The residual stress field around a single-pass weld filling a slit in a thin rectangular plate has been simulated using both 2D ABAQUS and 3D SYSWELD finite element models, with good agreement between the two codes. Through-wall cracks of varying lengths have been inserted into the plate along the weld centre-line, and the non-linear crack driving force due to residual stress evaluated using three formulations of the J-integral: the standard ABAQUS J, the G-theta approach coded into SYSWELD, and a modified J-integral, Jmod, that retains its path independence under non-proportional loading. Cracks were introduced into the FE meshes either simultaneously (all crack flank nodes released in the same step) or progressively (crack opened in small increments from mid-length to tip). The results were compared with crack driving force estimates made using linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM) and the R6 procedure. The crack driving forces predicted by all three J–formulations agree well for simultaneous opening, showing that the crack driving force rises to a peak for a crack length equal to the weld length, and falls for longer cracks. Linear elastic fracture mechanics gives a good estimate of the crack driving force for very short defects (confirming the absence of elastic follow up), but is conservative for longer defects, overestimating the peak driving force by 20%. The R6 estimates, which incorporate plasticity corrections, are more conservative than LEFM, overestimating the peak crack driving force by up to 60%. The crack driving force for a progressively opened crack is much lower than for simultaneous opening, indicating that there may be considerable excess pessimism in conventional assessments of defects of this type.

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