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VSR an Alternative to Thermal Treatment

VSR an Alternative to Thermal Treatment



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Published by Steve Hornsey
An alternative to thermal stress relief.
An alternative to thermal stress relief.

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Published by: Steve Hornsey on Apr 20, 2009
Copyright:Public Domain


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 J.S Hornsey
B.Sc (Mech Eng), SAIW, SAIMech.Eng, CGLI (Dist Weld) CGLI (Dist Metallurgy)
December 2004
In an introductory review, the techniques and equipment for vibratory stress relieving aredescribed and applications exemplified with case histories. It has been proven that the process gives stabilisation results comparable with and in many cases exceeding thoseobtained with thermal treatment, whilst being quicker, cheaper, more versatile as theequipment is completely portable and the technique offers many advantages when machined  parts or heavy fabrications are involved.
Over the last 60 years, vibratory stress relievinghas evolved from a little known art into anindispensable basic process, which is now a welltried and established alternative to thermaltreatment for the treatment of castings,fabrications, components requiring intricatemachining operations and non-ferrous metals. It isimportant to emphasize that vibratory stressrelieving is not claimed to be a substitute for allthermal treatments although there is somecommon ground just as there are areas where eachprocess is and will remain predominant. Thermal and Vibratory treatment share a capabilityin three areas, namely overall stress reduction,dimensional control and dimensional stabilisation.Although total stress relief is almost impossible toobtain by using any commercial process, vibratorystress relieving can stabilise and stress relieve thecomponent at any stage of the manufacturing ormachining process without changing the materialsmetallurgical condition, without scaling ordiscoloration and without distortion at low cost andwith minimal time restraints to the manufacturer.Conversely only thermal treatment will change amaterial’s metallurgical properties and thermaltreatment is also more effective than vibratorystress relieving when used to prevent incidences of brittle fracture, although more often correctmaterial selection is a prerequisite for theprevention of this type of failure.Additionally, materials that derive their mechanicalproperties from transformation hardening or coldworking cannot be so thoroughly stabilised. Thusthe complementary nature of the two processescan be appreciated. However instability in thesetypes of materials can be successfully treatedusing vibratory stress relieving. The vibratoryprocess involves inducing metal structures into oneor more resonant and sub resonant conditionsusing portable high force exciters. Treatmentperiods are short and frequencies generally in therange 10-230Hz.With modern exciters, correctly sited, and thecomponent virtually undamped by means of rubberisolation mounts, equal and often better resultsthan are to be expected from commercial thermaltreatments are possible and are more oftenobtained.One of the main factors which has and in somecases still hinders the acceptance of the process isthe reluctance by engineers to accept that a lowcost vibratory treatment, using only 220v and oftenlasting less than thirty minutes could possiblyreplace an extended thermal treatment involvinghigh energy consumption.A recent survey carried out by the USDepartment of Energy has shown energy savingsexperienced by using vibratory stress relieving insome cases exceed 500:1. This article discusses the practical benefits of vibratory stress relieving as compared withthermal treatment and attempts to dispel someof the myths associated withvibratory stress relieving it also highlights someof the discrepancies in the various vibratorysystems available. A section dealing withvibratory stress relieving equipment is includedalthough it is assumed that the reader will bebroadly conversant with installations for thermaltreatment. Some of the variations inspecifications for thermal treatment are alsoincluded which will hopefully expose theignorance in these specifications.
It is possible to find technical papers, ostensiblywritten about vibratory stress relieving dating asfar back as 1934, but in fact, there have been fewgenuine research programs into the process. The bulk of the papers concern either generaloscillatory testing of metals or work which theauthor thought to be related to vibratory stressrelieving without properly evaluating andappreciating the process. Many tests were limitedto simple test bars, which due to restricted
budgets were treated in fatigue test machines atfixed frequencies and amplitudes.Recent testing (Oct 2003) in conjunction with TheAnglo American Corporation of South Africa,again due to budget restraints used a simplewelded specimen two plates 150mm x 150mm x25mm thick, butt welded together. This iscertainly not a good example of actualcomponents owing to perfect welding conditionswith the welding carried out by personnel from The South African Institute of Welding andconsequently very low inductions of stress. Theresults obtained showed strain redistribution of up to 90% and a reduction in stress of 42%In some tests fixed foundry knock-out shakersand de-burring barrels have been used and thework audaciously claimed to relate to vibratorystress relieving! There are obvious reasons whymost of these low budget methods did notsucceed in producing the desired result.Recent tests carried out amongst others by theUniversity of Strathclyde and the Department of  Trade and Industry has redressed some of theinadequacies of the older test methods, a list of papers and tests will be included in thebibliography at the end of this paper.
Although any equipment can satisfy the “easy totreat / little needcategory, only the bestequipment with optimum force / frequencycharacteristics and maximum “gtolerancesuccessfully treats the most challenging end of the range. As examples and research show, it is arange that spans the entire materials andengineering spectra. Gone are the days whenheat treatment contractors took an adversialattitude to vibratory stress relieving. Some havepurchased their own VSR equipment; and manyothers use an on-site service. As well as enablingthem to treat parts hitherto too large for theirfurnace, vibratory stress relieving opens upcompletely new areas of business. However, forcoded components such as pipework andpressure vessels etc. thermal stress relief mustbe used as only this gives the requiredmetallurgical benefits. There have been manyrequests to include vibratory stress relieving intothe various codes but the reluctance to do so isstill dominant in the industryStability is the main requirement for whichvibratory stress relieving is applied. When VSR isused stability more than matches that of thermalstress relieving. Stability can be improved by re-applying VSR to components in near finishedcondition thus saving components that mightotherwise have been scrapped. Vibratory stressrelieving does not reduce rigidity or affectmaterial properties or fatigue life. There are various VSR systems, some effectivesome less so. The only common denominatorbeing that the component to be treated is placedupon rubber isolators and subjected to a cyclicforce. Recent research has identified thesuccessful and not so successful processes. The three main VSR approaches are resonant (R-VSR), modal sub-resonant (SB-VSR) and subharmonic (SH-VSR). The British “VCM series” is the only equipmentrange that is specifically designed for R-VSR. Ithas superior frequency/force ranges and aremarkable tolerance to high “gforces. Theformula 62 and Fouriermatic systems claim to besuccessful for resonant VSR but researchmentioned below casts doubts on theireffectiveness possibly because of poorfrequency range, “gtolerance etc. Practiceseems to support this.
 This has evolved over a 40-year period. For theVCM series mid 1997 saw major research-ledchanges in both approach and equipmentspecification. In well defined areas of application.R-VSR is now 100% successful in its mainobjective stress relief-component stabilisation. The treatment of components from less than 1kgto in excess of 100 ton is commonplace.Procedures stipulate a progression up the peaksto resonance, consisting of a pause at the foot toallow any critically high stresses to diminish, priorto treating at the mid height region and then ashort defined number of cycles at the actualpeak. As long as the mean stress is allowed tofloat the resulting cyclic imposed, strainsprogressively add to the residual strains in thematerial to cause stress reduction anddistribution as with TSR. For the most uniformstress relief and stability, as many as the naturalfrequencies as possible are reached. The greaterthe equipment’s range and the more complex theloading pattern then the better the treatment.
Research and over 40 years of application haveshown that there is no damage due to highresonance. This is because critically high-imposedstresses are impossible to achieve as dampingincreases dramatically with high cyclic strain.R-VSR is normally applied before machining,ideally though it should be applied after roughmachining as it then also reduces machiningstresses. Application before final grindingachieves even closer tolerances. Treatment atthis or the finished stage eliminates micromovement occurring between leaving thecustomer or in service. The most accurate andstable components are R-VSR treated. In general,even using old style R-VSR, where suitablecomponents have been excited at one or moreresonant frequencies, the results have beenstress reductions of 30% or more dependingmainly on the equipment used. Meanwhile an ACvibrator system with a ‘g’ tolerance of over 80gcan obviously be expected to be the mostefficient means of stress relief Strachen showedan 80% reduction with mild steel weldedspecimens and a 60% reduction in stainless steelwelded pieces. Zveginceva found over a 40%decrease and Zubchenko showed a 73%reduction with large mild steel welded bedplates. Treatment at a succession of modes, each havinga different strain pattern was shown by Polnov tocause substantial reduction and redistribution of stresses. At the limit 1% stress relief makes thedifference between instability and stability.With the advent of the 5-220Hz range of VSRmachines, Jesensky Bonthuys Ohol andSagalevich have shown reductions of 40-80%using resonant frequencies. The higherpercentage figure will not be achieved if theresearchers did not invoke the cyclic properties of the material. Much is to be learned from theexcellent research by Walker, Waddell & Johnstone .Manufactures of vibrating plant use R-VSR forstress relief and fitness for purpose testing andthereby extend warranties on screen, decksupport frames, moulds etc.
If when attempting R-VSR, only the base of thepeak is achievable (due to the peak being just outof range). Treatment would be classed as modalsub-resonant VSR i.e. the mode shape would beevident, but the peak not achievable. Optimumresults are obtained if up to 10 times the numberof cycles required for R-VSR are applied ininverse proportion to the magnitude of the cyclicresponse.
Where only modal sub-resonant treatment ispossible Waddell has proved that, given sufficientcycles, considerable stress relief occurs with noreduction in fatigue life.Practice supports this. The time for treatmentvaries from equipment to equipment.Strain measurements have indicated that modalSR-VSR is most effective against high tensilestresses, whereas R-VSR works well either onboth high tensile and high compressive stresses.For stability after machining and in service, bothtensile and compressive stress peaks must belowered if they are approaching yield value. Afterall, stability is the main requirement for which R-VSR or modal SR-VSR is applied.When resonance is used, stability more thanmatches that of thermal stress relief, as it can bere-applied near finished machine size.It is best carried out with the equipment used forR-VSR processing because of its superiorfrequency range.VCM 90/905 machines which have twice therange of any other equipment.
If neither of the above conditions are met (due toresonant responses being way beyond the rangeof the equipment), conventional wisdom indicatesthat no stress relief is possible. This seems to bethe domain of sub-harmonic VSR. Treatment issaid to take place at the foot of a minute sub-harmonic of a true resonant peak. Sales literaturestates that the process depends on energyabsorption being at a maximum near the foot of asub-harmonic peak. Because exciter forceincreases with the square of the speed one mightlogically expect the highest sub-harmonic peak tobe the most effective for treatment, however themanufacturers, actually advocate treatment at alow one. This possibly indicates that theirequipment has poor gtolerance. Themechanism by which SH-VSR is said to work hasno connection with either R-VSR or modal SR-VSR. The diagram used to promote the process and itsmechanism appears unconvincing if drawn toscale. SH-VSR claims to vibrate the atoms andmove them relative to one another in thestrained crystal lattice of the material. Thisseems farcical, as the energy used is so low thatthe vibration usually cannot be either felt orheard.
Researchers have investigated aspects of VSR forover 40 years. Some were legitimately exploringits boundaries but others have toyed with test-pieces and procedures not remotely connectedwith VSR resulting in some misconceptions. Allthe research reported below was conducted withactual VSR equipment, assisted by the equipment

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