This paper presents the comparison of a reliability technique that employs a Fourier series representation of random asymmetric imperfections in a cylindrical pressure vessel subjected to external pressure. Comparison with evaluations prescribed by the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, Section VIII, Division 2 Rules for the same shell geometries are also conducted. The ultimate goal of the reliability type technique is to predict the critical buckling load associated with the chosen cylindrical pressure vessel. Initial geometric imperfections are shown to have a significant effect on the load carrying capacity of the example cylindrical pressure vessel. Fourier decomposition is employed to interpret imperfections as structural features that can be easily related to various other types of defined imperfections. The initial functional description of the imperfections consists of an axisymmetric portion and a deviant portion, which are availed in the form of a double Fourier series. Fifty simulated shells generated by the Monte Carlo technique are employed in the final prediction of the critical buckling load. The representation of initial geometrical imperfections in the cylindrical pressure vessel requires the determination of appropriate Fourier coefficients. Multi-mode analyses are expanded to evaluate a large number of potential buckling modes for both predefined geometries and associated asymmetric imperfections as a function of position within a given cylindrical shell. The probability of the ultimate buckling stress that may exceed a predefined threshold stress is also calculated. The method and results described herein are in stark contrast to the “knockdown factor” approach as applied to compressive stress evaluations currently utilized in industry. Recommendations for further study of imperfect cylindrical pressure vessels are also outlined in an effort to improve on the current design rules regarding column buckling of large diameter pressure vessels designed in accordance with ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, Section VIII, Division 2 and ASME STS-1.

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