In this study, deformation of cylindrical shells under axial compressive load was studied and characterized by a noncontact detection technique, called digital image correlation (DIC). As opposed to commonly used strain gages for measuring structure strains at specific points, the DIC method can render not only 2D but also 3D full-field measurements for strain as well as structure deformation. The accuracy of strain measurement obtained using the DIC method was carefully validated by following ASTM standard E8 for strain measurement using strain gages in tensile tests. The DIC technique provided convenient measurements for characterizing the buckling behaviors of defective cylindrical shell samples. This study has engineering implications for providing 3D strain and deformation analyses to ensure structure reliability and safety.

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