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www.elsevier.com/locate/engstruct

Ioannis G. Raftoyiannis, John Ch. Ermopoulos

National Technical University of Athens, 15780 Athens, Greece

Received 5 November 2004; received in revised form 29 March 2005; accepted 30 March 2005

Available online 10 May 2005

Abstract

The elastic stability of eccentrically loaded steel columns with tapered and stepped cross-section and initial imperfection is studied herein.

The stability problem is formulated in a manner covering most cases met in design applications. The formulation presented herewith is based

on the exact solution of the governing equation for buckling of columns with variable cross-section. A parabolic shape is assumed for the

initial imperfection according to EC3 provisions. A plasticity criterion is applied to determine material failure in the buckled configuration.

Nonlinear finite element analyses are performed to verify the analytical results. The findings presented in this study can be used for the design

of such type of imperfect steel columns.

2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Steel columns; Tapered; Stepped sections; Stability; Initial imperfections

tapered columns and stepped columns with build-up cross-

Steel members with non-uniform cross-section are sections, an initial imperfection of parabolic shape and

commonly used as columns in the design of various various boundary conditions that are usually met in real life

structures such as building frames, cranes, masts etc., due structures. The methodology is based on the exact solution

to the effort to minimize the total weight and subsequently of the governing differential equation for buckling of

the cost of the structure [1,10,11]. The stability behavior of columns with constant or variable cross-section [14], while

columns with non-uniform cross-section has been studied a plasticity criterion is introduced for the determination

by a number of researchers [28,15]. A stability analysis of material failure in the buckled configuration [9]. The

of the entire structure is required when designing such columns are considered transversely supported, and thus the

members [14], which leads to the determination of the exact possibility of buckling about the weak axis is ruled out.

buckling load of each member as well [12,13]. The main Various model cases are also analyzed via the finite element

loading consists of a compressive force eccentrically applied method [16] and the corresponding results are presented for

with respect to the neutral axis of the column. comparison along with the analytical ones in the form of

In the present study, the influence of initial imperfections

diagrams.

on the stability of non-uniform steel members that are

More specifically, in this paper special emphasis is

subjected to eccentrically applied axial loading is thoroughly

given on analytical models which provide qualitative results

investigated. The presence of imperfections is responsible

of buckling loads for tapered and stepped columns and

for a significant reduction of the carrying capacity of

establish the effect of properties variation along with

structural systems and especially those carrying axial

imperfections on their buckling behavior including material

failure. This is very helpful for the designer who can

Corresponding address: Department of Civil Engineering, National

readily apply the proposed technique to compute with

Technical University of Athens, Iroon Polytechniou 9Zografou Campus,

15780 Athens, Greece. reasonable accuracy the load carrying capacity of such

E-mail address: rafto@central.ntua.gr (I.G. Raftoyiannis). types of columns. The simultaneous effect of the above

0141-0296/$ - see front matter 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

doi:10.1016/j.engstruct.2005.03.009

I.G. Raftoyiannis, J.Ch. Ermopoulos / Engineering Structures 27 (2005) 12481257 1249

Fig. 1. (a) Tapered column, (b) stepped column, and (c) cross-section with variable height.

parameters on the buckling strength of tapered and stepped the column and is described by the following equation

columns is not dealt with in the bibliography. Employment (Fig. 1(a)):

of a detailed finite element analysis serves herewith for

verification purposes only and both analytical and numerical w0 (x) = c1 x 2 + c2 x + c3 (4)

results correlate with reasonable accuracy. The analytical where the coefficients c1 , c2 , and c3 are determined from the

results for plastic loads (obtained via a linear buckling boundary conditions.

theory) are based on the assumption that material failure In the following analysis, two representative cases of

occurs for small lateral displacements, which is true for steel non-uniform cross-section steel columns are considered: (a)

columns with wide-flange I cross-section. a tapered column with cross-sectional height h(x) linearly

varying over the length , and (b) a column consisting of

three parts with lengths 1 , 2 , and 3 , and constant cross-

2. Theoretical analysis

sectional heights h 1 , h 2 , and h 3 , respectively.

column with non-uniform cross-section is given as follows: 2.1. Tapered column

d2 d2 w d2 w

2 E I (x) 2 + N 2 = 0 (1) Consider the tapered column AB, shown in Fig. 1(a),

dx dx dx which has length and variable cross-section with constant

where N is the axial compressive force, E I (x) is the area A as shown in Fig. 1(c). The moment of inertia for

bending stiffness of the column, and w(x) is the lateral the column AB is given by I = I0 (x/a)2, where I0

deflection in the buckled configuration. In the presence of corresponds to point A and a is the distance OA. The column

an imperfection w0 (x), the deflection w(x) is superimposed is considered to have an initial imperfection described by the

to w0 (x) to give the total deflection wT (x), that is second order parabola Eq. (4). The maximum imperfection

magnitude a0 occurs at /2. The axial load N is applied

wT (x) = w0 (x) + w(x). (2) eccentrically to column AB at a distance e. Translation

of joint A to the horizontal or vertical direction is fully

This is valid because bending moments are associated to the

restricted while rotation is restricted by a spring with

change of curvature (i.e., to w), while the effect of the axial

rotational stiffness R A . Joint B is restricted to translate

force N is associated to the total deflection wT . Taking also

horizontally and rotate by two springs with translational

into account that the axial force N is always assumed to be

stiffness TB and rotational stiffness R B , respectively. The

compressive, Eq. (1) becomes

adopted coordinate system (x, w) for the column AB has

d2 d2 w d2 w d2 w0 origin at point O; see Fig. 1(a). Thus, the governing Eq. (3)

E I (x) + N = N . (3) for buckling becomes

dx 2 dx 2 dx 2 dx 2

E I0 d 2 2d w d2 w d2 w0

2

The imperfection w0 (x) is assumed to have a parabolic x + N 2 = N . (5)

shape that takes a maximum value a0 at half length of 2

a dx 2 dx 2 dx dx 2

1250 I.G. Raftoyiannis, J.Ch. Ermopoulos / Engineering Structures 27 (2005) 12481257

The coefficients c1 , c2 , and c3 in Eq. (4) are determined T B = TB 3 /E I0 . Expanding Eqs. (11) through (14) and

from the boundary conditions w0 (a) = w0 (a + ) = 0 and after some manipulation and elimination of constant D, the

w0 (a + /2) = a0 , and hence, the initial imperfection shape following linear system of equations in non-dimensional

w0 (x) is described by the following relation: form is obtained:

a0 1

w0 (x) = 4 2 x 2 (2a + ) x + a (a + ) . (6) + R A A + R A B + R A C = 2C p (1 R A /)

2

2

The value of a0 can be obtained using the procedure of (17)

EC3, Part 1.1 (5.5.1.3 and Fig. 5.5.1) [11], through which an

TB 1 + cos( ln(1 + )) 1 A

appropriate equivalent initial bow imperfection is calculated

for various cases of non-uniform members. + T B 1 + sin( ln(1 + ))B + (T B 2 )C

The solution of the homogeneous part of Eq. (5) is 2

= C p [4 + 2 2 / T B ((1 + )2 1)/ ] (18)

x x x

w(x) = A cos ln + B sin ln RB 1

a a a cos( ln(1 + )) sin( ln(1 + ))

+C x + D (7) 1+ 2

where

2 1 + cos( ln(1 + )) A

Na 2 1 2 1 N2

= = , 2

= , =

E I0 4

2 4 E I0 a RB 1

+ cos( ln(1 + )) + sin( ln(1 + ))

1+ 2

and A, B, C, D are integration constants to be evaluated

from the boundary conditions.

In order to determine a particular solution w p (x) of 2 1 + sin( ln(1 + )) B + R B C

Eq. (5), the curvature d2 w0 /dx 2 = 8a0/2 is introduced

into Eq. (5): RB

= e 2C p (1 + ) +

2 2

(1 + ) (19)

E I0 d 2 2d w d2 w

2 a0

x + N = 8N 2 . (8)

2

a dx 2 dx 2 dx 2 where A, B, and C are non-dimensional coefficients with

respect to length a, i.e., A = A/a, B = B/a, and

For a particular solution w p (x) = C p x 2 the coefficient C = C. Thus, a linear system of three equations with

C p can be determined by substitution into Eq. (5), which three unknowns, namely A, B, and C, is obtained while

leads to the dimensionless external load 2 corresponds to known

4 2 a0 values. For given values of the external load 2 , the system

Cp = . (9)

2

2

+ 2 2 of Eqs. (17)(19) is solved and the values of the constants

A, B, and C are determined. Then, the lateral deflection

Thus, the general solution of Eq. (5) is w(x) at any point of the column is determined using

x x x Eq. (10). The loaddeflection curve is nonlinear and the

w= A cos ln + B sin ln elastic critical load el2 of the column is the load associated

a a a

with vanishing of the determinant of the coefficients.

+ C x + D + C p x 2. (10)

The boundary conditions for the problem can be stated as 2.2. Stepped column

follows:

Consider the column AD, shown in Fig. 1(b), which has

w(a) = 0 (11) total length and consists of three parts with lengths 1 , 2 ,

M(a) + R A w (a) = 0 (12) and 3 , where = 1 +2 +3 . Each part has constant cross-

sectional height h 1 , h 2 , and h 3 , and corresponding bending

V (a + ) + T A w(a + ) = 0 (13)

stiffness E I1 , E I2 and E I3 , respectively. The boundary

M(a + ) R B w (a + ) N e = 0 (14) conditions at the supports A and D are the same as in 2.1,

where while the axial load N (where N = N1 + N2 + N3 ) is

applied eccentrically to column AD at a distance e, and the

E I0 x 2

M(x) = w (x) (15) loads N2 and N3 are also eccentrically applied at distances

a2 e2 and e3 , respectively. The column is again considered to

E I0

V (x) = 2 [x 2 w (x) + 2xw (x)] Nw (x). (16) have an initial imperfection described by the second order

a parabola Eq. (4). The maximum imperfection magnitude a0

In order to express equilibrium using non-dimensional occurs at /2. Three coordinate systems, (x 1 , w1 ), (x 2 , w2 ),

quantities, the following terms are introduced: e = e/, w = and (x 3 , w3 ), are adopted for each part of the column; see

w/, a 0 = a0 /, R A = R A /E I0 , R B = R B /E I0 , Fig. 1(b). Thus, the governing equations for buckling now

I.G. Raftoyiannis, J.Ch. Ermopoulos / Engineering Structures 27 (2005) 12481257 1251

2

become: = 4a0 1 (38)

d2 d2 wi d2 wi d2 w0,i A1 1 sin 1 + B 1 1 cos 1 + C 1 1 B 2 2 1 /2

+ ki2 2 = ki2 (i = 1, 2, 3) (20) 2

dx i2 dx i2 dx i dx i2 C 2 1 = 8a 0 1 (39)

where k12 = N1 /E I1 , k22 = (N1 + N2 )/E I2 , and k32 = A2 cos 2 + B 2 sin 2 + C 2 2 + D 2 A3 D 3

2

(N1 + N2 + N3 )/E I3 are the axial forces in each part of = 4a0 2 (40)

the column, and w0,1 , w0,2 and w0,3 are the expressions A2 2 sin 2 + B 2 2 cos 2 + C 2 2 B 3 3 2 /3

of the initial imperfection parabolic shape w0 (x) for the

coordinate system of each part, respectively. The solution of C 3 2 = 8a 0 2 (41)

2

the homogeneous part of Eq. (20) is A1 12 + B 1 1 R A + C 1 R A 1 = 8a 0 1 (42)

wi (x i ) = Ai cos ki x i + Bi sin ki x i + Ci x i + Di A3 (32 cos 3 + R D 3 sin 3 ) B 3 (32 sin 3

(i = 1, 2, 3) (21) R D 3 cos 3 ) + C 3 R D 3

2

where Ai , Bi , Ci and Di (i = 1, 2, 3) are integration = 8a0 3 1 + R D 32 e (43)

constants to be evaluated from the boundary conditions. A3 T D cos 3 + B 3 T D sin 3 + C 3 (T D 3 32 3 )

Following the same procedure as previously and observing 2

T D D 3 = 4a0 3 (T D 232 ) (44)

that the initial imperfection curvature is d2 w0,i /dx i2 =

2 2

8a0 /2 for all three parts of the column, the general A1 12 cos 1 B 1 12 sin 1 + A2r 2 22 1 /2

solution of Eq. (20) is derived: 2

= 8a 0 1 (r 2 1) + 12 p2 e2 /r 2 (45)

wi (x i ) = Ai cos ki x i + Bi sin ki x i 3 2 2

C 1 12 1 + C 2 22r 2 1 /2 = 8a 0 12 1 (46)

4a0

+ Ci x i + Di + 2 x i2 (i = 1, 2, 3). (22) 2

r 3 2

A2 22 sin 2 B 2 22 cos 2 + A3 32

The boundary conditions for the stepped column can be r 2 2

3

stated as follows:

2

2 r 3 1

= 8a 0 2 1 + e3 12 22 (47)

w1 (0) = 0 (23) r2 1 r 2

w1 (1 ) = w2 (0) (24) 3

r 3 2

w1 (1 ) = w2 (0)

2 2

(25) C 2 22 2 + C 3 32 = 8a0 22 2 (48)

r 2 2

w2 (2 ) = w3 (0) (26) 3

M1 (0) + R A w1 (0) = 0 (28) coefficients with respect to length , i.e., Ai = Ai /, B i =

Bi /, C i = Ci and D i = Di /. Thus, a linear system of 12

M3 (3 ) R D w3 (3 ) Ne=0 (29) equations with 12 unknowns is obtained and solved for given

V3 (3 ) + TD w3 (3 ) = 0 (30) values of the external load N. The lateral deflection wi (x i )

M1 (1 ) + M2 (0) N2 e2 = 0 (31) at any point of the column is determined using Eq. (22).

V1 (1 ) V2 (0) = 0 (32)

M2 (2 ) + M3 (0) N3 e3 = 0 (33) 3. Failure criterion

V2 (2 ) V3 (0) = 0 (34)

At this point, a plasticity criterion is introduced. It can

where be easily understood that the member will never reach the

Mi (x i ) = E Ii wi (x i ) (35) elastic critical load el2 due to its geometrical characteristics,

but instead material failure will occur for much smaller

Vi (x i ) = E Ii wi (x i ) Ni wi (x i ). (36) values of the applied load N. Thus, the ultimate load is

In order to express equilibrium using non-dimensional the one that corresponds to yielding of the cross-section for

quantities, the following terms are introduced: e = a yield stress f y . The plasticity criterion is expressed as

e/, e2 = e2 /, e3 = e3 /, a 0 = a0 /, R A = follows:

R A 1 /E I1 , R D = R D 3 /E I3 , T D = TD 33 /E I3 , r 2 = Nsd Nsd (e + wT )

+ 1. (49)

I2 /I1 , r 3 = I3 /I1 , i = i / and i2 = ki 2i (with N Rd (x) M Rd (x)

i = 1, 2, 3). Expanding Eqs. (23)(34) and after some Considering the tapered column (Fig. 1(a)) and denoting

manipulation, the following linear system of equations in with h 0 and h m the flange distances at the smaller end

non-dimensional form is obtained: (x = a) and the half-length (x = a + /2) respectively, and

A1 + D 1 = 0 (37) taking also into account that I = Ah 2 /4, the slenderness

2 42 42

A1 cos 1 + B 1 sin 1 + C 1 1 + D 1 A2 D 2 at these two positions 20 = A I0 = 2 and m = h 2 is

2

h0 m

1252 I.G. Raftoyiannis, J.Ch. Ermopoulos / Engineering Structures 27 (2005) 12481257

Fig. 2. (a) Tapered column finite element model, (b) stepped column finite

element model, and (c) gusset plate detail.

of the tapered column can be stated as

1 2pl

2(e+w T (x))

0 (50)

1+ 1 fy 2

h 0 x M E 0

Fig. 3. The von-Mises stresses in (a) a tapered column model, and (b) a

E is the modulus of elasticity, M is the partial safety factor

stepped column model.

according to EC3 [9], and 2pl is the load corresponding to

plastic failure. In the case of the stepped column (Fig. 1(b)),

the failure criterion Eq. (49) at any position x of the column about the weak axis. Both flanges and web are modeled with

can be stated as follows: flat quadrilateral elements oriented in the three dimensional

2 (e + w T (x)) 1 fy 2 space so as to accurately represent the actual structure. The

pl 1 +

2

(51)

hi M E i model geometry, created by Superdraw, is shown in Fig. 2(a)

for a tapered column, and in Fig. 2(b) for a stepped column.

in which h i = h i / and e = e/. A gusset plate is placed at both ends of the tapered column as

well as in the intermediate positions of cross-sectional height

4. Nonlinear finite element analyses changing in order to account for the modeling of load appli-

cation and the boundary conditions. Note that the models are

Some representative cases of non-uniform columns with divided into a large number of elements so that sufficiently

initial imperfection and various geometrical characteristics accurate results are obtained. A load P is applied at a spec-

are also studied via the finite element method. For those ified node acting downwards, while the loading eccentricity

who are familiar with numerical methods, a nonlinear fi- is implemented by a proper mesh refinement so that the node

nite element analysis is also employed for obtaining the where the load P acts lies on distance e from the centroid.

plastic loads and studying the buckling behavior of the col- A nonlinear analysis is performed in each column case,

umn. For this purpose, the finite element package Algor is where an incremental procedure is employed for the applied

utilized. With the aid of the Superdraw editor of Algor, load until yielding of flanges is reached. The plastic load

the column is modeled as a space model that can buckle in to be used for comparison with the one determined from

Y Z -plane, where the displacements in Y -direction are re- the analytical model corresponds to yielding of both flanges

strained for some specific nodes in order to prevent buckling where the von Mises yield criterion is employed. Next, we

I.G. Raftoyiannis, J.Ch. Ermopoulos / Engineering Structures 27 (2005) 12481257 1253

Fig. 4. Loaddeflection curves (w, 2 ) for the simply supported case with a 0 = 0.00 and m = 200.

transfer to the Nonlinear Decoder editor of Algor, where the flanges, while the web is still in the elastic region. This is

the solution technique and the loading parameters are set. the main reason for slightly different plastic loads obtained

We define for the model geometrical nonlinearity with large via the finite element method compared to the ones obtained

displacements, we choose the updated Lagrange method for by the analytical approach. Such a comparison is presented

solution of the nonlinear problem, and we finally define the in Figs. 7(a)7(c) and Figs. 8(a)8(c), where the maximum

loading step size as well as the tolerance values. Execution of deviation is 6%.

the Nonlinear Decoder creates the input file for the nonlinear It is worth noticing that for the cases of columns with

finite element solver. initial imperfections there is adequacy and reliability of

The nonlinear solver APAK0 of the Algor package is the results obtained by the proposed technique, which is

called and the nonlinear solution is performed. The results essentially analytic and very simple in contrast to the finite

are stored in the output file and can be viewed with the aid of element method, where the analysis is rather complex and

the Nonlinear Superview editor of Algor. In Fig. 3(a), the cumbersome.

von Mises stresses obtained via the finite element method

are shown for a tapered column with length = 7.00 m, 5. Numerical results

taper length ratio = 2/3, imperfection a0 = 5 cm, and

eccentricity e = 20 cm. In Fig. 3(b) the same plot is shown For the tapered column case, the dimensionless loads el2

for a stepped column made from three equal-length parts and and 2pl are determined for various values of the length ratio

total length = 7.50 m, step ratios r2 = 1.20, r3 = 1.44, , the imperfection ratio a 0 , the eccentricity e, the mean

initial imperfection a0 = 5 cm, and eccentricity e = 20 cm. slenderness m , and the support conditions R A , T B and R B .

Note that the plastic zone extends locally to the full width of In Fig. 4, the loaddeflection curves (w, 2 ) for the simply

1254 I.G. Raftoyiannis, J.Ch. Ermopoulos / Engineering Structures 27 (2005) 12481257

supported case with m = 200 and a 0 = 0.00 are shown for case, one can see in Fig. 6 the loaddeflection curves (w, 2 )

various values of the length ratio and the eccentricity ratio for the simply supported case with 1 = 100, a 0 = 0.02 and

e, where w = wx=a+l/2 /. In Fig. 5, the loaddeflection various values of the step ratios r2 and r3 and the eccentricity

curves (w, 2 ) for the simply supported case with m = 200 ratio e.

and a 0 = 0.02 are shown for various values of the length In Figs. 7(a)7(c), a comparison between the plastic loads

ratio and the eccentricity ratio e. For the stepped column obtained via the finite element method and the analytical

I.G. Raftoyiannis, J.Ch. Ermopoulos / Engineering Structures 27 (2005) 12481257 1255

Fig. 6. Loaddeflection curves (w, 2 ) for the simply supported case with a 0 = 0.02 and 1 = 100.

approach is shown for the simply supported column with supported column with 1 = 100 for various values of the

m = 100 for various values of the length ratio and step ratios r2 and r3 and the imperfection ratio a 0 .

the imperfection ratio a 0 . In Figs. 8(a)8(c), a comparison The usefulness of the approach presented herein is

between the plastic loads obtained via the finite element demonstrated through the following numerical examples.

method and the analytical approach is shown for the simply Consider the tapered column shown in Fig. 9(a). The column

1256 I.G. Raftoyiannis, J.Ch. Ermopoulos / Engineering Structures 27 (2005) 12481257

Fig. 8(a). Plastic loads 2pl for a stepped column with a 0 = 0 and various

step ratios r2 and r3 .

Fig. 7(a). Plastic loads 2pl for a tapered column with a 0 = 0 and various

length ratios .

Fig. 8(b). Plastic loads 2pl for a stepped column with a 0 = 0.02 and various

step ratios r2 and r3 .

Fig. 7(b). Plastic loads 2pl for a tapered column with a 0 = 0.02 and various

length ratios .

Fig. 8(c). Plastic loads 2pl for a stepped column with a 0 = 0.05 and various

step ratios r2 and r3 .

imperfection a 0 = 0.01. The system of Eqs. (17)(19) and

the plasticity criterion Eq. (50) gives 2pl = 2.193, that is

N pl = 2.193EI0 /2 = 3045 kN.

Fig. 7(c). Plastic loads 2pl for a tapered column with a 0 = 0.05 and various

As a second example, let us consider the stepped column

length ratios .

shown in Fig. 9(b). The column has length = 9.00 m

and consists of three equal length parts (i.e., 1 = 2 =

has length = 7.00 m and consists of two parts with 3 = 3.00 m). Each part consists of two sections, with

area A/2 = 72 cm2 , each connected together to form area A/2 = 72 cm2 each, connected together to form a

a tapered member with length ratio = 2/3. The load uniform member. The load is applied eccentrically on the

is applied eccentrically on the column with e = 20 cm; column with e = 18 cm; thus, the eccentricity ratio is

thus, the eccentricity ratio is e = 20/700 = 0.02857. e = 18/900 = 0.02. The rotational spring constant is taken

The rotational spring constant is taken R B = 1.20. The as R B = 1.20. The distances between parts are h 1 = 30 cm,

distance between parts at the small end is h 0 = 30 cm, h 2 = 40 cm and h 3 = 50 cm. Thus, the moments of

while at half length it is h m = 40 cm. Thus, the moments inertia are I1 = 32 400 cm4 , I2 = 57 600 cm4 and

of inertia are I0 = 32 400 cm4 and Im = 57 600 cm4 , I3 = 90 000 cm4 and the corresponding slendernesses are

and subsequently the corresponding slendernesses are 0 = 1 = 60, 2 = 45 and 3 = 36. The column has an initial

I.G. Raftoyiannis, J.Ch. Ermopoulos / Engineering Structures 27 (2005) 12481257 1257

presented herein can be used for the design of steel columns

with tapered or stepped cross-sections. The problem is

formulated in such a manner that covers most of the cases

met in practical applications. The system of equations as

well as the plasticity criterion for the determination of

the plastic critical load is very simple to formulate in a

personal computer, and the column carrying capacity can be

easily determined in each particular case, avoiding the more

detailed modeling with finite elements.

References

Fig. 9. Geometrical characteristics of (a) a tapered column, and (b) a stepped

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[2] Baptista AM, Muzeau JP. Nonlinear buckling of tapered columns. In:

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[4] Ermopoulos JCh. Buckling length of non-uniform members under

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axial loads. The presence of imperfections is responsible Hill; 1961.

[15] Wang CK. Stability of rigid frames with non-uniform members. J

for a significant reduction of the carrying axial compressive Struct Div, ASCE 1967;93(ST1):27594.

loads, and is thoroughly investigated. The numerical results [16] Spyrakos CC, Raftoyiannis IG. Linear and nonlinear finite element

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