In this paper, we investigated the bursting pressure of thin-walled cylinders. Considering the strain hardening behavior of materials and the geometry deformation of pressure vessels, we derived the instability strain of thin-walled cylinders with a Swift-type stress-strain relationship, and used it as a failure criterion. Consequently, the instability stress was obtained and used to determine the maximum load-bearing capacity of thin-walled cylinders, that is, bursting pressure. The analytical solutions were compared with finite element analysis and bursting experimental results on different size thin-walled cylindrical pressure vessels manufactured from three different materials. It was turned out that it is reasonable to adopt instability strain as a failure criterion and use instability pressure as burst pressure. In the finite element analysis, the material parameters used were from raw experimental data or fitted values of experimental data. For both cases, finite element predications on instability strain and bursting pressure gave around the same values, close to experimental results. Therefore, based on finite element analyses, the instability strain and bursting pressure can be calculated by using true stress-strain curves directly measured from experiments, without the need to assume any specific material type.

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