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J. Construct.

Steel Research31 (1994)221-241

Printed in Malta. All rights reserved

Second-Order Generalised Beam Theory

J. M. Davies, P. Leach
Department of Civil Engineering and Construction, University of Salford,
Salford, UK, M5 4WT

D. Heinz
Institut fiir Statik, Technische Hochschule Darmstadt, D-6100 Darmstadt, Germany

(Received 5 January 1994)


This paper introduces the second-order terms associated with geometric nonlinearity
into the basic equation of Generalised Beam Theory. This gives rise to simple
explicit equations for the load to cause buckling in individual modes under either
axial load or uniform bending moment. It is then shown how the explicit procedure
can be extended to consider the interaction between local, distortional and global
buckling modes. More general load cases require the use of numerical methods of
analysis and the finite difference method offers a suitable procedure. The success of
Generalised Beam Theory for a wide range of situations is demonstrated by
comparing the results obtained using it with both test results and other analyses. It
is shown that it offers particular advantages in the analysis of buckling problems in
cold-formed sections.


a Amplitude of displacement
B,C,D Section properties for individual modes
E Young's modulus
G Shear modulus
i,j,k Mode number (usually in the form of a forward superscript)
L Length of member
P Defined in text

222 J. M. Davies, P. Leach, D. Heinz

q Uniformly distributed load for individual mode

V Generalised displacement function
W Stress resultant
Distance along member

Second-order coefficient in GBT

Primes indicate differentiation with respect to the distance z along the



In a previous paper in this issue it has been shown how Generalised Beam
Theory (GBT) may be applied to first-order problems in which the
response is linear elastic. In this paper the theory is extended to include
the second-order terms associated with geometric nonlinearity. Figure 1
illustrates some typical problems that can be considered by second-order
Generalised Beam Theory:
In Fig. l(a) a slender light gauge steel beam fails by l~.teral torsional
buckling. The problem may also be aggravated by d stortion of the
In Fig. l(b) a hat-section column is axially loaded and again fails by
bending and twisting, again possibly aggravated by distortion of the

(a) lateral torsional

buckling of a beam

(b) buckling of an axially

loaded column

(c)local buckling
in a beam
Fig. 1. Typical second-order problems.
Second-order Generalised Beam Theory 223

In Fig. l(c) a beam with a slender compression flange fails by local


One of the great strengths of Generalised Beam Theory is that it is

possible to consider the significance of individual buckling modes and
selected combinations of them which makes it immediately clear which
modes are important in any analysis. This is not possible with any other
method. GBT shows to particular advantage in the analysis of buckling
problems in cold-formed sections.
Figure 2 shows three typical load-deflection curves:

(1) is standard first-order theory in which the response is indefinitely

(2) is general second-order theory in which the response is nonlinear
until an ultimate load is reached when the structure has failed by
elastic buckling;
(3) is a bifurcation problem in which a perfect structure is loaded in
such a way that no deflection occurs until the critical load is
reached. At the critical load, there is bifurcation of equilibrium and
deflections suddenly become indeterminate.

Generalised Beam Theory can be used for both bifurcation problems and
the general second-order problem. It can also be used for third-order
problems in which large deflection theory is used to investigate, for
instance, post-buckling problems, but this is beyond the scope of this
paper. The results presented later in this paper are all the results of
bifurcation analyses.



Fig. 2. Typical load~deflection curves: (1) first-order; (2) general second-order;

(3) bifurcation.
224 J. M. Davies, P. Leach, D. Heinz



The basic equation of Generalised Beam Theory should be familiar from

the previous paper:

E kc kvt'" -- G kD kv" + kBkV= kq (1)

When second-order effects are included, a further group of terms is added.

The usual form of the equation is then

E *C * V " " - G *D *V" + kBkv + ~ ~ iikK(iw iV')'= kq (2)

i j

In this equation,
iW is the warping stress resultant in the ith mode;
iJk K is a three-dimensional array of second-order terms which takes
account of all the interactions between in-plane stresses in the faces
and out-of-plane deformations. This includes coupling terms so that
the differential equations become linked and the individual modes
are no longer independent.
It may be noted that if in-plane shear strains are included in the analysis,
the second-order terms are augmented to

i k, J'w" iv+2 ' w ' iv')

i j

However, in the vast majority of practical cases the additional shear terms
have little influence on the results. For the purpose of this paper they will
be neglected.
The expression Z Okx(iwJv')' can be understood as representing the
deviation forces which are caused by axial stresses together with deforma-
tion of the member. The axial stress in the cross-section can be expressed
in terms of the m stress resultants ~Wand warping functions ~u:
m i w in(s)
rx(S) =
--i=1 ic
The elastic inclination of a fibre which results from a deformation JV'(x),
as shown in Fig. 3, is

in the x-s plane i]', = JV'. Jf~

in the x-g plane if' =Jv'. Jf
Second-order Generalised Beam Theory 225


Eaj I

Fig. 3. Deformation of an element of the cross-section.

and the corresponding elastic curvature is

in the x-s plane Jf~ =Jv". Jr,

in the x-g plane if" =Jv". Jf

The deviation forces q~ and qn caused by the stresses trx and the
deformations Jv"(x) are, according to Fig. 4, in the s direction:

dqls I = (tr x Jjs+otrx.jf,)tds=_

..... ~ (iW~V,,+iw,
" Jv, ) 1 iuJfstds
i=1 if

and in the g direction:

dq 11= _ raz ( i w jvtt "~-i w ' Jv') L iu Jf t ds

i= 1 if

s. f,
Fig. 4. Formulation of the deviation forces.
226 J. M. Davies, P. Leach, D. Heinz

The virtual work of the deviation forces at the virtual displacement k~" 1,
expressed in terms of kf, and kf, can be introduced directly into the
system of equations:

q~.kf~+qU.kf=__~i=, j=2
~ (~WJV,), i-~
1 f~ iu(2fs *J'~+ ~f *f)t ds

The unified symbol for the integral in the above expression is ijkx, thus:

ijkK = ~-~
1 f iu(Jf s kf s + Jf kf)t ds (3)

where i refers to the stress distribution due to the stress resultants (warping
moments), j refers to the elastic deformation and k refers to the equilibrium
condition in which the deviation forces are involved. The values of Okx
have to be evaluated for the warping moments 1 ~<i ~<m and the deforma-
tion modes 2 ~<j ~<n and 2 ~<k ~<n. The necessary numerical integration is
easy to program once the warping functions and section properties of
GBT have been determined.
It may be noted that for m a n y bifurcation problems, including a number
of the examples given later, a load is applied which is constant over the
length of the member. This is the case when a column is subject to axial
compressive load or when a beam buckles under uniform bending moment.
Derivatives of iW are then zero, and the second-order terms simplify to

i w ~ ijkK JVt'


The easiest way to illustrate the use of the augmented GBT equation is by
means of a simple example. Consider the hat-section shown in Fig. 5
acting as a column subject to an axial load through the centroid of the
cross-section. Prior to buckling, the applied load is a uniform axial
compressive stress. In GBT terms, this is the warping stress resultant ~W.
It is assumed that the column behaves as simply supported at its ends with
respect to each buckling mode. As there is no load causing deformation
prior to buckling, the right-hand-side t e r m kq is zero and we have a
bifurcation problem.
The cross-section has the six nodes indicated in Fig. 5, so that General-
ised Beam Theory provides six orthogonal modes of deformation. These
Second-order Generalised Beam Theory 227



Fig. 5. Simple example, dimensions in cm.

modes are, of course, four rigid-body modes and two modes involving
distortion of the cross-section. The relevant section properties are shown
in Table 1 and it may be noted that the third section property kB appears
only in the higher-order distortional modes.
Also necessary for the analysis of this section acting as an axially
loaded column is the array of second-order terms ljkl~. This is shown in
Table 2. The off-diagonal values reflect the degree of coupling between
the modes. For instance, it is immediately obvious that an analysis in-
cluding only modes 2 and 3 would not be profitable because they would
be uncoupled.
Consider the column buckling in a single mode k and assume that the
buckled shape in this mode is given by

kV = ka sin rex

Then we have a single governing equation and the only second-order term
which appears in this equation is lkkl~ SO that, inserting k V and its

Properties of Hat-Section Column

Mode k kc kO kB

1. Axial !.7 0 0
2. Bending 9.109 0 0
3. Bending 6"128 0 0
4. Torsion 21.58 0.005667 0
5. Symmetrical distortion 0-07334 0.0002753 0'05769
6. Antisymmetrical distortion 0-06986 0.0002480 0.07872
228 J. M. Davies, P. Leach, D. Heinz

Values of ~JkK

j=k I 2 3 4 5 6

1 -1 0 0 0 0 0
2 0 --1 0 4-423 0 --0-4093
3 0 0 -- 1 0 -0-4088 0
4 0 4"423 0 -28-53 0 2"735
5 0 0 -0"4088 0 -0"4605 0
6 0 -0-4093 0 2"735 0 -0-3675

derivatives into eqn (2),

ka sin T = 0

For non-trivial solutions, the expression in curved brackets must be equal

to zero so that

1W= ~ E +GkD+kB (4)

This equation is an explicit expression for the buckling load and is valid
for buckling in any individual mode. The modes given by k = 2 and k = 3
are Euler buckling about the two principal axes and, for these modes, the
only non-zero generalised warping constant is kc. Furthermore,

122K: 133K: --1

so that for k = 2 or k = 3,

lr2 E kC
! W- L2 (tension positive)

which is the well-known formula for global buckling about a principal

The general solution for 1W in eqn (4) gives the critical axial load for
buckling in mode k for any length L of the column. The relationship
between 1W and L may have one of two alternative shapes as shown in
Fig. 6. If the mode is one of global buckling, the longer the column, the
lower the buckling load as shown in Fig. 6(a). Conversely, if the mode is of
Second-order GeneralisedBeam Theory 229


L I_crit L
(a) (b)
Fig. 6. Alternative buckling characteristics: (a) global buckling, kn = 0; (b) local buckling,

a more local nature, there is a critical buckling length, as shown in Fig. 6(b),
and long columns will buckle in a periodic mode with this wavelength.
The calculation of the critical wavelength for buckling of a local nature
(either local or distortional) follows directly from eqn (4):


i.e. - - 2 E k c [ L ] - 3 + 2 kB[L]=o

I~ kc

It follows that, in general, if kB exists, the buckling mode will be local in

nature. This is the case for all the higher-order modes which are either
local or distortional. Conversely, for the four rigid-body modes, kB is zero
and the buckling mode is global and there is no critical wavelength.
Finally, for a local mode, the critical axial force is given by

1wmin 1 FEkC / kB ko kB /-E~-]

'~'~L qE~c +G + x/-~-J

i.e. lkk1K [2x/ERCkB+GRD] (6)
230 J. M. Davies, P. Leach, D. Heinz

For the hat-shaped example shown in Fig. 5, the shapes for the buckling
curves in the individual modes are shown in Fig. 7. For short lengths up to
about 60cm, the distortional modes 5 and 6 are critical. For longer
lengths, mode 4 (the torsional mode) governs. If we consider the interac-
tion of more than one buckling mode, the principles remain the same but
more terms appear and, in general, the modes become coupled.
As modes 4, 5 and 6 are evidently critical, let us consider the effect of
combining these modes in the analysis of buckling for various lengths L on
the assumption that all three modes have the shape

kV = kasin rexL
Then, substituting into the basic second-order GBT equation gives three
equations of the form:


The non-trivial solutions take the form of three homogeneous equations:

E[ I 2
Ekc +GkD+RB
EI21 ka+ l W
ljkKJa = 0

Ax~at stress (kN/cm 2 )


SO Dimensions in cm
lW 1w

l L

Length L {cm)

Fig. 7. Hat-section columns: individual buckling modes.

Second-order Generalised Beam Theory 231


111 5 Ill Dimensionsin cm //Y

5 M O ~
\ jj"

1w 1w

i 1-

0 5O 100 150



Mode 2
Mode 6 .



Mode 4

I- r~ -

o 50 1oo 15o
L E N G T H L (cm)

Fig. 8. Combined buckling modes for hat-section column: (a) symmetrical modes 3 and 5
in combination; (b) antisymmetrical modes 2, 4 and 6 in combination.

where kP=[EkC[L]2+GkD+B[L]
is a constant for a given length L. This is an eigenvalue problem which can
be solved by any of the usual methods to give three values of 1W, the
lowest of which is the buckling load.
232 J. M. Davies, P. Leach, D. Heinz

It may be noted that the more detailed form of the above equation is

0 0 28"53 0 - 35

([: J [
4p 5p

and the fact that the matrix of terms k p is diagonal allows for some
0"3675 J
ka= 0

Some results of analyses with different combinations of modes are given
in Figs 8(a) and (b). In Fig. 8(a) the symmetrical modes 3 and 5 are shown
separately and in combination. It can be seen that the interaction is
minimal. Figure 8(b) shows the antisymmetrical modes 2, 4 and 6, the
individual modes being shown by broken lines and the combined modes
by the full line. Here there is a good deal of interaction during the
transition from short wavelength distortional buckling (mode 6) to long
wavelength torsional buckling (mode 4). There is, of course, no interaction
at all between the symmetrical modes shown in Fig. 8(a) and the antisym-
metrical modes shown in Fig. 8(b).
Analysis for elastic buckling failure due to pure bending follows a
similar course and the results are shown in Fig. 9. The only difference is
that the applied load is 3 W and the relevant array of second-order terms is
3jkhc, otherwise the calculations are identical.
It is evident from these examples that the transition from local or
distortional buckling to global buckling can be critical in the design of
thin-walled structural members and that Generalised Beam Theory pro-

100 z'

",, \...Uod. 6
~"\ "'/~i' ,,'"Mode 5


d k4 w,
, Dimensions in cm ~
0 50 100 150
Fig. 9. B u c k l i n g m o d e s for h a t - s e c t i o n b e a m .
Second-order Generalised Beam Theory 233

vides a particularly convenient way to study such interactive buckling



The above treatment is applicable only to a range of bifurcation problems

where the applied load is constant over the length of the member and
where the deformed shape of each mode is a sine wave extending over the
length of the member. These assumptions are, of course, rather restrictive
and for a more general solution it is necessary to resort to numerical
methods of analysis.
As in the case of linear GBT problems, the finite difference method
appears particularly appropriate and, indeed, the method described in
the previous paper can be readily extended to include the second-order
An important difference here is that the individual modes become
coupled so that they can no longer be considered independently. However,
this coupling is not usually strong so that, provided appropriate steps are
taken, it does not dominate the analysis and the benefits obtained by using
orthogonal deformation modes are retained.
The simplest general approach to solving the coupled eqns (2) is to
move the as yet unknown terms in iV and iW and their derivatives to the
right-hand side of the equations where they are treated as load terms
together with kq. These terms are taken as zero in the first step of an
iterative solution and successively improved as the iterations proceed. The
convergence is improved if the leading diagonal second-order terms (j = k)
are left on the left-hand side of the equation and added to kD. The
equations to be solved then have the form

=*q-- ~,~_,iJktc['W'jV']+y'~ ijkKiwkv"

i j i k

Thus, in each iteration step, only a system of uncoupled linear differential

equations of fourth order must be solved. After each step, the right-hand
sides are updated to include internal forces and deformations calculated
during the previous step and the cycle repeated. In general, the orthogonal
nature of the deformation modes ensures that the process converges
234 J. M. Davies, P. Leach, D. Heinz

When using the finite difference method to solve bifurcation problems, a

preferable alternative to the iterative procedure described above is to set
up the complete coupled equations as a single eigenvalue problem. This
allows the buckling loads to be computed without the need for iteration.


In Fig. 5 and the analyses arising from it, nodes were considered only at
the corners of the cross-section. The six nodes which resulted from this
approach allowed four rigid-body modes and two cross-sectional distor-
tion modes to be included in the analysis. In general, the number of
distortional modes in the analysis is a function of the complexity of the
However, thin-walled structural members such as the one shown in
Fig. 5 may be subject to local buckling of the individual flat elements as
shown in Fig. l(c) in addition to distortional buckling of the cross-section.
It is not always obvious which of these two forms of buckling may be the
more critical for a particular cross-section. In order to include local
buckling of a given fiat element in a second-order GBT analysis, it is
necessary to include an intermediate node at the centre of that element in
addition to the 'natural' nodes at the corners of the cross-section.
In order to illustrate the potential of second-order GBT, various results
obtained using the analyses described above will be compared with a
selection of test results on cold-formed sections and other theoretical
analyses. These examples will include the use of intermediate nodes in
order to identify local buckling modes and their interaction with global
and distortional modes. In each case, the nodes included in the analysis are
indicated on the figures showing the results. Some further comparisons for
cold-formed steel columns subject to distortional buckling are given in
Ref. 1.



Lovell 2 carried out a series of tests in which he subjected lipped and

unlipped channel section beams of varying length to uniform bending
moment. These tests are of particular interest because they include
interaction between local and global buckling modes.
It should be noted that, particularly in the case of the unlipped channels,
local buckling of the compression flange renders the section doubly
Second-order Generalised Beam Theory 235

unsymmetrical with consequent inclination of the principal axes. This

makes the analysis by more usual methods, for example those dependent
on effective widths, very complicated.
Lovelrs apparatus is shown in Fig. 10. Loading was by means of
weights on hangars cantilevered from the supports. The support details
were designed to provide full warping restraint.
Some typical results for lipped channels are shown in Fig. 11. The lips
tend to inhibit local buckling and the results are influenced by yielding
which was excluded from the implementations of GBT used by the
authors. Nevertheless, there is evidently some influence from distortion of
the cross-section so that the results obtained using GBT are considerably
closer to the test results than those which consider only the rigid-body
modes 1-4.
Figures 12 and 13 show typical experimental and theoretical results for
unlipped channels. Here, elastic buckling led to immediate failure and this
is predicted with impressive precision by GBT over the whole range from


Fig. 10. Test arrangement used by Lovell. 2

236 J . M . Dat,ies, P. Leach, D. Heinz

M O M E N T (

....... GBT Modes 1-4

500 , I GBT All Modes
',, -- - Yield Moment

400 ~ . 4. Test Results

..... ;-- ~. . . . ~.- -.- . . . +. .. . . . . ~'~ - - - = nodes in analysis



v _
8 a

i i i i t i i i i

0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 600

LENGTH (era)

Fig. 11. Experimental and theoretical results for Lovell test series 'E'.

M O M E N T (
= nodes in analysis
....... GBT Modes 1-4

250 GBT All Modes

0.0 "'. --- Yield Moment
4. Test Results
2 -


+ + 4-


0 i

C7 i i

50 100 150 200 250 300

Fig. 12. Experimental and theoretical results for Lovell test series 'A'.
Second-order Generalised Beam Theory 237

. . . . . . . GBT Modes 1-4

250 -- G B T All M o d e s
---- Yield Moment
-I- Test R e s u l t s

150 +




0 I I I I I

0 50 100 150 200 250 300

L E N G T H (cm)

Fig. 13. Experimental and theoretical results for Lovell test series 'D'.

local distortional buckling to global buckling in an essentially rigid-body

Leach 3 carried out additional tests using similar apparatus to Lovell but
applied load at one end only, thus obtaining buckling failures under a
m o m e n t gradient. F r o m the standpoint of GBT analysis, this represents a
more general case. However, the pattern of results is not distinctly different
from that obtained by Lovell 2 under uniform moment.
Figure 14 shows typical results for a lipped channel and Fig. 15 for an
unlipped channel. The agreement between the theoretical buckling load
given by GBT and the test results is again impressive. It may be noted that
here, in addition to including, for comparison, the results given by GBT
when only the rigid-body modes 1-4 are included in the analysis, Fig. 14
also includes the buckling loads predicted by an alternative rigid-body
lateral torsional buckling analysis. 4
An alternative numerical analysis which has certain similarities with
GBT is the finite strip method. Rhodes 5 has applied the second-order
finite strip method to a range of column buckling problems that are also
amenable to analysis using GBT. The comparison of results given by the
two approaches is instructive. Some typical comparisons now follow.
Figure 16 shows the buckling load of a hat-section column similar
to the one discussed in some detail previously but with the addition of
238 J. M. Davies, P. Leach, D. Heinz


900 , ~ ....... GBT M o d e l 1-4

"'" ~" Z , # -- GBT All Modes
'", / / --.-- Nemir

~ , , J I "-'~l.sL = nodes in analysis




0 i i i i i i i

2OO :,so zoo zso 400 450 500 nso eoo

LENGTH (crn)

Fig. 14. Experimental and theoretical results for Leach test series 'E'.

M O M E N T (

. . . . . . GBT Modes 1-4

",,. -- GBT All Modes

600 "',.,
Yield moment ",
'".., .

400 4.0

2oo 1 1


v v :.
0 L
100 150 200 250 300

Fig. 15. Experimental and theoretical results for Leach test series 'H'.
Second-order Generalised Beam Theory 239


-'- Rhodes
-- GBT All M o d e s

8 -0.1 cm ...... Euler

---e- e I .,6--
10 L ~
f . ~ .

"', /

i i i I i

0 20 40 60 80 100 120

Fig. 16. Local buckling of a hat-section column.

intermediate nodes. This allows the analysis to detect local buckling modes
in addition to the global and distortional modes discussed earlier. Follow-
ing the notation used in Rhodes' paper, 5 the buckling loads are expressed
in terms of the conventional plate buckling coefficient K for the compres-
sion flange which has the value 4-0 for a simply supported long rectangular
plate undergoing local buckling. The agreement between the two methods is
generally good, though GBT appears to be more sensitive for very short
wavelength local buckling. The divergence of the two methods for global
buckling is understood to be a deficiency in the model used by Rhodes for
this particular study, not of the second-order finite strip method itself.
Figure 17 shows a rather complex section. The two methods of analysis
agree quite well over the whole range of lengths considered which include
both local and global buckling. The examples are completed by Fig. 18
which shows another case where the agreement is quite good.
It should be noted that where there is a discrepancy between the finite
strip method and GBT, it is always GBT which gives lower values of the
buckling load. As the finite strip method is essentially an energy method
based on assumed displacement functions, this is to be expected and
reveals the limitations of the energy approach when the assumed functions
are not sufficiently general to model the complex actual deformations of
the member.
240 J. M. Davies, P. Leach, D. Heinz

thickness = 4 mm
--'-- Rhodes
nodes -~10
.... Euler Load
Generalized Theory
20 4 6 _J~

~ . , ,

r i I 1 I i

0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140


Fig. 17. Local buckling of a stiffened tee-section column.

nodes thickness = 4 mm
400 --- Rhode=
50 f f ..... Euler Load
~e : d Generalized Theory
20 ",, L

~ .... j 7 \' "'.

I i [ i I [ i i I

0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500

Fig. 18. Local buckling of a lipped channel section column.
Second-order Generalised Beam Theory 241


In this paper the extension of Generalised Beam Theory to include second-

order effects has been outlined. Both bifurcation and general second-order
problems have been considered. A n u m b e r of examples have been given in
which analysis using G B T has been c o m p a r e d with both test results on
cold-formed sections and alternative analyses. It is hoped that both the
power and versatility of G B T for the buckling analysis of cold-formed
sections have been adequately demonstrated.


1. Davies, J. M. & Leach, P., Some applications of Generalised Beam Theory.

Proc. 11 th Int. Speciality Conf. on Cold-Formed Steel Structures, St Louis, MO,
Oct. 1992, pp. 479-501.
2. Lovell, M. H., Lateral buckling of light gauge steel beams. MSc thesis,
University of Salford, 1983.
3. Leach, P., The generalised beam theory with finite difference applications. PhD
thesis, University of Salford, 1989.
4. Nemir, M. T. M., Finite element stability analysis of thin-walled steel struc-
tures. PhD thesis, University of Salford, 1985.
5. Rhodes, J., A simple microcomputer finite strip analysis. In Dynamics oJ
Structures, Proc. of the Session at Structures Congress '87, ASCE, 1987,
pp. 276-91.