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An Introduction to Failure Analysis for Metallurgical Engineers Page 1 of 22

TMS Outstanding Student

Paper Contest Winner--
1999 Undergraduate Division
An Introduction to Failure Analysis for Metallurgical Engineers
Thomas Davidson

The objective of this paper is to introduce the reader to the
procedures generally followed when conducting a
metallurgical failure analysis. Due to the large number, of
possible causes of failures, this report will not delve deeply
into theory. Instead, six failure case reports are provided to
allow the reader to learn by example. For this reason, the
reader is expected to have some background knowledge of
failure mechanisms. However, the paper includes a detailed
bibliography containing several sources that were used during
my summer employment to help carry out these cases. The six CONTENTS
cases presented are cases I worked on over the summer of 98
for Noranda Technology Centre in the Materials Technology z FORWARD
for Failure Prevention group. z PROCEDURE
PROCEDURE { Introduction to Case
{ Case Study 1: Crane Bolt
To increase the odds of completing a conclusive failure
analysis while at the same time saving time and money, Failure
{ Case Study 2: Rider
investigations should be carried out using a systemic approach
similar to that outlined in Figure P.1. It is important to note Roller Shaft Failure
{ Case Study 3: Crane Pin
however, that it is often impossible to foresee results that might
require the investigator to go back and repeat a test. A simple Failure
{ Case Study 4: Shaft
way reduce the occurrence of this is to go into a case well
informed on how similar systems have failed. An excellent Bearing Failure
{ Case Study 5: Bronze
source of for this type of information is the ASM handbooks,
particularly volume 10 on "Failure analysis and prevention". Bull Gear Failure
{ Case Study 6: Analysis of
This book is an invaluable reference to the beginner and the
expert and should be consulted regularly. Another important 316L Reducer Failure
source of information are the standards by which the part was z APPENDIX 1: EXAMPLE
manufactured. These standards give the investigator a QUESTIONNAIRE
measuring stick by which to compare, as well as indicating z Bibliography
areas of importance. There are many organisations that produce
standards for different applications and several organisations
standards can overlap. It would be a good idea for the
investigators to spend some time familiarising themselves with these organisations and how the

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standards are used. Table P.1 gives a brief list of the more common organisations that write standards
and their general area of coverage.

The first step in conducting any failure analysis is to gain a good understanding of the conditions under
which the part was operating. The investigator must ask questions from those who work with, as well as
those who maintain the equipment and visit the site whenever possible. Contacting the manufacturer
may also be necessary. A simple questionnaire, presented in Appendix 1, is a good place to start and will
lead the investigator to more detailed questions. Unfortunately, in many instances the investigator will
receive a failed part with little information about its history and operating conditions. In cases such as
these the physical evidence will have to be more heavily relied on.

Figure P.1. Chart outlining the major steps that are usually taken when conducting a failure

Table P.1--Common standard organisations and their general area of coverage.

Acronym Coverage

AISI Steel composition standards

ASTM Standards for materials and their manufacture
API Petroleum industry standards which are used by many other industries
ASME Responsible for Boiler Pressure vessel codes
NACE Codes for materials exposed to corrosive environments
SAE Automotive industry standards used by many other industries
UNS Classification for metals and metal alloys

The second step is to conduct a visual examination, cataloguing and recording the physical evidence at
the same time. This serves the functions of:

z Familiarising the investigators with the evidence.

z Creating a permanent record that can be referred to in light of new information.

Samples should be examined, photographed and sketched taking particular care to identify and record

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any area of particular importance, such as fracture surfaces and surface defects. Visual examination can
be aided by the use of a stereomicroscope with lights that can be easily directed. Shadows can give
depth to a surface making it easier to analysis and photograph. Pieces should always be examined and
recorded before any surface cleaning is undertaken. In some cases substances such as dirt, paint and Oil
on the surface can themselves be important clues, indicating such things as how old the fracture surface
is and in what kind of environment the piece was operating. A good general rule is to be conservative
when destroying evidence of any kind. The visual examination is a good time for the investigator to
examine the fracture surfaces in detail and try to identify the mode of fracture (brittle , ductile, fatigue,
etc.), points of initiation, and direction of propagation. Each mode of fracture has distinct characteristics
that can be easily seen with the naked eye or the use of a stereomicroscope, however, sometimes a
scanning electron microscope (SEM) will have to be used. There are several good books, some listed in
the bibliography, on fracture mechanism and compilations of fracture surface photographs that can be
used by the investigator to identify the mechanism of fracture under investigation. As a reminder, some
common fracture surface characteristics arc listed in Table P.2 with their corresponding mechanism.

Table P.2--Fracture mechanisms and their fracture surface characteristics.

Mode of Fracture Typical fracture surface Characteristics

Ductile Cup and Cone

Dull Surface
Inclusion at the bottom of the dimple
Brittle Intergranular Shiny
Grain Boundary cracking
Brittle Transgranular Shiny
Cleavage fractures
Fatigue Beachmarks
Striations (SEM)
Initiation sites
Propagation area
Zone of final fracture

The third step is to decide on a course of action. Based on the visual examinations and the background
information the investigator must outline a plan of action, which is the series of steps that will be needed
to successfully complete the case. There are several resources that an investigator can draw on to
determine the cause of failure, which can classified into one of the following categories:

z Macroscopic examination
z Non-destructive testing (NDT)
z Chemical analysis
z Metallographic examination
z Mechanical Testing

Many of these categories will require steps that use the same equipment and therefore much time can be
saved with a little forethought. The macroscopic examination is best performed when cataloguing the
samples, however the investigator will often want to return to examine the part in more detail once other
evidence is gathered. Use of a scanning electron microscope (SEM) is often useful at this stage because

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of its large range of magnifications and its large depth of field. Since undamaged fracture surfaces are
not always available, it is often a good idea to open other cracks that may be present in the piece. This
often reveals good quality fracture surfaces similar to those that caused failure. Procedures for doing this
can also be found in the ASM handbook volume 10.

Nondestructive tests (NDT) are a good way to examine parts without causing permanent damage. Often
times, results obtained from examining failed parts in the lab using NDT's can be used to examine parts
in the field and remove them from service before failure occurs. There are several NDT's that are
available to the investigator and it would be a good idea to read up on each ones abilities. Table P.3
gives an outline of NDT's available and what they are able to detect.

Table P.3--Commonly used nondestructive tests and there capabilities in detecting defects.

NDT Method Capabilities

Radiography z Measures differences in radiation absorption.

z Inclusions, Porosity, Cracks
Ultrasonic z Uses high frequency sonar to find surface and subsurface defects.
z Inclusions, porosity, thickness of material, position of defects.
Dye Penetrate z Uses a die to penetrate open defects.
z Surface cracks and porosity
Magnetic Particle z Uses a magnetic field and iron powder to locate surface and near
surface defects.
z Surface cracks and defects
Eddy Current z Based on magnetic induction.
z Measures conductivity, magnetic permeability, physical
dimensions, cracks, porosity, and inclusions.

Chemical analysis is done on the bulk of the material to confirm the material composition. Depending
on the investigation, chemical analysis should also be done on any overlay materials or surface residues.
There arc several techniques that can be used to check composition, and the choice of which to use often
depends on accessibility and sample type. In many cases, the SEM can be a powerful tool for fast
identification of surface materials. Care should be taken not to contaminate samples taken for chemical
analysis by surface residue or cutting instruments.

Metallographic examination involves the sectioning of samples to examine the microstructure. The
sections that are selected for examination are dependent on the type of piece and the mode of fracture.
Sections from the sample should be taken in different planes so that any differences in the
microstructure can be seen. Sometimes it is useful to take a cross section through the fracture surface so
that the microstructure below the fracture and the surface profile can be examined. A section running
parallel to the fracture surface is also often taken for examination. Samples should be mounted, ground,
and polished using metallographic techniques. They should be examined before etching for porosity,
inclusions, and other defects. Microstructures should be identified and their properties researched. There
are several referenced that the investigator can refer to for identification of uncertain structures.

Mechanical testing is done to verify that the mechanical properties of the material conform to the

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standards. There are many types of mechanical testing that can be performed and their procedures can be
found in the ASTM mechanical testing standards. The most common method used is hardness testing
because of its relative simplicity, low cost, and the fact that for many materials tables exist to relate
hardness with yield strength. A macrohardness is usually sufficient to determine material properties,
however microhardnesss measurements are helpful in determining property variations within the
material. Use the microhardness measurement to compare the surface hardness to that of the body or to
verify the microstructure. Other mechanical testing such as tensile tests and impact tests can be used,
however their use is usually limited by insufficient material and high costs .

Once all the data is gathered, the investigator must come to a conclusion based on the evidence present.
This requires that the investigator draw heavily on background experience and research performed. This
step can be difficult because when conducting the investigation clues will lead the investigator down
paths that seem to be the cause but which are merely consequences.

The final and most difficult step in any investigation is coming up with recommendations. Some cases
will be simple, however many cases are not obvious even though the cause and theory are known.
Recommendations are not to be taken lightly. Serious failures can occur if recommendations are in error.
The system may have to be redesigned or a new material put in place. Sometimes all you will be able to
recommend is that inspections be carried out more often.

Introduction to Case Studies

These case studies are actual reports submitted in response to industrial failures. The purpose of these
reports is to demonstrate by example. Most of the cases mention the techniques that where used when
stating the results. They where written at a basic level due to the uncertainty of background of the reader
and further reading is be recommended to better understand the failure mechanism. Most of the cases
that are presented here have comparable cases in the ASM failure analysis handbook.

Case Study 1: Crane Bolt Failure


One of two bolts supporting a load of 16 200 lbs failed while in service causing eight hours of downtime
on an essential machine to production. The bolts were in operation on a crane used to transfer anodes
into the machine. Figure 1.1 shows a drawing of the set-up and the location of fraction Just above the
nut. The crane cycled 600 time a day 7 days a week.

The broken bolt (Figure 1.2) and a new unused bolt, recommended by the supplier for the application,
were supplied to conduct the investigation. The original designers of the crane specified a bolt that
conforms to SAE standards grade 5. The supplier of the new bolt confirmed that it was made to conform
with ASTM standard A 193 grade B7.

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Figure 1.1. Drawing of the bolt Figure 1.2. Photograph of Figure 1.3. Photograph of
and crane set-up. broken bolt fracture surface.



Examination of the fracture surface revealed characteristics such as a beachmarks associated with
fatigue (Figure 1.3). The zone of final fracture was located between two areas of fatigue propagation
suggesting the presence of bending forces. The surface area of final fracture was approximately 12% of
the total fracture surface suggesting that the bolt was not overloaded. Cracks where also found between
threads near the fracture surface indicating that the bolt was highly susceptible to fatigue initiation.

Results from chemical analyses (Table 1.1) show that the original broken bolt had a carbon content
slightly below those required by the SAE standards for a grade 5 bolt. This lower carbon content would
have acted to decrease the material properties. The chemical composition of the new sample bolt
conformed to the ASTM standard A193/A grade B7 that requires an AISI-SAE 4140 composition.

Table 1.1--Chemical analysis results on both bolts.

SAE Standard New Sample ASTM Standard B7

Element Original broken bolt (%) Grade 5 (%) Bolt (%) AISI 4140 (%)

Carbon 0.20 0.28-0.55 0.42 0.37-0.49

Manganese 0.65 -- 0.85 0.65-1.10
Silicon 0.22 -- 0.22 0.15-0.35
Phosphor 0.013 0.048 max. 0.015 0.035
Sulphur 0.011 0.058 max. 0.030 0.040
Chrome 0.08 -- 0.79 0.75-1.20
Nickel 0.06 -- 0.07 --
Molybdenum 0.01 -- 0.15 0.15-0.25

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Microscopic examination of the bolts where done using longitudinal and latitudinal mounts for each.
The sections taken from the fractured bolt were taken close to the fracture surface. Examination before
etching of the two bolts showed no cracking or unusually large inclusions. The original broken bolt did
show some flaking at the base of the threads (Figure 1.4) but this is expected for a bolt that has been in
service. Etching the sections revealed a microstructure of coarse pearlite in a matrix of ferrite (Figure
1.5). The SAE grade 5 standard requires that the bolt be quenched and tempered to conform and
therefore should have a tempered martensite structure. Martensite has higher material properties such as
yield strength and hardness, which increases its resistance to fatigue initiation. The ferrite matrix of the
original bolt has low yield strength, which in turn reduces its resistance to fatigue initiation. The new
bolt was found to be quenched and tempered as required by the ASTM standard (Figure 1.6). However
rolling seems where found at the tips of the treads (Figure 1.7). This is not a serious defect because of
the defects location in a low stress area however, if the bolt was placed in a corrosive atmosphere these
seams would corrode and then act as fatigue initiation sites.

Figure 1.4. Micrograph of Figure 1.5. Micrograph of Figure 1.6. Micrograph of Figure 1.7. Micrograph of
flaking found at the base fractured bolt. Ferrite new bolt. Tempered the new bolt thread
of a thread in the matrix with pearlite. 2% martensite. 2% nital showing a rolling seam.
fractured bolt. 2% nital nital 200X 500X 2% nital 200X

Tensile tests were done on the bolts to test their material properties in comparison with the standards.
The results (Table 1.2) show that the yield strength and ultimate tensile strength of the original bolt are
only two thirds that required by the standards. This conforms to the microstructural observations. The
properties of the new bolt conformed to the standard even though they were slightly elevated.

Table 1.2--Results and standard requirements of tensile tests.

Standard Grade
Standard Grade
Original Broken Bolt New Sample Bolt 5 SAE By AISI

Sample # 1 2 1 2
Ultimate Tensile Strength (KSI) 69.5 69.5 148 146 100 125
Yield Strength (KSI) 42.7 44.4 134 133 80 105
Elongation (%) 26 24 20 20 16 min. 16 min.
Surface Reduction (%) 67 67 59 59 50 min. 50 min.

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Conclusions and Recommendations:

Examination revealed that the bolt failed as a result of high cycle low load fatigue. Chemical analysis
and tensile tests confirmed that the bolt did not meet the SAE grade 5 standards required by the original
design of the crane. The major cause for this lack of conformity is because the bolt was not quenched
and tempered. Since the resistance of steel to fatigue initiation in proportional to its yield strength, the
low properties of the steel in this case left it open to fatigue initiation.

Examination of the new bolt revealed that it conformed with the ASTM standards A 193 for a grade B7
bolt, as the supplier specified. However, rolling seams were found in the thread tips. Due to the
relatively low loads this area is subjected to this is not a major problem but if the bolt is subjected to a
corrosive environments these seams could grow and become fatigue initiation sites.

The SAE grade 5 bolt specified by the original designers should continue to be used in future and the
upgrade to the ASTM B7 is unnecessary.

Case Study 2: Rider Roller Shaft Failure


A section of a failed "rider roller" shaft was sent for failure analysis (Figure 2. 1). This shaft is designed
to ride on top of cardboard as it is being rolled. It was first installed in December 97 replacing a shaft in
which cracks were observed near the ends. In March 98 a crack was observed in the centre of the roll.
Since no replacements were available at the time, welding was used to repair the crack. This caused the
shaft to become out of round by 0. 140". To repair this a hydraulic Jack was used at the centre of the roll
to bend it back leaving a 0.040" deflection that was corrected by machining. Nine days later, on April
11th 98 at 21: 00, the shaft broke on the key-way side while the machine was being set up at low speed.
The roll usually operates at 550 meters per minute, approximately 630 RPM.

The low carbon steel shaft was suppose to have a stainless steel weld overlay applied before installation
to protect against corrosion in the mill environment. 17-4PH steel was used for this application before
and failed to endure the high cycle low stress conditions.

Figure 2.1. Photograph of "rider Figure 2.2. Photograph of Figure 2.3. Photograph of shaft
roller" indicating approximate fracture surface showing surface indicating weld overlay
point of fracture. initiation site, beachmarks from flaw.
fracture propagation, and small
area of final fracture.

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The fracture surface is characteristic of a high cycle fatigue failure caused by low torsion stresses
(Figure 2.2). The area of final fracture is small, approximately 35% of total area, indicating that the
material was adequate for the low applied stresses. The beachmarks (Figure 2.2), characteristics of
fatigue that radiate from the initiation site, and the location of final fracture, being off centre, indicated
that initiation did not occur evenly around the circumference of the shaft. Around the circumference of
the fracture surface, a layer was observed which fractured at a 45' angle to the plane of fracture. This is
characteristic of the weld overlay. As well, there were many grooves running around the outside of the
shaft that are weld overlay features (Figure 2.3).

Materials characterisation and evaluation:

Chemical analysis of the material revealed it to be low carbon steel. Compositions correspond to the
AISI 1019 specifications (Table 2.1). Using the alloy analyser, the weld overlay was found to be a low
alloy steel, probably type EFe, and not stainless steel as was thought.

Table 2.1--Result of shaft chemical analysis.

Element Analysed Composition of Shaft (%) Standard Composition Ranges (%)

Carbon 0.19 0.15-0.20

Manganese 0.70 0.70-1.00
Silicon 0.26 --
Phosphorus 0.020 0.040 max.
Sulphur 0.020 0.040 max.
Chromium 0.10 --
Nickel 0.17 --
Molybdenum 0.02 --

Microscopic examination revealed the core to have a ferrite and a coarse pearlite structure characteristics
of low carbon steel (Figure 2.4). The weld overlay had pearlite matrix with some acicular ferrite (Figure
2.5). A microhardness test revealed a hard surface that gets progressively softer towards the core (Table
2.2). This concurs with the microstructure. The inclusions present in the core of the shaft where
acceptable (Figure 2.6).

Table 2.2--Results of microhardness measurements.

Distance from Surface (μm) Hardness HVN-200g

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35 257
42 271
107 255
140 247
214 187
252 187
Core 156
Core 167

Examination of a longitudinal mount taken from near the point of major crack initiation sites showed
large inclusions between weld passes (Figure 2.7). Examination of the fracture surface initiation sites
(Figure 2.8), on the same sample, showed an initiation site on the fracture surface that is similar in shape
and size to the inclusions. This suggests that these inclusions acted as stress raisers and thus as fatigue
initiation sites. The bending of the shaft would have caused decohesion of the inclusions and increased
the chances of fatigue initiation. Decohesion of the weld overlay between welding passes can also be
seen around the circumference of the shaft (Figure 2.3). This indicates poor bonding between the weld
overlay and the base material.

Figure 2.4. Figure 2.5. Figure 2.6. Figure 2.7. Figure 2.8.
Micrograph of core Micrograph of weld Micrograph Micrograph showing Micrograph showing
microstructure overlay representing average two inclusions found the fracture surface
composed of ferrite microstructure inclusion content of in the weld overlay initiation site. 2%
and pearlite. 2% composed of a the low carbon steel 2% nital 15X nital 15X
nital 100X pearlite matrix with core. 2% nital 100X
the presence of
acicular ferrite. 2%
nital 500X

Conclusions and Recommendations:

The failure was caused by high cycle low stress fatigue, which was initiated at inclusions in the weld
overlay. For this kind of failure, when there is an absence of other defects, the surface conditions
become an important factor in the prevention of crack initiation. Bending the shaft to correct its
alignment probably caused decohesion of the weld inclusions encouraging microcracks to form. This
would have increased local stress concentrations and the possibility of crack initiation. These inclusions
probably originated from the weld being applied too quickly.

The use of a weld overlay to reconstruct existing rolls is an acceptable procedure provided the weld is
applied property. This would harden the surface and thereby make the shaft more resistant to fatigue
initiation at surface defects. A welding procedure should be developed that would involve the making of
block samples in which the welding conditions, such as current and speed, are varied and optimised.

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Noranda Technology Centre can help in developing a procedure. A liquid penetrant inspection should be
performed to inspect the weld overlay for any cracks or porosity.

Future shafts should be made out of low alloy steel AISI-SAE 4340, heat-treated to a hardness of 35
HRC. The properties of this material fall between those of 1019 and 174PH. It will resist crack initiation
better than the former, due to its higher endurance limit, and will resist crack propagation better than the
latter, due to its higher fracture toughness (Table 2.3).

Table 2.3--Fatigue related properties of selected materials.

Fracture Toughness

Material Endurance limit (MPa)

1018 275 260

4340 450 110
17-4PH -- 53

Other recommendations are:

z Avoid bending of shafts that have been surface hardened or had weld overlay applied due to the
high possibility of inducing surface cracks.
z Avoid mechanical damage to the surface, such as scratches and dents, because they can act as
crack initiation sites.

Corrosion can be prevented in both cases by applying a coat of paint.

Case Study 3: Crane Pin Failure


After several failures, a pin connecting a chain to a load transfer bloc was sent for failure investigation
(Figures 3.1a and 3.1b). The conditions of operation are similar to those under which the bolt in case
study I was operating.

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Figure 3.1a. Pin industrial drawing. Figure 3.1b. Photograph of

broken pin.

Observations :

The pin was broken in two locations

approximately 2.4 and 5.2 centimetres from one
edge. These locations are shown in relation to
the mechanism in Figure 3.2. Examination of the
surface revealed that where the bolt came in
contact with the chain, sever plastic deformation
was present. Examination of the 2.4 cm. fracture
surface (Figure 3.3), which was located in an
area of chain contact plastic deformation,
revealed characteristics of fatigue. The fracture
surface had little to no zone of final fracture
indicating that the loads perpendicular to the
fracture plane where low. Fatigue characteristics
showed that fracture initiated on the opposite
side to the deformation. This indicate that
bending forces were present in the pin. Bending
Figure 3.2. Industrial drawing of pin chain and block
would have caused one side of the pin to be in
tension and the other in compression. The
fatigue started on the tension side. Examination
of the 5.4 cm fracture surface located in the middle of the load transfer block revealed the same
characteristics of fatigue failure (Figure 3.4). However, a comparison of the two fracture surfaces on the
adjoining Piece of the Pin revealed that the initiation sites were on opposite sides of the pin (Figure 3.5).
This indicates that bending forces at the two fractures were opposite.

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Figure 3.3. Photograph of Figure 3.4. Photograph of Figure 3.5. Photograph of pin
fracture surface of 2.4 cm fracture surface of 5.4 cm indicating locations of fracture
fracture. fracture. initiation.

A chemical analysis performed on the body of the pin revealed it to conform to the SAE AISI standard
1095. The original drawings for this application specify a SAE-AlSl 4140 (Table 3.1) Metallurgical
examination of the mounted sample revealed plastic deformation at the edges as well as no significant
inclusions. Examination of the microstructure revealed a ferrite matrix with spherodised carbides
(Figure 3.6). The soft ferrite matrix increases the odds of fatigue initiation but will slow down fatigue

Table 3.1. Results of pin chemical analysis.

Element Pin SAE-AISI 1095

Carbon 1.06 0.90-1.03
Manganese 0.31 0.30-0.50
Silicon 0.25 --
Phosphor 0.011 0.040
Sulphur 0.008 0.050
Chrome 0.03 --
Figure 3.6.
Nickel 0.03 --
Microphotograph of pin
Molybdenum 0.01 -- microstructure. Ferrite
matrix with spherodised
carbides. 2% nital 1000X

Microhardness measurements show that the pin was slightly harder in the centre than on the surface
(Table 3.2). The softer surface would have increased the possibility of fatigue initiation at the surface.

Table 3.2. Microhardness results.

Hardness VHN (200g)

Location Longitudinal Section Transversal Section

Side 235 229

232 248
241 261

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275 268
Centre 294 294

Conclusions and Recommendations:

As the crane charges and unloads, the pin is subjected to bending forces. These forces create tensile
forces on the surface at which point the probability of fatigue initiation is high.

z Since the pin undergoes cyclic stresses, a steel for this application must have a high resistance to
fatigue initiation. For these reasons, the original design material, SAE AISI 4140 hardened to a
range of 45 - 50 HRC, was a good choice.
z The block and chain should be examined for wear. If worn they would allow for larger bending
then was originally allowed for in the design. If they are worn, they should be replaced.
z If these measures do not correct the problem and the pin continues to break in future, the forces in
the original design should be revised.

Case Study 4: Shaft Bearing Failure


A bearing that had been in service for a year and a half was sent to undergo failure analysis (Figure 4.1).
This bearing had been installed in the drive of a #P-40 centrifugal pump in the R-8 plant. It was located
on a long shaft to separate the pump from the drive due to the presence of concentrated sulphuric acid.
The shaft was belt driven at about 800 RPM. No special events were noticed in the pump operation.

Figure 4.1. Photograph of Figure 4.2. Photograph of Figure 4.3. SEM Figure 4.4. SEM
bearing setup inner ring showing photograph of spalling, photograph showing
spalling in groove. flaking and cracking, in presence of 45º sheer
the groove. 200X planes. 500X



The inner raceway showed severe plastic deformation around its circumference in the form of a groove,
which is located above the area designed to be the ball raceway (Figure 4.2). Spalling, a flaking and
cracking of the surface, was observed in the groove but was not evenly distributed around its

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circumference. Examination of the spalling using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) exposed
flaking and the presence of surface cracks (Figure 4.3). Increased magnification of this area revealed
fracture surfaces at forty-five degree angles indicating shear loads were present (Figure 4.4).

The inner raceway fracture surface is perpendicular to the groove and is located where the spalling is
most severe. Beachmarks and river lines, which are characteristic of fatigue failures, revealed several
initiation sites situated in the base of the groove (Figure 4.5). Closer examination with the SEM
confirms that fatigue initiated from the spalling damage (Figure 4.6). Spalling was also seen to a lesser
degree on the balls surfaces. The outer raceway revealed no major defects.

Figure 4.5. Photograph of the inner ring Figure 4.6. SEM

fracture surface. photograph of the inner
ring fracture surface
showing fatigue initiating at
spall in the groove. 200X

Material characterisation and evaluation:

Both the compositions of the ball bearing and the inner raceway were found to fall within the norms for
52100 steel, AISI-SAE standards (Table 4.1). The microhardness measurements of both pieces are
typical for this type of steel (Table 4.2). Surface hardness measurements for both ball and inner ring are
similar, which is required by this type of application.

Table 4.1--Result of chemical analysis.

AISI-SAE 52100
Analysed Standard
Analysed Composition of Ball Composition Composition
Element (%) of Inner Ring (%) Ranges (%)

Carbon 0.97 1.02 0.98-1.10

Manganese 0.40 0.37 0.25-0.45
Silicon 0.24 0.23 0.15-0.30
Phosphorus 0.013 0.013 0.025
Sulphur 0.007 0.006 0.025
Chromium 1.21 1.36 0.025
Nickel 0.11 0.12 --

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Molybdenum 0.02 0.05 --

Table 4.2--Results of microhardness tests.

Ball Bearing Inner Ring

Damaged Outside
Hardness # Centre Surface Surface Centre Surface

1 650 890 890 775 890

2 574 890 890 792 787
3 618 927 890 804 890

Microscopic examination of a cross section of the inner raceway revealed surface cracks consistent with
the spalling observed (Figure 4-7). Etching the sample revealed a homogeneous macrostructure of a
tempered martensite matrix with undissolved carbides present (Figure 4.8). This microstructure agrees
with the chemical analysis and microhardness measurements.

Figure 4.7. Figure 4.8. Figure 4.9. Figure 4.10. Figure 4.11.
Micrograph of Microphotograph of Micrograph of Microphotographs Microphotograph of
cracks on the inner the inner ring cracks on the ball of crack in a ball. figure 4.10 etched
ring surface. 200X microstructure surface. 100X 15X with 2% nital
composed of showing
martensite and heterogeneous
undissolved martensite structure
carbides. 2% nital with undissolved
200X carbides. 15X

Microscopic examination of a quartered ball bearing also revealed surface cracks (Figure 4.9). A large
crack extending towards the centre of the bearing was also found (Figure 4.10). The microstructure is
heterogeneous, unevenly distributed; tempered martinsite with undissolved carbides. The large surface
crack ties along a border of the heterogeneity (Figure 4.11). Some decarburization was observed on the
surface near spalling cracks.


The failure was a result of vibrational fatigue initiated at spalling on the surface of the inner raceway.

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The spalling, which is a characteristic of contact fatigue, originated from the bearing being Installed
Incorrectly or from it undergoing abnormal equiaxial radial loads in service, which caused a
displacement of the inner ring. This displacement increased the axial loads causing the plastic
deformation and spalling. Decarburization and uneven tempering of the balls as well as the extent of
plastic deformation indicate a temperature rise.

Case Study 5: Bronze Bull Gear Failure


A bronze bull gear was sent for failure investigation (Figure 5.1). It was used to rotate bleach washer
number 65B at a rate between 4 and 5 RPM. The contacting gear was a hardened steel worm gear, which
was powered by a 50 horsepower 1800 RPM electric motor. The gear is a cast copper alloy with cut
teeth and machined surface and was only in service for one month.

Figure 5.1. Photograph showing Figure 5.2. Photograph of the bull gear profile
the bronze bull gear. showing debris and severe materials loss.


Examination of the gear tooth revealed that there was a large amount of material loss. A measurement
taken near the base of the tooth where the material loss was most obvious revealed that tooth had gone
from a thickness of 31 mm to 20 mm, a loss of I I mm. The contact surface had grooves running along
the path the worm gear would have taken. Debris was also found along what was probably the exiting
edge of the gear teeth (Figure 5.2). Along the front of the teeth, plastic deformation was seen near the
edges where decreasing thickness could no longer support the load. Some cracking was observed in
these areas. When opened, they revealed that the mode of crack propagation was interdendritic.

Table 5.1--Chemical composition of bull gear.

Composition %

Element Bull Gear Standard C90700

Copper 88.51 88.0-90.0

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Aluminium <0.01 0.005 max.

Manganese 0.03 --
Iron 0.03 0.15 max.
Tin 9.83 10.0-12.0
Lead 0.42 0.30* max.
Nickel 0.29 --*
Silicon <0.005 --
Zinc 0.73 0.50* max.
Phosphorous -- 0.1-0.3

* Lead + Nickel + Zinc < 1.0 max.

Chemical analysis of the bronze gear revealed that it conformed most closely with the UNS standard for
copper alloy C90700 (Table 5.1). The lead and zinc content however were slightly above those allowed
by the standard. Several samples where taken from the gear and examined microscopically. They
revealed large amounts of interdentritic shrinkage porosity (Figure 5.3) and interdentritic segregation
(Figure 5.4). The porosity reduces the amount of area supporting the load and therefore raises stresses in
the material. The heterogeneity of the structure is caused by rejection of tin into solution as the dendrites
grow while cooling. This segregation also reduces the mechanical properties of the material. Etching the
microstructure with 20 nil NH40H, 20 ml H20, 20 nil H202 (3%) revealed a coarse dendrite
microstructure (Figure 5.5). No plastic deformation of the working surface was observed which
indicates abrasive wear.

Figure 5.3. Figure 5.4. Figure 5.5.

Microphotograph Microphotograph Microphotograph
showing the large showing interdendritic showing the large
amounts of porosity. 15X segregation. 200X dendritic structure. 15X

Hardnesses were taken on the cross section of a tooth which gave an

average Vickers hardness number of 76.6 VHN (5Kg) (Table 5.2). This Table 5.2. Vickers Macrohardness
is below the Brinell-500 Kg hardness number of 95 (100VHN) required Results
by the ASTM standard, B427-93a "Standard Specification for Gear
Bronze Alloy Castings". A lower hardness number also suggests that the Sample VHN (5Kg)
mechanical properties of the material would be below standards. This
agrees with our metallographic examination. 1 74.4
2 77.0
Conclusions: 3 78.2
4 71.6
The bronze bull gear failed as a result of sever abrasive wear. The gear 5 81.6

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did not meet ASTM materials specifications for this application and this
probably had a great influence on the final failure. However, there are
several possible causes of abrasive wear for which the system should be examined:

z If the surface of the matching worm gear were damaged in any way, the difference in hardness
would have led to severe wear.
z If the lubricant was contaminated with an abrasive material wear will occur.
z If there was a misalignment between the two gears, the contact surface may be reduced increasing
contact loads above those that the material can withstand.
z If the system was overloaded, the rate of wear increases.

If one or a combination of these factors is present, it is then likely others failures would follow.

In this case, a large amount of porosity, a coarse dendrite structure, and interdentritic segregation
combined to reduce the properties of the bronze bull gear below those required by ASTM B427-93a
standards. A possibility is that that when the gear is subjected to loads or overloading, these low
properties would allowed the gear teeth to deflect. The gear surfaces would no longer meet as they were
designed, decreasing the contact surface, which would have increased the loads and therefore wear.
Contamination of the lubricant would have followed, causing the wear to continue.

In future this bronze bull gear should be ordered specifying that it conform to ASTM standard B427-93a
for the copper alloy UNS C 90700. As well the lubricant should be checked regularly for contamination
and both gear surfaces should be examined for damage.

Case Study 6: Analysis of 316L Reducer Failure


An 8" x 6", 316L stainless steel reducer was sent for failure analysis (Figure 6. 1). It had been in service
for 13 months when a leak was noticed. The reducer was installed on #1 acid storage tank, equipment
number 50-200. The anodically protected carbon steel tank, contained off specification concentrated
93% sulphuric acid. The flow rate through the reducer was 400 gal/min.

Figure 6.1. Photograph of Figure 6.2. (a-left) Old tank installation. (b-right) Tank installation at the time of
reducer. reducer failure.

The tank was originally designed with a 4" diameter carbon steel nozzle, at floor level, that connected

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directly to a valve (Figure 6.2a). This lasted seven to eight years without incident. The design was
changed to accommodate renovations so that an 8" carbon steel nozzle was installed 6" above the tank
floor. This nozzle lead into the failed reducer, which then connected to a valve composed of alloy 1-0
steel (Figure 6.2b). This valve was said to be badly corroded. The valve then led to a 6" pipe made of
316L stainless steel in which no problems were found. After the reducer failure, the piping arrangements
were changed so that the reducer is now after the valve.


Visual examination of the reducer revealed an area at the top where little damage was observed (Figure
6.3). This area, which was probably an air pocket, extended from the top of the 87' diameter flange into
the reducing pipe where is stopped just before the 6" diameter flange. Damage in this area consisted of
minor pitting (Figure 6.4). Damage, resembling a honeycomb structure in places, was most severe just
below the air pocket in the reducing pipe near the 6" diameter end (Figures 6.5a and 6.5b). This is where
the leak was found (Figure 6.6). The damage becomes less severe in the pipe section towards the
bottom. Only pitting was found in both the 8" and 6" flanges.

Figure 6.3. Photograph of Figure 6.4. Figure 6.5. Photographs showing areas to the (a-left)
the top insider of the Microphotograph of right and (bright) left of the top relatively
reducer showing the area pitting in air pocket. 15X undamaged surface. The red arrow in (a) indicated
at the top where little where the leak occurred.
damage occurred.

Chemical analysis of the flange and the pipe revealed that they both conform to AISI-SAE standards for
316L stainless steel (Table 6.1)

Table 6.1--Result of chemical analysis.

Analysed Composition Analysed Composition AISI-SAE 316L Standard

Element of Flange (%) of Pipe (%) Composition Ranges (%)

Carbon 0.031 0.034 0.03 max.

Manganese 1.85 1.28 2.00 max.
Silicon 0.57 0.35 1.00 max.
Phosphorus 0.014 0.011 0.045 max.
Sulphur 0.023 0.001 0.03 max.
Chromium 16.53 17.47 16.0-18.0
Nickel 10.85 11.46 10.0-14.0
Molybdenum 2.16 2.08 2.0-3.0

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Closer examination of the inside surface of the reducer with a SEM revealed dimples (Figure 6.7). These
features are typical of a ductile deformation, which indicates abrasion. The orientation of the features
also follows the direction of liquid flow. Pitting and uniform corrosion was also found in the region
(Figure 6.8).

Figure 6.6. Photograph taken Figure 6.7. SEM Figure 6.8. SEM
on the outside of the reducer photograph of the inside photograph of the inside
showing the hole where the surface of the reducer in surface of the reducer in
reducer leaked. the damaged area. 200X the damaged area. 500X

Conclusions and Recommendations:

A combination of two mechanisms caused the failure. Severe turbulence in the reducer caused a
degradation of the passive layer that protects the stainless steel from corrosion. This would have left the
system open to severe corrosion, which in turn would have lead to failure. The top of the reducer was
probably protected by the presence of an air pocket.

The second mechanism was erosion, originating when air bubbles near the surface imploded causing
mechanical damage, cavitation. Turbulence in the system may have formed bubbles from the air pocket
at the top of the reducer. These bubbles would then have been carried into the reducer where increasing
pressures would have caused them to implode. The highly corrosive environment would have increased
the rate of degradation dramatically.

The new setup, placing the valve before the reducer, changed the dynamics of the system and may have
solved the problem, however existing reducers and valves should have their thickness monitored at
regular intervals using an ultrasonic thickness gauge. If problems reoccur, the system should be
evaluated for excessive turbulence and air pockets. A possible solution would be to use a PTFE liner in
the reducer. This would provide a barrier that protects against turbulence but not cavitation.


D.A. Ryder et al., "General Practice in Failure Analysis," in ASM Metals Handbook Volume 11 "Failure
Analysis and Prevention", Ed. Kathleen Mill (Ohio: ASM International, 1986)
B.E. Wilde, "Stress-Corrosion Cracking," in ASM Metals Handbook Volume 11 "Failure Analysis and
Prevention", Ed. Kathleen Mill (Ohio: ASM International, 1986)

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K. H. Kamdar, "Liquid-Metal Embrittlement," in ASM Metals Handbook Volume 11 "Failure Analysis

and Prevention", Ed. Kathleen Mill (Ohio: ASM International, 1986)
Alan G. Glover et al., "Failures of Weldments," in ASM Metals Handbook Volume 11 "Failure Analysis
and Prevention", Ed. Kathleen Mill (Ohio: ASM International, 1986)
L. Windner, "Failures of Rolling-Element Bearings," in ASM Metals Handbook Volume 11 "Failure
Analysis and Prevention", Ed. Kathleen Mill (Ohio: ASM International, 1986)
"Threaded Steel Fasteners," in ASM Metals Handbook Volume 11 "Failure Analysis and Prevention",
Ed. Kathleen Mill (Ohio: ASM International, 1986)
Walter J. Jensen, "Failures of Mechanical Fasteners," in ASM Metals Handbook Volume 11 "Failure
Analysis and Prevention", Ed. Kathleen Mill (Ohio: ASM International, 1986)
E. Alban, "Failures of Gears," in ASM Metals Handbook Volume 11 "Failure Analysis and Prevention",
Ed. Kathleen Mill (Ohio: ASM International, 1986)
Michael Bauccio ed. Et al., ASM Metals Reference Book, Third Edition, Ed. Kathleen Mill (Ohio: ASM
International, 1993)
Geaorge E. Dieter, Mechanical Metallurgy (Toronto: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1986)
Douglas A. Skoog and James J. Leary, Principles of Instrumental Analysis, Fourth Edition (Toronto:
Sauders College Publishing, 1992)
William D. Callister, Jr., Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction, Third Edition (Toronto:
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1994)
Kathleen Mill ed. et al. ASM Metals Handbook: Metallography and Microstructures, (Ohio: ASM
International, 1993)

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