Dr. William O’Donnell, PhD, PE
Practice Areas: Fatigue, Fracture, Failure Analysis, Safety, ASME Code Development, ASME Design & Analysis, Forensic Engineering
Founder and President of O’Donnell Consulting Engineers, Inc., Bill O’Donnell began his professional career at Westinghouse Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory, where he helped design and develop components for the nuclear Navy under Admiral Rickover. He has since built extensive professional experience in the analysis of components including fatigue and fracture safety evaluations and failure analysis. He has developed methods for evaluating fatigue, stress corrosion cracking and safety margins of components, and is an expert in complex failure modes which occur under cyclic loads. His work includes includes Fatigue of Austenitic Stainless Steels as well as Fatigue and Creep-Fatigue Design Curves of Nickel Alloys.
Bill, Sr. is currently active on the ASME Subcommittee on Design, and serves as a Contributing Member of the ASME (BPV III) Working Group on Fatigue Strength.
He received the ASME Award for the “Best Conference Technical Paper” in 1973 and again in 1988. He was named “Engineer of the Year” by the Pittsburgh Section of the ASME in 1988. He was awarded the national PVP Medal by the ASME, and received the University of Pittsburgh Mechanical Engineering Department’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1996, as well as Pittsburgh’s “Who’s Who in Engineering 2000.” See a List of Publications by Dr. O’Donnell and others. One such publication Code Design and Evaluation for Cyclic Loading – ASME Sections III and VIII may be found in ASME Companion Guide to the Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code.
He also performs forensic engineering analysis. A few of the cases he has testified include:
- Post weld heat treatment issues on vessels in a refinery
- Collapsed ductwork in a Pittsburgh Public School
- Structural collapse and fire of a paper rack structure after two months in service (PDF)
- Coke oven battery construction issues in the International Chamber of Commerce (Paris) in a $590 Million binding arbitration
- Failure of electric heating elements
- Boiler tube failures occurring a maintenance outage in a power plant
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In addition to publishing numerous technical papers, and chapters on various topics as metallurgy, fatigue, fracture, pressure vessel design and solar energy, Bill, Sr. recently published – “Handbook of Lessons Learned in Engineering, Design, Manufacturing and Construction from 50 Years of Failure Experience.” It is available for purchase on Amazon.
The fatigue design life evaluation procedures in Section III of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code were originally developed in the U.S. Naval Nuclear Program. Those involved included Dr. Bill O’Donnell, Bernie Langer, Bill Cooper and Jim Farr – who developed the initial formulation of this technology in the Tentative Structural Design Basis for Reactor Pressure Vessels, which became known as “SDB-63.”
Section III of the ASME Code “Vessels in Nuclear Service” was the first to include specific Code rules to prevent low cycle fatigue failure. Its first edition was published in 1963. Section VIII, Division 2, “Alternate Rules for Pressure Vessels” followed in 1968.
During the 2022 ASME PVP Conference in Pittsburgh, the ASME presented an award to Bill, Sr. for over 45 years of his contributions to ASME Division III Standards Development Committees, including:
• Chairman, ASME Task Force on Creep Analysis
• Chairman, ASME Subgroup on Fatigue Strength
• Member, ASME Subgroup on Elevated Temperature Design