AbstractWe examine the possible types of generic bifurcation than can occur for a three-parameter family of mappings from a Banach space into itself. Specifically, the general form of the bifurcation equations arising from the von Kármán equations for the buckling of a rectangular plate is investigated. Chow, Hale, and Mallet-Paret (Applications of generic bifurcation. II, Arch. Rational Mech. Anal.67 (1976)) studied the bifurcation of solutions to these equations in a two-parameter setting. These parameters were related to the normal loading and to the compressive thrust applied at the ends of the plate. We introduce a third bifurcation parameter by considering the length of the plate as variable. The generic hypotheses of Chow et al. no longer apply in this three-parameter setting, but modifications and extensions of these hypotheses permit a characterization of the three-parameter bifurcation diagram. The bifurcation sheets of this diagram appear as a natural generalization of the finite collection of arcs comprising the two-parameter diagram. As an example of this theory, an actual three-parameter bifurcation diagram is constructed for a specific form of the von Kármán equations
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