Bounding techniques for calculating shakedown loads are of great importance in design since this eliminates the need for performing full elasto-plastic cyclic loading analyses. The classical Melan’s lower bound theorem is widely used for calculating shakedown loads of pressure vessel components under proportional loading. Polizzotto extended the Melan’s theorem to the case of non-proportional loading acting on a structure. This paper presents a finite element method, based on Polizzotto’s theorem, to estimate the elastic shakedown load for a structure subjected to a combination of steady and cyclic mechanical loads. This method, called non-linear superposition, is then applied to investigate the shakedown behaviour of a pressure vessel component — a nozzle/cylinder intersection and that of a biaxially loaded square plate with a central hole. Results obtained for both problems are compared with those available in the literature and are verified by means of cyclic elasto-plastic finite element analysis.

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