Formation of post-buckling shear mechanisms in stiffened web panels of slender steel plate girders

Kevin E. Augustyn, Spencer E. Quiel, Maria E.M. Garlock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A series of validated finite element models are used to investigate the formation of mechanisms in stiffened slender web panels of steel plate girders under pure shear. The prototype girder is based on the seminal tests by Basler and has a web slenderness of 267. Six model cases are analyzed with variations in web panel aspect ratio (1, 1.5, and 3), steel yield strength (Grades 36 and 50), initial imperfection magnitude, and flange thickness. When loaded in shear, the web panels exhibit a 3-stage response: (1) elastic behavior, (2) web mechanism formation, and (3) panel mechanism. In Stage 1, the web initially exhibits an elastic in-plane shear response with no distinct buckling bifurcation. During this stage, the web's initial out-of-plane imperfections become engaged in second-order bending along its compression diagonal. Concurrently, tension develops in the opposite diagonal as a non-uniform membrane stress field, with highest intensities at locations where second-order bending is low. In Stage 2, a web mechanism is formed when connected bands of thru-thickness von Mises yielding develop across the tension diagonal. These bands emerge at locations where tension membrane stresses interact with locations of maximum second-order bending stress in the buckled shape. The shear load at the end of web mechanism formation is recommended as a target for plastic limit state design because it marks a significant decrease in shear stiffness. In Stage 3, von Mises yielding continues to saturate the web panel, and the bounding flanges and transverse stiffeners become increasingly engaged in load redistribution from the plastified web. Any hardening increase in shear resistance during the panel mechanism stage is modest in magnitude (up to ∼10% for some cases in this study) and is heavily dependent on the sizing of the flanges and stiffeners to carry redistributed forces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110481
JournalThin-Walled Structures
StatePublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Mechanical Engineering


  • Second-order plate bending
  • Shear mechanisms
  • Slender steel plate girder
  • Tension field action
  • Ultimate shear resistance
  • Web shear buckling


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