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Imperfection Insensitive Thin Shells


Ning, Xin (2015) Imperfection Insensitive Thin Shells. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z91J97P9.


The buckling of axially compressed cylindrical shells and externally pressurized spherical shells is extremely sensitive to even very small geometric imperfections. In practice this issue is addressed by either using overly conservative knockdown factors, while keeping perfect axial or spherical symmetry, or adding closely and equally spaced stiffeners on shell surface. The influence of imperfection-sensitivity is mitigated, but the shells designed from these approaches are either too heavy or very expensive and are still sensitive to imperfections. Despite their drawbacks, these approaches have been used for more than half a century.

This thesis proposes a novel method to design imperfection-insensitive cylindrical shells subject to axial compression. Instead of following the classical paths, focused on axially symmetric or high-order rotationally symmetric cross-sections, the method in this thesis adopts optimal symmetry-breaking wavy cross-sections (wavy shells). The avoidance of imperfection sensitivity is achieved by searching with an evolutionary algorithm for smooth cross-sectional shapes that maximize the minimum among the buckling loads of geometrically perfect and imperfect wavy shells. It is found that the shells designed through this approach can achieve higher critical stresses and knockdown factors than any previously known monocoque cylindrical shells. It is also found that these shells have superior mass efficiency to almost all previously reported stiffened shells.

Experimental studies on a design of composite wavy shell obtained through the proposed method are presented in this thesis. A method of making composite wavy shells and a photogrametry technique of measuring full-field geometric imperfections have been developed. Numerical predictions based on the measured geometric imperfections match remarkably well with the experiments. Experimental results confirm that the wavy shells are not sensitive to imperfections and can carry axial compression with superior mass efficiency.

An efficient computational method for the buckling analysis of corrugated and stiffened cylindrical shells subject to axial compression has been developed in this thesis. This method modifies the traditional Bloch wave method based on the stiffness matrix method of rotationally periodic structures. A highly efficient algorithm has been developed to implement the modified Bloch wave method. This method is applied in buckling analyses of a series of corrugated composite cylindrical shells and a large-scale orthogonally stiffened aluminum cylindrical shell. Numerical examples show that the modified Bloch wave method can achieve very high accuracy and require much less computational time than linear and nonlinear analyses of detailed full finite element models.

This thesis presents parametric studies on a series of externally pressurized pseudo-spherical shells, i.e., polyhedral shells, including icosahedron, geodesic shells, and triambic icosahedra. Several optimization methods have been developed to further improve the performance of pseudo-spherical shells under external pressure. It has been shown that the buckling pressures of the shell designs obtained from the optimizations are much higher than the spherical shells and not sensitive to imperfections.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Shell Buckling, Imperfection Sensitivity, Cylindrical Shells, Spherical Shells, Structural Optimization, Bloch Wave Method
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Space Engineering
Awards:Rolf D. Buhler Memorial Award In Aeronautics, 2010; Charles D. Babcock Award, 2012; William F. Ballhaus Prize, 2015
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Pellegrino, Sergio
Group:Resnick Sustainability Institute, GALCIT
Thesis Committee:
  • Kochmann, Dennis M. (chair)
  • Pellegrino, Sergio
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami
  • Beck, James L.
Defense Date:5 May 2015
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05212015-174045815
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8877
Deposited By: Xin Ning
Deposited On:27 May 2015 21:28
Last Modified:02 Nov 2021 19:51

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