ISSN 1450216X Vol. 93 No 2 December, 2012, pp.279288
©EuroJ ournals Publishing, Inc. 2012
http://www.europeanjournalofscientificresearch.com
Finite Element Analysis of Bolted Joint of Flat Faced
Flanges with Metal to Metal Contact Beyond Bolt Circle
T. Annilkumar
Faculty of Aeronautical Engineering, Noorul Islam University
Thuckalay629 175, India
Email: annilkumart@yahoo.co.in
Tel: +918807331697
T. Christopher
Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Government College of Engineering
Tirunelveli627 007, India
Email: christo59@rediffmail.com
Abstract
Bolts in flanges of pressure vessels apparently take tensile loads while the cylinder
is subjected to internal pressure. However flange will be subjected to a shear force and a
bending moment which are transmitted to bolts. Hence, the bolts also take bending loads.
The present work aims at reconsidering one of the techniques outlined in existing literature
for flanges making contact beyond bolt circle and validation of the results through finite
element analysis. Effects of internal pressure and the applied prestress in the bolt have
been studied, for the calculated values of contact radius. Using the same input parameters a
finite element model has been formulated and analyzed in detail. It is seen that, the
theoretical calculations and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) results for bolt stress, contact
stress, contact radius and radial displacements are very close to each other. Force balance
calculation from the results of FEA has also been demonstrated.
Keywords: Bolt Stress, Prestress, Contact Stress, Finite Element Analysis, Radial
Displacement.
1. Introduction
Pressure vessels are leak tight containers. They invariably have flat or domed ends normally attached
to the cylindrical part through a flanged bolted connection at least on one end. Bolts apparently take
tensile loads while the cylinder is subjected to internal pressure. However the flange has comparatively
higher thickness than that of shell and has geometric discontinuity taking place at the flangeshell
junction. Due to this, the flange will be subjected to a shear force and a bending moment which are in
turn resisted by the shell part. The bending moment and shear force even get transmitted to bolts.
Hence instead of taking a pure tensile load, the bolts also take bending loads. In such complex state of
stress, it becomes essential to assess maximum stress experienced by the bolt and hence to design the
joint effectively.
Thompson et al., [1] have conducted experimental and numerical studies of a model of an
isolated single bolt region, where they have delineated the region of flanges around each bolt. Here the
Finite Element Analysis of Bolted J oint of Flat Faced Flanges with Metal to
Metal Contact Beyond Bolt Circle 280
stress state is strongly three dimensional and the region where simple plate theory is applicable. They
have established relationship between contact stress distribution and the various geometric parameters.
They have demonstrated the contact stress due to prestressing force closely approximated by a
distributed load with the shape of the truncated cone. However their analysis does not include the
effects of internal pressure of a cylinder. Varga et al., [2] have presented a model for calculation of
optimal prestressing of bolted flanges in order to eliminate under stressing and over stressing of a
flange connection there by effective sealing is achieved at the same time saving the gasket. Moment
and shear forces developed due to internal pressure have been taken in to the account for calculation
stiffness of the elements. They have prompted that precision of their estimation could be improved by
modeling the behavior of gasket material and elasticplastic nature of material of flange. Eberhard et
al., [3] have conducted experimental studies for attaining metal to metal contact in presence of gasket
and the effects of groove and gasket geometry in obtaining a leakage free joint.
Hildegards et al., [4] have presented EN 1951 advantages and comparison with Taylors Forge
method in the leak tightness and strength criteria of bolted flange connection. It is based on axially
symmetrical mechanical model taking in to account the whole flanges  boltsgasket system behavior.
It also considers laws of rhelogy and deformation compatibility of the bolted flanges connection
components. Maggi et al., [5] in their work presented the results of parametric analysis on the behavior
of bolted extended end plate connection using finite element. Tsute [6] presented a numerical
technique to analyse preloading and application of internal pressure as dynamic loads in containment
vessel. Abid et al., [7] have adapted an axisymetric modeling using finite element technique to analyse
a gasket bolted joint. They [8] also have presented a work of parametric study of metal to metal contact
flange using the same technique.
It is known that, bolted connection involves complex phenomena and hard to simulate with
simple analytical formulations. Use of finite element model is a potential tool for refinements in the
correct design approaches in order to improve characterization of the actual behavior of connection [5].
Methods exist for the design of circular flanges subjected to internal pressure when gaskets are
contained within the bolt circle and when the flanges do not make contact beyond the bolt circle. Water
et al., [9] have contributed to the theory of these so called conventional flanges. Proper theoretical
background supported by experimental and numerical techniques are essential to establish a reliable
method of design in case of flanges with metal to metal contact beyond the bolt circle. This work aims
at reconsidering one of the techniques outlined in [10] for such a joint and validation of the results
through finite element analysis.
2. Analytical Approach
The bolted flanged assembly considered in this study is for service under internal pressure. The flanges
are bolted directly together. The pipe/vessel wall is welded to flange ring such that flange and shell
react as a continuous structure. The gasket is approximately in line with the pipe/vessel wall and gasket
seating loads are small and may be neglected. Flanges and bolts have stable elastic properties. The
flange is treated as being comprised of series of radial beams. Bolted connection being a complex
structure, each element is to be represented by a free body. After all known and unknown forces are
applied, equilibrium equations are written expressing the fact than the flange and shell must be
compatible at the junction. The simultaneous solutions of the equations yield the unknown forces.
The flange ring may be treated as being comprised of a series of discrete radial beams with
forces applied at the flangeshell junction, bolt circle and bearing circle. Though the radial beams
resemble trapezoidal, as a further modification, the radial beams are taken as uniformly c wide from
base to bolt circle and uniformly a wide from bolt circle to outside diameter. The detail of bolted
flange under study is shown in Figure 1. Figure 2 shows the details of modified beam. The flange ring
behavior under the specified system of forces have been analyzed on the basis of ring theory, beam
theory using trapezoidal element and beam theory using modified beam [10]. The agreement between
281 T. Annilkumar and T. Christopher
the three methods is shown to be excellent. The flanges are assumed to support each other beyond the
bolt circle by distributed reactive forces, the centroid of which is equivalent to simple support. Finding
the location of the centroid (b from bolt circle) is an essential step in designing flat face flanges. Levy
[11] assumed a line contact where slope of the beam is calculated to be zero under the imposed loads.
The fact that the position he assumed for line contact and the location of the centriod of distributed
contact forces to be same have been confirmed by a beam loading test with instrumentation for
measurement of strains [10].
Figure 1: Nomenclature of bolted flange
Figure 2: Modified equivalent beam
Referring to the free body diagram (Figure 3), it can be observed that, due to the applied
internal pressure P, a meridional force F, a moment M, a shear force Q, a bolt load B and a reaction
force (due to contact) R are induced in the elements. The bolt load B depends on the applied tightening
stress (prestress) also. Corresponding to the flange free body diagram, equivalent beam, loading and
M/EI diagram are shown in Figure 4. The slope of the beam at the flange shell junction is given by the
area under M/EI diagram [10].
Finite Element Analysis of Bolted J oint of Flat Faced Flanges with Metal to
Metal Contact Beyond Bolt Circle 282
Figure 3: Freebody diagram of a flange
( )
( )
2
2
1 max 3
6 1
2
;
2
a b Qt a b
Fl M l b b
Eat c l c l
v
u
÷
(      
= + + + + <
   (
\ . \ . \ . ¸ ¸
(1)
Where, F is axial load due to pressure,
2
m
PR
F =
Moment M and shear force Q are obtained by considering deflection compatibility at the flange
shell junction.
1
2 1 max 2 2
;
2
m
Eh
M u u b b
R
u
 
(
= ÷ ÷ <
(
¸ ¸
(2)
1
2 1 max 2
;
2
m
Eh
Q u u b b
R
u
 
(
= ÷ ÷ <
(
¸ ¸
(3)
Where,
( )
1
4 2
2 2
3 1
m
R h
v

(
÷
( =
(
¸ ¸
(4)
1 1 max
;
2
A B
t
u K K Q b b u = + + <
(5)
2
2
1
2
m
PR
u
Eh
v  
÷

\ .
=
(6)
In equation (1), the contact distance from bolt circle b is determined by means of bolt flange
compatibility analysis.
( )
( )
3
3
max
3 2
1 ;
1
4 1
2
b
K F
b Eat
l
b b
Qt l Kl
F M
l
o
v
(
÷
(
 
( = ÷ <

  ÷ \ . (
+ +

(
\ . ¸ ¸
(7)
The operating bolt load is found by using the loading diagram of figure 4.
283 T. Annilkumar and T. Christopher
Figure 4: Loading and M / EI diagrams of equivalent beam
max
1
1 ;
2
l Qt
B F M b b
b b
    
= + + + <
  
\ . \ .\ .
(8)
From the above, equation operating bolt stress is calculated using
' B
B
N A
o =
(9)
where,
( )
2
max
1
2
m
b m
l
PR
b
A
N R l o
 
+

\ .
=
+
(10)
and
' m
m
R l
N N
R
  +
=

\ .
(11)
In order to compute the bolt stress, the calculations are not straight forward. Following
algorithm is recommended [10]. Initially it is assumed that θ
1
= 0 and u
1
=K
A
where
( )
( )
2
2
2
2
0.3
m m m
A
m m
R L R PR
K
E
R L R
(
+ +
= + (
+ ÷
(
¸ ¸
(12)
( )
( )
2
2
2
2
0.3
m m m
B
m m
R L R R
K
tE
R L R
(
+ +
= + (
+ ÷
(
¸ ¸
(13)
Equation (2) and (3) are solved for first approximation of M and Q by solving equation (7) by
Newton Raphson method, first approximation of b is obtained. Now θ
1
can be calculated. All the
calculated values of M, Q, b and θ
1
are approximate. The above sequences of computations are
repeated till the values of M and Q are converged. Corresponding values of b are evaluated. Bolt stress
is obtained from equation (8) and (9).
Finite Element Analysis of Bolted J oint of Flat Faced Flanges with Metal to
Metal Contact Beyond Bolt Circle 284
3. Finite Element Simulation
Waters et al., [12] have studied a configuration of bolted flange with the details in Table 1. They have
demonstrated effect of prestress in the bolt for assumed values of b. In the present work, with a
program written in c, following the algorithm outlined in previous section, for the input values listed
above, bolt stress σ
B
has been evaluated. Effect of internal pressure P and the prestress σ
I
have been
studied, for the calculated values of b. Using the same input parameters a finite model has been created
and analysed. ANSYS V11.0 has been used with element type solid – plane182 with Axisymmetric
option. The geometric model created is shown in Figure 5. It is to be mentioned that, the bolted joint
being axisymmetric in nature, this advantages is taken in modeling and choosing the element type.
Contacts have been defined along mating faces of flanges as well as bolt and head. Prestress is applied
as external loading, constraints and internal pressure are applied on relevant edges. Nonlinear analysis
is carried out in ANSYS and various results are picked by repeating the analysis for various internal
pressure values.
Figure 5: Geometric Model of bolted connection in a pressure vessel
View at A
Table 1: Geometric details of bolted joint under study [12]
R
m
254 mm l
e
60.96 mm
L 38.1 mm A 104.516 mm
2
b
max
38.1 mm h 12.7 mm
t
c
22.86 mm E 2.1 X 10
5
N/mm
2
t
f
14.472 mm P 0.6895 N/mm
2
N 0.01091 bolts/ mm of circumference of bolt circle
Two different modeling techniques are employed to find bolt stress as well as contact stress. In
the modeling for determination of bolt stress, the bolt width (axisymmetric) is taken such that the total
ring area formed by the width equals total area of cross section of all the bolts, and the prestress is
applied as external load to the bolt end while, the head is resting on top flange. In the modeling for
determination of contact stress, common nodes in the width equivalent to bolt are merged among two
flanges and prestress is applied on nodes in the width equivalent to bolt head.
285 T. Annilkumar and T. Christopher
4. Results and Discussion
Analytical calculations through programming and Finite Element Analysis have been carried out for
different prestress conditions and gradually increasing applied internal pressure. Table 2 presents a
comparison of bolt stress values obtained both analytically and through Finite Element Analysis
(FEA). It can be seen that both analytical and FEA results are very close to each other. In FEA, values
of b are obtained from contact stress plots by finding the centre of gravity of contact area. Figure 6
shows graphical comparisons of bolt stress values obtained through analytical calculation and FEA for
various applied pressures under three different prestress conditions. In all the cases, the finite element
analysis values are very close to the analytical results. This shows the validity of modeling technique
adopted. Figure 7 shows comparison of variation of displacement values obtained by FEA with internal
pressure under an applied bolt prestress value of 215 MPa. The trend is well simulated, with
reasonable of agreement between the analytical and FEA results.
Figure 6: Comparison of variation of bolt stress through theory and FEA with internal pressure
Figure 7: Radial displacement of flangeshell junction
Finite Element Analysis of Bolted J oint of Flat Faced Flanges with Metal to
Metal Contact Beyond Bolt Circle 286
Table 2: Comparison of Analytical and FEA results of bolt stress
σ
I
MPa
Theory –Eqn 7&9 FEA
b mm σ
B
MPa b mm σ
B
MPa
82.74 30.70 121.11 26.29 144.79
153.75 15.49 183.08 15.95 176.89
215.12 10.14 249.70 11.13 231.45
An effort is made to make a force balance from the result of FEA. Contact stress distributions
are obtained and a typical plot is shown in Figure 8, which corresponds to applied pressure of 0.689
MPa under prestress of 153.75 MPa. The maximum contact pressure is 6.54 MPa with b =15.95 mm.
Average contact pressure is calculated as of 3.36 MPa. Bolt stress corresponding to this pressure (Refer
Table 2) is 176.89 MPa. Average meridional stress noted from FEA is 6.556 MPa in a shell thickness
of 12.7 mm. Considering the whole circumference of shell (Rm =254 mm), bolt circle (Rm +l =292.1
mm) and contact circle (Rm +l +b =308.05 mm), force calculations are shown in Table 3. Referring
Figure 4 and on balancing the forces F+R=B, the error has been found to be 2.9 % which shows
correctness of modeling and analysis. It has been (figure 9) observed from the analysis that, the bolt
stress largely depends on prestress, not on internal pressure. This is due to the applied high prestress
which is essential to guard against leakage.
Figure 8: Contact stress with internal pressure of 0.689 MPa under a prestress of 153.75 MPa
Figure 9: Effect of prestress on bolt stress under internal pressure of 0.83 MPa
287 T. Annilkumar and T. Christopher
Table 3: Force calculation
Force & Location Radius mm Equivalent width mm Stress, MPa Force, N
F, Shell 254.5 12.70 6.56 133275
B, Bolt Circle 292.1 1.14 176.90 370270
R, Contact Circle 308.1 38.10 3.36 247919
5. Conclusion
In the present work, one of the theoretical approaches with fundamental understanding of the bolted
connection has been reconsidered and effect of internal pressure, applied prestress in the bolt have
been studied. It is concluded that theoretical calculations and FEA results for bolt stress, contact stress,
contact radius, and radial displacement are very close to each other.
References
[1] Thompson, J .C., and Sze, Y., and Strevel, D.G., and J ofriet, J .C., 1976. “The Interface
Boundary Conditions for Bolted Flanged Connections”, J ournal of Pressure vessel Technology,
Transactions of ASME, 76PVP4, pp. 16.
[2] Varga, L., and Baratosy, J ., 1995. “Optimal prestressing of bolted flanges”, Int. J . Pres. Ves. &
Piping, 63, pp. 2534.
[3] Eberhard Roos, and Hans Kockelmann, and Rolf Hahn, 2002. “Gasket characteristics for the
design of bolted flange connection of metaltometal contact type”, International J ournal of
Pressure Vessels and Piping, 79, pp. 4552.
[4] Hildegard Zerres, and Yann Guerout, 2004. “Present calculation methods dedicated to bolted
flanged connections”, International J ournal of Pressure Vessels and Piping, 81, pp. 211216.
[5] Maggi, Y.I., Goncalves, R.M., Leon, R.T., and Ribeiro L.F.L., 2005. “Parametric analysis of
steel bolted end plate connections using finite element modeling”, J ournal of Constructional
Steel Research, 61, pp. 689708.
[6] Tsute Wu, 2005. “Stress and sealing performance analysis of containment vessel”, ASME
Pressure vessels and piping Division conference, PVP 200571538, pp.15.
[7] Abid, M., and Nash, D.H., 2003. “Comparative study of the behavior of conventional gasketed
and compact nongasketed flanged pipe joints under bolt up and operating conditions”,
International J ournal of Pressure Vessels and Piping, 80, pp. 831841.
[8] Abid, M., and Nash, D.H., 2004. “Parametric study of metal – to – metal contact flanges with
optimized geometry for safe stress and noleak conditions”, International journal of pressure
vessels and piping, 81, pp. 6774.
[9] Waters, E.O., Wesstrom, D.B., Rossheim, D.B., and Williams, F.S.G., “Formulas for stresses
in bolted Flanged Connections”, Trans. ASME, 59, pp. 161169.
[10] Schneider, R. W., 1968. “Flat Face Flanges with MetalToMetal Contact Beyond the Bolt
Circle” J . of Engineering for Power, 90, pp. 867873.
[11] Levy, S.,1963. “Design Criteria for Zeroleakage Connectors for Launch Vehicles, Vol.4,
Design of Connectors,” General Electric Report No.63GL44, March 15, Section 41.
[12] Waters, E.O., and Schneider, R.W., 1969. “AxiSymmetric NonIdentical Flat Face Flanges
With MetaltoMetal Contact Beyond the Bolt Circle”, ASME J . of Engineering for Industry,
91, No.3, pp. 883890.
Nomenclature
A crosssectional area of one bolt at root of thread or section of least diameter mm
2
a width of beam between bolt circle and outside diameter mm
B calculated operating bolt load per beam at design pressure N/beam
Finite Element Analysis of Bolted J oint of Flat Faced Flanges with Metal to
Metal Contact Beyond Bolt Circle 288
b Distance from bolt circle to flangespacer or flangeflange bearing circle mm
b
max
Distance from bolt circle to the outer edge of flange mm
c Width of beam between midradius of shell and bolt circle mm
d diameter of bolt hole mm
E Modulus of elasticity of flange and bolt material. N/mm
2
F Axial load due to pressure N/mm
h Shell thickness mm
K bolt stiffness N/mm/beam
K
A
Outward radial deflection of flange due to pressure mm
K
B
Factor so that K
B
Q is outward radial deflection of flange due to shear force Q mm
2
/N
l
e
Effective strain length of bolts and studs mm
L width of flange mm
l distance from midthickness of shell to bolt circle mm
M meridional bending moment at flangeshell junction Nmm/mm
N number of bolts /mm of circumference of bolt circle mm
1
N’ number of bolts per beam 
P design pressure N/mm
2
Q shear force at flangeshell junction N/mm
R Reaction at contact surface N
R
m
radius to midthickness of shell mm
t thickness of flange mm
t
s
thickness of spacer mm
u
1
total outward radial deflection of flange at flangeshell junction mm
u
2
outward radial deflection of shell due to pressure mm
V Poisson’s ratio 
θ
1
slope of flange at junction of shell when b <b
max
Radians
β factor in shell equations 
δ total initial strain in a bolt due to pretensioning mm
σ
b
allowable bolt stress N/mm
2
σ
B
calculated operating bolt stress at design pressure N/mm
2
σ
f
allowable flange stress N/mm
2
σ
I
initial bolt stress due to pretensioning N/mm
2
σ
c
calculated circumferential stress in shell at flangeshell junction (membrane plus bending) N/mm
2
σ
H
calculated longitudinal stress in shell at flangeshell junction(membrane plus bending stress), N/mm
2
σ
R
calculated radial stress in flange N/mm
2
σ
T
Calculated tangential stress in flange N/mm
2