The specific objective of this paper is to develop external pressure design safety factors that are consistent with theory, test results, and service experience for application in pressure vessel codes. The standard methods of collapse pressure predictions for the buckling of tubes in the elastic and the plastic ranges are briefly reviewed. Test results on tubes made of various materials were collected from the literature and are compared with the corresponding predictions. For thin tubes which buckle in the elastic range, the correlation between the theory and experimentally measured collapse pressure is shown to be poor, justifying the large safety factors used in current design practice. For intermediate and thick tubes which buckle in the plastic range, it is demonstrated that the correlation of test results and theory improves significantly with decreasing radius-to-thickness ratio of the tubes. The range of improved correlation is identified by a material dependent “characteristic ratio” of tube radius and wall thickness. Based on the experimental evidence, a variable safety factor is proposed for inclusion in the ASME Code design charts. A simple formula for the conversion of the present plastic range allowable pressure into the new increased allowable pressure is presented. The consequences of the variable safety factor are discussed with respect to the resulting actual margin of safety, the economic advantages, and the requirements for the development of design rules for the creep range.

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