The present work investigates the response of industrial steel pipe elbows subjected to severe cyclic loading (e.g. seismic or shutdown/startup conditions), associated with the development of significant inelastic strain amplitudes of alternate sign, which may lead to low-cycle fatigue. To model this response, three cyclic-plasticity hardening models are employed for the numerical analysis of large-scale experiments on elbows reported elsewhere. The constitutive relations of the material model follow the context of von Mises cyclic elasto-plasticity, and the hardening models are implemented in a user subroutine, developed by the authors, which employs a robust numerical integration scheme, and is inserted in a general-purpose finite element software. The three hardening models are evaluated in terms of their ability to predict the strain range at critical locations, and in particular, strain accumulation over the load cycles, a phenomenon called “ratcheting”. The overall good comparison between numerical and experimental results demonstrates that the proposed numerical methodology can be used for simulating accurately the mechanical response of pipe elbows under severe inelastic repeated loading. Finally, the paper highlights some limitations of conventional hardening rules in simulating multi-axial material ratcheting.

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