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**Lecture 8.1 : Introduction to Plate Behaviour and Design
**

Lecture 8.2 : Behaviour and Design of Unstiffened Plates

Lecture 8.3 : Behaviour and Design of Stiffened Plates

Lecture 8.4.1 : Plate Girder Behaviour and Design I

Lecture 8.4.2 : Plate Girder Behaviour and Design II

Lecture 8.4.3 : Plate Girder Design - Special Topics

Lecture 8.5.1 : Introduction to Design of Box Girders

Lecture 8.5.2 : Advanced Design of Box Girders

Lecture 8.6 : Introduction to Shell Structures

Lecture 8.7 : Basic Analysis of Shell Structures

Lecture 8.8 : Design of Unstiffened Cylinders

Lecture 8.9 : Design of Stringer-Stiffened Cylindrical Shells

ESDEP WG 8

PLATES AND SHELLS

Lecture 8.1: Introduction to Plate

Behaviour and Design

OBJECTIVE/SCOPE

To introduce the series of lectures on plates, showing the uses of plates to resist in-plane

and out-of-plane loading and their principal modes of behaviour both as single panels and as

assemblies of stiffened plates.

PREREQUISITES

None.

RELATED LECTURES

Lecture 8.2: Behaviour and Design of Unstiffened Plates

Lecture 8.3: Behaviour and Design of Stiffened Plates

SUMMARY

This lecture introduces the uses of plates and plated assemblies in steel structures. It

describes the basic behaviour of plate panels subject to in-plane or out-of-plane loading,

highlighting the importance of geometry and boundary conditions. Basic buckling modes and

mode interaction are presented. It introduces the concept of effective width and describes the

influence of imperfections on the behaviour of practical plates. It also gives an introduction to

the behaviour of stiffened plates.

1. INTRODUCTION

Plates are very important elements in steel structures. They can be assembled into

complete members by the basic rolling process (as hot rolled sections), by folding (as cold

formed sections) and by welding. The efficiency of such sections is due to their use of the high

in-plane stiffness of one plate element to support the edge of its neighbour, thus controlling the

out-of-plane behaviour of the latter.

The size of plates in steel structures varies from about 0,6mm thickness and 70mm width

in a corrugated steel sheet, to about 100mm thick and 3m width in a large industrial or offshore

structure. Whatever the scale of construction the plate panel will have a thickness t that is much

smaller than the width b, or length a. As will be seen later, the most important geometric

parameter for plates is b/t and this will vary, in an efficient plate structure, within the range 30 to

250.

2. BASIC BEHAVIOUR OF A PLATE PANEL

Understanding of plate structures has to begin with an understanding of the modes of

behaviour of a single plate panel.

2.1 Geometric and Boundary Conditions

The important geometric parameters are thickness t, width b (usually measured transverse

to the direction of the greater direct stress) and length a, see Figure 1a. The ratio b/t, often called

the plate slenderness, influences the local buckling of the plate panel; the aspect ratio a/b may

also influence buckling patterns and may have a significant influence on strength.

In addition to the geometric proportions of the plate, its strength is governed by its

boundary conditions. Figure 1 shows how response to different types of actions is influenced by

different boundary conditions. Response to in-plane actions that do not cause buckling of the

plate is only influenced by in-plane, plane stress, boundary conditions, Figure 1b. Initially,

response to out-of-plane action is only influenced by the boundary conditions for transverse

movement and edge moments, Figure 1c. However, at higher actions, responses to both types of

action conditions are influenced by all four boundary conditions. Out-of-plane conditions

influence the local buckling, see Figure 1d; in-plane conditions influence the membrane action

effects that develop at large displacements (>t) under lateral actions, see Figure 1e.

2.2 In-plane Actions

As shown in Figure 2a, the basic types of in-plane actions to the edge of a plate panel are

the distributed action that can be applied to a full side, the patch action or point action that can be

applied locally.

When the plate buckles, it is particularly important to differentiate between applied

displacements, see Figure 2b and applied stresses, see Figure 2c. The former permits a

redistribution of stress within the panel; the more flexible central region sheds stresses to the

edges giving a valuable post buckling resistance. The latter, rarer case leads to an earlier collapse

of the central region of the plate with in-plane deformation of the loaded edges.

2.3 Out-of-plane Actions

Out-of-plane loading may be:

- uniform over the entire panel, see for example Figure 3a, the base of a water tank.

- varying over the entire panel, see for example Figure 3b, the side of a water tank.

- a local patch over part of the panel, see for example Figure 3c, a wheel load on a bridge deck.

2.4 Determination of Plate Panel Actions

In some cases, for example in Figure 4a, the distribution of edge actions on the panels of

a plated structure are self-evident. In other cases the in-plane flexibilities of the panels lead to

distributions of stresses that cannot be predicted from simple theory. In the box girder shown in

Figure 4b, the in-plane shear flexibility of the flanges leads to in-plane deformation of the top

flange. Where these are interrupted, for example at the change in direction of the shear at the

central diaphragm, the resulting change in shear deformation leads to a non-linear distribution of

direct stress across the top flange; this is called shear lag.

In members made up of plate elements, such as the box girder shown in Figure 5, many

of the plate components are subjected to more than one component of in-plane action effect.

Only panel A does not have shear coincident with the longitudinal compression.

If the cross-girder system EFG was a means of introducing additional actions into the box, there

would also be transverse direct stresses arising from the interaction between the plate and the

stiffeners.

2.5 Variations in Buckled Mode

i. Aspect ratio a/b

In a long plate panel, as shown in Figure 6, the greatest initial inhibition to buckling is the

transverse flexural stiffness of the plate between unloaded edges. (As the plate moves more into

the post-buckled regime, transverse membrane action effects become significant as the plate

deforms into a non-developable shape, i.e. a shape that cannot be formed just by bending).

As with any instability of a continuous medium, more than one buckled mode is possible, in this

instance, with one half wave transversely and in half waves longitudinally. As the aspect ratio

increases the critical mode changes, tending towards the situation where the half wave length

a/m = b. The behaviour of a long plate panel can therefore be modelled accurately by considering

a simply-supported, square panel.

ii. Bending conditions

As shown in Figure 7, boundary conditions influence both the buckled shapes and the critical

stresses of elastic plates. The greatest influence is the presence or absence of simple supports, for

example the removal of simple support to one edge between case 1 and case 4 reduces the

buckling stress by a factor of 4,0/0,425 or 9,4. By contrast introducing rotational restraint to one

edge between case 1 and case 2 increases the buckling stress by 1,35.

iii. Interaction of modes

Where there is more than one action component, there will be more than one mode and therefore

there may be interaction between the modes. Thus in Figure 8b(i) the presence of low transverse

compression does not change the mode of buckling. However, as shown in Figure 8b(ii), high

transverse compression will cause the panel to deform into a single half wave. (In some

circumstances this forcing into a higher mode may increase strength; for example, in case 8b(ii),

predeformation/transverse compression may increase strength in longitudinal compression.)

Shear buckling as shown in Figure 8c is basically an interaction between the diagonal,

destabilising compression and the stabilising tension on the other diagonal.

Where buckled modes under the different action effects are similar, the buckling stresses under

the combined actions are less than the addition of individual action effects. Figure 9 shows the

buckling interactions under combined compression, and uniaxial compression and shear.

2.6 Grillage Analogy for Plate Buckling

One helpful way to consider the buckling behaviour of a plate is as the grillage shown in Figure

10. A series of longitudinal columns carry the longitudinal actions. When they buckle, those

nearer the edge have greater restraint than those near the centre from the transverse flexural

members. They therefore have greater post buckling stiffness and carry a greater proportion of

the action. As the grillage moves more into the post buckling regime, the transverse buckling

restraint is augmented by transverse membrane action.

2.7 Post Buckling Behaviour and Effective Widths

Figures 11a, 11b and 11c describe in more detail the changing distribution of stresses as a plate

buckles following the equilibrium path shown in Figure 11d. As the plate initially buckles the

stresses redistribute to the stiffer edges. As the buckling continues this redistribution becomes

more extreme (the middle strip of slender plates may go into tension before the plate fails). Also

transverse membrane stresses build up. These are self equilibrating unless the plate has clamped

in-plane edges; tension at the mid panel, which restrains the buckling is resisted by compression

at the edges, which are restrained from out-of-plane movement.

An examination of the non-linear longitudinal stresses in Figures 11a and 11c shows that it is

possible to replace these stresses by rectangular stress blocks that have the same peak stress and

same action effect. This effective width of plate (comprising b

eff

/2 on each side) proves to be a

very effective design concept. Figure 11e shows how effective width varies with slenderness (ì

p

is a measure of plate slenderness that is independent of yield stress; ì

p

= 1,0 corresponds to

values of b/t of 57, 53 and 46 for f

y

of 235N/mm

2

, 275N/mm

2

and 355N/mm

2

respectively).

Figure 12 shows how effective widths of plate elements may be combined to give an effective

cross-section of a member.

2.8 The Influences of Imperfections on the Behaviour of Actual Plates

As with all steel structures, plate panels contain residual stresses from manufacture and

subsequent welding into plate assemblies, and are not perfectly flat. The previous discussions

about plate panel behaviour all relate to an ideal, perfect plate. As shown in Figure 13 these

imperfections modify the behaviour of actual plates. For a slender plate the behaviour is

asymptotic to that of the perfect plate and there is little reduction in strength. For plates of

intermediate slenderness (which frequently occur in practice), an actual imperfect plate will have

a considerably lower strength than that predicted for the perfect plate.

Figure 14 summarises the strength of actual plates of varying slenderness. It shows the reduction

in strength due to imperfections and the post buckling strength of slender plates.

2.9 Elastic Behaviour of Plates Under Lateral Actions

The elastic behaviour of laterally loaded plates is considerably influenced by its support

conditions. If the plate is resting on simple supports as in Figure 15b, it will deflect into a shape

approximating a saucer and the corner regions will lift off their supports. If it is attached to the

supports, as in Figure 15c, for example by welding, this lift off is prevented and the plate

stiffness and action capacity increases. If the edges are encastre as in Figure 15d, both stiffness

and strength are increased by the boundary restraining moments.

Slender plates may well deflect elastically into a large displacement regime (typically where d >

t). In such cases the flexural response is significantly enhanced by the membrane action of the

plate. This membrane action is at its most effective if the edges are fully clamped. Even if they

are only held partially straight by their own in-plane stiffness, the increase in stiffness and

strength is most noticeable at large deflections.

Figure 15 contrasts the behaviour of a similar plate with different boundary conditions.

Figure 16 shows the modes of behaviour that occur if the plates are subject to sufficient load for

full yield line patterns to develop. The greater number of yield lines as the boundary conditions

improve is a qualitative measure of the increase in resistance.

3. BEHAVIOUR OF STIFFENED PLATES

Many aspects of stiffened plate behaviour can be deduced from a simple extension of the basic

concepts of behaviour of unstiffened plate panels. However, in making these extrapolations it

should be recognised that:

- "smearing" the stiffeners over the width of the plate can only model overall behaviour.

- stiffeners are usually eccentric to the plate. Flexural behaviour of the equivalent tee section

induces local direct stresses in the plate panels.

- local effects on plate panels and individual stiffeners need to be considered separately.

- the discrete nature of the stiffening introduces the possibility of local modes of buckling. For

example, the stiffened flange shown in Figure 17a shows several modes of buckling. Examples

are:

(i) plate panel buckling under overall compression plus any local compression arising from the

combined action of the plate panel with its attached stiffening, Figure 17b.

(ii) stiffened panel buckling between transverse stiffeners, Figure 17c. This occurs if the latter

have sufficient rigidity to prevent overall buckling. Plate action is not very significant because

the only transverse member is the plate itself. This form of buckling is best modelled by

considering the stiffened panel as a series of tee sections buckling as columns. It should be noted

that this section is monosymmetric and will exhibit different behaviour if the plate or the

stiffener tip is in greater compression.

(iii) overall or orthotropic bucking, Figure 17d. This occurs when the cross girders are flexible. It

is best modelled by considering the plate assembly as an orthotropic plate.

4. CONCLUDING SUMMARY

- Plates and plate panels are widely used in steel structures to resist both in-plane and out-of-

plane actions.

- Plate panels under in-plane compression and/or shear are subject to buckling.

- The elastic buckling stress of a perfect plate panel is influenced by:

plate slenderness (b/t).

aspect ratio (a/b).

boundary conditions.

interaction between actions, i.e. biaxial compression and compression and shear.

- The effective width concept is a useful means of defining the post-buckling behaviour of a plate

panel in compression.

- The behaviour of actual plates is influenced by both residual stresses and geometric

imperfections.

- The response of a plate panel to out-of-plane actions is influenced by its boundary conditions.

- An assembly of plate panels into a stiffened plate structure may exhibit both local and overall

modes of instability.

5. ADDITIONAL READING

1. Timoshenko, S. and Weinowsky-Kreiger, S., "Theory of Plates and Shells" Mc Graw-Hill, New

York, International Student Edition, 2nd Ed.

ESDEP WG 8

PLATES AND SHELLS

Lecture 8.2: Behaviour and Design of

Unstiffened Plates

OBJECTIVE/SCOPE

To discuss the load distribution, stability and ultimate resistance of unstiffened plates

under in-plane and out-of-plane loading.

PREREQUISITES

Lecture 8.1: Introduction to plate behaviour and design

RELATED LECTURES

Lecture 8.3: Stiffened Plates

Lectures 8.4: Plate Girder Behaviour and Design I and II

Lecture 8.6: Introduction to Shell Structures

SUMMARY

The load distribution for unstiffened plate structures loaded in-plane is discussed. The

critical buckling loads are derived using Linear Elastic Theory. The effective width method for

determining the ultimate resistance of the plate is explained as are the requirements for adequate

finite element modelling of a plate element. Out-of-plane loading is also considered and its

influence on the plate stability discussed.

1. INTRODUCTION

Thin-walled members, composed of thin plate panels welded together, are increasingly

important in modern steel construction. In this way, by appropriate selection of steel quality,

geometry, etc., cross-sections can be produced that best fit the requirements for strength and

serviceability, thus saving steel.

Recent developments in fabrication and welding procedures allow the automatic

production of such elements as plate girders with thin-walled webs, box girders, thin-walled

columns, etc. (Figure 1a); these can be subsequently transported to the construction site as

prefabricated elements.

Due to their relatively small thickness, such plate panels are basically not intended to

carry actions normal to their plane. However, their behaviour under in-plane actions is of specific

interest (Figure 1b). Two kinds of in-plane actions are distinguished:

a) those transferred from adjacent panels, such as compression or shear.

b) those resulting from locally applied forces (patch loading) which generate zones of highly

concentrated local stress in the plate.

The behaviour under patch action is a specific problem dealt with in the lectures on plate

girders (Lectures 8.5.1 and 8.5.2). This lecture deals with the more general behaviour of

unstiffened panels subjected to in-plane actions (compression or shear) which is governed by

plate buckling. It also discusses the effects of out-of-plane actions on the stability of these

panels.

2. UNSTIFFENED PLATES UNDER IN-PLANE LOADING

2.1 Load Distribution

2.1.1 Distribution resulting from membrane theory

The stress distribution in plates that react to in-plane loading with membrane stresses

may be determined, in the elastic field, by solving the plane stress elastostatic problem governed

by Navier's equations, see Figure 2.

where:

u = u(x, y), v = v(x, y): are the displacement components in the x and y directions

v

eff

= 1/(1 + v) is the effective Poisson's ratio

G: is the shear modulus

X = X(x, y), Y = Y(x, y): are the components of the mass forces.

The functions u and v must satisfy the prescribed boundary (support) conditions on the

boundary of the plate. For example, for an edge parallel to the y axis, u= v = 0 if the edge is

fixed, or o

x

= t

xy

= 0 if the edge is free to move in the plane of the plate.

The problem can also be stated using the Airy stress function, F = F(x, y), by the

following biharmonic equation:

\

4

F = 0

This formulation is convenient if stress boundary conditions are prescribed. The stress

components are related to the Airy stress function by:

; ;

2.1.2 Distribution resulting from linear elastic theory using Bernouilli's hypothesis

For slender plated structures, where the plates are stressed as membranes, the application

of Airy's stress function is not necessary due to the hypothesis of plane strain distributions,

which may be used in the elastic as well as in the plastic range, (Figure 3).

However, for wide flanges of plated structures, the application of Airy's stress function

leads to significant deviations from the plane strain hypothesis, due to the shear lag effect,

(Figure 4). Shear lag may be taken into account by taking a reduced flange width.

2.1.3 Distribution resulting from finite element methods

When using finite element methods for the determination of the stress distribution, the

plate can be modelled as a perfectly flat arrangement of plate sub-elements. Attention must be

given to the load introduction at the plate edges so that shear lag effects will be taken into

account. The results of this analysis can be used for the buckling verification.

2.2 Stability of Unstiffened Plates

2.1.1 Linear buckling theory

The buckling of plate panels was investigated for the first time by Bryan in 1891, in

connection with the design of a ship hull [1]. The assumptions for the plate under consideration

(Figure 5a), are those of thin plate theory (Kirchhoff's theory, see [2-5]):

a) the material is linear elastic, homogeneous and isotropic.

b) the plate is perfectly plane and stress free.

c) the thickness "t" of the plate is small compared to its other dimensions.

d) the in-plane actions pass through its middle plane.

e) the transverse displacements w are small compared to the thickness of the plate.

f) the slopes of the deflected middle surfaces are small compared to unity.

g) the deformations are such that straight lines, initially normal to the middle plane, remain

straight lines and normal to the deflected middle surface.

h) the stresses normal to the thickness of the plate are of a negligible order of magnitude.

Due to assumption (e) the rotations of the middle surface are small and their squares can

be neglected in the strain displacement relationships for the stretching of the middle surface,

which are simplified as:

I

x

= u/x , T

2

E/ì

2

¸

xy

= u/y + v/x (1)

An important consequence of this assumption is that there is no stretching of the middle surface

due to bending, and the differential equations governing the deformation of the plate are linear

and uncoupled. Thus, the plate equation under simultaneous bending and stretching is:

D\

4

w = q

-kt

{o

x

2

w/x

2

+ 2t

xy

2

w/xy + o

y

2

w/y

2

} (2)

where D = Et

3

/12(1 - v

2

) is the bending stiffness of the plate having thickness t, modulus of

elasticity E, and Poisson's ratio v; q = q(x,y) is the transverse loading; and k is a parameter. The

stress components, o

x

, o

y

, t

xy

are in general functions of the point x, y of the middle plane and

are determined by solving independently the plane stress elastoplastic problem which, in the

absence of in-plane body forces, is governed by the equilibrium equations:

o

x

/x + t

xy

/y = 0, t

xy

/x + o

y

/y = 0 (3)

supplemented by the compatibility equation:

\

2

(o

x

+ o

y

) = 0 (4)

Equations (3) and (4) are reduced either to the biharmonic equation by employing the Airy stress

function:

\

4

F = 0 (5)

defined as:

o

x

=

2

F/y

2

, o

y

=

2

F/x

2

, t

xy

= -

2

F/xy

or to the Navier equations of equilibrium, if the stress displacement relationships are employed:

\

2

+ [1/(1- )] /x

{u/x + v/y} = 0

\

2

+ [1/(1- )] /y

{u/x + v/y} = 0 (6)

where = v/(1 + v) is the effective Poisson's ratio.

Equation (5) is convenient if stress boundary conditions are prescribed. However, for

displacement or mixed boundary conditions Equations (6) are more convenient. Analytical or

approximate solutions of the plane elastostatic problem or the plate bending problem are possible

only in the case of simple plate geometries and boundary conditions. For plates with complex

shape and boundary conditions, a solution is only feasible by numerical methods such as the

finite element or the boundary element methods.

Equation (2) was derived by Saint-Venant. In the absence of transverse loading (q = 0),

Equation (2) together with the prescribed boundary (support) conditions of the plate, results in an

eigenvalue problem from which the values of the parameter k, corresponding to the non-trivial

solution (w { 0), are established. These values of k determine the critical in-plane edge actions

(o

cr

, t

cr

) under which buckling of the plate occurs. For these values of k the equilibrium path has

a bifurcation point (Figure 5b). The edge in-plane actions may depend on more than one

parameter, say k

1

, k

2

,...,k

N

, (e.g. o

x

, o

y

and t

xy

on the boundary may increase at different rates).

In this case there are infinite combinations of values of k

i

for which buckling occurs. These

parameters are constrained to lie on a plane curve (N = 2), on a surface (N = 3) or on a

hypersurface (N > 3). This theory, in which the equations are linear, is referred to as linear

buckling theory.

Of particular interest is the application of the linear buckling theory to rectangular plates,

subjected to constant edge loading (Figure 5a). In this case the critical action, which corresponds

to the Euler buckling load of a compressed strut, may be written as:

o

cr

= k

o

o

E

or t

cr

= k

t

o

E

(7)

where o

E

= (8)

and k

o

, k

t

are dimensionless buckling coefficients.

Only the form of the buckling surface may be determined by this theory but not the

magnitude of the buckling amplitude. The relationship between the critical stress o

cr

, and the

slenderness of the panel ì = b/t, is given by the buckling curve. This curve, shown in Figure 5c,

has a hyperbolic shape and is analogous to the Euler hyperbola for struts.

The buckling coefficients, "k", may be determined either analytically by direct integration

of Equation (2) or numerically, using the energy method, the method of transfer matrices, etc.

Values of k

o

and k

t

for various actions and support conditions are shown in Figure 6 as a

function of the aspect ratio of the plate e =a/b. The curves for ko have a "garland" form. Each

garland corresponds to a buckling mode with a certain number of waves. For a plate subjected to

uniform compression, as shown in Figure 6a, the buckling mode for values of e < .2, has one

half wave, for values .2 < e < .o, two half waves, etc. For e = .2 both buckling modes, with

one and two half waves, result in the same value of k

o

. Obviously, the buckling mode that gives

the smallest value of k is the decisive one. For practical reasons a single value of k

o

is chosen for

plates subjected to normal stresses. This is the smallest value for the garland curves independent

of the value of the aspect ratio. In the example given in Figure 6a, ko is equal to 4 for a plate

which is simply supported on all four sides and subjected to uniform compression.

Combination of stresses o

x

, o

y

and t

For practical design situations some further approximations are necessary. They are

illustrated by the example of a plate girder, shown in Figure 7.

The normal and shear stresses, o

x

and t respectively, at the opposite edges of a subpanel

are not equal, since the bending moments M and the shear forces V vary along the panel.

However, M and V are considered as constants for each subpanel and equal to the largest value

at an edge (or equal to the value at some distance from it). This conservative assumption leads to

equal stresses at the opposite edges for which the charts of k

o

and k

t

apply. The verification is

usually performed for two subpanels; one with the largest value of o

x

and one with the largest

value of t. In most cases, as in Figure 7, each subpanel is subjected to a combination of normal

and shear stresses. A direct determination of the buckling coefficient for a given combination of

stresses is possible; but it requires considerable numerical effort. For practical situations an

equivalent buckling stress o

cr

eq

is found by an interaction formula after the critical stresses o

cr

eq

and t

cr

o

, for independent action of o and t have been determined. The interaction curve for a

plate subjected to normal and shear stresses, o

x

and t respectively, varies between a circle and a

parabola [6], depending on the value of the ratio ȥ of the normal stresses at the edges (Figure 8).

This relationship may be represented by the approximate equation:

(9)

For a given pair of applied stresses (o, t) the factor of safety with respect to the above curve is

given by:

= (10)

The equivalent buckling stress is then given by:

o

cr

eq

= ¸

cr

eq

.¦o

2

+ 3t

2

} (11)

where the von Mises criterion has been applied.

For simultaneous action of o

x

, o

y

and t similar relationships apply.

2.2.2 Ultimate resistance of an unstiffened plate

General

The linear buckling theory described in the previous section is based on assumptions (a)

to (h) that are never fulfilled in real structures. The consequences for the buckling behaviour

when each of these assumptions is removed is now discussed.

The first assumption of unlimited linear elastic behaviour of the material is obviously not

valid for steel. If the material is considered to behave as linear elastic-ideal plastic, the buckling

curve must be cut off at the level of the yield stress o

y

(Figure 9b).

When the non-linear behaviour of steel between the proportionality limit o

p

and the yield

stress o

y

is taken into account, the buckling curve will be further reduced (Figure 9b). When

strain hardening is considered, values of o

cr

larger than o

y

, as experimentally observed for very

stocky panels, are possible. In conclusion, it may be stated that the removal of the assumption of

linear elastic behaviour of steel results in a reduction of the ultimate stresses for stocky panels.

The second and fourth assumptions of a plate without geometrical imperfections and

residual stresses, under symmetric actions in its middle plane, are also never fulfilled in real

structures. If the assumption of small displacements is still retained, the analysis of a plate with

imperfections requires a second order analysis. This analysis has no bifurcation point since for

each level of stress the corresponding displacements w may be determined. The equilibrium path

(Figure 10a) tends asymptotically to the value of o

cr

for increasing displacements, as is found

from the second order theory.

However the ultimate stress is generally lower than o

cr

since the combined stress due to

the buckling and the membrane stress is limited by the yield stress. This limitation becomes

relevant for plates with geometrical imperfections, in the region of moderate slenderness, since

the value of the buckling stress is not small (Figure 10b). For plates with residual stresses the

reduction of the ultimate stress is primarily due to the small value of o

p

(Figure 9b) at which the

material behaviour becomes non-linear. In conclusion it may be stated that imperfections due to

geometry, residual stresses and eccentricities of loading lead to a reduction of the ultimate stress,

especially in the range of moderate slenderness.

The assumption of small displacements (e) is not valid for stresses in the vicinity of o

cr

as

shown in Figure 10a. When large displacements are considered, Equation (1) must be extended

to the quadratic terms of the displacements. The corresponding equations, written for reasons of

simplicity for a plate without initial imperfections, are:

(12)

This results in a coupling between the equations governing the stretching and the bending

of the plate (Equations (1) and (2)).

(13a)

(13b)

where F is an Airy type stress function. Equations (13) are known as the von Karman equations.

They constitute the basis of the (geometrically) non-linear buckling theory. For a plate without

imperfections the equilibrium path still has a bifurcation point at o

cr

, but, unlike the linear

buckling theory, the equilibrium for stresses o > o

cr

is still stable (Figure 11). The equilibrium

path for plates with imperfections tends asymptotically to the same curve. The ultimate stress

may be determined by limiting the stresses to the yield stress. It may be observed that plates

possess a considerable post-critical carrying resistance. This post-critical behaviour is more

pronounced the more slender the plate, i.e. the smaller the value of o

cr

.

Buckling curve

For the reasons outlined above, it is evident that the Euler buckling curve for linear

buckling theory (Figure 6c) may not be used for design. A lot of experimental and theoretical

investigations have been performed in order to define a buckling curve that best represents the

true behaviour of plate panels. For relevant literature reference should be made to Dubas and

Gehri [7]. For design purposes it is advantageous to express the buckling curve in a

dimensionless form as described below.

The slenderness of a panel may be written according to (7) and (8) as:

ì

p

= (b/t) .¦l2´lv

2

)/k

o

= T.´E/o

cr

) (14)

If a reference slenderness given by:

ì

y

= T.´E/f

y

) (15)

is introduced, the relative slenderness becomes:

p

= ì

p

/ì

y

= .´o

y

/o

cr

) (16)

The ultimate stress is also expressed in a dimensionless form by introducing a reduction factor:

k = o

u

/o

y

(17)

Dimensionless curves for normal and for shear stresses as proposed by Eurocode 3 [8] are

illustrated in Figure 12.

These buckling curves have higher values for large slendernesses than those of the Euler

curve due to post critical behaviour and are limited to the yield stress. For intermediate

slendernesses, however, they have smaller values than those of Euler due to the effects of

geometrical imperfections and residual stresses.

Although the linear buckling theory is not able to describe accurately the behaviour of a

plate panel, its importance should not be ignored. In fact this theory, as in the case of struts,

yields the value of an important parameter, namely

p

, that is used for the determination of the

ultimate stress.

Effective width method

This method has been developed for the design of thin walled sections subjected to

uniaxial normal stresses. It will be illustrated for a simply-supported plate subjected to uniform

compression (Figure 13a).

The stress distribution which is initially uniform, becomes non-uniform after buckling,

since the central parts of the panel are not able to carry more stresses due to the bowing effect.

The stress at the stiff edges (towards which the redistribution takes place) may reach the yield

stress. The method is based on the assumption that the non-uniform stress distribution over the

entire panel width may be substituted by a uniform one over a reduced "effective" width. This

width is determined by equating the resultant forces:

b o

u

= b

e

o

y

(18)

and accordingly:

b

e

=

o

u

.b/o

y

= kb (19)

which shows that the value of the effective width depends on the buckling curve adopted. For

uniform compression the effective width is equally distributed along the two edges (Figure 13a).

For non-uniform compression and other support conditions it is distributed according to rules

given in the various regulations. Some examples of the distribution are shown in Figure 13b. The

effective width may also be determined for values of o < o

u

. In such cases Equation (19) is still

valid, but

p

, which is needed for the determination of the reduction factor k, is not given by

Equation (16) but by the relationship:

p

= .´o/o

cr

) (20)

The design of thin walled cross-sections is performed according to the following procedure:

For given actions conditions the stress distribution at the cross-section is determined. At each

subpanel the critical stress o

cr

, the relative slenderness

p

and the effective width b

e

are

determined according to Equations (7), (16) and (19), respectively. The effective width is then

distributed along the panel as illustrated by the examples in Figure 13b. The verifications are

finally based on the characteristic A

e

, I

e

, and W

e

of the effective cross-section. For the cross-

section of Figure 14b, which is subjected to normal forces and bending moments, the verification

is expressed as:

(21)

where e is the shift in the centroid of the cross-section to the tension side and ¸

m

the partial safety

factor of resistance.

The effective width method has not been extended to panels subjected to combinations of

stress. On the other hand the interaction formulae presented in Section 2.2 do not accurately

describe the carrying resistance of the plate, since they are based on linear buckling theory and

accordingly on elastic material behaviour. It has been found that these rules cannot be extended

to cases of plastic behaviour. Some interaction curves, at the ultimate limit state, are illustrated in

Figure 15, where all stresses are referred to the ultimate stresses for the case where each of them

is acting alone. Relevant interaction formulae are included in some recent European Codes - see

also [9,10].

Finite element methods

When using finite element methods to determine the ultimate resistance of an unstiffened plate

one must consider the following aspects:

- The modelling of the plate panel should include the boundary conditions as accurately as

possible with respect to the conditions of the real structure, see Figure 16. For a conservative

solution, hinged conditions can be used along the edges.

- Thin shell elements should be used in an appropriate mesh to make yielding and large

curvatures (large out-of-plane displacements) possible.

- The plate should be assumed to have an initial imperfection similar in shape to the final collapse

mode.

The first order Euler buckling mode can be used as a first approximation to this shape. In

addition, a disturbance to the first order Euler buckling mode can be added to avoid snap-through

problems while running the programme, see Figure 17. The amplitude of the initial imperfect

shape should relate to the tolerances for flatness.

- The program used must be able to take a true stress-strain relationship into account, see Figure

18, and if necessary an initial stress pattern. The latter can also be included in the initial shape.

- The computer model must use a loading which is equal to the design loading multiplied by an

action factor. This factor should be increased incrementally from zero up to the desired action

level (load factor = 1). If the structure is still stable at the load factor = 1, the calculation process

can be continued up to collapse or even beyond collapse into the region of unstable behaviour

(Figure 19). In order to calculate the unstable response, the program must be able to use more

refined incremental and iterative methods to reach convergence in equilibrium.

3. UNSTIFFENED PLATES UNDER OUT-OF-PLANE ACTIONS

3.1 Action Distribution

3.1.1 Distribution resulting from plate theory

If the plate deformations are small compared to the thickness of the plate, the middle

plane of the plate can be regarded as a neutral plane without membrane stresses. This assumption

is similar to beam bending theory. The actions are held in equilibrium only by bending moments

and shear forces. The stresses in an isotropic plate can be calculated in the elastic range by

solving a fourth order partial differential equation, which describes equilibrium between actions

and plate reactions normal to the middle plane of the plate, in terms of transverse deflections w

due to bending.

\

4

w =

where:

q = q(x, y) is the transverse loading

D = Et

3

/12(1-

2

)

is the stiffness of the plate having

thickness t, modulus of elasticity E,

and Poisson's ratio o .

is the biharmonic operator

In solving the plate equation the prescribed boundary (support) conditions must be taken into

account. For example, for an edge parallel to the y axis, w = ¯w/¯n = 0 if the edge is clamped, or

w = ¯w

2

/¯n

2

= 0 if the edge is simply supported.

Some solutions for the isotropic plate are given in Figure 20.

An approximation may be obtained by modelling the plate as a grid and neglecting the twisting

moments.

Plates in bending may react in the plastic range with a pattern of yield lines which, by

analogy to the plastic hinge mechanism for beams, may form a plastic mechanism in the limit

state (Figure 21). The position of the yield lines may be determined by minimum energy

considerations.

If the plate deformations are of the order of the plate thickness or even larger, the

membrane stresses in the plate can no longer be neglected in determining the plate reactions.

The membrane stresses occur if the middle surface of the plate is deformed to a curved

shape. The deformed shape can be generated only by tension, compression and shear stains in the

middle surface.

This behaviour can be illustrated by the deformed circular plate shown in Figure 22b. It is

assumed that the line a c b (diameter d) does not change during deformation, so that ad cd bd

is equal to the diameter d. The points which lie on the edge "akb" are now on ad kd bd ,

which must be on a smaller radius compared with the original one.

Therefore the distance akb becomes shorter, which means that membrane stresses exist in

the ring fibres of the plate.

The distribution of membrane stresses can be visualised if the deformed shape is frozen.

It can only be flattened out if it is cut into a number of radial cuts, Figure 22c, the gaps

representing the effects of membrane stresses; this explains why curved surfaces are much stiffer

than flat surfaces and are very suitable for constructing elements such as cupolas for roofs, etc.

The stresses in the plate can be calculated with two fourth order coupled differential equations, in

which an Airy-type stress function which describes the membrane state, has to be determined in

addition to the unknown plate deformation.

In this case the problem is non-linear. The solution is far more complicated in

comparison with the simple plate bending theory which neglects membrane effects.

The behaviour of the plate is governed by von Karman's Equations (13).

where F = F(x, y) is the Airy stress function.

3.1.2 Distribution resulting from finite element methods (FEM)

More or less the same considerations hold when using FEM to determine the stress

distribution in plates which are subject to out-of-plane action as when using FEM for plates

under in-plane actions (see Section 2.1.3), except for the following:

- The plate element must be able to describe large deflections out-of-plane.

- The material model used should include plasticity.

3.2 Deflection and Ultimate Resistance

3.2.1 Deflections

Except for the yield line mechanism theory, all analytical methods for determining the

stress distributions will also provide the deformations, provided that the stresses are in the elastic

region.

Using adequate finite element methods leads to accurate determination of the deflections

which take into account the decrease in stiffness due to plasticity in certain regions of the plate.

Most design codes contain limits to these deflections which have to be met at serviceability load

levels (see Figure 23).

3.2.2 Ultimate resistance

The resistance of plates, determined using the linear plate theory only, is normally much

underestimated since the additional strength due to the membrane effect and the redistribution of

forces due to plasticity is neglected.

An upper bound for the ultimate resistance can be found using the yield line theory.

More accurate results can be achieved using FEM. The FEM program should then

include the options as described in Section 3.1.2.

Via an incremental procedure, the action level can increase from zero up to the desired

design action level or even up to collapse (see Figure 23).

4. INFLUENCE OF THE OUT-OF-PLANE ACTIONS ON THE STABILITY OF

UNSTIFFENED PLATES

The out-of-plane action has an unfavourable effect on the stability of an unstiffened plate

panel in those cases where the deformed shape due to the out- of-plane action is similar to the

buckling collapse mode of the plate under in-plane action only.

The stability of a square plate panel, therefore, is highly influenced by the presence of out-of-

plane (transversely directed) actions. Thus if the aspect ratio e is smaller than , the plate

stability should be checked taking the out-of-plane actions into account. This can be done in a

similar way as for a column under compression and transverse actions.

If the aspect ratio e is larger than the stability of the plate should be checked

neglecting the out-of-plane actions component.

For strength verification both actions have to be considered simultaneously.

When adequate Finite element Methods are used, the complete behaviour of the plate can

be simulated taking the total action combination into account.

5. CONCLUDING SUMMARY

- Linear buckling theory may be used to analyse the behaviour of perfect, elastic plates under in-

plane actions.

- The behaviour of real, imperfect plates is influenced by their geometric imperfections and by

yield in the presence of residual stresses.

- Slender plates exhibit a considerable post-critical strength.

- Stocky plates and plates of moderate slenderness are adversely influenced by geometric

imperfection and plasticity.

- Effective widths may be used to design plates whose behaviour is influenced by local buckling

under in-plane actions.

- The elastic behaviour of plates under out-of-plane actions is adequately described by small

deflection theory for deflection less than the plate thickness.

- Influence surfaces are a useful means of describing small deflection plate behaviour.

- Membrane action becomes increasingly important for deflections greater than the plate

thicknesses and large displacement theory using the von Karman equations should be used for

elastic analysis.

- An upper bound on the ultimate resistance of plates under out-of-plane actions may be found

from yield live theory.

- Out-of-plane actions influence the stability of plate panels under in-plane action.

6. REFERENCES

[1] Bryan, G. K., "On the Stability of a Plane Plate under Thrusts in its own Plane with

Application on the "Buckling" of the Sides of a Ship". Math. Soc. Proc. 1891, 54.

[2] Szilard, R., "Theory and Analysis of Plates", Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey,

1974.

[3] Brush, D. O. and Almroth, B. O., "Buckling of Bars, Plates and Shells", McGraw-Hill, New

York, 1975.

[4] Wolmir, A. S., "Biegsame Platten und Schalen", VEB Verlag für Bauwesen, Berlin, 1962.

[5] Timoshenko, S., and Winowsky-Krieger, S., "Theory of Plates and Shells", Mc Graw Hill,

1959.

[6] Chwalla, E., "Uber dés Biégungsbeulung der Langsversteiften Platte und das Problem der

Mindersteifigeit", Stahlbau 17, 84-88, 1944.

[7] Dubas, P., Gehri, E. (editors), "Behaviour and Design of Steel Plated Structures", ECCS,

1986.

[8] Eurocode 3: "Design of Steel Structures": ENV 1993-1-1: Part 1.1: General rules and rules

for buildings, CEN, 1992.

[9] Harding, J. E., "Interaction of direct and shear stresses on Plate Panels" in Plated Structures,

Stability and Strength". Narayanan (ed.), Applied Science Publishers, London, 1989.

[10] Linder, J., Habermann, W., "Zur mehrachsigen Beanspruchung beim"

Plattenbeulen. In Festschrift J. Scheer, TU Braunschweig, 1987.

ESDEP WG 8

PLATES AND SHELLS

Lecture 8.3: Behaviour and Design of

Stiffened Plates

OBJECTIVE/SCOPE

To discuss the load distribution, stability and ultimate resistance of stiffened plates under in-

plane and out-of-plane loading.

PREREQISITES

Lecture 8.1: Introduction to Plate Behaviour and Design

Lecture 8.2: Behaviour and Design of Unstiffened Plates

RELATED LECTURES

Lecture 8.4.1: Plate Girder Behaviour & Design I

Lecture 8.6: Introduction to Shell Structures

SUMMARY

The load distribution for in-plane loaded unstiffened plate structures is discussed and the

critical buckling loads derived using linear elastic theory. Two design approaches for

determining the ultimate resistance of stiffened plates are described and compared. Out-of-plane

loading is also considered and its influence on stability discussed. The requirements for finite

element models of stiffened plates are outlined using those for unstiffened plates as a basis.

1. INTRODUCTION

The automation of welding procedures and the need to design elements not only to have

the necessary resistance to external actions but also to meet aesthetic and serviceability

requirements leads to an increased tendency to employ thin-walled, plated structures, especially

when the use of rolled sections is excluded, due to the form and the size of the structure. Through

appropriate selection of plate thicknesses, steel qualities and form and position of stiffeners,

cross-sections can be best adapted to the actions applied and the serviceability conditions, thus

saving material weight. Examples of such structures, shown in Figure 1, are webs of plate

girders, flanges of plate girders, the walls of box girders, thin-walled roofing, facades, etc.

Plated elements carry simultaneously:

a) actions normal to their plane,

b) in-plane actions.

Out-of-plane action is of secondary importance for such steel elements since, due to the

typically small plate thicknesses involved, they are not generally used for carrying transverse

actions. In-plane action, however, has significant importance in plated structures.

The intention of design is to utilise the full strength of the material. Since the slenderness

of such plated elements is large due to the small thicknesses, their carrying resistance is reduced

due to buckling. An economic design may, however, be achieved when longitudinal and/or

transverse stiffeners are provided. Such stiffeners may be of open or of torsionally rigid closed

sections, as shown in Figure 2. When these stiffeners are arranged in a regular orthogonal grid,

and the spacing is small enough to 'smear' the stiffeners to a continuum in the analysis, such a

stiffened plate is called an orthogonal anisotropic plate or in short, an orthotropic plate (Figure

3). In this lecture the buckling behaviour of stiffened plate panels subjected to in-plane actions

will be presented. The behaviour under out-of-plane actions is also discussed as is the influence

of the out-of-plane action on the stability of stiffened plates.

Specific topics such as local actions and the tension field method are covered in the lectures on

plate girders.

2. STIFFENED PLATES UNDER IN-PLANE LOADING

2.1 Action Distribution

2.1.1 Distribution resulting from membrane theory

The stress distribution can be determined from the solutions of Navier's equations (see

Lecture 8.2 Section 2.1.1) but, for stiffened plates, this is limited to plates where the longitudinal

and transverse stiffeners are closely spaced, symmetrical to both sides of the plate, and produce

equal stiffness in the longitudinal and transverse direction, see Figure 4. This configuration leads

to an isotropic behaviour when the stiffeners are smeared out. In practice this way of stiffening is

not practical and therefore not commonly used.

All deviations from the "ideal" situation (eccentric stiffeners, etc.) have to be taken into account

when calculating the stress distribution in the plate.

2.1.2 Distribution resulting from linear elastic theory using Bernouilli's hypothesis

As for unstiffened plates the most practical way of determining the stress distribution in

the panel is using the plane strain hypothesis. Since stiffened plates have a relatively large width,

however, the real stress distribution can differ substantially from the calculated stress distribution

due to the effect of shear lag.

Shear lag may be taken into account by a reduced flange width concentrated along the edges and

around stiffeners in the direction of the action (see Figure 5).

2.1.3 Distribution resulting from finite element methods

The stiffeners can be modelled as beam-column elements eccentrically attached to the

plate elements, see Lecture 8.2, Section 2.1.3.

In the case where the stiffeners are relatively deep beams (with large webs) it is better to

model the webs with plate elements and the flange, if present, with a beam-column element.

2.2 Stability of Stiffened Plates

2.2.1 Linear buckling theory

The knowledge of the critical buckling load for stiffened plates is of importance not only

because design was (and to a limited extent still is) based on it, but also because it is used as a

parameter in modern design procedures. The assumptions for the linear buckling theory of plates

are as follows:

a) the plate is perfectly plane and stress free.

b) the stiffeners are perfectly straight.

c) the loading is absolutely concentric.

d) the material is linear elastic.

e) the transverse displacements are relatively small.

The equilibrium path has a bifurcation point which corresponds to the critical action (Figure 6).

Analytical solutions, through direct integration of the governing differential equations

are, for stiffened plates, only possible in specific cases; therefore, approximate numerical

methods are generally used. Of greatest importance in this respect is the Rayleigh-Ritz approach,

which is based on the energy method. If 4

o

, and 4

I

represent the total potential energy of the

plate in the undeformed initial state and at the bifurcation point respectively (Figure 6), then the

application of the principle of virtual displacements leads to the expression:

H(4

I

) = H(4

o

+ (4

o

) = H(4

o

+ H4

o

+ H

2

4

o

+ ....) = 0 (1)

since 4

I

is in equilibrium. But the initial state is also in equilibrium and therefore H4

o

= 0. The

stability condition then becomes:

H(H

2

4

o

) = 0 (2)

H

2

4

o

in the case of stiffened plates includes the strain energy of the plate and the stiffeners and

the potential of the external forces acting on them. The stiffeners are characterized by three

dimensionless coefficients H, ¸, ȣ expressing their relative rigidities for extension, flexure and

torsion respectively.

For rectangular plates simply supported on all sides (Figure 6) the transverse

displacements in the buckled state can be approximated by the double Fourier series:

(3)

which complies with the boundary conditions. The stability criterion, Equation (2), then

becomes:

(4)

since the only unknown parameters are the amplitudes a

mn

, Equations (4) form a set of linear and

homogeneous linear equations, the number of which is equal to the number of non-zero

coefficients a

mn

retained in the Ritz-expansion. Setting the determinant of the coefficients equal

to 0 yields the buckling equations. The smallest Eigenvalue is the so-called buckling coefficient

k. The critical buckling load is then given by the expression:

o

cr

= k

o

o

E

or t

cr

= k

t

o

E

(5)

with o

E

=

The most extensive studies on rectangular, simply supported stiffened plates were carried

out by Klöppel and Scheer[1] and Klöppel and Möller[2]. They give charts, as shown in Figure

7, for the determination of k as a function of the coefficients H and ¸, previously described, and

the parameters e = a/b and o =o

2

/o

1

as defined in Figure 6a. Some solutions also exist for

specific cases of plates with fully restrained edges, stiffeners with substantial torsional rigidity,

etc. For relevant literature the reader is referred to books by Petersen[3] and by Dubas and

Gehri[4].

When the number of stiffeners in one direction exceeds two, the numerical effort required

to determine k becomes considerable; for example, a plate panel with 2 longitudinal and 2

transverse stiffeners requires a Ritz expansion of 120. Practical solutions may be found by

"smearing" the stiffeners over the entire plate. The plate then behaves orthotropically, and the

buckling coefficient may be determined by the same procedure as described before.

An alternative to stiffened plates, with a large number of equally spaced stiffeners and the

associated high welding costs, are corrugated plates, see Figure 2c. These plates may also be

treated as orthotropic plates, using equivalent orthotropic rigidities[5].

So far only the application of simple action has been considered. For combinations of

normal and shear stresses a linear interaction, as described by Dunkerley, is very conservative.

On the other hand direct determination of the buckling coefficient fails due to the very large

number of combinations that must be considered. An approximate method has, therefore, been

developed, which is based on the corresponding interaction for unstiffened plates, provided that

the stiffeners are so stiff that buckling in an unstiffened sub-panel occurs before buckling of the

stiffened plate. The critical buckling stress is determined for such cases by the expression:

o

vcr

= k

o

Z

1

s o

E

(6)

where o

E

has the same meaning as in Equation (5).

s is given by charts (Figure 8b).

Z

1

=

k

o

, k

t

are the buckling coefficients for normal and shear stresses acting independently

For more details the reader is referred to the publications previously mentioned.

Optimum rigidity of stiffeners

Three types of optimum rigidity of stiffeners ¸*, based on linear buckling theory, are

usually defined[6]. The first type ¸

I

*, is defined such that for values ¸ > ¸

I

* no further increase of

k is possible, as shown in Figure 9a, because for ¸ = ¸

I

* the stiffeners remain straight.

The second type ¸

II

*, is defined as the value for which two curves of the buckling

coefficients, belonging to different numbers of waves, cross (Figure 9b). The buckling

coefficient for ¸ < ¸

II

* reduces considerably, whereas it increases slightly for ¸ > ¸

II

*. A stiffener

with ¸ = ¸

II

* deforms at the same time as the plate buckles.

The third type ¸

III

* is defined such that the buckling coefficient of the stiffened plate

becomes equal to the buckling coefficient of the most critical unstiffened subpanel (Figure 9c).

The procedure to determine the optimum or critical stiffness is, therefore, quite simple.

However, due to initial imperfections of both plate and stiffeners as a result of out of straightness

and welding stresses, the use of stiffeners with critical stiffness will not guarantee that the

stiffeners will remain straight when the adjacent unstiffened plate panels buckle.

This problem can be overcome by multiplying the optimum (critical) stiffness by a factor,

m, when designing the stiffeners.

The factor is often taken as m = 2,5 for stiffeners which form a closed cross-section together with

the plate, and as m = 4 for stiffeners with an open cross-section such as flat, angle and T-

stiffeners.

2.2.2 Ultimate resistance of stiffened plates

Behaviour of Stiffened Plates

Much theoretical and experimental research has been devoted to the investigation of

stiffened plates. This research was intensified after the collapses, in the 1970's, of 4 major steel

bridges in Austria, Australia, Germany and the UK, caused by plate buckling. It became evident

very soon that linear buckling theory cannot accurately describe the real behaviour of stiffened

plates. The main reason for this is its inability to take the following into account:

a) the influence of geometric imperfections and residual welding stresses.

b) the influence of large deformations and therefore the post buckling behaviour.

c) the influence of plastic deformations due to yielding of the material.

d) the possibility of stiffener failure.

Concerning the influence of imperfections, it is known that their presence adversely

affects the carrying resistance of the plates, especially in the range of moderate slenderness and

for normal compressive (not shear) stresses.

Large deformations, on the other hand, generally allow the plate to carry loads in the

post-critical range, thus increasing the action carrying resistance, especially in the range of large

slenderness. The post-buckling behaviour exhibited by unstiffened panels, however, is not

always present in stiffened plates. Take, for example, a stiffened flange of a box girder under

compression, as shown in Figure 10. Since the overall width of this panel, measured as the

distance between the supporting webs, is generally large, the influence of the longitudinal

supports is rather small. Therefore, the behaviour of this flange resembles more that of a strut

under compression than that of a plate. This stiffened plate does not, accordingly, possess post-

buckling resistance.

As in unstiffened panels, plastic deformations play an increasingly important role as the

slenderness decreases, producing smaller ultimate actions.

The example of a stiffened plate under compression, as shown in Figure 11, is used to

illustrate why linear bucking theory is not able to predict the stiffener failure mode. For this plate

two different modes of failure may be observed: the first mode is associated with buckling

failure of the plate panel; the second with torsional buckling failure of the stiffeners. The overall

deformations after buckling are directed in the first case towards the stiffeners, and in the second

towards the plate panels, due to the up or downward movement of the centroid of the middle

cross-section. Experimental investigations on stiffened panels have shown that the stiffener

failure mode is much more critical for both open and closed stiffeners as it generally leads to

smaller ultimate loads and sudden collapse. Accordingly, not only the magnitude but also the

direction of the imperfections is of importance.

Due to the above mentioned deficiencies in the way that linear buckling theory describes

the behaviour of stiffened panels, two different design approaches have been recently developed.

The first, as initially formulated by the ECCS-Recommendations [7] for allowable stress design

and later expanded by DIN 18800, part 3[8] to ultimate limit state design, still uses values from

linear buckling theory for stiffened plates. The second, as formulated by recent Drafts of ECCS-

Recommendations [9,10], is based instead on various simple limit state models for specific

geometric configurations and loading conditions. Both approaches have been checked against

experimental and theoretical results; they will now be briefly presented and discussed.

Design Approach with Values from the Linear Buckling Theory

With reference to a stiffened plate supported along its edges (Figure 12), distinction is

made between individual panels, e.g. IJKL, partial panels, i.e. EFGH, and the overall panel

ABCD. The design is based on the condition that the design stresses of all the panels shall not

exceed the corresponding design resistances. The adjustment of the linear buckling theory to the

real behaviour of stiffened plates is basically made by the following provisions:

a) Introduction of buckling curves as illustrated in Figure 12b.

b) Consideration of effective widths, due to local buckling, for flanges associated with stiffeners.

c) Interaction formulae for the simultaneous presence of stresses o

x

, o

y

and t at the ultimate limit

state.

d) Additional reduction factors for the strut behaviour of the plate.

e) Provision of stiffeners with minimum torsional rigidities in order to prevent lateral-torsional

buckling.

Design Approach with Simple Limit State Models

Drafts of European Codes and Recommendations have been published which cover the

design of the following elements:

a) Plate girders with transverse stiffeners only (Figure 13a) - Eurocode 3 [11].

b) Longitudinally stiffened webs of plate and box girders (Figure 13b) - ECCS-TWG 8.3, 1989.

c) Stiffened compression flanges of box girders (Figure 13c) - ECCS [10].

Only a brief outline of the proposed models is presented here; for more details reference

should be made to Lectures 8.4, 8.5, and 8.6 on plate girders and on box girders:

The stiffened plate can be considered as a grillage of beam-columns loaded in

compression. For simplicity the unstiffened plates are neglected in the ultimate resistance and

only transfer the loads to the beam-columns which consist of the stiffeners themselves together

with the adjacent effective plate widths. This effective plate width is determined by buckling of

the unstiffened plates (see Section 2.2.1 of Lecture 8.2). The bending resistance M

u

, reduced as

necessary due to the presence of axial forces, is determined using the characteristics of the

effective cross-section. Where both shear forces and bending moments are present

simultaneously an interaction formula is given. For more details reference should be made to the

original recommendations.

The resistance of a box girder flange subjected to compression can be determined using

the method presented in the ECCS Recommendations referred to previously, by considering a

strut composed of a stiffener and an associated effective width of plating. The design resistance

is calculated using the Perry-Robertson formula. Shear forces due to torsion or beam shear are

taken into account by reducing the yield strength of the material according to the von Mises yield

criterion. An alternative approach using orthotropic plate properties is also given.

The above approaches use results of the linear buckling theory of unstiffened plates

(value of V

cr

, determination of b

eff

etc.). For stiffened plates the values given by this theory are

used only for the expression of the rigidity requirements for stiffeners. Generally this approach

gives rigidity and strength requirements for the stiffeners which are stricter than those mentioned

previously in this lecture.

Discussion of the Design Approaches

Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages.

The main advantage of the first approach is that it covers the design of both unstiffened

and stiffened plates subjected to virtually any possible combination of actions using the same

method. Its main disadvantage is that it is based on the limitation of stresses and, therefore, does

not allow for any plastic redistribution at the cross-section. This is illustrated by the example

shown in Figure 14. For the box section of Figure 14a, subjected to a bending moment, the

ultimate bending resistance is to be determined. If the design criterion is the limitation of the

stresses in the compression thin-walled flange, as required by the first approach, the resistance is

M

u

= 400kNm. If the computation is performed with effective widths that allow for plastic

deformations of the flange, M

u

is found equal to 550kNm.

The second approach also has some disadvantages: there are a limited number of cases of

geometrical and loading configurations where these models apply; there are different

methodologies used in the design of each specific case and considerable numerical effort is

required, especially using the tension field method.

Another important point is the fact that reference is made to webs and flanges that cannot

always be defined clearly, as shown in the examples of Figure 15.

For a box girder subjected to uniaxial bending (Figure 15a) the compression flange and

the webs are defined. This is however not possible when biaxial bending is present (Figure 15b).

Another example is shown in Figure 15c; the cross-section of a cable stayed bridge at the

location A-A is subjected to normal forces without bending; it is evident, in this case, that the

entire section consists of "flanges".

Finite Element Methods

In determining the stability behaviour of stiffened plate panels, basically the same

considerations hold as described in Lecture 8.2, Section 2.2.2. In addition it should be noted that

the stiffeners have to be modelled by shell elements or by a combination of shell and beam-

column elements. Special attention must also be given to the initial imperfect shape of the

stiffeners with open cross-sections.

It is difficult to describe all possible failure modes within one and the same finite element

model. It is easier, therefore, to describe the beam-column behaviour of the stiffeners together

with the local and overall buckling of the unstiffened plate panels and the stiffened assemblage

respectively and to verify specific items such as lateral-torsional buckling separately (see Figure

16). Only for research purposes is it sometimes necessary to model the complete structure such

that all the possible phenomena are simulated by the finite element model.

3. STIFFENED PLATES UNDER OUT-OF-PLANE ACTION APPLICATION

3.1 Action Distribution

3.1.1 Distribution resulting from plate theory

The theory described in Section 3.1.1 of Lecture 8.2 can only be applied to stiffened

plates if the stiffeners are sufficiently closely spaced so that orthotropic behaviour occurs. If this

is not the case it is better to consider the unstiffened plate panels in between the stiffeners

separately. The remaining grillage of stiffeners must be considered as a beam system in bending

(see Section 3.1.2).

3.1.2 Distribution resulting from a grillage under lateral actions filled in with unstiffened sub-

panels

The unstiffened sub-panels can be analysed as described in Section 3.1.1 of Lecture 8.2.

The remaining beam grillage is formed by the stiffeners which are welded to the plate,

together with a certain part of the plate. The part can be taken as for buckling, namely the

effective width as described in Section 2.2.2 of this Lecture. In this way the distribution of forces

and moments can be determined quite easily.

3.1.3 Distribution resulting from finite element methods (FEM)

Similar considerations hold for using FEM to determine the force and moment

distribution in stiffened plates which are subject to out-of-plane actions as for using FEM for

stiffened plates loaded in-plane (see Section 2.1.3) except that the finite elements used must be

able to take large deflections and elastic-plastic material behaviour into account.

3.2 Deflection and Ultimate Resistance

All considerations mentioned in Section 3.2 of Lecture 8.2 for unstiffened plates are valid

for the analysis of stiffened plates both for deflections and ultimate resistance. It should be noted,

however, that for design purposes it is easier to verify specific items, such as lateral-torsional

buckling, separately from plate buckling and beam-column behaviour.

4. INFLUENCE OF OUT-OF-PLANE ACTIONS ON THE STABILITY OF STIFFENED

PLATES

The points made in Section 4 of Lecture 8.2 also apply here; that is, the stability of the

stiffened plate is unfavourably influenced if the deflections, due to out-of-plane actions, are

similar to the stability collapse mode.

5. CONCLUDING SUMMARY

- Stiffened plates are widely used in steel structures because of the greater efficiency that the

stiffening provides to both stability under in-plane actions and resistance to out-of-plane

actions.

- Elastic linear buckling theory may be applied to stiffened plates but numerical techniques such

as Rayleigh-Ritz are needed for most practical situations.

- Different approaches may be adopted to defining the optimum rigidity of stiffeners.

- The ultimate behaviour of stiffened plates is influenced by geometric imperfections and yielding

in the presence of residual stresses.

- Design approaches for stiffened plates are either based on derivatives of linear buckling theory

or on simple limit state models.

- Simple strut models are particularly suitable for compression panels with longitudinal stiffeners.

- Finite element models may be used for concrete modelling of particular situations.

6. REFERENCES

[1] Klöppel, K., Scheer, J., "Beulwerte Ausgesteifter Rechteckplatten", Bd. 1, Berlin, W. Ernst u.

Sohn 1960.

[2] Klöppel, K., Möller, K. H., "Beulwerte Ausgesteifter Rechteckplatten", Bd. 2, Berlin, W.

Ernst u. Sohn 1968.

[3] Petersen, C., "Statik und Stabilität der Baukonstruktionen", Braunschweig: Vieweg 1982.

[4] Dubas, P., Gehri, E., "Behaviour and Design of Steel Plated Structures", ECCS, 1986.

[5] Briassoulis, D., "Equivalent Orthotropic Properties of Corrugated Sheets", Computers and

Structures, 1986, 129-138.

[6] Chwalla, E., "Uber die Biegungsbeulung der langsversteiften Platte und das Problem der

Mindeststeifigeit", Stahlbau 17, 1944, 84-88.

[7] ECCS, "Conventional design rules based on the linear buckling theory", 1978.

[8] DIN 18800 Teil 3 (1990), "Stahlbauten, Stabilitätsfalle, Plattenbeulen", Berlin: Beuth.

[9] ECCS, "Design of longitudinally stiffened webs of plate and box girders", Draft 1989.

[10] ECCS, "Stiffened compression flanges of box girders", Draft 1989.

[11] Eurocode 3, "Design of Steel Structures": ENV 1993-1-1: Part 1.1: General rules and rules

for buildings, CEN, 1992.

ESDEP WG 8

PLATES AND SHELLS

Lecture 8.4.1: Plate Girder Behaviour and

Design I

OBJECTIVE

To introduce basic aspects of the behaviour and design of plate girders. To explain how the

typical proportions employed influence the types of behaviour that must be addressed in design,

and to identify the various buckling considerations involved, as a preparation for subsequent

consideration of the design approaches of Eurocode 3 [1].

PREREQUISITES

None

RELATED LECTURES

Lectures 3.2: Erection

Lecture 7.2: Cross-section Classification

Lecture 7.3: Local Buckling

Lecture 8.1: Introduction to Plate Behaviour and Design

Lecture 8.4.2: Plate Girder Behaviour and Design - II

Lecture 8.4.3: Plate Girder Design - Special Topics

Lecture 11.8: Splices in Buildings

Lecture 14.4: Crane Runway Girders

Lecture 15B.3: Plate Girder and Beam Bridges

SUMMARY

Modern plate girders are introduced by explaining typical usage, types and the reasons for their

inherent slender proportions. Their behaviour is described with particular emphasis on the

different forms of buckling that can occur. The general basis of plate girder design is discussed

in a simplified way as a prelude to a more detailed presentation in Lectures 8.4.2 and Lecture

8.4.3. Post-buckling and tension field action are introduced and the roles of the main components

in a plate girder identified.

1. INTRODUCTION

Modern plate girders are normally fabricated by welding together two flanges and a web

plate, as shown in Figure 1. Such girders are capable of carrying greater loads over longer spans

than is generally possible using standard rolled sections or compound girders. Plate girders are

typically used as long-span floor girders in buildings, as bridge girders, and as crane girders in

industrial structures.

Plate girders are at their most impressive in modern bridge construction where main

spans of well over 200m are feasible, with corresponding cross-section depths, haunched over

the supports, in the range of 5-10m. Because plate girders are fabricated separately, each may be

designed individually to resist the applied actions using proportions that ensure low self-weight

and high load resistance.

For efficient design it is usual to choose a relatively deep girder, thus minimising the

required area of flanges for a given applied moment, M

sd

. This obviously entails a deep web

whose area will be minimised by reducing its thickness to the minimum required to carry the

applied shear, V

sd

. Such a web may be quite slender (i.e. a high d/t

w

ratio) and may be prone to

local buckling (see Lecture 7.3) and shear buckling (see below). Such buckling problems have to

be given careful consideration in plate girder design. One way of improving the load carrying

resistance of a slender plate is to employ stiffeners (Lecture 8.1); the selection of appropriate

forms of stiffening is an important aspect of plate girder design.

1.1 Types

There are several forms of plate girder; Figure 2 illustrates three different types -

unstiffened, transversely stiffened, and transversely and longitudinally stiffened. The three

girders shown have bisymmetric I-profile cross-sections, although flanges of different size are

sometimes used, as already shown in Figure 1. Other types of cross-section (see Figure 3) are

monosymmetric I-profiles, which are popular in composite construction with the smaller flange

on top (see Lecture 10.2), or as crane girders (see Lecture 14.4) with the larger flange on top.

Figure 3 also shows two other (less common) variations - the "delta girder" and the tubular-top-

flange girder - both being possible solutions in cases of long laterally-unsupported top

compression flanges prone to lateral-torsional buckling (see Lecture 7.9.1 and 7.9.2).

There is also considerable scope for variation of cross-section in the longitudinal

direction. A designer may choose to reduce the flange thickness (or breadth) in a zone of low

applied moment, especially when a field-splice facilitates the change. Equally, in a zone of high

shear, the designer might choose to thicken the web plate (see Figure 4). Alternatively, higher

grade Fe E355 steel might be employed for zones of high applied moment and shear, while

standard grade Fe E235 would be used elsewhere. So-called "hybrid" girders with different

strength material in the flanges and the web offer another possible means of more closely

matching resistance to requirements. More unusual variations are adopted in special

circumstances, such as bridgework (see Lecture 15B.4) e.g. tapered girders, cranked girders,

haunched girders (see Figure 5), and of course, plate girders with web holes to accommodate

services, see Figure 6.

1.2 Proportions

Since the designer, in principle, is quite free to choose all the dimensions of a plate

girder, some indication of the more usual proportions is now given (see also Figure 7):

Depth: Overall girder depth, h, will usually be in the range L

o

/12 e h e L

o

/8, where L

o

is the

length between points of zero moment. However, for plate girder bridges the range will extend to

approximately L

o

/20.

Flange breadth: The breadth, b, will usually be in the range h/5 e b e h/3, b being in multiples

of 25mm. 'Wide flats' may be used unless the flange is very wide.

Flange thickness: The flange thickness, t

f

, will usually at least satisfy the requirements of

Eurocode 3 (Table 5.3.1) for Class 3 (semi-compact) sections, i.e. c/t

f

e 14I. The thickness will

usually be chosen from the standard plate thicknesses.

Web thickness: Web thickness, t

w

, will determine the exact basis for web design, depending on

whether the web is classified with regard to shear buckling as "thick" or "thin" (see later). Thin

webs will often require stiffening; this may take the form of transverse stiffeners, longitudinal

stiffeners or a combination, see Figure 2. Longitudinally stiffened girders are more likely to be

found in large bridge construction where high d/t

w

ratios are appropriate, e.g. 200 e d/t

w

e 500,

due to the need to minimise self-weight.

Clearly, depending on the particular loading pattern, and on depth and breadth restrictions, one

can expect wide variations within all the above limits which should be regarded as indicative

only.

2. DESIGN CONCEPTS

Under static loading, ultimate limit states such as strength and stability will normally

govern most plate girder design, with serviceability limit states such as deflection or vibration

being less critical. Some absolute limits on plate slenderness are advisable so as to ensure

sufficient robustness during erection. A generally accepted method [2] for designing plate girders

(which is permitted by Eurocode 3) subject to a moment M

ad

and a coincident shear V

ad

is to

proportion the flanges to carry all the moment with the web taking all the shear. This provides a

particularly convenient means for obtaining an initial estimate of girder proportions.

Thus, at any particular cross-section along a laterally-restrained plate girder, subject to

specific values of bending moment and shear force, the flange and web plates can be sized

separately. The required flange plate area may readily be obtained as follows:

A

f

= M/[(h - t

f

)f

y

/¸

MO

] = M/(hf

y

/¸

MO

) (1)

(An iteration or two may be required depending on an assumed value of t

f

and its

corresponding f

y

value from Table 3.1, Eurocode 3). Because the (normally) slender web will

prevent the plastic moment of resistance of the cross-section from being attained, the flange b/t

f

ratio need only comply with the Eurocode 3 (Table 5.3.1) requirements for a Class 3 (semi-

compact) flange. The cross-sectional moment of resistance may then be checked using:

M

f.Rd

= b t

f

(h - t

f

)f

y

/¸

MO

(2)

Unfortunately, economic sizing of the web plate is not quite as straightforward, although

where a thick web (defined later) is acceptable it can be rapidly sized by assuming uniform shear

stress t

y

over its whole area. The web-to-flange fillet welds must be designed to transmit the

longitudinal shear at the flange/web interface.

3. INFLUENCE OF BUCKLING ON DESIGN

Provided that the individual plate elements in a girder are each kept sufficiently stocky,

the design may be based on straightforward yield strength considerations. Economic and

practical considerations will, however, dictate that not all of these conditions will always be met.

In most cases various forms of buckling must be taken into account. Figure 8 lists the different

phenomena.

3.1 Shear Buckling of the Web

Once the d/t

w

value for an unstiffened web exceeds a limiting figure (69I in Eurocode 3)

the web will buckle in shear before it reaches its full shear capacity A

w

t

y

. Diagonal buckles, of

the type shown in Figure 9(a), resulting from the diagonal compression associated with the web

shear will form. Their appearance may be delayed through the use of vertical stiffeners, see

Figure 9(b) since the load at which shear buckling is initiated is a function of both d/t

w

and panel

aspect ratio a/d.

3.2 Lateral-Torsional Buckling of the Girder

This topic is covered in Lecture 7.9.1 and 7.9.2.

3.3 Local Buckling of the Compression Flange

Provided that outstand proportions c/t

f

are suitably restricted, local buckling will have no

effect on the girder's load carrying resistance.

3.4 Compression Buckling of the Web

Webs for which d/t

w

e 124I and which are not subject to any axial load will permit the

full elastic moment resistances of the girder to be attained. If this limit of d/t

w

(or a lower one if

axial compression in the girder as a whole is also present) is exceeded, then moment resistance

must be reduced accordingly. If it is desired to reach the girder's full plastic moment resistance a

stricter limit will be appropriate.

3.5 Flange Induced Buckling of the Web

If particularly slender webs are used, the compression flange may not receive enough

support to prevent it from buckling vertically rather like an isolated strut buckling about its

minor axis. This possibility may be eliminated by placing a suitable limit on d/t

w

. Transverse

stiffeners also assist in resisting this form of buckling.

3.6 Local Buckling of the Web

Vertical loads may cause buckling of the web in the region directly under the load as for

a vertical strut. The level of loading that may safely be carried before this happens will depend

upon the exact way in which the load is transmitted to the web, the web proportions, and the

level of overall bending present.

4. POST-BUCKLING STRENGTH OF WEB

Owing to the post-buckling behaviour (see Lecture 8.3) plates, unlike struts, are often

able to support loads considerably in excess of their initial buckling load. In plate girder webs a

special form of post-buckling termed "tension field action" is possible. Tension field action

involves a change in the way in which the girder resists shear loading from the development of

uniform shear in the web at low shear loads, to the equivalent truss action, shown in Figure 10, at

much higher loads. In this action the elements equivalent to truss members are: the flanges,

which form the chords; the vertical stiffeners which form the struts; and the diagonal tension

bands which form the ties. The compressive resistance of the other diagonal of each web panel is

virtually eliminated by the shear buckling. The way in which this concept is utilized in design is

explained in Lecture 8.4.2.

5. DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS

The principal functions of the main components found in plate girders may be summarised as

follows:

Flanges resist moment

Web resists shear

Web/flange welds resist longitudinal shear at interface

Vertical stiffeners improve shear buckling resistance

Longitudinal stiffeners improve shear and/or bending resistance.

6. CONCLUDING SUMMARY

- The main components in a plate girder have been identified and their principal functions noted.

- Initial sizing may be made on the basis that the flanges carry all of the moment and the web

takes all of the shear.

- Shear buckling is likely to prevent the full web shear resistance from being attained in slender

webs. Its appearance need not imply failure since additional load may be carried through

tension field action.

- Web stiffeners (transverse and/or longitudinal) enhance both initial buckling and post-buckling

resistance.

7. REFERENCES

[1] Eurocode 3: "Design of Steel Structures": European Prestandard ENV1993-1-1: Part 1,

General rules and rules for buildings, CEN, 1992.

[2] Narayanan, R. (ed)., "Plated Structures; Stability and Strength", Applied Science Publishers,

London, 1983.

Chapter 1 covers basic aspects of plate girder behaviour and design.

8. ADDITIONAL READING

1. Dubas, P. and Gehri, E. (eds), "Behaviour and Design of Plated Steel Structures", Publication No

44, ECCS, 1986.

Chapters 4 and 5 provide more detailed accounts of the main features of plate girder behaviour

and design.

ESDEP WG 8

PLATES AND SHELLS

Lecture 8.4.2: Plate Girder Behaviour and

Design II

OBJECTIVE/SCOPE

To present the basic design methods for plate girders subjected to either shear or moment, or a

combination of both.

PREREQUISITES

Lecture 8.4.1: Plate Girder Behaviour and Design I

RELATED LECTURES

Lecture 7.3: Local Buckling

Lecture 7.8.1: Restrained Beams I

Lecture 7.8.2: Restrained Beams II

Lecture 7.9.1: Unrestrained Beams I

Lecture 7.9.2: Unrestrained Beams II

Lecture 8.4.3: Plate Girder Design - Special Topics

SUMMARY

The design methods for plate girders subject to bending and shear, according to the methods of

Eurocode 3[1], are presented. For shear loading two methods are described: the "simple post-

critical method", and the "tension field method"; interaction diagrams can be used with both

methods to allow for the effect of coincident moments.

1. INTRODUCTION

Any cross-section of a plate girder is normally subjected to a combination of shear force

and bending moment. The primary function of the top and bottom flange plates of the girder is to

resist the axial compressive and tensile forces arising from the applied bending moment. The

primary function of the web plate is to resist the applied shear force.

Plate girders are normally designed to support heavy loads over long spans in situations

where it is necessary to produce an efficient design by providing girders of high strength to

weight ratio. The search for an efficient design produces conflicting requirements, particularly in

the case of the web plate. To produce the lowest axial flange force for a given bending moment,

the web depth (d) must be made as large as possible. To reduce the self weight, the web

thickness (t

w

) must be reduced to a minimum. As a consequence, in many instances the web plate

is of slender proportions and is therefore prone to buckling at relatively low values of applied

shear. A similar conflict may exist for the flange proportions. The required flange area is defined

by the flange force and material yield stress. The desire to increase weak axis second moment of

area encourages wide, thin flanges. Such flanges are prone to local buckling.

Plate elements do not collapse when they buckle; they can possess a substantial post-

buckling reserve of resistance. For an efficient design, any calculation relating to the ultimate

limit state should take the post-buckling action into account. This is particularly so in the case of

a web plate in shear where the post-buckling resistance arising from tension field action can be

very significant.

Thus, in designing a plate girder it is necessary to evaluate the buckling and post-

buckling action of webs in shear, and of flange plates in compression. The design of plate girder

flanges largely follows procedures already discussed in Lecture 7.8, Lecture 7.9.1, and Lecture

7.9.2 for beams. However, the design of web plates operating in the post-buckling range is very

different and will be discussed here in some detail. The lecture will start by concentrating upon

the resistance of plate girders to predominantly shear loading. The effects of high co-existent

bending moments will be considered.

The lecture will concentrate only on the main aspects of girder design assuming a basic

cross-section. In particular, it is assumed that:

1. Only transverse web stiffeners are present (i.e. there are no longitudinal stiffeners).

2. Transverse web stiffeners possess sufficient stiffness and strength to resist the actions

transmitted to them by the web.

3. An appropriate means is available to anchor the tension field.

4. No vertical patch loads are applied between the positions of the transverse web stiffeners.

5. Only solid webs are considered (i.e. there are no web openings or holes).

Lecture 8.4.3 considers other important cases that do not comply with the above assumptions.

2. SHEAR BUCKLING RESISTANCE

A typical transversely stiffened plate girder is shown diagrammatically in Figure 1, which

also defines the notation used. The shear buckling resistance of the web depends mainly on the

depth to thickness ratio (d/t

w

), and upon the spacing (a) of the transverse web stiffeners.

Intermediate transverse stiffeners are normally employed to increase the shear buckling

resistance of the web, although designers may sometimes choose to use a thicker web plate rather

than incur the additional fabrication costs arising from the use of intermediate stiffeners. Girders

without intermediate stiffeners are normally termed "unstiffened" girders, even though they will

normally have stiffeners at points of support and possibly at the position of load application.

Web buckling should be checked in all cases where the depth to thickness ratio, (d/t

w

), of

the web exceeds 69I . Eurocode 3 then offers the choice of 2 methods for plate girder design.

The methods are:

a) the simple post-critical method, which may be applied to both stiffened and unstiffened

girders and is therefore of general application.

b) the tension field method, which may only be applied to girders with intermediate transverse

stiffeners. Even for such girders its range of application is limited to a range of stiffener spacing

defined by:

1,0 e a/d e 3,0

There is now considerable evidence [2] that tension field action does develop in girders

where the stiffener spacing lies outside this range, and also in unstiffened girders; such evidence,

however, has yet to be presented in a form that is suitable for inclusion in a design code.

The simple post-critical method is seen as a general-purpose method which can be

applied to the design of all girders. The tension field method, on the other hand, can be applied to

a certain range of girders only, but will lead to considerably more efficient designs for these

girders, because it takes full account of the post-buckling reserve of resistance. Each method will

now be discussed.

2.1 Calculation of the Shear Buckling Resistance by the Simple Post-Critical Method

This simple approach allows the design shear buckling resistance (V

ba.Rd

) to be

determined directly as follows:

V

ba.Rd

= d t

w

t

ba

/¸

M1

(1)

where all the terms in the expression are familiar, except the post-critical shear strength, t

ba

. The

calculation of this term depends upon the slenderness of the web which may be conveniently

expressed by the following parameter:

(2)

Here, k

t

is a shear buckling factor calculated from elastic buckling theory [3]. For

simplicity, it is conservatively assumed in this calculation that the boundaries of the web panel

are simply supported, since the true degree of restraint offered by the flanges and adjacent web

panels is not known. The resulting expression obtained for the shear buckling factor is dependent

upon the spacing of the transverse web stiffeners as follows:

for closely spaced intermediate stiffeners (a/d < 1,0) :

k

t

= 4 +

for widely spaced intermediate stiffeners (a/d > 1,0) :

k

t

= 5,34 +

for unstiffened webs: k

t

= 5,34

Knowing the shear buckling factor, the slenderness parameter is determined from

Equation (2) and the calculation of the post-critical shear strength then depends, as illustrated in

Figure 2, upon whether the web is:

a) stocky or thick (

w

e 0,8 , region AB in Figure 2) in which case the web will not buckle and

the shear stress at failure will reach the shear yield stress of the web material:

t

ba

= f

yw

/

where f

yw

is the tensile yield strength

b) intermediate (0,8 <

w

< 1,2, region BC in Figure 2) which represents a transition stage

from yielding to buckling action with the shear strength being evaluated empirically from the

following:

t

ba

= [1 - 0,625 (

w

- 0,8)] (f

yw

/ )

c) slender or thin (

w

> 1,2, region CD in Figure 2) in which case the web will buckle before it

yields and a certain amount of post-buckling action is taken into account empirically:

t

ba

=

The calculation of the shear buckling resistance by the simple post-critical method is then

completed by substitution of the appropriate value of t

ba

into Equation (1).

2.2 Calculation of the Shear Buckling Resistance by the Tension Field Method

For transversely stiffened girders where the transverse stiffener spacing lies within the

range 1,0 e a/d e 3,0, full account may be taken of the considerable reserve of post-buckling

resistance. This reserve arises from the development of "tension field action" within the girder.

Figure 3a shows the development of tension field action in the individual web panels of a

typical girder. Once a web panel has buckled in shear, it loses its resistance to carry additional

compressive stresses. In this post-buckling range, a new load-carrying mechanism is developed,

whereby any additional shear load is carried by an inclined tensile membrane stress field. This

tension field anchors against the top and bottom flanges and against the transverse stiffeners on

either side of the web panel, as shown. The load-carrying action of the plate girder than becomes

similar to that of the N-truss in Figure 3b. In the post-buckling range, the resistance offered by

the web plates is analogous to that of the diagonal tie bars in the truss.

The total shear buckling resistance for design (V

bb.Rd

) is calculated in Eurocode 3, by

superimposing the post-buckling resistance upon the initial elastic buckling resistance as follows:

Total shear resistance = elastic buckling resistance + post-buckling resistance:

V

bb.Rd

= (d t

w

t

bb

)/¸

M1

+ 0,9 (gt

w

o

bb

sin o)/¸

M1

(3)

The basis for this assumed behaviour is shown diagrammatically in Figure 4.

Figure 4a shows the situation prior to buckling, as represented by the first term in

Equation (3). At this stage, equal tensile and compressive principal stresses are developed in the

web. The shear buckling strength, t

bb

, is calculated from elastic buckling theory and leads to

equations similar, but not identical, to those given earlier in Section 2.1 for the simple post-

critical shear strength t

ba

. Thus, the calculation of the shear buckling resistance again depends, as

shown in Figure 5, upon whether the web is:

a) stocky or thick (

w

= 0,8, region AB in Figure 5) in which case the web will not buckle and

the shear yield stress is again taken:

t

bb

= f

yw

/

where f

yw

is the tensile yield strength

b) intermediate (0,8 <

w

< 1,25, region BC in Figure 5) where, in the transition from yield to

buckling:

t

bb

= [1 - 0,8 (

w

- 0,8)] (f

yw

/ )

c) slender or thin (

w

> 1,25, region CD in Figure 5) where the web will buckle and, from

elastic buckling theory:

t

bb

= [1/

w

2

][f

yw

/.3]

Thus, knowing t

bb

, the first term of the expression in Equation (3) can be evaluated.

The evaluation of the second term, corresponding to the post-buckling action, is more

complex although it may still be reduced to a convenient design procedure, as described below.

In the post-buckling range, as shown in Figure 4b, an inclined tensile membrane stress

field is developed, at an inclination o to the horizontal. Since the flanges of the girder are

flexible, they will begin to bend inwards under the pull exerted by the tension field.

Further increase in the load will result in yield occurring in the web under the combined

effect of the membrane stress field and the shear stress at buckling. The value of the tension field

stress (o

bb

) at which yield will occur, termed the "strength of the tension field" in Eurocode 3,

may be determined by applying the Von Mises-Hencky yield criterion [2]. This results in the

following expression for the strength of the tension field:

o

bb

= [f

yw

2

- 3t

2

bb

+ o

2

] 0.5 - o

where the term o = 1,5 t

bb

sin 2o is introduced for convenience only.

Once the web has yielded, final failure of the girder will occur when the mechanism

comprising 4 plastic hinges has formed in the flanges, as shown in Figure 4c. A detailed analysis

of this collapse mechanism, by considering the internal forces developed in the web and imposed

upon the flanges (see [2]) allows the width (g) of the tension field, which appears in the second

term of Equation (3), to be evaluated:

g = d cos o - (a - s

c

- s

t

) sin o

where, as in Figure 4c, s

c

and s

t

denote the positions at which the plastic hinges form in the

compression and tension flanges respectively.

The hinge positions are calculated [2] from the knowledge that the hinges will form at the

point of maximum moment, and therefore zero shear, in the flanges; the appropriate expression is

as follows:

S = [2/sin o][M

Nf.Rk

/t

w

o

bb

]

1/2

e a (4)

where M

Nf.Rk

is the plastic moment of resistance of the flange, i.e. 0,25 bt

f

2

f

yf

. When high

bending moments are applied to the girder, in addition to shear, then axial forces (N

f.Sd

) will be

developed in the flanges. Such axial forces will, of course, reduce the plastic moment of

resistance of the flanges. Their effects can be calculated from standard plasticity theory as:

M

Nf.Rk

= 0,25 bt

f

2

f

yf

{1 - [N

f.Sd

/ (bt

f

f

yf

/¸

mo

)]

2

} (5)

All the terms required for the calculation of the total shear resistance from Equation (3),

other than the inclination o of the tension field, are now known. Unfortunately, the value of o

cannot be determined directly and an iterative procedure has to be adopted in which successive

values of o are assumed and the corresponding shear resistance evaluated in each case. The

process is repeated until the value of o providing the maximum, and therefore the required, value

of the shear resistance has been established. The variation of the shear resistance with o is not

very rapid. The correct value of o lies between a minimum of o/2 and a maximum of o, where o

is the slope of the panel diagonal tan

-1

(d/a), as shown in Figure 6. A parametric study [2] has

established that, for girders of normal proportions, the value of o which produces the maximum

value of shear resistance is approximately given by:

o = o /1,5

The assumption of this value of o will lead either to the correct value or to an

underestimation of the shear resistance. It will therefore give a safe approximation and will also

give a good starting value of o if a more accurate process of iteration is to be carried out. The

correct value of o is that which gives the maximum value of V

bb.Rd

.

3. INTERACTION BETWEEN SHEAR AND BENDING

In general, any cross-section of a plate girder will be subjected to bending moment in

addition to shear. As discussed in [2], this combination makes the stress conditions in the girder

web considerably more complex. In the first place, the stresses from the bending moment will

combine with the shear stresses to give a lower buckling load. Secondly, in the post-buckling

range, the bending stresses will influence the magnitude of the tension field membrane stresses

required to produce yield in the web. Finally, as already discussed with reference to Equation (5),

the axial flange forces arising from the bending moment will reduce the plastic moment of

resistance of the flanges.

The proper evaluation of all these effects is complex but, as discussed in [2], certain

assumptions may be made about the interaction of moment and shear to produce a simple and

effective design procedure. In Eurocode 3, the procedure for allowing for moment/shear

interaction naturally depends upon whether the simple post-critical method of Section 2.1 or the

tension field method of Section 2.2 is being used to calculate the shear buckling resistance. Each

case will now be considered separately.

3.1 Interaction between Shear and Bending in the Simple Post-Critical Method

The interaction between shear and bending can be conveniently represented by the

diagram shown in Figure 7a (Figure 5.6.4a of Eurocode 3) where the shear resistance of the

girder is plotted on the vertical axis and the moment resistance is plotted horizontally. The

interaction represents a failure envelope, with any point lying on the curve defining the co-

existent values of shear and bending that the girder can just sustain.

The interaction diagram can be considered in 3 regions. In region AB, the applied

bending moment M

ad

is low and the girder can then sustain a shear load V

ad

that is equal to the

full value of the shear buckling resistance calculated from the simple post-critical method, as in

Equation (1). Thus, in this region:

M

sd

e M

f.Rd

V

sd

e V

ba.Rd

(6)

The moment that defines the end of the range at point B (M

f.Rd

) is the plastic moment of

resistance of the cross-section consisting of the flanges only, i.e. neglecting any contribution

from the web. In this calculation it is necessary to appreciate that the plates of the compression

flange may buckle and, if necessary, to take this into account by adopting an effective width b

eff

for the flange. The calculation of this effective width is as described in Lecture 7.3 for an

outstand element in compression.

At the other extreme of the interaction diagram in region CD, the applied shear V

ad

is

low. Provided it does not exceed the limiting value of 0,5 V

ba

at point C then the plastic moment

of resistance of the complete cross-section M

pl.Rd

need not be reduced to allow for shear.

In the intermediate region BC the co-existent applied moment M

Sd

and shear V

Sd

values must

satisfy the following relationship:

M

Sd

e M

f.Rd

+ (M

pl.Rd

- M

f.Rd

) [1 - (2V

Sd

/V

ba.Rd

- 1)

2

] (7)

The complete range of moment/shear interaction has thus been defined for the simple post-

critical method.

3.2 Interaction between Shear and Bending in the Tension Field Method

The procedure for the tension field method follows that described above for the simple

post-critical method. It leads to the construction of a similar, though not identical, interaction

diagram, see Figure 7b (Figure 5.6.4b of Eurocode 3).

In the low moment region AB, again defined by values of the applied moment less than M

f.Rd

,

the girder can sustain a shear load V

ad

that is equal to the "web only" shear resistance V

bw.Rd

calculated from tension field theory. Thus:

M

Sd

e M

f.Rd

V

Sd

e V

bw Rd

The "web only" shear resistance is the specific value of the total shear resistance V

bw.Rd

calculated from Equation (1), for the case when M

Nf.Rk

in EC3=0 in Equation (5). This is, in

effect, a conservative approach which neglects the contribution of the flanges to the tension field

action.

At the other extreme in region CD, the procedure remains as for the simple post-critical

method except that the limiting value of shear at point C is now taken as 0,5V

bw

. Similarly, the

procedure for the intermediate region BC remains as before except that the substitution of the

tension field value V

bw

for V

ba

in Equation (7) gives:

M

Sd

e M

f.Rd

+ (M

pl.Rd

- M

f.Rd

) [1 - (2V

Sd

/ V

bw.Rd

- 1)

2

] (8)

The complete range of moment/shear interaction is thus defined for the tension field method.

4. CONCLUDING SUMMARY

- Procedures for the design of plate girders subject to shear utilize varying degrees of post-

buckling resistance and correspond to either the "simple post-critical" or "tension field"

methods of Eurocode 3.

- Moment resistance of plate girders may normally be based on the plastic moment resistance of

a cross section consisting of the flanges only.

- Design for coincident shear and moment should be undertaken using an interaction diagram.

The simplest approach consists of designing the web to carry the whole of the shear, with the

flanges resisting the moment.

- The "tension field" method is more restricted in application than the "simple post-critical"

method, but gives higher strengths.

- Other aspects of design (stiffeners, etc.) are discussed in Lecture 8.4.3.

5. REFERENCES

[1] Eurocode 3 "Design of Steel Structures": European Prestandard ENV1993-1-1: Part 1.1,

General rules and rules for buildings, CEN, 1992.

[2] Narayanan, R. (ed), "Plated Structures; Stability and Strength", Applied Science Publishers,

London 1983.

Chapter 1 covers basic aspects of plate girder behaviour and design.

[3] Bulson, P. S. "The Stability of Flat Plates", Chatto & Windus, London, 1970.

General coverage of plate buckling and explanation of k

t

values for numerous cases.

6. ADDITIONAL READING

1. Dubas, P. and Gehri, E. (eds)., "Behaviour and Design of Plated Steel Structures", Publication No.

44, ECCS, 1986.

Chapters 4 and 5 provide a detailed coverage of plate girder design, taking the reader well

beyond the content of this lecture. They also refer to numerous original sources.

2. Galambos, T. V. (ed)., "Guide to Stability Design Criteria for Metal Structures", 4th Edition, John

Wiley, 1988.

ESDEP WG 8

PLATES AND SHELLS

Lecture 8.4.3: Plate Girder Design -

Special Topics

OBJECTIVE/SCOPE

To extend the coverage of plate girder design previously given in Lectures 8.4.1 and Lecture

8.4.2. To include the design of transverse web stiffeners and end posts and consideration of patch

loading. To outline design procedures for longitudinally stiffened girders and for girders with

large web openings.

PREREQUISITES

Lecture 8.4.1: Plate Girder Behaviour and Design I

Lecture 8.4.2: Plate Girder Behaviour and Design II

RELATED LECTURES

Lectures 3.1: Fabrication

Lectures 3.2: Erection

Lecture 3.5: Fabrication/Erection of Buildings

SUMMARY

The detailed design of particular elements of plate girders is considered in this lecture.

The structural action of web panels, designed as described in earlier lectures, imposes stringent

requirements on adjacent boundary elements. This lecture considers the design of transverse web

stiffeners and end posts according to Eurocode 3 [1] and also considers the particular problems

caused by patch loading. Two other aspects of design, not currently covered by Part 1.1 of

Eurocode 3, viz. the design of longitudinally stiffened girders and girders with large web

openings, are also discussed.

1. INTRODUCTION

The two previous lectures on plate girders, Lectures 8.4.1 and Lecture 8.4.2, have

concentrated upon the main aspects of the structural behaviour upon which the design principles

are based. The two design approaches proposed in Eurocode 3 [1] have been outlined; these are

the "simple post-critical" method, which is generally applicable, and the "tension field" method

which gives significantly higher load resistances by taking the post-buckling resistance of the

girders into account.

This lecture seeks to complete the discussion of plate girder design by considering further

aspects of detailed design. For example, the development of post-buckling action in a web plate,

assumed in the previous lectures, can only occur when the elements at the boundary of that web

plate are able to provide an adequate anchorage for the tension field forces developed within the

plate. This lecture will consider the design of these boundary elements. These elements may be

in the form of intermediate transverse stiffeners or end posts.

Girders may be subjected to high loads in localised regions, away from stiffener

positions, creating a possibility that crippling of the web plate may occur. An example of this

occurs in crane gantry girders subjected to a vertical loading which travels along the flange. The

effects of such "patch loading" must be carefully taken into account in design. This aspect is very

thoroughly treated in Eurocode 3 [1]. This lecture outlines the relevant design principles.

Two other important aspects of plate girder design are the treatment of girders with

longitudinal web stiffeners, and of girders with large openings in the web plates. Openings are

frequently required, particularly in building construction, to allow access for service ducts, etc.

Neither of these two situations is covered in Part 1.1 of Eurocode 3. This lecture discusses good

practice in relation to the two situations.

2. TRANSVERSE WEB STIFFENERS

To achieve an effective design, i.e. a plate girder of high strength/weight ratio, it is

usually necessary to provide intermediate transverse web stiffeners. Eurocode 3 [1] only allows

the application of the tension field method, which has been shown in earlier lectures to give a

significantly enhanced load resistance, when the web is stiffened. The Eurocode also specifies

that such stiffeners must be spaced such that the stiffener spacing/web depth ratio (a/d) is within

the following range:

1,0 e a/d e 3,0

Transverse stiffeners play an important role in allowing the full ultimate load resistance

of a plate girder to be achieved. In the first place they increase the buckling resistance of the

web; secondly they must continue to remain effective after the web buckles, to provide

anchorage for the tension field; finally they must prevent any tendency for the flanges to move

towards one another.

The satisfactory performance of a transverse stiffener can best be illustrated by

comparing the girders shown, after testing, in Slides 1 and 2. In Slide 1 the stiffeners have

remained straight and have clearly fulfilled the function of vertical struts in the simplified N-

truss model of the post-buckling action discussed in Lecture 8.4.2, see Figure 1. In Slide 2 the

stiffener has failed and has been unable to limit the buckling to the adjacent sub-panels of the

girder; instead, the buckle has run through the stiffener position extending over both panels.

Consequently, significant reduction in the failure load of the girder occurred.

Slide 1

Slide 2

The requirements to ensure adequate stiffener performance are given in Section 5.6.5 of

Eurocode 3. First, the stiffener must be of adequate rigidity in the direction perpendicular to the

plane of the web to prevent web buckling. This condition is satisfied provided the stiffener has a

second moment of area I

s

that satisfies the following empirical formulae:

I

s

> 1,5 d

3

t

w

3

/a

2

when a/d <

I

s

> 0,75 dt

w

3

when a/d >

Secondly, the buckling resistance of the vertical "stiffener strut" must be sufficient to

support the tension field forces shown in Figure 2a (which has been reproduced from Fig. 5.6.3a

of Eurocode 3). It must also resist the resultant axial compressive force N

s

that is imposed upon

it. This force is calculated as follows:

N

s

= V

sd

- dt

w

t

bb

/¸

M1

where t

bb

is the initial shear buckling resistance of the web panels, calculated as given in Lecture

8.4.2. When the two web panels adjacent to the particular stiffener being designed are not

identical, the lower value of t

bb

for the two panels should be taken. As previously, V

sd

is the

design value of the shear force.

The buckling resistance of the stiffener strut to this axial compressive force is then

calculated using Section 5.7.6 of Eurocode 3. Since the stiffener is attached to the web plate, a

portion of the web acts effectively with the stiffener in resisting the axial compression. It is

difficult to calculate the extent of this portion of the web but experimental observations have

allowed an empirical effective web width of 30It

w

to be established, as shown in Figure 3 (which

has been reproduced from Figure 5.7.4 of Eurocode 3). Having established the effective cross-

section of the stiffener strut in this way, its buckling resistance is determined as for any other

compression member according to Section 5.5.1 of the Eurocode.

For a "load bearing" stiffener, i.e. a transverse stiffener located at a position where an

external load is applied to the girder, an additional consideration is necessary. The resistance of

the effective cross-section of the load bearing stiffener should also be checked at a position close

to the loaded flange.

3. END PANELS AND POSTS

The requirement for adequate boundary members to support the loading imposed by the

post-buckling tension field is particularly onerous in the case of the end panel of the girder. The

situation of the transverse stiffener at the end of the girder, i.e. the "end post", is very different

from that of an intermediate stiffener, compare Figure 2b to Figure 2a. At the end of the girder,

the forces imposed by the tension field in the end panel have to be resisted entirely by the end

post without support from any further adjacent panels.

Design procedures for end panels and posts are given in Clauses 5.6.4.3 and 5.6.4.4 of Eurocode

3 [1]. Basically, they allow the designer two options.

Firstly, the designer may choose not to design an end post that will provide adequate

anchorage for the tension field. As a consequence, the end panel of the web must be designed

according to the simple post-critical method so that a tension field does not develop within it.

This option offers a simple design procedure but has the disadvantage that the calculated shear

resistance of the end panel will be significantly lower than that of the internal web panels in the

girder. Since it is probable that the applied shear in the end region will be higher than at any

point on the span, this procedure will not provide an effective design solution if the stiffener

spacing remains constant over the complete length of the girder. As shown in Figure 4a, the

designer should then reduce the spacing of the stiffeners bounding the end panel so that the shear

resistance of that panel as calculated by the simple post-critical method becomes equal to that

calculated by the tension field method for the internal panels.

The more effective, but more complex, option is to design the end post to provide an adequate

anchorage for the web tension field. The end panel of the web can then be designed according to

the tension field method, so that the design shear buckling resistance (V

bb.Rd

) can be calculated

as described in Lecture 8.4.2 for internal web panels, i.e.

V

bb.Rd

= [(d t

w

t

bb

) + 0,9 (g t

w

o

bb

sin o)]/¸

M1

The slight difference for the end panel arises in the calculation of the width g of the tension field.

For an internal panel the width is given by:

g = d cos o - (a - s

c

- s

t

) sin o

where, s

c

and s

t

denote the lengths over which the tension field anchors onto the compression and

tension flanges, see Figure 2a. For an end panel, the failure mechanism may be different since, as

shown in Slide 3, a plastic hinge may also form in the end post.

Slide 3

This hinge affects the anchorage length for the compression flange which must now be

calculated as:

s

c

=

where M

pl.1

is the reduced plastic moment of the flange at the internal hinge position, allowing

for the presence of the axial force (N

f1

) at that position.

The other plastic hinge will form either at the end of the flange, as in the case of an internal

panel, or in the end post. The location of the hinge, as defined by s

s

in Figure 2b, will depend

upon which of these two elements has the lower plastic moment of resistance. M

pl.2

takes the

lesser of these two values.

In this way, Clause 5.6.4.3 of Eurocode 3 allows the geometry of the tension field

developed in the end panel to be fully defined, see Figure 2b. The design shear buckling

resistance V

bb.Rd

of the panel can then be calculated together with the horizontal component F

bb

of the anchorage force of the tension field imposed on the end post:

F

bb

= t

w

s

s

o

bb

cos

2

o

The end post resists this force by acting as a vertical beam spanning between the two flanges. For

this purpose it must satisfy the following criterion:

M

pl.2

+ M

pl.3

> 0,5 F

bb

s

s

where the reduced plastic moment of the end post:

M

pl.3

= 0,25 b

s

t

s

2

f

ys

{1 - [N

s3

/(b

s

t

s

f

ys

)]

2

}

allows for the effect of the axial force in the end post:

N

s3

= V

sd

- t

bb

t

w

(d - s

s

)

If it proves difficult to provide an end post in the form of a single plate to resist these

forces, then the designer may consider providing an end arrangement such as that shown in

Figure 4b. In this case, two transverse stiffeners are used. These two stiffeners and the portion of

the web projecting beyond the end support form a rigid end post to provide the necessary

anchorage for the tension field in the end panel. The disadvantage of such an arrangement is that

adequate space must be available to allow the girder to project beyond its end support.

4. WEB CRIPPLING

There are many situations where it is not possible to provide transverse web stiffeners at

all points where vertical loads are applied to the girder. For example, a crane gantry girder is

subjected to a vertical loading that travels along the flange; also, girders may be launched during

construction so that the flange actually moves over the fixed point of support. In such cases,

special consideration must be given to the design of the unstiffened web in the local region

underneath, or above, the applied point or "patch" loading to prevent "web crippling". The webs

of all beams must be checked for this possible local failure. Plate girders are particularly

susceptible to this form of failure because of the slenderness of the web plates that are normally

used in their construction.

"Web crippling" is discussed in Section 5.7 of Eurocode 3. It distinguishes between the two

different loading cases that are shown in Figure 5 (taken from Figure 5.7.1 of the Eurocode). In

Figure 5a, the force is applied to one flange only and is therefore resisted by shear forces

developed within the web plate. In this case the web plate has to be checked for its "crushing"

and for its "crippling" resistance. In the other case, shown in Figure 5b, the force is applied to

one flange, transmitted directly by compressive forces developed in the web, and resisted by a

reactive force on the other flange. The web must again be checked for its "crushing" resistance.

The "buckling" resistance of the web must also be considered in this case.

There are, therefore, three types of web resistance that must be calculated. In each case the

resistance is dependent upon the length over which the applied force is effectively distributed on

the flange. This is termed the "stiff bearing length" (s

s

). It is calculated on the assumption of a

dispersion of load through solid steel material at a slope of 1:1.

The terms "crushing", "crippling" and "buckling" resistance are introduced to differentiate

between the phenomena being considered. In each case the appropriate resistance is calculated

from empirical formulae:

"Crushing" resistance, where crushing is local yielding of the web without any buckling, is given

by:

R

y.Rd

= (s

s

+ s

y

) t

w

f

yw

/¸

M1

"Crippling" resistance, where crippling is localised buckling of the web in the presence of

plasticity, is given by:

R

a.Rd

= 0,5 t

w

2

(E f

yw

)

1/2

[t

f

/t

w

)

1/2

+ 3 (t

w

/t

f

) (s

s

/d)]/¸

M1

"Buckling" of the web occurs with out-of-plane deformation over most of the depth of the web.

The "buckling" resistance (R

b.Rd

) for the compressive loading situation illustrated in Figure 5b is

determined simply by considering the web plate as a vertical compression member. First it is

necessary to determine the breadth of the web "strut" (b

eff

) that is effective in resisting the

compression. This breadth may be calculated as:

b

eff

= [h

2

+ s

s

2

]

1/2

where:

h is the overall depth of the girder.

s

s

is the stiff bearing length discussed above.

The buckling resistance of this idealised strut is then determined as for any other compression

member according to Section 5.5.1 of Eurocode 3.

5. LONGITUDINAL WEB STIFFENERS

To increase the strength/weight ratio of plate girders, slender webs may be reinforced by

longitudinal, as well as transverse, stiffeners. A typical longitudinally stiffened girder is shown

after failure in Slide 4. The main function of the longitudinal stiffeners is to increase the buckling

resistance of the web with respect of both shear and bending loads. An effective stiffener will

remain straight, thereby sub-dividing the web panel and limiting the buckling to the smaller sub-

panels. The resulting increase in the ultimate resistance of the girder can be significant.

Slide 4

The design of webs with longitudinal stiffeners is not covered in Part 1 of Eurocode 3. It

will be addressed in Part 2, for bridges. Because of the greater need for high strength/weight

ratios in bridges, girders with longitudinal stiffeners are more commonly encountered in bridge

than in building construction.

Design of longitudinal stiffeners is usually based on a number of empirical design curves

derived from the results of a parametric study employing numerical modelling techniques. The

design procedure is relatively straightforward, although somewhat conservative. Additional

information on the behaviour of longitudinally stiffened girders has been presented [2] which

will assist the designer to gain a better understanding of the structural action.

6. GIRDERS WITH OPENINGS IN SLENDER WEBS

Holes often have to be cut in the webs of plate girders used in building construction to

provide access for service ducts, etc. No mention of such openings is made in Part 1 of Eurocode

3. Such holes have a particular influence on the behaviour of slender webs because the hole

interrupts the tension field. (Design methods are available for stocky webs with web openings -

see Reference3).

Detailed fundamental work by Narayanan [2] has shown that girders with slender webs

and web openings possess a post-buckling reserve of resistance. The collapse mechanism for

such girders, illustrated in Slide 5, is similar to the shear sway mechanism that is characteristic of

all plate girders, as discussed in Lecture 8.4.2. However, some codes adopt a conservative

approach. They do not take account of such post-buckling action in any girder which has a web

opening with any dimension exceeding some percentage of the minimum dimension of the web

panel in which it is located. To provide a simple design procedure, the shear resistance of the

perforated panel is calculated as the buckling resistance.

Slide 5

The disadvantage of such a procedure is that the shear resistance of the perforated panel

will then be substantially lower than that calculated allowing for the full post-buckling reserve of

resistance in adjacent unperforated panels. The designer should therefore reduce the spacing of

the transverse stiffeners either side of the web opening so that the initial buckling resistance of

the resulting narrow perforated panel is approximately equal to the full post-buckling resistance

of adjacent panels.

7. CONCLUDING SUMMARY

- To develop post-buckling action, the elements bounding the web plate of a girder must be

designed to provide adequate anchorage for the tension field forces developed in the web

panel.

- The tension field method can only be applied when transverse web stiffeners are provided such

that the stiffener spacing/web depth ratio lies within the range: 10,0 e a/d e 3,0. The stiffeners

must have adequate rigidity in the direction perpendicular to the plane of the web to prevent

web buckling. The buckling resistance of the vertical stiffener strut must also be sufficient to

support the tension field forces.

- Careful consideration must be given to the design of the end post. The designer has the option

of either not allowing the development of tension field action in the end panel or, for a more

efficient design, providing an end post of sufficient rigidity and strength.

- The possibility of web crippling, web crushing and web buckling must be considered in those

localised areas where patch loads are applied to the girder flange.

- Longitudinal web stiffeners allow girders of higher strength/weight ratios to be designed. They

are particularly relevant in bridge construction. They are not considered in Eurocode 3: Part 1.1.

- Large web openings are frequently necessary in building construction to allow the passage of

services. Plate girders with openings are not considered in Eurocode 3 Part 1.1.

8. REFERENCES

[1] Eurocode 3 "Design of Steel Structures".

European Prestandard ENV1993-1-1: Part 1.1, General rules and rules for buildings, CEN, 1992.

[2] Narayanan, R (Editor), "Plated Structures; Stability and Strength", Applied Science

Publishers, London, 1983.

This reference gives detailed information, including the experimental background to the

structural action covered in the clauses of Eurocode 3 referred to in this lecture.

[3] Lawson, R. M., Design for Openings in the Webs of Composite Beams, SCI Publication 068.

The Steel Construction Institute, 1987.

9. ADDITIONAL READING

1. "European Recommendations for the Design of Longitudinally Stiffened Webs and of Stiffened

Compression Flanges", Publication 60, ECCS, 1990.

ESDEP WG 8

PLATES AND SHELLS

Lecture 8.5.1: Introduction to Design

of Box Girders

OBJECTIVE/SCOPE

To describe the main features and advantages of box girders; to introduce the methods of global

analysis; to describe aspects of behaviour particular to box girders.

PREREQUISITES

Lecture 6.1: Concepts of Stable and Unstable Elastic Equilibrium

Lecture 8.1: Introduction to Plate Behaviour and Design

Lectures 8.4: Plate Girder Behaviour and Design

RELATED LECTURES

Lecture 8.5.2: Advanced Design of Box Girders

SUMMARY

A general overview is given of the form and behaviour of box girders. Typical

configurations are illustrated and the advantages of box girders over plate girders are highlighted.

The structural behaviour of box sections is described; global analysis is discussed; the particular

features of the design of webs and flanges are introduced; the function and form of cross

sectional restraints. including diaphragms, are described.

1. INTRODUCTION

A box girder is formed when two web plates are joined by a common flange at both the

top and the bottom. The closed cell which is formed has a much greater torsional stiffness and

strength than an open section and it is this feature which is the usual reason for choosing a box

girder configuration.

Box girders are rarely used in buildings (box columns are sometimes used but these are

axially loaded rather than in loaded in bending). They may be used in special circumstances,

such as when loads are carried eccentrically to the beam axis.

Steel and composite box girders are used for highway bridges, though they are most expensive

than plate girders (because fabrication requires more time and effort).

The use of box girders for bridges offers the following advantages over plate girders:

- Very good torsional rigidity

- Wide flanges may be used

- Clean external surfaces

- A non-rectangular cross-section can be used.

Torsional rigidity is particularly advantageous when the girder needs to be curved in plan. A

box section can carry the torsion resulting from vertical loading without the need for lateral

bracing.

The use of wide flanges facilitates the choice of shallow construction depth (that is, a large

span-to-depth ratio) which may be desirable when space or headroom is restricted. Shallower

girders will be heavier but this may be a lesser consideration in such circumstances.

Any stiffening needed to the webs and flanges can usually be arranged inside the box section.

The clear external surfaces offer a neater, more pleasing, appearance and avoid the corners and

crevices which are difficult to protect adequately against corrosion.

The use of inclined webs (closer together at the bottom than at the top) reduces the width of

the bottom flange plate (often advantageous to structural performance, particularly when the

flange is in compression). Inclined faces are frequently considered to give a better appearance

than vertical faces. Inclined webs also offer better aerodynamic performance. The cross-sectional

shape of the box girders of many long-span cable-stayed and suspension bridges are chosen after

wind-tunnel testing to find the shape which offers minimum drag and optimum dynamic

response.

Box girder bridges are constructed with single, twin or multiple box girders. The deck of the

bridge may be of reinforced concrete or it may be a stiffened steel deck. When reinforced

concrete is used the steel girders may be closed box sections or may be open sections (U-shaped)

which are closed when the slab is cast across the top. A selection of configurations is shown in

Figures 1 - 3.

The method of erection is often an important factor in choosing a cross-section for a box

girder bridge. The torsional stability of the box section avoids the need for temporary bracing

(such as is needed with plate girders). The bridge can be built by lifting consecutive pre-

assembled units of the complete cross section and joining them end-to-end. This is particularly

suitable for cantilever erection of long spans.

2. MAIN FEATURES OF BOX GIRDERS

Many of the features of box girders illustrated in Figures 1, 2 and 3 are similar to those of

plate girders, though the proportions may be different. There are a few features which are

particular to box girders.

Web plates carry shear forces and bending moments. Thin webs need transverse

stiffeners to achieve adequate resistance, in the same way as they do in plate girders. Inclined

webs are deeper (in their planes) and may therefore require more stiffening.

Flange plates connecting two webs are wider than those of corresponding I-beam girders.

Consideration must be given to shear lag. When the flange plate is in compression its stability

(against out-of-plane buckling) must be considered; longitudinal and transverse stiffeners are

frequently necessary.

When open steel sections are used, made into composite box girders by a concrete deck

slab, separate (and relatively small) flange plates are provided at the top of each web. These

flanges need to be stabilised laterally by bracing during construction. Shear connection on the

top of the flanges is similar to that on the flanges of I-beam girders.

When closed steel boxes are used, overlaid by a reinforced concrete slab to form a

composite section, shear connection is required over the full width of the top flanges.

When the bridge deck is steel, the top flanges are stiffened orthotropically to carry wheel

loads from traffic as well as acting as a box girder flange. This stiffening usually takes the form

of longitudinal trough stiffeners supported at regular intervals by transverse beams.

At supports plated diaphragms are provided. At each support there are one or two

bearings, located between the webs and directly below the diaphragms. The diaphragms serve to

transfer the load from the webs to the bearings (generally acting as a deep beam) and to prevent

distortion of the section.

In all except smaller boxes restraint against distortion is also required at intermediate

positions; this can be achieved with braced cross-frames, stiff ring frames or plated diaphragms.

Access inside box sections is necessary during construction and during the life of the

structure. Manholes must be provided in support and intermediate diaphragms, to permit passage

along the length of the box; the size and location of the holes is taken into account in the design

of the diaphragm.

3. GLOBAL ANALYSIS

As for I-beam girders, global analysis determines the bending moments and shears in the

main beams due to the applied loading. Since the principal loads are vertical, greatest attention is

given to moments and shears in the vertical plane, though horizontal loading and effects must

also be considered.

However, when box girders are used, two additional effects must be considered, torsion

and distortion. As we shall see later, consideration of distortional effects may be limited to local

regions between intermediate diaphragms. Torsional effects must be determined by the global

analysis.

For a single straight uniform section girder any simple line beam analysis would suffice

for bending, shear and torsional effects, but in general the most appropriate model for evaluating

the effects due to vertical loading is the grillage analogy. Beam elements in a grillage model

have three degrees of freedom - vertical deflection, rotation about a transverse axis and rotation

about a longitudinal axis - and are thus able to determine directly the three principal effects

which are to be considered in the stress analysis. Computer programs are available specifically

for grillage analysis, though many designers make use of general purpose space-frame programs

(in which the elements have the full 6 degrees of freedom).

In very wide flanges shear lag effects must be taken into account. When the axial load is

fed into a wide flange by shear from the webs the flange distorts in its plane; plane sections do

not remain plane. The resulting stress distribution in the flange is not uniform (see Figure 4).

This effect is not taken into account in a grillage analysis and must be separately determined.

The calculation of distortional effects, which include transverse bending stresses and

longitudinal warping stresses can be carried out by methods based on beam-on-elastic-

foundation analogy. Where stiff intermediate cross-frames or diaphragms are provided the

stresses are usually quite small.

In very complex configurations finite element analysis might be used. Shell elements are

connected to model the complete cross-section along the whole length of the girder. Provided

that the mesh is sufficiently fine and the element behaviour is appropriate, effects such as

warping, distortion and shear lag are determined at the same time as the principal bending, shear

and torsion effects.

Folded plate analysis is sometimes used, but it is only appropriate when the box section is

uniform along its length, when there are no intermediate cross-frames and when the loading can

be represented by harmonic series. It is difficult to apply to ordinary design situations.

4. TORSION AND DISTORTION

The general case of an eccentric load applied to a box girder is in effect a combination of

three components - bending, torsion and distortion. As a first step, the force can be separated into

two components, a pair of symmetric vertical loads and a force couple, as shown in Figure 5(a).

However, torsion is in fact resisted in a box section by a shear flow around the whole perimeter

and the couple should in turn be separated into two parts, representing pure torsion and

distortion, as shown in Figure 5(b).

The first two components, vertical bending loads and a torsional shear flow, are

externally applied forces, and they must be resisted in turn at the supports or bearings. The third

component, distortional forces, comprises an internal set of forces, statically in equilibrium,

which do not give rise to any external reaction. Distortional effects depend on the behaviour of

the structure between the point of application and the nearest positions where the box section is

restrained against distortion.

4.1 Torsion and Torsional Warping

The theoretical behaviour of a thin-walled box section subject to pure torsion is well

known and is treated in many standard texts. For a single cell box, the torque is resisted by a

shear flow which acts around the walls of the box. This shear flow (force/unit length) is constant

around the box and is given by q = T/2A, where T is the torque and A is the area enclosed by the

box. (In Figure 2 the torque is QB/2 and the shear flow is Q/4D.) The shear flow produces shear

stresses and strains in the walls and gives rise to a twist per unit length, o , which is given by the

general expression:

or,

where J is the torsion constant.

However, it is less well appreciated that this pure torsion of a thin walled section will also

produce a warping of the cross-section, unless there is sufficient symmetry in the section. This is

illustrated in Figure 6 for a rectangular section that is free to warp at its ends. However, in

practice boxes are not subject to pure torsion; wherever there is a change of torque (at a point of

application of load or at a torsional restraint) there is restraint to warping, because the 'free'

warping displacements due to the different torques would be different (restraint is high, for

example. over intermediate supports where torsion is restrained). Such restraint gives rise to

longitudinal warping stresses and associated shear stresses in each wall of the box.

4.2 Distortion

When torsion is applied directly around the perimeter of a box section, by forces exactly

equal to the shear flow in each of the sides of the box, there is no tendency for the cross section

to change its shape. Torsion can be applied in this manner if, at the position where the force

couple is applied, a diaphragm or stiff frame is provided to ensure that the section remains square

and that torque is in fact fed into the box walls as a shear flow around the perimeter.

Provision of such diaphragms or frames is practical, and indeed necessary, at supports

and at positions where heavy point loads are introduced. But such restraint can only be provided

at discrete positions. When the load is distributed along the beam, or when point loads can occur

anywhere along the beam such as concentrated axle loads from vehicles, the distortional effects

must be carried by other means.

The distortional forces shown in Figure 5(b) are tending to increase the length of one

diagonal and shorten the other. This tendency is resisted in two ways, by in-plane bending of

each of the wall of the box and by out-of-plane bending. this is illustrated in Figure 7.

In general the distortional behaviour depends on interaction between the two sorts of

bending. The behaviour has been demonstrated to be analogous to that of a beam on an elastic

foundation (BEF), and this analogy is frequently used to evaluate the distortional effects.

If the only resistance to transverse distortional bending is provided by out-of-plane

bending of the flange plates there were no intermediate restraints to distortion, the distortional

deflections in most situations would be significant and would affect the global behaviour. For

this reason it is usual to provide intermediate cross-frames or diaphragms; consideration of

distortional displacements and stresses can then be limited to the lengths between cross-frames.

5. FLANGE DESIGN

5.1 Tension Flanges

Tension flanges are designed mainly on the basis of longitudinal bending stresses, in the

same way as for plate girders. Torsional and distortional effects and the effects of shear lag do

need to be taken into account in some circumstances. The strength is taken as the yield stress.

At the Serviceability Limit State elastic behaviour is normally specified. Then the

stresses due to the restraint of torsional warping, distortional warping stresses and the variation

of stress across the flange due to shear lag must be calculated. Stresses are highest adjacent to the

web.

At the Ultimate Limit State, plastic behaviour is normally accepted. Then the stresses due

to the restraint of torsional warping and shear lag can be neglected, since they are secondary

effects.

5.2 Compression Flanges

In addition to considering the load effects in relation to yield strength, the stability of the

compression flange must also be considered.

Relatively narrow flanges may be unstiffened. The strength of the flange plate then

depends on ordinary panel-buckling resistance. It is convenient to express this in design by the

determination of an effective width of compression flange; this is the width which has the same

resistance, at yield stress, as the buckling resistance of the full panel. Typically a panel is

considered fully effective up to a width of 24t (where t is the flange thickness), but thereafter the

effective width is less than the actual width.

Wider flanges are provided with longitudinal stiffeners to provide stability and these in

turn are supported at intervals by transverse stiffeners, cross-frames, or diaphragms.

Usually the longitudinal stiffeners can be designed using rules which effectively treat

them as struts. For this purpose the transverse members restraining them must be sufficiently

stiff. If, when the flanges are particularly wide, the transverse stiffeners are not sufficiently stiff,

the flange would have to be treated as a panel stiffened in two directions and the overall buckling

strength determined; this is too complex for most design purposes.

5.3 Orthotropic Steel Decks

In some bridges, notably long-span bridges and movable bridges, where minimum weight

is desirable, the roadway is carried on an all-steel deck. This form of deck is stiffened

longitudinally; transverse members or diaphragms support the longitudinal stiffeners.

The design of such a deck, to carry the direct loads from the traffic wheels, is an

extremely complex matter. Connection details are subject to onerous fatigue loading.

Configurations currently in use are the result of many years development, analysis, testing and

feedback from previous designs.

6. WEB DESIGN

The determination of the strength of webs in bending and shear follows the same general

rules as for plate girders.

Shear buckling resistance of thin webs is improved by the presence of intermediate

stiffeners. Tension field action can develop in the web in the same way as in plate girders.

However, the further increase in tension field action on account of the bending stiffness of the

flange plate is not normally achievable.

7. CROSS SECTIONAL RESTRAINTS

7.1 General Function and Description

The main functions of cross sectional restraints are:

- to preserve the shape of the box against distortion

- to transfer an externally applied torque to the box walls through shear flow

- to provide transverse support to longitudinal stiffeners under compression

- to support traffic loads directly (from an orthotropic deck)

- to transmit forces from box walls to the supports.

7.2 Support Diaphragms

At support positions a plate diaphragm is normally provided, see Figure 8, although occasionally

a heavily braced frame can be used. Plate diaphragms may be thick and unstiffened in fairly

small boxes; in larger boxes vertical stiffeners are provided over the bearings and sometimes

horizontal stiffening is also provided.

The main purpose of support diaphragms is to transfer the large shear forces from the webs to the

bearings. They must also transmit horizontal forces when the bearing is guided or fixed in

position into shear flow along the web of the box section.

For large box sections, with large support forces, the use of a finite element program is

recommended for the design of support diaphragms.

7.3 Intermediate restraints

For large deep box girders, intermediate restraint against distortion is usually provided by cross

frames, see Figure 9. The frame comprises a ring of four members, each being an effective

section comprising a width of flange or web and the transverse stiffener attached to it. The

corners of the ring need to be designed to provide moment continuity. Diagonal bracing is

connected to the frame as necessary, usually either across the section diagonal or as a V to the

midpoint of a flange stiffener.

7.4 Load-carrying transverse stiffeners

When a box girder has a stiffened steel deck, or a composite box girder is arranged with cross-

girders, such that the deck slab designed to span longitudinally, the transverse stiffeners must

also carry the traffic loads and transfer them to the webs. Such configurations usually also have

cantilevers on the outer faces. Moment continuity must be provided between the transverse

stiffeners, the cantilevers and the cross-girders.

Transverse flange stiffeners which are required to provide support must usually be arranged to

coincide with transverse web stiffeners, so that the load can be transferred into the web.

8. ARTICULATION

The arrangement of the bearings which support the girder, known as the articulation

arrangement, should take account of the high degree of torsional rigidity provided by the box

girders.

For a relatively short bridge of a few spans it is not necessary to provide two bearings at

each intermediate support. Twin bearings at the ends will restrain the box against twist; single

bearings on the box centreline are sufficient at intermediate supports.

If the bridge is highly curved, single bearings may be sufficient at all supports; restraint

against twist is provided by the combined effects of torsional rigidity and geometrical

arrangement of the group of bearings.

9. CONCLUDING SUMMARY

- Box girders are used because of their good resistance to torsion

- box girders can be designed to have a good aerodynamic shape

- the clear external surfaces and the use of inclined webs gives a good appearance

- the grillage method is sufficiently accurate for global analysis

- shear lag and the stability of the compression flange both require consideration in wide flanges

- design of webs is generally similar to that for plate girders

- distortional effects must be considered

10. ADDITIONAL READING

1. Eurocode 3: Design of steel structures: European Prestandard, ENV1993-1-1: Part 1.1: General

rules and rules for buildings, CEN, 1992.

2. Dubas, P. and Gehri, E., Behaviour and Design of Steel Plated Structures, Technical Committee 8

Group 8.3, ECCS-CECM-EKS No44, 1986.

3. Johnson, R. P. and Buckby, R. J., Composite Structures of Steel and Concrete, Volume 2: Bridges,

Collins, London, 1986.

4. British Standard 5400: Part 3: Steel, Concrete and Composite Bridges, Part 3: Code of Practice

for Design of Steel Bridges, British Standards Institution, 1982.

5. Horne, M.R., CIRIA Guide 3, Structural action in steel box girders, Construction Industry Research

and Information Association, London, 1977

6. Kollbrunner, C. F. and Basler, K.: Torsion, Spes/Bordas Lausanne/Paris, 1955.

7. Stahlbau Handbuch: Stahlbau Handbuck für Studium und Praxis, BandI, Stahbau Verlag, Köln,

1982.

8. Dalton, D. C. and Richmond, B., Twisting of Thin Walled Box Girders, Proceedings of the

Institution of Civil Engineers, January 1968.

9. Iles, D.C., Design Guide for Composite Box Girder Bridges, The Steel Construction Institute,

Ascot, 1994

ESDEP WG 8

PLATES AND SHELLS

Lecture 8.5.2: Advanced Design

of Box Girders

OBJECTIVE/SCOPE

To introduce methods of global analysis, methods of determining cross-section distortion, and

shear lag in box girder bridges.

PREREQUISITES

None.

RELATED LECTURES

Lecture 8.5.1: Introduction to Design of Box Girders

SUMMARY

Global analysis may be made by the grillage, orthotropic plate, folded plate and finite

element methods.

Distortion of the box may have to be controlled by diaphragms or cross frames. Simple or

refined methods are available for the calculation of the forces in the diaphragms or cross frames.

In very wide flanges, shear lag effects have to be taken into account.

1. INTRODUCTION

Although steel or steel-concrete composite box girders are usually more expensive per

tonne than plate girders, because they require more fabrication time, they can lead to a more

economic solution overall.

For bridges, box girders have several advantages over plate girders which make their use

attractive:

- a very high torsional stiffness. (In closed box sections torque is resisted mainly by Saint Venant

shear stresses and the torsional stiffness is normally much greater than that of open sections.)

- closed steel boxes provide torsional stiffness during their erection. (They thus avoid the need for

the expensive temporary bracing which is required with plate girders and which also interferes

with the construction of the concrete slab. For highly curved spans torsional stiffness is almost

always essential during their construction.)

- wide flanges can be used. (This allows large span to depth ratios without resource to very thick

material.)

- box girders have a neat appearance. (The stiffening can remain unseen inside the box.)

- the facility to choose a good aerodynamic shape. (This is particularly important for large

suspension or cable-stayed bridges.)

- box girders use fewer bearings. (Usually torsional restraint need be provided at only one

position along a continuous box; single bearings can be used at all other supports. Further, with

a highly curved box girder, single bearings at all supports is often sufficient.)

Box girders are sometimes used in building structures, but this is not common. This lecture

deals mainly with box girders as used in bridges, both all-steel construction and composite

construction with a reinforced concrete deck slab; most of the general remarks are applicable to

box girders used in buildings

2. GLOBAL ANALYSIS METHODS

Global analysis determines the load effects, bending moments, shear forces, torsional

moments, etc., which occur in all parts of the structure as a result of the applied load. From this

analysis stresses are determined, for comparison with the calculated strengths.

Methods of analysis for composite bridge decks fall into one of three groups.

- those that treat the bridge as a series of interconnected beams

- those that treat separately the various parts of the box section (flanges, webs, diaphragms)

- those that treat the bridge deck as a continuum

Those in the first group are the simplest to analyse, since beam theory can be used for the

behaviour of the individual elements. For a single straight girder a line-beam analysis can be

used, provided this takes account of torsional effects as well as bending effects, but in general a

grillage model is needed. Such an analysis gives good results for the distribution of moments and

forces in multiple girder structures and when a curved single beam is modelled as a series of

straight elements. However, simple beam theory does not take account of the distortion of the

cross section or of shear lag effects and these must be determined separately.

Analysis in the second group is by use of finite element techniques and inevitably involves

the use of a powerful computer program. Provided suitable elements are available within the

computer program, the analysis is able to give results which include most of the structural

effects, including distortion and shear lag, but choice of element type and size requires much

experience, and interpretation of the results also requires careful consideration.

The third group applies more exact theoretical modelling techniques. Examples are treatment

of the whole deck as an orthotropic plate and analysis of folded plate models. However such

techniques can only be properly applied when there is uniformity throughout the structure and

for distributed loading. They are also only able to represent separately some aspects of the

behaviour: the loading therefore needs to be divided into components such as uniform bending,

uniform torsional, warping torsion, and distortion.

3. GRILLAGE

3.1 General

In a grillage analysis, the structure is idealised as a number of longitudinal and transverse

beam elements in a single horizontal plane, rigidly interconnected at nodes. Transverse beams

may be orthogonal or skewed with respect to the longitudinal beams, so that skew, curved,

tapering or irregular decks can be analysed.

In a simple grillage analysis, each beam is allotted a flexural stiffness in the vertical plane

and a torsional stiffness. Vertical loads are applied only at the nodes. Computer software is used

to carry out a matrix stiffness analysis to determine the displacements (rotations about the two

horizontal axes and the vertical displacement) at each node and the forces (bending moments,

torsional moments and vertical shear forces) in the beams connected to each node.

Grillage analysis does not determine warping and distortional effects, nor the effects of

shear lag. Local effects under point loads (wheel loads) can only be studied with a grillage by the

use of a fine mesh of beams locally to the load; local effects are usually determined separately

and added to global results as required.

3.2 Grillage Modelling for Box Girder Bridges

The global structural action of a box girder bridge can be seen as the essentially separate

actions of a reinforced concrete slab (or an ortotropically stiffened steel deck) which bends

transversely and a series of longitudinal beams which deflect vertically and twist. The slab (or

steel deck) bends as a result of being supported along several lines which deflect by different

amounts and in a manner which varies along the span. The global analysis therefore needs to

model accurately the way in which these support lines deflect, so that the interaction between

longitudinal and transverse bending is properly established.

The slab is effectively supported along each web line. The vertical deflection of each web

line depends on a combination of the vertical and torsional deflections of the box girder of which

it is a part. The best way to model these effects is to create a torsionally stiff beam element along

the centreline of each box (i.e. the shear centre) and to connect it to the slab at the web positions.

To do this, short 'dummy' transverse beams are needed; they do not physically represent any

particular part of the structure and the forces in them do not need to be analyzed, but they must

be given sufficient stiffness that their bending is insignificantly small. This form of model for a

twin-box bridge with cantilevers is illustrated in Figure 1 (note that, for clarity, the dummy

beams and longitudinal beams are shown slightly below the slab, whilst they would actually be

treated in the analysis as co-planar).

3.3 Longitudinal Grillage Elements

The main longitudinal beams are assigned the flexural properties of the full section of

each girder (including the slab or deck). In multi-girder structures it is usual to consider the slab

to be divided midway between boxes and for the full width of the cantilever to be included with

the outer box. Strictly this is not exact, since it would introduce a discontinuity in the level of the

neutral axis, but the inaccuracy is negligible.

The longitudinal elements representing the slab (shown dotted in Figure 1) are not strictly

necessary, as they are much more flexible than the main girders, though they may be helpful in

the application of distributed loads. They are shown here to illustrate the division of the slab.

The longitudinal edge elements may be added to represent the edge beam. They do not

have a major effect on overall performance but are often helpful in the application of load on the

cantilevers.

3.4 Transverse Grillage Elements

Where there are no transverse beams, the transverse elements simply represent a width of

slab equal to the node spacing. Where there are transverse beams, including cross-beams and

diaphragms inside the box, the elements should represent the stiffness of the effective transverse

member.

The slab elements are supported only on the dummy elements, they are not connected

directly to the longitudinal beams. There is no moment continuity between slab elements and the

dummy beams.

3.5 Torsional Rigidities

For an open box section, the torsional stiffness K is given by the general expression:

Where A is the area of the box and t is the thickness of element ds.

When the section is composite, the concrete slab should be transformed into an equivalent

thickness of steel by dividing by the modular ratio.

For a strip of solid slab the torsional stiffness is given by:

Where t is the thickness and b is the width of the strip.

However, in the grillage model only half this stiffness should be assigned to the

transverse elements, since no Saint Venant shear stress flux goes around the perimeter of the

strip's cross-section. Similarly, for an orthotropic steel deck, only the value H should be used for

the torsional rigidity, not 2H.

3.6 Skew Bridges

Skewed arrangements of multiple boxes can be devised, provided that support

diaphragms can remain essentially square to the box centrelines and that there are either no

cross-girders between boxes or the cross-girders are square to the boxes. Similarly, grillage

analysis with skew cross-members is difficult to interpret and gives uncertain results for all

except small skews.

3.7 Interpretation of the Output of a Grillage Analysis

Computer software usually gives values of the vertical shear, bending moments and

torsional moment for each grillage member at each joint in the grillage. Because the continuous

structure has been idealised into discrete elements this discontinuity is unreal. A slightly 'better'

value of moments in the main longitudinal members can be obtained by smoothing, as shown in

Figure 2, though the difference is usually very small.

4. ORTHOTROPIC PLATE ANALYSIS

In orthotropic plate analysis, the deck structure is 'smoothed' across its length and breadth

and treated as a continuum.

The elastic properties of an orthotropic plate are defined by the two flexural rigidities D

x

and D

y

and a plate torsional rigidity H. The governing equation relating deflection w to load P

acting normal to the plane of the plate is:

= p(x, y)

Design charts for decks that can be idealised as orthotropic plates have been derived from

series solutions. They give deflections and longitudinal and transverse moments due to a point

load, and so provide a rapid method for distribution analysis. Their applicability is limited to

simply supported decks of skew not exceeding 20r whose elastic properties can be represented

solely by length, breadth, and the three quantities D

x

, D

y

and H.

In composite structures, they can be used for beam-and-slab decks with not less than five equally

spaced longitudinal members of uniform diaphragms over the supports.

5. FINITE ELEMENT ANALYSIS

The finite element method is used increasingly in civil engineering. It is the most

versatile of the matrix stiffness methods of elastic analysis, and can, in principle, approach the

solution of almost any problem of global analysis of a bridge deck.

In box girders, the finite element method allows the study of shear lag and the

computation of effective flange breadths. It can also analyse local effects in slabs. To do this the

webs, flanges and diaphragms are each divided into a suitable mesh of elements; the detail of the

effects which can be revealed (for example the variation in stress across a flange due to shear

lag) depends on the fineness of the mesh and the capabilities of the element types provided by

the program.

The disadvantage of finite element analysis is its cost, especially because of the high

level of expert time required for the idealisation of the structure. The expert's know-how is

needed in selecting an appropriate pattern of elements, in selecting the right type of element and

in determining the right limit conditions for boundary nodes along the supports. The

interpretation of results also requires experience. The choice of inappropriate elements can be

misleading in regions of steep stress gradient, because the conditions of static equilibrium are not

then necessarily satisfied. The selection of the discretisation density level, or of the material

behaviour, may have serious repercussions on the accuracy of the results.

Nevertheless, for complex situations, or for complex portions of a major structure, there

is no better substitute for a finite element analysis.

6. FOLDED PLATE ANALYSIS

The folded plate method is normally limited to assemblages of rectangular plates. It is not

applicable to skew decks due to coupling between the harmonics. The orthotropic plates may

extend over several spans but must be simply-supported at the extreme ends, with rigid

diaphragms over the end supports. When folded plate diaphragms are used to represent the

transverse frames, the advantages are that it can give a complete and accurate solution in less

computer time than is needed for the finite element method, and it can accept a wide variety of

types of loading and both displacement and force boundary conditions.

To apply the method to a double cellular box-girder bridge with one single internal web,

the distortion must be divided into symmetric and asymmetric deformations. For boxes with

more internal webs, it is possible to divide the deformations of the cross-section into eigenvalue

functions of deformation.

7. TORSIONAL WARPING

Pure torsion of a thin walled section will also produce a warping of the cross-section,

unless there is sufficient symmetry in the section. To illustrate how warping can occur, consider

what would happen to the four panels of a rectangular box section subject to torsion.

Assume that the box width and depth are B and D respectively, and that the flange and

web thicknesses are t

f

and t

w

. Under a torque T, the shear flow is given by q=T/2BD.

Consider first the flanges. The shear stress in the flanges is given by t

f

= q/t

f

=T/2BDt

f

.

Viewing the box from above, each flange is sheared into a parallelogram, with a shear angle o

=t

f

/G; if the end sections were to remain plane, the relative horizontal displacement between top

and bottom corners would be oL at each end (see Figure 3a), and thus there would be a twist

between the two ends of 2oL/D = 2t

f

L/DG = TL/BD

2

Gt

f

.

By a similar argument, viewing the box from the side and considering the shear

displacements of the webs, if the end sections were to remain plane the twist of the section would

be TL/B

2

DGt

w

. As the twist must be the same irrespective of whether we consider the flanges or

the webs, it is clear that the end sections can only remain plane if TL/BD

2

Gt

f

= TL/B

2

DGt

w

, i.e.

Dt

f

= Bt

w

. If this condition is not met, the end sections cannot remain plane; instead there will be

a slight counter-rotation in their planes of the two flanges and of the two webs, and a consequent

warping of the section. Typical warping for this example is shown in Figure 3b.

Of course, for a simple uniform box section subject to pure torsion this warping is

unrestrained and does not give rise to any secondary stresses. But if, for example, a box is

supported and torsionally restrained at both ends and then subjected to applied torque in the

middle, warping is fully restrained in the middle by virtue of symmetry and torsional warping

stresses are generated. Similar restraint occurs in continuous box sections which are torsionally

restrained at intermediate supports.

This restraint of warping gives rise to longitudinal warping stresses and associated shear

stresses in the same manner as bending effects in each wall of the box. The shear stresses

effectively modify slightly the uniformity of the shear stress calculated by pure torsion theory,

usually reducing the stress near corners and increasing it in mid-panel. Because maximum

combined effects usually occur at the corners, it is conservative to ignore the warping shear

stresses and use the simple uniform distribution. The longitudinal effects are, on the other hand

greatest at the corners. They need to be taken into account when considering the occurrence of

yield stresses in service and the stress range under fatigue loading. But since the longitudinal

stresses do not actually participate in the carrying of the torsion, the occurrence of yield at the

corners and the consequent relief of some or all of these warping stresses would not reduce the

torsional resistance. In simple terms, a little plastic redistribution can be accepted at the ultimate

limit state (ULS) and therefore there is no need to include torsional warping stresses in the ULS

checks.

8. CROSS-SECTION DISTORTION

When torsion is applied directly around the perimeter of a box section, by forces exactly

equal to the shear flow in each of the sides of the box, there is no tendency for the cross section

to change its shape.

If torsion is not applied in this manner, there is effectively a set of forces which is trying

to extend the length of one diagonal across the section and reduce the other (see Figure 4).

Diaphragms or frames can be provided to restrain distortion where large distortional forces

occur, such as at support positions, and at intervals along a box, but in general the distortional

effects must be carried by other means.

To illustrate how distortion occurs and is carried between effective restraints, consider a

simply supported box with diaphragms only at the supports and which is subject to a point load

over one web at midspan. Under the distortional forces, each side of the box bends in its own

plane and, provided there is moment continuity around the corners, out of its plane as well. The

deflected shape is shown in Figure 5.

The in-plane bending of each side gives rise to longitudinal stresses and strains which,

because they are in the opposite sense in the opposing faces of the box, produce a warping of the

cross section (in the example shown the end diaphragms warp out of their planes, whilst the

central plane can be seen to be restrained against warping by symmetry). The longitudinal

stresses are therefore known as distortional warping stresses. The associated shear stresses are

known simply as distortional shear stresses.

The bending of the walls of a box, as a result of the distortional forces, produces

transverse distortional bending stresses in the box section.

The introduction of stiff intermediate cross-frames will restrict distortional effects to the

lengths between frames (rather than between supports). but they must be stiff enough for this

purpose.

In general the distortional behaviour depends on interaction between the two sorts of

behaviour, the warping and the transverse distortional bending. The behaviour has been

demonstrated to be analogous to that of a beam on an elastic foundation (BEF), with the beam

stiffness representing the warping resistance and the elastic foundation representing the

transverse distortional bending resistance. A comprehensive description of the analogy is given

in a paper by Wright [1].

A diagrammatic illustration of the distortional behaviour of a box with a single

intermediate diaphragm is given in Figure 6.

9. SHEAR LAG

When the axial load is fed into a wide flange by shear from the webs the flange distorts in its

plane; plane sections do not remain plane. The resulting stress distribution in the flange is not

uniform In very wide flanges, shear lag effects have to be taken into account for the verification

of stresses, especially for short spans, since it causes the longitudinal stress at a flange/web

intersection to exceed the mean stress in the flange.

Shear lag can be allowed for in the elementary theory of bending, by using an effective flange

breadth (less than the real breadth) such that the stress in the effective breadth equals the peak

stress in the actual flange (see Figure 7). This effective flange breadth depends on the ratio of

width to span.

For a simply supported beam, for example, the effective breadth of the portion between the webs

is *

e

.b , where *

e

, the effective breadth ratio, is given in Table 1.

b/L Mid-span Quarter-span Support

e = 0 e = 1 e = 0 e = 1 e = 0 e = 1

0,00 1,00 1,00 1,00 1,00 1,00 1,00

0,05

0,10

0,20

0,30

0,40

0,50

0,75

1,00

0,98

0,95

0,81

0,66

0,50

0,38

0,22

0,16

0,97

0,89

0,67

0,47

0,35

0,28

0,17

0,12

0,98

0,93

0,77

0,61

0,46

0,36

0,20

0,15

0,96

0,86

0,62

0,44

0,32

0,25

0,16

0,11

0,84

0,70

0,52

0,40

0,32

0,27

0,17

0,12

0,77

0,60

0,38

0,28

0,22

0,18

0,12

0,09

Table 1: Effective breadth ratio *

e

for simply supported beams

where

b is the distance between webs.

L is the span of the beam

e =

*

e

is the elastic effective breadth ratio.

Fortunately, in most situations the span/breadth ratio is not sufficiently large to cause more than

10-20% increase in peak stress, on account of shear lag.

10. DIAPHRAGMS

At supports, forces are transferred from the box girder, through bearings, to the

substructure below. Principally, these forces are vertical, though lateral restraint also has to be

provided at certain selected positions. Where there is only a single bearing under the box and it

offers little resistance to transverse rotation (e.g. elastomeric pot bearings), there will be no

torsional restraint; the loads transferred from the two webs will be equal (presuming that the

bearing is on the centreline). When there are two bearings, under or close to each of the webs,

torsional restraint is provided to the box; the load from each web will be different, and there will

be a transfer of torsional shear from the flanges. Whenever there is lateral restraint there will be

an associated torque, because the restraint will not be at the level of the shear centre of the box.

The principal function of a support diaphragm is to provide an adequate load path to

transfer shear forces from the webs to the bearings below the box. In doing so it also resists

distortional forces.

Plated diaphragms are normally provided at supports, since they provide these functions

most easily, although, strictly, an adequately braced cross-frame could also do so.

Clearly, full diaphragms close the box section, yet access into the box is necessary for

completion of fabrication and for future inspection and maintenance. Openings are usually

provided to permit access along the box, but the effect of these openings on the performance of

the diaphragm has to be carefully considered; the size and position of any opening needs to be

limited. This can be a particular problem with small boxes, because the minimum hole size may

be a large proportion of the diaphragm size.

Diaphragms are usually provided with vertical stiffeners above the bearings because of

the large forces involved, though with small boxes a thick unstiffened diaphragm may on

occasion be appropriate.

A diaphragm behaves essentially as a deep beam, with the diaphragm plate acting as its web and

an effective width of each of the box flanges acting as its top and bottom flange.

An example of an intermediate diaphragm in a large box girder of a cable stayed bridge is shown

in Figure 8.

11. CONCLUDING SUMMARY

- Grillage analysis is most often used for grillage analysis. It allows a simple idealisation of the

structure, and a sure interpretation of the output.

- Finite element analysis can be used for complex situations. It is the most versatile of the matrix

stiffness methods of elastic analysis.

- Orthotropic plate analysis and folded plate analysis have a limited application.

- Eccentric loading of the girder section causes distortion which may have to be controlled by the

provision of intermediate diaphragms or cross frames.

- In very wide flanges shear lag effects have to be taken into account.

12. REFERENCE

1. Wright, R N, Abdel-Samad, S R and Robinson, A R, BEF Analogy for analysis of box girder bridges,

Proc. ASCE, vol 94, ST7, 1968.

13. ADDITIONAL READING

1. Eurocode 3: "Design of Steel Structures", ENV1993-1-1: Part 1.1, General rules and rules for

buildings, CEN, 1992.

2. Dubas, P. and Gehri, E., Behaviour and Design of Steel Plated Structures, Technical Committee 8

Group 8.3, ECCS-CECM-EKS, No44, 1986.

3. Johnson, R. P. and Buckby, R. J., Composite Structures of Steel and Concrete, Volume 2: Bridges,

Collins London, 1986.

4. British Standard 5400: Part 3: Steel, Concrete and Composite Bridges, Part 3: Code of Practice

for Design of Steel Bridges, British Standards Institution, 1982.

5. Horne, M.R., CIRIA Guide 3, Structural action in steel box girders, Construction Industry Research

and Information Association, London, 1977

6. Kollbrunner, C. F. and Basler, K., Torsion in Structures - An Engineering Approach (translated

from the German), Springer Verlag, Berlin 1969.

7. Stahlbau Handbuch: Stahlbau Handbuck für Studium und Praxis, BandI, Stahbau Verlag, Köln,

1982.

8. Dalton, D. C. and Richmond, B., Twisting of Thin Walled Box Girders, Proceedings of the

Institution of Civil Engineers, January, 1968.

9. Iles, D.C., Design Guide for Composite Box Girder Bridges, The Steel Construction Institute,

Ascot, 1994

ESDEP WG 8

PLATES AND SHELLS

Lecture 8.6: Introduction to Shell Structures

OBJECTIVE/SCOPE

To describe in a qualitative way the main characteristics of shell structures and to discuss briefly

the typical problems, such as buckling, that are associated with them.

PREREQUISITES

None.

RELATED LECTURES

Lecture 6.1: Concepts of Stable and Unstable Elastic Equilibrium

Lecture 8.1: Introduction to Plate Behaviour and Design

Lecture 8.4.1: Plate Girder Behaviour and Design I

Lecture 8.5.1: Design of Box Girders

SUMMARY

Shell structures are very attractive light weight structures which are especially suited to

building as well as industrial applications. The lecture presents a qualitative interpretation of

their main advantages; it also discusses the difficulties frequently encountered with such

structures, including their unusual buckling behaviour, and briefly outlines the practical design

approach taken by the codes.

1. INTRODUCTION

The shell structure is typically found in nature as well as in classical architecture [1]. Its

efficiency is based on its curvature (single or double), which allows a multiplicity of alternative

stress paths and gives the optimum form for transmission of many different load types. Various

different types of steel shell structures have been used for industrial purposes; singly curved

shells, for example, can be found in oil storage tanks, the central part of some pressure vessels, in

storage structures such as silos, in industrial chimneys and even in small structures like lighting

columns (Figures 1a to 1e). The single curvature allows a very simple construction process and is

very efficient in resisting certain types of loads. In some cases, it is better to take advantage of

double curvature. Double curved shells are used to build spherical gas reservoirs, roofs, vehicles,

water towers and even hanging roofs (Figures 1f to 1i). An important part of the design is the

load transmission to the foundations. It must be remembered that shells are very efficient in

resisting distributed loads but are prone to difficulties with concentrated loads. Thus, in general,

a continuous support is preferred. If it is not possible to have a foundation bed, as shown in

Figure 1a, an intermediate structure such as a continuous ring (Figure 1f) can be used to

distribute the concentrated loads at the vertical supports. On occasions, architectural reasons or

practical considerations impose the use of discrete supports.

As mentioned above, distributed loads due to internal pressure in storage tanks, pressure

vessels or silos (Figures 2a to 2c), or to external pressure from wind, marine currents and

hydrostatic pressures (Figures 2d and 2e) are very well resisted by the in-plane behaviour of

shells. On the other hand, concentrated loads introduce significant local bending stresses which

have to be carefully considered in design. Such loads can be due to vessel supports or in some

cases, due to abnormal impact loads (Figure 2f). In containment buildings of nuclear power

plants, for example, codes of practice usually require the possibility of missile impact or even

sometimes airplane crashes to be considered in the design. In these cases, the dynamic nature of

the load increases the danger of concentrated effects. An everyday example of the difference

between distributed and discrete loads is the manner in which a cooked egg is supported in the

egg cup without problems and the way the shell is broken by the sudden impact of the spoon

(Figure 2g). Needless to say, in a real problem both types of loads will have to be dealt with

either in separate or combined states, with the conceptual differences in behaviour ever present

in the designer's mind.

Shell structures often need to be strengthened in certain problem areas by local

reinforcement. A possible location where reinforcement might be required is at the transition

from one basic surface to another; for instance, the connections between the spherical ends in

Figure 1b and the main cylindrical vessel; or the change from the cylinder to the cone of

discharge in the silo in Figure 1c. In these cases, there is a discontinuity in the direction of the in-

plane forces (Figure 3a) that usually needs some kind of reinforcement ring to reduce the

concentrated bending moments that occur in that area.

Containment structures also need perforations to allow the stored product (oil, cement,

grain, etc.) to be put in, or extracted from, the deposit (Figure 3b). The same problem is found in

lighting columns (Figure 3c), where it is general practice to put an opening in the lower part of

the post in order to facilitate access to the electrical works. In these cases, special reinforcement

has to be added to avoid local buckling and to minimise disturbance to the general distribution of

stresses.

Local reinforcement is also often required at connections between shell structures, such

as commonly occur in general piping work and in the offshore industry. In these cases additional

reinforcing plates are used (Figure 3d), which help to resist the high stresses produced at the

connections.

In contrast to local reinforcement, global reinforcement is generally used to improve the

overall shell behaviour. Because of the efficient way in which these structures carry load, it is

possible to reduce the wall thickness to relatively small values; the high value of the shell

diameter to thickness ratios can, therefore, increase the possibility of unstable configurations. To

improve the buckling resistance, the shell is usually reinforced with a set of stiffening members.

In axisymmetric shells, the obvious location for the stiffeners is along selected meridians

and parallel lines, creating in this way a true mesh which reinforces the pure shell structure

(Figure 4a). On other occasions, the longitudinal and ring stiffeners are replaced by a

complicated lattice (Figure 4b), which gives an aesthetically pleasing structure as well as

mechanical improvements to the global shell behaviour.

2. POSSIBLE FORMS OF BEHAVIOUR

There are two main mechanisms by which a shell can support loads. On the one hand, the

structure can react with only in-plane forces, in which case it is said to act as a membrane. This

is a desirable situation, especially if the stress is tensile (Figure 5a), because the material can be

used to its full strength. In practice, however, real structures have local areas where equilibrium

or compatibility of displacements and deformations is not possible without introducing bending.

Figure 5b, for instance, shows a load acting perpendicular to the shell which cannot be resisted

by in-plane forces only, and which requires bending moments, induced by transverse deflections,

to be set up for equilibrium. Figure 5c, however, shows that membrane forces only can be used

to support a concentrated load if a corner is introduced in the shell.

It is worthwhile also to distinguish between global and local behaviour, because

sometimes the shell can be considered to act globally as a member. An obvious example is

shown in Figure 6a, where a tubular lighting column is loaded by wind and self-weight. The

length AB is subjected to axial and shear forces, as well as to bending and torsion, and the global

behaviour can be approximated very accurately using the member model. The same applies in

Figure 6b where an offshore jacket, under various loading conditions, can be modelled as a

cantilever truss. In addition, for certain types of vault roofs where the support is acting at the

ends, the behaviour under vertical loads is similar to that of a beam.

Local behaviour, however, is often critical in determining structural adequacy. Dimpling

in domes (Figure 7a), or the development of the so-called Yoshimura patterns (Figure 7b) in

compressed cylinders, are phenomena related to local buckling that introduce a new level of

complexity into the study of shells. Non- linear behaviour, both from large displacements and

from plastic material behaviour, has to be taken into account. Some extensions of the yield line

theory can be used to analyse different possible modes of failure.

To draw a comparison with the behaviour of stiffened plates, it can be said that the global

action of shell structures takes advantage of the load-diffusion capacity of the surface and the

stiffeners help to avoid local buckling by subdividing the surface into cells, resulting in a lower

span to thickness ratio. A longitudinally-stiffened cylinder, therefore, behaves like a system of

struts-and-plates, in a way that is analagous to a stiffened plate. On the other hand, transverse

stiffeners behave in a similar manner to the diaphragms in a box girder, i.e. they help to

distribute the external loads and maintain the initial shape of the cross-section, thus avoiding

distortions that could eventually lead to local instabilities. As in box girders, special precautions

have to be taken in relation to the diaphragms transmitting bearing reactions; in shells the

reaction transmission is done through saddles that produce a distributed load.

3. IMPORTANCE OF IMPERFECTIONS

As was explained in previous lectures, the theoretical limits of bifurcation of equilibrium

that can be reached using mathematical models are upper limits to the behaviour of actual

structures; as soon as any initial displacement or shape imperfection is present, the curve is

smoothed [2]. Figures 8a and 8b present the load-displacement relationship that is expected for a

bar and a plate respectively; the dashed line OA represents the linear behaviour that suddenly

changes at bifurcation point B (solid line). The plate has an enhanced stiffness due to the

membrane effect. The dashed lines represent the behaviour when imperfections are included in

the analysis.

As can be seen in Figure 8c, the post-buckling behaviour of a cylinder is completely

different. After bifurcation, the point representing the state of equilibrium can travel along the

secondary path BDC. Following B, the situation is highly dependent on the characteristics of the

test, i.e. whether it is force-controlled or displacement controlled. In the first case, after the

buckling load is reached, a sudden change from point B to point F occurs (Figure 8c) which is

called the snap-through phenomenon, in which the shell jumps suddenly between different

buckling configurations.

The behaviour of an actual imperfect shell is represented by the dashed line. Compared

with the theoretically perfect shell, it is evident that true bifurcation of equilibrium will not occur

in the real structure, even though the dashed lines approach the solid line as the magnitude of the

imperfection diminishes. The high peak B is very sharp and the limit point G or H (relevant to

different values of the imperfection) refers to a more realistic lower load than the theoretical

bifurcation load.

The difference in behaviour, compared with that of plates or bars, can be explained by

examining the pattern of local buckling as the loading increases. Initially, buckling starts at local

imperfections with the formation of outer and inner waves (Figure 9a); the latter represent a

flattening rather than a change in direction of the original curvature and set up compressive

membrane forces which, along with the tensile membrane forces set up by the outer waves, tend

to resist the buckling effect. At the more advanced stages, as these outer waves increase in size,

the curvature in these regions changes direction and becomes inward (Figure 9b). As a result, the

compressive forces now precipitate buckling rather than resist it, thus explaining why

equilibrium, at this stage, can only be maintained by reducing the axial load.

The importance of imperfections is such that, when tests on actual structures are carried out,

the difference between theoretical and experimental values produces a wide scatter of results (see

Figure 10). As the imperfections are unavoidable, and depend very much on the quality of

construction, it is clear that only a broad experimental series of tests on physical models can help

in establishing the least lower-bound that could be used for a practical application. Thus it is

necessary to choose:

1. The structural type, e.g. a circular cylinder, and a fixed set of boundary conditions.

2. The type of loading, e.g. longitudinal compression.

3. A predefined pattern of reinforcement using stiffeners.

4. A strict limitation on imperfection values.

In consequence, the experimental results can only be used for a very narrow band of

applications. In addition, the quality control on the finished work must be such that the

experimental values can be used with confidence.

To allow for this, Codes of Practice [3] use the following procedure:

1. A critical stress, o

cr

or t

cr

, or a critical pressure, p

cr

, is calculated for the perfect elastic shell by

means of a classical formula or method in which the parameters defining the geometry of the

shell and the elastic constants of the steel are used.

2. o

cr

, t

cr

or p

cr

is then multiplied by a knockdown factor e, which is the ratio of the lower bound of

a great many scattered experimental buckling stresses or buckling pressures (the buckling being

assumed to occur in the elastic range) to o

cr

, t

cr

or p

cr

, respectively. e is supposed to account for

the detrimental effect of shape imperfections, residual stresses and edge disturbances. e may

be a function of a geometrical parameter when a general trend in the set of available test

points, plotted with that parameter as abscissa, points to a correlation between the parameter

and e; such a trend is visible in Figure 10, where the parameter is the radius of cylinder, r,

divided by the wall thickness, t.

4. CONCLUDING SUMMARY

- The structural resistance of a shell structure is based on the curvature of its surface.

- Two modes of resistance are generally combined in shells: a membrane state in which the

developed forces are in-plane, and a bending state where out-of-plane forces are present.

- Bending is generally limited to zones where there are changes in boundary conditions, thickness,

or type of loads. It also develops where local instability occurs.

- Shells are most efficient when resisting distributed loads. Concentrated loads or geometrical

changes generally require local reinforcement.

- Imperfections play a substantial role in the behaviour of shells. Their unpredictable nature

makes the use of experimental methods essential.

- To simplify shell design, codes introduce a knock-down factor to be applied to the results of

mathematical models.

5. REFERENCES

[1] Tossoji, Ei., "Philosophy of Structures", Holden Day 1960.

[2] Brush, D.O., Almroth, B.O., "Buckling of Bars, Plates and Shells", McGraw Hill, 1975.

[3] European Convention for Constructional Steelwork, "Buckling of Steel Shells", European

Recommendation, ECCS, 1988.

ESDEP WG 8

PLATES AND SHELLS

Lecture 8.7: Basic Analysis

of Shell Structures

OBJECTIVE/SCOPE:

To describe the basic characteristics of pre- and post-buckling shell behaviour and to explain and

compare the differences in behaviour with that of plates and bars.

PREREQUISITES

Lecture 8.6: Introduction to Shell Structures

RELATED LECTURES:

Lecture 6.1: Concepts of Stable and Unstable Elastic Equilibrium

Lecture 8.1: Introduction to Plate Behaviour and Design

Lecture 8.4.1: Plate Girder Behaviour & Design I

Lectures 8.5.1: Introduction to Design of Box Girders

SUMMARY:

The combined bending and stretching behaviour of shell structures in resisting load is discussed;

their buckling behaviour is also explained and compared with that of struts and plates. The effect

of imperfections is examined and ECCS curves, which can be used in design, are given.

Reference is also made to available computer programs that can be used for shell analysis.

1. INTRODUCTION

Lecture 8.6 introduced several aspects of the structural behaviour of shells in an essentially

qualitative way. Before moving on to consider design procedures for specific applications, it is

necessary to gain some understanding of the possible approaches to the analysis of shell

response. It should then be possible to appreciate the reasoning behind the actual design

procedures covered in Lectures 8.8 and 8.9.

This Lecture, therefore, presents the main principles of shell theory that underpin the ECCS

design methods for unstiffened and stiffened cylinders. Comparisons are drawn with the

behaviour of columns and plates previously discussed in Lectures 6.6.1, 6.6.2 and 8.1.

2. BENDING AND STRETCHING OF THIN SHELLS

The deformation of an element of a thin shell consists of the curvatures and normal

displacements associated with out-of-surface bending and the stretching and shearing of the

middle surface. Bending deformation without stretching of the middle surface, as assumed in the

small deflection theory for flat plates, is not possible, and so both bending and stretching strains

must be considered.

If the shape and the boundary conditions of a shell and the applied loads are such that the

loads can be resisted by membrane forces alone, then these forces may be found from the three

equilibrium conditions for an infinitely small element of the shell. The equilibrium equations

may be obtained from the equilibrium of forces in three directions; that is, in the two principal

directions of curvature and in the direction normal to the middle surface. As a result, the three

membrane forces can be obtained easily in the absence of bending and twisting moments and

shear forces perpendicular to the surface. An example is an unsupported cylindrical shell

subjected to uniform radial pressure over its entire area (Figure 1). Obviously, the only stress

generated by the external pressure is a circumferential membrane stress. The assumption does

not hold if the cylinder is subjected to two uniform line loads acting along two diametrically

opposed generators (Figure 2). In this case, bending theory is required to evaluate the stress

distribution, because an element of the shell cannot be in equilibrium without circumferential

bending stresses. Circumferential bending stresses are essential to resist the external loads, and

because the wall is thin and has very little flexural resistance, they greatly affect its load carrying

resistance [1].

Significant bending stresses usually only occur close to the boundaries, or in the zone

affected by other disturbances, such as local loads or local imperfections. Locally, the resulting

stresses may be quite high, but they generally diminish at a small distance from the local

disturbance. Bending stresses may, however, cause local yielding which can be very dangerous

in the presence of repeated loadings, since it can result in a fatigue fracture.

It is normally more structurally efficient if a shell structure can be configured in such a

way that it carries load primarily by membrane action. Simpler design calculations will usually

also result.

3. BUCKLING OF SHELLS - LINEAR AND NON-LINEAR BUCKLING THEORY

Buckling may be regarded as a phenomenon in which a structure undergoes local or

overall change in configuration. For example, an originally straight axially loaded column will

buckle by bowing laterally; similarly a cylinder may buckle when its surface crumples under the

action of external loads. Buckling is particularly important in shell structures since it may well

occur without any warning and with catastrophic consequences [2-4].

The equations for determining the load at which buckling is initiated, through bifurcation

on the main equilibrium path of a cylindrical shell, may be derived by means of the adjacent

equilibrium criterion, or, alternatively, by use of the minimum potential energy criterion. In the

first case, small increments (u

1

, v

1

, w

1

) are imposed on the pre-buckling displacements (u

0

, v

0

,

w

0

)

u = u

0

+ u

1

v = v

0

+ v

1

(1)

w = w

0

+ w

1

The two adjacent configurations, represented by the displacements before (u

0

, v

0

, w

0

) and

after the increment (u, v, w) are analysed. No increment is given to the load parameter. The

function represented by (u

1

, v

1

, w

1

) is called the buckling mode. As an alternative, the minimum

potential energy criterion can be adopted to derive the linear stability equations. The expression

for the second variation of the potential energy of the shell in terms of displacements is

calculated. The linear differential equations for loss of stability are then obtained by means of the

Trefftz criterion. Readers requiring a more detailed coverage of shell buckling are advised to

consult [4].

In practice, for some problems, the results obtained by these analyses are adequate and in

accordance with experiment. In other cases, such as the buckling of an axially compressed

cylinder, the results can be positively misleading as they may substantially overestimate the

actual carrying resistance of the shell. The use of these methods leads to the following value for

the axial buckling load of a perfect thin elastic cylinder of medium length:

(2)

Assuming v = 0,3 for steel gives o

cr

= 0,605 E

This buckling load is derived on the assumption that the pre-buckling increase of the

radius due to the Poisson effect is unrestrained and that the two edges are held against

translational movement in the radial and circumferential directions during buckling, but are able

to rotate about the local circumferential axis. These edge restraints are usually called "classical

boundary conditions".

Equation (2) is of little use to the designer because test results yield only 15-60% of this

value. The reason for the big discrepancy between theory and experimental results was not

understood for a long time and has been the subject of many studies; it can be explained as

follows:

The boundary conditions of the shells have a significant effect and can, if modified, give

rise to lower critical loads. Many authors have investigated the effects of the boundary

conditions on the buckling load of cylindrical shells. The value given by Equation (2) refers to a

real cylinder only if the edges are prevented from moving in the circumferential direction, i.e. v

= 0 (Figure 3). If this last condition is removed and replaced by the condition n

xy

= 0 (i.e. free

displacement but no membrane stress in the circumferential direction) a critical value of

approximately 50% of the classical buckling load is obtained. This boundary condition is quite

difficult to obtain in practice and cylinders with such edge restraints are much less sensitive to

imperfection than cylinders with classical boundary conditions; they are, therefore, not of

primary interest to the designer. If, instead, the top edge of the cylinder is assumed to be free, the

critical buckling load drops down to 38% of the critical value given by Equation (2). In general,

it can be stated that if a shell initially fails with several small local buckles, the critical load does

not depend to any great extent on the boundary conditions, but, if the buckles involve the whole

shell, the boundary conditions can significantly affect the buckling load.

The critical buckling load may also be reduced by pre-buckling deformations. To take

these deformations into account, the same boundary conditions in both the pre- and post-

buckling range must be included. The consequence is that during the compression prior to

buckling, the top and bottom edges cannot move radially (Poisson's ratio not being zero) and,

therefore, the originally straight generators become curved. The post-buckling deformations are

not infinitely small and the critical stress is reduced.

The complete understanding of the reason for the large discrepancies between theoretical

and experimental results in the buckling of shells has caused much controversy and discussion,

but now the explanation that initial imperfections are the principal cause of the phenomenon is

generally accepted.

4. POST-BUCKLING BEHAVIOUR OF THIN SHELLS

The starting point for this illustrative study of the post-buckling behaviour of a perfect

cylinder, under axial compression (Figure 3), is Donnell's classical equations [2]. A suitable

function for w (trigonometric) may be assumed and introduced into the compatibility equation,

expressed in terms of w and of an adopted stress function F. The quadratic expressions can be

transformed to linear ones by means of well known trigonometric relations. Then the stress

function F, and as a consequence the internal membrane stresses, may be computed. The

expression for the total potential energy can then be written, and minimized, to replace the

equilibrium equation. The solution is improved by taking more terms for w.

In Figure 4, the results obtained by using only two buckling modes are shown and

compared with the curves obtained later, i.e. with a greater number of modes. The results show

that the type of curve does not change by increasing the number of modes, but the lowest point

of the post-buckling path decreases and can attain a value of about 10% of the linear buckling

load. In the limiting case, i.e. where the number of terms increases to infinity, the lowest value of

the post-buckling path tends to zero, while the buckling shape tends to assume the shape of the

Yoshimura pattern (Figure 5). It is the limiting case of the diamond buckling shape that can be

described by the following combination of axi-symmetric and chessboard modes.

(3)

It is worth noting that the buckling load associated with either the combination or the two

single modes is the same and is given by Equation (2).

A comprehensive overview of post-buckling theory is given in [5]. As will be discussed

later, a realistic theory for shell buckling has to take into account the unavoidable imperfections

that appear in real structures. Figure 6 shows the influence of imperfections on the strength of a

cylinder subject to compressive loading and Figure 7 shows typical imperfections.

5. NUMERICAL ANALYSIS OF SHELL BUCKLING

Simple types of shells and loading are amenable to treatment by analytical methods. The

buckling load of complex shell structures can, however, be assessed only be means of computer

programs, many of which use finite elements and have a stability option. CASTEM, STAGS,

NASTRAN, ADINA, NISA, FINELG, ABAQUS, ANSYS, BOSOR and FO4BO8 are some of

the general and special purpose programs available. Correct use of a complicated program

requires the analyst to be well acquainted with the basis of the approach adopted in the program.

The stability options and the reliability of the numerical results depend on the method of analysis

underlying each specific program, and on the buckling modes considered. Analysis of various

types may be performed:

1. Geometrical changes in the pre-buckling range are ignored, the pre-buckling behaviour of the

structure is thus assumed to be linear, and the buckling stress corresponds to that at the

bifurcation point B which is found by means of an eigenvalue analysis (Figure 8a). Applied to a

simple shell, this procedure yields the classical critical load. w denotes the lateral deflection of

the shell wall at some representative point.

2. Non-linear collapse analysis enables successive points on the non-linear primary equilibrium

path to be determined until the tangent to the path becomes horizontal at the limit point

(Figure 8b). At that stage, assuming weight loading, as is normally the case for engineering

structures, non-linear collapse ("snap-through") occurs.

3. Investigating bifurcation buckling from a non-linear pre-buckling state involves a search for

secondary equilibrium paths (corresponding to different buckling modes, e.g. different numbers

of buckling waves along the circumference of an axi-symmetric shell) that may branch off from

the non-linear primary path at bifurcation points located below the limit point (Figure 8c). The

lowest bifurcation point provides an estimate of the buckling load.

4. General non-linear collapse analysis of an imperfect structure consists of determining the non-

linear equilibrium path and the limit point L for a structure whose initial imperfections and

plastic deformations are taken into account (Figure 8d). The limit load, which is the ordinate of

L, causes the structure to "snap-through".

The four load-deflection diagrams given in Figure 8 may relate, for example, to a spherical cap

subjected to uniform radial pressure acting towards the centre of the sphere; in this case the

critical failure mode depends on the degree of shallowness of the cap.

6. BUCKLING AND POST-BUCKLING BEHAVIOUR OF STRUTS, PLATES AND

SHELLS

Equilibrium paths, for a perfectly straight column, a perfectly flat plate supported along

its four edges, and a perfectly cylindrical shell, presented in the preceding Lecture 8.6, are

repeated here (Figure 9) for completeness.

In each diagram, o represents the uniformly applied compressive stress, o

cr

its critical

value given by classical stability theory, and U the decrease in distance between the ends of the

members.

Each point on the solid or dashed lines represents an equilibrium configuration which is

at least theoretically possible, in the sense that the conditions for equilibrium between external

and internal forces are met.

Simple elastic shortening, according to Hooke's law, is reflected by the three straight

lines OA. They represent the pre-buckling, primary, or fundamental state of equilibrium, in

which the column, the plate and the shell remain perfectly straight, flat and cylindrical,

respectively.

As long as o < o

cr

, the primary equilibrium is stable, i.e. if a minute accidental

disturbance (a very small lateral force, for example) causes a slight transverse deformation of the

member, the deformation disappears when its cause is removed, and the member returns of its

own accord to its previous configuration. Any point of the line OA, which is located above B,

represents, however, unstable equilibrium, i.e. the effect of a disturbance, even an infinitely

small one, does not disappear with its cause, but instantaneously increases and the member is set

in (violent) motion, deviating further and irreversibly from its previous equilibrium

configuration. Some minor cause of disturbance always exists, for example, in the form of an

initial shape imperfection or of an eccentricity of loading. A state of unstable equilibrium,

therefore, although theoretically possible, cannot occur in real structures.

When the stress reaches its critical value, o

cr

, a new equilibrium configuration appears at

point B. This configuration is quite different from the primary one and features lateral

deflections and bending of the strut, the plate, or the wall of the shell.

If the new configuration is characterised by displacements with respect to the primary

state of equilibrium which increase gradually from zero to high (theoretically infinite) values, the

post-buckling states of equilibrium are represented by points on a secondary equilibrium path

which intersects with the primary path at the bifurcation point B.

In fact, B is the lowest of an infinite number of bifurcation points, but the paths branching

off from all the others represent highly unstable equilibrium and have no practical significance.

The great difference between the strut, the plate and the cylinder is embodied in their

post-buckling behaviour. In the case of the column (Figure 9a), the secondary path, BC, is very

nearly horizontal, but in reality it curves imperceptibly upwards; the equilibrium along BC is

almost neutral (it is, strictly speaking, weakly stable). For the plate (Figure 9b) the secondary

path, BC, climbs above B, although less steeply than before; the plate deflects laterally, more and

more under a gradually increasing load, but the equilibrium at points on BC is stable.

After bifurcation, the point representing the state of equilibrium of an axially loaded

cylinder (Figure 9c), in theory, can travel along the secondary path BDC. The equilibrium at

points located below B on the solid curve is, however, highly unstable and, hence, cannot really

exist. What would happen after point B is reached, if it were possible to manufacture a perfect

cylinder from material of unlimited linear elasticity and to support and load or deform it in the

theoretically correct manner, depends on the loading method.

When displacements, u, of one plate of a supposedly rigid testing machine with respect to

the other plate are imposed in a controlled manner, buckles suddenly appear in the wall of the

cylinder. The compressive stress drops at once from o

cr

to the ordinate of point E (only a fraction

of o

cr

), while the shortening of the cylinder remains equal to u

cr

, the abscissa of B. In contrast

with bifurcation, finite displacements are involved in the transition between the equilibrium

configurations represented by points B and E; such an occurrence is called snap-through. The

buckling process is further complicated by the existence of different intersecting equilibrium

paths, which correspond to different numbers of circumferential buckling waves and which have

the same general shape as BDC. Some parts of these paths represent stable equilibrium, while

other parts represent unstable equilibrium; after the initial snap-through from state B to state E,

the shell can jump repeatedly from one buckling configuration to another.

When the load, rather than the displacement, u, is controlled a different effect occurs; if,

for example, a load = 2Trto

cr

is imposed, the overall shortening of the cylinder almost instantly

increases from u

cr

to the abscissa of point F, and its wall suddenly exhibits deep buckles, while

the average compressive stress remains equal to o

cr

. It should be noted that this "snap-through"

has dynamic characteristics which are not considered in this description.

Esslinger and Geier [5] explain the fundamentally different behaviour of columns, plates

and shells by the following argument illustrated by Figures 10, 11 and 12.

The differential equation

expresses the lateral equilibrium of any element of an axially loaded strut when bifurcation

occurs (Figure 10a) by stating that the deflecting force per unit length, due to the external loads,

F

cr

, given by the first term, cancels out the restoring force per unit length, due to the internal

bending stresses, given by the second term. Both the deflecting forces (Figure 10b) and the

restoring forces (Figure 10c) are proportional to the lateral deflection. Consequently, equilibrium

of the column is independent of the magnitude of the transverse deformation and of u, for a given

constant axial force F

cr

.

The restoring forces which balance the lateral forces (Figure 11b) deflecting a buckling

plate (Figure 11a), are due not only to longitudinal and transverse bending moments (Figure

11c), but also to transverse membrane forces (Figure 11d). The restoring forces due to membrane

action are zero, as long as the plate is flat, but they then increase proportionately to the square of

its lateral deflection. As a result, the compressive external load required for equilibrium increases

together with the lateral deformation and with the plate shortening u.

Figure 12a shows the radial component of the buckling pattern of a compressed cylinder

at the bifurcation point. Outward displacements of a curved surface cause tensile membrane

forces, while inward displacements generate compressive membrane forces. Figure 12b gives a

more accurate picture of an inward buckle of very small amplitude; it is seen that the original

sign of the circumferential curvature of the shell wall is not reversed at the start of buckling. The

radial forces arising from the combination of the membrane forces with the curvature of the

deformed cylinder, which still has its initial sign, are shown in Figure 12c. These radial forces all

tend to counteract buckling. Hence the high resistance of a perfect cylinder to the initiation of

buckling, given by Equation (2). Increasing inward displacements cause the change of

circumferential curvature to exceed the magnitude, 1/r, of the original curvature of the cylinder,

as shown in an exaggerated manner in Figure 12d, and more realistically in Figure 12e. In the

region of the inward buckles, the wall of the cylinder is now curved inwards and, as a result, the

compressive membrane forces in these areas no longer resist the appearance of dents, but

precipitate them (Figure 12f). Hence, the total restoring effect of the membrane forces has now

weakened substantially compared with the state prevailing at the bifurcation point. The upshot is

that, once buckling has started, equilibrium is conceivable only under decreasing axial load.

7. IMPERFECTION SENSITIVITY

The behaviour of actual imperfect components differs from the theoretical behaviour

described above and is represented by the dotted curves in Figure 9. They show that true

bifurcation of equilibrium does not actually occur in the case of real structural members.

However, the solid lines provide an approximate picture - the smaller the initial imperfections,

the truer the picture is - of the behaviour of the component, and therein lies the significance of

the bifurcation buckling concept.

The dotted lines in Figures 9a and 9b, have been drawn for a column and a plate with

slight initial curvature. It can be seen that the carrying resistance of the strut is not much lower

than the theoretical buckling load, provided that the imperfection is not too great. One can

conclude from Figure 9b that the equilibrium path of an imperfect plate may not exhibit any

discontinuity when the compressive stress increases beyond o

cr

, and also that the plate may

possess a considerable post-buckling strength reserve. If it is thin, this reserve may be

considerably greater than the bifurcation buckling load. Raising the stress beyond o

cr

for the

perfect plate does not bring about immediate ultimate failure. Both the column and the plate

finally fail by yielding caused by excessive bending.

Owing to the imperfection of a real cylinder, the dotted equilibrium path does not display

the very sharp high peak B which is a feature of the theoretical equilibrium path OBDC. The

culminating point G or H (Figure 9c) of the dotted line, called a limit point, is at a much lower

level than the bifurcation point, even when the amplitude of the initial deviations from the

perfect cylindrical shape is minute. The lower dotted curve is the equilibrium path for a cylinder

with somewhat larger imperfections. When the loading is due to weight and happens to

correspond to the limit point, the curve must jump horizontally from G or H towards the right

hand branch of the curve. The concomitant shortening, u, of the steel shell is so large, and due to

buckles which are so deep, that normally part of the wall material is strained into the plastic

range and so the buckling phenomenon, in this case a snap-through or non-linear collapse, is

almost always catastrophic.

One should not infer from the description in the preceding paragraph that only imperfect

structural components display behaviour characterized by a limit point. Due to gradual changes

in the geometry of a perfect structure, its primary equilibrium path may be non-linear from the

outset of loading and, indeed, feature a limit point.

As a summary two points can be established:

1. The real collapse stress, o

uG

or o

uH

(Figure 9c), is much lower than the theoretical critical stress,

o

cr

, for the perfect shell, even though the imperfections may be hardly perceptible.

2. Nominally identical shells collapse under markedly different loads because the unintentional

actual imperfections of such shells, as erected, are different in magnitude and in distribution,

and because an appreciable decrease in ultimate load may result from slightly larger

imperfections.

A sweeping generalization to the effect that all shells are always very sensitive to deviations

from the perfect shape would be unwarranted. The imperfection sensitivity depends on the type

of shell and loading. It may vary from slight to extreme, even for the same kind of shell under

different loading conditions. For example, the imperfection sensitivity of cylindrical shells under

uniform external pressure is quite low, whilst the same shells are highly imperfection sensitive

when they are compressed in the meridional direction. The difference relates to the buckling

mode; under axial load, the buckling modes are characterised by waves which, compared to the

diameter, are short in both the longitudinal and the circumferential direction. Small initial

imperfections, which may occur anywhere on the surface of the cylinder and which are likely to

have roughly the same shape as some of the critical buckles, tend to deepen under increasing

load and to trigger off a snap-through at an early loading stage. The buckling pattern under

external pressure, however, consists of buckles which are long in the meridional direction, and

less numerous in the hoop direction, and therefore probably of considerably larger size than the

principal initial dents and bulges.

Another factor that should be mentioned as contributing to the imperfection sensitivity of

axially loaded cylinders is the multiplicity of different buckling modes associated with the same

bifurcation load. Any realistic theoretical treatment of the buckling problem is complicated

further by the existence of residual stresses due to cold or hot forming and/or due to welding.

Behaviour is also affected by the appearance of plastic deformations in the steel and, in some

cases, by the presence of stiffeners. The non-linear structural behaviour of the shell may be due

to the latter, as well as to changes in the geometry resulting from the deformation of the shell.

In conclusion, imperfections are the main cause of the large difference between the ultimate

load obtained in tests and the theoretical buckling load. A wide scatter of results for nominally

identical shells can be seen in Figure 13a where the ratio of experimental buckling loads, F

u

,

against the theoretical values, F

cr

, for axially loaded cylinders are given for different r/t ratios.

Figure 13b gives the factors proposed by ECCS to reduce the theoretical buckling load to values

appropriate for design.

8. CONCLUDING SUMMARY

- Bending and stretching are the modes by which shell structures carry loads.

- For shell structures, in industrial applications, buckling may be the critical limit state due to

slenderness effects.

- Imperfections are the main cause of the very significant difference between the theoretical and

the experimental buckling load.

- There are fundamental differences in initial buckling behaviour between shells and plates.

- In practice, shell buckling analysis can be applied only to special structures which have been

manufactured/constructed using strict quality control procedures that minimise imperfections.

9. REFERENCES

[1] Timoshenko, S. and Woinowsky-Krieger, S., "Theory of Plates and Shells", McGraw-Hill,

New York and Kogakusha, Tokyo, 1959.

[2] Flügge, W., "Stresses in Shells", Springer-Verlag, New York, 1967.

[3] Bushnell, D., "Computerised Buckling Analysis of Shells", Martinus Nijhoff Publishers,

Dordrecht, 1985.

[4] Timoshenko, S. and Gere, J.M., "Theory of Elastic Stability", McGraw-Hill, New York and

Kogakusha, Tokyo, 1961.

[5] Esslinger, M. T., and Geier, B. M., "Buckling and Post Buckling Behaviour of Thin-Walled

Circular Cylinders", International Colloquium on Progress of Shell Structures in the last 10 years

and its future development, Madrid, 1969.

10. ADDITIONAL READING

1. Koiter, W.T., "Over de Stabilitteit van het Elastisch Evenwicht Diss.", Delft, H.J.Paris, Amsterdam,

1945.

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