Finite Element Modelling of Load Bearing Cold-formed Steel Wall Systems under Fire Conditions
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Light Gauge Steel Framing (LSF) walls are made of cold-formed, thin-walled steel lipped channel studs with plasterboard linings on both sides. However, these thin-walled steel sections heat up quickly and lose their strength under fire conditions despite the protection provided by plasterboards. A new composite wall panel was recently proposed to improve the fire resistance rating of LSF walls, where an insulation layer was used externally between the plasterboards on both sides of the wall frame instead of using it in the cavity. A research study using both fire tests and numerical studies was undertaken to investigate the structural and thermal behaviour of load bearing LSF walls made of both conventional and the new composite panels under standard fire conditions and to determine their fire resistance rating. This paper presents the details of finite element models of LSF wall studs developed to simulate the structural performance of LSF wall panels under standard fire conditions. Finite element analyses were conducted under both steady and transient state conditions using the time-temperature profiles measured during the fire tests. The developed models were validated using the fire test results of 11 LSF wall panels with various plasterboard/insulation configurations and load ratios. They were able to predict the fire resistance rating within five minutes. The use of accurate numerical models allowed the inclusion of various complex structural and thermal effects such as local buckling, thermal bowing and neutral axis shift that occurred in thin-walled steel studs under non-uniform elevated temperature conditions. Finite element analyses also demonstrated the improvements offered by the new composite panel system over the conventional cavity insulated system.
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