Three types of imperfections are analysed in the current paper, and they are: (i) Initial geometric imperfections, i.e., deviations from perfect geometry, (ii) Variations in the wall thickness distribution, and (iii) Imperfect boundary conditions. It is assumed that cones are subject to: (a) axial compression only, (b) radial pressure only, and (c) combined loading, i.e., axial compression and external pressure acting simultaneously. Buckling strength of imperfect cones is obtained for all of the cases above. It is shown that the buckling strength is differently affected by imperfections, when cones are subjected to axial compression or to radial external pressure. The response to imperfections along the combined stability envelope is also provided, and these results are first of this type. The finite element analysis, using the proprietary code is used as the numerical tool. Cones are assumed to be from mild steel and the material is modelled as elastic perfectly plastic. Geometrical imperfection profiles are affine to eigenshapes. A number of them are tried in calculations, as well as the effect of them being superimposed. The results indicate that imperfection amplitude and its shape strongly affect the load carrying capacity of conical shells. Also, it is shown that the buckling loads of analyzed cones are more sensitive when subjected to combined loading as compared to their sensitivity under single load conditions. At the next stage, uneven thickness distribution along the cone slant was considered. Variation of wall thickness was assumed to vary in a piece-wise constant fashion. This appears to have a large effect on the buckling strength of cones under axial compression only as compared with that of cones subjected to radial external pressure only. Finally, the effect of variability of boundary conditions on failure load of cones was investigated for two loading conditions, i.e., for axial compression and for radial pressure, only. Results indicate that change of boundary conditions influences the magnitude of buckling load. For axially compressed cones the loss of buckling strength can be large (about 64% for the worst case (beta = 30 deg, the cone not restrained at small radius end). Calculations for radial pressure indicate that the loss of buckling strength is not as acute — with 34% for the worst case (beta = 40 deg, relaxed boundary conditions at the larger radius end). This is an entirely numerical study but references to accompanying experimental programme are provided.

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