Towards Tolerance Specifications for the Elastic Buckling Design of Axially Loaded Cylinders

Rainer Groh, James Croll*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


The quest for safe lower bounds to the elastic buckling of axially loaded circular cylindrical shells has exercised researchers for the past 100 years. Recent work bringing together the capabilities of non-linear numerical simulation, interpreted within the context of extended linear classical theory, has come close to achieving this goal of defining safe lower bounds. This paper briefly summarises important predictions from previous work and presents new simulations confirming them. In particular, we show that for a specified maximum amplitude of the most sensitive, eigenmode-based geometric imperfections, normalised with respect to the shell thickness, lower bounds to the buckling loads remain constant beyond a well-defined value of the Batdorf parameter. Furthermore, we demonstrate how this convenient means of presenting the imperfection-sensitive buckling loads can be reinterpreted to develop practical design curves providing safe, but not overly conservative, design loads for monocoque cylinders with a given maximum permitted tolerance of geometric imperfection. Hence, once the allowable manufacturing tolerance is specified during design or is measured post-manufacturing, the greatest expected knockdown factor for a shell of any geometry is defined. With the recent research interest in localised imperfections, we also attempt to reconcile their relation to the more classical, periodic, and eigenmode-based imperfections. Overall, this paper provides analytical and computational arguments that motivate a shift in focus in defect-tolerant design of thin-walled cylinders, away from the knockdown experienced for a specific geometric imperfection, towards the worst possible knockdown expected for a specified manufacturing tolerance.
Original languageEnglish
Article number011004
JournalJournal of Applied Mechanics
Issue number1
Early online date25 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

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© 2023 by ASME.


  • cylinder
  • shell
  • buckling
  • knockdown factor


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