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GEOMETRIC IMPERFECTIONS

Daphne Pantousa

Civil Engineer, MsC, Doctoral Candidate

Euripidis Mistakidis

Assoc. Professor

Laboratory of Structural Analysis and Design, Department of Civil Engineering

University of Thessaly, Volos, 38334, Greece

e-mail: emistaki@uth.gr ; web page: http://civ.uth.gr/lsad

Keywords: rotational capacity, numerical modeling, geometric imperfections, elevated temperatures

Abstract. The main objective of this paper is to propose advanced three-dimensional models based on the use of

shell elements that can be used for the simulation of the structural steel behaviour under elevated temperatures.

The problem is handled through thermo-mechanical analysis in the context of the finite element method. The

basic target is to ensure that the developed numerical models can describe adequately the complex behaviour of

structural steel at elevated temperatures. The three dimensional numerical model that is proposed in the

current study, is developed using the non-linear finite element code MSC Marc. The first step is to simulate the

behaviour of steel I-beams studied experimentally in [1] and compare the test results with the corresponding

values from the numerical analysis. Then, the developed numerical model is used in order to obtain the moment

rotation curves for steel IPE beams in elevated temperatures. These curves can be used for the analysis of

frame structures under fire conditions through simpler software packages, utilizing beam finite elements with

concentrated nonlinear behaviour.

1 INTRODUCTION

The global plastic analysis of steel structures requires that at the plastic hinge locations, the cross sections of

the members which contain the plastic hinge should have rotational capacity greater than the required at this

position. According to Eurocode 3, this problem is handled through the classification of the cross sections. More

specifically, sufficient rotation capacity may be assumed at the plastic hinge if the cross section of the member is

of Class1. In the case of the fire design of steel structures, the classification of the cross sections is performed in

the same way as in room temperature, except that a factor of 0.85 is used for the calculation of c , i.e.:

0.5

0.85 235/

y

f c ( =

(1)

where

y

f is the yield strength at 20C.

As it is stated in Eurocode 3 Part 1.2 [3] the reduction factor considers influences due to the increased

temperature. This consideration could be conservative or not, since it does not take into account several factors

that affect the rotational capacity of steel members under fire conditions, as the lack of the strain hardening in

the stress-strain relationship after the temperature of 400C, the effect of the initial imperfections etc. These

parameters may lead to a premature occurrence of local or lateral torsional buckling in the plastic range, thus

limiting the available rotational capacity.

In fact, the experimental and numerical research concerning plastic local buckling and plastic lateral

torsional buckling of steel beams under fire conditions is rather limited. According to R.B. Dharma and K.H.

Tan [1] the cross section classification of Eurocode 3 Part 1.2 [3], which is based on the cross-sectional

dimensions and the material yield strength, is inadequate to address the ductility of beams at elevated

temperatures. This study reveals that the rotational capacity of steel I-beams is reduced at elevated temperatures.

The results of the experimental program that is presented in [1] indicate the effect of the main parameters (web

slenderness, flange slenderness, effective length) on the rotational capacity at elevated temperatures. More

specifically it is indicated that the difference in shape of the moment rotation curves at elevated temperatures

compared with respect to the corresponding curves at ambient temperature, is due to the introduction of a non-

linear elastic segment in the stress strain relationship of steel at elevated temperatures. Also, according to the test

results, the increased slenderness of the web and flange reduces the rotational capacity at elevated temperatures.

Additionally, it is noticed that the reduction of the effective length provides greater rotational capacity and

changes the failure mode from lateral torsional buckling to local buckling. The numerical models that are

developed in [2] are validated against the test results and they are used for further research to quantify the

inelastic behaviour of steel beams under fire conditions. Finally, a simple moment rotation model is proposed

that is useful for design purposes. This model takes into account all the experimental and numerical findings.

The objective of the present study is to propose an advanced three-dimensional numerical model for the

evaluation of the real behaviour of steel beams under fire conditions. It must be noticed that the present three-

dimensional model is based on shell finite elements and takes into account the existing initial imperfections of

the steel members. First, the numerical model is validated against the published experimental results that are

presented in [1]. Then, parametric analyses are conducted with respect to the amplitude of the initial

imperfections, in order to obtain moment rotation curves for steel IPE beams at elevated temperatures. Finally,

moment rotation diagrams are obtained, that take into account the reduced rotational capacity of steel beams at

elevated temperatures and the effect of the initial imperfections. These functions can be used for the global

plastic analysis of frame structures under fire conditions through more simple, commercial software packages,

utilizing beam finite elements.

2 DESCRIPTION OF THE PROBLEM

First, a two span continuous steel I-beam under uniform loading is considered. The objective of the study is

to define the rotational capacity of steel IPE beams at the possible plastic hinge locations under fire conditions.

Therefore, it is important to assess the fire behaviour of the beam at the hogging moment region i.e. at the

internal supports. In order to simplify the problem, a simply supported beam is considered which is loaded at

the mid-span. This beam can represent the part of a continuous beam close to the internal support, between the

points where the bending moment diagram becomes zero (Figure 1). In the case of the simply supported beam

the plastic hinge will be formed at mid-span, corresponding actually to the internal support of the continuous

beam. It should be noticed that the beam it is able to reach the plastic moment capacity at elevated temperatures.

Mpl

M

pl

plastic hinge

plastic hinge

q

Figure 1. Simplification of the problem from a continuous beam to a simply supported beam.

The structural system that is used for the validation of the numerical model in this study is referred to a

typical beam specimen of the experimental study by R.B. Dharma and K.H. Tan [1]. More specifically, the steel

I-beam S2-1 of [1] is chosen. All the geometrical dimensions and the material properties are considered

according to this study. In detail, the total length of the simply supported beam is equal to 3.65m while the

distance between the supports is 3.45m. Also, web stiffeners are used at the support and at the mid-span where

the load is applied. The beam is laterally restrained at the position of supports at both ends and at the mid-span.

Therefore, the effective length of the beam is equal to 1.725m. The cross-section dimensions and the structural

system are illustrated in Figure 2. The material properties at room temperature are defined from tensile tests and

they are presented in Table 1. The same structural systems are considered also in the parametric analysis of

Section 4.

3.45m

P

Cross section

UB305x165x54

3

1

1

.

6

5

7.92

167.00

1

3

.

6

166.48

1

2

.

6

9

3.65m

Figure 2. The structural system and the cross section (dimensions of the cross section in mm).

Yield strength

20 , y

f Ultimate strength

20 , u

f Elastic modulus

20

E

(Mpa) (Mpa) (Mpa)

web 307.4 491.4 205253

flange 297.6 483.6 203677

Table 1 : Material properties at ambient conditions

It is stressed that the beam is laterally restrained only at the ends and at the mid-span and, therefore, the

plastic lateral-torsional buckling is possible under certain conditions at elevated temperatures. Moreover, plastic

local buckling may arise.

Taking into account the latter, the problem that is handled in this study is the evaluation of the rotational

capacity of a simply supported steel I-beam under fire conditions. More specifically, moment-rotation curves are

obtained, for different temperatures, under the consideration that the temperature of the beam is uniform and

constant. Additionally, various analyses are conducted taking into account different amplitudes of the initial

geometric imperfections.

It must be noticed that the beam is free to expand longitudinally, which means that the study does not take

into account the effect of compressive forces. Moreover the assumption that the temperature is uniform

simplifies the problem, since there is no thermal gradient at the cross section.

At this study the available rotational capacity

a

r is calculated as the ratio between the inelastic rotation

a

u

and the plastic rotation

pl

u , i.e.

a

pl

r

o

u

u

= (see. Figure 3). Here

pl

u corresponds to the plastic moment resistance

of the cross-section, defined as:

pl T y T pl

w f M

, ,

= (2)

where

T y

f

,

is the yield stress of steel at temperature T.

The range of the rotation over which the plastic moment resistance of the cross section is retained, is called

a

u .

Notice that the characteristic point in which the elastic moment

el

M is attained, in not used in this definition.

pl

el

pl

a

M

el

M

pl

a

M

+

Figure 3. Definition of the rotational capacity.

3 VALIDATION OF THE NUMERICAL MODEL

3.1 The numerical simulation

A detailed finite element model is proposed in order to evaluate the rotational capacity of the steel I-beam at

elevated temperatures. The numerical analysis is carried out using the nonlinear finite element code MSC-

MARC [4]. The three-dimensional numerical model (Figure 4) utilizes four-node, thick-shell elements with

global displacements and rotations as degrees of freedom. Bilinear interpolation is used for the coordinates,

displacements and rotations and the integration through the shell thickness is performed numerically using

Simpson's rule. The numerical model takes into account the nonlinear elastic-plastic stress-strain relationship of

steel in elevated temperatures. The yield stress, the proportionality limit and the elastic modulus are supposed to

be temperature dependent according to Eurocode 3- Part1.2 [3].

Figure 4. The numerical model.

The Von Mises yield criterion is used in the numerical analysis. Additionally, the analysis takes into account

the geometric non-linearity. It must be noticed that initial imperfections are incorporated in the geometry of the

steel beam for a more realistic assessment of the behaviour. In general, there are many different ways to

introduce initial geometric imperfections in the structural members. A simple way in the context of finite

element analysis is to extract the buckling eigenmodes and introduce them as imperfections with predefined

amplitude. More specifically, the normalized buckling mode is multiplied by a scale factor, leading to certain

maximum amplitude and the resulting displacements are added to the initial coordinates of the structural

member. For this case study two different eigenmodes are combined (see details in Figure 5). The first

eigenmode is related with the local buckling along the upper flange of the beam (where compressive stresses

arise under the considered loading) while the second buckling eigenmode used is the one corresponding to the

lateral torsional buckling.

Figure 5a. Eigenmode corresponding to lateral torsional buckling.

Figure 5b. Eigenmode corresponding to local buckling of the upper flange.

The numerical analysis has two different stages, following the test procedure that is described in [1]. At the

first stage the steel beam is heated with a heating rate equal to 7C/min until the desired temperature T is

reached. It must be noticed that during the heating stage the temperature is supposed to be uniform along the

member. At the second stage the temperature remains constant and the beam is submitted to loading at the mid-

span until failure occurs.

The structural boundary conditions are described in Figure 6. At both supports the boundary conditions are

applied in the middle node of the web. The vertical y- displacement and the rotation about the longitudinal-x axis

(r

x

) is restrained at both supports, while the x-displacement is restrained only at the left support. The out-of-

plane displacements are prevented at the location of the supports and at the mid-span.

dz=0

dx=0

dy=0

rx=0

dy=0

rx=0

dz=0 dz=0

right support

mid-span

left support

y

x

z

Figure 6. The boundary conditions.

3.2 Comparison with the test results

The primary objective is to validate the numerical model against the published experimental results which

are presented in the study of R.B. Dharma and K.H. Tan [1]. Due to the lack of details for the accurate profile of

the initial imperfections an assumption has to be adopted. The amplitude of the initial imperfections that is used

for the analysis is supposed to be 0.5mm for the buckling eigenmode which is related to the lateral torsional

buckling and 2mm for the eigenmode which is related to the local buckling of the upper flange. These values are

in accordance with the maximum values of the measured initial imperfections that are presented in [1].

For the calibration of the numerical model against the experimental results the material models proposed in

Eurocode 3-Part 1.2 [3] were not followed regarding the ratio between the ultimate stress and the yield stress.

This ratio, is limited by Eurocode to 1.25. Instead, the actual material properties for the specific steel used in the

experiments were followed. More specifically, the tensile coupon tests, for both the web and the flange (Table

1), gave an ultimate strength approximately 1.6 times greater than the yield strength at room temperature.

Another point were the suggestions of Eurocode were not completely followed was in the temperature above

which the hardening of the material should be neglected. This temperature is defined to be 400C. However,

experimental results indicate that steel keeps a significant hardening even in the case of 400C [5],[6]. For this

reason and in order to obtain more realistic results, hardening was taken into account in the numerical model but

with a reduced ratio between the ultimate to the yield stress. The specific value for this ratio was calculated here

to be equal to 1.51, following the analogies yielded by the experimental results. Therefore, in the numerical

analysis that is conducted for the calibration of the finite element model, the ultimate strength is supposed to

be

T y T u

f f

, ,

6 . 1 = for both the web and the flange, for temperatures ranging between 20C and 400C

and

, ,

1.51

u T y T

f f = for the temperature of 415C.

Figure 7 illustrates the load-displacement curves obtained numerically and experimentally for the specimen

S2-1. A very good agreement is obtained for the initial stiffness and for the maximum load of the system.

Moreover, the softening branch is well approximated by the numerical model. Additionally, the failure mode

that results from the numerical analysis is very close to the experimental results, as it is presented in Figure 8. In

both cases the failure is due to lateral torsional buckling of the steel beam.

Taking into account the previous, it is considered that the developed numerical model can predict accurately

the behaviour of the steel I-beam at elevated temperatures. Additionally, it is indicated that the shapes of the

initial imperfections that were adopted can be used for the needs of parametric studies.

0

50

100

150

200

250

300

350

0

1

0

2

0

3

0

4

0

5

0

6

0

7

0

8

0

9

0

1

0

0

1

1

0

1

2

0

1

3

0

1

4

0

1

5

0

1

6

0

1

7

0

1

8

0

L

o

a

d

(

k

N

)

Mi d-span defl ecti on (mm)

test (S2-1 specimen)

numerical model

Figure 7. Comparison of the numerical analysis results with the test results for the specimen S2-1 at 415C.

a) b)

Figure 8. Deformed shape of the steel beam at the failure a) test results, b) numerical analysis results

4 PARAMETRIC ANALYSES

The numerical model which has been validated against the experimental results of [1] is now used for the

evaluation of the rotational capacity of a steel IPE300 beam at elevated temperatures. The structural system that

is considered for the parametric analyses is presented in Figure 9. The grade of the structural steel is considered

to be S275. Moreover, it is noticed that the classification of the cross section for the elevated temperatures

results to be of Class 1.

7.1

2.5m

150

1

0

.

7

P

Cross section

IPE300

3

0

0

Figure 9. The structural system for the parametric analyses (dimensions of the cross section in mm).

Parametric analyses are conducted at various temperature levels in order to find out the effect of the initial

imperfection on the available rotational capacity of the beams. In particular, the analyses are conducted for

temperatures ranging between 100C and 800C. The amplitude of the initial imperfections is considered to be

between 0.5mm and 5mm for both the local buckling and the lateral torsional buckling eigenmodes. The

objective is to obtain moment rotation curves that might be used for the elastic-plastic analysis of frame

structures under fire conditions through simple software packages, utilizing beam finite elements with nonlinear

behavior concentrated at the ends of the members. The results of the analysis could be used for the fire design of

steel structures. Therefore the numerical models that are used for the parametric analyses adopt fully the stress-

strain models proposed for various temperatures in Eurocode 3-Part 1.2 [3].

The results of the numerical analysis in terms of load displacement curves for various temperatures levels

are presented in Figure 10. Four different analyses are conducted at every temperature level. Initially, the steel

beam is considered to be perfect i.e. the initial imperfections are not taken into account. Then, parametric

analyses are conducted considering amplitudes of initial imperfections equal to 0.5mm, 2mm and 5mm. The

imperfection amplitudes are assumed to be the same for both the local buckling and the lateral torsional buckling

eigenmodes. The results of the numerical analyses of the perfect beams indicate that the failure mode changes

after the temperature of 300C. More specifically, for 100CT 300C the steel beam fails due to both plastic

lateral torsional buckling and plastic local buckling, while for T>300C the failure is only due to the appearance

of the plastic local buckling. This behaviour is reflected clearly in the softening branch. It can be observed that

for 100CT300C the softening branch is steeper compared with the corresponding curves for T>300C.

Additionally, the results of the numerical analyses of the imperfect beams indicate that the beam fails due to

both plastic lateral torsional buckling and plastic local buckling for all the temperature levels.

Moreover, it can be observed that the initial imperfections do not affect significantly the maximum load

bearing capacity of the beam. This result holds for all the temperature ranges. Also, it can be observed that for

temperature values less than 300C the increase of the amplitude of the initial imperfections has a minor effect

to the softening branch of the diagram. On the contrary, for temperature ranges between 400C and 800C,as the

amplitude of the imperfection increases, the softening branch becomes steeper.

The dimensionless moment-rotation curves at various temperature levels are illustrated in Figure 11. The

idealized elastic- perfectly plastic diagram corresponds to the design plastic moment of the cross section

obtained by (2). It can be first noticed that for all the temperature levels the steel beam is able to reach the plastic

moment resistance, since no local or lateral torsional buckling takes place in the elastic region. An exception to

this can be observed for temperature equal to 700C and amplitude of initial imperfections 5mm. For this

specific case the beam is not able to reach the plastic moment capacity. Despite the fact that according to

Eurocode 3 [3] for temperatures ranging between 100C and 300 C the ultimate strength of the steel

is

T y T u

f f

, ,

25 . 1 = , the ultimate moment that results from the numerical analysis is

T pl T u

M M

, ,

1 . 1 ~ . This can be

attributed to the fact that geometric nonlinear phenomena arise as the deflection of the beam increases.

0

50

100

150

200

250

300

350

0

2

5

5

0

7

5

1

0

0

1

2

5

1

5

0

1

7

5

2

0

0

2

2

5

L

o

a

d

(

k

N

)

Mid-span deflection (mm)

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

0

50

100

150

200

250

300

350

0

2

5

5

0

7

5

1

0

0

1

2

5

1

5

0

1

7

5

2

0

0

2

2

5

L

o

a

d

(

k

N

)

Mid-span deflection (mm)

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

0

50

100

150

200

250

300

350

0

2

5

5

0

7

5

1

0

0

1

2

5

1

5

0

1

7

5

2

0

0

2

2

5

L

o

a

d

(

k

N

)

Mid-span deflection (mm)

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

0

50

100

150

200

250

300

350

0

2

5

5

0

7

5

1

0

0

1

2

5

1

5

0

1

7

5

2

0

0

2

2

5

L

o

a

d

(

k

N

)

Mid-span deflection (mm)

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

0

50

100

150

200

250

0

2

5

5

0

7

5

1

0

0

1

2

5

1

5

0

1

7

5

2

0

0

2

2

5

L

o

a

d

(

k

N

)

Mid-span deflection (mm)

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

0

20

40

60

80

100

120

140

160

0

2

5

5

0

7

5

1

0

0

1

2

5

1

5

0

1

7

5

2

0

0

2

2

5

L

o

a

d

(

k

N

)

Mid-span deflection (mm)

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

0

2

5

5

0

7

5

1

0

0

1

2

5

1

5

0

1

7

5

2

0

0

2

2

5

L

o

a

d

(

k

N

)

Mid-span deflection (mm)

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

0

5

10

15

20

25

30

35

0

2

5

5

0

7

5

1

0

0

1

2

5

1

5

0

1

7

5

2

0

0

2

2

5

L

o

a

d

(

k

N

)

Mid-span deflection (mm)

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

Figure 10. Load displacement curves at various temperature levels.

It is clear that for temperatures ranging between 400C and 800C, the rotational capacity of the steel I-beam is

considerably reduced. Moreover, the available rotational capacity reduces as the amplitude of the initial

imperfections becomes larger. This reduction is actually a consequence of the fact that the slope of the softening

branch becomes steeper as the amplitude of the imperfections increases.

100C 200C

300C 400C

500C 600C

700C 800C

0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

1.2

1.4

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30

M

/

M

p

l

/

pl

elastic-plastic

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

1.2

1.4

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28

M

/

M

p

l

/

pl

elastic-plastic

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

1.2

1.4

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26

M

/

M

p

l

/

pl

elastic-plastic

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

1.2

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22

M

/

M

p

l

/

pl

elastic-plastic

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

1.2

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24

M

/

M

p

l

/

pl

elastic-plastic

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

1.2

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20

M

/

M

p

l

/

pl

elastic-plastic

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

1.2

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18

M

/

M

p

l

/

pl

elastic-plastic

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

1.2

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24

M

/

M

p

l

/

pl

elastic-plastic

perfect

0.5mm

2mm

5mm

Figure 11. Dimensionless moment rotation curves at various temperature levels.

The values of the obtained rotation capacity of the steel beam, according to the results of the parametric

numerical analyses, are summarized in Table 2. It is noticed that both the initial imperfections and temperature

have a significant effect on the available rotational capacity. Notice also that the rotational capacity seems to be

increased for temperatures above 800C with respect to the values obtained for lower temperatures (e.g. for

700C). Figure 12 presents a comparison of the dimensionless moment rotation curves for various temperature

levels, considering amplitude of initial imperfections 0.5mm.

100C

200C

300C 400C

500C 600C

700C 800C

Amplitude of initial imperfections

Temperature

(C)

perfect 0.5mm 2mm 5mm

100 13.69 12.22 11.91 11.18

200 10.73 9.60 7.69 8.40

300 8.96 7.59 4.49 5.74

400 8.11 4.36 2.81 1.56

500 7.98 5.32 3.45 2.06

600 7.97 3.77 2.43 1.03

700 6.83 2.64 1.56 -

800 8.21 5.13 3.10 1.07

Table 2. Available Rotational capacity of the steel beam at various temperature levels

0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

1.2

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30

M

/

M

p

l

/

pl

elastic-plastic 100C 200C

300C 400C 500C

600C 700C 800C

Figure 12. Dimensionless moment rotation curves at various temperature levels.

5 CONCLUSIONS

A numerical model is proposed in order to evaluate the effect of the temperature and the amplitude of initial

imperfections on the rotational capacity of compact steel I-beams at elevated temperatures. First, the model is

validated against published experimental results. The results of the parametric analyses indicate that the

rotational capacity is significantly reduced at temperatures greater than 400C. Moreover, for the same

temperature range, as the amplitudes of the initial imperfections increase, a considerable reduction of the

rotational capacity is noticed.

6 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This research has been co-financed by the European Union (European Social Fund ESF) and Greek national

funds through the Operational Program "Education and Lifelong Learning" of the National Strategic Reference

Framework (NSRF) - Research Funding Program: Heracleitus II. Investing in knowledge society through the

European Social Fund.

REFERENCES

[1] Dharma, R.B, Tan, K.H (2007), Rotational capacity of steel I-beams under fire conditions Part I:

Experimental study, Engineering Structures, Vol. 29. pp. 2391-2402.

[2] Dharma, R.B, Tan, K.H (2007), Rotational capacity of steel I-beams under fire conditions Part II:

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