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F / W 2009

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Pressure Vessel Finite Element Analysis

Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is a way of analyzing complete vessels or vessel components where code design rules do
not exist. It is an economical alternative to burst testing for expensive parts. It also provides useful insight into the design
stresses, even if the design is covered by code rules.
FEA can calculate shapes from simple to complex -- nozzle loads, seismic resistance, component or complete vessel cycle
life. FEA is easier to do now than when we started years ago, but interpreting results to code rules is still the hardest part, and
the key to writing a good report.
We have been doing pressure vessel FEA at Pressure Vessel Engineering for eight years. We have the ability to model,
analyze, interpret results to code rules, and write reports that can be reviewed by authorized inspectors or review engineers. In
the last year we have written more than 90 pressure vessel FEA reports. Can we help you?

Pictorial Introduction to FEA of a Simple Part

Step 1 - Build a solid model of the part. Step 2 - Mesh the part - it is divided into Step 3 - Apply loads and anchor the
Here a stainless manifold is being analyzed, small pyramids. The manifold is complex but model. The interior of the manifold and
complete with attached pipes. the rules for the pyramids are known. pipes have been presurized to 300 psi.
Stress vs. Cycles
















Step 6 - Calculate the fatigue life from the

peak stress and the ASME fatigue life
Step 4 - Run the analysis. The FEA Step 5 - Review the calculated stresses Charts. Here an infinite life is predicted.
program calculates the displacement - against the ASME code limits. The peak
magnified 500x here. stress is also used for the fatigue life. See more under sample job 6 at

Complex Part - Tubesheet Analysis

The new UHX rules provide a comprehensive set of tools to analyze
the stresses in tubesheets, the adjacent shells, and the tubes of a heat
exchanger. But what do you do when the heat exchanger falls outside the
UHX restrictions: uniform tubesheets, uniform hole patterns, equal tube
sizes? FEA can be used to analyze unusual heat exchangers, and some
Canadian provinces insist on it when UHX can not be used.
In this example a heat exchanger has unequal sized tubes. FEA is
used to compare the tubesheet, the shell adjacent to the tubesheet and the
tube axial stresses to UHX allowables. This FEA report would replace
the UHX calculations in a standard code design report that covers the rest
of the exchanger. See Sample 24 on our web site for more details.
FEA goes beyond providing pass/fail criteria on an unusual
Displacement in a tubesheet under
component - it provides insight into deflections, stresses and predicts the
combined pressure + thermal loading resulting cycle life.

ASME Code Calculations - Canadian Registration Number 519-880-9808

Finite Element Analysis - Solid Modeling and Drafting
ASME Code Calculations - Canadian Registration Number
Finite Element Analysis - Solid Modeling and Drafting

FEA Analysis of a Bolted Flanged Assembly

FEA of bolted flanged assemblies is more complex than welded
assemblies. The bolts allow some freedom of movement between bodies.
Gasket seating and operating loads and bolt preload forces need to be
calculated and applied.
Pressure vessel rules are based on a long history of practical
experience. This experience indicates that the allowable stress level for a
vessel is dependent on the location of the stress in the vessel. This
knowledge is built into design codes like ASME VIII-1 but has to be
considered carefully in FEA. Tools like stress linearization are used to
convert these stresses into pass/fail criteria. FEA tools are rapidly
getting better, but operator experience and interpretation is still critical.
FEA goes beyond providing this pass/fail criteria. FEA provides
insight into items ignored by code rules, like the bending stresses found
in the bolts of this assembly. See Sample 25 on our web site for more
At Pressure Vessel Engineering, we use FEA both to optimize new
Deformed view of a valve housing showing products, and to demonstrate that existing designs meet Canada's
typical high stresses at the flange neck difficult vessel registration requirements.

Predicted Cycle Life from FEA Analysis

Codes like ASME VIII-1 provide rules to design vessels but not to
determine their cycle life. Beyond simple shapes like spheres and
cylinders, the code rules do not calculate stresses, even if they look like
stress calculations. They are formula guides to what has worked in the
A vessel designed to ASME VIII-1 can have localized stresses in
excess of 2x to 4x the basic allowable stress. Areas like flange necks,
nozzle to shell junctions, and head knuckles are all known high stress
areas where fatigue cracking can start. These high stress areas explain
why it is so important to use ductile materials for vessels, as the stresses
can exceed the yield point. FEA computes the real stresses found in the
vessel and allows a predicted cycle life to be calculated. If the cycle life
is inadequate, alternatives can be compared until a vessel with adequate
cycle life has been designed.
Areas of high stress in a pressure See Sample #26 on our web site for more details on the cycle life
vessel designed to ASME VIII-1 rules
calculation of this filter vessel.

The Report
The job of the finite element analyst goes beyond determining what design will work. The results have to be presented in
a manner that allows others to review them. In Canada, the Alberta guidelines have become the unnofficial standard for FEA
reports. Have a look under the FEA tab on our web site for more information on this and the sample jobs we have prepared to
comply with this standard.
We have sucessfully used these reports across Canada with our difficult CRN registration process, and Internationally with
Authorized Inspector reviewed jobs. Can we help you?

Contact Us
Pressure Vessel Engineering Ltd. Phone: 519-880-9808
120 Randall Drive, Suite B Fax: 519 - 880-9810
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
N2V 1C6