Maxwell tipping points: The hidden mechanics of an axially compressed cylindrical shell

G. W. Hunt, R. M.J. Groh, T. J. Dodwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (SciVal)


Numerical results for the axially compressed cylindrical shell demonstrate the post-buckling response snaking in both the applied load and corresponding end-shortening. Fluctuations in load, associated with progressive axial formation of circumferential rings of dimples, are well known. Snaking in end-shortening, describing the evolution from a single dimple into the first complete ring of dimples, is a recent discovery. To uncover the mechanics behind these different phenomena, simple finite degree-of-freedom cellular models are introduced, based on hierarchical arrangements of simple unit cells with snapback characteristics. The analyses indicate two fundamentally different variants to this new form of snaking. Each cell has its own Maxwell displacement, which are either separated or overlap. In the presence of energetic background disturbance, the differences between these two situations can be crucial. If the Maxwell displacements of individual cells are separated, then buckling is likely to occur sequentially, with the system able to settle into different localized states in turn. Yet if Maxwell displacements overlap, then a global buckling pattern triggers immediately as a dynamic domino effect. We use the term Maxwell tipping point to identify the point of switching between these two behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20200273
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2241
Early online date23 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2020


  • localization
  • shell buckling
  • snaking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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