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at welded joints

O. Doerk, W. Fricke ∗, C. Weissenborn

Technical University Hamburg-Harburg, Laemmersieth 90, Hamburg 22305, Germany

Received 24 May 2002; received in revised form 29 October 2002; accepted 18 November 2002

Abstract

Different methods and procedures exist for the computation of the structural hot-spot stress at welded joints. These are either

based on the extrapolation of stresses at certain reference points on the plate surface (or edge) close to the weld toe—as known

from experimental investigations—or on the linearization of stresses in the through-thickness direction. Procedures for the application

of both methods to finite element analysis have recently been proposed in the literature. In the present paper, the different methods

are reviewed and applied to four different details in order to compare the methods with each other and to illustrate the differences.

Conclusions are drawn with respect to their accuracy and sensitivity to finite element meshing.

2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Welded joint; Structural stress; Hot-spot stress; Finite element method; Stress analysis

the weld, which depend on the plate or shell thickness.

The crack initiation and early propagation at weld toes This development, which was reviewed a. o. by van

is governed by the local stress distribution around the Wingerde et al. [19], was particularly successful for the

weld. Its analysis and assessment with respect to fatigue fatigue strength assessment of tubular joints due to their

has already a rather long history. According to [18], first complex joint geometry and high local bending of the

investigations were performed in the 1960’s by several tubular walls.

researchers, including Peterson, Manson and Haibach, to First attempts to apply the approach to welded joints

relate the fatigue strength to a local stress or strain meas- at plates were already seen in the early 1980’s. Remark-

ured at a certain point close to the weld toe, for example able investigations were performed in Japan to analyse

at a distance of 2 mm [7]. Although the characteristic the stress concentration due to the local structural

fatigue strength related to this local stress shows fairly geometry of ship hull details, which were summarized

small scatter it has been shown e.g. in [1] that it is still a. o. by Matoba et al. [11]. The design stress was

affected by the local notch at the weld toe and, therefore, obtained from finite element analyses by linearization of

not independent from local notch geometry. Investi- the stress through the plate thickness. Radaj [17] summa-

gations of relatively thick tubular joints have shown that rized these and other investigations and defined the

the local notch effect of the weld toe affects the stress structural stress at the hot spot (weld toe) as the surface

in the region up to 0.3⫺0.4·t (t ⫽ plate thickness) away stress which can be calculated at the hot spot in accord-

from the weld toe. This resulted in the 1970’s in the ance with structural theories used in engineering. He

development of the well-known hot-spot stress approach demonstrated that the structural stress can be analysed

with the definition of reference points for stress evalu- either by surface extrapolation or by linearization, e.g.

through the wall thickness, in order to exclude the local

non-linear stress peak caused by the weld toe.

∗

Corresponding author. Tel.: +49-40-428-32-3148; fax: +49-40- In the early 1990’s, Petershagen et al. [16] derived a

428-32-3337. generalized hot-spot stress approach for plate structures

E-mail address: w.fricke@tu-harburg.de (W. Fricke). using Radaj’s effective notch stress approach [17] and

0142-1123/03/$ - see front matter 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

doi:10.1016/S0142-1123(02)00167-6

360 O. Doerk et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 25 (2003) 359–369

Nomenclature

b width of doubling plate w attachment width

B width of parent plate x, y, z coordinates

F force d distance

l element length s normal stress

M bending moment sm membrane stress

SCF stress concentration factor sb bending stress

t plate thickness t shear stress

applied it to complex welded structures [4]. Detailed rec- 2. Evaluation of structural stresses from finite

ommendations concerning stress determination for element models

fatigue analysis of welded components were given by

Niemi [12]. 2.1. Finite element modelling of welded structures

However, several applications showed that the stress

results are still affected by the finite element meshing As mentioned in the introduction, different types of

and element properties. Additional recommendations for weld toes can be identified, see Fig. 1, which require

finite element modelling and hot-spot stress evaluation different stress evaluation techniques:

were given by Huther et al. [9] and by Fricke [6], the

latter based on extensive round-robin stress analyses of a) weld toe on the plate surface at the end of an attach-

several details. Special considerations have been shown ment

to be necessary for in-plane notches such as welded edge b) weld toe at the plate edge at the end of an attachment

gussets, where plate thickness is no more a relevant para- c) weld toe along the weld of an attachment (the more

meter for the definition of the reference points for stress highly stressed of both weld toes)

evaluation. Niemi and Tanskanen [13] as well as Fricke

and Bogdan [5] proposed alternative procedures for the Types a) and c) are in principle similar, however, the

hot-spot stress analysis in such cases, using absolute dis- influence of modelling is particularly large at the ends

tances for the reference points. A comprehensive IIW- of welded attachments, i.e. at type a) and b), where the

local stress singularity is more pronounced due to the

guidance for the structural hot-spot stress approach is

additional stress concentration at the V-shaped corner.

currently under preparation [14].

In order to limit the computational effort, relatively

Dong [2] utilized the structural stress definition by

simple models and coarse meshes are preferred in prac-

Radaj [17] and evaluated the structural stress directly at

tice. Basically, two types of finite element modelling are

the weld toe position from finite element results by using

usual, which are illustrated in Fig. 2 by the example

principles of elementary structural mechanics. Mesh shown above:

insensitivity is claimed and demonstrated by several

examples, however, mainly on 2D basic joints [2], [3].

In this paper, the different methods for structural

stress evaluation are explained in more detail and com-

pared with each other. Afterwards, their application is

illustrated by several 2D and 3D examples, showing the

similarities of the methods and answering the question,

how far mesh-insensitivity can be reached.

It should be emphasized that the structural stress

approach is restricted to the fatigue strength assessment

of weld toes, where cracks start from the surface of the

structure. Cracks starting from the root of not fully pen-

etrated welds are not covered and require a different

assessment procedure.

O. Doerk et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 25 (2003) 359–369 361

dations [8,14] propose a linear extrapolation over two

reference points, which are located 0.4·t and 1.0·t away

from the hot spot, where t is the thickness of the adjacent

plate (Fig. 3.1). The stresses are typically evaluated at

nodal points, so that the length of the first element is

0.4·t and the second 0.6·t. In case of a coarser mesh with

higher order elements, having lengths equal to t, the

stresses in the surface centres of solid elements or at

mid-side nodes of shell elements may be evaluated and

extrapolated over 0.5·t and 1.5·t (see Figs. 2 and 3.2),

as proposed by some ship classification societies.

At type a) weld toes, however, the width of the solid

element or the two shell elements in front of the hot spot

should not exceed either two times the plate thickness t

or the attachment width w (=attachment thickness plus

two weld leg lengths).

The situation is different for type b) weld toes, i.e. at

plate edges. As plate thickness is not relevant for the

element size nor the location of the reference points,

fixed reference points are proposed. Following the pro-

posal by Niemi and Tanskanen [13] to apply quadratic

extrapolation over three points, 4 mm, 8 mm and 12 mm

away from the hot spot, element lengths of 4 mm or

even better 2 mm are required to obtain stresses at nodal

Fig. 2. Typical finite element models and stress evaluation paths. points not affected by the stress singularity (Fig. 3.3).

The alternative proposal by Fricke and Bogdan [5]

1. using plate or shell elements which are arranged in

implies a linear extrapolation of stresses obtained from

the middle plane of the plates. The weld is frequently

the mid-side points of higher-order elements (e.g. isopar-

omitted, except in cases with plate offsets (e.g.

ametric 8-node shell elements) with 10 mm length and

doubler plates) or welds close to each other, where

depth, which means that the stresses are extrapolated

interaction effects occur. In such cases the weld can

over points 5 mm and 15 mm away from the hot spot

be modelled by vertical or inclined plate elements or

(Fig. 3.4).

by rigid links (constrained equations). The plate or

shell elements should generally contain improved in-

plane behaviour to model steep stress gradients.

2. using solid elements allowing the weld to be easily

modelled with prismatic elements. If isoparametric

20-node elements are applied, one element is suf-

ficient in thickness direction due to the quadratic dis-

placement function and linear stress distribution. In

connection with reduced integration, the linear part of

the stresses can directly be evaluated.

extrapolation

at the hot spot is the linear or quadratic extrapolation

over two or three reference points in a similar way as

done experimentally with strain gauges. Fig. 2 shows

typical stress evaluation paths. In case of shell models

without weld representation it is recommended to

extrapolate the stress to the structural intersection point

as modelled in order to avoid stress under-estimation due

to the decreased stiffness of the model [6]. Fig. 3. Extrapolation of surface stresses to the hot spot acc. to [14].

362 O. Doerk et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 25 (2003) 359–369

2.3. Structural stress evaluation according to Dong [2] gated only through a part of the thickness. In this case,

the stresses acting at the lower boundary of the area, i.e.

The structural stress evaluation method proposed by in the depth t1, have to be included in the a.m. equations,

Dong [2] generally focusses on the linearization through because the lower boundary is no more a free surface.

the wall thickness directly at the hot spot, however, In thick section joints and some other joint configur-

depends on the type of modelling. ation, such as fillet welds that are symmetric with respect

For solid models, where the element stresses might be to geometry and loading, there is a non-monotonic

disturbed by the singularity at the weld toe, the element trough-thickness stress distribution. In these cases the

stresses are evaluated at a certain distance d away from linearization is also performed to a finite depth t1, which

the weld toe, e.g. equal to the element length, see Fig. is equal to t/2 in case of symmetry.

4. Assuming equilibrium between the axial and shear

stresses acting here (Section B-B) and in the section For a shell model, the structural stress can be evalu-

directly at the weld toe (Section A-A), the linear part of ated directly at the hot spot because the linear stress dis-

the latter can directly be derived (stresses acting on the tribution is already assumed in the elements, see Fig. 5.

other sides of the element are neglected). Using trap- In order to avoid inaccuracies due to stress distribution

ezoidal integration for n ⫹ 1 equally spaced nodes over assumed in the element formulation, the structural stress

the plate thickness yields two equations for sm and sb: is calculated directly from the nodal forces and moments

at the element edge in question.

冕

t

1 1 A multi-linear stress distribution is assumed for sev-

sm ⫽ sxx(z)·dz ⫽ [s ⫹ 2·sxx,1 ⫹ … eral elements along the weld which is derived from an

t 2·n xx,0

0 equation system for the stress values at the element cor-

ners.

⫹ 2·sxx,n⫺1 ⫹ sxx,n]

By using these stresses, mesh insensitivity is claimed

冕 冕

t t by Dong [2] even for hot spots with high stress singular-

t2 t2 t2 ity, i.e. types a) and b) in Fig. 1.

sm ⫹ sb ⫽ sxx(z)·dz⫺d· txz(z)·dz ⫽ [s

2 6 6·n2 xx,0

0 0

t

⫹ (3n⫺1)·sxx,n]⫺d [txz,0 ⫹ 2·txz,1 ⫹ … ⫹ 2·txz,n⫺1 In the following, four examples with different types

2·n of weld toes are described, where the methods men-

⫹ txz,n] tioned above are applied to derive the structural hot-spot

stress, i.e.

Fig. 4 shows the stress linearization through the whole

plate thickness t, resulting in the structural stress as 앫 surface stress extrapolation acc. to IIW [8,14], i.e. lin-

defined by Radaj [17]. Alternatively, the linear stress can early over 0.4 t /1.0 t for type a) and c) joints and

be derived for part of the thickness t1, which allows the quadratically over 4 mm /8 mm /12 mm for type b)

structural stress to be derived for a crack having propa- joints in connection with element lengths of at least

0.4 t or 4 mm, respectively (Figs. 3.1 and 3.3)

앫 surface stress extrapolation over 0.5 t /1.5 t (5 mm

and 15 mm for type b) joints) in connection with rela-

tively coarse meshes, having elements with quadratic

Fig. 4. Structural stress evaluation for solid models (acc. to [2]). Fig. 5. Structural stress evaluation for shell models (acc. to [2]).

O. Doerk et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 25 (2003) 359–369 363

shape function and lengths of 1.0t or 10 mm, respect- The application of the structural stress approach

ively (Figs. 3.2 and 3.4) according to Dong [2] yields almost the same structural

앫 structural stress evaluation acc. to Dong [2], using SCF for several mesh densities, as shown in Fig. 6d. As

meshes with different element sizes. All calculations no shear stress is acting in the plate, the stress evaluation

were performed by the authors on the basis of the can simply be reduced to a linearization through the

references given. thickness at any section in the right part, yielding a struc-

tural stress SCF of approximately 1.19.

The element type and weld representation have not

been varied within each comparison. The same value is achieved by extrapolating the sur-

face stresses, see Fig. 7. As expected, the mesh density

plays almost no role also in the case of surface stress

3.1. Plate lap fillet weld extrapolation. The constant structural stress distribution

would even allow any location of the reference points,

The first example concerns a 2D example, the plate as long as they are beyond 0.4 t.

lap fillet joint described in [2]. Fig. 6a illustrates the one-

sided lap joint, which is subjected to an axial force F.

The weld toe belongs to type c) according to Fig. 1.

Due to the eccentricity of the lap joint and the bound-

ary conditions at the ends, a constant bending moment

without any shear force is acting in the plate in front of

the weld. Therefore, a constant structural stress is acting

which is determined by the stiffness of the actual struc-

ture.

Fig. 7. Plate fillet lap joint and results obtained for surface stress

extrapolation.

Fig. 6. Plate fillet lap joint and results obtained by Dong [2].

364 O. Doerk et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 25 (2003) 359–369

shown in Fig. 8, where the critical weld toe on the plate

surface belongs to type c) in Fig. 1. The model was

investigated in a Japanese research project [20]. The

example is similar to the first one, however, the round

doubling plate causes a non-uniform stress distribution

in the transverse direction.

The example was also investigated in the round-robin

analysis described by Fricke [6], where different tech-

niques of modelling the one-sided doubling plate by

shell elements were applied. In the present analysis, the

doubling plate was modelled by solid elements, allowing

the weld to be realistically considered. Fig. 9 shows three

different finite element models. In all cases, 20-node

solid elements with reduced integration order were used.

One element was arranged over the plate thickness,

while the element lengths in front of the weld toe ranged

from approx. 0.4–2 t.

The computed stress distribution in front of the weld

toe is plotted in Fig. 10. In contrast to the previous study

[6], no stress magnification due to weld distortion was

considered. For this reason, the measurement results

from Yagi et al. [20] have not been included in Fig. 10,

because these were obviously affected by this.

Although the resulting stresses are fairly close

together, a slight influence of the element size can be

observed. The extrapolation of the surface stresses to the

hot spot, performed for the associated models and indi-

cated by arrows in Fig. 10, yields hot-spot stress ratios

of 1.25 (over 0.4 t /1.0 t) and 1.26 (over 0.5 t /1.5 t).

The round-robin study [6] showed a higher scatter (±6%)

due to the application of different element types and

particularly due to simplified weld modelling in case of

shell models, where plate connections and rigid links

were used. Fig. 9. Different finite element meshes for modelling the one-sided

doubling plate (1/2-model).

A scatter of approximately 10% is contained in the

results based on the approach by Dong [2], which are

plotted on the left side of Fig. 10. The structural stress

in this example is obviously not insensitive to the mesh

density. The aforementioned scatter due to different

element types and simplified modelling may addition-

ally occur.

Fig. 10. Surface stress and structural stress ratio for one-sided doub-

Fig. 8. One-sided doubling plate investigated by Yagi et al. [17]. ling plate.

O. Doerk et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 25 (2003) 359–369 365

tivity, the geometry of the one-sided doubling plate has

been varied. For the sake of simplification, a rectangular

doubling plate with constant length (60 mm), but varying

width b has been chosen. The thickness of the doubling

plate is 10 mm. The dimensions of the parent plate are

B ⫽ 240 mm and t ⫽ 15 mm.

Fig. 11 shows three models with different ratios b/B,

ranging from 1/12 (shallow longitudinal stiffener) to 1/1

(2D case). The element length in front of the doubling

plate was again varied from 0.4 t to 2.0 t.

Fig. 12 shows the structural stress evaluated at the

centre line according to Dong [2]. It can clearly be seen Fig. 12. Structural stress according to Dong [2] evaluated from dif-

that the difference between the results becomes larger if ferent meshes of rectangular doubling plates.

is seen in the neglect of vertical shear stresses acting on

the transverse element sides in the equilibrium equation

described in section 2.3.

investigated within the European Research Project

FatHTS [15]. Fig. 13 shows the test model with a diag-

onally acting hydraulic cylinder, which produces a com-

bination of axial force, shear force and bending moment

in two horizontal and vertical I-beams.

The critical position is the bracket toe, which exists

four times in each test model. The plate thickness of the

flange is 20 mm, while the bracket is 12 mm thick. Full

penetration welding was applied with a leg length of the

fillet weld reinforcement of 8.5 mm.

During the investigation, strain measurements and

finite element calculations were performed. Fig. 14

shows two different finite element models of the critical

area based on above described recommendations, where

the element length in front of the bracket corresponds

to the flange thickness. Fig. 15 compares the computed

different width. Fig. 13. Bracket investigated by Paetzold et al. [15].

366 O. Doerk et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 25 (2003) 359–369

values for a cylinder force of 100 kN. Apart from the

measured stress close to the hot spot, which is affected

by the local notch, the agreement is very good.

Only the shell model is considered for the present

comparison of the different methods. 8-noded quadratic

shell elements have been chosen to represent the I-beam,

the bracket and the flange. The weld was not modelled

as frequently done in practice. In total six meshes have

been created with element sizes in front of the bracket

toe ranging from 0.4 t × t / 2 to 2 t × 2 t. Half the attach-

ment width (w / 2 ⫽ 14.5 mm) was partly taken for the

element width as recommended by Niemi [14] and

Fricke [6].

The resulting stress distribution is shown in Fig. 16.

The stress singularity influences the results close to the

hot spot. However, the structural hot-spot stress derived

from surface extrapolation is almost the same for both

alternative methods mentioned above. A slight stress

under-estimation can be observed when comparing the

results with Fig. 15—an effect which has frequently

been found in connection with shell models. The restric-

tion of the element width to w/2 has only a small effect

on the results in this example.

The results obtained by application of Dong’s method

are generally higher and show a very large scatter. This

is obviously due to the stress singularity, as the local

stress becomes infinite if the element size approaches

zero. The method [2] as applied to this model is highly

mesh-dependent and not able to yield a reasonable struc-

tural stress for simplified models. The surface stress

extrapolation method has, of course, also problems in

such cases, however they seem to be less severe.

The mesh density effect is normally related only to

the elements in front of the hot spot. However, Fig. 17

shows that also the modelling of other areas—in this

case the bracket—may strongly affect the results. A

Fig. 14. Shell and solid finite element models of the bracket with coarse modelling of the bracket toe would increase the

longitudinal stress distribution.

local stress by approximately 10% and, thus, closing the

gap between shell and solid models. This means that we

Fig. 15. Stress distribution in front of the bracket from measurements Fig. 16. Stress distribution in front of the bracket toe and structural

and f.e. models (Fig. 14). hot-spot stresses for various shell models.

O. Doerk et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 25 (2003) 359–369 367

imentally by Kim et al. [10]. It was also included in the

round-robin study [6].

Again, shell modelling with 8-noded elements was

chosen for the present finite element analysis. The weld

was modelled in a simplified way as illustrated in Fig.

18. In this way, the correct weld toe position was kept.

The area in front of the weld toe was modelled in three

different ways by choosing element lengths ᐉ=2 mm,

ᐉ=5 mm and ᐉ=10 mm, respectively.

Fig. 19 shows the computed stress distribution at the

plate edge of the flat bar close to the weld. The force F

was chosen such that a unit nominal stress is acting at

Fig. 17. Stress distribution in front of the bracket toe for two different the welded toe. As expected for in-plane notches, the

meshes of the bracket.

stress distribution is affected by the stress singularity,

have to accept an additional scatter in the finite element showing increased stresses in the elements adjacent to

results due to the meshing around the critical area. the notch. The stress extrapolation yields a stress value

of 1.77 MPa for the fine mesh (quadratic extrapolation)

3.4. Fillet weld around plate edge and 1.68 MPa for the coarse mesh (linear extrapolation),

which means a slight difference between the two

The last example is a flat bar welded to an I-beam, methods. The difference is higher than expected from

where the critical hot spot is located at the plate edge, the former investigation [5], where only 2D structures

see upper part of Fig. 18, i.e. it belongs to type b) with 135° and 90° corners have been analysed.

Dong’s method was applied for an assumed crack

depth of 10 mm, defining the end of the fatigue life for

this specimen. The structural stress computed for the

three meshes in accordance with 2.3 shows only little

scatter, however, the stress is higher that that obtained

from surface extrapolation.

It should be mentioned here that the calculated struc-

tural stress is higher than the measured one and that the

corresponding fatigue life prediction has shown to be

very conservative for this example [6].

4. Conclusions

evaluation methods to four examples of welded plate

Fig. 18. Flat bar welded to an I-beam and modelling of the critical Fig. 19. Stress distribution in front of the fillet weld and structural

area around the weld toe. hot-spot stresses for various models.

368 O. Doerk et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 25 (2003) 359–369

structures, the following conclusions are drawn and rec- ated with the structural stress by Dong [2] seem not

ommendations are given: to be in contradiction to this.

1. The two alternative methods for surface stress extra- ferent types of weld toes and practical situations, they

polation (as shown on the right and left side of Fig. are still relatively simple. Several questions remain open,

3) yield almost the same results. The first procedure e. g. the applicability of the methods to complex, bi-

with reference points 0.4 t / 1.0 t away from the weld axial stress states or to very thick structural members,

toe (or 4/8/12 mm at plate edges) requires a finer e. g. bulbs of profiles, where it is difficult to select an

mesh with element lengths of at least 0.4 t (or 4 mm, appropriate thickness for the definition of stress extrapol-

respectively), if higher-order elements are used. How- ation points or for the depth for stress linearization. All

ever, finer mesh densities are also allowed. The the aforementioned aspects should be considered when

second procedure with reference points 0.5t /1.5 t assessing the reliability of the different methods. In

away from the weld toe (or 5/15 mm at plate edges), addition the practicability is very important for the

which is preferred by several ship classification industrial application.

societies, requires fixed sizes of higher-order elements Furthermore it should be noted that the fatigue predic-

to achieve consistent results. tion may strongly be affected by other influence factors

2. The procedure proposed by Dong [2] for the evalu- such as positive (compressive) residual stresses or large

ation of the structural stress directly at the weld toe variations in the local weld profile, which should be

shows mesh-insensitivity for 2D problems. However, taken into account when assessing the methods. In this

in the case of 3D stress concentration, some scatter is sense, the structural hot-spot stress approach remains to

observed in the results evaluated from different mesh be a relatively coarse, however, very practical approach.

densities. This seems to be due to the neglect of

stresses in the equilibrium equations acting at the

transverse element sides. The scatter increases if the References

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