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Effect of Web and Flange Thickness of Profiled Web Girder using


M. H. Abu Hassan*, Universiti Tenaga Nasional, MALAYSIA

H. M. A. Al-Mattarneh, Universiti Tenaga Nasional, MALAYSIA
A. Ibrahim, Universiti Teknologi MARA, MALAYSIA
H. Abdul Hamid, Universiti Teknologi MARA, MALAYSIA
B. S. Mohammed, Universiti Tenaga Nasional, MALAYSIA


The behaviour of steel girders with profiled web under shear load has been simulated using
the finite element method. Three different buckling modes, namely local, zonal and global
were, observed and discussed. The typical failure mode of a girder with profiled web is that it
is initially in the local buckling mode occurring either at the top, middle or bottom of one flat
rib upon reaching a peak load. Beyond the peak load, the ripple propagates into adjacent
folds transforming the local to zonal or the ripple extends across a number of ribs forming a
global buckling mode in a diagonal direction of the tension field action beyond the peak load
(post-buckling load) and gradually buckled due to crippling of the web and subsequently
buckled till the flanges yielded vertically into the web. In the process of buckling, the load
displacement relationship of the girder switched to a sudden and steep descending branch.
The buckling can reduce the post-buckling shear capacity up to 60% of the ultimate shear

Keywords: Profiled Web, buckling, plate Girder, Finite Element

*Correspondence Authr: Md. Hadli Abu Hassan, Universiti Tenaga Nasional, Malaysia.

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Effect of Web and Flange Thickness of Profiled Web Girder using LUSAS


For many structures all of the beams may be selected from among the standard range of rolled
sections. Certain industrial buildings have girders called gantry girders that carry rails for
large-capacity overhead cranes. Normal (gantry) girders are made up of built-up sections,
called plate girders. Nowadays it is a common practice to fabricate such sections simply by
welding together three plates to form the top and bottom flanges, and the web. From time to
time, a new generation of optimised steel girders is developed. In general, innovated girder
systems would require less material and result in a lighter structure when compared to a
conventional girder system having webs reinforced with vertical/horizontal stiffeners.

Reviewing the previous research the use of profiled webs is a possible way of achieving
adequate out-of-plane stiffness out of webs without using stiffeners. The use of profiled web
girder also leads to a structural system of high strength-to-weight ratio. This finding agreed
with Khalid et al. [1], Chan et al. [2] and Khalid [3] who had reported that a profiled web
weighed 10.6% less than the equivalent conventionally stiffened flat web. Recent research by
Abdul Hamid et al. [4-6] on intermittent rectangular profiled web girders showed that, the ribs
are able to act as stiffeners, anchoring the tension field zone. The web buckled in typical shear
mode and developed large strain of inclined tension. It was also noted that if the depth and the
width of the ribs are increased further, the tension field action would develop in the ribs
instead, causing them to behave as sub-panels.


In the early 1960s, the first attempt to establish a method to predict the ultimate load of girder
of civil engineering proportions was made by Basler [7]. He assumed that flanges in practical
plate girders do not possess sufficient flexural rigidity to resist the diagonal tension field. The
diagonal tension field does not develop near the web-flange juncture and the web collapses
after development of yield zone. In 1970s Rockey et al. modified these theories to achieve a
better correlation between theory and tested results [8, 9]. They assumed that the flanges were
able to anchor the diagonal tension field. They also established that the collapse mode of plate
girder involved the development of plastic hinges in tension and compression flanges from
after development of yield zone and finally web panel fails in sway mechanism. The different
of this two model as shown in Figure 1.

However, developments of tension field and collapse behaviour of profiled web girder are
similar to conventional flat web girder but the mode of buckling are different. According to
Elgally et al. [10], buckling modes are categorized as either local or global but Lou and
Edlund [11] were categorised as local, zonal or global buckling mode. Figure 2 illustrates the
three different buckling modes described by Lou and Edlund [11] occuring in a corrugated
web. They are:
a. Local buckling: shear buckling occurs in the plane part of the folds and is restricted
to this region only
b. Global buckling: shear buckling involves several folds and may give rise to yield
lines crossing these folds
c. Zonal buckling: an intermediate type of shear buckling (between local buckling and
global buckling), which involves several folds but only occurs over a part of the
girder depth

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τ τ − τ cr

τ − τ cr
τ τ τ τ d τ − τ cr
135° θi
τ − τ cr
Figure 1(a). Unbuckled Figure 1(b). Post-buckled
Behaviour of Shear Web Panel Behaviour of Shear Web Panel

Vu Plastic hinge

Vu σ t
Vu Vu

Yield Zone
Z φ

Figure 1(c). Collapse Behaviour by Figure 1(d). Collapse Behaviour

Basler by Rockey et al (Cardiff Model)

Figure 1: Failure Mechanism of Shear Web Panel

(a): Local Buckling (b): Zonal Buckling (c): Global Buckling

Figure 2. Buckling Modes of Corrugated Web by Lou and Edlund [8]

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Finite element models were developed for the specimens tested and nonlinear analysis was
performed using LUSAS a finite element software to simulate the combined geometric and
materials non-linear response of the girders. Figures 3 show the dimensions of the typical
girder tested and the profiled steel sheet used. In this paper, all the dimensions are kept
constant except web and flanges thickness and the others dimensions are tabulating in Table 1.

Load, P

83.5 45

d = 550 123.2°

522 65 522 50 125 3.5

(a): Experimental setup (b): Dimensions of profile steel sheets of PEVA 45

Figure 3. Dimensions of Test Girder and Profiled Steel Sheet in mm

Table 1. Dimensions and Properties of Profiled Web Girder

Flange Yield Stress
Web Thickness Flange
Model Name Width
(mm) Thickness
(mm) Flange Web
S550t0.8-Fe 0.8 9.0
*S550-Fe 1.0 9.0
S550t1.2-Fe 1.2 9.0
S550t2.0-Fe 2.0 9.0
S550T3-Fe 1.0 3.0
125 302 405
S550T6-Fe 1.0 6.0
S550-Fe 1.0 9.0
S550T12-Fe 1.0 12.0
S550t2.0-Fe 2.0 9.0
S550t2.0T20-Fe 2.0 20.0
Note: *Same in the experimental

All models were created in a 3D surface element where the entire plate components such as
flanges, web and stiffeners were modelled with quadrilateral thin shell elements (QSL8) of
different density and distribution. The material response was assumed to be elastic-perfectly
plastic and non-linear geometry of the girder used Total Lagrangian approach. An isotropic
stress potential with von Mises yield condition was adopted for the material attribute. The load
was applied on to the line feature along the width of the top flange to ensure that the load was
transferred through the bearing stiffeners and to avoid the top flange from locally buckled into the web
due to the concentrated patch load, thus simulating the experimental setting-up as shown in Figure 3.

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Global Axis

a. Experimental Setup b. Finite Element Model

Figure 3. Simulating Experimental Setup using Finite Element

Since initial imperfection was not measured, a half-sine wave geometric imperfection was
assumed, and applied to both web panels with the same magnitude and direction with a
maximum initial imperfection of 0.1% of web depth. However, the arc-length control using
Crisfiled arc-length procedure used in advanced non-linear incremental parameters solution
did not refer to the current stiffness. The sign of the current stiffness parameter was good at
coping with bifurcation points, but would always fail when a snap-back situation was
encountered. According to Lou and Edlund [11], the snap-back phenomena generally occurred
on numbers subject to shear loading. Lou and Edlund also used Crisfield arc-length procedure
in ABAQUS, commercial finite element software, where it was able to efficiently handle
snap-through situations. Notably in the presence of strain-softening, the arc-length method
may converge on alternative and unstable equilibrium paths. To ensure the girder did not
buckle prematurely due to unstable of geometry deformation and/or lateral torsional buckling,
the flanges were pinned in global X-direction as shown in Figure 3.


4.1 Validation of Finite Element Analysis against Experimental Results

Figure 4 shows comparison of load deflection curves of analytical and experimental results for
different test specimens. The elastic buckling (first slope) part of each curve shows that the
entire finite element results were so stiff compared to the experimental results. The effect of
the first slope of the load deflection curve could be due to the initial setting of experimental
the setup. Loading, the specimens were not fully rested on the supports. Another reason
effecting the first slope of the load deflection curve was because initial imperfection of the
flanges (warping) due to welding, was not included in the finite element analysis. Initial
imperfection was modelled only using half sine wave for web panels which was not exactly
like the experimental specimens. However, comparison of their ultimate shear loads was

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satisfactory. Table 2 shows the comparison of ultimate shear loads using finite element
analysis against experimental results. Beyond the peak load for each load deflection curve
there existed a snap back situation. Non-linear finite element study done by Lou and Edlund
[11] also indicated this snap back situation as shown in Figure 5.

140 120

100 2 2.5
Shear, V (kN)



S550-Fe S550-1 (Exp)
20 S550-2 (Exp) S550-3 (Exp)

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14
Deflection (mm)

Figure 4. Load Deflection Curves for S550 Series

Table 2. Comparison of Ultimate Shear Loads of Finite Element

against Experimental Results
VU (exp)
Experiment Vu (exp) Vu (FE)
S550-1 130.00 0.94
S550-2 119.10 122.29 1.03
S550-3 124.50 0.98

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Figure 5. Load-deflection Curves for Corrugated Web Girder Investigated by

R. Lou and Edlund [11] under Shear with Different Corrugation Depths

4.2 Influence of Web Thickness

Figure 6 show plots of load deflection respond obtained using the non-linear analysis. Each
curve shows that the load reduced suddenly after reaching the peak which was about 50% of
the ultimate capacity. Table 3 shows the results for different web thickness. All of the models
buckled in zonal buckling mode as shown in Figure 7. Models with web thickness 1.0 mm and
1.2 mm had the same failure mode as shown in Figure 7(b) and (c). No peak and dale
occurred in the load deflection response as could be seen from Figure 6. When the models
with web thickness 0.8 mm, 1.2 mm and 2.0 mm were compared to the model with web
thickness 1.0 mm the ultimate shear capacity reduced by 24% or increased by 21% and 106%

Shear, V

260 t = 0.8 mm
t = 1.0 mm
200 t = 1.2 mm
180 t = 2.0 mm
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Deflection (mm)
Figure 6. Load Deflection Curves for Different Web Thickness

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Table 3. Results of Non-Linear Analysis for Different Web Thickness

Comparison of
Ultimate Post- Ultimate Shear
Web Shear Buckling Vb Capacity with
Model Thickness Capacity, Capacity, Vu t =1.0 mm
(mm) Vu Vb Vu
(kN) (kN) V u (t = 1.0 mm)

S550t0.8-Fe 0.8 92.41 50.15 0.54 0.76

S550-Fe 1.0 122.29 58.90 0.48 -
S550t1.2-Fe 1.2 148.13 68.88 0.46 1.21
S550t2.0-Fe 2.0 252.24 140.36 0.56 2.06

(a): Web Thickness 0.8 mm (b): Web Depth 550 mm

(c): Web Thickness 1.2 mm (d): Web Thickness 2.0 mm

Figure 7. Buckling Modes Obtained at the End of the Analysis for Model with
Different Web Thickness

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4.3 Influence of Flange Thickness

All the models showed the flanges were buckle into the web as shown in Figure 8. For the
flanges thickness 3.0 mm, the top flange was buckled sharply into the web and it looked like
patch loading behaviour. This is because the flanges were very thin to anchor the tensile force
from the web. That also showed that the tensile force was developing in the small region flat
part of corrugation fold.

Figure 9 and Figure 10 show the load deflection curves with different flange thickness for
constant web thickness 1.0 mm and 2.0 mm respectively. In both figures the flanges did not
have great influence in term of strength. Compared to the thinnest flanges (T =3.0 mm), the
ultimate shear strength increased only about 4% for web thickness 1.0 mm. For web thickness
2.0 mm, the ultimate shear strength only increased about 2%. The results in Table 4 show that
when the slenderness of the flange element changed from slender to plastic, the influence on
ultimate shear strength was insignificant.

However, the use flanges thickness of T = 3.0 mm could lead to a more abrupt reduction in
the post-buckling shear capacity. Figure 8. (a) shows the flange was buckled into the web such
as concentrated patch loading. Table 4. show the reduction of post-buckling shear capacity up
to 86% of ultimate shear capacity for model S550T3-Fe (where the flanges thickness is 3.0

(a): S550T3-Fe (b): S550T6-Fe (c): S550-Fe

(e): S550T12-Fe (f): S550t2.0-Fe (g): S550t2.0T20-Fe

Figure 8: Buckling Modes Obtained at the End of the Analysis for Model with
Different Flange Thickness

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Shear, V




T = 3 mm T = 6 mm
60 T = 9 mm T = 12 mm



0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Deflection (mm)

Figure 9: Load Deflection Curves for Different Flange Thickness, T with

Web Thickness 1.0 mm

Shear, V

60 T = 20 mm
T = 9 mm
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Deflection (mm)

Figure 10: Load Deflection Curves for Different Flange Thickness, T with
Web Thickness 2.0 mm

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Table 4: Results of Non-Linear Analysis for Different Flange Thickness

of Ultimate
of Ultimate
Ultimate Post- Shear
Web Shear
Shear Buckling Capacity
Model Thickne Vb Capacity
Capacity, Capacity, for
Name ss Vu for
Vu Vb t =1.0 mm
(mm) t =2.0 mm
(kN) (kN) Vu
Vu (T = 3.0 mm)
Vu (T = 9.0 mm)

S550T3-Fe 1.0 117.79 17.00 0.14 - -

S550T6-Fe 1.0 123.07 74.97 0.61 1.04 -
S550-Fe 1.0 122.29 61.00 0.50 1.04 -
S550T12-Fe 1.0 122.79 54.25 0.44 1.04 -
S550t2.0-Fe 2.0 252.24 140.36 0.56 - -
S550t2.0T20-Fe 2.0 256.04 - - - 1.02

4.3 Buckling Behaviour of Profiled Web Girder

All of the tested specimens did not buckle in a symmetrical manner. Only one side panel
buckled and pulled the flanges due to tension field action globally in a web panel or zonally in
a few web sub-panels. The finite element study also found the same buckling phenomena.
Figure 11 shows the unsymmetrical deformed mesh of the profiled web specimens using finite
element analysis.
However, local buckling mode only occurred after the load reached peak and transformed to
zonal or global buckling mode. This kind of deformation behaviour was clearly observed with
finite element analysis, where the web started to buckle in one flat part of the fold or in a few
folds and then developed large deformation crossing fold lines over a part of panel width.
Then, it subsequently buckled till the flanges yielded vertically into the web. The load
deflection behaviour changed to what was referred to as a sudden and steep descending
branch after reaching peak. That confirmed the load sudden and steep descending branch due
to local buckling of flat part of corrugation fold.

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a. Specimen S550-1 after testing b. Specimen S550-2 after testing

a. FE model S550-FE at load

c. Specimen S550-3 after testing

Figure 11. Experimental and FE buckling behaviour of profiled web girder


From the results obtained, the following conclusions could be made of present investigation:
• Buckling modes of profiled web girder were categorized in three different buckling
modes i.e. local, zonal or global. Local buckling mode occurs at the first stage of
buckling generally after the load reaching the peak. Zonal or global buckling mode
occurred at failure load terminated (final failure). From observation, the buckling
phenomenon started locally in flat part of web sub-panel (local buckling) and
propagated to another flat part of web sub-panel which then transformed to zonal or
global buckling mode. Local flange buckling occurred depending on the web buckling
modes. This behaviour occurred because the contribution of stress field in web was
small and restricted only in these corrugation folds.

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• Three buckling modes had been found in this investigation but after initially buckled,
no matter what kind of buckling modes it had to abrupt reduction of the post-buckling
shear capacity. The buckling could reduce the post-buckling shear capacity in average
about 30% to 50% of the ultimate shear capacity.
• Increasing the flange thickness did not influence the ultimate shear capacity but the
use of thinner flanges would reduce the post-buckling capacity.


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