
structural model testing as a primary design tool in a major civil engineering project
(see [5.62] and [5.63]). Dowling and Owens point out there that previous experience
in the Civil Engineering Laboratories of Imperial College, London, where the
model tests were carried out, had proved for such complicated structures as ships,
the usefulness of small-scale Araldite models as a design tool to complement, and
indeed sometimes replace, expensive nite element analysis.
The model analysis for the 61 m long rising sector gates consisted therefore
of a 1:25 scale Araldite model, as well as a large 1:6 scale steel model. The
small-scale model (see Figure 5.29), made of an epoxy casting resin Araldite 219,
was commissioned to check the linear elastic nite element modeling used in the
analysis of the actual gate, in particular in respect to the stress distributions in the
perforated webs and near the gate-to-gate arm connections. The results of the tests
(which included measurements from 700 strain gauges) increased the condence
in the FEM analysis, but showed that some adjustments were necessary to it,
in particular to account for the arching action of the curved skin and for shear
stress peaks adjacent to openings. They also highlighted an extreme sensitivity of
the reactions to misalignment. All the observations from the small-scale Araldite
models were incorporated into the iterative analysis-test-analysis design procedure.
It may be mentioned here, that Araldite models had been used extensively also
by other investigators for buckling tests. For example, Tulk and Walker [5.64]
at University College, London, also employed small-scale Araldite 219 models
to elucidate the elastic buckling characteristics of stiffened-plate panels subjected
to in-plane compressive loading. They emphasized that because of the very high
elastic strain capacity of Araldite (maximum elongation up to 5 percent), its use in
models permits repeated testing well into the postbuckling regime to explore the
behavior of the structure without any permanent deformation. They pointed out
its convenient molding and that, by use of Araldite also as an adhesive, built up
structures which are practically homogeneous and free of residual stresses can be



Figure 5.29

Theory and Practice

The 1:25 scale Araldite model for the Thames Barrier gates (from [5.63]):
(a) construction of the model, (b) the test rig with model under test

Model Analysis in Structural Engineering

Figure 5.30

The 1:6 scale steel model for the Thames Barrier gate
reverse head test (from [5.62])


general view during

Returning to the model analysis of the Thames Barrier gates, the purpose of
the larger welded structural steel model was an ultimate load test to study the
complete response of the gate (including inelastic buckling) up to collapse, to
quantify the reserves of strength possessed by the structure beyond the initiation
of signicant yielding and to establish the post-yield buckling behavior of the
compression anges and webs. The steel 1:6 model (Figure 5.30) was instrumented
with 1000 strain gauges, their locations being determined by the results of the
Araldite model tests. Collapse was caused by inward buckling of the curved skin
at the change of section at the quarter point of the gate.
One should note that the extended model analysis, employed here as an integral
part of the iterative design process, not only improved the design but also reinforced
the condence of the designers, at a time when civil engineering condence had
been shaken by a series of recent tragic bridge disasters.


Photoelastic Models

Before leaving the topic of model analysis, one should also mention photoelastic
models, which are models made of transparent elastic material that when loaded
and examined in a eld of polarized light, exhibit interference fringes that represent
the stress distribution in the model. Though photoelasticity is a major branch of
model analysis, it seems more appropriate to postpone its discussion to Chapter 20,
Volume 2, together with other optical methods.




Theory and Practice


If the concept of model analysis is taken one step further, one obtains analogies, where the model has lost any physical similarity with the prototype and
has preserved only a mathematical afnity with it. Analogies are widely used in
dynamic systems, since many time-dependent phenomena are analogous to electrical ones. The next step leads to simulation by computer, which is also often
employed to extend the range of experiments. Though analogies are rarely used
for buckling phenomena, they are briey discussed here on account of their potential for unconventional experiments. More detailed discussion of analogies can be
found in many texts (for example [5.65], [5.66] or [5.67]).
In engineering, the usual denition of analogy is: Two or more apparently
different physical systems are said to be analogous, if their characteristics can
be expressed in identical mathematical form. Analog methods were already developed in the second half of the 19th century, but they reached their prime in the
rst half of this century. Among the most notable analogies was the membrane
analogy for the study of the torsional stress distribution in a shaft, developed by
Prandtl in 1903 [5.68].
This analogy is a good example of the concept and is discussed in nearly every
text on the theory of elasticity (as for example [4.46]). It is based on the identity
of the equation of vertical equilibrium of a stretched and inated membrane
r2 z D 



where z is the elevation of the membrane, T the uniform tension throughout the
membrane and p the small pressure differential, with an equation derived (by
integration) from the equation of compatibility of the stress function for Saint
Venant torsion of a bar, whose cross-section is identical with the planform of the
r2 D 2G


where G is the shear modulus and  the angular twist per unit length. The boundary
conditions for z and also have to match, which they do, since along a boundary s


because the membrance boundary is

in a plane of constant z

because the boundary of the bar is

free of normal stress


The resultant shear stress at any point,  D d/dn, is represented by the slope
of the membrane
dz/dn, taken normal to the contour line through that point.
Furthermore, the torsional moment Mt is represented by twice the volume under
the inated membrane, since


Mt D 2

dx dy

2 Volume D 2

z dx dy


is analogous to


Note that from Eqs. (5.97) and (5.98), p/T D 2G when D z.
The membrane analogy was applied extensively in the rst decades of this
century to measure the slopes of soap lms or rubber membranes of complicated
cross sections. A very famous and widely used apparatus is that of Grifth and
Taylor developed in 1917 [5.69], but many others and more sophisticated ones were
developed in the following decades. This demonstrates the direct use of an analogy
for measurement of the behavior of the analogous system in order to calculate that
of the original system.
However, the analogy serves also for better understanding of the essential
features of the original system. For example, in the case of the membrane analogy
it is easier to visualize the shape of the soap lm and its slope and volume, and
evaluate from them the behavior of the twisted bar, than to assess it directly. This
is probably today the most important function of the membrane analogy, and as a
matter of fact of most analogies.
The direct application by measurement of the behavior of the analogous system
is today usually superseded by numerical solutions (like Finite Element Methods),
solved conveniently by available computer programs. Hence the many other ingenious hydrodynamic and electrical analogies, developed in the thirties, forties,
fties and sixties, will not be discussed (and the reader be referred to the texts
mentioned earlier, where many references are also given), except one important
example, the electrical circuit analogies for structures developed by MacNeal in
the early sixties [5.70] which will be briey mentioned. MacNeal proposed analog
computation for solution of many practical problems of structural analysis using
direct analog computers. He derived detailed electrical circuit analogies for these
problems and obtained with them and the appropriate analog computers very efcient solutions for complicated problems, which represented a signicant advance
in structural analysis. Modern digital computation has superseded these analog
methods, but their ingenuity should be noted as one non-conventional approach to
combined experimental-computational analysis.
Finally, it may be worth noting that in the last decade electrical analog techniques have been revived in fracture mechanics for experimental study of crack
propagation and evaluation of stress intensity factors, recently also for composites
(see for example [5.71].


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Muller, R.K., Handbuch der Modellstatik, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1971.










Theory and Practice

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Langhaar, H.L., Dimensionless Analysis and Theory of Models, John Wiley & Sons,
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Murphy, G., Similitude in Engineering, Ronald Press, New York, 1950.
Pankhust, R.C., Dimensional Analysis and Scale Factors, Chapman & Hall, London,
Reinhold, New York, 1964.
Gukhman, A.A., Introduction to the Theory of Similarity, Academic Press, New York,
Taylor, E.S., Dimensional Analysis for Engineers, Oxford (Clarendon Press), London
and New York, 1974.
Goodier, J.N., Dimensionless Analysis, Appendix II in Handbook of Experimental
Stress Analysis, M. Hetenyi, ed., 1st edn., John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1950.
Durelli, A.J., Phillips, E.A. and Tsao, C.H., Introduction to the Theoretical and
Experimental Analysis of Stress and Strain, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1958.
Ipsen, D.C., Units, Dimension, and Dimensionless Numbers, McGraw-Hill, New
York, 1960.
Buckingham, E., On Physically Similar Systems; Illustrations of the Use of Dimensional Equations, Phys. Rev. Series 2, 4,(4), 1914, 345 76.
Bridgman, P.W., Dimensionless Analysis, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1922,
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Van Driest, E.R., On Dimensional Analysis and the Presentation of Data in FluidFlow Problems, Journal of Applied Mechanics, 13, 1946, A-34 A-40.
Goodier, J.N. and Thomson, W.T., Applicability of Similarity Principles to Structural Models, NACA TN 933, 1944.
Manjoine, M.J., Inuence of Rate of Strain and Temperature on Yield Stresses of
Mild Steel, Journal of Applied Mechanics, 11, 1944, 211 218.
Marsh, K.J. and Campbell, J.D., The Effect of Strain Rate on the Post-Yield Flow
of Mild Steel, Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, 11, 1963, 49 63.
Bodner, S.R., Strain Rate Effects in Dynamic Loading of Structures, in Behavior of
Materials Under Dynamic Loading, N.J. Hufngton, ed., ASME, New York, 1965,
93 105.
Symonds, P.S., Viscoplastic Behavior in Response of Structures to Dynamic Loading,
in Behavior of Materials Under Dynamic Loading, N.J. Hufngton, ed., ASME, New
York, 1965, 106 124.
Jones, N., Structural Aspects of Ship Collisions, in Structural Crashworthiness,
N. Jones, and T. Wierzbicki, eds., Butterworths, London and Boston, 1983,
308 337.
Jones, N., Scaling of Inelastic Structures Loaded Dynamically, in Structural
Impact and Crashworthiness Vol 1, G.A.O. Davies, ed., Elsevier Applied Science
Publishers, London, 1984, 45 74.
Duffy, T.A., Scaling Laws for Fuel Capsules Subjected to Blast, Impact and Thermal
Loading, in Proceedings Intersociety Energy Conversion Engineering Conference,
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Booth, E., Collier, D. and Miles, J., Impact Scalability of Plated Steel Structures, in
Structural Crashworthiness, N. Jones, and T. Wierzbicki, eds., Butterworths, London
and Boston, 1983, 136 174.
Duffy, T.A., Cheresh, M.C. and Sutherland, S.H., Experimental Verication of
Scaling Laws for Punch-Impact Loaded Structures, International Journal of Impact
Engineering, 2, 1984, 103 117.















Bodner, S.R. and Symonds, P.S., Experimental and Theoretical Investigation of the
Plastic Deformation of Cantilever Beams Subjected to Impulsive Loading, Journal
of Applied Mechanics, 29, 1962, 719 728.
Calladine, C.R. and English, R.W., Strain-Rate and Inertia Effects in the Collapse
of Two Types of Energy-Absorbing Structure, International Journal of Mechanical
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Tam, L.L., Strain-Rate and Inertial Effects in the Collapse of Energy-Absorbing
Structures, Ph.D. Thesis, University of Cambridge, England, February 1990.
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Structure, International Journal of Impact Engineering, 8, 1989, 43 51.
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Johnson, W., Impact Strength of Materials, Edward Arnold, London, 1972.
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Wierzbicki, T. and Florence, A.L., A Theoretical and Experimental Investigation of
Impulsively Loaded Clamped Circular Viscoplastic Plates, International Journal of
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Bodner, S.R. and Symonds, P.S., Experiments on Viscoplastic Response of Circular
Plates to Impulsive Loading, Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, 27,
1979, 91 113.
Baker, W.E., Westine, P.S. and Dodge, F.T., Similarity Methods in Engineering
Dynamics, Spartan Books, Hayden Book Co., Rochelle Park, N.J., 1973.
Baker, W.E., Modeling of Large Transient Elastic and Plastic Deformations of Structures Subjected to Blast Loading, Journal of Applied Mechanics, 27, 1960, 521 527.
Hopkinson, B., British Ordnance Board Minutes 13565, 1915.
Sachs, R.G., The Dependence of Blast on Ambient Pressure and Temperature, Ballistics Research Lab. (BRL), Report No. 466, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland,
Brown, H.N., Effects of Scaling on the Interaction Between Shock Waves and Structures, Ballistics Research Lab. (BRL), Report No. 1011, Aberdeen Proving Ground,
Maryland, 1957, Appendix I.
Hanna, J.W., Ewing, W.O. and Baker, W.E., The Elastic Response to Internal Blast
Loading of Models of Outer Containment Structures for Nuclear Reactors, Nuclear
Science and Engineering, 6, 1959, 214 221.
Denton, D.R. and Flathau, W.J., Model Study of Dynamically Loaded Arch Structures, Journal of the Engineering Mechanics Division, Proc. of ASCE, 92, (EM3),
1966, 17 32.
Ewing, W.O. and Hanna, J.W., A Cantilever for Measuring Air Blast, Ballistics
Research Lab. (BRL), Technical Note 1139, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland,
Ezra, A.A. and Penning, F.A., Development of Scaling Laws for Explosive Forming,
Experimental Mechanics, 2, 1962, 234 239.
Ezra, A.A. and Adams, J.E., The Explosive Forming of 10 feet Diameter Aluminum
Domes, Proc. of the First International Conference of the Center for High Energy
Forming, Estes Park, Colorado, June 19 23, 1967.












Theory and Practice

Baker, W.E. and Westine, P.S., Modeling the Blast Response of Structures Using
Dissimilar Materials, AIAA Journal, 7, 1969, 951 959.
Donelan, P.J. and Dowling, A.R., The Use of Scale Models in Impact Testing, in
The Resistance to Impact of Spent Magnox Fuel Transport Flasks, The Institution of
Mechanical Engineers, London, 1985.
Jones, N. and Jouri, W.S., A Study of Plate Tearing for Ship Collision and Grounding
Damage, Journal of Ship Research, 31, 1987, 253 268.
Morton, J., Scaling of Impact-Loaded Carbon-Fiber Composites, AIAA Journal, 26,
1988, 989 994.
Jackson, K.E. and Fasanella, E.L., Scaling Effects in the Static Large Deection
Response of Graphite-Epoxy Beam-Columns, NASA Technical Memorandum (TM)
101619, June 1989, also Proceedings of the American Helicopter Society National
Technical Specialists Meeting on Advanced Rotorcraft Structures, Williamsburg, VA,
Oct. 25 27, 1988.
Jackson, K.E. and Fasanella, E.L., Scaling Effects in the Impact Response of Graphite-Epoxy Composite Beams, SAE Technical Paper 891014, General Aviation
Aircraft Meeting and Exposition, Wichita, KS, April 11 13, 1989.
Jackson, K.E., Scaling Effects in the Static and Dynamic Response of GraphiteEpoxy Beam-Columns, NASA TM 102697, July 1990.
Jackson, K.E. and Morton, J., Evaluation of Some Scale Effects in the Response
and Failure of Composite Beams, Presented at First NASA Advanced Composite
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Kellas, S. and Morton, J., Strength Scaling of Fiber Composites, NASA Contractor
Report 4335, November 1990.
Qian, Y. and Swanson, S.R., Experimental Measurement of Impact Response in
Carbon/Epoxy Plates, AIAA Journal, 28, 1990, 1069 1074.
Qian, Y., Swanson, S.R., Nuismer, R.J. and Bucinell, R.B., An Experimental Study
of Scaling Rules for Impact Damage in Fiber Composites, Journal of Composite
Materials, 24, (5), May 1990, 559 570.
Swanson, S.R., Smith, N.L. and Qian, Y., Analytical and Experimental Strain
Response in Impact of Composite Cylinders, Composite Structures, 18, (2), 1991,
95 108.
Christoforou, A.P., Investigation of Impact in Advanced Composites, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Utah, Department of Mechanical Engineering, 1988.
Kampf, K.-P., Crawley, E.F. and Hausman, R.J., Experimental Investigation of the
Crashworthiness of Scaled Composite Sailplane Fuselages, Journal of Aircraft, 26,
1989, 675 681.
Wright, D.V. and Bannister, R.C., Plastic Models for Structural Analysis, Part I:
Testing Types, The Shock and Vibration Digest, 2, (11), 1970, 2 10.
Wright, D.V. and Bannister, R.C., Plastic Models for Structural Analysis, Part II:
Experimental Design, The Shock and Vibration Digest, 2, (12), 1970, 3 10.
Smith, C.S., Investigation of Ship Buckling Problems Using Small-Scale Plastic
Models, Proceedings 5th International Conference on Experimental Stress Analysis,
Udine, 1974, 4.127 4.135.
Smith, C.S., Buckling Problems in the Design of Fiberglass-Reinforced Plastic Ships,
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Tappin, R.G.R., Dowling, P.J. and Clark, P.J., Design and Model Testing of the
Thames Barrier Gates, The Structural Engineer, 62A, (4), 1984, 115 124.





Dowling, P.J. and Owens, G.W., Structural Model Testing of a Rising Sector Flood
Gate, in Thames Barrier Design, Institution of Civil Engineers, London, 1978,
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Plate, Journal of Strain Analysis, 11, (3), 1976, 137 143.
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in Fiber-Reinforced Composites, Engineering Fracture Mechanics, 32, (3), 1989,
479 492.

Columns, Beams and


Buckling and Postbuckling of Columns

Column Curves and Secondary Effects in Column

In the three-quarters of a century since von Karmans thesis, the buckling and
postbuckling of columns has been studied extensively, with a signicant portion
of the efforts devoted to experimental investigations. Many of these deal with the
interaction between material properties, residual stresses, shape of cross-section and
the postbuckling behavior, and many are design oriented. As a matter of fact, while
considerable progress has been made towards better prediction of the buckling load
in the inelastic region, and the maximum load a column can carry its strength,
the designers have usually been using empirical column curves. A column curve
is a plot of load, or stress, versus slenderness ratio, and is the line of best t
through the scatter band of column test results (see for example Figure 6.1). One
should note that for over a century the universal practice was to lump together test
results for different materials and different cross-sections which therefore appeared
as a galaxy of points (see for example Figure 6.2, or one of the many gures in
Chapter 4 of [4.3]). A number of empirical and semi-empirical design formulae
have been developed, some dating back as far as the 18th century (see [4.3]), which
are usually called column curves. Until the fties, the most signicant ones were:
the Rankine Gordon formula (see also [4.3]), the Tetmajer straight line [4.8] and
the Johnson Parabola
cr D y  C

where C is a constant depending on the proportional limit and Youngs modulus
of the material of the column. The 1893 Johnson Parabola [6.2] is the basis of the
modern column curves, which have been developed in recent decades, by special
national and international bodies and committees of experts. The leader among

Buckling Experiments: Experimental Methods in Buckling of Thin-Walled Structures: Basic Concepts, Columns, Beams and
Plates Volume 1. J. Singer, J. Arbocz and T. Weller Copyright 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.1

Column curves and test results for rolled H-shapes (from [6.1])

these is the Structural Stability Research Council (formerly the Column Research
Council) of the Engineering Foundation, a US (but essentially international) body,
that has for nearly 50 years fostered research and developed design and test procedures for column stability. The SSRC Guide to Stability Design Criteria for Metal
Structures [6.3] is not only an internationally recognized design guide (though
aimed primarily at civil, mechanical and marine engineers, it is also an authoritative source for work carried out in other elds), but also a guide to modern
column testing, to which we will refer later. Other similar, well-known bodies are
the Column Research Committee of Japan [6.4] or the European Convention for
Constructional Steelwork (ECCS) [6.5].
The original aim has been to develop a single design curve (the CRC curve in
Figure 6.2), but since the wide scatter is not a test phenomenon, the alternative
of multiple column curves has been extensively studied. The resulting wealth of
empirical information, augmented by many theoretical studies eventually brought
about the adoption of the concept of multiple column curves for the design of
steel columns both by the US Structural Stability Research Council (SSRC), [6.3],
and the European Convention for Constructional Steelwork (ECCS), [6.5]. The
SSRC multiple column curves are shown in Figure 6.3a and the ECCS ones in
Figure 6.3b. Note that, as pointed out by Tall in [4.7], the American and European
multiple column curves correlate very well, though they were obtained by different
approaches, the US studies using actual measured values while the European studies
used theoretical data as a basis for computations that were then compared with
experimental data. In Europe, the ECCS multiple column curves were adopted for
design practice, but in the US designers still prefer a single design curve (see [4.7]
and [1.13]).
Now, as mentioned already, the bulk of the theoretical and experimental studies
on buckling of columns in recent decades has dealt with inelastic behavior of
steel columns and the inuence of yield strength, of geometry, of residual stresses

Buckling and Postbuckling of Columns


Figure 6.2 Test results for columns of different shapes, yield strength and fabrication methods
(from [4.7])

(resulting from the different manufacturing processes), and of out-of-straightness

(as the geometric imperfections are called in columns). Tall [4.7] summarized
these experiments and the resulting design curves from the point of view of civil
engineers, emphasizing the effect of residual stresses, which have been the major
factor in the design of welded steel columns (see also [4.6], [6.1], [6.3] or [6.6]).
Residual stresses occur in a structural member as a result of plastic deformations
during manufacture. They may be due to differential cooling after hot-rolling,
to fabrication processes like ame-cutting or cold-bending, or due to localized


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.3 Multiple column curves (from [4.7]): (a) proposed US SSRC multiple column
curves (where L D light, H D heavy), (b) European ECCS multiple column curves

heat input in welding operations. Typical magnitudes and distributions of residual

stresses in rolled and welded steel shapes are shown in Figure 6.4 (reproduced
from [4.7]). As seen in the gure, welded columns usually have higher residual
stresses than rolled columns and their magnitude depends on the geometry of the
cross-section. They also tend to have a greater out-of-straightness. Hence welded
columns have lower strengths than corresponding rolled columns (see Figure 6.5

Buckling and Postbuckling of Columns


Figure 6.4

Residual stresses due to welding in cross-sections of small columns (from [4.7])

Figure 6.5

Column tests results for small to medium rolled and welded shapes (from [4.7])

reproduced from [4.7], and this strength has to be assessed by a more complicated
analysis of the behavior in the inelastic range.
Both size and yield strength inuence the strength of a steel column. The process
of cooling in heavy shapes (large size cross sections) yields larger residual stresses
than in small size shapes, whether rolled or welded, and hence heavy columns have
reduced strengths. Since the residual stresses are mainly a function of geometry,
they are of the same order of magnitude in high strength steels as in mild steels.
Thus the effect of residual stresses is smaller in columns made of steels with higher
yield strength.


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

This summary of the main characteristics of the buckling strength of steel

columns, derived from decades of extensive steel column tests, emphasizes the
important interaction of material properties, geometry and fabrication processes on
the buckling behavior and strength of columns. It furthermore indicates that one
has to be very careful to include also such secondary effects in the design and
evaluation of buckling and postbuckling tests of all structural elements.


Column Testing

Having briey discussed the main secondary effects in column experiments,

one can proceed to the test procedures. Here one can turn to the SSRC Guide
to Stability Design Criteria for Metal Structures [6.3] for guidance on modern
column testing, which indeed appears there in the form of Technical Memoranda.
In Appendix B there, after a preface which points out that some of the proposed
methods are not always used, the recommended test procedures for compression
testing of metals are presented (pp. 703 708) and then those for stub-column tests
(pp. 708 717). The object of a compressive stub-column test is to determine the
average stress-strain relationship over the complete cross-section, which can then
be employed as the actual material properties for the column test. Technical Memorandum No. B4 there Procedure for Testing Centrally Loaded Columns ([6.3],
pp. 717 732) is based on a 1970 Lehigh University Fritz Engineering Laboratory Report [6.7], which summarized the extensive test experience accumulated at
that university. It discusses the reasons for experimental scatter in column tests
and then presents a suggested test procedure. Because of its importance, the main
points of this memorandum are briey recapitulated, some paragraphs being quoted
The reasons for the wide scatter band of the experimentally determined values
of column strength when plotted versus the effective slenderness ratio KL/r, in
which KL denotes the effective column length and r the appropriate radius of
gyration of the cross section, are enumerated as:

geometrical imperfections (out-of-straightness)

eccentric application of load
nonhomogeneity of material
residual stresses
variation in the action of the loading machines
imperfections in end xtures.

These effects have already been discussed, except the last two which are directly
related to the tests themselves. The buckling and postbuckling behavior of a
column, or of any other structural element, is inuenced by the action of the
loading devices. These may be categorized as gravity, deformation (screw-type) and
pressure (hydraulic) testing machines, each differing in its force-deection characteristic. The gravity type has the simplest characteristic, which can be represented
by straight lines parallel to the deection axis. The screw-type load deection

Buckling and Postbuckling of Columns


characteristic is also well dened, and its shape depends on the elastic response
of the loading system. The hydraulic testing machine is the most common today,
but its load-deection characteristic is not as easily dened and testing is always
conducted under some nite loading rate, which inuences the results. However,
modern testing machines (both hydraulic and screw-type) have continuous feedback computer control that assures precise predetermined displacement or loading
rates, which can be kept very low. For example, both MTS and Instron testing
machines can apply displacement rates as low as 1 micron/hour, with a resolution
of a few percent of that rate, as well as similar loading rates. These machines can
also apply a constant force for considerable test times (about 20 hours or so).
End conditions can vary from full restraint (xed) to zero restraints (pinned,
simple supports) with respect to end rotation and warping. The pinned-end conditions are recommended for column tests, since then the critical cross section is
located near the mid-height of the column and is therefore little inuenced by end
effects. With pinned-end conditions it is, however, necessary to provide end xtures
with minimum restraint to column end rotation. Under xed-end conditions, on the
other hand, there are often problems of variation of the end restraints, and hence
the effective length, with load, which make the tests less reliable.
Figure 6.6 shows several practical pinned ends (from [6.8]), some are positionxed like (a), (d) and (h), and the others are direction-xed, having cylindrical
end xtures, with which the column is essentially pin-ended about one axis (usually
chosen to be the minor principal axis of the column cross-section) and essentially xed end, or clamped, about the other. The cylindrical (and hemispherical)
xtures, (e), (f), (g) and (d), are designed to have their center coincide with the
centroidal axis of the cross-section at the column end. Thus the actual column
length remains the effective one when the column starts to bend. Knife edges,
Figure 6.6(b), conical points (a), or free warping ends like (h), are suitable only
for small columns. Complete roller bearings, as shown in Figure 6.6(g), were used
for the well known 1938 tests of Karner and Kollbrunner at the ETH, Zurich [6.9]
on centrally and eccentrically loaded small aluminum alloy (Avional M) and structural steel columns. For large columns, requiring the application of large axial loads,
roller bearing blocks, like Figure 6.6(e), are sometimes used, or a relatively large
hardened cylindrical surface bearing on a hard at surface is employed, for example
the end xtures used at the Lehigh University Fritz Engineering Laboratory for
loads between 400 1000 tons, shown in Figure 6.7 (from [6.10]). Hemispherical
xtures, approximately similar to those of Figure 6.6(d), are also used sometimes in
tests of large columns. For example, in the experiments on plastic column behavior
at high axial loads, carried out at Imperial College London in the seventies [6.11],
the large horizontally oating test columns were held in position by spherical
PTFE (polytetrauoroethene) bridge bearings. This was an economical solution,
that permitted exing about both axes. There were, however, signicant friction
losses in the PTFE bearings, which were measured by H-section load cells attached
at the end of the test columns. Roller bearings similar to those of Figure 6.6(g) were
employed for pin ends in the classical 1939 Aluminum Company of AmericaNACA tests of extruded aluminum H-sections [1.29]. Another method for pin ends

Figure 6.6

End xtures for pin-ended columns (from [6.3])

Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Buckling and Postbuckling of Columns


Figure 6.7 Standard large column end xture at Lehigh University Fritz Engineering Laboratory (from [6.10])

in those tests, a type of position xed ends, was a mixture of the hemisphere in
Figure 6.6(d) and the rollers in Figure 6.6(e) consisting of bearing plates provided
with a spherical seat resting in a nest of 25 hardened steel balls, whose center
of rotation coincided with the ends of the at-ended specimen that rested on the
bearing plates. The corresponding US National Bureau of Standards NACA tests
used knife edges for pinned ends. Flat-ended ends were obtained by centering the
mutually parallel machined at ends of the specimen on the xed heads of the
testing machine.
Hemispherical pin-end supports of the type shown in Figure 6.6(d) were used in
the eighties in a typical experimental study of local and overall buckling of welded
steel box columns [6.12] and are shown in Figure 6.8(a). A second example of
hemispherical pin-end supports, of the type shown in Figure 6.6(d), are those used
in the late eighties in the large beam column tests at the University of Toronto,
discussed in Section 6.6.2 (see Figure 6.58 and [6.118]). Another roller type of
pin-end supports, a combination of those shown in Figures 6.6(e) and 6.6(g), that
was employed in the eighties in a series of tests on heavy I-section columns at
Karlsruhe University in Germany [6.13] is shown in Figure 6.8(b). The special
SKF rollers in these supports ensured a low friction coefcient  < 0.07.


Test Procedures

In the actual test procedure, some important points (from Technical Memorandum
No. 4 of [6.3]) should be remembered. These are obviously only general guidelines,
most appropriate to columns used in civil engineering.


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.8 Typical hemispherical and roller bearings employed for heavy columns:
(a) hemispherical pin-end xture used in a buckling study of welded steel box
columns at Nagoya University, Japan (courtesy of Professor T. Usami), note the
roller bearing in the center of the picture, which provided the pin-end support;
(b) roller pin-ends used at Karlsruhe University, Germany, for heavy I-section
columns (from [6.13])

Buckling and Postbuckling of Columns


a. Preparation of Specimens

Both ends of the specimen should be milled. Columns may be tested with the
ends bearing directly on the loading xtures, provided the material of which the
loading xtures are made is sufciently harder than that of the column to avoid
damaging the xtures. Otherwise, base plates should be welded to the specimen
ends, matching the geometric center of the specimen to the center of the base
plate. The welding procedure should be such that compressive residual stresses at
the ange tips caused by the welding are minimized. For columns initially curved,
the milled surfaces may not be parallel to each other, but will be perpendicular to
the centerline at the ends because milling is usually performed with reference to the
end portions of the columns. For relatively small column specimens, it is possible
to machine the ends at and parallel to each other by mounting the specimens on
an arbor in a lathe. For small deviations in parallelism, the leveling plates at the
sensitive crosshead of the testing machine may be adjusted to improve alignment.
b. Initial Dimensions

The variation in cross-sectional area and shape, and the initial curvature (camber
referred to major axis and sweep referred to minor axis), and twist, will affect
the column strength. Therefore, detailed initial measurement of these parameters
of the specimen is important.
c. Aligning the Column Specimen

Aligning the specimen within the testing machine is the most important step in
the column testing procedure, prior to loading. Two approaches have been used to
align centrally loaded columns. In the rst approach the column is aligned under
load such that the axial stresses are essentially uniform over the mid-height and
the quarter-point cross sections. (In the test one actually measures strains.) The
objective in this alignment method is to maximize the column load by minimizing
the bending stresses caused by geometrical imperfections of the specimen. In the
second alignment method, the column is carefully aligned geometrically, but no
special effort is made to secure a uniform stress distribution over the critical cross
section. Geometric alignment is performed with respect to a specic reference
point on the cross section. The method of geometric alignment is recommended
for columns as it is, generally, simpler and quicker. As a matter of fact, in recent
years the rst method has practically disappeared, and geometric alignment with
exact measurements of initial out-of-straightness, coupled with analytical strength
predictions, is usually used.
In other structural elements, however, the uniform stress approach is usually
preferable, as will be discussed later.
d. Instrumentation

. . . It is usually desirable to measure the more important deections and twists

to compare the behavior of the column specimen under load, with theoretical


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

predictions of behavior. The instrumentation for column tests has changed markedly
in recent years due to progress made in measuring techniques and data acquisition
systems, and it is now possible to obtain automatic recordings and plotting of the
measurements (online real-time presentation). Such recordings are more convenient
and more precise than manual readings.
The most important records needed in column testing are the applied load and
the corresponding lateral displacements, twist, and overall column shortening. A
typical column set-up and instrumentation are shown in Figure 6.9 (from [6.3]).
Lateral deections normal to both principal cross-sectional axes may be automatically recorded by means of potentiometers attached at quarter points of the
column (more points may be used for longer columns). Lateral deections may
also be measured from strip scales attached to the column and read with the aid
of a theodolite.
Strains are measured using electric-resistance strain gages. For ordinary pinnedend column tests, it is sufcient to mount eight strain gages at each end and at the
mid-height level. . . . As shown in Section A-A of Figure 6.9, the gages should be
mounted in pairs back-to-back to enable the local ange bending effects to be
cancelled by averaging the readings of each pair of back-to-back gages.
In the xed-end test condition more strain gages are mounted below and above
the quarter- and three-quarter levels. This is done to determine the actual effective length of the column by locating the inection points using the strain gage
With modern multi-channel data loggers more strain gages can be readily used
to obtain additional check data and thus improve the reliability of the test.
End rotations are measured by mechanical or electrical rotation gages
(see [6.3]). . . . The angles of twist are determined at mid-height and at the two
ends by measuring at each level the differences in lateral deections of the two
anges. For better accuracy, the measurements may be taken at points located at
the ends of two rods attached transversely on the adjacent sides of the column, as
shown in Section B-B of Figure 6.9.
The overall shortening is determined by measuring the movement of the sensitive
crosshead relative to the xed crosshead using a dial gage or potentiometer, or
preferably a few gages, potentiometers or LVDTs.
Large steel column specimens are usually whitewashed with hydrated lime.
During testing, the whitewash cracking pattern indicates the progression of yielding
in the column (the cracking reects the aking of the mill-scale at yielded zones).
e. Testing

After the specimen is aligned in the testing machine, the test is usually started
with an initial load of 1/20 to 1/15 of the estimated ultimate load capacity of the
column. This is done to preserve the alignment established at the beginning of the
test. At this load all measuring devices are adjusted for initial readings.
Further load is applied slowly, typically at a rate of 1 ksi/min (6.9 MPa/min),
and the corresponding deections are recorded instantly. This stress rate, (or corresponding strain rate) is established when the column is still elastic. The dynamic

Buckling and Postbuckling of Columns

Figure 6.9


Typical column test setup and instrumentation (from [6.3])

curve is plotted until the ultimate load is reached, immediately after which the
maximum static load is recorded. . . . A static condition, as is needed to obtain
the maximum static load, is when the column shape is unchanged under a constant
load for a period of time. This means that the chord length of the column must
remain constant, or practically, the distance between the crossheads must remain
constant during the period.


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

This condition can easily be maintained with screw type machines, but was difcult to maintain in hydraulic machines a decade ago. In modern testing machines
with feedback computer control these difculties have been eliminated.
After the maximum static load is recorded, compression of the specimen is
resumed at the strain rate which was utilized for the elastic range. . . . The specimen
is compressed in the unloading range until the desired load-displacement curve
is attained. [An example of such a curve is shown in Figure 6.10 (from [6.3])].
One should note that, as pointed out in Chapter 2, the dynamic load is larger
than the static one. This means that a column can sustain a considerably higher
buckling load if the load is applied rapidly, i.e. under impact, as will be further
discussed in Chapter 18, Volume 2.

f. Presentation of Test Data

The behavior of the test specimen under load well into the post-buckling region
is determined with the assistance of measurements of lateral deections at various
levels along the two principal directions, rotations at the ends, strains at selected
cross sections, angles of twist, and the column shortening. These measurements
are compared to theoretical predictions. The results of the test are most clearly
presented in diagrammatic form.
For example, Figure 6.11(a) (from [6.3]) shows the mid-height load-deection
curve of a typical structural steel H-section column, along the minor axis, where
the primary bending occurs. Figure 6.11(b) shows the corresponding similar curve
along the major axis. These curves present the most signicant data of the column
test. Similar curves are usually presented for strains, end rotations, angles of twist
and overall shortening versus load.

Figure 6.10

Typical load-deection curve of a column (from [6.3])

Buckling and Postbuckling of Columns

Figure 6.11


Load-deection curves for a typical structural steel H-section column (from [6.3]):
(a) midheight deection along minor axis, (b) midheight deection along major

g. Evaluation of Test Results

The test results may be evaluated by comparing the experimental load-deection

behavior, or axial strain-bending strain behavior, and the theoretical prediction.
A preliminary theoretical prediction can be made on simplied assumptions of
material properties, residual stresses, and measured initial out-of-straightness. The
prediction may be improved if the actual residual stresses and the variations in
material properties are used in the analysis. These properties should be determined from preliminary stub-column tests of specimens obtained from the original
source stock.


Columns in Offshore Structures

The widespread design and development of large offshore structures in the last
decade has motivated considerable research efforts related to the buckling of these
structures. A recent state-of-the-art review [6.14] considers only tubular columns in
the discussion of columns, since both the main and the bracing members of a typical
offshore structure are usually circular cylinders. It is of interest to note that the
emphasis in this review and design guide is on information based on experimental
investigations. The discussion of column buckling experiments in [6.14] is essentially similar to that in the SSRC Guide [6.3], except that the comparisons are with
the special codes and design recommendation developed for offshore structures
and that interaction with local buckling (shell buckling) is considered in detail.
Since offshore platforms are usually designed as highly redundant space frames,
where buckling of an individual member will not necessarily lead to failure


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

of the structure as a whole, and since they are subjected on rare occasions to
extreme loads, post-collapse characteristics are very important for assessment of the
survivability of offshore structures. The post-collapse behavior of tubular columns
strongly depends on whether collapse is initiated by local instability.
If local stability predominates, the post-buckling behavior is that of a cylindrical
shell, which is highly unstable, as has been discussed in Chapter 2. If local buckling
is avoided, as in tubes with low (D/t) ratio, the post-collapse behavior is controlled
by the ratio of the Euler critical stress xkE to the yield stress y , and by the magnitude of initial imperfections (out-of-straightness). Figure 6.12 (from [6.14]) shows
typical average axial stress-strain curves for tubular columns. (These curves are
typical presentations corresponding to experimental results.) For the two extreme
cases (a) xkE y and (c) xkE y , collapse is gradual and a signicant load
carrying capacity is retained. However, in case (b), when 0.7  xkE /y  1.3,
post-buckling can be highly unstable for tubes with small imperfections, with
signicant reduction in load-carrying capacity in the post-collapse range. The presence of large imperfections considerably reduces the pre-buckling stiffness and the
buckling load in all cases, but collapse then occurs very gradually and with little
reduction in load carrying capacity.


End-Fitting Effects in Column Tests

As mentioned in Chapter 4, von Karman in his classical 1910 paper already recognized two possible sources of errors connected with the end ttings of simply
supported (pin-ended) columns: their rigidity and their restraint to column end rotation. The calculations showed, however, that for his experiments and other typical
columns these errors were insignicant. Von Karmans analysis of the elastic buckling of columns with rigid end connections was presented again in the classic
1940 text of von Karman and Biot [6.15] in a slightly different form, that however
yielded similar results. Later investigators reexamined this effect for short columns,
suspecting there a more signicant inuence. For example, Chilver in 1956 [6.16]
considered the same type of column, but extended the von Karman study beyond
the elastic range, to be suitable for short columns. Figure 6.13 shows schematically
a typical column with rigid knife ends. The fraction (2a/L) is the rigid portion of
the total length of the column. The effective length a of the end ttings is the
length that can be regarded as completely rigid from the bending point of view.
The analysis of the schematic column of Figure 6.13 obviously applies also to
other types of pin-ended ttings (like spherical ends or roller and ball bearings).
The approximate solution for the elastic buckling load with rigid ends is
2 EI
[1 C 1/32a/L3 /22 ]2 .
Hence, the adjusted length of the column Lad , that includes the effect of the rigid
ends, is
Lad D L/[1 C 2 /122a/L3 ].
Pcr D

Some typical values are given in Table 6.1.

Buckling and Postbuckling of Columns

Figure 6.12


Typical average axial stress-strain curves for tubular columns with small and large
imperfections (from [6.14])

One may note that even for large values of 2a/L, say 0.4, the elastic buckling
load would increase only by about 11 percent. For any practical proportions, say
2a/L < 0.2 the error would be less than 1.3 percent.
For short columns, beyond the elastic range, the stress-strain curve has to be
considered, from which the value of the tangent modulus Et can be obtained for


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.13 Simply-supported column with rigid knife end

ttings schematic (from [6.16])
Table 6.1

Effect of rigid ends in columns


Increase in Pcr

Decrease in adjusted length

L  Lad /L (percent)




any value of the compression stress. From Eq. (6.2) the buckling stress is
cr D

 2 Et
[1 C 1/32a/L3 /22 ]


where  is the radius of gyration of the cross-section of the column and the elastic
modulus E has been replaced by the tangent modulus Et , to generalize the solution
for both elastic and plastic buckling. Chilver re-arranged Eq. (6.4) to

 Et /cr D L/f1 C 2 /12[2a/3 /L/3 ]g1
and then plotted  Et /cr versus L/ for three values of 2a/r D 5, 10 and
15 (see Figure 6.14). The last value of 2a/r D 15, which for a slenderness ratio
L/ D 20 corresponds to 2a/L D 0.75 or an unsupported length of L/4, is
probably an extreme practical condition. Usually 2a/ will not exceed 5, corresponding to 2a/L D 0.25 for L/ D 20 or to 2a/L D 0.125 for a slenderness
ratio L/ D 40, and Chilvers curves in Figure 6.14 show that then the effect of

Buckling and Postbuckling of Columns

Figure 6.14


The function  Et /cr for pin-ended columns with rigid end ttings versus the
slenderness ratio L/ (from [6.16])

the end tting is negligible. His calculations for two typical wrought aluminum
alloys indicated that for short columns, where buckling is elasto-plastic, rigid endttings increased the buckling load of a pin-ended column by not more than
5 percent for 2a/ D 15 and much less for the usual small values of 2a/,
being almost negligible for 2a/ < 10.
Hence a suitable design rule for column end ttings was suggested:
2a/ < 10/L/


for negligible effect of end tting rigidity. For example, with a slenderness ratio
of 40 it would be permissible to support rigidly a quarter of the total length of the
column, or L/8 at each end.
The second source of error identied by von Karman, the possible rotational
restraint, was not amenable to similar simple analyses. The simple knife edges,
rollers or conical points, shown in Figures 6.6(a) 6.6(c), were, however over the
years, found to be rather material and load dependent and not very consistent.
Hence also for small columns, roller or ball bearings are nowadays preferred.
A simple undergraduate student column experiment, carried out routinely at the
Technion in Haifa, can serve as an example of this trend. A couple of decades ago
the simply supported column was represented by a simple knife edge end tting,
as shown in Figure 6.15. There, two bolts A pressed on two small rectangular steel
plates B, which slid on pins C, to x the column D (of rectangular cross-section)
in the steel end tting. If the test column had not been clamped centrally, which


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.15

Early knife-edge end ttings for student column experiments at Technion Israel
Institute of Technology

became evident in the strain gage readings as the load was applied, its position
could be adjusted by just loosening and tightening the bolts A, even under load.
The knife edge of this simple end tting, however, lost its edge after some use and
a small and undened rotational constraint appeared.
In order to make the tests more consistent, especially as the study of the correlation between vibrations and buckling was added to the column experiment, a new
end tting with roller bearings has been introduced, Figure 6.16. Here the column

Figure 6.16

Modern roller-bearing end ttings replacing the earlier knife-edge ttings of

Figure 6.15 for student column experiments at the Technion

Crippling Strength


D rests between two wedge-shape jaws B, which x it in the rotating body C of the
end tting. The compressive load tightens the grip of the jaws, due to the wedge
shape of the cavity in which they t. The body C rotates in two ball bearings E
and therefore the end tting represents a good pin-end. The holding bracket F of
the end tting rests on the platens of the testing machine, or is attached to it with
suitable bolts.
Though slightly more complicated than its knife edge predecessor, the ballbearing end tting has proven itself as a consistent, inexpensive and convenient
end xture, and has presented no problems to the students.


Crippling Strength
Crippling Failure

When a short column with a solid cross-section is compressed, it will usually

fail by compressive yielding of the material, followed by squashing or a shear
failure, if the column is very short. The design stress, which limits the buckling as
the length of the column diminishes, is therefore the compressive yield stress. If,
however, the cross section of the column is thin-walled, the yielding is replaced by
local buckling of the thin-walled, ange-plate elements of the column, which can
also occur elastically. Tests show that often, after such local buckling (sometimes
called wrinkling) has occurred, the column still has the ability to carry a greater load
before it fails. Local buckling and local failure loads are therefore not the same.
Figure 2.11, in Chapter 2 shows the stress distribution for a typical channel
section after local buckling has occurred, but prior to failure. As the load is
increased, the local buckles on the at sections grow, but most of the increasing
load is transferred to the much stiffer corner regions, until the stress intensity
reaches a high enough value to cause excessive deformation and failure called
crippling (see for example Chapter C7 of [2.78]). When local buckling occurs
at relatively low stress levels, the crippling stresses will be signicantly higher.
But, as already pointed out in Section 2.1.3, when local buckling takes place at
high mean stress levels (say 0.7 0.8cy ), the buckling and crippling stresses are
practically the same. In both cases, however, the crippling stress (also sometimes
referred to as crushing stress or maximum average stress) replaces the yield stress
as the limiting design stress for short columns with thin-walled cross-sections.
It was also pointed out in Chapter 2, that in the absence of satisfactory analytical
solutions (partly because the manner in which stresses build up in the corner regions
is not well understood), the crippling stress has to be calculated by semi-empirical
methods. Since the crippling strength is one of the most basic data for air-frame
design, very extensive tests were carried out in the forties and fties to establish the
required data base (for example [6.17] [6.21]). Based on these tests (usually carried
out in standard testing machines, with at-ended specimens bearing directly on the
guided platens, assumed to simulate clamped ends) empirical and semi-empirical
methods of crippling stress prediction were derived. The methods of Crockett,


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

summing the crippling loads of elements including the curved junctions [6.17], and
of Needham, the angle method [6.21], were widely adopted by industry; but the
method proposed in 1958 by Gerard [6.22], based on a careful review of previous
work and a comprehensive semi-empirical investigation, was more general and
was therefore widely accepted.


Gerards Method for Calculation of Crippling Stresses

Gerard proposed the following formula for the crippling stress cc :
E 1/2


where cy is the compressive yield stress, A is the cross-sectional area, t the
thickness and g is the number of imaginary cuts needed to divide the cross-section
into a series of anges plus the number of anges that would exist after the cuts are
made. The parameters and m are empirical constants determined from test data.
Gerard based the derivation of Eq. (6.7) on the fact that the failure stress of
plates after buckling depends strongly on the stresses along the supported unloaded
edges. Thus in curve tting Eq. (6.7) to the available experimental data, one must
differentiate between cross-sectional shapes where the unloaded edges are free
to warp in the plane (such as angles, plates supported in V-grooves and square
tubes) and cross-sectional shapes with straight unloaded edges (such as T-sections,
cruciforms and H-sections). Ways to determine g for typical cross-sections and
values for the corresponding parameters and m are summarized in Figures 6.17a
and 6.17b, respectively. Up to now all the material effects are included in the
parameter E/cy . Ways to account for the strain hardening effects in the corners
of formed sections, or for the use of a cladding correction factor for sections made
out of clad aluminum-alloy sheet, are discussed in Gerards paper [6.22] and on
pp. 477 479 of Rivellos textbook [2.10].
Finally, it was recommended that the cut-off or maximum crippling stress for
thin-walled cross-sections should be limited to the values summarized in Table 6.2,
unless the use of higher crippling stresses could be supported by appropriate results.
The use of Gerards method to calculate the crippling stress of columns with
thin-walled composite cross-sections is illustrated in Bruhns textbook [2.78] by
numerous worked out examples.
Table 6.2

Cut-off or maximum crippling stresses for

different cross-sections (from [2.78])

Type of sections
V-groove plates
Multi-corner sections, including tubes
Tee, Cruciform and H-sections
2-corner sections, Z-, J- sections, channels

Max. cr


Crippling Strength

Figure 6.17



Method of cutting simple elements for determining the empirical constant g in

Gerards formula for the crippling stress (from [6.22])

Crippling Strength Tests

Though Gerards method and the other semi-empirical methods for crippling stress
prediction were derived in the fties, they are still in use today. Because of
the semi-empirical nature of these methods and their material dependence, many
additional crippling strength tests have since been performed, in particular whenever new structural congurations or materials were introduced (see for example
[6.23] [6.31]).
For example, when a trapezoidal corrugated plate was considered as a compression element at the Technical University of Munich, Germany, in the seventies,
a series of crippling strength experiments were carried out (see [6.23]). Short
stub aluminum alloy columns (or rather short corrugated plates), with cast and
subsequently machined top and bottom epoxy end beams (see Figure 6.18a) were
carefully tested for local buckling (see Figure 6.18b) and then for crippling failure
(see Figure 6.18c).
Or, with the introduction of composite laminates in the US aerospace industry,
a series of crippling tests on graphite/epoxy columns and plates were performed
at the Convair Division of General Dynamics in San Diego, California in the late

Figure 6.18

TU Munich crippling tests on short corrugated aluminum alloy plates (from [6.23]): (a) dimensions of specimens, (b) local buckling
just prior to failure specimen 3B, (c) crippling failure specimen 5C


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Crippling Strength


seventies. A crippling xture and experimental procedure presented in [6.25] was

used and at plate specimens (different laminates), as well as square tubes and
I-sections, were tested. The no-edge-free at plate compression specimens were
supported along the unloaded edges by V-grooves in steel blocks and the oneedge-free tests were carried out with just one V-block support. The loaded edges
in both cases were potted with epoxy in aluminum alloy blocks. The square-tube
and I-section specimens were potted with cerrobend in aluminum end blocks and
then placed between the platens of a universal testing machine. Load-displacement
plots like Figure 6.19, usually showed that the crippling load Pcc considerably
exceeded that of incipient buckling Pcri , which again was usually slightly above
the theoretical elastic buckling load Pcrth . Sometimes the crippling failure was
accompanied by severe delamination (common in composite laminate failures, as
discussed in Chapter 14, Volume 2). Empirical crippling curves, based on a nondimensional crippling equation similar to that proposed by Gerard for thin-walled
metal columns Eq. (6.7), were obtained. It was also found that the no-free-edge
empirical crippling curves could be used to predict the crippling strength of square
The wide-spread use of thin-walled cold-formed and welded columns in the
eighties (discussed in Sub-section 6.2.5) also motivated many crippling tests in
civil engineering studies, though under the label of stub-column tests. For example,
at the Structural Stability Laboratory of the University of Liege, Belgium, extensive
stub-column experiments were carried out on steel columns with thin-walled open
proles (see [6.26] [6.30]). Large series of U,C and angle sections were tested

Figure 6.19

Convair/GD crippling tests on graphite/epoxy columns and plates typical loaddisplacement plot for a one-edge-free specimen (from [6.24])


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.20

TU Aachen crippling tests on thin-walled A Li extended columns crippling

failure of a short specimen (of 5 cm length), crippling of angle section near the
semi-circle portion of the cross section (from [6.31])

in a universal testing machine, with xed end ttings. The strain hardening in the
corners, typical of crippling tests, was taken into account as well as the increased
warping rigidity and warping restraints important in angle-section stub columns.
The results of the comprehensive tests on all the open prole stub columns indicated
that caution must be exercised in applying current design rules to columns with
such sections.
Another more recent example are the crippling tests on aluminum-lithium alloy
extruded stringers carried out at the Institut fur Leichtbau of the Technical University, Aachen in 1992 [6.31]. The compression experiments on the thin-walled
bulb type (semi-circle angle cross-section) extruded A Li stringers DAN 5013 included column local buckling and postbuckling tests as well as short column
crippling tests. One of these is shown in Figure 6.20, where failure was by crippling of the angle section near the semi-circle. At failure, these A Li specimens
exhibited long cracks, which apparently were due to brittleness of the material or
some layered structure caused by the extrusion process.


Crinkly Collapse

The local postbuckling behavior of the corners of thin-walled columns attracted the
attention of many investigators over the years, since it was not fully understood.
In many thin-walled columns failure by a localized buckling mode, involving the

Crippling Strength


collapse of the corners, was observed and was called crinkly collapse. There was
some similarity between this phenomenon and the crippling failure discussed in
the previous section.
It was found that this crinkly collapse type of failure was initiated by a combination of geometric instability and material plasticity, presenting a difcult problem
of elasto-plastic analysis. Since it appeared that the elastic collapse was similar to
the elasto-plastic one, an analysis of the simpler elastic problem was initiated
at the University of Southampton in the late seventies. Simultaneously an experimental study on silicone rubber model columns was carried out there [6.32], which
demonstrated the localized crinkly collapse mode, that was initiated by geometric
elastic instability at the corners associated with their waviness prior to failure. The
curing silicone rubber (commercially available) was chosen as the model material
to permit the large elastic deformations required for an elastic crinkly collapse.
Special silicone rubber sheets were cast, cut and bonded to form square section
tubes. The ends of these specimens were plugged with wood and machined perpendicular to the column axis. The models were tested in an Instron testing machine,
which provided automated plotting of load and compressive strain.
With increasing compression, local buckles appeared at an early stage. Then, as
the amplitude of the buckles grew, a gradual decrease in stiffness occurred and
noticeable curvature of the column corners appeared (see Figure 6.21a). Collapse
was accompanied by a sudden drop in load and by the appearance of two crinkles, either in opposite or adjacent corners of the specimens (see Figure 6.21b).
Upon unloading, the specimens jumped back to the original buckled conguration,
at a somewhat lower strain, and demonstrated elastic behavior (see Figure 6.22).
Four nominally identical specimens were tested to investigate experimental reproducibility. Their overall stress-strain curves shown in Figure 6.22 indeed demonstrated excellent reproducibility. Experiments with columns of different length
showed that the stiffening effect of the end supports (not accounted for in the
analysis), which effectively clamp and locally stiffen the column with the wooden
plugs, caused a signicant length dependence of the test results. The silicone
rubber modeling indeed served well to exhibit the large deection of the crinkly
Before leaving the topic of crippling collapse of columns, it may be appropriate
to mention a related phenomenon, web crippling, which occurs in thin-walled
beams subjected to concentrated or patch loads and which is discussed in Chapter 8.


Thin-Walled Cold-Formed and Welded Columns

Though not directly related to crippling, the buckling and postbuckling behavior of
thin-walled cold-formed and welded columns has some characteristics that make
their discussion appropriate here.
As already mentioned in Chapter 1 and in Sub-section 6.2.3, there has been a
signicant increase in the use of thin-walled cold-formed and welded columns
in the last decade. This has been accompanied by an extensive research effort.
For the light, thin-web welded columns, the focus was on the residual stress


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.21

Southampton University silicone rubber columns (square tubes) demonstrating

crinkly collapse (from [6.32]): (a) noticeable curvature at corners, (b) appearance
of corner crinkles, (c) crinkly-cum-overall buckling

patterns (see for example [1.30]), which were found to be different and larger than
those commonly experienced with thick-walled or rolled sections. These signicant
residual stresses and the early local plate buckling of anges and webs resulted in
a nonlinear behavior of the columns, that required comprehensive tests in order to
provide design data. Similar nonlinear behavior also occurred in thin-walled coldformed columns due to early plate buckling, and therefore they too warranted

Crippling Strength

Figure 6.22


Southampton University silicone rubber columns (square tubes) demonstrating

crinkly collapse overall stress-strain curves of four nominally identical specimens, showing the experimental reproducibility (from [6.29])

extensive experiments (see for example [6.33] [6.35]). It may be pointed out
that in the more recent tests careful geometrical imperfection measurements were
performed on all specimens, both in cold-formed and welded columns, and the
effect of these imperfections was then evaluated (see for example [6.35]).
For short columns, these tests resembled the crippling tests (discussed in Subsection 6.2.3) and the observed interactive buckling failures involved only local
buckling and overall bending modes. For longer columns, interaction with torsional
buckling modes is also possible (see for example [6.36]), and the long column
tests are therefore discussed separately in the next section, in connection with
torsional-exural buckling.
It may also be mentioned that in the last two decades numerical simulations,
which take into account the real geometrical imperfections and material inhomogeneities, have often been employed to supplement the results obtained from
column buckling tests, in order to reduce the experimental work needed for determination of buckling curves and design data. Such numerical simulations have,
for example, been used for rolled high strength steel round tubes and rectangular
tubes built-up from welded cold-formed high strength steel channels in a joint study
carried out at Milan Polytechnic and Liege University in the late seventies [6.37].
This numerical simulation could, however, not be applied to the cold-formed square
tubes of the same program, since their residual stresses were biaxial (and rather
difcult to measure), whereas the numerical simulation took into account only
uniaxial residual stresses. Many more tests were therefore required for the buckling strength data of these cold-formed square tubes. Note that the investigators


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

could take advantage of numerical simulation in their column buckling experiments, only when the basic observed phenomena were well dened and amenable
to precise measurement.
As an example of a typical modern laboratory type setup for compression tests
on small thin-walled columns, that was recently used for experiments on coldformed sections at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland [6.38], is
now discussed. These tests were carried out under carefully controlled loading and
boundary conditions, in order to accurately assess the failure predictions of the
recent British code for cold-formed steel sections, BS 5950 Part 5, and to examine
other aspects of column behavior, such as growth and shape of local buckling and
postbuckling deformations.
Uniform compression of all the plate elements of the column was considered to
be of particular importance. The two generally used approaches, loading through
at parallel platens or through platens attached to ball joints, were therefore thought
to be insufcient. With at parallel platens any out-of-atness or skew of the specimen ends could result, because of the very small end displacements involved,
in substantial load concentrations on a single element of the section or even at
a single location. With platens attached to ball joints, they could align to eliminate load concentration, but the compression might still be nonuniform due to the
wandering centroid phenomenon. Hence the Strathclyde University test setup
was designed to overcome these loading uniformity problems.
The relatively simple test rig, shown in Figure. 6.23, was built to be used on
a Tinius Olsen testing machine. It consisted of two platens, a top platen (2 in.
Figure. 6.23) attached to the crosshead of the testing machine, and a bottom one
(5) mounted on a ball table (7), which in turn was placed on the Tinius Olsen
platform (8). Four leveling jacks (6) were provided for holding the bottom platen
in position during the tests. For adjustment of the test rig prior to testing, the
platens were connected by adjustable screw tie rods (not shown in the gure),
which were then removed for the actual experiment.
The procedure was as follows: First the top platen, the test specimen and the
bottom of the platen were joined and held in place using the adjustable tie rods.
This assembly was then placed on the ball table (7), positioned on the platform of
the testing machine (8) and secured to the machine crosshead (1). A small preload
was applied and the leveling jacks (6) were adjusted to give equal bearing forces at
the support. The jacks were then locked in position, ensuring that the specimen was
properly seated and that the compression would be uniform. Finally the preload
was removed and the tie rods were dismantled.
A deection measuring device (not shown in the gure), consisting of a stiff light
framework, that supported a system of tubular guides along which an LVDT could
move, was attached to the bottom platen. This transducer measured the out-ofplane deection of the plate elements of the column, while another LVDT attached
to the framework measured the position of the deection LVDT across the section.
The deection transducer could be moved across a plate element remotely, with
deections and positions being automatically recorded on an X Y plotter. During
the tests, the displacements were thus measured along the central horizontal line

Crippling Strength

Figure 6.23


Strathclyde University compression tests on thin-walled cold-formed sections test

rig assembly (from [6.38]): 1. Tinius Olsen cross head 2. top platen 3. end plate
4. test specimen 5. bottom platen 6. leveling jack 7. ball table 8. Tinius Olsen
platform 9. end plate glued to specimen with Araldite glue

of the main plate element (except in two specimens where this line coincided with
the nodal line). Load-displacement records were taken with the usual test machine
equipment. Additional dial gages measured the relative displacement of top and
bottom platens, to check the uniformity of compression. Centrally located pairs
of strain gages were attached to the main plate of four of the six specimens, for
experimental determination of the critical loads. On one specimen, additional four
pairs of strain gages were added at the section corners to examine the uniformity
of strains over the cross-section. More extensive application of strain gages would
have probably enhanced the test results, as would have further LVDT measurements
along additional horizontal lines.
The six specimens were made from sheet steel by cold-forming on a brake press.
All the specimens were manufactured from the same sheet of steel and therefore
had practically the same thickness and material properties. Though the (b/t) ratios
of their main plate elements were nearly identical b/t D 153 155, each column
section was different, from C channel to lipped channel, trapezoidal channel and


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

one lipped channel closed by a plate spot welded to its lips. Duplication or triplication of each shape would have probably given more weight to the experimental
In order to prevent lateral movement of the loaded ends of the specimens during
the tests, while offering only little restraint to out-of-plane rotation of the plate
elements, these aluminum end plates were glued to both ends of the columns
with Araldite glue, as shown in Figure 6.23 (Section BB). Since the glue prevents
translation of the specimen ends, while permitting angular movement of the plate
elements, the ends were considered to be a close approximation to simple supports.
The failure load predictions of BS 5950 Part 5 were found to be in good agreement with experimental results. All the tests continued far into the plastic unloading
One should note that though relatively simple, this test rig provided the means
for the required controlled uniform compression loading.


Torsional-Flexural and Distortional Buckling

Torsional Buckling

Whereas crippling relates to the collapse behavior of very short thin-walled

columns, torsional buckling is a possible mode of buckling and failure for thinwalled columns of medium length, whose torsional stiffness is relatively low, as
already pointed out in Section 2.1.3 of Chapter 2.
The phenomenon of torsional buckling and torsional-exural buckling of
columns was recognized in the twenties, when the rst all-metal airplanes were
designed and built. Open-section columns, such as channels, zees or angles, were
then widely used in aircraft design, since they were easily connected and could be
conveniently inspected, but due to their small torsional rigidity they were prone
to torsional failure. Wagner in Germany was the rst to present in 1929 a theory
for arbitrary thin-walled sections [6.39]. His work was further developed in 1937
by Kappus in Germany [6.40] and by Lundquist and Fligg in the US [6.41]. The
problem was extensively studied in the thirties and forties by many investigators
(see for example [6.42] [6.44]), and since the forties and fties it has been an
important topic in most relevant text books (see for example [2.1], [2.3], [4.18],
[4.19], [6.45] [6.47]).


Torsional-Flexural Buckling Tests

The earliest experimental study of torsional buckling was that carried out in 1934
by Wagner and Pretschner on plain and anged aluminum alloy angles [6.48].
Signicant experimental data on torsional buckling was also provided by a series
of tests on about 500 equal angle section steel and aluminum alloy columns, made
by Kollbrunner in Zurich in 1935.

Torsional-Flexural and Distortional Buckling


Another series of tests on 33 aluminum alloy channels, carried out for NACA
by Niles at Stanford University in the late thirties ([6.50], or see [6.45], pp. 316,
351 355), set the pattern for torsional buckling experiments on columns in the
following decades. The columns were loaded by an hydraulic jack in a universal
testing machine, through special sophisticated end ttings. These were designed
to apply the resultant load through the centroids of the end cross-sections, while
permitting free warping of the three main elements of the column cross-section,
except at their mid-points. This was achieved by a system of three knife edges,
one acting at the mid-point of each of the three elements, which supported three
bearing blocks, beveled to allow a 5 degree uninterfered rotation about the knife
edge, which thus ensured the desired free warping.
Rotations and translations of cross-sections were measured with the aid of
antennas, constructed from round steel rods attached at different heights in the
center of the back of the specimens (see Figure 6.24). As shown in the gure,
the movement of each antenna (1) was determined by measuring the distances
from reference points (2) about 0.5 inch from the end of each of its arms to xed
reference points (3) on the wooden scaffolding (4). As can be seen, the distances
between the reference points were measured by ordinary vernier calipers (5) with
special lozenge-shaped attachments (6) on their jaws. Though rather unsophisticated (today probably LVDTs or optical means would have been employed), the
accuracy of the rotation measurements was quite good, with an error of less than
0.04 degrees, but the measurements of the translational movements of the crosssections were less satisfactory. The change in length of the specimens under load

Figure 6.24

Stanford University experiments of torsional column failure: antennas for

indication of rotation of cross sections and the positioning of calipers for
measurement of distances from reference points on the scaffolding (from [6.50]):
1. antenna, 2. reference point, 3. xed reference point, 4. wooden scaffolding,
5. vernier caliper, 6. lozenge-shaped attachment


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

was measured by dial gages attached to the end ttings, as was and still is customary
in many tests.
A very detailed description of the test procedure was presented, including
enumeration of checks to reduce the human errors, as well as a detailed description
of the calibration of the Bourdon pressure gage of the jack for load measurements.
The precision of the results was also carefully examined. These discussions
presenting important experimental details are worth reading even today.
The critical (failure) loads for all the columns are plotted in Figure 6.25 against
their length, and are compared with theoretical predictions based on the analysis of
Lundquist and Fligg [6.41], shown as curve Pth . The Euler load PE , also depicted
in the gure, emphasizes the importance of torsional buckling as a failure mode
that can result in much lower critical loads. It may be noticed that for lengths
in excess of 24 in., when failure is by torsional buckling, the agreement between
prediction and experiment is very good.
It may be noted that, contrary to the sophisticated free warping ends of the
Stanford University tests [6.50], most other torsional or torsional-exural buckling
experiments of the forties mentioned below, used simpler at ends. For example
in Ramberg and Levys tests [6.54], the ends of their 125 extrusions were ground
at and perpendicular to the axis and the specimens were compressed in a testing
machine between ground steel blocks. To obtain uniform loading, a plaster of
Paris cap was placed between the top steel block and the head of testing machine.

Figure 6.25

Stanford University experiments of torsional column failure: critical loads against

length comparison of experimental buckling loads with theoretical prediction Pth
and Euler loads PE (from [6.50])

Torsional-Flexural and Distortional Buckling


The distribution of strain was measured with Tuckerman mechanical strain gages
(this was before electric strain gages were available) and when at low loads strain
divergences exceeded 10 percent, the column was reground and retested. The twist
was measured only at the center of the specimen, but in some of the tests quite
accurately, by optically measuring the relative rotation of two prisms with an
In the late thirties and forties further extensive experiments were carried out
to lend support to the theory and design methods for torsional and exuraltorsional buckling of columns and stringers attached to sheets, primarily for aircraft
structures. For example, at NACA and at the US National Bureau of Standards,
aluminum-alloy panels stiffened by Z-, S-, C- and U-section stiffeners were tested
([4.24], [6.51] and [6.52]), as well as similar panels stiffened by bulb angles [6.53].
Later many tests were also performed on extruded sections made of aluminum
and magnesium alloy [6.54], which included also inelastic buckling. At about
the same time, a series of tests on folded mild steel and aluminum alloy angle
section columns, was carried out at Battersea Polytechnic, London [6.55], for civil
engineering applications.
By the fties, the aeronautical engineers seemed to have a sufcient data base
for design against torsional and torsional-exural buckling. But the growing use
of thin-walled open sections as load carrying structural members in other elds of
engineering, in the following decades, motivated extensive studies of torsional
and torsional-exural buckling, primarily by civil engineers (see for example
[6.56] [6.58]). As a typical example of the experimental investigations involved,
one can consider the series of tests on columns with different cross-sections
performed at Cornell University in the mid-sixties [6.59], or the tests on buckling
of steel angle and tee struts, carried out a few years later at the University of
Windsor in Ontario, Canada, [6.60].
The Cornell experiments (see [6.59]) included columns with lipped and plain
angles, channels and hat sections, all tested with fully restrained ends. Fixed ends
were preferred at Cornell, to avoid the complex end tting required for accurate
simple supports. The test setup is shown in Figure 6.26. The ends of the test
column, to which steel end plates were welded was set in hydrostone (a type of
quick-setting cement), which served two distinct purposes. While it was wet and
plastic, the column could be tilted and brought into vertical alignment. After it had
dried and hardened the hydrostone served as a means of evenly distributing the
load from the testing machine to the specimen. At Cornell at the time, any further
renement in the alignment procedure was considered superuous, in view of the
shape imperfections inherent in any cold-formed member. Today, the imperfections
would be measured and their effect be compensated by some means of adjustment
of the alignment during the test.
The twist and lateral displacements of the column tested were measured by a
simple set of pointers, scales and two transit theodolites, which provided fairly
accurate measurements of twist and local distortion.
One may note that the Southwell plots (discussed in detail in Chapter 4,
Section 4) employed here, again yielded good agreement between experimentally


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.26

Cornell University torsional-exural buckling tests on at end steel columns:

test setup, schematic (from [6.59]). The hydrostone assists alignment while wet
and plastic, and helps to even load distribution after hardening

observed buckling loads and those predicted by linear theory. The plain and lipped
equal-legged angles and hat section columns had a stable postbuckling curve and
failed only at loads about 15 percent above the theoretical buckling load. This
postbuckling strength was attributed to the axial membrane stresses caused by the
large twisting deformations (20 40 degrees at the center of the column).
The Windsor tests set out to eliminate the limitations of the then current US AISC
and Canadian CSA specications, which did not take torsional-exural buckling
into account. The tests included 72 angle struts with both hinged and xed end
conditions, and 27 T-sections with hinged ends.
In order to minimize end effects, the specimens were made as long as possible,
consistent with required slenderness ratios (22 to 114) and the capacity of the
available testing equipment. The angle struts were about 4 ft. (1.2 m) long and the
T-section struts 4 7 ft. (1.2 2.1 m). The test pieces were fabricated by regular
production processes (in line with the as fabricated specimen philosophy that
aims at providing reliable empirical data that can be used for design), and three
specimens of each conguration were tested.

Torsional-Flexural and Distortional Buckling


The test setup was a regular horizontal test frame, comprising two nearly 10 ft.
(3 m) long 12 in. channels placed back to back, 14 in. (356 mm) apart, and bolted
to a 1/4 in. (6.35 mm) thick steel plate at the bottom, with three batten plates at the
top. The load was applied by a 120 kip (534 kN) capacity hydraulic jack through
a at precalibrated load cell. Some columns required a larger, 200 kip (890 kN)
capacity jack. In placing the specimens in position, shims were used to ensure truly
axial load, and friction was minimized by lubricating the contact surfaces. Deections were measured at quarter points of the column with dial gages mounted on a
separate rigid frame. For a few tests on the xed-end angle struts, the deections
were also measured at the ends to ensure that there was no signicant end rotation.
The critical loads were determined by the top-of-the-knee method, developed
at NACA in the mid-forties for plates and discussed in Chapter 8, Section 8.3
(see Figure 8.57). There was good agreement between the experimental buckling
stresses and the theoretical ones, with an (Pexp /Pth ) range of 0.95 1.19 and an
average ratio of 1.05 with a standard deviation of 0.06. In the majority of cases
the actual modes of failure were also predicted correctly. Nearly all the single
angles failed by exural buckling, more than half of the double angles failed by
torsional-exural buckling with the remainder divided between inelastic exural
or plate buckling, and all the T-struts failed by torsional-exural buckling. Typical
torsional-exural failures of double angles are shown in Figure 6.27 (reproduced

Figure 6.27

University of Windsor torsional-exural buckling tests: typical torsional-exural

failures of double angles (from [6.60])


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

from [6.60]). Practically always, the three specimens of each conguration failed
in the same mode. Calculations showed signicant discrepancies between the theoretical predictions (that were veried by the tests) and those of the AISC and CSA
specications, justifying their possible modication.
There have been many other experimental investigations of torsional-exural
buckling of open section thin-walled columns in the last decades, as is evident for
example in the comprehensive 1982 review on buckling of angles by Kennedy and
Madugula [6.61]. The results of these studies have been incorporated in the various
design recomendations for thin-walled columns, as for example in Chapter 13 of the
SSRC Guide [6.3] or the ECCS Recommendations for Steel Constructions [6.5].
Before leaving the topic of torsional-exural buckling, it may be of interest to
mention that the widely discussed 1978 collapse of the space-truss roof of the
Hartford Coliseum in the USA (see for example [6.62] or [6.63]) was originally
attributed to torsional buckling failure of its columns, with a four equal leg angle
cruciform cross-section. The disagreements about the cause of this collapse motivated a review of the buckling analysis of four angle cruciform columns [6.64],
which however lacks experimental verication.


Distortional Buckling

The columns of industrial steel rack structures are usually cold-formed open
sections, most commonly thin-walled lipped channels. In experiments on these
channel columns, another failing mode distortional buckling was observed in
addition to exural-torsional or local (plate) buckling (see [6.65] and [6.66]).
The distortional mode (sometimes called also local-torsional mode) is shown in
Figure 6.28. It involves a rotation of the ange and lip combinations (A), about the
ange/web junctions (B). The stiffness of the web element of the channel (C, often
called front face in rack columns), provides a restraint to this rotation, which
depends upon the slenderness of the web and the destabilization of the web caused
by the compressive stress present. Note that the distortional mode shown in the
gure does not involve any rotation of the whole cross-section which characterizes
torsional buckling.
The more recent series of tests [6.66] included 68 thin-walled steel channel
columns of four different section geometries, with dimensions commonly used in

Figure 6.28

Distortional mode of lipped channel columns (from


Torsional-Flexural and Distortional Buckling


the rack industry, and made of three different steels (see Figure 6.29). A nite
strip elastic buckling analysis indicated that the intermediate slenderness columns
of all four sections would fail mainly in the distortional mode, whereas the longest
specimens would fail by exural-torsional buckling and the shortest ones by local
buckling. These buckling modes were indeed conrmed in the tests. The specimen
lengths ranged from 0.3 in. to 1.9 in. Their ends were milled to provide at loading
The experiments were performed in a 250 kN capacity Instron TT-KM testing
machine, except for the thick short columns which were tested in a 2000 kN
capacity Avery testing machine. All specimens were tested with xed ends. The
load was applied at the top end, through a rigid end platen xed against rotation,
whereas the bottom end rested on a spherical bearing, which was restrained from
rotation about both horizontal axes and the vertical axis during the test (although
free to move for adjustments prior to loading). The purpose of the spherical bearing
was to ensure parallel ends prior to loading, in order to promote uniform loading
across the sections. Two of the specimens had 11 pairs of strain gages attached
at the mid-height position, to measure the stress distribution during loading, and

Figure 6.29

University of Sydney distortional buckling experiments on channel columns: test

sections (from [6.66]). Typical dimensions: t D 1.6 2.4 mm, bw D 76 85 mm,
bf or b1 D 30 80 mm: (a) simple lipped channel, (b) rack column upright,
(c) rack column upright with additional lip stiffeners, (d) hat


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.30

University of Sydney distortional buckling experiments on channel columns:

distortional buckling modes of test specimens (courtesy of Prof. G.J. Hancock)

it was indeed found fairly uniform till 0.85 0.95 of the maximum load. Typical
distortional buckling modes obtained in the tests are shown in Figure 6.30. More
recent experimental studies on distortional buckling by Hancock and his students
at the University of Sydney can be found in [6.176] and [6.177].


Lateral Buckling of Beams

Lateral instability of beams

Slender or thin-walled beams, subjected to bending loads in the plane of their

greatest exural rigidity, can buckle by combined twist and lateral bending,

Lateral Buckling of Beams


called lateral buckling or lateral instability, as discussed earlier in Chapter 2,

Section 2.1.6. Due to the low torsional and lateral exural stiffness of slender
beams, with narrow rectangular sections, I-sections with narrow anges or thinwalled open sections, their cross-sections in the center of the beam rotate and
deect laterally, as in torsional-exural instability caused by axial compression.
The moment of inertia in the plane of bending therefore decreases till the reduced
bending stiffness together with the torsional stiffness are insufcient to resist the
bending loads, leading to lateral buckling failure.
The phenomenon of lateral buckling was already known in the last decades of
the 19th century and had been observed in some tests on wrought iron and mild
steel beams (see for example [6.67]), but the rst rigorous theoretical analyses
were those published simultaneously in 1899 by Prandtl [4.5] and Michell [6.68].
Extensive theoretical and experimental studies continued in the rst half of this
century, motivated both by civil and aeronautical engineering applications (see for
example, [6.69] [6.78], [9.45], Volume 2, and Lees 1960 review [6.79]).


Prandtls Lateral Buckling Experiments

Prandtls theoretical analysis [4.5] was accompanied by careful experiments. These

1899 tests show, as do the 1910 von Karman experiments discussed in Chapter 4,
the methodology of careful buckling experiments, with awareness of the essential
elements of a successful test already in the planning stage, as well as a realization
of many important factors that have worried experimenters in the 20th century and
even today still present pitfalls to the experimentalist.
Consider an example of Prandtls reasoning: Motivated by the possible use of
vibrations for determination of the stability of the beam, Prandtl sets out to minimize friction in his test setup. He therefore chose a type of loading that promised the
smallest friction, a cantilever loaded by weights at the free ends. Then he demanded
very high rigidity of his clamping arrangement, but realized that it could not be
completely achieved in practice, since some small movements remained that gave
rise to small frictions, which were noticeable near the critical load in spite of their
small magnitude. Prandtl reported that these frictions played many tricks in his
early tests. They were found to be primarily due to the twisting of the cross-sections
during torsional displacements, that extended into the clamping block and resulted
in a residual torsional deformation at the root. He suggested that the incomplete
clamping could be compensated by appropriately increasing the effective length of
the beam, at least for elastic buckling.
Or consider the simple system of loading and of monitoring the deections of
the free end. As shown in Figure 6.31, reproduced from Prandtls thesis, a scale
pan suspended from a curved bar (b), which rested on a knife edge, applied the
load and thus ensured that it was acting in the midplane of the beam. The position
of the free end of the beam at any moment was indicated by marks made on a
graph paper attached to a wooden plate by the two sharp corners S. The wooden
plate, which was moved by hand on three guides, parallel to the initial midplane of
the beam, was presented against the sharp corners to make the marks. From these


Columns, Beams and Frameworks




3 mm

Figure 6.31

Prandtls 1899 lateral buckling experiments: loading and deection monitoring of

free end of cantilever beam (from [4.5])

marks the angle of twist could be easily found, since the distance between the
two corners was known. In order to follow the deections of the free end as they
became large, the wooden plate sat on small metal knife edges that permitted it to
tilt as required. With this simple system Prandtl obtained consistent prebuckling
and initial postbuckling records and from them the buckling load.


Other Early Lateral Buckling Tests

Michell, in his 1899 paper [6.68], also included an experimental verication, or as

he put it made the attempt to verify one or two of the results given by the theory.
As a test beam he used a 4 ft long engineers steel straight-edge, from which the
feathered edge was removed by planing.
The elastic constants of the steel were determined by bending and twisting the
specimen itself. The bending deections were measured by a screw-micrometer,
with an error of about 0.05 percent. The angles of twist were determined by setting
a small mirror xed to the vertical circle of a theodolite normal to a line of sight
attached to the specimen, with an average error of 0.17 percent.
In order to eliminate the effects of the weight of the specimen, counterpoises
(counterbalancing weights) were used to apply forces directed vertically upwards
at (11) points 10 cms. apart along the axis, each force being equal to the weight
of 10 cms. of the specimen. These forces, as well as the test loads, were applied
by means of steel hooks tting in small double-counter-sunk holes drilled through
the specimen.
The specimen was adjusted before each experiment so that no lateral deection
occurred with a moderate load. The test-load was then gradually increased until the
point of application would remain at rest in contact with either of two stops placed

Lateral Buckling of Beams


about 1 cm on each side of the initial position, this being considered the critical
load. Since a marked sideways movement was observed in every case already with
test-loads 1 or 2 percent less than the critical one (the minimal load that would
maintain a deection to either side), the experimental load was expected to be
slightly in excess of the true one.
The specimen was tested as a cantilever (of 110 cms net length) in four positions, being twice inverted and once reversed end for end. The mean measured
load was 2.9 percent above the calculated one. The specimen was then tested as a
simply supported beam with a single central load, with the beam being inverted for
the second test. The mean experimental buckling load was found to be 0.2 percent
less than the calculated one. Finally, as a check on the methods and apparatus
the specimen was tested as an Euler column, yielding a buckling load 2.2 percent
above the theoretical one. Michell concluded that the chief source of error in
the experiments was the want of uniformity in the thickness of the specimen
(being C1.4 to 1.6 percent of the mean), since the torsional and lateral bending
stiffnesses varied as the cube of the thickness.
One should note the relatively simple, yet accurate, test setup, the careful experimental procedure and the lucid discussion of measurements and results of these
experiments, carried out nearly a century ago, which warrant their detailed presentation even today and justify the verbatim quotation of some paragraphs of Michells
The early civil engineering oriented lateral buckling investigations dealt primarily
with deep I-beams subjected to transverse loading. One of the most important of
these was the test series of 31 full size steel I-beams, carried out by Marburg at
the University of Pennsylvania in 1909 [6.69]. The beams were of 15 in., 24 in.
and 30 in. depth and of three shapes: American Standard I-beams, I-beams with
specially wide anges rolled by the Bethlehem Steel Company, and Bethlehem
broad-anged girder beams. The beams were tested with a minimum of lateral
support and in many cases failure was clearly by lateral buckling.
The next comprehensive investigation was performed by Moore at the University
of Illinois in 1910 1913 and included 40 full size I-beams [6.71]. Moore also
tabulated and assessed the available earlier test results. Moores tests were nearly
all made on a four-screw 200 000 lb Olsen testing machine with a long table for
beam tests. The method used for supporting unrestrained beams and preserving
freedom in respect to sidewise buckling (the term used for lateral buckling) is
shown in Figure 6.32. The unrestrained test beam in the gure rested on the long
weighing table of the testing machine via a sphere and plate bearing at one end
and a rocker bearing at the other end. The load was applied via sphere and plate
bearings and a roller bearing, at about 1/3 and 2/3 the span, with the rocker
and roller bearings permitting axial displacement. In two of the test series, the Ibeams were restrained against end twisting, by heavy angles at the ends, or against
sidewise buckling by fastening two beams together along their compression anges
with batten plates.
Moores Illinois experiments provided considerable insight into the phenomenon
of lateral buckling, about which he stated, for example, that the resistance of a


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.32

University of Illinois 1913 lateral buckling experiments: test setup showing

method of support and loading which permits unrestrained lateral buckling (from

beam against buckling depends on the stiffness of the beam and on the amount
of torsional xity of the bearings. They also yielded substantial empirical design
data and recommendations, whose inuence was felt in many countries for decades
(see for example [6.75]).
Aeronautical engineers encountered lateral buckling in the twenties, when
new airfoil sections permitted the use of deeper spars. At MIT in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, a small series of tests on deep spruce spars, with depth to breadth
ratios of 2.5 17, were therefore performed in 1926 for NACA [6.74]. In these tests,
beyond a critical span or depth-breadth ratio, failures by lateral collapse occurred,
but at stresses below the elastic limit of the material, making repeated tests on a
single specimen possible.
A decade later, the lack of experimental results motivated NACA to sponsor
extensive tests on deep rectangular aluminum beams at the Aluminum Company of
America Research Laboratories [6.76]. The investigators, Dumont and Hill, pointed
out that the experiments were necessary to verify the apparently rigorous theoretical
elastic solution, in order to increase the condence in it; but also to provide data
for an empirical extension of the elastic analysis to the plastic regime (for which
at the time no analytical solutions existed).
The study covered 26 deep rectangular beams, including also two of hollow
sections. The rectangular bars were tested in pairs, each pair being securely bolted
to channel spreaders, as can be seen in Figure 6.33, which shows the arrangements
of the ends. The spreaders held the ends of the bars vertically and prevented lateral
deections at the ends. The central transverse load was applied via a loading beam
and rollers, and subjected the beams to a constant bending moment in their vertical
planes. The ends of the test beam pair rested on perpendicular stub I-beams, which
were attached to the base table, made of a pair of heavy channel beams.
In the following years, Dumont and Hill carried out further lateral buckling
experiments at ALCOA, for example a series of tests on equal-anged AluminumAlloy I-beams [6.77]. The specimens were extruded 27 ST aluminum alloy, relatively light I-beams. They were again tested in pairs in a 40 000 lb. capacity Amsler

Lateral Buckling of Beams

Figure 6.33


ALCOA lateral buckling experiments of deep rectangular aluminum beams:

loading arrangement for a pair of specimens (from [6.76])

testing machine. The test setup was similar to that shown in Figure 6.33, except
that here the ends of each pair of beams were laterally restrained by means of relatively rigid end restraining frames. The lighter beams and heavy end frames were
to achieve a high degree of end xity, but complete lateral restraint of the ends of
the beams was not attained. Calculations based on the experimentally determined
critical stress indicated that the degree of end xity varied between 96 percent for
the longest specimens to 81 percent for the shortest ones. It may be pointed out
that the difculty to obtain complete end xity, found in these tests, has since often
troubled experimenters in many types of test setups for various structural elements.
One should also note, that the Southwell method for determination of the critical loads, presented in Sections 4.5 and 4.6 of Chapter 4, was applied here, very
successfully, for the rst time to lateral buckling.


Recent Lateral Buckling Investigations

By the middle of the century, lateral buckling had been recognized as an important
factor in the design of many types of structures. In the last decades it became
the subject of many studies, in particular on the inuences of the conditions of
loading, end conditions and lateral restraint, of monosymmetry and of inelastic
buckling (see for example the reviews of Lee, Galambos, Trahair and Nethercot,
[6.79] [6.81] and [2.19] respectively). Today, lateral buckling also occupies a
signicant chapter in texts on stability or design of structures (for example, [2.1],
[2.3], [4.11], [4.19], [6.47] and [6.82]). It has, however, also been realized that, due
to the different types of imperfections affecting the lateral buckling behavior, which
are not completely accounted for in the analyses, comprehensive experimental
data is required for reliable design methods. Extensive experimental studies have
therefore been carried out in the seventies and eighties (see for example the review


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

of Nethercot and Trahair [6.83], or of Fukumoto and Kubo [6.84]), many of them
focused on the effects of local concentrated loads.
A typical example of these are the lateral buckling tests carried out by
Fukumoto and his co-workers at Nagoya University in Japan in the early
eighties ([6.85] [6.87]). One of the series of experiments, that on lateral buckling
of welded continuous beams [6.87] is discussed in detail. The purpose of this study
was to determine the effect of an adjacent nonloaded span L2 on the lateral buckling
strength and deformation of the critical loaded span L1 (see Figure 6.34). Twentyone two-span continuous welded beams were tested under a midspan concentrated
load, as shown in the gure. Their buckling behavior was compared with that of
similar simple welded beams tested earlier ([6.85] and [6.86]), as well as with
calculated results.
The 21 mild steel beams had a nominal identical cross-section I-250 100
6 8 mm, as shown in Figure 6.34, which was also identical to that of the earlier
simple welded beams. They were treated in seven groups of three, each group
having a different span length (3.5 5.5 m), with span ratios (L2 /L1 ) varying from
0.287 to 0.909. The beams were built-up from anges and webs, made from
ame-cut plates, with single-run welds. A diagram of the test setup is shown in
Figure 6.35. The loaded span L1 was supported on simple supports and the continuous extension L2 had a plate welded to its end, which was bolted with 18 bolts
to a xed support C. The test beams were restrained at the supports A and B
against twisting about the longitudinal axis and lateral movement, but were free to
warp at support A. Longitudinal displacement was free at both A and B, whereas
support C provided xed-end conditions vertically, laterally and torsionally. The
concentrated load was applied vertically at midspan of AB, through a Lehigh-type
gravitational load simulator, designed to eliminate any restraining effects of the
applied load. This gravity load simulator is discussed in Section 6.6.2 (see also
[6.118] or [6.120]).

Figure 6.34

Nagoya University lateral buckling tests on two-span continuous welded beams:

test specimen and buckling mode (from [6.87])

Lateral Buckling of Beams



Figure 6.35

Nagoya University lateral buckling tests on two-span continuous welded beams:

test setup: (a) diagram of test rig (from [6.87]), (b) view of a test (courtesy of
Prof. Y. Fukumoto)

The points of strain and deection measurements on the specimens are shown in
Figure 6.36. The strain gages are located so as to separate in-plane and out-of-plane
strains and to experimentally yield the inection points in AB. Initial geometrical
imperfections were carefully measured on all the beams and their initial lateral
deections u0 and twist 0 at the centroid are shown in Figure 6.37 (where they
are drawn as if all groups had the same span length). The nondimensionalized
values of the initial lateral crookedness u0 of the continuous beams were found
to be slightly greater than those of the simple one-span beams, whereas the initial
twists were similar.
The mechanical properties of the original plates, from which the beam sections
were ame-cut, were determined from 30 tensile coupon tests. The longitudinal


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.36

Nagoya University lateral buckling tests on two-span continuous welded beams:

measurement points for strains and deections (from [6.87])

Figure 6.37

Nagoya University lateral buckling tests on two-span continuous welded beams:

initial crookedness of test beams, lateral displacement u0 and twist 0 (from

residual stresses were measured by the sectioning method and found to be similar
to those obtained for the earlier simple beams. The curves of load versus measured
vertical strain for four arbitrary test beams were compared with computed values
and found to agree well; indicating that the loading and support conditions were
very close to the designed ones.
In Figure 6.38 (taken from [6.83]) the lateral buckling test results of the continuous welded beams tested by Fukumoto et al. [6.87] are compared with those of
the earlier hot rolled continuous beams studied by Poowannachakai and Trahair
[6.88] and theoretical approximate curves for simply supported hot-rolled beams
with equal end moments. The results are presented in the gure as a nondimensional test strength, the ratio of the failure
 load Pu to the full plastic collapse
load Pp , versus the modied slenderness, Pp /PE , where PE is the elastic buckling transverse load. One can note that the Fukumoto et al. beams were relatively
slender and buckled primarily in the elastic range, where they agreed well with
earlier results. They hardly extended to the inelastic range, where the earlier results
were considerably below the predictions.

Lateral Buckling of Beams

Figure 6.38


Test results for lateral buckling of continuous beams: comparison of hot-rolled

beams [6.88] with welded beams [6.87] and approximate inelastic predictions
(from [6.81])

Another typical example are the lateral buckling experiments carried out by
Yura and his students and co-workers at the University of Texas at Austin in the
seventies and eighties (for example [6.89] [6.92]).
One of the special topics studied at Austin was the lateral buckling of coped
steel beams. In steel construction, beam anges must often be notched out to
provide clearance for the supports when framing beams are at the same elevation
as the main girders, or when the bottom anges of intersecting beams have to be
at the same elevation (see Figure 6.39). Such notches or cutouts are called copes.
They can be at the top, bottom or both anges in combination with different types
of shear connections, as shown in the gure. Since theoretical studies [6.93] had
shown that coped connections could signicantly reduce lateral buckling strength,
and only a few tests with one cope detail had been reported [6.94], a series of
experiments with different copes were carried out [6.92].
A single length of W12 14 section beam was used for six elastic lateraltorsional buckling tests on coped connections. The varying cope details, as shown
in Figure 6.40, were cut successively into the two ends of the beam, and test LTB1
with no cope served as reference. After each test, the beam was either rotated to
connect the other coped end to the stub column, or further coped while in place,
when feasible. Then a new test was performed.
In order to minimize the end restraint, and thus approach a pinned end condition,
12 in. 6 in. and 0.133 in. thick shear end plates were welded onto the test beams
and attached to the supports by four bolts. At each bolt location, two washers
were placed between the end plate and the supporting column, which reduced
the in-plane and lateral-end restraint of the beam. Standard bolt-hole clearances
were used.


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.39

Types of coped beam connections (from [6.91])

The test setup, shown schematically in Figures 6.41 and 6.42, was designed to
apply specied forces to the coped connection to be tested. The beam was loaded
upside down, with a reaction oor and wall system serving as a loading frame. One
coped beam end A was bolted to a heavy stub column, which itself was attached
with large bolts to the vertical reaction wall.
Load was applied upwards to the test beam at B, 114.3 in. (D 2.903 m) from the
face of the end plate, by a 60 ton hydraulic ram via a load cell. The load position
B was chosen so as to produce elastic buckling in the test span AB, while minimizing restraint of the adjacent span. The hydraulic pressure was also monitored
to provide a second measure of the load. A roller assembly (see Figure 6.43) was
placed between the bottom ange of the beam and the ram to permit longitudinal
displacement. A tension load cell was placed at C, 108.9 in. (D 2.766 m) from the
center of the jack B, to measure the reaction. This load cell was connected to the test
beam and the oor beam by a bracket arrangement with pin joints to allow longitudinal displacement also at C. The test beam was supported laterally at the load
and reaction locations, B and C respectively by out-of-plane bracing systems. These
included adjustable brace plates with slotted holes, which prevented lateral movement but permitted vertical movement of the beam, as shown in Figure 6.42 for the
load location B. An additional adjustable lateral stop was placed near the midspan of
the test span (see Figure 6.41) to prevent large lateral movements (beyond 0.75 in.)
that could cause yielding on the compression ange of the test beam.

Lateral Buckling of Beams

Figure 6.40


University of Texas at Austin lateral buckling tests on coped beams: details of

coped connections (from [6.92])

The load applied by the hydraulic jack was determined by the load cell and
veried by two pressure transducers, one linked to a strain indicator and the second
0.025 mm) intervals
connected to an X Y plotter. Six dial gages with 0.001 in. (D
were used to measure the in-plane deection at the coped connection A, at the
load point B and at the reaction C (see Figure 6.43), and an inclinometer with a
0.00003 radian accuracy was used to measure the rotation of the coped connection.
The out-of-plane deection instrumentation consisted of the simple device of a

string stretched parallel to the beam and a scale with graduations to 0.02 in. (D
0.5 mm) placed at eight locations along the compression ange, for measurement
of lateral displacement. A potentiometer was also placed near the center of the test
span for monitoring of the load-lateral-deection response with an X Y plotter. A
180 mm)
inclinometer was also placed near the middle of the test span, 7 in. (D
away from the potentiometer position, to measure the twist of the compression
Prior to the main tests, four connection restraint tests were carried out with
102 cm) long W12 14 beams, identical in section
dead weights on 40 in. (D
and material to the test beams, and with the same size end plate connection to

Figure 6.41 University of Texas at Austin lateral buckling tests on coped beams: (a) schematic of test setup, (b) view of test setup (from [6.92])

Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Lateral Buckling of Beams


Figure 6.42

University of Texas at Austin lateral buckling tests on coped beams: schematic

of loading system and out-of-plane bracing (from [6.91])

Figure 6.43

University of Texas at Austin lateral buckling tests on coped beams: in-plane

deection instrumentation (from [6.91])


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.44

University of Texas at Austin lateral buckling tests on coped beams: out-of-plane

deection instrumentation (from [6.91])

the stub columns. From these preliminary tests, in-plane and out-of-plane moment
rotation curves were found for the connections with and without washers, showing
a much smaller in-plane stiffness (about 2.5 to 3.5 times) with washers, whereas
the out-of-plane rotation curves were almost the same with and without washers,
and about half the stiffness as the in-plane one with washers.
In the test procedure, before applying loads, the rst loading stage data were
taken as the self-weight of the beam, which was supported by the connection to
the stub column and the far end reaction. Then loading was applied in increments
till about 85 percent of the buckling load, determined by the Southwell method in
order to avoid yielding due to large lateral deections.
The test results of the lateral buckling investigation showed indeed that the
reduction of buckling strength due to coping could be very signicant. They also
showed that the end restraints from connections and the restraints from adjacent
spans could signicantly increase the buckling strength of coped beams, especially
for large copes.
The Southwell method, employed here and discussed in Chapter 4, Sections 4.5
and 4.6, usually yields a very good estimate of the experimental buckling load of
columns or beams without testing them to failure, by plotting the measured outof-plane deformation divided by the measured load versus that deformation. Two
typical Southwell plots for Test LTB4 are presented in Figure 6.45, (a) using the
measured lateral deections, and (b) using the measured twists. The buckling load
Pcr , determined by a straight line passing through the data points (here, using the
least square method), was nearly the same for lateral deection and twist. However,
when the coped depth increased, localized distortion of the coped region affected
the ange twist data and hence the lateral deection data was preferred here for
the analysis of the test results.

Lateral Buckling of Beams

Figure 6.45


University of Texas at Austin lateral buckling tests on coped beams: typical Southwell plots, for Test LTB4, (from [6.91]): (a) employing lateral deection data,
(b) using ange rotation data

In a typical test, one would plot the data as the load was gradually increased,
and (after disregarding the unreliable initial data points) would obtain estimates
for the buckling load during the test, in real time. One could therefore plan
where to terminate the experiment to remain non-destructive, even without good
theoretical predictions, at least in the case of columns, beams or frames. As pointed
out in Chapter 4, for reliable Southwell estimates the test load should approach
the buckling load, at least reach 80 85 percent of it. In the University of Texas
tests on coped beams the Pmax reached at least 87 percent of Pcr yielding accurate
estimates of Pcr .
One may note that Cheng and Yura also used other plotting techniques in their
work: the 1938 Lundquist plot [4.25] discussed in Chapter 4, and the method
proposed by Meck in 1977 [6.95]. However, all three methods yielded almost the
same results, and therefore the University of Texas coped beam lateral buckling
tests represent a good example of reconrming the applicability and usefulness
of the Southwell method. Yura and his co-workers employed Southwell plots
successfully also in other studies (see for example [6.89], [6.90] and [6.96]).


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

It may be mentioned here that for beams another plot (which is essentially
also an adaptation of the Southwell plot) has been extensively used, the Massey
plot ([6.97] or [4.41]), and other methods have been proposed (see for example
[6.95] [6.99]). It appears, however, that the Southwell method is preferable.


Interactive Buckling in Columns and Beams

Mode Interaction and Early Studies

In Section 2.14 of Chapter 2, the importance of mode interaction, or modal

coupling, which can signicantly reduce the collapse load of a built-up structure,
was demonstrated with the aid of van der Neuts analysis of an idealized thin-walled
column [2.17].
The primary mode interaction for columns is that between the overall column
buckling (Euler buckling) in one half wave and the local plate buckling in shorter
waves. It was rst studied by Bijlaard and Fisher at Cornell University in the early
fties under the sponsorship of NACA, [6.100] and [6.101], and included also tests
on aluminum alloy drawn square tubes and extruded H-sections. Though carried
out over four decades ago, these Cornell experiments exhibited some ideas and
techniques, which were reported in detail, and are worth considering even today.
The specimens were carefully measured for deviations from atness, straightness, squareness, twist and thickness variations, which were generally found to
be well within tolerable limits. The compressive stress-strain characteristics of the
square tubes were measured directly on 8 in. long square tube specimens whose
walls were supported to prevent their premature local buckling. The walls were
supported by blocking inside and outside, such that unsupported portions of wall
had a width to thickness ratio b/t < 12.5.
The external blocking arrangement consisted of three square clamping frames,
which held four vertical steel supporting blocks, one against each face of tube. For
internal blocking, a special octagonal expanding xture operable from the ends of
the specimens was used, which consisted of two semi-octagonal supporting blocks
and a screw driven wedge system. Since the range of expansion was about 1/4 in.,
auxiliary blocks had to be used for the larger tubes.
To prepare for a stress-strain test, the internal expander, slightly shorter than
the specimen, was inserted rst with the necessary auxiliary blocking and centered
on the length of the tube. All block surfaces contacting the tube were lubricated
to avoid frictional restraint. Next the external blocking was applied. The steel
supporting blocks, also lubricated, were centered vertically and laterally, while
being supported on sponge-rubber pads and held in place by the center square
clamping frame. All blocking was then drawn up to the tube, a light seating load
was applied and the other two square clamping frames set in place. The appropriate
clamping pressure, selected in preliminary tests, was then applied.
Strains were measured with (the then relatively new) SR-4 electrical resistance
strain gages. In the stress-strain tests eight gages were used, two to a face, outside
the supporting blocks.

Interactive Buckling in Columns and Beams


It is of interest to note how centering the specimen and providing uniform stress
distribution, considered by Lundquist and Fisher to be perhaps the most difcult
and persistent problem encountered, was achieved. First, nearly perfect atness of
ends was obtained by squaring and sanding of the sawed specimens on a disk sander
(today one would probably use a milling machine), followed by hand-lapping on a
surface plate with oil and emery. Then, in the testing machine, use was made of
tissue paper shims, 0.0015 in. thick, slipped between the upper machine head and
the corners of a hardened-steel bearing block on the upper end of the specimen
in order to correct for nonparallelism of ends and/or machine heads. Paper shims
were applied or relocated until strain readings on the eight gages showed a total
high-to-low deviation of less than 3 percent. Usually in the short column stressstrain tests they could hold this to less than 1.5 percent at each of three widely
separated loads in the elastic range!
For the longer actual column test specimens, which were supported at the ends
by knife edges, centering was done with both strain readings and lateral deection
readings. Eight Tuckerman optical strain gages were applied to the corners of the
column at two appropriate stations, and centering adjustments were determined
from these two sets of strain readings. Final centering, at about two-thirds of the
predicted critical load, was done by adjusting the column ends until the lateral
deections at mid-length and both quarter-points were negligible, and then making
a nal check of strain distribution. Centering by deection proved to be considerably more accurate than strain readings for the nal adjustments. Differences in
the average strain on opposite faces of the column could be held to a maximum
of 1 2 percent.
Another interesting experimental point was the separate measurement of local
and overall column (Euler) buckling deformations. Bijlaard and Fisher felt that
electrical resistance strain gages on the column faces would have difculty in
sorting out the proportionate effects of the two types of deformation. (Today
such a sorting out would probably be done by computer from data acquired with
a large number of small strain gages.) They therefore developed a mechanical local
buckling gage, consisting of a suspended blade in contact with the column face, two
accurate dial gages measuring the blade movement due to the buckle formation,
and a collar to t on the column at a desired location and carry the gage elements,
without affecting the local buckling characteristics. This local buckling gage could
ride with the column during its primary deection, and thus measure the net
local buckling deections.
Both calculations and experiments in [6.100] indicated that for box sections and
common size I-, H- and channel sections the interaction effects were negligible,
but could be signicant in sections prone to torsional buckling like T- or angle


Interactive Buckling Experiments

The nonlinear interactive buckling phenomena have been widely studied

analytically and experimentally in the last two decades (see for example [6.12],


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

[6.34] [6.36], [6.102] [6.113]). Many theoretical studies dealt with the general
nonlinear problem of compound instability, which can arise in optimized structures
when local and overall buckling loads of the perfect structure are equal or
near-equal, and then the imperfection sensitivity is magnied (see for example
[6.102] or [6.103]). Most experimental studies, on the other hand, focused on
the practical problem of interactive buckling failures in slender section columns.
Typical examples were the tests on I-section columns, [6.34], [6.36] or [6.109],
on box sections, [6.12] or [6.107], or on channels and lipped channels, [6.104],
[6.110] or [6.111].
The test setups and techniques used in these investigations were in general
similar to those considered in the earlier sections of this chapter. Hence only some
particular aspects of typical interactive buckling tests will be discussed here.
At the University of Sydney, Australia, a comprehensive research program on
the interaction of local and overall column buckling of fabricated I-sections was
in progress in the mid-eighties. One typical group of tests in the program were the
compression tests on short and long welded high tensile steel I-sections carried out
by Davids and Hancock [6.108] and [6.36]. An I-section, whose ange width was
equal to the web depth and with web and anges of the same nominal thickness,
was chosen for all the tests, because it appeared from previous theoretical studies
[6.106] to be rather sensitive to interaction buckling. These proportions were therefore expected to accentuate interaction effects, though they would usually not be
chosen in practical designs.
The purpose of the short column tests was to study the local buckling and
post-local buckling behavior of this I-section. A test length corresponding to a
nominal three local buckling half-wave-length was therefore chosen for all the test
specimens in the series, referred to as Series I. Nine specimens, three of each size,
were fabricated. One of each three was used for residual strain measurement by the
method of sectioning. The remaining two of each size were tested to destruction
in a DARTEC 2000 kN servo-controlled vertical universal testing machine. In the
test setup, shown in Figure 6.46, a pair of freely moving universal joints, with
spherical bearings and rigid end platens, were installed at the top, on the end of
the hydraulic actuator, and at the bottom, on the base bed of the testing machine.
Each specimen was centered on the end platens so as to distribute fabrication errors
uniformly about the geometric centroid.
One specimen of each size was tted with strain gages around the perimeter at
column midlength. The, perhaps regrettable, economizing with strain gages was
probably due to the focusing on displacement measurements. These were performed
with linear displacement transducers (LDTs), supported from an instrumentation
frame, which measured the ange tip and web centerline deformations on all the
specimens tested (see Figure 6.46). The experimental loading was controlled by a
signal from the extensometer (a high resolution LDT) mounted on the lower bearing
and connected to the upper one by an axially stiff arm, as shown in the gure.
Geometric imperfections were measured by optical survey leveling of the specimens (standard civil engineering practice) to an accuracy of 0.002 in. (0.05 mm)
per reading (with a Zeiss Koni 007M precise level). All component plates (anges

Interactive Buckling in Columns and Beams

Figure 6.46


University of Sydney local and interaction buckling tests on short I-section

columns: test conguration (from [6.108])

and web) of the test specimens were divided into grids consisting of four equally
spaced lines on each ange outstand and ve on each web, and 19 stations along
them, as shown for a ange in Figure 6.47a. The observed surface prole can be
decomposed into overall plate twisting, as shown in Figure 6.47b, and a net plate
ripple which is the local geometric imperfection. This local ripple measured relative to lines A,B,C,D of the twisted plane of Figure 6.47b is shown in Figure 6.47c
for one ange of a typical specimen. A cubic polynomial curve tting program was
used to draw the curves in the gure. It should be noted that the local imperfections at the ange tip (line A) are signicantly larger than those nearer to the web
junction. The local ripple component of the imperfection was then modeled as a
nite Fourier series. In Chapter 10, Volume 2, different techniques of reducing
geometric imperfection data are discussed in detail. Here the Fourier term of
the same half-wavelength as the predicted local buckling mode was averaged
for the local ripple component over the four ange tips and the web centerline,
yielding a maximum amplitude of these terms for the three sizes of specimens of
0.26 0.49 mm (D 0.05 0.10t, where t is the plate thickness).
All specimens in this series buckled with three local buckling halfwaves. Local
buckling was clearly observed visually and by the rapid changes in the linear
displacement transducer readings.


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.47

University of Sydney local buckling tests on short I-section columns measurement

of geometric imperfections (from [6.108]): (a) measuring points on one ange
outstand, (b) twisted plane, (c) variation of local ripple imperfections along ange

Interactive Buckling in Columns and Beams


The change in the axial stiffness S (nondimensionalized by division with the

original stiffness), derived from measurements taken by the high resolution LDT
mounted on the lower bearing, was employed as an indication of buckling. As was
expounded in [6.108], for each particular column geometry a different value of the
axial stiffness ratio S would dene the point local buckling. Here S D 0.65 was
the appropriate value.
The short column tests of Series I demonstrated that the specimens buckled in
the local mode predicted by the local buckling theory. The stage was therefore
set for the long column tests of the same I-section, denoted Series II [6.36]. The
specimens were fabricated from a similar high strength hot rolled steel plate as
the short columns and in a similar manner, though some variability of welding
technique between Series I and II was indicated by the residual strain gradients.
One 700 mm long specimen of each of the three cross-sectional sizes was fabricated
for residual strain measurement, again by the method of sectioning.
The local geometric imperfections of the Series II specimens were measured by
high precision optical leveling, as in the case of Series I, and the data was also
reduced in a similar manner. The magnitudes of the relevant Fourier term were
0.01 0.02 t, less than those in Series I. The overall geometric imperfections about
the minor exural axis of the long columns were determined by measuring, with
a high precision optical level, the in-plane displacements relative to a line passing
through the ends of the specimens. A Fourier analysis was also carried out on
the overall geometric imperfections measured, and the magnitudes of the relevant
Fourier terms (of the same half-wavelength as the length of the column L), were
found to be less than 0.0002 L.
The long columns were tested in a horizontal reaction rig with a 2000 kN
capacity servo-controlled hydraulic ram, shown in Figure 6.48. The test rig could
take specimens up to 10 m long. The ends were pin-ends similar to those used
in the vertical setup for the short columns. The specimen was supported on rigid
end platens, which were mounted on spherical bearings. The end bearings allowed
rotations about two perpendicular axes located in the same plane by the use of
a shear box as can be seen in the detail of the end bearing (Figure 6.48b). Two
adjustable ball bearings were bolted onto the end plate mounted on the extended
ram (as shown in Figure 6.48d). These bearings moved longitudinally on either side
of a xed rail (not shown in the plan view Figure 6.48a) and thereby eliminated
the possibility of a specimen failure in the exural-torsional buckling mode.
A transducer was mounted on a plate supported at the center of the rigid end platen
near the ram (see Figure 6.48c). A rigid bar, extending between the two end platens,
was attached to a bearing, supported at the center of the opposite rigid end platen
(see Figure 6.48a). Since the center of the end platens coincided with the centroid of
the specimen, the transducer measured the centroidal specimen shortening, between
the faces of the end platens. Another transducer measured lateral deection at the
column midlength (see Figure 6.48a). Additional transducers were attached at each
end bearing to measure horizontal and vertical end rotations (see Figure 6.48b).
The plate deections at mid-length were measured by three transducers supported
on a special frame which was attached to the specimen (see Figure 6.48e). Thus

Figure 6.48

University of Sydney interaction buckling tests on long I and channel section columns: schematic plan view of horizontal test conguration. The test rig is based on a 2000 kN capacity servocontrolled hydraulic loading ram located in a reaction frame which can
accommodate specimens up to 10 m long (from [6.112]): (a) plan view of test conguration, (b) detail of an end bearing, (c) Section
A-A, (d) Section B-B, (e) special frame, attached to specimen at midlength, to support plate deection transducers

Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Interactive Buckling in Columns and Beams


the plate deections could be measured at the same point on the specimen during
overall buckling. The frame was attached to the specimen at the ange-web junctions (where local buckling deformations are small), with four set screws (see
Figure 6.48e).
The axial shortening and lateral deection transducers, which formed part of the
control loop for controlling the tests, were (stepless) LVDTs, whereas all the transducers to measure the plate deections (the cross-section distortions) were LDTs
(potentiometer based displacement transducers). The tests were controlled electronically, usually by adjustment of the ram position to a required axial displacement,
as in Series I, with the load following automatically, also in the post-ultimate range.
In these tests, the lengths of the specimens, between the centers of the pin-ends,
were L D 2.45 6.25 m, yielding slenderness ratios of 54.7 117.2. As mentioned,
displacements and axial strains were measured during each test with displacement
transducers and strain gages, respectively.
Two tests were performed for each column size and length. One, concentrically
loaded to nd the overall bifurcation load, and one with eccentrical loading, to nd
the maximum strength of an imperfect specimen, whose geometric imperfection
was augmented by a nominal load eccentricity of 0.001 L. During the tests, at
loads below the local buckling load, the strain gages and displacement transducers
were used to calculate the actual equivalent load eccentricity. This was found to
be less than 0.00025 L for the concentrically loaded columns and of an average
magnitude of 0.00091 for the eccentrically loaded ones.
The load versus axial shortening for a typical pair of nominally identical
specimens, one concentrically loaded and one eccentrically, is shown in
Figure 6.49. After local buckling (the mean experimental local buckling load is
indicated as P exp ), the concentrically loaded specimen developed local buckling
cells of approximately uniform wavelength and amplitude along the full length of
the column. The local buckling resulted in decreasing axial stiffness with increasing
load, appearing as a change in the slope of the path shown in the gure. The
buckling mode and change in axial stiffness were similar to those observed for the
short columns of Series I. The nonlinear post local buckling path in Figure 6.49
indicates the occurrence of interaction buckling. The initial loading eccentricity
in the second specimen caused lateral deections from the beginning of loading,
a reduced local buckling load and a lower ultimate load. However, as is usually
the case for large imperfections, the initial rate of post-ultimate load shedding was
milder than that for the concentrically loaded twin.
The experimental studies on distortional buckling by Professor Hancock and
his co-workers at the Centre of Advanced Structural Engineering of the University of Sydney have continued vigorously (see for example [6.176] and [6.177]).
Recently three test series on thin-walled I-sections and square hollow sections,
subject to combined compression and bending have been initiated. The group has
also embarked on another test program on plain and lipped thin-walled channel
section columns, focusing on the effect of end conditions on the interaction buckling behavior. Hence one can expect a ow of a wide range of data and improved
test techniques on distortional buckling from this research center.


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.49

University of Sydney interaction buckling tests on long I-section columns: typical

measured load versus axial shortening for a pair of specimens (240 4200 A
and B, from [6.36])

Another example of interactive buckling experiments, which dealt with the

interaction between local buckling and lateral-torsional buckling of beams in
bending, were the tests carried out recently (in parallel with theoretical studies)
by Menken and his co-workers at Eindhoven University of Technology in The
Netherlands, [6.113] [6.115]. In these experiments a simply supported prismatic
aluminum T-beam was loaded in pure bending, with the anges in compression
(see Figure 6.50a). The beam was built up from a thin ange, carefully machined
from sheet metal and glued to a relatively stiff web (Figure 6.50b). In this manner
the anges were assumed to have a practically uniform thickness. It was then
experimentally veried that the glue had no effect on the bending stiffness.
The test rig is shown in Figure 6.51, schematically in (a) and by a general side
view in (b). The beam was simply supported by being suspended from two thin
strips, whose in-plane rigidity prevented both vertical displacement and rotation
about the longitudinal axis at the ends of the beam. On the other hand, the outof-plane bending and torsional exibility of these strips permitted the ends of the
beam to rotate freely with respect to their principal axes, as required for simple
In mounting a test specimen in the test rig, twisting of the beam could occur,
which had to be prevented. A cylindrical boss made of Araldite was therefore
xed to each end of the beam, as can be seen in Figure 6.51. Each boss was

Interactive Buckling in Columns and Beams

Figure 6.50


Eindhoven University of Technology experiments on interactive buckling of

beams in bending (from [6.113]): (a) test conguration, (b) cross-section of beam

inserted into a holder attached to one of the suspension strips, and the jaws of
each holder were tightened by turning a tapered nut. A lever was then attached to
each nut to apply the bending moment. A simple dead-loading device was used in
the earlier test series to apply the bending moments, which meant, however, that
descending equilibrium paths could not be followed during the tests. In later test
series [6.115], the dead-loading was therefore replaced by a device prescribing the
vertical displacement at midspan. An air bearing permitted nearly frictionless lateral
movement, while keeping the direction of loading vertical. Hold-ups (which can
be seen in Figures. 6.53a and b) prevented the lateral deections of the specimen
from becoming excessive.
The overall buckling components (v the lateral displacement of the center of area
of the cross-section, and  the rotation of the relatively stiff web) were determined
by measuring the lateral deections of two points on the web at the midspan of
the beam with displacement transducers. Their average was the lateral deection v,
whereas their difference indicated the rotation  of the cross-section. The components of local buckling were measured by four or ve lightweight displacement
transducers attached to the web (see Figure 6.52b), which yielded the amplitude
of the local buckles a, and their half wavelengths , as well as the phase shift and
the average transverse displacement of the edge of the ange.
In Figure 6.53a, one can see an example of isolated local buckling, which could
only be obtained by restraining the lateral bending of the beam. When the beam was
free to deect laterally, interactive buckling would occur as shown in Figure 6.53b,
representing a good example of combined local ange buckling and overall buckling.


Columns, Beams and Frameworks


Figure 6.51

Eindhoven University of Technology experiments on interactive buckling of

beams in bending test setup: (a) schematic (later test series conguration),
(b) side view (from [6.113])

In the later test series, the non-periodic local buckling was also measured by
means of a video tracking system (see Figure 6.52), which recorded the position
of an array of retro-reective markers glued to the rim of the ange, which after
the appropriate processing yielded the true local buckling components.
These experimental studies provided needed insight into the phenomenon of
interaction between local buckling and lateral torsional buckling as a result of

Interactive Buckling in Columns and Beams

Figure 6.52


Eindhoven University of Technology experiments on interactive buckling of

beams in bending video tracking system for measuring the non-periodic local
buckles: (a) camera arrangement (from [6.115]), (b) the displacement transducers
and the retro-reective markers used to determine the shape of the non-periodic
local buckles (courtesy of Dr. C.M. Menken)


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.53

Eindhoven University of Technology experiments on interactive buckling of

beams in bending (from [6.113]): (a) local buckling only, (b) combined local
and overall buckling

bending, and provided support and verication to concurrent analytical and numerical studies. Theory and experiments show that interactive buckling will occur when
the local buckling load is smaller than the overall buckling load, and that the ratio
of overall to local buckling load is the primary parameter inuencing the interactive
behavior. The manner of supporting the beam, the measurement of local buckling
components and other experimental techniques employed are worth noting.


Beam-Columns as Structural Elements

As mentioned in Chapter 2, beam-columns are structural members subjected to

combined axial compression and bending. The bending stresses may be due to
transverse loads, applied moments or eccentric loading. Most members in typical
structures, in particular in civil engineering practice, can be classed as beamcolumns, and hence beam-columns have been subjected to extensive theoretical and
experimental studies. Beam-columns occupy an important place in most structural
engineering and stability textbooks (see for example [2.1], [2.3], [6.3], [6.47] or
[6.116]), and some texts have been entirely devoted to them, (e.g. [2.22]).



The experimental setups and techniques employed for tests on beam-columns do

not differ signicantly from those used on columns and in lateral buckling tests on
beams, except that they are sometimes a little more complicated (see for example
[6.117] or [6.118]). Hence the discussion here will focus on a recent example of
a large scale experimental study on fabricated tubular beam-columns, as used in
offshore structures.


Recent Experiments on Tubular Beam-Columns

The example is part of an experimental investigation on large scale unstiffened

fabricated tubular steel members carried out by Birkemoe and Prion at the Department of Civil Engineering of the University of Toronto in the eighties [6.119]. The
goal of the experiments was to study the beam-column behavior of full scale fabricated steel tubes with various ratios of axial load to bending moment, and to relate
the test results to the design and fabrication of typical members in offshore structures. In order to monitor and keep control of induced fabrication imperfections,
the specimens were fabricated in the Structures Laboratories of the University of
Toronto (except the cold rolling of the plate material into cylindrical tubes), but the
fabrication process itself followed the convention of offshore eld practice. The
fabrication induced geometric distortions and residual strains, caused by welding,
were rigorously recorded during the fabrication process.
The size of the test specimens was chosen to be as near as possible to full scale,
within the capacity of the testing equipment of the laboratory, resulting in an inside
diameter of 430 mm, with wall thickness of 4.5 8.8 mm, or R/t
D 25 49. The
internal diameter was kept constant to facilitate welding to reusable extension
tubes. The scale of the specimens was approximately that of full scale diagonal
bracing members and of the order of half to one fth scale of the main jacket legs.
Three different lengths were tested 1.5 m, 5 m and 10 m, yielding approximate
slenderness ratios L/
D 10, 30 and 60, in four types of tests: concentric stubcolumn tests, eccentrically loaded short column tests, 10 m long beam-column tests
(called Type C) and 5 m long beam-column tests (called Type D). Only the 10 m
long beam-column test (Type C) will be discussed here, since it was the most
challenging experimental setup. The interested reader should, however, also study
the other three types of tests described in detail in [6.119].
The specimens were fabricated by cold rolling and welding hot-rolled steel plate.
The plates (from a special batch of CSA G40.21-M350W steel) were ame-cut
and then cold formed by rolling to form cylindrical tubes (called cans) of length
750 mm and inside diameter of 430 mm. The roll formed tubes were then welded
longitudinally by an automated arc welding process in a single pass procedure.
Weld induced surface residual strains were measured on some of the cans,
with the aid of a mechanical extensometer (Pfender gage) mounted ball targets and
reference length gages. The targets consisted of 1 mm diameter hardened steel balls
set into the parent plate material with a special punch, 100 mm apart, around the
circumference of the tube, on the inside and outside, at midlength. The distances
between the targets were measured with the mechanical extensometer, before and


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.54

University of Toronto tubular steel

beam column test setup (from [6.119])



10 m

after welding to an accuracy of 1 105 strain units. On a few cans these strain
readings were veried with resistance strain gage data.
Complete surface proles of some of the single cans were recorded, from all
test specimen types, before and after the seam weld process, to determine the distortion and to correlate it with the welding parameters. Then the cans were manually
welded together by circumferential welds, using a Metal Inert Gas welding process.
For the long beam-column tests, the 3 m long test sections consisted of four cans
each, and two 3.5 m long stiffer reusable extension tubes of equal internal diameter
and a wall thickness of 10 mm were welded to their two ends (see Figure 6.55).
To obtain an accurate geometric record of each specimen, as well of some single
cans for assessment of welding distortions, a special proling rig was built (see
Figure 6.56) in which the specimen, or single can, was mounted vertically and
rotated about an axis close to its longitudinal centroidal axis. After approximate
centering of the specimen with adjustable screws on the top and bottom spider
clamps, the variation in its radius was measured with an LVDT mounted on a
carriage that could slide along a vertical aluminum rail. The angular position of
the rotating specimen was indicated by a rotational potentiometer attached to the
bottom shaft and the vertical position of the LVDT was obtained from a second
rotational potentiometer activated by a chain linkage. At each vertical position, a set
of 72 radius-angle readings for a complete circumferential scan were automatically

Figure 6.55

University of Toronto tubular steel beam-column experiments: 10 m beam column test layout (from [6.119])



Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.56

University of Toronto tubular steel beam-column experiments: proling rig for

specimens, test sections and cans (from [6.119])

measured and recorded electronically on a tape data le. On-line analogue plots
were produced independently, as well as analogue plots of vertical proles which
served as back-up to the circumferential data.
Such surface proles were obtained for all test specimens prior to testing, but for
the long beam-column specimens only their four can test sections were measured.
For the short specimens, the straightness of their longitudinal axis could also be
obtained from the proling data. For the long beam-column specimens, however,



the straightness was determined from simple measurements of the distance between
the specimen and a taut string at four quarter circumference positions.
The complete surface proles of the specimen test sections provided four types
of information (as discussed in detail in [6.119]):
1. a general visual impression of the specimen geometry and its initial geometric
2. out-of-roundness gures at each circumferential prole plot
3. mismatch of abutting edges at circumferential welds
4. out-of-straightness of the test section.
Further data reduction along the lines outlined in Chapter 10, Volume 2, could
provide additional assessments on the inuence of the imperfections on the buckling behavior of the beam-columns.
The 10 m beam-column (Type C) horizontal test arrangement is shown in
Figure 6.54 and its layout in Figure 6.55. As seen in the layout, the 3 m long
test section of each specimen consisted of four cans, with their longitudinal welds
staggered at 90 degrees. The reusable extension tubes welded to the test section
had anges at their outer ends, which were bolted to spherical bearings, that will
later be discussed in detail. In the tests, the axial load was rst applied to a predetermined level and then the bending moment was introduced by application of
two equal vertical upward point loads at a distance 2.4 m apart.
The axial load was applied with a 10 MN (2000 kip) hydraulic actuator, at the
east end of the test setup, which was controlled manually through a hydraulic pressure maintainer (see also Figure 6.58). The actuator was anchored to the test oor
through a reaction frame system, which was held down against overturning forces
by heavy beams bolted to the test oor. The horizontal shear was transmitted by
friction between the oor and a 3 m 3 m steel plate that covered 24 pretensioned oor bolts. Half of the anticipated horizontal force could be resisted by the
frictional force, and the remaining resistance was produced by pretensioning the
reaction system with four high strength rolled thread tension bars (DYWIDAG)
to approximately balance the frictional resistance. The horizontal resistance of the
reaction system was thus doubled and brought up to the required magnitude.
The vertical forces, which introduced the bending moment in the test section,
were applied with two pairs of hydraulic actuators (see Figure 6.55). To maintain
a constant bending moment in the test section, these vertical forces had to be kept
equal throughout the test, and were therefore controlled, using real-time control
of the servo-actuators through a micro-computer, and constantly monitored during
the test. Each vertical actuator was attached to a Lehigh gravity load simulator,
which permitted horizontal movement (shortening) of the specimen with only a
very small change in verticality of the applied loads.
This gravity simulator, developed at the Fritz Engineering Laboratory, Lehigh
University [6.121], is a mechanism that ensures vertical alignment of the load in
structures that are allowed to sway laterally under load. The basic layout of the
mechanism, as used in the Toronto beam-column tests, is shown in Figure 6.57. By
choosing appropriate ratios for the member lengths, the locus of the load point A


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.57

The mechanism of the Lehigh gravity load simulator, which ensures vertical
alignment of the load in structures that are permitted to sway laterally (from

(shown highly exaggerated by the full line in the gure) can be kept very close to
a horizontal line. For static equilibrium the line of action must pass the intersection
O of the long members, but for stability of the load its line of action must also be
perpendicular to the locus of A. Due to this perpendicularity the line of action is
not always vertical, but for the amount of sway allowed its deviation from vertical
was shown to be negligible. Further details on the gravity load simulators (which
have been used at Lehigh University, at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee
and at Nagoya University in Japan) can be found in [6.121] or in Appendix D of
[6.119]. Three such gravity load simulators were used in the 10 m beam-column
tests, two for the vertical loads and one for the vertical reaction (see Figures 6.55
and 6.58, which also show the actual construction of these simulators).
The vertical reactions at either end of the 10 m specimen were provided by reaction collars (see for example Figure 6.58) which were lined with neoprene rubber
to give a more uniform load distribution and to offer the least amount of restraint
to distortion of the specimen at their locations. Similar collars were employed for
application of the vertical loads at the test section. The reaction collars, which were
instrumented and calibrated as load cells, were connected, via single high strength
steel threaded connecting rods, to hand operated hydraulic jacks that were adjustable
at each of the two reaction points. At the east end, the connecting rod and actuator
were attached via a gravity load simulator (see Figure 6.58) to allow horizontal
displacement as the specimen shortened. At the west end (not shown here in detail),
the rod and jack were directly connected to the test oor, permitting only the little
displacement arising from deection of the reaction frame.
The end plates of the extension tubes were bolted, via adaptor plates, to spherical
bearings (see Figure 6.58), which were designed to have low friction, as opposed

Figure 6.58

University of Toronto tubular steel beam-column experiments: load application and instrumentation, east end of test rig (from [6.119])



Columns, Beams and Frameworks

to the usual spherical bridge bearings, mentioned in Sub-section 6.1.2 (and [6.11]).
The contact surfaces of these special bearings were covered with a layer of lightly
greased low friction Teon, bearing on a polished stainless steel surface with a
friction coefcient of about 0.005.
To ensure the proper smooth functioning of these special spherical bearings (used
for the rst time in large scale laboratory applications to model near moment-free
boundary conditions) in the experimental setup, a performance friction test was
carried out (see Appendix E of [6.118]). As seen in Figure 6.59 there, the two

Figure 6.59

University of Toronto tubular steel beam-column experiments: friction test rig for
spherical bearings (from [6.119])



spherical bearings were arranged, with a spacer block, as parts of a complete sphere.
The vertical (axial) load was applied with a 2750 kN MTS servo-controlled testing
machine. Rotation of the spherical core was achieved by application of a vertical
force, via a small spherical bearing, to a lever arm welded to the spacer block,
with a hand operated hydraulic jack in series with an electronic load cell. The jack
load F corresponded to the initial static friction load P. Since P was known, the
friction coefcient  could be found. Eleven tests yielded an average static friction
coefcient  D 0.0049 with a standard deviation of 0.00063. Load-displacement
plots of these tests showed a marked increase in friction load as the rotation of
the bearing increased, probably due to a small misalignment or to a deviation in
the radius of the spherical surface. In the Toronto test setup these increases would
not occur.
Returning to the test layout, one may note that all load application and reaction points were horizontally free oating (east-west), except the western spherical
bearing which was connected directly to the reaction frame, and represented therefore the reference point for the displacement of the specimen.
As can be seen in Figures 6.58 and 6.60, many linear variable differential transformers (LVDTs) were used in the instrumentation of the tests. The shortening of
the specimen was measured by two LVDTs at the ends of the specimen, the strain
distribution in the extension tubes was determined by a set of four mounted at
top, bottom and sides of the tube, and similarly the longitudinal strain of the test
section was measured by four LVDTs, though with a much longer gage length.
Rotation of reaction points (with reference to the longitudinal axis), was, however,
measured with rotational potentiometers attached at the load collar axes.
At three circumferential weld locations in the test section, the change in diameter
of the tube was measured vertically and horizontally. Steel rods were connected to
diametrically opposite holes in the tube and attached to the tube wall on one side
and to an LVDT (mounted to the tube via a bracket) on the other (see Figure 6.60).
Strain gages were located on the inside and outside of the test section wall
in the compression region where local buckling was expected. Additional strain
gages were also placed on the extension tubes in some of the tests to determine
the moment gradient outside the test section.
The aluminum proling rail, that had been used in the proling rig of
Figure 6.56, was mounted horizontally below the test section (see Figure 6.60) to
monitor the curvature changes and the formation of buckles. Proles were recorded
as analogue plots, as the carriage was moved manually along the rail, at regular
intervals until the buckling deformations became too large.
Most of the data acquisition was done automatically. Full sets of readings were
processed at predetermined increments, but instantaneous data readings could also
be initiated by the operator. The longitudinal prole of the compression side of the
test section was also intended to be recorded automatically, but due to insufcient
speed of the controlling micro-computer this option was not used and replaced by
analog plots.
A schematic layout of the computerized test control employed is presented in
Figure 6.61. Such a computerized system for test control and data acquisition was


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.60

University of Toronto tubular steel beam-column experiments: detail of instrumentation in central test section (from [6.119])

used for the rst time in the Structures Laboratory of the University of Toronto. The
control hardware was installed and calibrated simultaneously with the development
of software for test control and data acquisition. Appropriate interrupt routines
were introduced to permit a reasonable degree of manual control when required.
The system operated satisfactorily, but the processing speed and memory capacity
of the controlling micro-computer were found to be inadequate. It was therefore
concluded that a more powerful computer was essential for future tests. It was also
found that the manual adjustment of the vertical positions of the reaction collars
was unsatisfactory, and should be replaced by continuous adjustment with software
controlled servo-actuators.

Buckling of Frameworks

Figure 6.61


University of Toronto tubular steel beam-column experiments: schematic layout

of computerized test control (from [6.119])

The experimental data obtained claried the beam-column behavior of unstiffened fabricated tubular members throughout the loading, ultimate and post ultimate
stages, and pointed to inadequacies in the design rules. The experimental setup and
techniques have been discussed here in considerable detail, because they represent
modern test methods for large scale column or beam-column experiments, and the
sophistication necessary to provide the information on the behavior of the structure,
required to study the effectiveness of advanced analytical techniques.


Buckling of Frameworks
Frame Instability

Frames, plane and three-dimensions (spatial), are one of the commonest forms
of structures in civil engineering and other elds. They and their instability have
therefore been extensively investigated in the last decades, though most of the
studies were theoretical and numerical. Frame buckling features prominently in
many textbooks (see for example [2.3], [4.11], [4.18], [6.45] [6.47], [6.82] or
[6.122]) and several monographs and volumes have been devoted to their strength
and buckling behavior (e.g. [6.123] [6.126]).


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Frames (or frameworks, as they are sometimes called) can be broadly divided
into two groups: no-sway frames and sway frames (see for example [2.3] or
[4.11]). For simplicity, the discussion is usually limited to plane frames. The rst
group, the no-sway frames, which include triangulated trusses and braced building
frames, use mainly the axial stiffness of their members to maintain the shape of
the frames under load. Flexural stresses may be important, as in the beams of
building frameworks, but the essential feature of the no-sway frames is that no
substantial translational displacements of their joints can occur in the plane of the
frame without axial deformations in some of the members. Alternatively, one can
just state that the joints of no-sway frames are not free to move relative to each
other. The second group, the sway frames, which include building frames whose
beams and columns are rigidly connected at the joints but not braced, resist lateral
forces entirely by exure of the members. In sway frames substantial translational
displacements of the joints can occur without axial deformations in any member.
Alternatively, one can just state that in sway frames the resistance to lateral loads
is provided by sway moments induced in their members.
Up to the forties, it was customary to determine the buckling load of a framework
by examining each bar individually and calculating its buckling load with some
column formula, assuming some end xity coefcient. In reality, however, the
stability of any bar, or member of a frame, depends not only on its stiffness
but also on the amount of end restraint offered to it by adjacent bars, whose
stiffnesses in turn are inuenced by the stiffnesses of their neighbors. This was
realized in the late thirties and resulted in overall frame stability analyses (see
for example [6.127] [6.129]). At the Aeronautical Laboratories of the Polytechnic
Institute of Brooklyn, Hoff and his co-workers also carried out, in the late forties,
a series of careful tests on eight rigid-jointed frameworks (two welded steel frames
and six riveted 24 S-T aluminum alloy specimens, 45 60 in. long and 15 20 in.
high), concurrently with their analyses [6.129]. Each specimen was made of two
identical vertical diagonally braced plane frames, with a length-to-height ratio of
3:1, which were connected by horizontal and diagonal braces so as to constitute
a 3-dimensional framework, in order to avoid out-of-plane buckling in the plane
frames. The stiffening effect of these horizontal braces was, however, neglected in
the analysis, which considered the two vertical frameworks to be 2-dimensional.
The specimens had each bars of different cross-sections. They were tested under
the combined action of a vertical load and a bending moment, causing tension
in the upper chords of the vertical frames and compression in their lower ones.
Care was taken that the shear and bending moment be evenly applied to the two
vertical plane frames of the specimen. These frame experiments, in which (the
then relatively new) electric strain gages were extensively employed, were a good
example of the modern aeronautical buckling experiments of the period.
From the fties onward, frame stability has been the subject of extensive research
efforts, devoted primarily to the development of reliable methods of analysis and
design for frames. Satisfactory and safe methods have been arrived at, but as to
which of them is the optimal approach, even in 1987 there is yet no general
agreement among the leaders of the structural engineering profession. Research,

Buckling of Frameworks


debating, analysis and experimentation continues . . . (see Chapter 16 of [6.3],

p. 571).
Experiments did not feature too prominently in these investigations, perhaps
because of their likely complexity, but some were of signicant importance.


Tests on Model Frames

In the sixties, when the postbuckling behavior of frames was widely studied, a
series of noteworthy experiments on model frames were carried out by Roorda,
Brivtec and Chilver at Cambridge University and at University College, London,
some of which were discussed already in Chapter 4, Sections 4.4 and 4.7. The
series included two groups of tests: one on pin-jointed frames [6.130] and one
on rigidly-jointed ones ([4.13] [41.5] and [4.47]). As pointed out in Chapter 4,
the models frames in both groups consisted of high-tensile spring steel members
(1 in. wide, 1/16 in. thick and 10 36 in. long), that permitted buckling and large
deformations without inducing plastic strains.
As an example, one of Brivtecs model pin-jointed frames (Example 4 of [6.130],
see Figure 6.62) will now be considered. The reader may wish to complement
the discussion with that of Roordas rigidly jointed Warren truss in Chapter 4
(see Figure 4.23 there). The frame here consisted of four identical members, three
compressive ones and one tensile member.
The pin-joints were obtained, in this and the other similar model frames, by
knife edges at the ends of the struts bearing on at notches of the end attachments
of the tensile members, which assured the required freedom of rotation at the joints
in the plane of the frame.
In order to be able to study the unstable post-buckling paths of the model frame,
an hydraulic device was employed. The frame was loaded by means of dead
weight (lead shot) in a cylindrical container, which was allowed to sink into a
matching cylindrical water vessel. The load applied to the frame was measured
directly by a dynamometer placed between the lead-shot container and the frame.
The diameters of the container and the water vessel were chosen so that the rate
of fall-off of the applied load exceeded the rate of fall-off of the load along the
equilibrium path of the buckled frame. Due to this hydraulic loading device,
the whole system, including it and the frame, represented a stable system, which
permitted following the unstable equilibrium path without a motion arising in the
frame. One may recall from Chapter 4, that for the same purpose Roorda later
used in his model Warren truss a semi-rigid loading device, consisting of a springbalance and screw jack combination.
The vertical displacements of the frame were measured optically (to avoid
interference with the buckling behavior) by observing the joint image of a light,
graduated scale freely suspended from a point on the frame and of a vertical calibrated vernier in a xed position relative to the scale on the frame. Buckling loads
for the members of the frame were estimated with the aid of Southwell plots, as
in Chapter 4.


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.62

Brivtecs model pin-jointed frames: elastic buckling and postbuckling of a fourmember (three compressive and one tensile) frame in a mode in which only two
members buckled (from [6.130])

In the test of the four member frame, shown in Figure 6.62, all the three compressive members (1, 2 and 3) were on the point of buckling simultaneously, but only
two (1 and 2) were observed to buckle, whereas member 3 remained straight and
started to unload. The experimental unstable postbuckling equilibrium path for
this mode is shown in the gure, together with Brivtecs theoretical prediction
for a perfect frame. Good agreement was obtained, bearing in mind the initial
geometric imperfections of the model tested. Similar results were obtained for the
other model frames tested, with one of them, a two member model, exhibiting a
stable postbuckling path.
One may note that these model frame tests, as well as the similar rigidlyjointed ones, were essentially simple demonstration experiments, but their precision
elevated them to the status of well known and often quoted verication experiments
for nonlinear postbuckling analyses.
It may also be mentioned here that model analysis, discussed in detail in
Chapter 5, Section 5.9, has often been applied to frames, as for example in
Vaswanis experiments on plexiglass (methyl methacryloate) models of rigidjointed rectangular frames [6.131].

Buckling of Frameworks



Behavior of Connections

Conventional analysis and design of frameworks used to assume that the connections of beams to columns are either fully rigid or ideally pinned. Experimental
observations, however, showed that all connections used in practice have stiffnesses which fall between the two extremes, and should therefore be classied as
semi-rigid connections, or exible joints. The corresponding frames are referred
to in some specications as PR (partially restrained). Hence, though the idealized
joint behavior, of ideally pinned or fully rigid joints, simplied the analysis and
design, it was realized that the resultant predictions of frame response to loading
would be incorrect. The real behavior of beam-column connections, of exible
or semi-rigid joints, and their inuence on frame behavior had to be investigated
in order to provide practical methods of analysis and design. The seventies and
eighties saw therefore extensive research activity on exibly connected frames
and the relevant beam-to-column moment-resisting connections (see for example
[6.125] and [6.132] [6.138]).
The beam-to-column connection exibility can be characterized by a momentrotation curve, or M-
relationship, (like those in Figure 6.63 for common types of
connections shown in Figure 6.64), which is typically nonlinear over practically the
entire loading range. Since the axial and shearing deformations are usually small
compared to the rotational deformation (and torsion can be neglected for plane
frames) the rotational deformation represents the total response of the connection
and the M-
relationship denes the connection behavior.
Gerstle [6.133] noted in 1985 that in spite of various attempts . . . no reliable
method for prediction of connection response has been accepted by the profession
and therefore in the absence of analytical solutions reliance must be placed on tests
results. However, though connection testing has been carried out sporadically
since the 1930s . . . complete, systematic test programmes . . . are rare. He added
In particular, experimental data on the behavior of modern high-strength bolted
connections are sadly lacking. . . . New connection research is needed to establish
reliable stiffness data.
In 1989 Nethercot and Zandonini (Chapter 2 of [6.134]) concurred with Gerstles
assessment, stating that at present the ability to predict the moment-rotation curve
with good accuracy is rather limited and that test data are not usually readily
available to designers, despite the recent attempts to assemble them in usable
collections. In the same volume, also Davison and Nethercot point out in their
overview of connection behavior (Chapter 1 of [6.134]), that the M-
relation is
most conveniently obtained from physical tests on connections and that a large
body of test data is available . . ., although not always readily accessible.
Two years later, Chen and Lui discussed the connection data base in their
book [6.125] and listed some of the data bases available, in which the data was
also compared with some available prediction equations. They discussed three data
bases, covering up to ten types of beam column connections: the 1983 Goverdhan
data base [6.139], the 1985 Nethercot data base [6.140] and the 1986 Kishi and
Chen data base [6.141]. These data bases were indeed fairly comprehensive, but
not readily accessible to designers.


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.63

Flexible frame joint connections: moment-rotation curves for typical beam-tocolumn connections shown in Figure 6.64 (from [6.144])

Hence, though a large amount of data has accumulated, an accessible data bank,
collecting all the suitable test data in a standard and convenient form, is still badly
needed. Also additional tests on high-strength bolted connections are yet missing.
At Purdue University, such a data bank is being assembled by Chen and Kishi, a
development of the earlier one [6.141], and for its control a special program, Steel
Connection Data Bank Program (SCDB) has been developed (see [6.136]). This
may eventually fulll the requirements.
The test carried out to obtain the M-
relationships were essentially rotational
stiffness tests of joints subjected to bending moments. These rotational stiffness

Buckling of Frameworks

Figure 6.64


Common types of beam-to-column connections used in exible frames (from


tests usually employed either a simple cantilever arrangement or some form of

cruciform test rig. The setup shown schematically in Figure 6.65 was used in the
beam-to-column web connection studies at the Fritz Engineering Laboratory of
Lehigh University in the late seventies [6.135] and represents a typical example of
such a cantilever test rig.
After some pilot tests on small scale web connections, four full-scale web
connection assemblages with realistic beam and column sections were tested,
consisting each of a 5.5 m (18 ft) long column and a 1.5 m (5ft) long horizontal
cantilever beam, connected at mid-height of the column. Four different geometries
of welding and bolting the beam to the column (simulating actual building connections) were used in the specimens. The assemblage was placed in a 22 240 kN
(5 000 000 lb) universal testing machine and an axial load was applied to the
column. The purpose of this axial load (that affects the yielding and deformation of the connections) was to simulate realistic loading on the web connection
assemblage. The axial load P was increased till P C Vmp (where Vmp was the
beam load V calculated to cause a fully plastic moment Mp at its critical section)
was equal to 0.5 Py , Py being the load that would cause yielding in the column.
The lower end of the column was rigidly bolted to the test oor and also the upper
end was held in a xed end condition by the head of the testing machine. Then


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.65

Lehigh University beam-to-column web connection tests: cantilever test

rig schematic (from [6.135])

an upward load V was applied to the beam by a hydraulic jack in increments of

about 110 kN (25 kips) till deections became excessive, when instead of specied
loads, specied deection increments were applied.
A typical load-deection curve (for Connection 14 3) is shown in Figure 6.66.
The loading of the beam was continued till V reached about 90 percent of Vmp , the
load calculated to cause the plastic bending moment Mp at the critical section of
the beam. The plot shows an initial linear elastic slope up to about 400 kN and then
a secondary linear slope up to a load of 890 kN. Such a type of behavior of two
distinct slopes was observed also in other tests on bolted connections conducted
at Lehigh University. The second linear slope, indicating a change in rotational
stiffness, was due to many minor slips of the bolted ange plates, though no
one major slip occurred during this test or during other Lehigh beam-to-column
connection tests. As V increased further, the load-deection curve gradually lost
stiffness due to yielding of elements within the assemblage. Towards the end of
the loading, after V reached about 1330 kN, a tear developed in the tension ange
connection resulting in a load drop to about 1100 kN. Then the connection was
unloaded. Similar, though somewhat different, behavior was observed in the other
three tests.
A recent example of a cruciform connection test arrangement is shown in
Figure 6.67, which presents the test rig used at the University of Shefeld in the
mid-eighties [6.142]. The primary objective of the Shefeld tests was a comparative
assessment of different types of beam-to-column connections in terms of connection

Buckling of Frameworks


Figure 6.66

Lehigh University beam-to-column web connection tests: load-deection curve

for connection 14-3 (from [6.135])

Figure 6.67

Shefeld University beam-to-column connection tests: cruciform test setup (from


rotational stiffness and moment capacity. Thus all the specimens of the 17 tests
had similar beam and column sizes and were tested on the same test setup by
the same procedure. The cruciform test arrangement of Figure 6.67 was preferred
over a cantilever type, since it required a less extensive test rig and provided some
indication of the variability of nominally identical connections.


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Load was applied to the centrally located column by a 500 kN screw jack.
The reaction of each beam was measured at a distance of 1000 mm from the
column face or web for the major and minor axis tests respectively. Rotations were
measured at a point on the centerline of each beam and on the column. The rotation
at each of these three positions was gauged with the aid of three LVDTs, attached
by a system of wires and pulleys to T-bars, tack welded to the specimen, as can be
seen on the right hand side of the gure. Rotation of the specimen, and the attached
T-bar, resulted in changes in the length of the three wires, which were measured
by the LVTDs. The rotation of each joint could then be computed from the new
geometry. Positioning the T-bars as near as practicable to the connection minimized
the contribution of the beam curvature to the relative connection rotation, justifying
its neglect. This measurement system yielded only the overall moment-rotation
response and did not provide any quantitative information on the contributions of
the individual components to the connection exibility, but for the comparative
assessment aimed at this limitation was immaterial. The data were recorded and
processed by a microcomputer-based data logging system.
In the interest of the comparative assessment, all the specimens were fabricated
at the Departments workshop and by the same technician. For better assembly
consistency, bolt tightness was controlled, rst by the touch of the same technician,
and then more efciently by applying a predetermined torque to the bolts with a
torque wrench.
The rotational stiffness of the joints, or their connection exibility, signicantly
affects the behavior of a exibly connected frame. The joint rotations contribute to
the overall frame deformations, and in particular to the frame sway under lateral
load. The connection exibility also affects the buckling strength of the frame,
as well as its natural periods of vibration and therefore its dynamic response to
seismic motions. The joint exibility also affects the distribution of internal forces
and moments and thus the resulting stresses. Hence exibly connected frames have
to be analyzed as such (see [6.133]), taking into account the connection exibilities,
and the methods of calculation have to be veried by experiments. A few series of
tests on the strength of exibly connected single- and two-story frames have been
performed, but without consideration of column instability or large deections. As
a matter of fact, Gerstle [6.133] pointed out that no testing seems to have been
carried out on exibly-connected frames in which failure is initiated by members
or frame buckling. Buckling and postbuckling experiments of exibly connected
frames are therefore still missing and warranted.
Joint exibility also affects the buckling behavior of other types of frameworks.
An interesting example is the torsional stability of a geodesic shell-like composite
framework developed for battle-damage tolerant helicopter rear fuselages. In the
investigation carried out at Imperial College, London, for Westland Helicopters
Ltd., on these (600 mm long and of 150 mm diameter) carbon ber reinforced
cylindrical geodetic shells [6.145] it was found that the detailed behavior of the
geodetic joints signicantly affected the torsional buckling load of the geodesic
shell. In the construction of this composite framework, tape prepegs were layed
up at, since the bars were geodesics, and the orthogonal passes produced an

Buckling of Frameworks


interleaved construction at the joints. The stiff carbon-ber laminates relied on

the exible interlaminar matrix to resist a scissoring-action at the joints. This
exibly resisted scissoring presented the joint exibility, which was studied both
by small specimen tests and then by a nite element model incorporating the joint
exibility measured in these tests. With this new exible model the predicted
torsional buckling load exceeded the experimental one only by about 7 percent,
whereas the earlier rigid-joint model yielded values 30 percent above experimental
buckling load. The joint exibility was therefore also here of prime importance.
Some preliminary compression tests on complete geodesic cylindrical shells,
indicated that there the joint exibility (the scissoring) was even more dominating.


Seismic Loads on Multi-Story Frames

One of the most severe loading cases for building frames are seismic loads. These
horizontal loads, resulting from the acceleration of the earthquake ground motion,
present some of the overriding design criteria for building frames. Buckling and
postbuckling occur mainly in bracing members of these structures, which experience large cyclic deviations in tension and compression in the postbuckling range
during a severe earthquake (see for example [6.146]). Thus, though seismic tests
are primarily concerned with large plastic deformations, failure and energy absorption under repeated loading, buckling and postbuckling phenomena represent an
important aspect of the behavior of the members of the frame, in particular their
bracing members. Seismic tests serve therefore also as buckling experiments.
A good example are the comprehensive tests carried out in the eighties as part of
the US/Japan Cooperative Research Program in Earthquake Engineering Utilizing
Large Scale Test Facilities, under the auspices of the US National Science Foundation and the Japanese Ministry of Construction and Science and Technology
Agency. The program had three phases: one focused on a reinforced concrete test
specimen, the second on a structural steel one and the third on masonry specimens.
The second phase, focusing on steel specimens, is widely concerned with buckling
phenomena and is of interest here.
The purposes of the cooperative research program in steel and reinforced concrete
buildings were to improve earthquake-resistant design in the US and Japan; to
establish relationships between full-size and reduced-size specimen test results, to
correlate static, cyclic, pseudodynamic and shaking table experimental results; to
verify analytical modeling techniques and make recommendations for inclusion in
design codes.
The base of reference for each of the associated research projects in the structural
steel phase was the full-scale six-story steel specimen tested at the Large Size
Structures Laboratory of the Building Research Institute (BRI) in Tsukuba, Japan
(see [6.147] [6.150], [6.152] [6.154]). The structure was a six-story, two-bayby-two-bay, steel-framed ofce building with a composite steel metal deck and
lightweight concrete oor system. A typical oor plan and the elevations of the
major frames are presented in Figure 6.68. The structure was 15 m (49.2 ft) square
in plan, 22.4 m (74.3 ft) high and had two bays in each direction, but was loaded in


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

Figure 6.68

US Japan Joint Research Program in Earthquake Engineering full-scale 6-story

test structure geometry: (a) typical oor plan, (b) frame B, (c) frames A and C,
and (d) frames 1 and 3 (from [6.152])

the north south direction as indicated. The major load frames (A, B and C) had full
moment resisting connections and the center frame (B) had K-bracing (concentric
chevron bracing) in its south bay. The outside frames (A and C) were momentresistant frames, and the end frames (1 and 3) had cross-bracing with simple
connections, whereas the middle frame (2) was unbraced. The cross-bracing of the

Buckling of Frameworks


end frames would probably be architecturally unacceptable in an ofce building. It

provided, however, lateral stability for the test structure in the transverse direction
and greatly increased its torsional stiffness, minimizing accidental twisting of the
oors during the tests.
The full-scale test program was divided into four phases (see [6.147]): For
phase I the test building was designed and tested with the center frame B braced
concentrically. After completion of phase I, the concentric braces were removed,
the building was repaired and eccentric braces were installed in the north bay of
the center frame B for phase II tests. At the end of phase II, the eccentric braces
were removed from the center frame B, and the moment frames A and C (with
their rigid moment-resisting connections) were tested in phase III. In phase IV,
nonstructural walls and cladding were installed on the building and an additional
series of tests was performed.
The full-scale tests, conducted in the Large Size Testing Laboratory of BRI, used
their computer on-line actuator (COLA) pseudodynamic test system. The pseudodynamic method (see for example [6.151] or [6.158]) is an integrated experimentalanalytical procedure. It is similar to standard step-by-step nonlinear dynamic
procedures in that the controlling computer software considers the response to
be discretized into a series of time steps. Within each step the governing equations
of motion are solved numerically for the incremental structural deformations. In
the pseudodynamic method, the ground motion as well as the structures inertial
and damping characteristics are specied numerically as in a conventional dynamic
analysis. However, rather than using a mathematical model to determine the structures restoring force characteristics, these are measured directly from the damaged
specimen as the test procedure progresses. Since dynamic effects are accounted for
in the equations of motion, computed displacements are quasi-statically imposed
on the test specimen.
The pseudodynamic test idealization is shown schematically in Figure 6.69. The
principal difference between pseudodynamic testing and well-established dynamic
analysis is that the computed structural displacements d1 , d2 , . . . are actually
imposed on the test specimen, and the restoring forces r1 , r2 , . . . are measured
experimentally from the deformed specimen.

Figure 6.69

Pseudodynamic test idealization: (a) actual structure, (b) pseudodynamic test

(from [6.151])


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

The method permits simulation of a wide range of seismic excitations, while

allowing the use of full-scale specimens and a slow test rate that enhances test
In the BRI full-scale tests, eight servo-controlled actuators attached to a huge
reaction wall were used to load the structure. The displacements (loads) were
applied through loading beams installed at the edge of each oor. For the COLA
test method, the structure was interfaced with the computer through the actuators
and displacement measuring transducers in such a way that the response of the
building to a given earthquake was self-controlled.
Two types of data were measured and stored. The rst type was that used for
the COLA testing, which included the measured actuator forces and oor displacements, and the computed velocities and accelerations. This data was used for
investigation of the overall load-deection relationships of the building tested, as
well as for assessment of the performance of the COLA testing method. The second
type of data included member strains and displacements measured with strain gages
and LVDTs, which were used for the study of moment-rotation relationships for
beams, load-deection behavior of braces, etc. About 1000 channels of this second
type of data were recorded for each test, which also included determination of the
force-deection curves of the braces and their buckling behavior.
Prior to testing, linear and nonlinear analyses of very detailed models of the
building were carried out with several combinations of input ground motion and
damping levels, in order to ensure the proper parameters for the COLA pseudodynamic tests. These analyses also indicated the locations at which large strains
could be expected and where therefore instrumentation should be placed. Before
and after each major test, and after any repair or modication, vibration tests were
carried out to determine the damping of the structure and the frequencies of the
rst few modes. Comparison of the values measured indicated the effect of the
previous test program or repair on the structural properties.
Phase I testing focused on the behavior of frame B with concentric bracing (see
[6.147], [6.149], [6.150] and [6.152]). The record of the Miyagi-Ken-Oki 1978
earthquake (with a magnitude of 7.4 on the Richter scale) was chosen for COLA
tests, with the peak acceleration scaled to an appropriate value.
Three tests were performed: an elastic one, a moderate one and a nal one. The
elastic test simulated a small, frequent earthquake with a ground motion scaled to a
peak acceleration of 6.5 m/s2 (0.065 g), throughout which the structure appeared to
remain elastic. The moderate test simulated an intermediate-size earthquake, with
a peak acceleration of 25 m/s2 (0.25 g), in which limited yielding and some brace
buckling were observed. The nal test simulated a major earthquake, with a peak
acceleration of 50 m/s2 (0.5 g), and indeed extensive brace buckling and yielding
were detected. Brace buckling was observed visually in seven of the 12 braces
of frame B, and beams and columns showed yielding throughout the bottom three
The behavior of the braces is of primary importance in the overall response of
the structure. In general, bracing members provide a large portion of the lateral
stiffness and strength in steel structures comprising a bracing system and moment

Buckling of Frameworks


resisting frames (so called dual system), and their behavior, and in particular their
buckling and postbuckling behavior, therefore governs that of the structure, in both
the elastic and inelastic ranges.
Brace buckling was also a major source of energy dissipation in the nal test
(as a matter of fact, postbuckling and yielding of the braces were the dominant
source of energy dissipation as the deections grew larger), and it ultimately led to
failure of the north brace in the third story. One of the buckled braces is shown in
Figure 6.70. After buckling, a progressive tearing occurred, which ultimately lead
to rupture of the tubular brace. As the deection grew even larger, the exural
yielding of beams and columns became more important for energy dissipation.
These sequential modes of energy dissipation illustrated the benecial redundancy
of the dual bracing system. Some of the braces buckled in-plane while others
buckled out-of-plane, which motivated detailed studies of the force deection
behavior of individual braces (see [6.152]), that explained the experimental results
and also indicated that actually only six braces buckled, whereas the preliminary
visual observations suggested that seven did.
The effect of composite action, the inuence of the composite steel and concrete
oors, on the stiffness of the braces and the whole structure, was also studied and
found to be not very signicant.
Prior to the phase II testing, the cracked concrete oor slabs were repaired by
pressurized epoxy injection or recast. With the installation of the new eccentric
bracing in the north bay of frame B, modications were also made to the instrumentation, like relocation of some of the potentiometers and LVDTs to the north

Figure 6.70

US Japan Joint Research Program in Earthquake Engineering: A buckled brace

(a square tube) of the full scale structure tested at BRI in Tsukuba (courtesy of
Professor C.W. Roeder)


Columns, Beams and Frameworks

bay. The 1952 Taft acceleration record was chosen as the input excitation for
the phase II testing (see [6.148] and [6.153]), and the same damping values as in
phase I were used. Two tests were rst carried out in phase II, one for examination
of the elastic behavior with the Taft accelogram scaled to 6.5 m/sec2 (0.065 g), and
one inelastic test with the Taft record scaled to a peak acceleration of 50 m/sec2
(0.5 g).
Since relatively little damage and small story drifts and displacements occurred
in the inelastic test, three additional tests with sinusoidal ground acceleration were
performed to determine the strength, ductility and nal failure mechanism of the
eccentrically braced structure. All ve tests were conducted with the computer online actuator (COLA) pseudodynamic test technique, the input being scaled Taft
acceleration records for the rst two and a sinusoidal ground acceleration for the
last three tests.
During the third cycle of the sinusoidal tests, the gusset plates, attaching the
braces in the rst story to the second level oor, buckled. This caused the end
of the brace to move out-of-plane, which produced a large torque on the second
level oor girder, resulting in a large inelastic torsional deformation. The brace
was then unable to develop and maintain large axial forces, and therefore the
stiffness and strength of the rst story decreased. A similar effect, though of smaller
magnitude was also observed in the second story. Eventually the moment frames,
which as pointed out before served as a redundant backup, took over large
loads, maintaining the overall performance of the structure. However, it should be
noted that the failure of the gusset plates signicantly reduced the overall stiffness
of the building, as observed in the post-test vibration measurements that showed
a 19 percent increase in the natural period (indicating a 30 percent reduction in
stiffness). This emphasized the importance of connection detail design.
The tests demonstrated the signicant contribution of the shear links of the eccentrically braced frame (EBF) to the energy dissipation and the overall performance
of the building. They conrmed the conclusions of earlier studies (for example
[6.160]) about the efciency of eccentrically braced frames in resisting lateral
seismic loads.
Upon completion of phase II and removal of the eccentric braces, the phase III
test on the moment frames was performed. After a vibration test, which indicated
that the elastic stiffness of the phase III moment frame was 20 25 percent of that
measured in the braced frames of phases I and II, the building was subjected to the
1940 El Centro earthquake with 35 m/s2 (0.35 g) peak acceleration. Though the
phase III structure was signicantly more exible and had less resistance than the
phase I and II congurations, its inelastic behavior was stable. After having been
subjected to several major simulated earthquakes, the moment frames performed
remarkably well.
The phase IV tests on nonstructural elements, though important to the seismic
performance of the building are not relevant to buckling experiments.
Concurrently with the extensive test program carried out on the full-scale structure at BRI in Tsukuba, also some reduced-scale models of the same structure were
tested at BRI and at some structural research centers in the USA: in Tsukuba, static

Buckling of Frameworks


loading tests on six half-scale model frames, representing the lower three stories
of the center frame B, were performed [6.157]. At the Fritz Engineering Laboratory of Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA, a 0.305 scale model of the complete
structure was tested in a quasi-static manner [6.155]. Two series of tests on a
0.305 scale model of the complete structure, rst one with concentric chevron
bracing and then with eccentric bracing, were carried out on the earthquake simulator at the University of California at Berkeley [6.154] and [6.159]. And, as part
of the same program, also a series of small-scale models (1:12.5 models of three
beam-columns, one braced frame and one unbraced one) were tested at Stanford
University [6.156].
The BRI half-scale model static experiments [6.157], whose main purpose was
clarication of the elastic and plastic behavior for better prediction of that of the
full-scale structure, included six frames with inverted-V-braces, two of which were
exact half-scale models of the lower three stories of the full-scale six-story test
building, except for the details of the brace connections. The other four models
were only roughly similar and had no composite oor slabs, and one of them had
no braces. From the buckling point of view, the primary predicted and observed
phenomenon was the fact that large story drifts introduced mainly large axial
compressive displacemen