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Safety Factors Until now we�ve discussed only the strength of columns in

compression, leaving untouched the issue of how much of a margin there

should be between working stress and strength for allowable stress design.
The factors of safety used in the three regimes are shown in Figure 5.19 and
contrasted with those used for steel. From Figure 5.19, we see that the factor
of safety for aluminum columns in the compressive yield regime is the factor
of safety on yield (ny # 1.65) since this is the mode of failure. The
factor of safety on inelastic and elastic buckling is higher: the factor of safety
on ultimate (nu # 1.95) is used.
The most noticeable difference between steel and aluminum column factors
of safety is in the realm of inelastic buckling slenderness ratios. The AISC
Steel Specification uses a sliding scale for steel column safety factors, varying
the factor from 1.67 (# 5/3) for the shortest columns to 1.92 (# 23/12) for
columns at the upper limit of inelastic buckling. The reason is that initial
imperfections are judged to affect the strength of short columns less significantly
when the shapes are compact, as they are for hot-rolled steel. Aluminum
shapes (profiles) may not necessarily be compact; they may also be
composed of thin-gauge elements that are deemed to be connected less rigidly
and more eccentrically at their ends. Thus, the Aluminum Specification, while
using a factor of safety of 1.65 for the shortest columns, uses the higher factor
of safety (1.95) throughout the whole range of buckling (inelastic and elastic).
If this rationale seems rather nebulous, you may find solace by considering
the relatively arbitrary nature of safety factors in the first place and that load
and resistance factor design smooths out the rough spots. (See Chapter 11 for
more on LRFD.)
Different Kinds of Overall Buckling and Their Slenderness Ratios So far,
we�ve taken the slenderness ratio, (kL/r), for granted. This probably hasn�t
been too disturbing because kL/r is familiar to most structural engineers, as
well as the designation:
# # kL/r (5.11)
k # effective length factor (more on this below)
L # length of the column between points of restraint against buckling
(unbraced length)
r # radius of gyration of the column about the axis of buckling.
But what is ��the axis of buckling�� referred to in the definition of r? Here�s
a hint: It�s a function of the kind of overall buckling.
Up to this point, we�ve described only one kind of overall buckling, the
kind called flexural buckling, demonstrated by the ruler discussed above. Use
of the term ��flexural�� when we�re talking about columns can be confusing,
so let�s clarify this. Flexural buckling refers to the lateral bowing of the ruler
as it buckles, taking a shape as if it were being bent, even though only an
axial force is applied to the member. This kind of buckling is covered in
Aluminum Specification Section The axis of buckling is the crosssectional
bending axis about which the flexure occurs, which will be the axis
with the greater slenderness ratio. Because the effective length factor (k) and
the radius of gyration may be different for the two principal axes, designers
must calculate the slenderness ratio for each axis to determine which is
greater. Many engineers are familiar only with this kind of overall buckling,
which is sufficient for typical closed shapes (i.e., round and rectangular tube).
How else can columns buckle? Another kind of overall buckling is torsional
buckling, which is a twisting or corkscrewing of the column. Equal leg
cruciform sections, which are point symmetric, tend to buckle this way. No
lateral displacement takes place along the member length during buckling,
only twisting. The axis of buckling is the longitudinal axis of the member for
torsional buckling. Last, shapes that are not doubly symmetric may buckle in
the overall buckling mode called torsional-flexural buckling, a combination
of twisting and lateral deflection.
A way to treat these buckling modes involving torsion is to replace kL/r
with an ��effective�� kL/r. A method for determining the effective slenderness
ratio (kL/r)e for both torsional or torsional-flexural buckling for doubly or
singly symmetric sections is given in Aluminum Specification Section
However, the Specification doesn�t provide a method for determining the effective
radius of gyration for unsymmetric shapes. Also, designers must already
know if a shape is subject to torsional or torsional-flexural buckling in
order to choose which Aluminum Specification Section ( or
To clear these hurdles, consult Table 5.2, it shows which shapes are subject
to which modes of overall buckling.