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icccbe 2010 ProceedingsoftheInternationalConferenceon


Design of submarine pressure hulls to withstand buckling under

external hydrostatic pressure

Carl T.F. Ross, Terry Whittaker & Andrew P.F. Little

University of Portsmouth, UK

The paper presents an investigation into various methods of calculating the theoretical collapse loads
for a pressure vessel, under uniform external hydrostatic pressure; based on different design codes.
The design codes used for the investigation were BS 5500, for vessels under external pressure and
also, the design charts of Ross of the University of Portsmouth. It is the opinion of the present authors
that the current design methodology, namely BS 5500 was difficult to use and gave inaccurate
collapse pressures for some large-scale pressure vessels. Moreover, BS 5500 appeared to be too
pessimistic for one mode of failure and too optimistic for another mode of failure.
For the present study, a full-scale theoretical pressure vessel was used and the fore mentioned
methodologies applied in its design to see if there were any similarities that each method may have
From the results obtained, it became apparent that some methodologies were more accurate than
others, depending on the mode of collapse. Moreover, it also became apparent that some of the
methods themselves were outdated, user-unfriendly and in some cases, may have even been

Keywords: submarines, pressure hulls, hydrostatic pressure, structural design

1 Introduction
Under uniform external hydrostatic pressure, a submarine pressure hull can buckle through shell
instability or lobar buckling at a pressure (Ross, 1965; Ross, 2001), which may be a fraction of the
same vessel to explode under uniform internal pressure, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1, Shell instability of a circular cylinder

This mode of failure is undesirable, as it is structurally inefficient and one way of improving its
structural inefficiency, is to ring-stiffen it with suitable sized ring stiffeners, spaced at suitable
distances apart. If, however, the ring stiffeners are not strong enough, the entire ring-shell
combination can buckle bodily in its flank, through a mode of failure called general instability, as
shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2, General instability

If the ring stiffeners are very strong and the spacing between them is relatively small, then failure
can take place through a mode of failure called axisymmetric deformation, where the circular cylinder
keeps its circular form while imploding inwards, as shown in Figure 3. This mode of failure is more
predictable and designers often prefer to design out the two instability modes of failure, so that if
failure takes place, it fails through this more predictable mode of failure, called axisymmetric

Figure 3, Axisymmetric collapse

In this paper, we will design a full-scale model using BS 5500 and also, using Rosss (2001) codes.
2 The designs
One full-scale structural design was considered, namely Submarine 1; details of which are given in
Figure 4.

2.1 Submarine 1

Figure 4, Dimensions of the full-scale submarine

The following parameters were used for Submarine 1:

T = 2 = 50.8mm
B = 1 = 25.4mm
D = 8 = 203.2mm
l = 27 = 685.8mm
= 364 = 9245.6mm
R = 192 = 4876.8mm
= Youngs modulus = 3 e 07 Ksi = 2.07 e 05 GPa
= Poissons ratio = 0.3
= Yield stress = 80 000 psi = 552 MPa
Material of construction = HY80 Steel

2.2 Designing against shell instability

In order to investigate shell instability, the section between adjacent frames was theoretically
isolated and then the following two methods were employed to determine the collapse pressures due
to shell instability:
Design Chart of Ross et al (2009), which makes use of the Von Mises formula (1936),
Design Chart of BS5500 (1980).
The theoretical von Mises (1936) collapse pressure, for perfect circular cylinders was calculated using
the computer program MISESNP.EXE (Ross, 2001). The computer program also calculates the
Windenburg thinness Ratio () (Windenburg & Trilling, 1934); this value will be used in conjunction
with the design charts of Ross, to calculate the plastic knockdown factor, namely PKD and thus, the
actual collapse pressure. The results from this program were as follows:

= Thinness ratio = {(L/D)2/(T/D)3}0.25 * (/E)0.5 = 0.711

Pcr = von Mises buckling pressure = 25 MPa with 14 lobes (n=14)
Knowing , the required PKD has to be determined from the design chart of Ross et al (2009); see
Figure 5.
Figure 5, Ross design chart for shell instability

Now, .

Therefore, from Figure 5,

PKD = 2.8
Now the von Mises theoretical buckling pressure for perfect vessels, namely Pcr, must be divided by
PKD to give the actual predicted buckling pressure, namely Pcr (actual).
P actual PKD
= .
8.9MPa 890mdepth of water.

From BS 5500s design chart of Figure 6, the shell instability calculations were also carried out.
Now K= P ,

Where Pm = the von Mises buckling pressure for perfect vessels

& Py = 2T/D = the pressure to cause axisymmetric yield.

From Figure 6,
= 0.56

Now Py = 1222.467 , therefore

p 0.56 Py 0.56 1222.467 684.58. Converting to MPa

14.5 4.72MPa
Where p = actual buckling pressure, given by BS5500.
From the above, it can be seen that a design depth of 472 m, by BS 5500 is too pessimistic, when
dealing with shell instability, because Ross (2001) predicts a corresponding diving of 890m!
Figure 6, BS 5500 design chart

2.3 General instability

To design against the general instability mode of failure, two methods below were used, namely
Kendrick Part 1 (1953) 7 BS5500, as follows:
Kendrick Part 1.
BS 5500 which uses Bryants formula (1954).
The theoretical buckling pressure for Kendrick Part 1 was calculated by Ross computer program
(2001). As the vessel that was analysed was of a ring stiffened nature, it was difficult to use Ross
computer program, namely MISESNP (Ross, 2001), as MISESNP was intended for unstiffened
circular cylinders. To overcome this problem, an equivalent shell thickness (T), and equivalent
vessel radius (Rf) were used to calculate the equivalent Windenburgs thinness ratio, namely
(Windenburg and Trilling, 1934). From the design chart of Ross et al (2008); = 1.38, therefore:


Hence, from Figure 7, PKD = 1.2.

Figure 7, Ross design chart for general instability

From Ross computer program (2001), namely Kendrick Part1, Pcr (theoretical) = 6.2MPa (4 Lobes)
Hence, the actual general instability buckling pressure, namely Pcr (actual) was calculated.
Pcr 6.2MPa
PcrActual 5.2MPa 520M
PKD 1.2

From BS 5500, which was very difficult to use, we get, the lowest Pcr value to be: 6.46MPa, failing
with 4 lobes; corresponding to a maximum diving depth of 646 m; which was positively dangerous,
because Ross code gave a corresponding collapse diving depth of only 520m!

2.4 Axisymmetric deformation

Using the Boiler Formula, Ross (1999), the collapse pressure= P = 5.7 MPa = 570m of water depth.
We have no disagreement with using the Boiler Formula of BS5500!

3 Conclusions
The findings from the results for Pressure Vessel 1 appear to show that BS 5500 is too pessimistic for
shell instability, but worse still, too optimistic for general instability. The authors do not have any
quarrel with BS 5500, as far as the axisymmetric mode of failure is concerned. Moreover, Ross
design charts are much easier to use and in any case, their linear nature of Ross design charts make it
easier for the designer to use. In contrast this; the design chart of BS 5500 is curved, making life
difficult for the designer. Calculating the buckling pressures by BS 5500 is worsened because the
calculations are very laborious, because they have to be done for every value of n, the number of
circumferential waves that the vessel buckles into. This is necessary to obtain the minimum value of

BRYANT, A.R., 1954. Hydrostatic pressure buckling of a ring-stiffened tube. NCRE Report No. R306, October.
BSI, 1980. BS5500, British standards specification for unfired fusion welded pressure vessels. Issue 5. UK, British
Standards Institution.
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ROSS, C.T.F., 1965. The instability of ring-stiffened circular cylindrical shells under uniform external pressure. Trans.,
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cylinders under external hydrostatic pressure. Journal of Ocean Technology, Vol.4., No. 2 pp. 84-103.
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Trans. ASME, 11, 819-825.