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Thin-Walled Structures 42 (2004) 10351047

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Buckling of elastic cylindrical shells considering
the eect of localized axisymmetric
imperfections
A. Khamlichi
a,
, M. Bezzazi
b
, A. Limam
c
a
Testing Department, Plastex Maroc SA, BP 342 Zone Industrielle, Tangier 90000, Morocco
b
LGCMS, De partement de Physique, FSTT, BP 416, Tangier 90000, Morocco
c
URGC-Structures, INSA de Lyon, 20 Ave Albert Einstein, 69 621 Villeurbanne, France
Received 2 May 2003; received in revised form 17 February 2004; accepted 17 February 2004
Abstract
The eect of localized axisymmetric initial imperfections on the critical load of elastic cyl-
indrical shells subjected to axial compression is studied through analytical modeling. Some
classical results regarding sensitivity of shell buckling strength with respect to distributed
defects having axisymmetric or asymmetric forms are recalled. Special emphasis is placed
after that on the more severe case of localized defects satisfying axial symmetry by display-
ing an analytical solution to the Von KarmanDonnell shell equations under specic bound-
ary conditions. The obtained results show that the critical load varies very much with the
geometrical parameters of the localized defect. These variations are not monotonic in gen-
eral. They indicate, however, a clear reduction of the shell critical load for some defects
recognized as the most hazardous isolated ones. Reduction of the critical load is found to
reach a level which is up to two times lower than that predicted by general distributed
defects.
# 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Stability; Buckling; Imperfections; Shells; Silos; Localized defects
1. Introduction
Thin cylindrical shells, like silos and tanks, continue to be the subject of inten-
sive investigation eorts among researchers. The pursued objectives include the

Corresponding author. Tel.: +212-6779-5068; fax: +212-3935-0702.


E-mail address: khamlichi7@hotmail.com (A. Khamlichi).
0263-8231/$ - see front matter #2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.tws.2004.03.008
need to analyse for these special structures, eects of variations aecting shell geo-
metrical parameters on buckling behaviour. These include integrating the eect of
initial imperfections in a satisfactory way, especially in the case of welded cylin-
ders. Researchers in this eld try to provide rational answers to questions such as:
How does shell strength change with respect to initial geometrical imperfections?
Which imperfection is the most suitable for modeling the knock down factor in a
realistic way?
What is the eect of coupling which may arise between various geometrical
defects?
Geometrical imperfections lead to dispersions, which generally aect the buck-
ling loads obtained from experiments. They are also the main reason for the
observed dierences between experimental results and theoretical predictions when
a perfect shell is assumed. Moreover, if one wants to deal with the problem of
material optimisation for shell structures, imperfections must be taken into account
in an enhanced quantitative way in order to set up reliable design performances. A
complete approach coupling experiments, numerical modeling and imperfection
measurements seems to be desirable. Some modern codes of structures, like Euro-
code 3, even recommend this process of design optimisation.
The buckling behaviour of shell structures depends on interactions which may
exist between the dierent applied loads, because this phenomenon is in essence
highly nonlinear. In practice, however, restrictions are made to only reasonable
decoupled situations of loading. Complex analyses which take into account the
coupling aspect are indeed rare. In the following, attention will be focused on the
particular case of a homogenous and isotropic elastic shell subjected to uniform
axial compression.
Since the pioneer work of Koiter [1], distributed axisymmetric imperfections
have been used among other forms of imperfections to study shell sensitivity to
initial geometrical defects. Imperfection measurements performed recently by Ding
et al. [2] have shown that in particular case of silos, the axisymmetric component
of geometrical defects is always preponderant. This result corroborates the well
known classical ndings of Hutchinson et al. [3], Amazigo and Budiansky [4] and
Arbocz [5] regarding the crucial eect of localized axisymmetric imperfections on
the buckling load of thin shells. New work presented by Teng and Rotter [6] was
dedicated again to shell imperfections of axisymmetric type which may result from
welds executed along the circumference of cylinders which are manufactured
according to this assembling process. They have undertaken the solution of the
resulting equations by means of a special numerical approach. A recent review of
the most rigorous developments accomplished in the domain of shell behaviour
considering imperfections is presented by the main author Teng [7]. Among the
latest contributions regarding this topic, Pircher and Bridge [8] have presented a
complete study on the eects induced by circumferential welds on the buckling and
post-buckling behaviour of welded cylinders. Interactions between more than one
localized defects were considered. Using a commercial nite element code, Kim and
A. Khamlichi et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 42 (2004) 10351047 1036
Kim [9] have once again analyzed the buckling strength of shells having a thick-
ness-to-diameter ratio exceeding 800. Some correlations of the obtained results
were performed and design charts were proposed. The authors have outlined the
extreme sensitivity to initial imperfections of shells which buckle according to axi-
symmetric modes.
In an attempt to understand the eect of imperfections on the critical load of
shells more directly, a general thin cylindrical shell having a circular basis and sub-
jected to quasi-static uniform compressive loads is considered in the following. The
assumed shell equations are those of the normal Von KarmanDonnell model. Use
will also be made of the general analytical equations which were established by
Arbocz [5] in order to study the eect of geometrical defects having the usual dis-
tributed axisymmetric or asymmetric forms.
Considering the particular case of localized axisymmetric defects having the
form of tapered belts on the shell circumference, a model for which direct analyti-
cal integration can be performed is derived. It is assumed that the defect amplitude
is distributed according to a parabolic law over a strip through the shell circumfer-
ence. This defect constitutes a very particular case among the most general defects
which can be modelled by means of numerical integration performed on the ordi-
nary dierential system introduced by Arbocz [5]. Even if it is an elementary one, it
enables demonstration of the extreme sensitivity of shells to these kinds of localized
axisymmetric defects. The results obtained show, in fact, a neat reduction of the
critical load. A parametric study has exhibited, for this class of defects, those
found to be of particular danger regarding shell buckling strength.
2. The Von Ka rma nDonnell equations with geometrical imperfections
Earlier studies on buckling of cylindrical elastic shells subjected to axial com-
pressive loads were performed by Timoshenko and Gere [10]. These have been fol-
lowed by the introduction of more rened and complete shell theories, like those of
Von KarmanDonnell, Flu gge, Sanders and Koiter. Even if these models do
not allow one to deal with the problem of shell buckling with the same level of dif-
culties, they tend altogether to give close results in common situations. In fact,
the real problem is not discrepancies between the various theoretical predictions; it
is the large gap existing between experimental results and these theoretical predic-
tions. Indeed, it is well known now that this gap is essentially due to geometrical
imperfections, which must be taken into account in a satisfactory way.
When one seeks for a prompt and ecient solution of shell equations, a perti-
nent choice is the Von KarmanDonnell model, introduced rst by Donnell in
1933 to study elastic torsional buckling of circular cylindrical shells. This model
has been very attractive and its usage is now almost universal. A version of this
model which was introduced in 1950 in order to integrate the eect on buckling
due to a small initial perturbation aecting the perfect geometry of the shell
structure has recently been used by Arbocz [5]. The Von KarmanDonnell shell
1037 A. Khamlichi et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 42 (2004) 10351047
equations have, in this case, the following form:
r
4
F
Eh
R
w
;xx
1
2
Kw; w 2 ww 0 1
Dr
4
w
h
R
F
;xx
hKF; w ww 0 2
where R is the mean radius of the shell, h is the uniform width of the shell wall, w
is the radial shell displacement, which is assumed to be positive if it is directed out-
ward from the shell, ww is the geometrical defect, F is the Airy function of stresses,
E is the Young modulus and D is the exural shell stiness. x designates the axial
coordinate, y is the circumferential coordinate, r
4
is the bi-Laplacian operator,
and KX; Y X
;xx
Y
;yy
2X
;xy
Y
;xy
X
;yy
X
;xx
. Finally, the comma in subscript
position indicates partial dierentiation with respect to the quantity which follows
it.
Fig. 1 shows the shell geometry and summarizes the main notations used.
Among the main merits of this model, one may recall that if ww is chosen to have
the same form of observed post-buckled geometry during experiments, it is possible
to theoretically predict the loaddisplacement curve tting that obtained from the
experiments.
Let denote P the axial compressive force acting on the shell, r
x
the resulting
axial stress and L the length of the shell. Arbocz [5] has considered the appropriate
Fig. 1. Geometry of the considered cylindrical shell.
A. Khamlichi et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 42 (2004) 10351047 1038
boundary conditions as given in relations (3) in order to complete Eqs. (1) and (2):
w0; y wL; y w
;x
0; y w
;x
L; y 0;
r
x
0; y r
x
L; y
P
2pRh
3
and has analyzed a shell defect having the following general form:
wwx; y a
0
x a
1
xcosny=R 4
where a
0
and a
1
are arbitrary functions of the axial coordinate x, and n is an
integer.
Using the Galerkin method, a system of ordinary dierential equations is readily
obtained. This system can be integrated by the shooting method and enables, at
least from a theoretical point of view, the study of the eect on shell buckling of
any kind of defects having the general form given by Eq. (4). These defects can be
either distributed or localized on the shell surface.
However, in practice, the operation of integrating a dierential system by the
shooting method suers the handicap of being very tedious. May be this is why
usage of this approach has been so limited in the past and has been only applied to
some special cases. For instance, in particular cases such as
ww

nn
1
cos
mpx
L
_ _
5
ww

nn
1
cos
mpx
L
_ _

nn
2
sin
kpx
L
_ _
cos
ny
R
_ _
6
where

nn
1
,

nn
2
are the defect generalized amplitudes, it is possible to simplify the
original dierential system and to search for a solution by simply locating the roots
of a polynomial function of degree three.
In the following, we proceed by recalling the buckling load for a perfect shell.
Then, the particular distributed imperfections having the axisymmetric form (5) or
the asymmetric form (6) are introduced, as was rst performed by Arbocz [5].
Finally, a localized defect having the form
ww a
0
x 7
is considered. In this last case, when the function a
0
is parabolic over a narrow
strip localized on the shell surface, we demonstrate that an analytical solution
exists for the system of Eqs. (1)(3) and (7).
3. Small deection theory for a perfect shell
If the solution of Eqs. (1) and (2) satisfying boundary conditions (3) is assumed
to be of the form
wx; y Wsin
mpx
L
_ _
sin
ny
R
_ _
8
where m and n are integers, then one could easily obtain the critical load k
c
(called
1039 A. Khamlichi et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 42 (2004) 10351047
the classical critical load) as
k
c
r
c
x

Eh
Rc
9
where c

31 t
2

_
. When the shell data are, for example, R 0:1016 m,
L 0:2032 m, h 1:179 10
-4
m, E 1:048 10
11
Pa, and t 0:3, one nds
that k
c
7:36 10
7
Pa.
The previous data ensure that buckling occurs in the elastic domain. The
obtained critical load is associated to a set of buckling modes, as shown in Fig. 2.
Particular buckling modes are given, for example, by: (m 2, n 26), (m 3,
n 30), (m 5, n 40). This is a feature of the Von KarmanDonnell model,
which does not allow selection of buckling modes in case of a perfect shell. In con-
stant use of rened shell theories like those of Flu gge or Koiter results in a unique
buckling mode, which is, in the present case, the mode (m 2, n 26). This is not,
however, an authentic drawback of the Von KarmanDonnell model, since the real
problem in using Eq. (9) is that the results obtained are always in complete dis-
agreement with the buckling loads determined from experiments such as those due,
for example, to Lundquist [11] and Weingarten et al. [12].
4. Eect of distributed axisymmetric imperfections
These kinds of defects are essentially due to the manufacturing processes of the
cylindrical shells. Their simplest representation is a sinusoidal axial wave having
the form given by relation (5) with m an even integer. The solution is assumed to
admit the form
w n
1
sin
mpx
2L
_ _
cos
ny
R
_ _
10
Fig. 2. Perfect buckling modes corresponding to the classical buckling load.
A. Khamlichi et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 42 (2004) 10351047 1040
and the critical load k as a function of the defect magnitude

nn
1
, and m is calculated
by means of a numerical program. For this purpose, a minimisation with respect to
the number of circumferential half waves n is performed for any given shell para-
meters.
When the shell data are the same as those previously used for a perfect shell, one
nds the buckling loads and modes shown in Figs. 3 and 4.
5. Eect of distributed asymmetric imperfections
An asymmetric defect having the form given by Eq. (6), with k m=2 and m an
even integer, has the same axisymmetric component as the defect dened by
relation (5). This is an interesting defect since it describes some of the post-buckled
Fig. 3. Reduced buckling load (axisymmetric distributed defects).
Fig. 4. Buckling modes (axisymmetric distributed defects).
1041 A. Khamlichi et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 42 (2004) 10351047
shapes obtained during experimentation. If the pre-buckling solution is assumed to
be of the form
w n
0
n
1
cos
mpx
L
_ _
n
2
sin
kpx
L
_ _
cos
ny
R
_ _
;
F
Eh
2
k
2cR
y
2
f
0
x 11
Arbocz [5] had shown that the solution must satisfy a system of two polynomial
equations of unknowns n
1
and n
2
. By xing the value of n
2
, the solution can be
considered in the plane (k, n
1
). This simplies the previous system to a single poly-
nomial equation of degree three. The critical load k is the positive minimum
obtained from the three roots corresponding to the previous equation. Now repre-
senting k versus n
2
enables location of the critical load, which is given by the rst
reached maximum k
d
(limit point) of this last curve when it exists.
A numerical program was written in order to automatically compute the critical
load by performing (i) a minimisation with respect to n in order to evaluate the
number of circumferential half waves xing the buckling mode and (ii) a second
minimisation with respect to the number of axial half waves m.
Table 1 gives the buckling mode m and the critical load corresponding to four
dierent cases of asymmetric defects. The data used in this application are the
same as those used for the perfect shell.
6. Eect of localized axisymmetric imperfections
When a localized defect is assumed to have the form given by Eq. (7), the dier-
ential system obtained by Arbocz [5] reduces to the following form:
w
0

;zzzz
2aw
0

;zz
bw
0
2aa
0

;zz
12
where z x=R, a 2Rkc=h and b 4c
2
R
2
=h
2
.
It can be shown, on the other hand, that the boundary conditions as given by
Eq. (3) are easily transformed to the form
w
0
0 w
0
L=R ^ ww
tk
c
; and w
0

;z
0 w
0

;z
L=R 0 13
Table 1
Buckling load versus the amplitude of the distributed asymmetric imperfections

nn
1
(10
6
m)

nn
2
(10
6
m)
m
k
d
=k
c
Case 1 11.79 11.79 16 0.9749
Case 2 47.16 11.79 14 0.8360
Case 3 47.16 47.16 8 0.2876
Case 4 11.79 47.16 10 0.3329
A. Khamlichi et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 42 (2004) 10351047 1042
Given an axisymmetric defect having the form of a parabola of magnitude e
which is distributed on the strip x
0
g=2; x
0
g=2, performing analytic inte-
gration of Eqs. (12) and (13) yields the following expression of shell radial displace-
ment:
wx h ^ wwk ~ wwk; e; g; x
0
h
t
Sk; z; e; g; x
0
Gz 14
where S T
1
W,
t
Gz e
uz
coswz e
uz
sinwz e
uz
coswz e
uz
sinwz ,
~ wwk; e; g; x
0
8h
2
Rek=cgx
0
g, and t in superscript position indicates the matrix
transpose.
In the previous relations, the other notations used are
T
1 0 1 0
u w u w
s
1
s
2
s
3
s
4
us
1
ws
2
us
2
ws
1
us
3
ws
4
us
4
ws
3
_

_
_

_
; u

cR
h
1 k
_
;
w

cR
h
1 k
_
; s
1
e
uL=R
coswL=R; e
uL=R
sinwL=R;
e
uL=R
coswL=R; e
uL=R
sinwL=R and
t
W ^ ww ~ ww 0 ^ ww ~ ww 0
Parametric studies regarding shell buckling can now be performed. Using the same
shell data as previously considered for the perfect shell, Figs. 5 and 6 give predic-
tions of the buckling load for the centred localized defects as a function of defect
characteristics amplitude e and strip width g. To obtain these gures, the load
deection curve as given by relation (14) is plotted. Then the rst bifurcation or
limit point when it occurs is located. Fig. 7 shows typical bifurcation points in the
loaddeection curves. Fig. 8 shows the buckling modes associated with the pre-
vious buckling loads.
Fig. 5. Buckling load versus the defect amplitude |e| for g L=20.
1043 A. Khamlichi et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 42 (2004) 10351047
7. Comparison with other known results
In order to evaluate the range of validity of the actual buckling strength predic-
tions, let us rst consider the governing sensitivity expression for the relative buck-
ling load versus the amplitude of a distributed axisymmetric imperfection as
established for long cylindrical shells by Hutchinson and Koiter [13]:
k
k
c
1
3c
4h
e

3c
2h
e
9c
2
16h
2
e
2

15
where k is the actual buckling load when a geometrical imperfection in the shape of
the axisymmetric buckling mode of amplitude e is assumed.
Fig. 6. Buckling load versus the defect strip width g for jej h=10.
Fig. 7. Loaddeection curves as a function of |e| for g L=20.
A. Khamlichi et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 42 (2004) 10351047 1044
To also assess comparisons with the case of distributed defects obtained by lin-
ear combination of the rst buckling modes, the numerical results obtained
through use of a commercial nite element code by Kim and Kim [9] are also con-
sidered.
Table 2 summarizes the obtained buckling load as a function of the defect ampli-
tude. The boundary conditions used in obtaining the numerical results are those
corresponding to a cylinder on a sti foundation, which is close to the shell con-
sidered in the present work. The authors have outlined that the results are scarcely
aected by the boundary conditions, since when considering the same cylinder on a
soft foundation, variations of the results were limited to within a 6% interval. In
fact, the results associated to shell parameters bounding the case L 2R et R
866 h considered in the present work are recalled in Table 2.
As shown in Table 2, our model underestimates the buckling load when the loca-
lized defect amplitude is very small: jej 0:1 h. Our model nevertheless predicts
nearly the same buckling load for moderate defect amplitudes, jej ! 0:3 h, as that
obtained from Kim and Kim [9], while it overestimates the buckling load in
Fig. 8. Shell buckling modes for two defect amplitudes and g L=20.
Table 2
Comparison of reduced buckling loads
jej=h L 2R and
R 800h [9]
L 2R and
R 1000h [9]
L 2R and
R 866h
(Hutchinson et al.)
L 2R and
R 866h
(this study)
0.1 0.608 0.695 0.611 0.978
0.2 n.c. n.c. 0.501 0.110
0.3 0.420 0.532 0.433 0.224
1 0.310 0.328 0.236 0.271
2 0.257 0.301 0.147 0.280
3 0.231 0.262 0.107 0.282
1045 A. Khamlichi et al. / Thin-Walled Structures 42 (2004) 10351047
comparison with Hutchinson and Koiter [13]. Note, however, that our model pre-
dicts, in the most severe case, a critical load which is only 0.110 when jej 0:2 h.
This result is only one half the critical load predicted by Kim and Kim [9] and
agrees with the minimum buckling load obtained by Hutchinson and Koiter [13]
when jej 3 h. Note also that the governing sensitivity expression given in Eq. (15)
predicts a buckling load which is always decreasing while the localized imperfection
considered here predicts a sensitivity behaviour to defect amplitude which is not
monotonic.
8. Discussions and conclusions
When the shell surface suers from the presence of a localized axisymmetric
imperfection, the fundamental equilibrium trajectory bifurcates or admits a limit
point. The actual critical load is less than the classical critical load. Figs. 5 and 6
and Table 2 show that the obtained critical loads can be much less in comparison
with those obtained by distributed defects.
It is possible to perform, by means of the analytic model presented in this work,
parametric studies with the view of locating defects which are potentially the most
dangerous. In all cases, calculations are achieved with high accuracy and speed.
It has been shown that the eect of a localized axisymmetric defect is not pro-
portional to its span. Moreover, it is not possible to foresee which one would have
the most important eect on the buckling load. Considering each possible case sep-
arately is hence necessary. In practice, one may get the actual imperfections by tak-
ing measurements and introduce them in the analytic model after performing a
correlation with the localized defect having the form considered in this work. In
the absence of any imperfection statements, it is advisable to consider the most
adverse critical load obtained from various simulations. This last could be
obtained, in fact, through a minimisation process conducted over the parameters of
the localized axisymmetric defect: amplitude and strip width.
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