The prediction of the plastic collapse load of cylindrical pressure vessels is very often made by using expensive Finite Element Computations. The calculation of the collapse load requires an elastic-plastic material model and the consideration of non-linear geometry effects. The plastic collapse load causes overalls structural instability and cannot be determined directly from a finite element analysis. The ASME (2007) code recommends that the collapse load should be the load for which the numerical solution does not converge. This load can be only determined approximately if a expensive nonlinear analysis consisting of a very large number of sub steps is done. The last load sub step leading to a convergent solution will be taken as the critical load for the structure. In the instability regime no standard finite element solution can be found because of the lack of convergence of the numerical procedure. Other methods for the calculation of the allowable pressure proposed by the ASME code are the elastic stress analysis and the limit load analysis. In the present paper the plastic collapse load for a cylindrical pressure vessel is determined by an analytical method based on a linear elastic perfectly plastic material model. When plasticity occurs the material is considered as incompressible and the tensor of plastic strains is parallel to the stress deviator tensor. In that case the finite stress-strain relationships of Henkel can be used for calculating the pressure for which plastic flow occurs at the inside of the vessel wall or in the case of full plasticity in the wall. The analytical results are fully confirmed by finite element predictions both for axisymmetric and high costs three dimensional models. The analytical model can be used for fast predictions of the allowable load for the design of a large variety of pressure vessels under safety considerations. The accuracy of the predicted collapse load largely depends on the quality of the temperature dependent wall material data used both in the analytical and numerical calculations.

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