The higher bolt preload is better for increasing the integrity of bolted joints. However, the bearing surface could be permanently deformed with too much high preload and the bolt preload decreases with permanent deformation. Thus, an upper limit of bolt preload per contact area at the bearing surfaces, which is called as the critical contact stress, must be examined for various materials of clamped parts. In the previous research, the critical contact stresses were obtained by compressing a cylindrical bar. However, the contact stress distribution of compressing a cylindrical bar is much different to that of an actual bolted joint. In addition, a lot of previous researches used the stress-strain curves under tensile loadings for analyzing the contact stress distributions at the bearing surfaces.

In this study, the Finite Element Method is used for contact stress analysis at the bearing surfaces in clamped bolted joints under external loading. Various materials for clamped part are chosen such as steel, aluminum alloy, cast iron and stainless steel. Firstly, the stress-strain curves for the above materials were measured under compressive loadings. The differences in the stress-strain curves under tensile and compressive loadings are evaluated with the above materials. Next, using actual bolts, the displacements at the bearing surfaces in cylindrical clamped parts consisting of the above materials were measured. Finally, elasto-plastic FEM contact stress analyses are carried out for analyzing the plastic displacements at the bearing surfaces under compressive loadings. The mean displacement at the bearing surfaces are compared with those obtained from the experiments for each material. The FEM results of the relationship between the contact stress and the plastic displacement at the bearing surface are in a fairy good agreement with the experimental results for each clamped material. In addition, the critical contact stress at the bearing surface is discussed for each material. Two proposals for the critical contact stress at the bearing surface are described and compared with the critical contact stress of VDI2230.

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