Thin-walled cylindrical shell structure not only shows the highly efficient load carrying capacity but also is vulnerable to buckling instability failure. In practical application, these structures are more easily subjected to locally distributed axial compression load, which is a more common non-uniform loading case. However, until now, the buckling behaviors of thin-walled cylindrical shells under this kind of loading case are still unclear, and there are also few relevant buckling experiments. In order to fill this research gap as well as reveal the relevant failure mechanism of thin-walled cylindrical shell structures, in this paper buckling tests of thin-walled metallic cylindrical shell structures under non-uniform axial compression loads are successfully performed. In this regard, the design and characteristics of two cylindrical shell test specimens subjected to different pattern of non-uniform compression loads are mainly introduced. Meanwhile, as the important parts for conducting this buckling experiment, the axial compression buckling test rig as well as the real-time acquisition measurement system is also presented in details. Results indicate that locally distributed axial compression loads play a pivotal role in the buckling behaviors of thin-walled cylindrical shell, not matter from the point of view of load carrying capacity, shell deformation process or failure mode. The experiments carried out in this work can be served as a benchmark for related numerical simulation afterwards. Furthermore, the obtained test results can also provide some guides for the design and application of thin-walled cylindrical shell in actual engineering.

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