An improved understanding of the failure behaviour of safety critical component could result in substantial benefits for industry; these include a reduction in design constraints resulting in optimised and cheaper designs, reduced risk and therefore cost. Yet surprisingly, there is little information in design and assessment codes on the behaviour of thin sections. The aim of this paper is to investigate the fracture of thin sections, with reduced out-of-plane plastic constraint, by using a unified measure of constraint. A range of single edge notched bend specimen made of stainless steel 316L were tested. The specimens had a combination of in-plane and out-of-plane constraint levels achieved through different crack lengths and thicknesses. FEA simulations of the tested specimens were conducted to estimate the crack tip stress and strain fields for each, in order to determine Rice and Tracey contour values. Using critical values of Rice and Tracey parameter and a critical area (normalised by thickness) enclosed by this parameter, toughness scaling values for low constraint specimens are calculated.

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