The ASME BPVC was created in response to public outcry after several serious explosions in the state of Massachusetts. A fire-tube boiler exploded at the Grover Shoe Factory in Brockton, Massachusetts, on March 20, 1905, which resulted in the deaths of 58 people and injured 150. Then on December 6, 1906, a boiler in the factory of the P.J. Harney Shoe Company exploded in Lynn, Massachusetts. As a result, the state of Massachusetts enacted the first legal code based on ASME's rules for the construction of steam boilers in 1907.
Today, the ASME BPVC is very extensive with many sections and both mandatory and non-mandatory appendices. Of particular interest to the designer are divisions 1, 2, and 3. Division 1 is a design-by-rule or design-by-formula approach. While ASME Section VIII, Division 1’s design-by-rule approach is most commonly utilized by engineers to size the pressure vessel according to the application requirements, it is quite a conservative approach. The empirical relations and other mandatory and non-mandatory design criteria often result in an expensive pressure vessel design.
An FEA cannot be used to supersede existing rules in ASME Section VIII, Division 1. However, where no Code rules exist for a given situation, an FEA may be required. Article U-2(g) of Division 1 states:
This Division of Section VIII does not contain the rules to cover all details of design and construction. Where complete details are not given, is intended that the Manufacturer, subject to the acceptance of the Inspector, shall provide details of design and construction which will be as safe as those provided by the rules of this Division.
ASME Section VIII, Division 2’s design-by-analysis approach requires more detailed calculations than Division 1. Although this may increase the cost of pressure vessel design, it allows pressure vessels to withstand higher stresses.
The 2017 Edition of ASME VIII-2 now divides vessels into two classes, Class 1 and Class 2. The requirements for Class 2 vessels are largely unchanged from the previous 2015 Edition of ASME VIII-2.
ASME Section VIII, Division 3 is normally employed for high pressure vessels, usually in excess of 10,000 psig. Using Div 3 will result in lighter vessels than when the vessel is designed by Div 1 or 2 but at a higher design cost.