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MAE351 Mechanics Lab

Professor Mauro Fittipaldi

Spring 2018

LAB #03: Fatigue Crack Growth in Aluminum Alloy (6061-T6)

Luiz Felipe Disconzi Lopes


University of Miami

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


B. Abstract
This paper reports the behavior of two samples of aluminum 6061 heat treated and
artificially aged (-T6). The samples examined were first subjected to a saw cut and then placed
on a MTS fatigue test machine that applied cyclic loads over a number of intervals that induced
the cracking of the alloy on the area where a saw cut was employed. The total number of
measurements taken until the material experienced failure were 33 for one specimen, and 20
for the second. All the data, including the measurement taken with a caliper and a ruler during
the lab, were passed to an Excel spreadsheet for further analysis. Crucial constants for the
experiment include the stress intensity factor and the rate of change of the crack over the rate
of change of the cycles. With this data, two log-log scatter plot for each specimen were created
and a trend line was added to it in order to get the values of the slope m on the equation of the
line, this value resulted on 1.7897 for one sample and 2.2373 to the other one, which reports
that the first sample took a longer time to experience fracture. Another important value was
that of the constant, and it was found from the trend line equations to be 3.70766E-05 for
sample one, and of 7.89042E-07 for sample 2 .These values were then compared to previous
experiments in order to come to a conclusion if our experiment was reliable or not. It turned
out that the results found seemed to describe fairly accurately the behavior of heat treated and
artificially aged aluminum alloy 6061. The specimen 1 of aluminum experienced failure only
after 0.926 millimeters of extension from the first recorded crack and the specimen 2 only after
0.567 millimeters. In suma, the crack growth is described by the curve described by:
log(da/dN)=3.7E-05log(ΔK)^1.7897 for sample 1, and log(da/dN)=7.89E-07log(ΔK)^2.2373 for
sample 2.

C. Table of Contents
A. Title Page......................................................................................................1
B. Abstract........................................................................................................2
C. Table of Contents..........................................................................................3
1. Introduction ..................................................................................................4
2. Methods........................................................................................................7
2.1 Experimental Procedures
2.2 Data Analysis and Calculations on Excel
3. Results..........................................................................................................10
3.1 Tables and Graphs
3.2 Fracture Analysis
4. Discussion ......................................................................................................14
5. Conclusions………………………………………………………………………………………………..15
6. Appendix…………………………………………………………………………………………………….16
7. References......................................................................................................18

1. Introduction
Fatigue testing composes an essential process on the design of any mechanical system
because the material of choice, after being subjected to a certain amount of load, may
experience a failure that might compromise the entire system that it is part of. This failure
happens because the engineering component lost its strength due to brittle fracture. An
important point for predicting fatigue is to know and understand the external loads that will be
applied to the structure during its service life. In the case of an airplane, the loads may vary
from those implied by the air pressure, the atmospheric conditions, the weight on of the
aircraft and the pilot’s maneuvers. Examples of atmospheric conditions include the wind shear,
environment convection and jet streams.
Test for the fatigue lifetime have proven to be important after the engineering
community have been blamed for a number of accidents. An example of these accidents can be
drawn back to the year of 1969, with the F-111 military aircraft failure, in which an entire wing
fell off the aircraft’s structure, resulting on the death of two of the crew members. After this
accident, structural safety started to be thoroughly considered by demanding the development
of damage tolerance for structures.
Multiple element damage can be considered as an example of fatigue damage. In this
scenario, a primary element experiences failure because the crack population has degraded the
load-carrying capability of a structure. This results on widespread fatigue damage, making the
structure unable to carry the residual load.
Aluminum alloys are regularly used in general application and they can be modified in
order to achieve higher strength, corrosion resistance, fatigue, and toughness, Aluminum 6061
is one of the most widely used form out of all alloys and it is mostly composed of magnesium
and silicon. T6 temper 6061 has an ultimate tensile strength of at least 290 MPa and yield
strength of minimum 240 MPa, which makes this aluminum useful for a wide range of
applications where strength is necessary. Applications of 6061-T6 involve an aircraft fuselage,
where a high strength-to-weight ratio is necessary in order to achieve less fuel consumption by
the engine. The T6 on the nomenclature of this class of aluminum stands for the process that
the material underwent, which in this case means that it was heat treated and artificially aged.
Cracks can be caused by cyclic loading, normally known as fatigue crack growth. The
stress intensity factor is a tool that helps us to make an analysis of the engineering crack growth
and it is known as the letter K, which quantifies the severity of a through crack in causing a high
stress level at the tip of a crack. Specifically, K can be evaluated by

K  FS a (1)

Where a is crack length, S is nominal stress, F is a dimensionless function of geometry, and the
relative crack length  = a/b (b is the width of the cracked component).

For a flat specimen or plate specimen, if the applied loading is cycled between the
maximum load, Pmax, and the minimum load, Pmin, the corresponding gross section nominal
stresses Smax and Smin are given by

S max  (2)

S min  (3),
Respectively, where t is the thickness of the specimen. For fatigue crack growth analysis, it is
convenient to use the stress range, S, defined by

S  S max  S min (4),

And the stress ratio R, defined by

S min
R (5).
S max

The primary variable affecting the growth rate of a crack is the range of the stress intensity
factor, K that can be evaluated by

K  FS a (6).

The value of F depends only on the geometry and relative crack length,  = a/b, just as if the
loading were not cyclic. According to Eqs 1-6, the following equations hold.

K max  FS max a (7)

K min  FS min a (8)


K  K max  K min (9)

S min P K
R  min  min (10)
S max Pmax K max

At intermediate growth rate or K, there is often a straight line on the log (da/dN )-log
(K) plot. A relationship representing this line is

 C (K ) m (13)

Where C is a constant and m is the slope on the log-log plot, assuming, of course, that the
decades on both log scales are the same length. This equation (Paris’s Law) is identified with
Paul Paris, who first used it in 1960. However, in order to find dN , one must take the value of
the crack length according to the number of the measurement and subtract this value from the
previously found crack. This value, should be divided by the cycle of the current crack minus the
value of the previous crack related to the previous crack growth. To simplify the previous
explanation, this relationship is described as follows,


The secondary variable controlling crack growth rate is stress ratio. Where for a given
K, increasing R increases the growth rate, and vice versa. If m is not expected to be affected by
R, C is a function of R as follows,

C (15)
(1  R) m (1 )

Where C0 is the constant in the Paris’s law when R=0 and γ is a constant for the material.
The major objective of this experiment was to obtain the constants C and m for the
Paris’s Law, defined by eq. 13, and as well as the initial constant on eq. 14. These results are
important because during the process of finding them, we were allowed to determine a log-log
plot of da/dN vs Delta K that showed the data for the fatigue crack growth rates over a wide
range of stress intensities for the 6061-T6 aluminum specimen.

2. Methods
2.1. Experimental Procedures
The experiment consisted on applying a cyclic load to a specimen of aluminum 6061-T6
material, characterized by the following composition: 0.28% Cu, 0.2% Cr, 1.0% Mg, 0.6% Si with
the remaining being aluminum and T6. The load was of initially 1100 lbs. with an amplitude of
+/- 500 lbs., which means that the maximum load was
1600 lbs., and the minimum was 600 lbs. The flat
specimen contained a saw cut which was measured
by a ruler and determined to have 3.06 millimeters of
width, and to have a length of 16.594 millimeters.
During the experiment, the machine used was a MTS
fatigue test machine and it would apply a load that
initialized the crack growth. When the growth was
detected, the load would be reduced to allow the
proliferation of the crack growth, which would be
immediately measured after a number of cycles with
a caliper. The length of the crack growth was named
“a”. A drawing of the specimen used may be found in
the Solidworks drawing (Figure 2.2), with the
necessary dimensions labeled on Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1: Specification of labels used on analysis of both


The machine MTS 858 Mini Bionix Table Top

Fatigue Testing Frame worked based on a force
capacity of 5.5 kip (25 kN), possessed a number
of two columns with 17.5 inches of distance
between them and could be used with materials
with at maximum 24 inches. The dimensions of
the machine were 26.5’’ x 20’’ x 93’’ of
maximum height, and it weighted approximately
500 lbs. Fatigue testing were carried out in sine
waveform (fatigue stress cycle), at 5Hz and at
room temperature.
Before mounting the specimen on the
machine, the team measured every dimension
of the material and found its thickness
(measured with a caliper) to be 1.559
millimeters, its width to be 32.5 millimeters
Figure 2.2: Solidworks drawing of sample 1.
(ruler), and the gage length 55.5 millimeters (ruler), every
measurement was averaged after a total of three trials being conducted. After the
measurements, the maximum loading was set to be 1600
lbs. and the minimum 600 lbs. with a frequency of 5 Hz. The
cyclic loading was started and only at a cycle of a thousand
the team was able to identify the first propagation, so the
machine was stopped, the crack growth measured, and the
load decreased. Later, the cracks started to become more
recurrent because of the brittle fracture that occurred after
1000 cycles. All these cracks were written down together
with the corresponding cycles until the experiment was
The ending of the experiment happened when the
material experienced fracture on its middle and could not
resist the load anymore. As a consequence of that, all the
data was collected until that point and data analysis was
ready to be done.

Figure 2.3: MTS 858 Mini Bionix Table Top

Fatigue Testing Frame.

2.2 Data Analysis and Calculations on Excel

Firstly, an Excel spreadsheet was created to plug in all the formulas previously stated. It
was decided in the moment that most of the measurements would either be reported on MPa
or in millimeters because it was found to be convenient. Since the load given by the machine
was in pounds, the parameter used for conversion was that 1 lb. is 4.448222 Newton,
therefore, the value of Pmax and Pmin went from 1600 lb. and 600 lb., to 7117.155 N and
2668.933 N, respectively.
To calculate values such as ΔK, it is important to take a look at Table 1 below in order to
have an idea of the propagation of the cracks in relation to their cycles. With the information
from the table, it was easy to find and use the value of alpha, which is simply the crack length
divided by the width measured as 32.5 millimeters. With help from references (Norman E.
Dowling, 2013, pp. 327, Figure 8.12 (c)) the geometry factor, F, necessary on the formula of the
growth rate expressed by eq. 6 was found for each value of alpha.

Crack Length (mm) Crack Length (mm)

Cycles, N “a” Cycles, N “a”
0 16.594 6805 17
1000 16.598 6949 17.02
1600 16.64 7072 17.04
3393 16.702 7080 17.06
3850 16.717 7551 17.08
4250 16.721 7650 17.1
4660 16.723 7810 17.12
4813 16.788 7881 17.14
4959 16.82 7900 17.15
5190 16.84 7940 17.16
5329 16.86 8118 17.22
5701 16.88 8209 17.27
5890 16.9 8254 17.32
5980 16.92 8293 17.39
6170 16.94 8356 17.44
6421 16.96 8763 17.47
6577 16.98 8907 17.52
Table 2.1: Cycles and crack lengths measured in laboratory.

In addition to all calculations previously stated, it was necessary to find the value of
a/N, which corresponds to the rate of crack growth with respect to the cycles and it is
described by eq. 14. This value was calculated using an Excel spreadsheet with a formula

generated on each cell that would take the rate of the crack growth and divide the resultant
value for the rate of the cycles.
This was pretty much all the data needed to generate the graph necessary for the
analysis. What was left to do was just to take the logarithmic value of a/N and plot it with
relation to the logarithmic value of ΔK, which resulted on an scatter graph in which a least
squares fit was performed, with the dependent value being y = log(a/N) and the
independent variable x = log(ΔK).
This same procedure was repeated for the second sample and the results were fairly
similar. They will be mentioned on the results section, but the value for the crack length and
the cycles may be found on table 2.2 below.

Cycles (N) Crack length, a (mm)

0 9.05
50 9.23
100 9.54
150 9.62
200 9.83
350 9.86
400 10.07
450 10.18
550 10.47
600 10.55
700 10.72
800 11.35
900 11.71
1000 12.01
1100 12.54
1200 13.72
1354 Break
Table 2.1: Cycles and crack lengths measured in laboratory for sample 2, after sample 1 broke.

3. Results
3.1. Tables and Graphs
Beginning the process of interpreting the data from the methods section, an
examination of the crack growth was plotted against the number of cycles, using as a reference,
that the detectable value in which the crack began to be noticed by the group of students, was
when “a” had 17.46 millimeters during the cycle of number 8650. This crack increased for a
number of 250 cycles until it eventually torn the whole specimen apart, with the critical crack

length being of 17.52 millimeters. This plot can be seen on Graph 3.1, where the point of
rupture is highlighted on the line.

N x Crack Length
Crack length (mm)

8650 8700 8750 8800 8850 8900
Cycles, N

Graph 3.1: Number of cycles from detectable crack length until its critical value for sample 1.

The nominal stresses Smax and Smin were found by dividing Pmax and Pmin by the
thickness times the width, and resulted on 140.468 MPa for max, and 52.675 MPa for min. The
value of R was found by taking the ratio of Smin over Smax and had the value of 0.375.
Additionally, ΔS was found by subtracting Smin from Smax, which resulted in a value of 87.792.
Additionally, alpha was found by taking the ratio between the global crack lengths and dividing
it by the width of the cracked component. The results for alpha ranged from 0.00012 to
The value for the Geometry factor, F, found on eq. 6 ranged from 0.694 to 0.707, which
after compared to the literature showed to be very reasonable. After plugging in all values on
eq. 6, the average stress intensity factor was found to be 2.19 MPa (m)^0.5, which is a
reasonable value as aluminum is a strong material. It also makes sense to when compared to
results found on published journals (L. Collini, A. Pirondi and D. Fersini, 2004, pp. 7, Table 4),
which show values for the stress intensity factor, being of around 1.4 for values of R near the
ones used in this experiment. All this data can be seen and better understood on Table 3.1 and
3.2 on the appendix, where all the values were rounded to three significant figures but da/dn
because they turned out to be small numbers, as expected.

Stress Intesity Factor vs. Crack

Propagation (Sample 2)

1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8




y = 2.2373x - 6.1029
R² = 0.2421





Graph 3.2: log-log plot of ΔK vs da/dN (Sample 1). Graph 3.3: log-log plot for Sample 2.

The next step taken after the measuring and calculation of all the values was making a
scatter plot and adding a trend line for the log values of da/dn and ΔK, which resulted on Graph
3.2 for the first sample and 3.3 for the second one, with a line described by y = 1.7897x-4.4309
and a R squared value of 0.526, and y = 2.2373x - 6.1029 and R squared equals 0.2421. The
values for m and C were found to be 1.7897 and 3.70766E-05, and 2.2373 and 7.89042E-07
respectively. These figures reflect the value of the slope of the line (m), and the value of C
(log(C) = -4.4309 and log(C) = - 6.1029).
The value for C0 and γ were found to be 1.59877E-05 for C0 when γ is equals to zero and
R (Smin over Smax) is equals to 0.375. For the sample number two, these values changed to
3.98453E-07 for C0 when γ is equals to zero and is equals to 0.263.

3.2 Fracture Analysis

As for the specimen of aluminum, the zone of failure from the fatigue testing is
important for examination because it sums up much of the data calculated. When examining
the picture collected from the experiment (Figure 3.1), it is clear to see two distinct zones on
the failure area. One of these zones is where the initial crack was located and where it grew
during the various applications of loads and cycles, named fatigue zone. If a fracture analysis
were to be conducted more carefully in that zone, we would be able to identify, on the surface
of the crack, that for high values of stress intensity, a greater number of dimples are formed
around the material’s particles, which demonstrate traces of plastic strain along the matrix. It is
also noticeable on that zone, granular traces that show the progression of the fatigue crack
emanating from the origin.

Origin of the

Granular traces
Saw cut

Figure 3.1: Representation of specimen used with greater details on the part of the crack and rupture

The second identifiable zone is called rupture zone, the area of final failure. This area
starts off at the final recorded crack length, which describes the portion in which the material
could not withstand the applied load anymore because of the smaller area reduced by the
prolongation of the crack.

Fatigue zone

Rupture zone

Figure 3.2: Experimental specimen of aluminum under fatigue load. Two distinguished zones marked.

4. Discussion
The reported values for this experiment, such as C and m, fall within the range of the
literature, where it cites that they should be near 4.55 for m and 1.04E-08 for C (L. Collini, A.
Pirondi and D. Fersini, 1997, pp. 7, Table 4) for a specimen of aluminum 6061 that is not heat
treated nor artificially aged. The values represent good examination of data during the length of
the experiment, however, there are still a margin of error for when we look at the log-log trend
line on Graph 3.2. This error must have originated from the cycles measured during the lab
experiment. This is because, after taking a look at Table 2.1, one can easily notice that the
difference between the cycles vary in a manner that affect the results from the graph of

log(ΔK) vs log(da/dn) because dn is in reality Δn. For that reason, if the initial value that is being
subtracted by the next value have a big and disordered difference, we will have irregularity on
the values of Δa/Δn, which can be easily seen on Graph 3.2.
This experiment although being accurate and reliable, could have also generated better
results if it weren’t for sources of error such as the number of people grouped on the same
location conducting the experiment using the same machine. Also, if every measurement were
taken individually, maybe they would have been reported more accurately since it is possible
that trouble in communication can happen when it comes to sharing the data.

5. Conclusions
The fatigue lifetime behavior of Aluminum 6061-T6 alloy found on this study is similar to
properties found on previous literature. The main difference may be attributed to limited
sources of error, and also to the stress ratio of 0.375 and 0.263 for the two different samples,
which affects the experimental data. Additionally, when comparing the log-log plot of ΔK vs
Δa/Δn for Aluminum 6061-T6 alloy to the graph of simply Aluminum 6061, we can spot a
difference on the slope value, m, which is stated on previous literature to be on the range of 2-
4 for Al 6061, and found to be 1.7897 and 2.2373 here. This slope value directly correlates the
propagation of crack over the cycles to the number of the stress intensity factor, meaning that
an aluminum specimen heat treated and artificially aged, shows better response to applied
stress because its slope is less accentuated. This slope is different because of the process that
the material went. Heat treatment in aluminum alloys is well known for increasing the strength
of the material, which is the reason that made this specimen to resist loading and to extend its
crack only after additional 0.926 millimeters from the first measured crack for sample 1 and
0.567 millimeters for sample 2.
When comparing sample 1 to sample 2, and the values of m and C for both of the
specimens, one can conclude some important and relevant observations. For instance, the
steeper slope for sample 1 (1.7897) when compared to 2.2373 of the second one, may induce
one to think that the first material had a bigger resistance to the cyclic loading than the second
one. This is very plausible when we compare the properties of both materials on Table 5.1,
where it is seen that the first material had a greater thickness, width, and gage length.

Sample 1 Sample 2
Thickness (mm) 1.60 1.56
Width (mm) 32.50 31.67
Length (mm) 55.50 51.00
Initial crack length (mm) 16.59 16.70

6. Appendix

Geometry Factor (F) α ΔK MPa√m da/dN (mm/cycles) log(da/dN) log(ΔK MPa√m)

0.694 0.000 0.216 4E-06 -5.398 -0.666
0.694 0.001 0.732 7E-05 -4.155 -0.135
0.695 0.003 1.123 3.46E-05 -4.461 0.051
0.695 0.004 1.199 3.28E-05 -4.484 0.079
0.695 0.004 1.219 1E-05 -5.000 0.086
0.695 0.004 1.228 4.88E-06 -5.312 0.089
0.696 0.006 1.508 0.000425 -3.372 0.178
0.696 0.007 1.629 0.000219 -3.659 0.212
0.696 0.008 1.700 8.66E-05 -4.063 0.230
0.697 0.008 1.768 0.000144 -3.842 0.248
0.697 0.009 1.834 5.38E-05 -4.270 0.263
0.697 0.009 1.898 0.000106 -3.975 0.278
0.698 0.010 1.960 0.000222 -3.653 0.292
0.698 0.011 2.020 0.000105 -3.978 0.305
0.698 0.011 2.078 7.97E-05 -4.099 0.318
0.698 0.012 2.135 0.000128 -3.892 0.329
0.699 0.012 2.191 8.77E-05 -4.057 0.341
0.699 0.013 2.245 0.000139 -3.857 0.351
0.699 0.014 2.298 0.000163 -3.789 0.361
0.700 0.014 2.350 0.00025 -3.602 0.371
0.700 0.015 2.401 4.25E-05 -4.372 0.380
0.700 0.016 2.451 0.000202 -3.695 0.389
0.701 0.016 2.500 0.000125 -3.903 0.398
0.701 0.017 2.548 0.000282 -3.550 0.406
0.701 0.017 2.572 0.000526 -3.279 0.410
0.701 0.017 2.596 0.00025 -3.602 0.414
0.702 0.019 2.734 0.000337 -3.472 0.437
0.703 0.021 2.844 0.000549 -3.260 0.454
0.704 0.022 2.951 0.001111 -2.954 0.470
0.705 0.024 3.095 0.000179 -3.747 0.491
0.706 0.026 3.195 0.000794 -3.100 0.505
0.707 0.027 3.254 7.37E-05 -4.132 0.512
0.707 0.028 3.350 0.000347 -3.459 0.525
Table 3.1: Experimental values for sample 1.

Geometry Factor (F) α ΔK MPa√m da/dN (mm/cycles) log(da/dN) log(ΔK MPa√m)

1.633159333 0.291443 1.5609799 0.0036 -2.443697499 1.547604

1.667012651 0.301231 1.5665751 0.0062 -2.207608311 1.56098

1.675992515 0.303757 1.5750974 0.0016 -2.795880017 1.566575

1.700053022 0.310388 1.5754285 0.0042 -2.37675071 1.575097

1.703548825 0.311336 1.5789515 0.0006 -3.22184875 1.578951

1.728438188 0.317967 1.5887096 0.0042 -2.37675071 1.58871

1.741772758 0.32144 1.5932236 0.0022 -2.657577319 1.593224

1.77793599 0.330597 1.5962947 0.0058 -2.236572006 1.609076

1.788175389 0.333123 1.6090757 0.0016 -2.795880017 1.612395

1.810322273 0.338491 1.6123946 0.0034 -2.468521083 1.6275

1.897207132 0.358383 1.6141371 0.0063 -2.200659451 1.657388

1.950466078 0.369751 1.6275003 0.0036 -2.443697499 1.675539

1.996994466 0.379223 1.6573876 0.003 -2.522878745 1.693246

2.08428198 0.395958 1.675539 0.0053 -2.27572413 1.726447

2.304821466 0.433218 1.6932458 0.0118 -1.928117993 1.787674
Table 3.2: Experimental values for sample 2.

7. References
1. Rao, S.S., Mechanical Vibrations, Addison-Wesley Inc, 1995
2. Fittipaldi, Mauro, MEN 351 Fatigue Crack Growth in Aluminum Alloy, University of
Miami, spring 2018
3. E. Dowling, Norman, Mechanical Behavior of Materials 4th Edition, Pearson, 2013
4. Hwa, Ping, Fatigue Behaviour of 6061 Aluminium Alloy and Its Composite, School of
Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Dublin City University, 2001
5. Collini, L., Pirondi, A., Fersini, D., Fatigue Crack Resistance of 6061 and 7005
Aluminum Alloy, 2004
6. MTS SYSTEMS CORPORATION, MTS 810 & 858 Material Testing Systems, 2006