Closed form solution for the amount of clamp load loss due to an externally applied separating force is determined for a bolted assembly in which the fastener is initially tightened beyond its proportional limit. The joint may or may not have been yielded at initial assembly, however. After the initial tightening of the fastener, the joint is subsequently subjected to a tensile separating force, which further increases the fastener tensile stress into the nonlinear range. Such a separating force will simultaneously reduce the clamping force in the bolted joint. Upon the removal of the separating service load, the bolted joint system reaches a new equilibrium point between the fastener tension and the joint clamping force. At the new equilibrium point, the fastener tension is reduced from its value at initial assembly, due to the plastic elongation of the fastener. The reduction in fastener tension translates into a partial—yet permanent—loss of the clamping load, which may lead to joint leakage, loosening, or fatigue failure. A nonlinear strain hardening model is implemented in order to describe the fastener behavior past the proportional limit of its material, and to determine the clamp load loss due to the permanent set in the fastener after the separating force has been removed. In order to study the effect of strain hardening, various rates of strain hardening are used for modeling the behavior of the fastener material. The effect of three nondimensional variables on the amount of clamp load loss is investigated. This includes the joint-to-fastener stiffness ratio, the ratio of initial fastener tension to its elastic limit, and the ratio of the separating force to its maximum value that would cause joint separation to start. Analytical results are presented for a range of stiffness ratios that simulates both soft and hard joint applications.

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