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Cylindrical Tubular Members


The design of square and rectangular tubular sections as exural and compression members is discussed in Chaps. 3 to 6. This chapter deals with the strength of cylindrical tubular members and the design practice for such members used as either exural or compression members. Thin-walled cylindrical tubular members are economical sections for compression and torsional members because of their large ratio of radius of gyration to area, the same radius of gyration in all directions, and the large torsional rigidity. In the past, the structural efciency of such tubular members has been recognized in building construction. A comparison made by Wolford on the design loads for round and square tubing and hot-rolled steel angles used as columns indicates that for the same size and weight, round tubing 1 1 will carry approximately 2 2 and 1 2 times the column load of hot-rolled angles when the column length is equal to 36 and 24 times the size of section, respectively.7.1



The buckling behavior of cylindrical tubes, which will be discussed later, is considerably affected by the shape of the stressstrain curve of the material, the geometric imperfections such as out of roundness, and the residual stress. It would therefore be convenient to classify tubular members on the basis of their buckling behavior. In general, cylindrical tubes may be grouped as (1) manufactured tubes and (2) fabricated tubes.7.2 Manufactured tubes are produced by piercing, forming and welding, cupping, extruding, or other methods in a plant. Fabricated tubes are produced from plates by riveting, bolting, or welding in an ordinary structural fabrication shop. Since fabricated tubes usually have more severe geometric imperfections, the local buckling strength of such tubes may be considerably below that of manufactured tubes. Manufactured structural steel tubes include the following three types: 1. Seamless tubes 2. Welded tubes 3. Cold-expanded or cold-worked tubes




For the seamless tubes, the stressstrain curve is affected by the residual stress resulting from cooling of the tubes. The proportional limit of a fullsized tube is usually about 75% of the yield point. This type of tube has a uniform property across the cross section. Welded tubes produced by cold forming and welding steel sheets or plates have gradual-yielding stressstrain curves, as shown in Fig. 2.2 due to the Bauschinger effect and the residual stresses resulting from the manufacturing process. The proportional limit of electric-resistance welded tubes may be as low as 50% of the yield point. Cold-worked tubes also have this type of gradual yielding because of the Bauschinger effect and the cold work of forming.



The basic column formulas for elastic and inelastic buckling discussed in Chap. 5 [Eqs. (5.3a ) and (5.7a ) are usually applicable to tubular compression members having a proportional limit of no less than 70% of the yield point. For electric-resistance welded tubes having a relatively low proportional limit, Wolford and Rebholz recommended the following formulas on the basis of their tests of carbon steel tubes with yield strengths of 45 and 55 ksi (310 and 379 MPa):7.3 1. For KL/r 3 2E/Fy,
T Fy 1

F KL E r 33 2
y 2


2. For KL/r 3 2E/Fy,

e 2E (KL/r )2


where Fy, E, K, and L are as dened in Chap. 5. The radius of gyration r of cylindrical tubes can be computed as r
2 D 2 o Di

R 2


where Do outside diameter Di inside diameter R mean radius of tube



The correlation between the test results and Eqs. (5.3), (5.7), (7.1), and (7.2) is shown in Fig.,7.4,7.5 Also shown in this gure are the test data reported by Zaric.7.6 Because cylindrical tubes are now commonly used in offshore structures, extensive analytical and experimental studies of the strength of tubular members have recently been made by numerous investigators throughout the world.7.77.15



Local buckling of cylindrical tubular members can occur when members are subject to 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Axial compression Bending Torsion Transverse shear Combined loading

Each item will be discussed separately as follows.

Figure 7.1 Test data for column buckling of axially loaded cylndrical tubes.3.84





Local Buckling under Axial Compression

When a cylindrical tube is subject to an axial compressive load, the elastic stability of the tube is more complicated than is the case for a at plate. Based on the small deection theory, the structural behavior of a cylindrical shell can be expressed by the following eighth-order partial differential equation:7.16

1 4 2 Et 4 Nx 2 0 D x DR 2 x 4


8 4(4 ) 4 2 2 2 4 x 4 x y y
4 4 4


and x y Nx t R E coordinate in x direction coordinate in tangential direction displacement in radial direction axial load applied to cylinder thickness of tube radius of tube modulus of elasticity of steel, 29.5 103 ksi (203 GPa) Et 3 D 12(1 2) Poissons ratio, 0.3

See Fig. 7.2 for dimensions of a cylindrical tube subjected to axial compression. For a given cylindrical tube the buckling behavior varies with the length of the member. For this reason, from the structural stability point of view, it has been divided into the following three categories by Gerard and Becker:

1. Short tubes, Z 2.85 2. Moderate-length tubes, 2.85 Z 50 3. Long tubes, Z 50 Here



Figure 7.2 Cylindrical tube subjected to axial compression.

L2 1 2 Rt


L2 0.954 Rt For very short tubes (i.e., the radius of the tube is extremely large compared with its length), the critical local buckling stress is cr
2E (t 2 /12) (1 2)L 2


which is identical with the Euler stress for a plate strip of unit width. For extremely long tubes, the tube will buckle as a column. The critical buckling load is Pcr
2EI L2


where I is the moment of inertia of the cross section of the tube, I R 3t Therefore, for long tubes the critical buckling stress is cr
2E R 2 L



Moderate-length tubes may buckle locally in a diamond pattern as shown in Fig. 7.3. The critical local buckling stress is




Figure 7.3 Local buckling of moderate-length tubes.

cr CE

t R


According to the classic theory (small-deection theory) on local buckling, the value of C can be computed as C 1
3(1 2) 0.605


Therefore cr E
3(1 2)

t t 0.605E R R


Whenever the buckling stress exceeds the proportional limit, the theoretical local buckling stress is in the inelastic range, which can be determined by cr aCE

t R Es E Et E


Here a is the plasticity reduction factor,7.2 a

1 2 1 2 p





where p Es El E

Poissons ratio in the elastic range, 0.3 Poissons ratio in the plastic range, 0.5 secant modulus tangent modulus modulus of elasticity

Results of numerous tests indicate that the actual value of C may be much lower than the theoretical value of 0.605 due to the postbuckling behavior of the cylindrical tubes, which is strongly affected by initial imperfections. The postbuckling behavior of the three-dimensional cylindrical tubes is quite different from that of two-dimensional at plates and one-dimensional columns. As shown in Fig. 7.4a, the at plate develops signicant transversetension membrane stresses after buckling because of the restraint provided by the two vertical edges. These membrane stresses act to restrain lateral motion, and therefore the plate can carry additional load after buckling. For columns, after exural buckling occurs, no signicant transversetension membrane stresses can be developed to restrain the lateral motion, and therefore, the column is free to deect laterally under critical load. For cylindrical tubes, the inward buckling causes superimposed transverse compression membrane stresses, and the buckling form itself is unstable. As a consequence of the compression membrane stresses, buckling of an axially loaded cylinder is coincident with failure and occurs suddenly, accompanied by a considerable drop in load (snap-through buckling). Since the postbuckling stress of a cylindrical tube decreases suddenly from the classic buckling stress, the stress in an imperfect tube reaches its maximum well below the classic buckling stress (Fig. 7.5). On the basis of the postbuckling behavior discussed above, Donnell and Wan developed a large-deection theory which indicates that the value of C

Figure 7.4 Buckling patterns of various structural components.




Figure 7.5 Postbuckling behavior of at plates, columns, and cylindrical tubes.7.16

varies with R/t ratio as shown in Fig. 7.6, which is based on average imperfections.7.17 During recent years the local buckling strength of cylindrical tubes subjected to axial compression has been studied at Lehigh University,7.187.20 the University of Alberta,7.21 the University of Tokyo,7.22 the University of Toronto,6.30 and others.7.117.15,7.31 The test data obtained from previous and recent research projects have been used in the development and improvement of various design recommendations.1.4,7.237.25

Figure 7.6 Local buckling imperfection parameter versus R / t ratio.7.16




Local Buckling under Bending

The local buckling behavior in the compression portion of a exural tubular member is somewhat different compared with that of the axially loaded compression member. On the basis of their tests and theoretical investigation, Gerard and Becker7.16 suggested that elastic local buckling stress for bending be taken as 1.3 times the local buckling stress for axial compression. This higher elastic buckling stress for bending results from the benecial effect of the stress gradient that exists in bending. However, some investigators have indicated that there is not much difference between the critical stress in bending and that in axial compression.3.84 The bending strength of cylindrical tubes has been studied by Sherman,7.26 and by Stephens, Kulak, and Montgomery.7.21 7.4.3 Local Buckling under Torsion

The theoretical local buckling stress of moderate-length tubes subjected to torsion can be computed by7.2 (cr)torsion 0.596a t E 2 5/8 (1 ) R t R








where cr is the critical shear buckling stress due to torsion and, a

1 2 1 2 p


Es E 1.16 s E E


Previous studies indicate that the effect of imperfection on torsional postbuckling is much less than the effect on axial compression. Test data indicate that due to the effect of initial imperfection, the actual strength of the member is smaller than the analytical result. 7.4.4 Local Buckling under Transverse Shear

In Ref. 7.2, Schilling suggests that in the elastic range, the critical shear buckling stress in transverse shear be taken as 1.25 times the critical shear buckling stress due to torsion, that is, (cr)transverse

1.25 0.632aE 0.79aE

t R




t R








Local Buckling under Combined Loading

The following interaction formula may be used for any combined loading:7.2

cr cr where cr cr


actual computed normal stress critical buckling stress for normal stress alone actual computed shear stress critical buckling stress for shear stress alone



The AISI design criteria for cylindrical tabular members were revised in the 1986 and 1996 editions of the specication on the basis of Refs. 1.158, 7.5, and 7.30. For additional information, the reader is referred to Refs. 8.25 through 8.32.


Local Buckling Stress

Considering the postbuckling behavior of the axially compressed cylinder and the important effect of the initial imperfection, the design provisions included in the AISI Specication were originally based on Plantemas graphic representation7.27 and the additional results of cylindrical shell tests made by Wilson and Newmark at the University of Illinois.7.28,7.29 From the tests of compressed tubes, Plantema found that the ratio Fult / Fy depends on the parameter (E/Fy)(t/D ), in which t is the wall thickness, D is the mean diameter of the tubes, and Fult is the ultimate stress or collapse stress. As shown in Fig. 7.7, line 1 corresponds to the collapse stress below the proportional limit, line 2 corresponds to the collapse stress between the proportional limit and the yield point (the approximate proportional limit is 83% of Fy at point B ), and line 3 represents the collapse stress occurring at yield point. In the range of line 3, local buckling will not occur before yielding, and no stress reduction is necessary. In ranges 1 and 2, local buckling occurs before the yield point is reached. In these cases the stress should be reduced to safeguard against local buckling. As shown in Fig. 7.7, point A represents a specic value of (E/Fy)(t/D ) 8, which divides yielding and local buckling. Using E 29.5 103 ksi (203 GPa), it can be seen that tubes with D/t ratios of no more than 0.125 E/Fy are safe from failure caused by local buckling. Specically, Plantemas equations are as follows:7.4



Figure 7.7 Ultimate strength of cylindrical tubes for local buckling.

1. For D/t 0.125E/Fy (yielding failure criterion represented by line 3), Fult 1 Fy (7.20)

2. For 0.125E/Fy D/t 0.4E/Fy (inelastic buckling criterion represented by line 2), Fult E 0.031 Fy Fy

t 0.75 D


3. For D/t 0.4E/Fy (elastic buckling criterion represented by line 1), Fult E 0.33 Fy Fy

t D


Based on a conservative approach, AISI species that when the D/t ratio is smaller than or equal to 0.112E/Fy, the tubular member shall be designed for yielding. This provision is based on point A1, for which (E/Fy)(t/D ) 8.93.




When 0.112E/Fy D/t 0.441 E/Fy, the design of tubular members is based on the local buckling criteria. For the purpose of developing a design formula for inelastic buckling, point B1 was selected by AISI to represent the proportional limit. For point B1,

E Fy

t 2.27 D


Fult 0.75 Fy


Using line A1B1, the maximum stress of tubes can be represented by Fult E 0.037 Fy Fy

t 0.667 D


The correlation between the available test data and Eq. (7.24) is shown in Fig. 7.8. Let A be the area of the unreduced cross section and A0 be the reduced area due to local buckling, then AFult A0Fy or (7.25)

Figure 7.8 Correlation between test data and AISI criteria for local buckling of cylindrical tubes under axial compression.




Fult A Fy


Substituting Eq. (7.24) into Eq. (7.26), the following equation can be obtained for D/t 0.441E/Fy: A0

0.037 0.667 A A (D/t )(Fy / E )


where D is the outside diameter of the cylindrical tubular member. 7.5.2 Compressive Strength

When a cylindrical tubular member is subject to a compressive load in the direction of the member axis passing through the centroid of the section, the AISI design provision was changed in the 1996 Specication to reect the results of additional studies of cylindrical tubular members and to be consistent with Sec. C4 of the Specication. The following equations are now included in Sec. C6.2 of the AISI Specication and Supplement No. 1 for determining the nominal axial strength Pn of cylindrical tubular members having a ratio of outside diameter to wall thickness, D/t, not greater than 0.441E/Fy.1.314,1.333 Pn Fn Ae where Pn nominal axial strength of the member Fn exural buckling stress determined as follows: For c 1.5, Fn (0.658c )Fy



For c 1.5, Fn where



0.877 Fy 2 c



In the above equations,




Fe the elastic exural buckling stress determined according to Sec. C4.1 of the Specication Ae effective area of the cylindrical tubular member under axial compression determined as follows:1.333 Ae A0 R (A A0) R Fy /2Fe 1.0 A0 (7.32)

0.037 0.667 A A (DFy)/(tE )

(7.33) (7.34)

A area of the unreduced cross section Equations (7.28) through (7.34) can be summarized in Fig. 7.9. It can be seen that Eq. (7.32) gives Ae Ao when c 0, and Ae A when c 2. The latter is due to the fact that for long columns the stresses at which the column buckles are so low that they will not cause local buckling before primary buckling has taken place. Consequently, for the design of axially loaded cylindrical tubular members, the allowable axial load Pa for the ASD method is determined by Eq. (7.35):

Figure 7.9 Nominal compressive load of cylindrical tubular members.



Pa Pn / c


where c factor of safety for axial compression 1.80. For the LRFD method, the design axial strength is cPn, in which c 0.85. 7.5.3 Bending Strength

In Art. 7.4.2, it was pointed out that for cylindrical tubular members, the elastic local buckling stress for bending is higher than the elastic local buckling stress for axial compression. In addition, it has been recognized that for thick cylindrical members subjected to bending, the initiation of yielding does not represent the failure condition as is generally assumed for axial loading. For relatively compact members with D/t 0.0714 E/Fy, the exural strength can reach the plastic moment capacity, which is at least 1.25 times the moment at rst yielding. As far as the local buckling is concerned, the conditions for inelastic buckling are not as severe as the case of axial compression due to the effect of stress gradient. Based on the results of recent studies, the following AISI design provisions for determining the nominal exural strength are included in Sec. C6.1 of the Supplement to the 1996 edition of the Specication for tubular members having D/t 0.441E/Fy.1.314,1.333 1. For D/t 0.0714E/Fy: Mn 1.25 FySf 2. For 0.0714E/Fy D/t 0.318E/Fy: Mn 0.970 0.020 3. For 0.318E/Fy D/t 0.441E/Fy: Mn [0.328E /(D/t )]Sf (7.38) (7.36)

(E/Fy) FS (D/t ) y f


where Mn nominal exural strength Sf elastic section modulus of the full, unreduced cross section The allowable bending moment, Ma, for the ASD method is determined by using Eq. (7.39): Ma Mn / b (7.39)

where b factor of safety for bending 1.67. For the LRFD method, the design exural strength is bMn, in which b 0.95.




Equations (7.36) through (7.38) are shown graphically in Fig. 7.10. As compared with the 1980 edition of the AISI Specication, it can be shown that the increases of the nominal moment range from about 13 to 25% according to the value of the (E/Fy)(t/D ). 7.5.4 Combined Bending and Compression

The interaction formulas presented in Chap. 6 can also be used for the design of beam-columns using cylindrical tubular members. The nominal axial strength and nominal exural strength can be obtained from Arts. 7.5.2 and 7.5.3, respectively.



Example 7.1 Use the ASD and LRFD methods to determine the design axial strength for the cylindrical tube having a 10-in. outside diameter to be used as an axially loaded simply supported column. Assume that the effective

Figure 7.10 Nominal exural strength of cylindrical tubular members.



column length is 15 ft, the yield point of steel is 33 ksi, and the thickness of the tube is 0.105 in. Solution A. ASD Method. Using the AISI design criteria, the limiting D/t ratio is

D t



E 29,500 0.441 394.23 Fy 33

The actual D/t ratio is D 10 95.24 394.23 t 0.105 1. Sectional Properties of Full Section A

2 (D 2 o Di ) 4


[(10.0)2 (10.0 2 0.105)2] 4

2 D 2 o Di

3.264 in.2

(10.0)2 (10.0 2 0.105)2

3.500 in.

2. Nominal Axial Strength, Pn a. KL 15 12 51.43 r 3.50 According to Eq. (5.56), the elastic exural buckling stress is Fe
2E 2(29,500) 110.08 ksi 2 (KL/r ) (51.43)2




b. Based on Eq. (7.31),


33 0.548 1.5 F 110.08 Fy

2 2

Fn (0.658 c )Fy (0.6580.548 )(33)

29.10 ksi

c. Based on Eqs. (7.32), (7.33), and (7.34), Ac Ao R (A Ao) where R Fy /2Fe

33/(2 110.08) 0.150 1.0


0.037 0.667 A (D/t )(Fy / E )


0.037 0.667 (3.264) (95.24)(33/29,500)

3.311 in.2 Because 3.311 A 3.264 in.2, use A0 3.264 in.2 Therefore,

Ae 3.264 (0.150)(3.264 3.264)

3.264 in.2

From Eq. (7.28), the nominal axial load is Pn Fn Ae

(29.10)(3.264) 94.98 kips

3. Allowable axial load, Pa . From Eq. (7.35), the allowable axial load is Pa Pn / c 94.98/1.80
52.77 kips



B. LRFD Method. For the LRFD method, the design axial strength is
cPn 0.85(94.98)
80.73 kips

Example 7.2 All data are the same as those of Example 7.1, except that the thickness of the tube is 0.06 in. Solution A. ASD Method. Use the same procedure employed in Example 7.1.

D t The actual D/t ratio is



E 394.23 Fy

D 10 166.67 394.23 t 0.06 1. Sectional Properties of Full Section A r


[(10.0)2 (10.0 2 0.06)2] 1.874 in.2 4

(10.0)2 (10.0 2 0.06)2

3.51 in.

2. Nominal Axial Strength, Pn a. KL 15 12 51.28 r 3.51 Fe

2E 2(29,500) 110.72 ksi (KL/r )2 (51.28)2

b. Based on Eq. (7.31),


33 0.546 1.5 F F 110.72

y e
2 2

Fn (0.658 c )Fy (0.6580.546 )(33)

29.13 ksi




c. Based on Eqs. (7.32), (7.33), and (7.34), Ae A0 R (A A0) where R Fy /2Fe 33/(2 110.72) 0.149 1.0 A0 O.K.

0.037 0.667 (1.874) 1.622 in.2 (166.67)(33/29,500)

Since A0 A 1.874 in.2, use A0 1.622 in.2 Ae 1.622 (0.149)(1.874 1.622) 1.660 in.2 The nominal axial strength is Pn FnAe (29.13)(1.660) 48.36 kips 3. Allowable Axial Load, Pa . From Eq. (7.35), the allowable axial load is Pa Pn / c 48.36/1.80
26.87 kips

B. LRFD Method. For the LRFD method, the design axial strength is
cPn 0.85(48.36)
41.11 kips

Example 7.3 Use the ASD and LRFD methods to determine the design exural strength of cylindrical tubes used in Examples 7.1 and 7.2 if these tubes are to be used as exural members. Solution A. ASD Method 1. Use the data given in Example 7.1, Fy 33 ksi Do 10 in. t 0.105 in. D/t 95.24 0.441E/Fy O.K.



a. Section modulus of the full section. The section modulus of the 10-in. tube having a wall thickness of 0.105 in. is Sf
4 (D 4 D4 D4 o Di ) i 0.098175 o 32Do Do


(10.0)4 (9.79)4 7.99 in.3 10.0

b. Nominal exural strength, Mn 0.0714E/Fy 0.0714(29,500)/33 63.83 0.318E/Fy 0.318(29,500)/33 284.27 Since 0.0714E/Fy (D/t 95.24) 0.318E/Fy, according to Eq. (7.37), the nominal exural strength is Mn 0.970 0.020

(E/Fy) FySf D/t

0.970 0.020

(29,500/33) (33)(7.99) 95.24

305.26 in.-kips

c. Allowable design exural strength, Ma . Based on Eq. (7.39), the allowable design exural strength is Ma Mn / b

305.26 182.79 in.-kips 1.67

2. Use the data given in Example 7.2, Fy 33 ksi Do 10 in. t 0.06 in. D/t 166.67 0.441E/Fy O.K.

a. Section modulus of the full section. The section modulus of the 10-in. tube having a wall thickness of 0.06 in. is




Sf 0.098175

(10.0)4 (9.88)4 4.628 in.3 10.0

b. Nominal extural strength, Mn . Since 0.0714E/Fy D/t 0.318E/Fy, Mn 0.970 0.020

164.53 in.-kips

(29,500/33) (33)(4.628) 166.67

c. Allowable design exural strength, Ma . The allowable design exural strength is Ma Mn / b

164.53 98.52 in.-kips. 1.67

B. LRFD Method Using the LRFD method, the design exural strengths for the cylindrical tubes used in Examples 7.1 and 7.2 can be computed as follows: 1. For the cylindrical tube used in Example 7.1, the nominal exural strength computed in Item (A) above is Mn 305.26 in.-kips The design exural strength is
bMn 0.95(305.26) 290.00 in.-kips

2. For the cylindrical tube used in Example 7.2, the nominal exural strength computed in Item (A) above is Mn 164.53 in.-kips The design exural strength is
bMn 0.95(164.53) 156.30 in.-kips