Very high cycle fatigue of high performance steels
Abstract: Many engineering components reach a finite fatigue life well above 109 load cycles. Some examples of such components are found in airplanes, automobiles or high speed trains. For some materials the fatigue failures have lately been found to occur well after 107 load cycles, namely in the Very High Cycle Fatigue (VHCF) range. This finding contradicted the established concept of fatigue limit for these materials, which postulates that having sustained 107 load cycles the material is capable of enduring an infinite number of cycles provided that the service conditions are unchanged. With the development of modern ultrasonic fatigue testing equipment it became possible to experimentally establish VHCF behaviour of various materials. For most of them the existence of the fatigue limit at 107 load cycles has been proved wrong and their fatigue strength continues to decrease with increasing number of load cycles. One important group of materials used for the production of high performance components subjected to the VHCF is tool steels. This study explores the VHCF phenomenon using experimental data of ultrasonic fatigue testing of some tool steel grades. The causes and mechanisms of VHCF failures are investigated by means of high resolution scanning electron microscopy, and in relation to the existing theories of fatigue crack initiation and growth. The main type of VHCF origins in steels are slag inclusions.However, other microstructural defects may also initiate fatigue failure. A particular attention is paid to the fatigue crack initiation, as it has been shown that in the VHCF range crack formation consumes the majority of the total fatigue life. Understanding the driving forces for the fatigue crack initiation is a key to improve properties of components used for very long service lives. Finite element modelling of VHCF testing was added as an additional perspective to the study by enabling calculation of local stresses at the fatigue initiating defects.
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