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Bolt preload scatter and relaxation behaviour

during tightening a 4 in-900# flange joint with
spiral wound gasket
M Abid* and S Hussain
Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology,
Topi, Pakistan

The manuscript was received on 16 August 2007 and was accepted after revision for publication on 20 November 2007.

DOI: 10.1243/09544089JPME160

Abstract: Gasketed bolted flange pipe joints are found prone to leakage during operating con-
ditions. Therefore, performance of a gasketed flange joint is highly dependent on the proper
joint assembly with proper gasket, proper gasket seating stress, and proper preloading in the
bolts of a joint. For a gasketed flange joint, the two main concerns are the joint strength and
the sealing capability. To investigate these, a detailed three-dimensional non-linear finite-
element analysis (FEA) of a gasketed joint is carried out using a spiral wound gasket. FEA results
are compared with the experimental results and are found to be in good agreement, hence vali-
dating the FE model developed. Bolt scatter, bolt bending, and bolt relaxation are considered to
be the main factors affecting the joint performance. In addition, the importance of proper bolt
tightening sequence and number of passes and the influence of elastic and elasto-plastic
material modelling on joint performance are also presented. Stress variation in the flange
due to flange rotation highlighted joint strength, and gasket contact/seating stress variation
highlighted the sealing performance during bolt up. Modelling the non-linearity of the
spiral wound gasket using non-linear elements highlights reduced joint strength and sealing
performance. Summarizing, a dynamic mode in a gasketed joint is concluded, which is the
main reason for its failure.

Keywords: bolt, relaxation, gasketed, joint, dynamic, tightening, sequence, spiral wound,

1 INTRODUCTION experimental and numerical investigations [4, 5] lim-

ited to the linear elastic material modelling are
Gasketed pipe flange joints are widely used in performed to estimate bolt preload scatter due to
industry to connect pipe to pipe or pipe to equip- the elastic materials interaction in the process of
ment. These are used in a wide variety of different successive bolt tightening. However, these do not
applications from water supply to high pressure and consider bolt bending behaviour, flange rotation,
high temperature processes. In a gasketed pipe and flange stress variation. Detailed experimental
joint, problems of bolt bending, bolt preload scatter, studies are performed by Abid et al. [1 – 3] to highlight
and joint relaxation is observed during joint assem- these with special emphasis on joint strength
bly, concluding its dynamic mode-of-load [1 – 3], and sealing capabilities. In this study, a detailed
which results in poor sealing and strength. Some three-dimensional non-linear finite-element analysis
(FEA) of a gasketed joint is carried out using a spiral
wound gasket, of the type mostly used in the industry.
*Corresponding author: Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, FEA results compared with the experimental results
Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and are found to be in good agreement, thereby validating
Technology, Topi, NWFP 23460, Pakistan. email: abid@giki. the FE model developed. Bolt scatter, bolt bending,; and bolt relaxation are concluded to be the main

JPME160 # IMechE 2008 Proc. IMechE Vol. 222 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering
124 M Abid and S Hussain

factors affecting the joint’s performance. Importance Table 1 Material properties

of proper bolt tightening sequence and number of
Parts As per code y Yield stress (MPa)
passes is discussed. Stress variation in the flange
due to flange rotation highlighted the joint strength, Flange/pipe ASTM A350 LF2 0.3 248.2
and gasket contact/seating stress variation high- Bolt ASTM SA193 B7 0.3 723.9
lighted the sealing performance during bolt up.
Modelling the non-linearity of the spiral wound
gasket using non-linear elements highlights reduced 2.2 Material properties
joint strength and sealing performance. Summar- Allowable stresses and material properties for flange,
izing, a dynamic mode in a gasketed joint is con- pipe, and bolt [8] are given in Table 1. An model is
cluded, which is the main reason for its failure. A constructed using elastoplastic material and it con-
flange joint of 4 in 900# class is used in the present sists of two sections each having a linear gradient.
study. The first section, which models the elastic material,
is valid until the yield stress is reached. The gradient
of this section is Young’s modulus of elasticity. The
2 FINITE-ELEMENT ANALYSIS second section which functions beyond the yield
stress, and models the behaviour of the plastic
2.1 Modelling material, has a gradient of the plastic tangent mod-
ulus, which for this study was 10 per cent of the
Abid and Baseer [6] investigated the joint strength Young’s modulus of elasticity [2].
and sealing capability under combined loading for
an axisymmetric three-dimensional model where 2.2.1 Spiral wound gasket material modelling and
the preload of each bolt was the same using a solid simulation
plate gasket. An angular portion of flange was mod-
elled with a bolt hole at required position. In the pre- Spiral wound gaskets are manufactured by winding a
sent study, a full 3608 flange joint model is developed V-shaped metal strip of stainless steel and a soft non-
to study joint relaxation behaviour during assembly. metallic filler (asbestos fibre) under pressure. Its
For a spiral wound gasket, only the seal ring that inner and outer centring rings are made of stainless
remains in contact with the flange was modelled. steel. Gasket stiffness in the thickness direction is
The gasket is modelled by rotating area about the determined by conducting a compression test. Gas-
y-axis through 3608 in 16 numbers of volumes. The kets can be modelled by two different methods: one
half thickness of the gasket due to its symmetry of is a detailed model that shows non-linearity of
geometry and loading conditions is modelled. The gasket stress – strain relation, and the other is a sim-
bolt is modelled by rotating area about its axis plified modelling that approximates gasket non-
through 3608 in four numbers of volumes and the linearity using two different elastic moduli according
remaining seven bolts are generated by using sym- to the condition of loading and unloading. The
metry in z-axis. The half-length of the bolt is mod- detailed non-linear method is more complex, incor-
elled by its planar symmetry. Only a small portion porating non-linear loading and unloading curves
of pipe is modelled to reduce computational time. with no limitation on data points (Fig. 2(a)). A
The resulting flanged joint model is shown in simple modelling technique is adopted in the present
Fig. 1(a). Commercial FEA software ANSYS [7] is work (Fig. 2(b)), which defines unloading behaviour
used during the analysis. by specifying a straight line as in reference [9].

Fig. 1 (a) Full gasketed flanged joint (3608); volumetric mesh, (b) flange, (c) bolt, and (d) gasket

Proc. IMechE Vol. 222 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering JPME160 # IMechE 2008
Bolt preload scatter and relaxation behaviour 125

Fig. 2 (a) Non-linear modelling technique, (b) simplified modelling technique, (c) gasket
material loading and unloading curves (stress versus strain) using simplified technique

Stress – strain relationships of a spiral wound gasket, between any of the surfaces, since it can reasonably
given in reference [9], for the calculation of elastic be assumed that the forces normal to the contact
unloading and non-linear loading are used. Table 2 surfaces would be far greater than the shear forces.
illustrates the elastic moduli in loading and unload- Due to the non-linearity of the gasket, INTER195
ing during each pass. For example, for pass 1, bolt which is a three-dimensional, eight-node linear inter-
preload against 210 Nm torque is calculated as face element, is used in conjunction with the three-
37 kN, and the total bolt preload for eight bolts is dimensional linear structural element SOLID45 to
296 kN. Nominal average gasket stress defined by simulate the gasket using commercial software
the total bolt preload divided by the gasket bearing ANSYS [7].
surface area calculated is 30 MPa. Elastic modulus
in loading and unloading is calculated as 319 and
3186 MPa, respectively. Gasket material loading and 2.4 Meshing
unloading curves using simplified method are plotted Before volume mesh generation, an area mesh is cre-
in Fig. 2(c), where ‘L’ represent loading/compression ated on one side of the flange, bolt, and spiral wound
and 1, 2, 3, and 4 represents linear unloading in pass gasket by a specified number of divisions and space
1– 4, respectively. Since the torque applied at pass 5 ratio for each line. The hub-flange fillet and raised
is the same as that for pass 4, the gasket undergoes face areas of the flange are fine meshed due to
compression and unloading during pass 5, which is stress concentration. The areas of bolt head, that is
the same compression/unloading line defined for in contact with the flange top is meshed with small
pass 4. size elements, giving a fine mesh. The unmeshed
volume of flange is then filled with elements by
2.3 Element selection sweeping the mesh from the adjacent area through
the volume. A complete 3608 flange mesh is gener-
An eight-node structural SOLID45 lower order isoperi- ated from the angular portion of the flange by sym-
metric element is used for the modelling of flange, bolt, metrical reflection, as shown in Fig. 1(b). For the
and pipe. Three-dimensional ‘surface-to-surface’ bolt, volumetric mesh is generated by sweeping the
CONTA174 contact elements, in combination with mesh from an adjacent area through the volume
TARGE170 target elements are used between flange (Fig. 1(c)). In order to simulate non-linear gasket in
face and gasket, bolt shank and flange hole, and the ANSYS, INTER195 interface elements are defined
top of the flange and the bottom of the bolt to simulate and generated by meshing gasket volume ensuring
contact distribution. No friction was employed one element through thickness with correct node

Table 2 Elastic modulus, gasket stress, bolt preload, and bolt target stress against the torque applied in
each pass
Elastic modulus (MPa)

Pass Torque (Nm) Bolt preload (kN) Target bolt stress (MPa) Average gasket stress (MPa) Loading Unloading

1 210 37 57 30 319 3186

2 310 55 86 45 390 4407
3 400 70 112 60 450 5537
4 505 89 145 75 500 6598

JPME160 # IMechE 2008 Proc. IMechE Vol. 222 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering
126 M Abid and S Hussain

numbering. The stress– strain curve is input to during a pass has a considerable importance, as
characterize the through thickness response for joint relaxation mostly depends on this factor. In
gasket material parameters. A three-dimensional the present work, following two sequences are used:
mesh of a spiral wound gasket is shown in Fig. 1(d).
(a) sequence 1: 1,5,3,7,2,6,4,8 [2] (Fig. 3(b));
(b) sequence 2: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 [2] (Fig. 3(c)).
2.5 Contact generation
To define the contact pair between flange and bolt Bolts are tightened as per sequence 1 during the first
head, flange face areas are taken as the target surface, four passes and as per sequence 2 during the last
and the bottom areas of the bolt head are taken as pass. Bolts are tightened one by one with the torque
contact surface. The same real constant numbers control method [5], i.e. each bolt is tightened to a
are assigned to both the target and contact elements. target stress for a given pass. In the experimental
For contact pair generation between flange bottom work [2], the author tightened the joint in increments
surface and gasket, flange bottom surface areas are of torque 210, 310, 400, and 505 Nm as per
taken as target surface while gasket top surface sequence 1. Finally, all the bolts were tightened
areas are taken as contact surface. The contact con- again to 505 Nm in one pass as per sequence 2 to
dition is applied and friction is taken into consider- achieve uniform preload values. Target torques are
ation at the interfaces between the flange and the converted to the bolt preloads for each pass. In a sim-
gasket. Friction coefficient is varied from 0.1 to 0.2, plified form, for lubricated fasteners, the relationship
however, its effects on interface stress distributions of bolt preload achieved against a given torque with
is observed to be very small. To prevent rigid 0.2 as factor of load loss due to friction is calculated
motion of the flange during bolt up, contact is as per reference [10], i.e. T ¼ 0.2  F  D. Average
defined between bolt shanks and the bolt holes in bolt stress is then calculated by dividing the bolt pre-
the flange. As there is a gap between the two surfaces, load by the nominal area of the bolt shank. The joint
a contact surface offset of 1.61 mm is specified to is tightened to the target stress for each pass calcu-
offset the entire contact surface (bolt hole) towards lated as above. For this purpose, an optimization rou-
the target surface (bolt shank). tine is developed and used in a manner that each time
axial displacement (UY) is applied to the bolt, and the
resulting stress on the midnode of the bolt shank
2.6 Boundary conditions (close to the strain gauge location) [2] is compared
The flange and the gasket are free to move in both the with the target stress. In the case of difference, UY
axial and radial directions, providing flange rotation is incremented and comparison is made again. Simi-
and stress variation in flange, bolt, and gasket. Sym- larly, UY is incremented till it reaches an optimum
metry conditions are applied to the lower portion of value for which the target stress in the bolt is
the gasket. Bolts are constrained in both the radial achieved. Table 2 shows the bolt preloads and
and tangential directions along the neutral axis of target stress calculated against the applied torques.
the bolt. An axial displacement is applied to the The magnitude of the axial displacement UY applied
bottom area of the bolt shank to obtain the required to the bottom area of the bolt shank to prestress each
prestress (Fig. 3(a)). bolt to the target stress in each pass is given in
Table 3. Maximum displacement is applied to achieve
2.6.1 Bolt preloading 30 per cent of the yield of the bolt. Although this is
considered very low, it avoids gasket crushing, and
To ensure a proper preload in the joint during joint hence, maximum recommended torque applied by
assembly, the sequence in which bolts are tightened the gasket suppliers is 505 Nm [2].

Fig. 3 (a) Boundary conditions; bolt tightening (b) sequence 1 (c) sequence 2

Proc. IMechE Vol. 222 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering JPME160 # IMechE 2008
Bolt preload scatter and relaxation behaviour 127

Table 3 Axial displacement UY applied in each bolt for tightened to 57 MPa, gets almost relaxed at the end
different passes of pass 1, with a bolt stress of only 5 MPa, resulting
in 90 per cent of the preload relaxation. Figure 6(a)
Bolt Pass 1 Pass 2 Pass 3 Pass 4 Pass 5
shows the preload variation of bolt 1, which is tigh-
B1 0.176 0.270 0.367 0.445 0.540 tened first, during the tightening of other bolts in
B5 0.083 0.170 0.247 0.315 0.443 pass 1. Bolt stress reduces when neighbouring bolts,
B3 0.224 0.324 0.440 0.560 0.610
B7 0.070 0.158 0.230 0.283 0.450 bolt 2 and bolt 8, are tightened. This is due to the
B2 0.265 0.366 0.475 0.582 0.605 elastic interaction [3, 4] of the flange, as it deforms
B6 0.080 0.157 0.221 0.290 0.410 in the axial direction during bolt preloading, resulting
B4 0.222 0.333 0.455 0.540 0.500
B8 0.170 0.278 0.275 0.450 0.540 in the relaxation of the bolt closest to the bolt being
tightened. Figure 6(b) shows the effect of tightening
of one bolt, i.e. bolt 1 on all the other the bolts for
3 RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS first pass. It is clear that tightening any bolt relaxes
its neighbouring bolts, although a slight rise in the
3.1 Bolt stress variation during bolt up stress is observed in the remaining bolts. Similarly,
an increase in the preload of the bolts on the opposite
To determine bolt relaxation and bolt bending beha- side is observed. At the end of the first pass, i.e. when
viour during tightening the bolts as per sequence 1 bolt 8 is being tightened, 27 – 38 per cent of preload
and 2, four nodes are selected at an angle of 908 on relaxation is observed in bolt 3 and bolt 7, respect-
shank of each bolt. B1/1 and B1/2 represent the ively. Bolts 2, 4, 6, and 8 remain completely relaxed
inner and outer nodes respectively, B1/3 and B1/4 during tightening of bolts 3, 5, and 7.
represent the side nodes, and B1/M represents the Figure 7 shows the detailed bolt preload variation
midnode on the bolt shank. Similar nomenclature when bolts are tightened as per sequence 1 and
is used for all other bolts. For average bolt stress, sequence 2. For all the bolts, almost same stress vari-
midnode on the shank of the bolt is selected ation pattern is observed for the first four passes as
(Figs 4(a) and (b)). Figure 5(a) shows relaxation of per tightening sequence 1. A uniform bolt preload
bolt 2 and bolt 4, when bolt 1, 3, and 5 variation is observed during the last pass as per
are tightened. Flange areas beneath bolt 2 and sequence 2. Maximum preload variations are
bolt 4 are compressed, resulting in their relaxation. observed for bolt 5, which is observed completely
Tightening all other bolts, bolt preload of bolt 1 relaxed for pass 1 to pass 3. The preload variations
increases and is concluded as a result of the flange for bolt 5 during each bolt 5 tightening are 56 MPa
joint opening/rotation, hence setting the bolt in ten- for the first pass, 70 MPa for the second, 83 MPa for
sion. Figure 5(b) shows how bolt 5 comes in tension the third, 110 MPa for the fourth, and 35 MPa for
when bolt 1 is tightened during pass 1. Similarly, a the last pass. Similarly, for all the bolts, an increase
slight increase in the stress is observed in the case in the stress is observed when tightening three bolts
of tightening all the other bolts, except neighbouring located on the other side. For example, preload of
bolts. It is also noted that bolt 1, which is initially bolt 3 increased when bolts 6, 7, and 8 (located at

Fig. 4 Nomenclature (a) side nodes (b) midnodes

JPME160 # IMechE 2008 Proc. IMechE Vol. 222 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering
128 M Abid and S Hussain

Fig. 5 Exaggerated deformation plots (a) bolt relaxation phenomena (b) flange opening

the opposite side of bolt 3) are tightened. Tightening completion of first pass is observed, whereas pre-
neighbouring bolts relaxes the target bolt. load of bolts 2, 4, and 8 is greater than the bolt
target stress. The reason is obvious, these bolts are
tightened as last four bolts in a pass and their
3.2 Scatter in bolt stress
neighbouring bolts are tightened already, so these
Figure 8(a) shows a visible bolt scatter at the end of have greater stresses than the target stresses. The
each pass after tightening each bolt to a target maximum difference in the bolt stress is observed
stress using the torque control method by Fukuoka between bolt 4 (maximum) and bolt 5 (minimum)
and Takaki [4] using FEA. This is due to the highly for the first four passes and between bolt 3 (maxi-
non-linear behaviour of spiral wound gaskets during mum) and bolt 6 (minimum) for the last pass.
loading and unloading. Bolt scatter variation at 69, The scatter in bolt stresses is substantial and
88, 121, 131, and 72 MPa is observed during increases with the pass operation. Maximum scatter
passes 1 to 5. The scatter in bolt stress is observed among bolt preloads is observed at the fourth pass
to increase remarkably with each pass and the pre- with 133 MPa preload difference between bolts 4
load variations are obvious at pass 4. Relatively and 5.
higher and uniform bolt stresses are achieved FEA results are compared with the experimental
during pass 5 (almost half of the pass 4) when results by Abid [2], for the same size of the pipe
bolts are tightened as per sequence 2. This high- flange joint. Figure 8(b) shows the bolt scatter
lights the importance of the last pass as per obtained experimentally. The same trend is observed
sequence 2. Bolts 1, 3, 5, and 7 are observed for all the passes with a slight difference in the mag-
almost completely relaxed for the first three nitude of the bolt preloads for average bolt stress.
passes. This is due to the reason that these bolts Some of the factors that might cause the difference
are tightened in advance of the neighbouring two between the FEA and experimental results are as
bolts. Relaxation of bolts 1, 3, 5, and 7 at the follows.

Fig. 6 (a) Bolt 1 stress variation during pass 1, (b) stress variation effect on other bolts during
tightening of bolt 1 in pass 1

Proc. IMechE Vol. 222 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering JPME160 # IMechE 2008
Bolt preload scatter and relaxation behaviour 129

3.3 Bolt bending behaviour

Bolt bending behaviour along the four locations, i.e.
inner, outer, and side on each bolt shank at the end
of each pass is shown in Fig. 9. Bending behaviour
of each bolt is observed to be different from the
others, even for the same joint. Bolt 1, which is tigh-
tened first, B-1/1 (node on inner side) is in tension
and B-1/2 (node on outer side) is in compression,
but as the torque increases, difference in axial stress
Fig. 7 Bolt stress variation in all the bolts during between these two locations is increased and B-1/2
tightening for all passes still show compressive stress, identifying increase in
bolt bending. Difference in axial stresses between
bolt nodes at side locations is also noticed, which
means that bolt 1 not only bends outward but also
1. By converting the target torques to the bolt sidewise. For bolt 5, the difference among inner and
preloads for each pass, a load loss factor of 0.2 outer nodes is little, however, B-5/4 is found in com-
was incorporated in the expressions in reference pression and B-5/3 in tension, indicating that bolt 5
[9], indicating that 20 per cent of the load is con- bending is mainly sidewise. With bolt up, the bolt 3
verted into useful axial bolt load due to the inner node goes to tension and the outer node into
thread friction. However, in reality only a part of compression; the difference increases rapidly with
the load (10 – 15 per cent) is converted into the increasing torque, and a smaller difference among
axial bolt load [1, 2]. side nodes is noted. For bolt 7, sidewise bending is
2. In FEA, gasket’s non-linearity is calculated using noted, but as B-7/3 is in tension and B-7/4 in com-
the analytical equations. However, the actual gas- pression, the difference between the inner and
ket’s stress – strain curve might be different outer nodes is negligible. The difference between
because of the complex behaviour during loading inner and outer nodes for bolt 2 is remarkable and
and unloading and no experimental data were increases rapidly with each pass. The difference
available. between side nodes is smaller as compared to the
3. During experiments, flange was partially con- difference between the inner and outer nodes.
strained in the axial direction, whereas in FEA, When B-6/4 is in tension and B-6/3 in compression,
no axial constraint was applied. the difference between side nodes is observed to be
4. Manufacturing error of the flange and gasket, sur- greater than that between the inner and outer
face roughness, misalignment of the gasket with nodes, and bending is maximum at pass 4 and is
the flange, bolt, lubricant, and gasket quality minimized at last pass. Bolt 4 shows tensile stresses
[1, 2] might lead to the difference between exper- at all bolt locations for all passes, and there is a
imental results and the FEA. noticeable difference between the inner and outer
as well as side nodes with rapid increase due to
However, overall, FEA results are in good agreement increasing torque, indicating bending in both the
with the experimental results, which prove the directions, bolt 8 also shows with tensile stresses at
validity of the FE model and analysis results. all locations, with an almost equal difference between

Fig. 8 Scatter in bolt stress at the completion of each pass: (a) FEA (b) experimental

JPME160 # IMechE 2008 Proc. IMechE Vol. 222 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering
130 M Abid and S Hussain

Fig. 9 Bolt bending behaviour of all eight bolts in the joint

inner and outer and side nodes with maximum bend- also observed that due to the elongation, outer
ing at pass 5. Bending of all the bolts is increased with sealing ring has changed more or less to octagonal
increasing torque and is observed maximum during shape.
the last two passes. Figure 11(b) shows the radial displacement (UX) of
the gasket with respect to flange at the end of last
pass. The maximum radial displacement noted is
3.4 Gasket behaviour during joint assembly almost 3 mm (at locations closer to bolt 1 and 5).
Nomenclature of selected nodes on gasket close to UX close to bolt 1 is 3 mm, while on the opposite
each corresponding bolt is shown in Fig. 10. side (at 1808), it is 23 mm, which shows that during
bolt up, gasket stretches and shears in the radial
direction. Figure 11(c) represents the circumferential
3.4.1 Gasket deformation during bolt up
(hoop) displacement (UZ) of the gasket at the end of
In order to understand the bolt relaxation and bolt last pass. Maximum UZ of almost 3.5 mm (close to
scatter behaviour during each pass, gasket condition bolt 3), shows that gasket during bolt up undergoes
is monitored at the end of each pass. Plots of displace- rotation with respect to the flange, thus disturbing
ments UX, UY, and UZ at the last pass are shown in the initial alignment with the flange and might poss-
Fig. 11(a). From axial displacement (UY) plot it is ibly lead to leakage. Figure 12(a) shows the maximum
observed that the gasket shape is changed and the values of UX, UY, and UZ for all the five passes.
gasket no longer retained its original shape. Gasket FEA results are compared with the detailed exper-
deformation is remarkable after the last pass as its imental results by Abid [2], who has used four differ-
surface being in contact with the flange is observed ent gaskets of the same material and dimensions used
sheared resulting in its permanent deformation. Vari- in FEA. He has reported the bending of the centring
ation of axial displacement along gasket circumfer- ring during joint assembly of one of the gaskets.
ence with maximum at locations closer to bolt 2 and The spiral wound portion was reasonably com-
3 and minimum at 1808 location is observed. For the pressed, and along one location it was found more
last pass, maximum axial displacement observed is compressed. The same gasket was used for the
0.236 mm (near bolt 3) and minimum 0.023 mm second time to make the other joint. After making
(near bolt 6). This concludes that the gasket under- the joint, it was disassembled and the gasket was
goes uneven compression circumferentially. It is taken out to see its condition this time. This time it
was found to be more compressed less than the cen-
tring ring thickness on one side, i.e. some dents were
found along about 908 on one side and centring ring
was found more bent. A new gasket was used for
the third time to make the joint. After bolting up its
centring ring was not found bent. The gasket was
taken out after dismantling the joint to note its phys-
ical condition. Its spirals were found damaged from
one side along with a dent at about 1808. Then
another gasket was used for other series of tests.
After performing the experiments for different load-
ing, gasket was found reasonably compressed with
Fig. 10 Nomenclature of selected nodes on gasket no damage to the spirals, however, seepage was

Proc. IMechE Vol. 222 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering JPME160 # IMechE 2008
Bolt preload scatter and relaxation behaviour 131

Fig. 11 Gasket displacement at completion of last pass: (a) UY, (b) UX, and (c) UZ

observed from the joint during internal pressure maximum at pass 4. These variations are substantial
loading. Fourth gasket was used in the joint and even at the last pass when all the bolts are tightened
after dismantling the joint, the gasket was found in in clockwise sequence. Thus it is concluded that the
a good condition. scatter in axial bolt stresses deeply affects the sealing
performance of a joint. Contact stresses significantly
3.4.2 Gasket stress variation during bolt up vary in the circumferential direction and the vari-
ations are increased remarkably with each pass.
Contact stress variations in the circumferential direc- During all the passes, the maximum contact stress
tion during bolt up at a node closest to bolt 1, marked difference is between bolt location G2 and G6.
as G1 is shown in Fig. 12(b). It is observed that during Gasket areas along G2 and G3 are at higher stress
the tightening of the neighbouring bolts of bolt 1, i.e. levels as compared to location G6 and G7. This indi-
bolt 2 and bolt 8 and bolts at 908 to bolt 1 (bolt 3 cates the possible location of leakage from the
and 7), there is an increase in stress at G1. While tigh- flange joint.
tening bolt 4, 5, and 6, reduction in contact stress is
observed due to spiral wound gasket’s flexibility.
Figure 13(a) shows contact stress variation along the 3.5 Flange stress variation during bolt up
outer diameter of the sealing ring during bolt up for
pass 1. Contact stress distributions pattern does not FEA stress variation results are compared with the
show conspicuous changes after tightening fourth experimental results by Abid [2] for the same size of
bolt, i.e. bolt 7. This is because gasket is seated to pipe flange joint. Nodes close to the strain gauge
its minimum thickness during the tightening of first location at 908 locations (top, bottom, right, and left
four bolts. It is observed that at the end of the first side) are selected and behaviour of the flange at the
pass, the magnitude of contact stress significantly top, bottom and side locations during the bolt up is
vary in the circumferential direction in a sinusoidal investigated. Principal stress variation in the axial
manner. Figure 13(b) shows contact stress distri- direction during bolt up at hub flange fillet and hub
bution along the outer diameter of the sealing ring centre are evaluated. Stress variation at hub pipe
at the end of each pass. Contact stress variations are fillet is not considered due to negligible small vari-
observed to increase with each pass and are the ation and is concluded due to the free flange

Fig. 12 (a) Maximum displacements (UX, UY, UZ) of gasket at the completion each pass,
(b) gasket contact stress variation along G1 during bolt up at pass 1

JPME160 # IMechE 2008 Proc. IMechE Vol. 222 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering
132 M Abid and S Hussain

Fig. 13 Contact stress variation during bolt up (a) in pass 1, (b) at the end of each pass

movement in the axial direction, whereas in the reduced and vice versa. Stress is maximum at a
experimental results by Abid [2] axial movement is location close to the bolt being tightened and mini-
constrained. mum along the location at an angle of 908. Tightening
bolts in star pattern (sequence 2), maximum stress
fluctuation is observed during tightening of first
3.5.1 Stress variation at hub flange fillet
four bolts (1, 5, 3, 7) in the respective pass. During
Figure 14(a) shows the principal stress variation in tightening the remaining four bolts (2, 6, 4, 8), stress
the axial direction at the hub flange fillet using FEA. variation is reduced. Maximum scatter is observed
During bolt tightening closer to the bottom and top during bolt 5 tightening for the first four passes and
locations, stresses at side locations are observed during bolt 6 tightening for the last pass. For

Fig. 14 Principal axial stress variation at hub flange fillet during Bolt up: (a) FEA (b) experimental

Proc. IMechE Vol. 222 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering JPME160 # IMechE 2008
Bolt preload scatter and relaxation behaviour 133

Fig. 15 Principal axial stress variation at hub centre during bolt up: (a) FEA (b) experimental

sequence 1, almost same stress variation pattern but whereas in FEA 80 per cent load loss due to the fric-
with higher magnitude during each pass is observed. tion is assumed.
Although higher stresses are achieved at the last pass
but still a substantial stress variation is concluded.
3.5.2 Stress variation at the hub centre
Maximum axial stress of 245 – 255 MPa at flange side
and top locations during last pass shows yielding. Figure 15(a), shows almost the same axial stress vari-
FE results are found in good agreement with the ation pattern as for hub-flange fillet but with com-
experimental results in Fig. 14(b), however, maxi- paratively less values during bolt up. Relaxation is
mum experimental stress is observed less than the observed during bolt 4 tightening. Each time, for
yield strength of the flange material. It might be due the next first higher torque values, the stress is maxi-
to the greater clamp load loss, i.e. 85 –90 per cent mum close to the bolt and minimum at an angle of
[1, 2] due to the thread friction in the experiments, 908. Tightening the first two bolts in all the passes

Fig. 16 After last pass: (a) principal stress in flange, (b) axial stress in bolt, (c) gasket stress

JPME160 # IMechE 2008 Proc. IMechE Vol. 222 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering
134 M Abid and S Hussain

relaxed stresses at the sides. Maximum scatter is and relaxation and much greater individual bolt
observed during bolt 5 tightening. Comparing FEA preload variation with bolt up.
and experimental results in (Fig. 15(b)) almost similar 10. Bolt scatter, bolt bending, and bolt relaxation are
trend is observed, with more abrupt changes in the concluded the main factors affecting the joint’s
experimental result along sides locations indicating performance.
compressive stresses during tightening bolt 5 in 11. To control these the use of proper bolt tightening
pass 3 and pass 4. It may be due to the reason of par- sequence, number of passes is concluded
tial constraining the flange in the axial direction, important.
which is neglected in FEA. 12. Summarizing, a dynamic mode in a gasketed
Axial principal stress variation in the flange, axial joint is concluded, which is the main reason for
stress in the bolt, and gasket contact stress at the com- its failure.
pletion of all the passes are shown in Figs 16(a) to (c).


From detailed comparative FEA and experimental 1 Abid, M. and Nash, D. H. Joint relaxation behavior of
study following results are concluded. gasketed bolted flanged pipe joint during assembly.
In 2nd WSEAS International Conference on Applied
1. FE model is verified with the experimental results And Theoretical Mechanics (MECHANICS’06), 2006,
and is found in good agreement. pp. 319 –325.
2. The joint integrity and sealing performance is 2 Abid, M. Experimental and Analytical studies of conven-
very much dependent on the material properties tional (gasketed) and unconventional (non gasketed)
of the gasket used in the joint. Using spiral wound flanged pipe joints (with special emphasis on the engin-
gasket, which is a non-linear gasket, relatively eering of ‘joint strength’ and ‘sealing’). PhD Thesis, 2000.
large amount of flange rotation is observed due 3 Abid, M. and Nash, D. H. Bolt bending behavior in a
to the gasket’s flexibility. bolted flanged pipe joint: a comparative study. In
ASME International PVP Conference, 2006, pp. 1–9.
3. Bolt relaxation is obvious due to higher elastic
4 Fukuoka, T. and Takaki, T. Finite element simulation of
interactions in the non-linear gasketed joint and bolt-up process of pipe flange connections. J. Press.
flange rotation due to the gap between the Vessel Technol., 2001, 123, 282– 287.
flanges. 5 Fukuoka, T. and Takaki, T. Finite element simulation of
4. Bolt scatter is prominent in all the bolts during all bolt-up process of pipe flange connections with spiral
the passes. The difference between the maximum wound gasket. J. Press. Vessel Technol., 2003, 125,
and minimum bolt stress is substantial and pre- 371– 377.
load variation and scatter are observed to 6 Abid, M. and Baseer, U. 3-D nonlinear finite element
increase remarkably with increasing torque analysis of gasketed flanged joint under combined
during each pass. internal pressure and different temperatures. J. Eng.
5. Bending behaviour of each bolt is different and Mech. ASCE, 2006, 133(2), 1–8.
7 ANSYS Inc., ANSYS elements manual, 7th edition, 2006.
unique from the others and bolt bending
8 ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, Section VIII,
increases with increasing torque and directions Part D, American Society of Mech. Eng., 1998,
along which bolt bends are different for different New York, USA.
bolts. 9 Nagata, S., Shoji, Y., and Sawa, T. A simplified modeling
6. A substantial stress variations along hub flange of gasket stress– strain curve for fem analysis in bolted
fillet and hub centre of joints with non-linear gas- flange joint design. In ASME International PVP Confer-
kets is observed, which increased with each pass. ence 2002, 2002, vol. 433, pp. 53– 58.
7. Yielding is observed to initiate at hub flange fillet 10 European Sealing Association. Guidelines for safe seal
during the last pass even at a bolt preload of only usage – flanges and gaskets. Report no. ESA/FSA 009/
25 –30 per cent of the bolt yield. 98, 1998, pp. 1–40.
8. Gasket undergoes uneven compression circum-
ferentially. A substantial gasket stress variations
is concluded during bolt up, which under operat- BIBLIOGRAPHY
ing conditions can be worst resulting in substan-
tial leakages. Takaki, T. and Fukuoka, T. Methodical guideline for
9. Owing to the gasket flexibility, rotation, non- bolt-up operation of pipe flange connections (a case
uniform compression, and physical damage (per- using sheet gasket and spiral wound gasket). In ASME
manent deformation), a spiral wound gasketed International PVP Conference 2003, 2003, vol. 457,
joint experiences large bolt scatter, bolt bending pp. 23 –30.

Proc. IMechE Vol. 222 Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering JPME160 # IMechE 2008