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Bolted joints subjected to cyclic loading perform best if an initial preload is applied. The induced stress mini- mizes the external load sensed by the bolt, and reduces the chance of fatigue failure. At high temperature, the induced load will change, and this can adeversely affect the fastener performance. It is therefore necessary to compensate for high-temperature conditions when assembling the joint at room temperature. This article describes the factors which must be considered and illus- trates how a high-temperature bolted joint is designed.
In high-temperature joints, adequate clamping force or preload must be maintained in spite of temperature- induced dimensional changes of the fastener relative to the joint members. the change in preload at any given temperature for a given time can be calculated, and the affect compensated for by proper fastener selection and initial preload.
Three principal factors tend to alter the initial clamping force in a joint at elevated temperatures, provided that the fastener material retains requisite strength at the elevated temperature. These factors are: Modulus of elasticity, coefficient of thermal expansion, and relaxation.
Coefficient of Expansion: With most materials, the size of the part increases as the temperature increases. In a joint, both the structure and the fastener grow with an increase in temperature, and this can result,depending on the materials, in an increase or decrease in the clamping force. Thus, matching of materials in joint design can assure sufficient clamping force at both room and elevated temperatures. Table 16 lists mean coefficient of thermal expansion of certain fastener alloys at several temperatures.
Relaxation: At elevated temperatures, a material subjected to constant stress below its yield strength will flow plastically and permanently change size. This phenomenon is called creep. In a joint at elevated temperature, a fastener with a fixed distance between the bearing surface of the head and nut will produce less and less clamping force with time. This characteristic is called relaxation. It differs from creep in that stress changes while elongation or strain remains constant. Such elements as material, temperature, initial stress, manufacturing method, and design affect the rate of relaxation.
Relaxation is the most important of the three factors. It is also the most critical consideration in design of elevated-temperature fasteners. A bolted joint at 1200°F, can lose as much as 35 per cent of preload. Failure to compensate for this could lead to fatigue failure through a loose joint even though the bolt was properly tightened initially.
If the coefficient of expansion of the bolt is greater than that of the joined material, a predictable amount of clamping force will be lost as temperature increases. Conversely, if the coefficient of the joined material is greater, the bolt may be stressed beyond its yield or even fracture strength. Or, cyclic thermal stressing may lead to thermal fatigue failure.
Changes in the modulus of elasticity of metals with increasing temperature must be anticipated, calculated, and compensated for in joint design. Unlike the coefficient of expansion, the effect of change in modulus is to reduce clamping force whether or not bolt and structure are the same material, and is strictly a function of the bolt metal.
Since the temperature environment and the materials of the structure are normally "fixed," the design objective is to select a bolt material that will give the desired clamping force at all critical points in the operating range of the joint. To do this, it is necessary to balance out the three factors-relaxation, thermal expansion, and modulus-with a fourth, the amount of initial tightening or clamping force.
In actual joint design the determination of clamping force must be considered with other design factors such as ultimate tensile, shear, and fatigue strength of the fastener at elevated temperature. As temperature increases the inherent strength of the material decreases. Therefore, it is important to select a fastener material which has sufficient strength at maximum service temperature.