An experimental and theoretical investigation of the effect of general imperfections on the buckling load of a circular cylindrical shell under axial compression was carried out. A noncontact probe has been used to make complete imperfection surveys on electro-formed copper shells before and during the loading process up to the buckling load. The data recording process has been fully automated and the data reduction was done on an IBM 7094. Three-dimensional plots were obtained of the measured initial imperfection surfaces and of the growth of these imperfections under increasing axial load. The modal components of the measured imperfection surfaces were also obtained. The theoretical solution located the limit points of the postbuckled states. A simplified imperfection model was used consisting of one axisymmetric and two asymmetric components. For global buckling the correlation between the theoretical buckling loads and the experimental values was found to be good.

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