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Laboratory Experiment #2

Column Buckling
February 8, 2012 Lab Section 5 Room 47 Hammond Building

Eric Kachel

Lab Partners: Marcia Castillo Toby Fabisiak Hsiaoting Ko Kim Novarina

Course Instructor: Dr. Stephen Conlon Lab TA: Kaushik Basu

This experiment was carried out in order to observe the effects of geometry and fixture type on the critical buckling load of a given member. In this experiment three different length members, with two different types of fixture each, were loaded until buckling occurred. The data collected from these six tests was then analyzed using two different methods in order to find the experimental critical buckling load. These results were then compared to calculated theoretical values. Using this information a final plot was produced which serves as a guideline for structural designers. This plot shows an inversely proportional relationship between the slenderness of a beam and its critical buckling stress. This is was an expected outcome of the experiment.



In the aerospace industry more than any other developing the most efficient structures as possible is very important. One way aerospace structures fail is due to compressive axial loadings that result in buckling. For this experiment relationships between specimen length and support type were examined. In this experiment six specimens were loaded until buckling occurred. They were of lengths 18, 21, and 24 inches and simply supported or clamped on both ends. All of the test specimens had the same area and were made of stainless steel. This is important because the moments of inertia and Youngs modulus of the material are important in calculating the theoretical values for buckling. Before the experiment was carried out theoretical values for the critical buckling load were calculated. These calculations help to determine were buckling was expected to occur so the experiments operators could more accurately locate the point of buckling. The derivation of the theoretical equation can be found in the appendix. The theoretical values are represented along with the experimental data. Below in Figure 1 are the boundary conditions for both the simply supported and clamped configurations.

Figure 1: Boundary Conditions


Experimental Procedure

For this experiment six specimen were tested. They were of lengths 18, 21, and 24 inches, and either simply supported or mounted in the clamped-clamped configuration. Each specimen was loaded into the test apparatus. The test apparatus consisted primarily of a load wheel, force sensor, linear variable differential transformer (LVDT), and support blocks. Other components of the apparatus such as the balance mass, level adjust, and level were used to ensure that the desired load was being applied to the specimen. I diagram of the test set-up can be seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Test Apparatus Diagram

In Figure 2 the support block is also shown in more detail. The notch section was used to load the simply supported specimens, and the adjustable screw section was used for the clamped configuration.

For this experiment both 24 inch members were tested, then the apparatus was adjusted to accommodate the 21 inch members. After they were tested the loading bar was again lowered and leveled in order to accommodate the 18 inch specimen. When loading the specimen the load wheel was turned to apply the force. Once the load neared the theoretical value for buckling the sample rate was increased in order to ensure the point of buckling was located as accurately as possible. When setting the LVDT two factors had to be taken into account. The first was to make sure that the sensor was level and measuring the maximum deflection at the center of the specimen. Secondly, when the LVDT was set-up it was compressed about half of its effective measuring length against the specimen. This is important because it is impossible to know which way the column will buckle so the LVDT must be ready to extend or contract depending on the deflection direction. The LVDT coefficient was -0.31 for this experiment. Figure 3 below shows an annotated image of the test apparatus.

Leveling Tools

Support Block Sample

LVDT Sensor

Force Sensor

Counter Weight

Support Block Load Wheel Figure 3: Labeled Test Apparatus 5


Results and Discussion

The first samples tested for this experiment were the 24 inch samples. The data from both the simply supported and clamped tests is represented in the Appendix in Figure 6. The data shows how as the load is applied to the sample it begins to deflect. Eventually the points on the graph reach an asymptote. This asymptote is located at the critical buckling force. In Figure 6 these asymptotes are marked by dashed lines in the color corresponding to the series. The grey dashed lines represent where the theoretical value for the critical lies. It can be seen that in both of these cases the experimental values for critical buckling load are above the theoretical values, by a similar margin. For the simply supported column the theoretical value is ~60 lb. Experimentally, it was found using the asymptotic approach that the critical load was ~80 lb. Similarly the theoretical value for the clamped configuration was ~230 lb, and the experiment value was measured to be ~250 lb. In Figure 6 the simply supported data yields negative values for displacement while the clamped orientations values are positive. This is due to the nature of buckling, and is the reason the LVDT had to be set-up in order to take readings in either direction. For the collected data a positive value means that the member buckled away from the LVDT, and a positive value means that it buckled towards the sensor. Six tests were performed during this experiment. Three buckled toward the sensor and three buckled away. Along with the asymptotic approach, another method was used in order to calculate the critical buckling load. This method, known as the Imperfection Accommodation Technique, works by plotting the displacement of the column against the displacement divided by the load. A linear best fit line is then calculated and the slope of this best fit line determines the critical load. Figure 9 and Figure 10 show this technique for the 24 inch long member. Using this method the critical load for the simply supported column was ~75 lb, and the clamped column was ~275 lb. Using this method

gave a better approximation for the simply supported value then the asymptotic method. The imperfection accommodation technique did yield high percent error for the clamped member. The next columns tested were the 21 inch members. Both types of analysis were also performed for these members. Figure 7 shows the asymptotic method for finding the critical buckling load. For the simply supported member the theoretical load was ~75 lb. In the experiment it was found that the critical load was ~100 lb. For the clamped member the theoretical value was ~305 lb, and the experimental asymptote was located at ~395 lb. While the error for the simply supported case was similar to that found in the 24 inch case, the clamped member had much higher error varying by ~90 lb. The critical loads were found again using the imperfection accommodation technique. Figure 11 and Figure 12 show the data for this method. From this it was found, for the simply supported beam, that the critical load was ~106 lb. This value is similar to the value found asymptotically (~106 lb). For the clamped-clamped configuration the critical load was found to be ~369 lb, this value was closer to the theoretical value, but still varied by ~20%. The last set of columns tested were the 18 inch members. Figure 8 shows the asymptotic analysis. For the simply supported column the theoretical value was ~104 lb, the experimental value found using the asymptote was ~330 lb. This is a very large difference. For this test the member did not gradually start to deflect like in the other 5 tests. For this test the column showed no apparent signs of buckling and then buckled catastrophically. This is why the displacement instantly jumps and the force drastically falls. The force drops to ~140 lb which is close to the average percent error in earlier trials. For the clamped configuration the theoretical value was ~416 lb, and the experimental value was ~400 lb. Using the imperfection accommodation technique the critical loads were calculated again. For the simply supported member the load was calculated to be ~139 lb using Figure 13. This value should be viewed cautiously due to the strange nature of this columns behavior. For the clamped column the

experimental value was found to be ~422 lb using Figure 14. This value varied from the theoretical value by ~1.3%. Table 1 in the Appendix displays the theoretical and experimental values, along with the percent error. Overall the experimental values mimic what was expected to see. For the simply supported columns the governing equations stated that the longer the member the lower the critical buckling load would be. This is exactly what happened, as can be seen in Figure 4.

Simply Supported Samples

350 300 Displacement (in) 250 200 150 100 50 0 -50 -3 -2 -1 Load (lb) 0 1 2 24SS 21SS 18SS

Figure 4: Simply Supported Tests Plotted Together

It can be also see how the clamped members behaved as expected in Figure 5 on the next page. That is, the shorter members had higher critical buckling loads. Also it can be expected that the clamped members would have higher critical loads than the simply supported members of the same length. By comparing the values in Figures 16 it can be seen that this is also true.

Clamped Samples
450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 -50 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5 Load (lb) Displacement (in)

24CC 21CC 18CC

Figure 5: Clamped Tests Plotted Together

Using both the theoretical and experimental data a plot can be generated to show the effects of slenderness on a columns resistance to buckling. The slenderness ratio takes area, moment of inertia, length, and effective length into account and assigns one number to describe the geometry of the column. When slenderness ratio is plotted against critical stress Figure 15 is produced. This plot is important because it gives a direct relationship between the slenderness of a column (its geometry) and the amount of stress it can withstand before buckling. This kind of plot can be very useful during the design process. For instance if the designer knows that he needs to use a column to withstand ~3000 psi he can use Figure 15s ideal case to see that his columns slenderness needs to be ~300.



This experiment succeeded in its purpose. It helped to examine the relationships between different lengths of members, and between different ways of fixing the members. Overall the results were what were to be expected from the governing equation and theoretical values. It was seen that when the length of a member decreased there was an increase in critical buckling load. It was also observed how the different methods of fixture changed the boundary conditions, and therefore the effective length of the specimen and affected its strength. Although the overall trends were expected there was some variation from theoretical values. On average the experimental vales were ~30 lb greater than the theoretical values. This is counter intuitive as the theoretical data represents the ideal case so one would expect that imperfections in the material would cause the experimental critical loads to be less than the theoretical values. The fact that the experimental values were consistently higher than the theoretical values can be explained by several sources of error. One of the main sources of error came in leveling the apparatus. Both the loading bar and LVDT had to be perfectly level in order to ensure accurate force transfer and readings. Even when the loading bar was level to begin the test as the beam began to deflect the upper support started to tip due to the bars hinged design. This condition was not avoidable with the given test apparatus. This could have caused uneven loading on the specimen an effected the results. A more sound design would be one that would ensure that the specimen experienced pure even axial loading by compressing straight down. Another source of error was the way deflection was measured. In order to measure deflection the LVDT was compressed up against the member. Although it was not large, this caused a force in the member which may have affected the force or direction in which the column buckled. Another source of error may be that these members had been loaded other times in previous laboratory experiments, which may have affected the results as well.


In order to improve this experiment one should start with the test apparatus. A redesign that applies the force purely axially would be the best option. An alteration in the method used to measure the deflection of the beam would be useful to be sure it wouldnt affect the results of the experiment. Also, as with any experiment multiple trials would be beneficial. This is especially true for the 18 inch simply supported specimen which behaved much different than the rest of the tests. The main result of this experiment is the direct relationship between a columns slenderness ratio and critical buckling stress. Additional research in this area could include testing different boundary conditions. An example would be simply supported on one side and clamped on the other.



Load vs Displacement - 24"

300 250 Load (lb) 200 150 100 50 0 -3 -2 -1 0 Displacement (in) 1 2 3 24SS 24CC

Figure 6: Asymptotic Analysis for 24 Members

Load vs Displacement - 21"

450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 -50 -1.5 -1 -0.5 0 0.5 1 1.5 Displacement (in)

Load (lb)

21SS 21CC

Figure 7: Asymptotic Analysis for 21 Members


Load vs Displacement - 18"

450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 -50 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5 Displacement (in) Figure 8: Asymptotic Analysis for 18 Members

Load (lb)

18SS 18CC

24-SS Imperfection Method

0.5 Displacement 0 -0.5 -1 -1.5 -2 -2.5 -0.035 -0.03 -0.025 -0.02 -0.015 -0.01 -0.005 0 0.005

y = 74.851x + 0.0043

Displacement/Load (in/lb) Figure 9: Imperfection Accommodation Technique for 24 Simply Supported Member

24-CC Imperfection Method

3 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 -0.5 0

y = 273.36x - 0.3162








Displacement/Load (in/lb) Figure 10: Imperfection Accommodation Technique for 24 Clamped Member


21-SS Imperfection Method

1.4 1.2 y = 1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 -0.2 -0.002

106.28x - 0.105

Displacement (in)








Displacement/Load (in/lb) Figure 11: Imperfection Accommodation Technique for 21 Simply Supported Member

21-CC Imperfection Method

0.4 y = 368.69x + 0.0046 0.2 0 -0.2 -0.4 -0.6 -0.8 -1 -1.2 -0.0035 -0.003 -0.0025 -0.002 -0.0015 -0.001 -0.0005 Displacement/Load (in/lb) Figure 12: Imperfection Accommodation Technique for 21 Clamped Member Displacement (in)

0.0005 0.001

18-SS Imperfection Method

0.5 Displacement (in) 0 -0.5 -1 -1.5 -2 -0.012

y = 138.9x + 0.0028







Displacement/Load (in/lb) Figure 13: Imperfection Accommodation Technique for 18 Simply Supported Member 14

18-CC Imperfection Method

4.5 4 3.5 3 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 0

y = 421.8x - 0.3841








Displacement/Load (in/lb) Figure 14: Imperfection Accommodation Technique for 18 Clamped Member

24" Simply Supported 24" Clamped 21" Simply Supported 21" Clamped 18" Simply Supported 18" Clamped

Theoretical (lb) 58.57 234.26 76.49 305.98 104.12 416.47

Experimental (lb) 74.85 273.36 106.26 368.69 138.9 421.8

Percent Error (%) 27.7957999 16.69085631 38.92012028 20.49480358 33.40376489 1.279804068

Table 1: Theoretical and Experimental Data Comparison

Critical Stress vs Slenderness Ratio

Theoretical 5000 4500 4000 3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0 200 300 400 500 600 700 Slenderness Ratio Figure 15: Column Design Plot 15 Experimental

Critical Stress (psi)

All Samples
450 400 350 300 Displacement (in) 250 200 150 100 50 0 -50 -3 -2 -1 0 1 Load (lb) 2 3 4 5

24CC 21CC 18CC 24SS 21SS 18SS

Figure 16: All Test Results Plotted Together


Derivation of fundamental buckling equation: Simply supported:

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