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What is buckling? Equilibrium paths and critical states Influence of imperfections Plastic buckling Approaches to evaluate buckling Dynamic buckling

1. WHAT IS BUCKLING? A structural system is formed by a structure and the loads acting on it. There are two main properties that make a structure withstand loads: • The constitutive material, and • The geometric shape. Every structure is designed with a specific shape and it is expected that it should retain this shape during its service life. For example, a tank that is designed with a circular shape and a conical roof is expected to retain this shape under the loads considered in the design. Buckling is a process by which a structure cannot withstand loads with its original shape, so that it changes this shape in order to find a new equilibrium configuration. This is an undesired process (from the point of view of the engineer), and occurs for a welldefined value of the load. The consequences of buckling are basically geometric: There are large displacements in the structure, to such an extent that the shape changes. There may also be consequences for the material, in the sense that deflections in the tank may induce plasticity in the walls of the structure. Figure 1 shows a buckled tank.

**Figure 1. A tank that buckled in Penuelas, Puerto Rico.
**

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This chapter was prepared by Luis A. Godoy

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and (b) bifurcation point. To visualize a buckling process it is necessary to consider the load-deflection diagram. the fundamental path is nonlinear and reaches a maximum load.b). At a critical point the stability changes from stable to unstable. then the system oscillates but returns to the original state after a while. and the emerging geometry is called the buckling mode. There are several ways in which this process may happen: • In snap buckling. Both limit and bifurcation points are called critical points or critical states. • In bifurcation buckling.Buckling is associated not just to a structure. If the system does not return to the original state and goes to a new state.a). The load level at which there is a change in the shape is called buckling load. as shown in Figure 2. also the prebuckling path. This state is called limit point (Figure 2. perhaps far from the original one. at which the tangent to the path is horizontal. Buckling is associated to a property of the equilibrium states known as stability. This path may be linear (or almost linear) or may be nonlinear. Here we plot the equilibrium states of the structure in terms of the load applied and the deflection obtained. the fundamental path may be linear and it crosses another equilibrium path. but to the whole structural system. Load deflection diagrams showing equilibrium paths (a) limit point. Figure 2. so that it is necessary to choose a convenient point and follow the process by looking at the displacements of this specific point. The equilibrium path emerging from the unloaded configuration is called the fundamental or primary path. The change in the shape occurs in a violent way. A stable equilibrium state is one in which if there is a small disturbance to the system at the same load level. then the original was an unstable equilibrium state. The state at which both paths cross is called a bifurcation point. Of course there are deflections in almost every point of the structure. 2. 2 . which was not present at the beginning of the loading process (Figure 2. EQUILIBRIUM PATHS AND CRITICAL STATES The sequence of equilibrium points in this diagram is known as an equilibrium path.

This means that the critical state is associated to just one buckling mode. • There are structures with a load capacity in their postbuckling behavior. also known as a compound critical point. Three basic types of bifurcation for isolated modes. Koiter showed that the critical states of bifurcation might be of the following types (see Figure 3): • Stable symmetric bifurcation. This situation is shown in Figure 4. The postbuckling path (also called secondary path) has a horizontal tangent at the critical point. There are also cases in which there are two modes associated to the same critical load. depending of the displacements (Figure 3. This behavior is found in frames. there is a postbuckling equilibrium path. and the path is stable. and this is known as a coincident critical state. The postbuckling path has a non-horizontal tangent at the critical point. so that the structure cannot carry further load increments (Figure 3. so that the critical load is the maximum load of the structure. In 1945.b). Thus. but the path is unstable. and the path is stable on one side and unstable on the other. Figure 3. This behavior is found in columns and plates. which may be stable. • Unstable symmetric bifurcation. also called distinct critical point.a). So that the structure can carry further load increments only on the stable branch. so that the structure can carry further load increments (Figure 3. This behavior is typically found in shells.The process that occurs following buckling is called postbuckling. which can adjust to changes in shape and resist additional loads after buckling. The postbuckling path has a horizontal tangent at the critical point. • Asymmetric bifurcation. • Other structures do not have stable postbuckling equilibrium states. 3 .c). The type of behavior of Figure 3 occurs whenever there is an isolated critical state.

eccentricities in the loads. cylindrical shells under axial load or spherical shells under uniform external pressure (two common geometries in the design of tanks) develop many coincident modes for the lowest critical state. An imperfection is usually characterized by its variation in space and its amplitude ξ. the paths deviate more from the path of the perfect system. and others. There are two reasons explaining how two or more modes can be coincident (or almost coincident): • Due to the selection of some design parameters. An imperfection destroys a bifurcation point. it will have coincident critical states. and a new equilibrium path is obtained for each imperfection amplitude ξ. This is called mode-jumping. not the rule. Here it does not matter how we design the shell. The case of almost coincident critical loads is presented in Figure 4(a). two modes that may otherwise take different values of critical load. local changes in the properties.Figure 4. and there are several ways in which they may couple. different from the isolated equilibrium paths. • Due to a problem of the structure and the loading considered. could result coincident. Two or more coincident (or almost coincident) critical states may have modecoupling to form a new equilibrium path. This is shown in Figure 5. 4 . in Figure 4(a). As the amplitude of the imperfection increases. In many cases at the critical state the structure has a critical mode. (a) Almost-coincident and (b) coincident critical states: Two or more critical modes are associated to the same critical load. not the exception. the coupling of two modes produces a new secondary bifurcation state and a new tertiary equilibrium path. and as the structure follows the postcritical equilibrium path the mode of deflections change. In this case coincidence is the exception. INFLUENCE OF IMPERFECTIONS Many structural systems (including tanks under lateral loads) are sensitive to the influence of small imperfections. and coincidence is the rule. For example. 3. Not all coincident states couple. For example. while coincident critical loads are shown in Figure 4(b). Examples of imperfections are geometric deviations of the perfect shape.

Other structures have moderate sensitivity. like cylinders under lateral pressure. which have a loss of about 20-30 %. A typical plot is made showing the maximum load versus the amplitude of the imperfection. • Figure 6. and the bifurcation point is not reached (Figure 5. the maximum load that the system can reach depends on the amplitude of the imperfection.c).b). after which the path descends (Figure 5. like plates under in-plane loads. and is lower than what would be computed using the perfect geometry. that is known as an imperfection-sensitivity plot. In other cases (for example. This occurs in the cylinder and the sphere. Finally. an I-column under compression) there is mode-coupling but the imperfection-sensitivity is moderate. Influence of imperfections on bifurcation behavior of structural systems. Imperfection sensitivity plot showing how the maximum load decreases with the amplitude of an imperfection. • Finally. they have high imperfection sensitivity. Some structures have a loss of buckling-carrying capacity of 50 % or more. Thus. leading to a maximum load (Figure 5.a). An example is shown in Figure 6. Structural systems that display stable symmetric bifurcations have a nonlinear path due to imperfections.Figure 5. 5 . systems with asymmetric bifurcation have a maximum load on the unstable branch. • Systems with unstable symmetric bifurcation in the perfect configuration. there are structures with small sensitivity. when an imperfection is included have a nonlinear path with a maximum in the load. including cylinders under axial load and spheres under pressure. Problems with coincident (or almost coincident) critical states that have mode coupling may display high imperfection-sensitivity.

Taylor & Francis. Sometimes the program may fail to detect a bifurcation state. • Elasto-plastic buckling: This occurs when plasticity and instability occur almost at the same load level. ANSYS. D. Thus. (1985). The material properties during the buckling process are very important: • Elastic buckling: is a process that intiates at the critical states with elastic material properties. The results are a list of load and displacement configurations. There are basically three ways in which buckling may be evaluated using a finite element program: • Bifurcation analysis.4. PLASTIC BUCKLING In Figure 1 we can see a frozen image of the buckled tank. REFERENCES Bushnell. Thus. The results are the buckling load and the buckling mode. The program performs first a static analysis of a linear fundamental equilibrium path. • Initial postcritical analysis. and bifurcations are not taken into account. L. Godoy. This occurs in thick shells. a commercial computer package is employed like ABAQUS. 5. Perhaps the steel was elastic at the onset of buckling. 6 . Philadelphia. • Plastic buckling: is a process that initiates with plastic deformations. Theory of Elastic Stability: Analysis and Sensitivity. but as postcritical deflections grew the material had plastic deformations. A step-by-step analysis is performed considering an initial imperfection and geometrical and material nonlinearity. ALGOR. and then computes the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of the system using the stiffness and the load-geometry matrices. Koiter developed a theory in which the stability of the critical state provides information about the postcritical states close to the critical point. Dordrecht. Only limit points can be detected. No information is provided regarding the postbuckling path or sensitivity analysis. and it has been incorporated into many special purpose finite element programs for shells. instability occurs before plasticity: when the structure reaches plastic deformations it already experienced buckling. and more specifically. like tanks. This occurs in most thin-walled shells. A perturbation analysis is performed to compute the initial postcritical secondary path. Commercial computer programs do not have this capability. APPROACHES TO EVALUATE BUCKLING At present most structures are analyzed using a finite element model. plasticity occurs before instability: when the structure reaches a buckling load it already had plastic deformations. This occurs in moderately thin shells. • Nonlinear analysis. ADINA. A. and others. Computerized Buckling Analysis of Shells. (2000). PA. Martinus Nijjhoff.

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