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Limit Pressures of Cylindrical

Arturs Kalnins
and Spherical Shells
Tresca limit pressures for long cylindrical shells and complete spherical shells subjected
Dean P. Updike to arbitrary pressure, and several approximations to the exact limit pressures for limited
pressure ranges, are derived. The results are compared with those in Section III-
Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics,
Subsection NB and in Section VIII-Division 2 of the ASME B&PV Code. It is found that
Lehigh University,
in Section VIII-Division 2 the formulas agree with the derived limit pressures and their
Bethlehem, PA 18015-3085
approximations, but that in Section III-Subsection NB the formula for spherical shells is
e-mail: ak01@lehigh.edu
different from the derived approximation to the limit pressure. The length effect on the
limit pressure is investigated for cylindrical shells with simply supported ends. A geomet-
ric parameter that expresses the length effect is determined. A formula and its limit of
validity are derived for an assessment of the length effect on the limit pressures.

1 Introduction stress difference in 共1兲 is the hoop stress minus the radial stress,
and that the plane of the Tresca limit surface on which the stress
Formulas for the design of pressurized cylindrical and spherical
points will lie is defined by
shells are given in NB-3324 of Section III-Subsection NB 共hence-
forth III-NB兲 and in AD-200 of Section VIII-Division 2 共VIII-2兲 ␴ ␪ ⫺ ␴ r ⫽S L (2)
of the ASME B&PV Code 关1兴. While two formulas are given for
each shell in VIII-2, one for a specified pressure range, only one The line of intersection of this plane with a plane of ␴ z
formula is given for each shell in III-NB, without any limit on ⫽constant is shown by the heavy line in Fig. 1.
pressure. For spherical shells, the formula in NB-3324.2 does not On the basis of this information, the Tresca limit pressure for a
agree with any of the formulas in AD-202共a兲. In the high-pressure long cylindrical shell can now be derived. The derivation, first
range, the formulas in III-NB require greater wall thicknesses than carried out by Turner in 1910 关2兴, starts with the equilibrium
those in VIII-2, for both shells. Neither III-NB nor VIII-2 includes equation of an infinitesimal element in polar coordinates, which
a lower limit on the length of the shells, leading to the conclusion can be found, for example, in Section 3-11, Eq. 共3-28兲, p. 139 of
that these ‘‘minimum required’’ formulas must be applied to the Budynas 关3兴, in the form
shortest possible shells. The primary objective for writing this d ␴ r ␴ ␪⫺ ␴ r
paper is to provide the background on the basis of which the ⫺ ⫽0 (3)
applicability of the formulas can be evaluated. dr r
As already stated, the stress points in the stress component space
lie on the heavy line shown in Fig. 1 at all points throughout the
2 Cylindrical Shells wall, so that ␴ ␪ ⫺ ␴ r equals a constant S L with respect to r every-
where. Substitution of 共2兲 into 共3兲, leads to
2.1 Tresca Limit Pressure. According to the theory of
limit analysis, the stresses at all locations of the shell can lie d␴r SL
within or on a specified limit surface, but not outside it. The ⫽ (4)
dr r
Tresca limit surface is used in this paper because that is consistent
with the design theory of both III-NB 共NB-3212兲 and VIII-2 关AD- and, after integrating, to
140共a兲兴. In a principal stress space, the relation
␴ r ⫽S L ln共 r 兲 ⫹C (5)
Max兵 兩 ␴ 1 ⫺ ␴ 2 兩 ; 兩 ␴ 2 ⫺ ␴ 3 兩 ; 兩 ␴ 3 ⫺ ␴ 4 兩 其 ⫽S L (1)
where ln denotes the natural logarithm and C is an arbitrary con-
defines the Tresca limit surface, where ␴ 1 , ␴ 2 , ␴ 3 are the prin- stant. Satisfaction of the boundary conditions at the inside radius
cipal stresses and 兩 . . . 兩 denotes absolute value. S L is the uniaxial of the shell, at which ␴ r ⫽⫺ P, and at the outside radius, at which
limit stress. ␴ r ⫽0, leads to the limit pressure in the form

In this paper, the Tresca limit pressure is derived for a cylin-
drical shell that is sufficiently long so that the limit pressure is not P t
⫽ln 1⫹ (6)
affected by the end conditions. Its stress state far away from the SL R
ends is represented by stresses acting on infinitesimal elements
that are bounded by planes perpendicular to the axis of the shell. For a specified S L , this formula gives the exact Tresca limit pres-
For a cylindrical shell, the hoop, radial, and axial stresses are sure for a sufficiently long cylindrical shell of any wall thickness.
the principal stresses that determine the points on the Tresca limit For the purposes of design, S L is equated with the design stress
surface defined by 共1兲. For a shell with closed ends under internal intensity, S m , which leads to the design limit pressure
pressure, the hoop stresses, ␴ ␪ , are positive, the radial stresses,
␴ r , are negative, and the axial stresses, ␴ z , are positive and lie
between the other two. This means that the maximum principal
P⫽S m ln 1⫹ 冉 冊 t
R
(7)

This is the same as the second formula of AD-201共a兲 of VIII-2. It

Contributed by the Pressure Vessels and Piping Division and presented at the is stated in VIII-2 that this formula may be used only for P/S m
Pressure Vessels and Piping Conference, Seattle, Washington, July 23–27, 2000, of
THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERS. Manuscript received by
⬎0.4, but there is no reason why it could not be used for any
the PVP Division, April 26, 2000; revised manuscript received November 13, 2000. P/S m ratio. It is noted that formula 共6兲 does not appear in III-NB-
Associate Editor: D. M. Fryer. 3324.

288 Õ Vol. 123, AUGUST 2001 Copyright © 2001 by ASME Transactions of the ASME

Table 1 Greater thickness in III-NB

Greater thickness
P/S m 共percent兲
0.4 1.66
0.5 2.77
0.6 4.26
0.7 6.23
0.8 8.80
0.9 12.11
1.0 16.40

respect to the Tresca limit pressure. However, the curves given by

Fig. 1 Tresca limit surface small values of P/S m . At the value of P/S m ⫽0.4, the difference
in t/R would have been 2.4 percent.
As already noted, formula 共10兲 errs on the unconservative side.
This can be changed to the conservative side by multiplying
By inverting the logarithm in 共7兲, the formula for the wall thick-
ness is obtained in the form P

1⫺
t P 2S m

⫽exp ⫺1 (8) Equation 共 10兲 ⫻ (11)
R Sm P
1⫺
2S m
where exp兵P/Sm其 denotes the number e⫽2.7183 raised to the
power of P/S m . and noting that then the term in the numerator can be written as
2.2 Approximate Limit Pressure. Equation 共8兲 can also be
written in simpler forms as approximations to the exact Tresca
limit pressure for limited ranges of P/S m . This is achieved by

P
2S m 冊冉 1⫺
P
2S m 冊
⫽1⫺
1 P
4 Sm 冉 冊 2
(12)

expanding exp兵P/Sm其⫺1 in a power series of the form Neglecting now 1/4( P/S m ) 2 in comparison with 1, the result can

2 be written as
P P 1 P 1 P
exp ⫺1⫽ 1⫹ ⫹ ⫹ ... (9) t P 1
Sm Sm 2 Sm 6 Sm

⫽ (13)
2
Neglecting 1/6( P/S m ) and higher powers in comparison with 1, R Sm P
1⫺
yields 2S m
t

R Sm
P

1⫹
P
2S m 冊 (10)
This is the same as the formula in NB-3324.1 of III-NB and the
first formula in AD-201共a兲 of VIII-2. It has an error of 1.7 percent
at P/S m ⫽0.4 when compared with the exact formula 共8兲. When
Several thickness ratios of t/R are plotted in Fig. 2 versus plotted in Fig. 2, it lies above the exact line, so that it errs on the
P/S m . The middle line shows the exact solution 共8兲. If the ap- conservative side. The important point is that it has been estab-
proximate formula 共10兲 were plotted on the same graph, its curve lished that formula 共13兲 is an approximation to the exact limit-
would lie below that line, indicating unconservative behavior with pressure formula.
Since 共7兲 does not appear in III-NB, it is seen from Fig. 2 that
thicker walls are required in III-NB than in VIII-2 for P/S m
greater than 0.4. This is shown in Table 1.
An even simpler approximation to the exact limit pressure is
obtained when 1/2( P/S m ) is neglected with respect to 1 in 共9兲.
Then
t P
⫽ (14)
R Sm
As seen from Fig. 2, the thickness given by this formula errs on
the unconservative side. The thickness predicted by formula 共14兲
becomes increasingly unconservative as P/S m increases. Thus, its
application must be strictly limited to thin shells, below a certain
value of t/R or P/S m . The error of this formula is 2 percent at
P/S m ⫽0.04 and 5 percent at P/S m ⫽0.1; that is, for P/S m ⫽0.1,
the thickness ratio t/R is 5 percent less than that allowed by limit
analysis. The error increases for thicker shells.
It is noted that 共14兲 has the same form as the formula for the
average hoop stress across the wall of a cylindrical shell of any
wall thickness. It should be kept in mind, however, that the design
theory in III-NB and in VIII-2 is not the maximum stress theory,
so that such a stress would not be admissible in design, even for
thin shells. Only when it is recognized that 共14兲 is an approxima-
tion to the exact limit pressure, then the use of 共14兲 is justified for
Fig. 2 Limit pressures for cylindrical shells III-NB and VIII-2 designs of sufficiently thin shells.

Journal of Pressure Vessel Technology AUGUST 2001, Vol. 123 Õ 289

3 Spherical Shells proaches 共14兲, so that the range of validity of 共20兲 is the same as
that of 共14兲. Assuming that a 2-percent error is acceptable, then
A similar derivation can be carried out for a complete spherical

shell. The derivation starts with the equilibrium equation of an
No corresponding formula is available for t/R greater than
infinitesimal element in spherical coordinates, which can be
0.04. However, the form of the thin-walled formula can be re-
found, for example, on p. 153, Eq. 共5.3兲, in Reismann and Pawlik
tained and then tested with finite element results for various val-

ues of X, which will be done in this paper. The following formula
d␴r ␴ ␪⫺ ␴ r is proposed for any t/R:
⫺2 ⫽0

(15)
dr r P R mt
⫽A 1⫹X (21)
Recognizing again that at the limit pressure, ␴ ␪ ⫺ ␴ r equals a SL L2
constant S L with respect to r, integrating with respect to r, satis-
fying the boundary conditions at the inside and outside radii, and where X is a factor determined from FEA data, R m ⫽R⫹t/2, and
letting S L ⫽S m , the design limit pressure is obtained as A is calculated from

P⫽2S m ln 1⫹ 冉 冊 t
R
(16) 冉 冊
A⫽ln 1⫹
t
R
(22)

This formula gives the exact limit pressure for any wall thick- when the Tresca limit surface is used and from

ness. It is the same as the second formula of AD-202共2兲 in VIII-2.
Then, the wall thickness is calculated from t
A⫽1.15 ln 1⫹ (23)

R
t P
⫽exp ⫺1 (17) when the von Mises limit surface is used. The reason for choosing
R 2S m
the form of 共21兲 is that when L is large, then P/S L approaches A,
Applying the same approximation procedure that was used for which agrees with the exact limit pressures of a long shell for any
cylindrical shells, an approximate formula to the exact limit pres- t/R. The validity of the thin-wall formula for thicker shells will be
sure is obtained as demonstrated by a finite element analysis of a cylindrical shell
with simply supported ends, subjected to internal pressure. The
t P 1
highest lower-bound pressures are calculated by the ABAQUS 关6兴

⫽ (18)
R 2S L P finite element code for a matrix of t and L, leaving R constant. The
1⫺
4S m results are listed in Table 2 and plotted in Fig. 3.
Column 3 of Table 2, marked P/S L , lists the von Mises limit
This is the same as the first formula of AD-202共a兲 in VIII-2. It pressure divided by S L , obtained by the ABAQUS FE Code 关6兴.
has an error of 0.4 percent at P/S m ⫽0.4 when compared with the In Column 4, marked ( P/S L )/A, the numbers of Column 3 are
exact limit pressure of 共17兲. 共It has an error of 1.7 percent at divided by 1.15 ln(1⫹t/R). In Fig. 3, the black, square markers
P/S m ⫽0.8, at which point it is as accurate as the corresponding come from Column 4 plotted versus the numbers of Column 5.
formula for the cylindrical shell.兲 If 共18兲 were plotted on the same They represent the ABAQUS prediction of the term in square
graph with that of the exact formula of 共17兲, it would show that brackets on the right-hand side of 共21兲. The straight line is the

that formula 共18兲 is also an approximation to the exact limit pres-
purpose of Fig. 3 is to determine the limit of the factor R m t/L 2 up
sure. However, the formula in NB-3324.2 of III-NB is not the
to which formula 共21兲 could give a reasonable estimate of the
same as that given by 共18兲; the latter has a 2 instead of 4 in the
length effect and to estimate a value for X. The straight line is the
denominator.
final result of plotting the square bracket of 共21兲 with various
Following the same approximation procedure that was used for
values of X. The factor X is adjusted so that the largest number of
cylindrical shells, a simpler approximation to the exact limit pres-
points gives reasonable lower bounds.
sure is obtained as
For the line shown in Fig. 3, X is assumed 0.5, which is the
t P same value as that for thin shells. At this value, the validity of
⫽ (19) 共21兲 is estimated for
R 2S m
The error of this formula is 2.5 percent at P/S m ⫽0.1 when com- R mt
⭐1.6 (24)
pared with the exact limit pressure of 共17兲. Just as for the cylin- L2
drical shell, the error is on the unconservative side. The reader is
again reminded that this formula did not arise from using any As seen from Fig. 3, formula 共21兲 does not cover the last three
average stresses in the wall, but is an approximation to the exact FEA points past this limit. These points are for the shortest and
Tresca-limit pressure. thickest shells listed in Table 2, which are for L/R⫽0.3 and t/R
⫽0.2, 0.3, and for L/R⫽0.5 and t/R⫽0.4. The reason why 共21兲
does not model these points correctly is that the limit states of
these shells exhibit a shearing mode rather than the bending mode
4 Length Effect that the formula is meant for.
An approximate formula for including the effect of the length It is seen from 共21兲 that if R m t/L 2 is small, then the exact limit
of a cylindrical shell on its limit pressure is given by Hodge 关5兴. pressure for a long shell is obtained. Assuming an acceptable error
For a thin shell, the limit pressure is given by of 2 percent, this will happen when
P

SL R
t

Rt
1⫹X 2
L
(20)
R m t 0.02
L2

X
(25)

where X is a factor that depends on the boundary conditions. Assuming again X⫽0.5, this shows that the long-shell formula
According to Hodge, X⫽0.5 for simply supported and X⫽1 for 共6兲 provides an accurate estimate of the limit pressure when the
fixed ends. 共For this case, simple support means a boundary con- length of the shell is greater than
dition for which the radial displacement and shell moment are
specified zero.兲 It is seen that when L is large, then 共20兲 ap- L⫽5 冑R m t (26)

290 Õ Vol. 123, AUGUST 2001 Transactions of the ASME

Table 2 Data for limit pressures in Fig. 3

For shorter shells, the limit pressure will be underestimated by the

long-shell formula.
Finally, in order to see the increase in the limit pressure when
the length of a cylindrical shell with simply supported ends de-
creases, lower-bound pressures are plotted versus length in Fig. 4
for the case of t/R⫽0.1. The curve is by 共21兲, with X⫽0.5, and
the markers are by ABAQUS.
It is seen that the curve matches the FE results very well. Ac-
cording to 共24兲, its range of validity is limited to L/R greater than
0.25. This range is confirmed because the last point on the left, for
L/R⫽0.3, agrees with the value on the curve. According to 共26兲,
formula 共6兲 should underestimate the limit pressure for L/R
⬍1.6, which is also confirmed.

5 Conclusions
1 The formulas in Section VIII-Div.2 AD-201共a兲 for cylindri-
cal shells and those in AD-202共a兲 for spherical shells represent
exact Tresca limit pressures.
2 The formula in Section III, NB-3324.1, gives an accurate
representation of the Tresca limit pressure for a cylindrical shell
up to the pressure of P/S m ⫽0.4, but may deviate substantially
from the exact limit pressure beyond that pressure.
3 The formula for spherical shells in Section III, NB-3324.2, is
not consistent with the limit pressure and is different from that in
Section VIII-Div.2.
4 In the high-pressure range, the formulas in NB-3324 of Sec-
tion III require thicker walls than those required by Section VIII-
Div.2 for both shells.
5 Cylindrical shells may enjoy substantially higher limit pres-
sures as their lengths decrease.
6 The geometric parameter that governs the length effect is
R m t/L 2 .
7 The long-shell formula will provide a conservative estimate
of the limit pressure for a cylindrical shell when its length L
⭐5 冑R m t.
8 The long-shell formula will provide an accurate estimate of
the limit pressure for a cylindrical shell when its length L
⭓5 冑R m t.

Nomenclature
exp兵x其 ⫽ 2.7183 raised to power of x
t ⫽ wall thickness of shell
L ⫽ length of shell
Fig. 3 Comparison of Eq. „21… and ABAQUS P ⫽ limit or lower-bound pressure

Journal of Pressure Vessel Technology AUGUST 2001, Vol. 123 Õ 291

r ⫽ polar radial coordinate References
R ⫽ inside radius of shell 关1兴 ASME Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code, 1998, American Society of Mechanical
R m ⫽ mean radius of shell Engineers, New York, NY.
S L ⫽ uniaxial limit stress 关2兴 Turner, L. B., 1910, ‘‘The Stresses in a Thick Hollow Cylinder Subjected to
Internal Pressure,’’ Trans. Cambridge Philos. Soc., 21, 14, pp. 377–396.
S m ⫽ design stress intensity 关3兴 Budynas, R. G., 1977, Advanced Strength and Applied Analysis, McGraw-Hill
X ⫽ length effect factor, 0.5 in this paper Publishing Co., New York, NY.
␴ ␪ ⫽ circumferential 共hoop兲 stress 关4兴 Reismann, H., and Pawlik, P. S., 1980, Elasticity—Theory and Applications,
␴ r ⫽ radial stress John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

␴ z ⫽ axial stress Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
III-NB ⫽ Section III, Subsection NB 关6兴 ABAQUS, 1999, Hibbit, Karlsson, and Sorensen, Inc., Pawtucket, RI, by Edu-
VIII-2 ⫽ Section VIII, Division 2 cational License to Lehigh University.