Bolted flange joints are the most complex structural components of pressure vessels and piping equipment. Their assembly is a delicate task that determines their successful operation during the service life. During bolt tightening, it is very difficult to achieve uniformity of the target bolt preload due to elastic interaction and criss-cross talk. The risk of leakage failure under service loading is consequently increased because of the scatter of the bolt preload.
In previous work, an analytical model based on the theory of circular beams on linear elastic foundation was proposed to predict the bolt tension change due to elastic interaction. Based on this model, this paper presents a novel methodology for the optimization of the tightening sequence. The target preload and the load to be applied to each bolt in each pass can be calculated to achieve uniform final preload and avoid bolt tension reaching yield under a number of specified tightening passes. The validity of the approach is supported by experimental tests conducted on a NPS 4 class 900 welding neck flange joint and by finite element analysis on this bolted joint using the criss-cross tightening and sequential patterns. This study provides guidelines for bolted flange joints assembly and enhances its safety and reliability by minimizing bolt tension scatter due to elastic interaction.