Industrial steel piping components are often subjected to severe cyclic loading conditions which introduce large inelastic strains and can lead to low-cycle fatigue. Modeling of their structural response requires the simulation of material behavior under strong repeated loading, associated with large strain amplitudes of alternate sign. Accurate numerical predictions of low-cycle fatigue depend strongly on the selection of cyclic-plasticity model in terms of its ability to predict accurately strain at critical location and its accumulation (referred to as “ratcheting”). It also depends on the efficient numerical integration of the material model within a finite element environment.

In the context of von Mises metal plasticity, the implementation of an implicit numerical integration scheme for predicting the cyclic response of piping components is presented herein, suitable for large-scale structural computations. The constitutive model is formulated explicitly for shell-type (plane-stress) components, suitable for efficient analysis of piping components whereas the numerical scheme has been developed in a unified manner, allowing for the consideration of a wide range of hardening rules, which are capable of describing accurately strain ratcheting.

The numerical scheme is implemented in a general-purpose finite element software as a material-user subroutine, with the purpose of analyzing a set of large-scale physical experiments on elbow specimens undergoing constant-amplitude in-plane cyclic bending. The accuracy of three advanced constitutive models in predicting the elbow response, in terms of both global structural response and local strain amplitude/accumulation, is validated by direct comparison of numerical results with experimental data, highlighting some key issues associated with the accurate simulation of multiaxial ratcheting phenomena. The very good comparison between numerical and experimental results, indicates that the present numerical methodology and, in particular, its implementation into a finite element environment, can be used for the reliable prediction of mechanical response of industrial piping elbows, under severe inelastic repeated loading.

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