This paper describes a new stress-intensity factor (SIF) solution for an external surface crack in a sphere that expands capabilities previously available for this common pressure vessel geometry. The SIF solution employs the weight function (WF) methodology that enables rapid calculations of SIF values. The WF methodology determines SIF values from the nonlinear stress variations computed for the uncracked geometry, e.g., from service stresses and/or residual stresses. The current approach supports two degrees of freedom that denote the two crack tips located normal to the surface and the surface of the sphere. The geometric formulation of this solution enforces an elliptical crack front, maintains normality of the crack front with the free surface, and supports two degrees of freedom for fatigue crack growth from an internal crack tip and a surface crack tip. The new SIF solution accommodates spherical geometries with an exterior diameter greater than or equal to four times the thickness. This WF SIF solution has been combined with stress variations common for spherical pressure vessels: uniform internal pressure on the interior surface, uniform tension on the crack plane, and uniform bending on the crack plane.

This paper provides a complete overview of this solution. We present for the first time the geometric formulation of the crack front that enables the new functionality and set the geometric limits of the solution, e.g., the maximum size and shape of the crack front. The paper discusses the bivariant WF formulation used to define the SIF solution and details the finite element analyses employed to calibrate terms in the WF formulation. A summary of preliminary verification efforts demonstrates the credibility of this solution against independent results from finite element analyses. We also compare results of this new solution against independent SIFs computed by finite element analyses, legacy SIF solutions, API 579, and FITNET. These comparisons indicate that the new WF solution compares favorably with results from finite element analyses. This paper summarizes ongoing efforts to improve and extend this solution, including formal verification and development of an internal surface crack model. Finally, we discuss the capabilities of this solution’s implementation in NASGRO® v10.0.

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