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Tubular Structures XIII Young (ed)

2010 The University of Hong Kong, ISBN 978-0-415-58473-9

Static resistance of bolted circular flange joints under tensile force


M. Couchaux
CTICM, Saint-Aubin, France

M. Hjiaj
INSA, Rennes, France

I. Ryan
CTICM, Saint-Aubin, France

ABSTRACT: Bolted flange joints are commonly used for both support and continuity connections of
tubular members in a variety of structures such as trusses, communication tower pylons, chimneys, pylons
for wind turbines and ski-lift installations as well as lighting and road signal posts. It is usual to design
the flange joints such that the ultimate limit state static resistance is governed by that of the attached
tubular section. A design method suited for tensile loading of the tubular section can be readily adapted
to deal with bending also. Based on the work of Igarashi et al., a closed form solution for the ultimate
tensile resistance of a bolted flange joint is derived. The effects of contact between the two opposite
flanges are also considered. A design approach similar to that of the Eurocode 3 for T-stubs is developed.
A finite element model analysis considering elastoplastic behaviour and contact shows good agreement
with published experimental results and with the analytical model. A parametric study indicates that the
proposed analytical model should be valid for a large range of joints.
1

INTRODUCTION

Hirose (1985) proposed a yield line mechanism


which is almost axisymetric and therefore quite
similar to the failure mode proposed by Igarashi
et al. (1985).
In this paper, the model proposed by Igarashi
et al. (1985) is reformulated and extended to better
account for the effect of the position of the prying
force as well as for the action of the tube on the
joint.

Bolted circular flange joints are regularly used to


ensure the continuity of tubular sections in various
types of constructions such as trusses, chimneys
and communication towers. Many of these
joints may need to be designed for both static and
fatigue loads under combined axial and bending
loads. This study is restricted to considering the
static resistance of flange joints of circular tubes
subjected to tensile loading, it being noted that
extension to bending is readily possible. CIDECT
(2008) proposed a design method for flange joints
subjected to tensile force but no information was
given for the case of ring flanges or flanges with
central holes. The latter design method is based
on the work made by Igarashi et al. (1985) on the
tensile resistance of bolted flange joints. Those
authors considered both blank and ring flanges
and used limit analysis to derive approximate
expressions for the ultimate loads.
Models proposed by Igarashi et al. (1985) and
Kato & Hirose (1985) are based on limit analysis
while Cao & Packer (1997) have proposed design
formulae derived from an elastic analysis. While
the complex expressions given by Cao & Packer
(1997) lead to safe results, a limit analysis is more
optimal. Using the upper bound theorem, Kato &

NT

nb : Number of bolts

R
Tube

tt
Rb

bolt

e1
tf

R0

Rf

Figure 1.

Flange

e2

Main dimensions of a circular flange joint.

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Simplified formulae, quite similar to those of


Eurocode 3 (2005), for the resistances corresponding to the different failure modes are proposed for
blank and ring flange joints.
Finally, results of the analytical model and the
simplified method are compared with those of a
numerical model for a large range of joints.
2
2.1

Vr+dVr
Mr+dMr

M
Vr

ANALYTICAL MODEL

Mr

Model assumptions

The analysis of symmetrically loaded circular


flange joints using a polar symmetric model gives
useful results both for the elastic (Cao & Bell, 1997,
Couchaux et al, 2009a) and for the plastic ranges
(Igarashi et al, 1985) of behavior. It is assumed
that the tube applies an axial load to the flange
which is uniformly distributed along the tube centre wall perimeter and that the secondary tube wall
moment is constant about the latter perimeter. The
bolt loads are uniformly distributed on the circle
of the position radius Rb. The equilibrium equation of a circular plate (see Figure 2) is given as
d
M r ) = M
(rM
dr

rV
Vr

Figure 2.

rV
Vr

M r + rV
Vr

B
Mpl,f
Mpl,f

F M = t 2/4
r
r f

(1)

Tresca
D

Figure 3.

Von Mises

Tresca and Von Mises criterion in bending.

failure of the flange, tension failure of the bolts with


a part of the flange being in contact, tension failure
of the bolts with full separation of the flanges and
finally failure of the tube section.
Prying forces, which are the resultant of the
contact pressure between the two opposite flanges,
play an important role in the second failure mode.
Indeed, the ultimate load depends on the prying
force location. The prying force is often placed at
a distance n (see Figure 4) of the bolt axis as given
by EN1993-1-8 (2005):

(2)

2
where M pl , f f y, f t f 4 is the plastic bending
moment per unit length with
fy,f = yielding strength of the steel of flange.
For regime BC:

d
M r ) = M ppl
(rM
dr

Axis and solicitation of a circular plate.

M = tf2/4

While the von Mises criterion is usually appropriate to model the plastic behavior of steel, it
often proves to be difficult to apply for ultimate
load calculations. The Tresca criterion is used
instead. The expression of the Tresca yield condition for moments per unit lengths Mr and M takes
exactly the same form as it does for the stresses r
and (See Figure 3). Steel is assumed to be elastic
perfectly plastic.
Failure mechanisms considered in this study
involve regimes AB and BC (see Figure 3), only. For
these regimes, the equilibrium equation becomes:
For regime AB:
d
M r ) = M ppl
(rM
dr

n = min (e2; 1,25 m)

(4)

m is defined in EN1993-1-8 (2005).


In reality, this distance depends on the relative
stiffness of the bolt and the flange (Couchaux et al,
2009b) and therefore can vary significantly. A 2D
elastic model has been proposed to analyze the
contact pressure distribution between the flanges
of L-stubs. A fairly complex expression has been
derived for the position of the resultant prying

(3)

For a distribution of bending moments Mr and M


in the plate corresponding to a failure mechanism,
one can determine the exact limit load using the
theorems of limit analysis. The following 4 different
failure modes are considered: bending mechanism

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In fact, the tube wall plastic bending moment,


Mpl,t, is affected by the presence of the tensile
force NT. While this interaction is ignored in the
following clause, a zero moment is adopted later in
the simplified approach.

NT
m

e2
B

2.2 Failure mode 1: Yielding of the flange


In this failure mode, two collapse mechanisms
have to be considered. The first one corresponds
to a global failure mode where the whole flange
yields and leads to a plastic circular mechanism
involving the entire flange circumference. In
the second collapse mechanism, the yielding
is restricted to parts of the flange around each
bolt.

Q
Figure 4.

e1

Prying force in a ring flange joint.

force and which has been found to be in good


agreement with numerical results.
However, this length can be accurately estimated
using the following simplified expression
(Couchaux 2010):
n = min [(2e2 + )/3; + 0,74tf]

2.2.1 Global mechanism


When yielding of the flange occurs, the radial
bending moment is negative and the condition is:
Mr (Rb) = Mpl,f

(5)

The axial load in the tube associated with this


failure mechanism is denoted NT,1,pl. Both the AB
and the BC regimes have to be considered (see
Figure 5).
The regime AB has to be considered for r < 1.
Considering the equilibrium equation for regime
AB (2) and the boundary condition (7) and (8)
it can be shown that 1 verifies the following
equation:

where
3

e1 As
R 0
= e2 min 1;
1
,
, R = 4
R
t f Lbleff

e e +1
R ,0 = 2 1 3 .
(e2 e1 )
with Lb = equivalent length of a bolt of sectional
area; As and leff the equivalent length of the connection per bolt as defined in EN1993-1-8 (2005).
The application of the above expression to circular flange joints underestimates the distance
n due to the effect of circular symmetry. However this will lead to overestimating the prying
force and thus will give safe results for the joint
resistance involving bolt failure. The radius of the
circle along which the prying force, Q, is uniformly
distributed is given by:
Re = Rb + n Rf

(10)

AB

BC

Mpl,f
Mr
R0

Rb

Re Rf r

(6)
-Mpl,f

For all failure modes, the following boundary


conditions apply:
Mr (R0) = 0

(7)

Mr (R+) = Mr (R) + Mpl,t Mpl,f

(8)

Mr (Re) = 0

(9)

NT,1,pl /2R
Mpl,t

/2Rb

Q/2Re

where
M pl ,t f y,ttt2 4 , is the tube wall plastic bending
moment per unit length with
fy,t = yield strength of the tube steel.

Figure 5. Deformation and bending moment diagram


for mode 1.

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( )

Mr
M pl
1= R 1 +

n1 1

where
n1 =

NT 1 pl

, k2 =

2 M pl , f

( )=M

Mr R

pl f

< Rb

n1

(11)

Approximation

R0
,
R

Exact

k2 ) + M pl ,t

M pl f .

The regime BC is considered for the rest of the


flange. Hence, according to the equilibrium equation (3) and taking into account the continuity condition of the bending moment at r = 1, the radial
bending moment Mr has the following expression:
M r (r ) = M pl

(n1 ) ln

1
r

x=e-k1

(12)

Figure 6. Comparison of exact and approximate solution for n1.

The condition of yielding (10), the expression


of the radial bending moment (12) and the radius
1(11) give:

( )

M r R M pl
1
k1 + ln 1 +

n1 1
n1 1

=0

(13)

l2
C

A
l1

e2

l3
C
D

where
Figure 7.

R
k1 = ln b .
R
A closed form solution of equation (13) has been
obtained but it involves complicated expressions.
By expanding the function ln (1+ x) in expression
(13) about zero using a Taylor series the following
simpler solution is obtained:

This ultimate load depends on the angle


which is selected so as to minimize the resistance
NT,1,pl. Several shapes of the plastic zone can be
considered. Instead, it is proposed here to adapt
the various forms of failure mechanisms that
are given in EN1993-1-8 (2005) for T-stubs (see
Figure 8). A lower bound limit is given by the following expression:

( )

k ) + Mr R

(14)
k1
For a blank flange, the ratio n1 calculated via
expression (14) is presented in Figure 6 and compared to the exact solution of equation (13). The
approximate solution slightly overestimates n1.
Note that for ring flange the exact and approximate solution are similar.
NT 1 pl =

2 M pl , f

NT

pl

M pl f nb 4

l2

l3

pl

M pl f nb i

4 ; 2 + 4

(16)

where
e
2.3

2.2.2 Local mechanism


When the circumferential spacing between the
bolts is sufficiently large, a local failure mechanism
may develop around each bolt. Igarashi et al (1985)
proposed the following local mechanism:
The corresponding ultimate load is given by
NT

Local mechanism around a bolt.

R 2f m 2

Rb

Failure mode 2: Yielding of bolts


in the presence of prying forces

When the tensile resistance is reached in all bolts,


two failure modes are possible depending on the
geometry of the joint:
Mode 2-1: The radial bending is always positive.
Mode 2-2: The radial bending becomes negative
at a certain radius.
In all the cases, the total of the bolt forces is

(15)

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e'
FT, pl 2 + 4 Mpl, f
m

AB

Mpl,f
Mr

m
e

e2

R0

FT, pl = 4 Mpl, f

Re

Rb

NT,2-1,pl /2 R
z

Ft,pl /2 Rb
Mpl,t

Q/2 Re

Figure 8.

Figure 9. Deformation and bending moment diagram


for Mode 21.

Local mechanisms around bolt.

2.3.2 Mode 2-2


This mode is equivalent to the second mode proposed by Igarashi et al. (1985). The circumferential
curvature is taken equal to zero along the flange for
r ranging between R0 and 22 (see Figure 10).
The radial bending moment diagram is similar
to that obtained for mode 1 but the moment is
always lower than Mpl,f. Hence for Rb < r <Re, the
expression for the radial bending moment is:

B = Ft,pl = nbFt,pl = 0,9nbAs fyb


where As = cross section area of the bolt; fyb = yield
strength of steel of bolts.
The tensile resistance of bolts is multiplied by
0,9 to compensate for the effects of bolt bending
moments which are not explicitly considered.
2.3.1 Mode 2-1
This mode is equivalent to the first mode proposed by Igarashi et al (1985). The circumferential
curvature is equal to zero over all the flange and
plastic axial resistance is reached in all bolts (see
Figure 9).
Since the radial bending moment is always positive, equilibrium equation (2) has to be used. It can
be shown that the tensile resistance is given by
NT 2 1 pl
=

M r (r ) = M pl f ( n

(18)

( + ) R + Ft pl (Re Rb )

, n2

NT 2

2 pl

2 M pl , f

Considering the condition at the edge of the


flange (9) and (18) we get:

Re R

( )

M r + M pl
= R 1 +

n2 2 1

Mr R

(17)
It is to be noted that mode 2-1 may occur only if
the following condition is verified:

R
2 2 Ft pl

ln b .
r
2 M pl , f
r

where

2 M pl , f Re R

) ln

( )

M r + M pl
= R 1 +

n2 1 1

1
n2

Rb

F t pl

(k1 k3 )
1 2 M pl , f
M r R + M pl
= k3 + l 1 +

n2 2 1

( )

(19)

where

Furthermore, Couchaux (2010) observed that


failure in mode 2-1 was never predicted in an
analytical parametric study covering a large range
of joints.

k3 = ln

Re
.
R

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NT,4,pl = Afy,t

BC

AB

where A = cross section area of the tube.

Mpl,f

Mr

R0

(22)

2.6
Rb

Re

Tensile resistance of circular bolted flange


joints

The tensile resistance of a circular bolted flange


joint corresponds to the lowest ultimate load for
each failure mode:
NT,pl = min[NT,1,pl; NT,21,pl; NT,22,pl; NT,3,pl; NT,4,pl;]

-Mpl,f

(23)
NT,2-2,pl /2 R
z
Mpl,t

Ft,pl / 2 Rb

SIMPLIFIED METHOD

3.1 Objective
The analytical model proposed in paragraph 2 is
applicable to all types of circular flange joints.
However, the expressions for mode 1 and mode
2 type failures developed in section 2 may not be
very convenient for design office use. In this section, we propose a simplification by firstly neglecting the influence of the tube wall bending moment
which is particularly relevant for the common case
of relatively small wall thickness to flange thickness. Secondly many joints used in steel construction have either blank flanges or ring flange for
which R0 is equal to R. The simplifications proposed here are applied to the latter two types of
joints. In the particular case of ring flange joints
whose hole radius R0 is less than that of the tube
R, the method proposed in this paragraph for ring
flange joints gives safe results. For mode 2 failure
(bolt failure in the presence of prying forces) mode
22 can be taken.
Obviously, joint resistance corresponding to
mode 3 and mode 4 are given by expressions (21)
and (22) for all types of circular flange joints.
The tensile resistance of a ring flange joint is
calculated using the new expressions for modes 1
and 2 in addition to those for modes 3 and 4. For
design purposes, relevant partial safety coefficients
need to be introduced into the expressions given
above and below.

Q/ 2 Re

Figure 10. Deformation and bending moment diagram


for mode 2-2.

Again, by expanding the function ln(1+x) in


expression (19) about zero using a Taylor serie the
following expression for the tensile resistance of
mode 2-2 is obtained:

NT

2 2 pl

( )

2 M pl , f k + M r R + + F t

k3

ppl

[k3 k1 ]

(20)
The above expression involve terms that are
related to the flange bending resistance, tube bending resistance and bolt tensile resistance.
2.4

Failure mode 3: Yielding of bolt without


prying force

When failure of bolts occurs with full separation


of the flange, the plastic resistance of the joint is:
NT,3,pl = Ft,pl

(21)
3.2 Method for ring flange joint

This failure mode can be observed when the


ratio of the tube diameter to the flange thickness
is low.

Neglecting the contribution of the tube to the


resistance and considering that R0 = R in (14) and
(20), the tensile resistance of mode 1 becomes:

2.5 Failure mode 4: Yielding of the tube


NT

This mode, which may be trivial in many practical


cases, corresponds to yielding of the tube section.
Ignoring any secondary tube wall moment, the axial
plastic resistance of the tube section is equal to

pl

1
2 M pl f 1 +
k1
e

M pl , f nb in 4 ; 2 + 4

(24)

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and the tensile resistance of mode 2 is:


2 M pl

Ft ppll 1 k1

NT

pl

3.3

Method for blank flange joint

Contact elements

(25)

Neglecting the contribution of the tube to the


resistance and considering that R0 = 0 in (14) and
(20), the tensile resistance of mode 1 becomes:
NT

pl

2
2 M pl f 1 +
k1
e

M pl , f nb in 4 ; 2 + 4

(26)
Figure 11.
joint.

and the tensile resistance of mode 2 is given by:


NT

pl

1
2 M pl f 1 + + Ft
k
3

ppll

k1
1
k3

(27)

Geometry and meshing of a ring flange

(MPa)

fu

NUMERICAL MODEL, VALIDATION


fy

4.1

Numerical model

The numerical model was built using the Finite


element code ANSYS V11.0. Cao & Bell (1996)
and Couchaux et al. (2009a) have developed quite
similar models whose predictions of the bolt force
were compared with experimental results and
good agreement was found in the elastic range.
Joints are generated with three dimensional elements, which are hexahedral or tetrahedral bricks.
For bolts a constant cross-section equal to the
effective cross area specified by EN1993-1-8
(2005) is considered over the entire length including the threaded part. Two types of contact elements are also used: a) Flexible contact elements
between the flange and the bolt and b) Rigid contact elements between one flange and the plane
of symmetry.
An isotropic Coulomb friction law ( = 0,25)
is used to reproduce sliding and sticking conditions
between the flange and the bolt head. Friction is
neglected between the two flanges because of the
symmetry. In fact, when the joints are subjected to
a tensile force, it is possible to take into account the
symmetry of the joint geometry and the loading.
Hence just a quarter of the joints is represented.
A vertical displacement is applied at the end of the
tube and a plane of symmetry in contact with the
flange is created.
The stress-strain relationship for the steel (flange,
tube and bolts) is assumed to be multi-linear (see
Figure 12). Large deformations are also considered. As soon as the deformation level reaches u,

Collapse :

r=10
r=

Figure 12.

u +1

Stress-strain relationship for steel.

Sj/10

N T,u

N T,pl

Sj
u

Figure 13.

Force displacement curve of a joint.

the stress drops to 10 MPa in order to model the


failure of the element. This phenomena leads
either to a drop of the force applied to the joint or
to the termination of the calculation. This state is
assumed to be the ultimate state for the joint. The
criterion of the yielding surface is Von-Mises.

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The mechanical characteristics used in the analysis


are presented in Table 2. The Young modulus and
the Poisson Coefficient are equal to 210 GPa and
0,3, respectively.

The plastic resistance, NT,pl is generally defined


as the resistance of an elastic perfectly plastic
joint. In reality, strain hardening always exists
and this resistance needs to be defined. Several
methods have been proposed for the calculation of this plastic resistance such as the ECCS
method (1986). The plastic resistance is defined
as the intersection of the initial stiffness line
with the tangent to the load-displacement curve
whose slope is equal to the initial stiffness dived
by 10 (see Figure 13).

4.3 Comparisons
Plastic resistances obtained via the analytical
model and the simplified method has been compared with the predictions of the numerical model
for joints presented in paragraph 4.2.
Furthermore a comparison has been made with
the experimental results given by Igarashi et al
(1985) and interpreted also with the ECCS method.
In the latter comparison, steel mechanical properties used in the analytical model are those obtained
experimentally by Igarashi et al. (1985).
In Figure 14, the tensile resistance obtained
via tests (numerical or experimental) and analytical results are compared. The Plastic resistance is
underestimated by the analytical model for thin
flanges.
In Figure 15, the tensile resistance obtained
via tests (numerical or experimental) and the
predictions given by the simplified method are
compared. The plastic resistance obtained via
the simplified method seems to be not far from
the resistance predicted by the analytical model

4.2 Parametric study


A parametric FEM study has been carried out
by Couchaux (2010) and the results as interpreted by the ECCS method were compared to
the predictions by the analytical model presented
in this paper. Although only the results for some
of the joints studied are presented here they cover
a large range of ring flange joints. The tube diameter was varied from 76 to 1020 mm. The Table 1
presents main dimension of the joints:
The dimension of the bolt respect specification
of EN14399-3 (2004). The weld throat size is taken
as equal to the tube wall thickness in all cases.
The class of the bolt is 10.9 for tubes of 762 and
1020 mm in diameter and 8.8 for other diameters.
Table 1.

Main dimensions of joints.

Joints

Rf (mm)

nb
Rb (mm)

tf (mm)

Tube

d* (mm)

C1
C2
C3
C4
C5
C6
C7
C8
C9

100
100
160
160
190
458
526
526
620

70
70
120
120
150
422
462
462
570

20
25
102030
3040
40
40
40
4060
40

76,1*8
76,1*6
114,3*8
168,3*10
216,3*10
762*12,5
762*16
762*6
1020*10

16
16
20
20
24
24
24
24
30

6
8
8
8
12
24
24
24
3050

(*) d: bolt diameter.


Table 2.

Mechanical characteristics of steel.

Elements

fy (MPa)

fu (MPa)

y (%)

Bolt 8.8
Bolt 10.9
Flange
Tube 216,3*10
Tube 762*12,5
Tube 762*6/16
Other tube

640
900
371
420
355
235
371

840
1050
730
562
630
360
562

18
18
30
30
30
30
30

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Simplified formulae, quite similar to those of


Eurocode 3 (2005), for the resistances corresponding to the different failure modes are proposed for
blank and ring flange joints. The predictions of
the analytical model and the simplified method are
compared against F.E. results. A quite good agreement is obtained, particularly for thick flanges.
Enhancement of the proposed analytical model to
deal with joints in bending is being developed.
REFERENCES
Figure 14.
ones.

Comparison of analytical results with test

Figure 15.
tests.

Comparison: Simplified method versus

Cao, J.J. & Bell, A.J.1996. Experimental study of circular


flange joints in tubular structures, The Journal of Strain
Analysis for Engineering Design 31(4): 259267.
Cao, J.J. & Packer, J.A. 1997. Design of tension circular
flange joints in tubular structures, Engineering journal, 34(1): 1725.
Couchaux, M., Ryan, I. & Hjiaj, M. 2009a. Stress concentration factors for the fatigue design of tubular
flange connections, 11th Nordic Steel Construction
Conference, Malm, Sweden.
Couchaux, M., Hjiaj, M., Ryan, I. & Bureau, A. 2009b.
Effect of contact on the elastic behavior of bolted
flange connections, 11th Nordic Steel Construction
Conference, Malm, Sweden.
Couchaux, M. 2010. Behavior of bolted circular flange
joints, PhD Thesis, INSA of Rennes (in French).
ECCS, 1986. Recommended testing procedures for
assessing the behavior of structural elements under
cyclic loads, European Convention for Constructional
Steelwork, Technical Committee 1, TWG 13Seismic
Design, No. 45.
Eurocode 3 2005. Design of steel structuresPart 18:
Designs of joints.
Igarashi, S., Wakiyama, K., Inoue, K., Matsumoto, T. &
Murase, Y. 1985. Limit design of high strength bolted
tube flange joints: Part 1. Joint without rib-plates
and ring-stiffeners, Journal of structural and construction engineering, Transactions of AIJ 354: (5266)
(in Japanese).
Kato, B. & Hirose, R. 1985. Bolted Tension Flanges
Joining Circular Hollow Section Members, Journal of
Constructional Steel Research 5(2): 79101.
NF EN 14399-3: 2004 High-strength structural bolting
assemblies for preloading.
Wardenier, J., Kurobane, Y., Packer, J.A., Dutta, D. &
Yeomans, N. 2008. Design guide for circular hollow
section (CHS) joints under predominantly static loading, CIDECT.

when both the bolts and obviously the tube yield.


For thinner flanges, the plastic resistance can be
significantly underestimated by the simplified
method.
5

SUMMARY

In this paper, an analytical model has been proposed to evaluate the tensile resistance of bolted
flange joints of circular tubes. This model is an
extension of the model proposed by Igarashi et al.
In the extended model the effect of the position of
the prying force as well as the local resistance of
the tube are better accounted for.

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