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A SHAFT is a metal barusually cylindrical in shape and solid, but sometimes hollowthat is used to support rotating components or to transmit power or motion by rotary or axial movement. Even fasteners, such as bolts or studs, can be considered to be stationary shafts, usually with tensile forces, but sometimes combined with bending and/or torsional forces. In addition to failures in shafts, this article will discuss failures in connecting rods, which translate rotary motion to linear motion (and conversely) and in piston rods, which translate the action of fluid power to linear motion. Shafts operate under a broad range of service conditions, including dust-laden or corrosive atmospheres and temperatures that vary from extremely low, as in arctic or cryogenic environments, to extremely high, as in gas turbines. In addition, shafts may be subjected to a variety of loadsin general, tension, torsion, compression, bending, or combinations of these. Shafts are also sometimes subjected to vibratory stresses. Apart from wear by bearings, which can be a major contributor to shaft failure (see the section Wear in this article), the most common cause of shaft failure is metal fatigue. Fatigue is a weakest link phenomenon; hence, failures start at the most vulnerable point in a dynamically stressed areatypically a stress raiser, which may be mechanical, metallurgical, or sometimes a combination of the two. Mechanical stress raisers include such features as small fillets, sharp corners, grooves, splines, keyways, nicks, and press or shrink fits. Shafts often break at edges of press-fitted or shrink-fitted members, where high degrees of stress concentration exist. Such stress concentration effectively reduces fatigue resistance, especially when coupled with fretting. Metallurgical stress raisers may be quench cracks, corrosion pits, gross non-metallic inclusions, brittle second-phase particles, weld defects, or arc strikes. Occasionally, brittle fractures are encountered, particularly in low-temperature environments or as a result of impact or a rapidly applied overload. Brittle fracture may thus be attributable to inappropriate choice of material because of incomplete knowledge of operating conditions and environment or failure to recognize their significance, but it may also be the result of abuse or misuse of the product under service conditions for which it was not intended. Surface treatments can cause hydrogen to be dissolved in high-strength steels and may cause shafts to become embrittled even at room temperature. Electroplating, for instance, has caused failures of high-strength steel shafts. Baking treatments applied immediately after plating are used to ensure removal of hydrogen. Ductile fracture of shafts is usually caused by accidental overload and is relatively rare in normal operation. Creep, a form of distortion at elevated temperatures, can lead to stress rupture and can also cause shafts having close tolerances to fail because of excessive changes in critical dimensions. To a lesser degree, shafts can fracture from misapplication of material. Such fractures result from use of materials having high ductile-to-brittle transition temperatures, low resistance to hydrogen embrittlement, temper embrittlement, or caustic embrittlement, or chemical compositions or mechanical properties other than those specified. In some instances, fractures may originate in regions of partial or total decarburization or excessive carburization, where mechanical properties are different because of variations in chemical composition.

Dept of Mechanical Engineering, SJCE, Mysore

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Fatigue in shafts can generally be classified into three basic subdivisions: Bending fatigue, Torsional fatigue, and Axial fatigue. Bending fatigue can result from these types of bending loads: unidirectional (one-way), reversed (two-way), and rotating. In unidirectional bending, the stress at any point fluctuates. Fluctuating stress refers to a change in magnitude without changing algebraic sign. In reversed bending and rotating bending, the stress at any point alternates. Alternating stress refers to cycling between two stresses of opposite algebraic sign, that is, tension (+) to compression (-) or compression to tension. Torsional fatigue can result from application of a fluctuating or an alternating twisting moment (torque). The axial location of the origin of a fatigue crack in a stationary cylindrical bar or shaft subjected to a fluctuating unidirectional-bending moment evenly distributed along the length will be determined by some minor stress raiser, such as a surface discontinuity. Beach marks (also called clamshell, conchoidal, and crack-arrest marks) of the form shown in Fig. 1(a) and (b) are indicative of a fatigue crack having a single origin at the point indicated by the arrow. The crack front, which formed the beach marks, is symmetrical relative to the origin and retains a concave form throughout. Both the single origin and the smallness of the final-fracture zone in Fig. 1(a) suggest that the nominal stress was low. The larger final-fracture zone in Fig. 1(b) suggests a higher nominal stress.

Fig.1 Fatigue marks produced from single origins at low and high nominal stresses and from multiple origins at high nominal stresses. Fatigue marks are typical for a uniformly loaded shaft subjected to unidirectional bending. Arrows indicate crack origins; final fracture zones are shaded.

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FAILURES OF SHAFTS Figure 1(c) shows a typical fatigue crack originating as several individual cracks that ultimately merged to form a single crack front. Such multiple origins are usually indicative of high nominal stress. Radial steps (ratchet marks) are present between crack origins. Figures 1(d), (e), and (f) show typical fatigue beach marks that result when a change in section in a uniformly loaded shaft provides a moderate stress concentration. With a low nominal stress, the crack front changes from concave to convex before rapture (Fig. 1d). At higher nominal stresses, the crack front flattens and may not become convex before final fracture (Fig. 1e and f). A change in section in a uniformly loaded shaft that produces a severe stress concentration will lead to a pattern of beach marks such as that shown in Fig. 1(g), (h), or (j). An example of a severe stress concentration is a small-radius fillet at the junction of a shoulder and a smaller-diameter portion of a shaft or at the bottom of a keyway. Such a fillet usually results in the contour of the fracture surface being convex with respect to the smaller-section side. The crack-front pattern shown in Fig. 1(g) was produced by a low nominal stress. The crack front in Fig. 1(h) developed more rapidly because of a higher stress in the peripheral zone. Multiple crack origins, high nominal stress, and unidirectional bending usually produce the beach-mark pattern shown in Fig. 1(j).

Contact fatigue occurs when components roll, or roll and slide, against each other under high contact pressure and cyclic loading. Pitting occurs after many repetitions of loading and is the result of metal fatigue from the imposed cyclic contact stresses. Factors that govern contact fatigue are contact stress, relative rolling/sliding, material properties, and metallurgical, physical, and chemical characteristics of the contacting surfaces, including the oil film that lubricates the surfaces. The significant stress in rolling-contact fatigue is the maximum alternating shear stress that undergoes a reversal in direction during rolling. In pure rolling, as in antifriction bearings, this stress occurs slightly below the surface and can lead to the initiation of subsurface fatigue cracks. As these cracks propagate under the repeated loads, they reach the surface and produce cavities, or pits. When sliding is superimposed on rolling, as in gear teeth, the tangential forces and thermal gradient caused by friction alter the magnitude and distribution of stresses in and below the contact area. The alternating shear stress is increased in magnitude and is moved nearer to the surface by friction resulting from the sliding action.

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Wear of metal parts is commonly classified into either of two categories: a) Abrasive wear b) Adhesive wear Abrasive wear, the undesired removal of material by a cutting mechanism, can reduce the size and destroy the proper shape of a shaft. The shaft may then fail by another means, such as by fracture, or may cease to perform its designed function. Foreign particles, such as sand, dirt and other debris, in the lubricant can cause wear of a shaft. Adhesive wear has a characteristic torn appearance because the surfaces actually weld together, then are torn apart by continued motion, creating a series of fractures on both surfaces. This indicates that metal-to-metal contact took place between clean, uncontaminated mating surfaces. Because excessive frictional heat is generated, adhesive wear often can be identified by a change in the microstructure of the metal. For example, steel may be tempered or rehardened locally by the frictional heat generated.


Brittle fractures are associated with the inability of certain materials to deform plastically in the presence of stress at the root of a sharp notch, particularly at low temperatures. Brittle fractures are characterized by sudden fracturing at extremely high rates of crack propagation, perhaps 1830 m/s (6000 ft/s) or more, with little evidence of distortion in the region of fracture initiation. EXAMPLE: A fractured input shaft used in NASCAR racing shown in Fig.2 was received for analysis to investigate the cause of failure. Results indicate the shaft fractured due to fatigue progression from an intergranular stress crack, initiated at a dot peen identification marking on the shaft.

Fig.2 A close-up view of the fracture surface. The blue arrow points to the fracture origin at a brittle intergranular zone. Two fatigue zones are observed propagating over approximately 33% of the fracture surface prior to final torsional overload. Fatigue arrest marks and oxidation are noted in fatigue zone 2.

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Ductile fractures, which result from micro void coalescence, exhibit evidence of distortion (plastic flow) at the fracture surface similar to that observed in ordinary tensile-test or torsion-test specimens. When a shaft is fractured by a single application of a load greater than the strength of the shaft, there is usually considerable plastic deformation before fracture. This deformation is often readily apparent upon visual inspection of a shaft that fractured in tension, but is often not obvious when the shaft fractured in torsion. This ability of a material to deform plastically (permanently) is a property known as ductility. The appearance of the fracture surface of a shaft that failed in a ductile manner is also a function of shaft shape, the type of stress to which the shaft was subjected, rate of loading, and, for many alloys, temperature. In general, ductility is decreased by increasing the strength of the metal by cold work or heat treatment, by the presence of notches, fillets, holes, scratches, inclusions, and porosity in a notch-sensitive material, by increasing the rate of loading, and for many alloys, by decreasing the temperature. Ductile fracture of shafts occurs infrequently in normal service. However, ductile fractures may occur if service requirements are underestimated, if the materials used are not as strong as had been assumed, or if the shaft is subjected to a massive single overload, such as in an accident. Fabricating errors, such as using the wrong material or using material in the wrong heat treated condition (for example, annealed instead of quenched and tempered), can result in ductile fractures.

Fig. 3. The macro photographs of the tensile tested and the ductile fracture surface of tensile tested specimen.

Distortion of a shaft can render the shaft incapable of serving its intended function. Permanent distortion simply means that the applied stress has exceeded the yield strength (but not the tensile strength) of the material. If it is not feasible to modify the design of the shaft, the yield strength of the shaft material must be increased to withstand the applied stress. Yield strength may be increased either by using a stronger material or by heat treating the original material to a higher strength. Creep, by definition, is time-dependent strain (distortion) occurring under stress imposed at elevated temperature, provided the operational load does not exceed the yield strength of the metal. If creep continues until fracture occurs, the part is said to have failed by stress rupture.

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FAILURES OF SHAFTS Creep can result from any type of loading (tensile, torsion, compression, bending, and so on). Some high-temperature applications, such as gas turbines and jet aircraft engines, require materials to operate under extreme conditions of temperature and stress with only a limited amount of deformation by creep. In other high-temperature applications, the permissible deformation is high and may not even be limited as long as rupture does not occur during the intended life of the part. For this type of service, stress-rupture data, rather than long-term creep data, are used for design. Buckling, a third type of distortion failure, results from compressive instability. It can occur if a long slender rod or shaft collapses from compressive axial forces. The load required to cause buckling can be changed only by design changes, not by metallurgical changes, such as heat treatment, in a given type of metal.

Most shafts are not subjected to severe reduction in life from general corrosion or chemical attack. Corrosion may occur as general surface pitting, may uniformly remove metal from the surface, or may uniformly cover the surface with scale or other corrosion products. Corrosion pits have a relatively minor effect on the load carrying capacity of a shaft, but they do act as points of stress concentration at which fatigue cracks can originate. A corrosive environment will greatly accelerate metal fatigue; even exposure of a metal to air results in a shorter fatigue life than that obtained under vacuum. Steel shafts exposed to salt water may fail prematurely by fatigue despite periodic, thorough cleaning. Aerated salt solutions usually attack metal surfaces at the weakest points, such as scratches, cut edges, and points of high strain. To minimize corrosion fatigue, it is necessary to select a material that is resistant to corrosion in the service environment or to provide the shaft with a protective coating. Most large shafts and piston rods are not subject to corrosion attack. However, because ship-propeller shafts are exposed to salt water, they are pressure rolled, which produces residual surface-compressive stresses and inhibits origination of fatigue cracks at corrosion pits. Also, rotating parts, such as centrifugal compressor impellers and gas-turbine disks and blades, often corrode. Centrifugal compressors frequently handle gases that contain moisture and small amounts of a corrosive gas or liquid. If corrosion attack occurs, a scale is often formed that may be left intact and increased by more corrosion, eroded off by entrained liquids (or solids), or thrown off from the rotating shaft. Stress-corrosion cracking occurs as a resuit of corrosion and stress at the tip of a growing crack. Stress corrosion cracking is often accompanied or preceded by surface pitting; however, general corrosion is often absent, and rapid, overall corrosion does not accompany stress-corrosion cracking. The tensile-stress level necessary for stress-corrosion cracking is below the stress level required for fracture without corrosion. The critical stress may be well below the yield strength of the material, depending on the material and the corrosive conditions. Evidence of corrosion, although not always easy to find, should be present on the surface of a stress-corrosion-cracking fracture up to the start of final rupture. All of the common materials used in shafts may undergo stress-corrosion cracking under certain specific conditions. Factors that influence stress-corrosion cracking, either directly or indirectly, include microstructure, yield strength, hardness, corrodent(s),

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FAILURES OF SHAFTS concentration of corrodent(s), amounts and nature of water, pH, and applied and residual stresses, degree of cold working, and chemical composition of the base metal. Additional information is available in the article Stress-Corrosion Cracking in this Volume. Corrosion fatigue results when corrosion and an alternating stressneither of which is severe enough to cause failure by itselfoccur simultaneously; this can cause failure. Once such a condition exists, shaft life will probably be greatly reduced. Corrosion-fatigue cracking is usually transgranular; branching of the main cracks occurs, although usually not as much as in stress-corrosion cracking. Corrosion products are generally present in the cracks, both at the tips and in regions nearer the origins.

FIG. 4 CORROSION OF SHAFT Causes: Corrosion on the shaft in the area of the lip contact will interfere with lips ability to seal against the shaft surface properly. The increased surface roughness may provide leakage paths and lip wear may increase from higher roughness. Action or Countermeasures 1. Apply corrosion-resistant shaft material 2. Use replaceable corrosion-resistant shaft sleeve 3. Change assembly design to limit access of corrosive contaminates 4. Change to seal design that will protect shaft from corrosion so lip can function normally 5. If corrosion from inventory storage before assembly - change inventory system


Surface discontinuities produced during manufacture, repair, or assembly (into a machine) of a shaft can become points of stress concentration and thus contribute to shaft failure. Operations or conditions that produce this type of stress raiser include Manufacturing operations that introduce stress raisers, such as tool marks and scratches Manufacturing operations that introduce high tensile stresses in the surface, such as improper grinding, repair welding, electro machining, and arc burns Processes that introduce metal weakening, such as forging flow lines that are not parallel with the surface, hydrogen embrittlement from plating, or decarburization from heat treatment Dept of Mechanical Engineering, SJCE, Mysore Page 7

FAILURES OF SHAFTS Fatigue strength may be increased by imparting high compressive residual stresses to the surface of the shaft. This can be accomplished with such processes as surface rolling or burnishing, shot peening, tumbling, coining, or induction hardening. Improper Machining: There are many ways in which improper machining can lead to shaft failures, and unless they are recognized, correction of service-failure problems can be difficult. The metal on the surface of a machined part can be cold worked and highly stressed to an appreciable depth (approximately 0.5 to 0.8 mm, or 0.020 to 0.030 in.). Occasionally, the heat generated in machining, particularly in grinding, is sufficient to heat a thin layer of the steel above the transformation temperature and thus cause martensitic hardening at the surface upon cooling. Stresses resulting from thermal expansion and contraction of the locally heated metal may even be great enough to cause cracking of the hardened surface layer (grinding cracks). Rough-machining operations can produce surface cracks and sharp corners, which concentrate stresses. Example 7: Fatigue Fracture of a 4140 Steel Forged Crankshaft Resulting From Stress Raisers Created During Hot Trimming. Textile-machine crankshafts like that shown in Fig. 5 were usually forged from 1035 steel, but because of service conditions, the material was changed to 4140 steel. The forgings were made from 5.5-cm (2.15625-in.) diameter bar stock by cutting to length, hot bending, upsetting, hot-trimming flash, hot pressing, and visually inspecting before shipping. The crankshafts were failing by transverse fracture of one cheek after one to three years of service. The expected life was 20 years of continuous service. One complete forging that had fractured (No. 1 in this Example) and a section containing the fractured cheek on the shorter shaft of another forging (No. 2) were sent to the laboratory so that the cause of failure could be determined. Investigation: Visual examination of the fracture surfaces of both crankshafts revealed indications of fatigue failure; however, the origins were not readily visible (Fig. 5b). The surfaces had a clean fine-grain structure, but the edges were peenedevidently the result of damage after fracture. The surfaces of the cheeks at the parting line contained rough grooves from hot trimming of the flash and from snag grinding (Fig. 5c and d). Forging 2 contained the most severe of such markings. Longitudinal and transverse sections were prepared and etched with hydrochloric acid at a temperature of 71 to 77 C (160 to 170 F). The steel was of good quality and contained the normal amount of nonmetallic inclusions but no segregation or pipe. Examination of an as-polished specimen revealed no intergranular oxidation. Etching the specimen with a 10% sulphuric acid and 10% nitric acid solution revealed no evidence of burning or overheating of the steel. An area containing shallow surface folds was found on the outer face of one cheek of the throw on forging (Fig. 5e). As shown in Fig. 5(f), the metal around one of the folds contained some ferrite, and the forged surface was slightly decarburized. Also, a fatigue crack had initiated in the fold and was propagating across the cheek. Examination of a section through the fracture surface disclosed cold working of the surface, which could have been the result of a rather

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FAILURES OF SHAFTS extended period of fatigue cracking. Chemical analysis of the two forgings found the metal to be 4140 steel, as specified. The hardness of the two forgings at the subsurface, midradius, and core ranged from 19 to 22 HRC. The specified hardness of the machined forging was unknown. Tensile strength of the forgings ranged from 790 to 817 MPa (114.5 to 118.5 ksi), and yield strength at 0.2% offset was 580 to 620 MPa (84 to 90 ksi). Elongation in 3.8 cm (1.5 in.) was 20.6 to 22%, and reduction of area was 56.2 to 59.4%. These properties were representative of 4140 steel quenched and tempered to a hardness of 20 to 22 HRC. The general microstructure of the forgings was tempered bainite; the grain size was ASTM 6 to 8.

Conclusions: Fatigue cracking resulted in the transverse fracture of one cheek in each of the two crankshafts submitted for examination. In crankshaft 1, fatigue cracks were initiated at a shallow hot-work defect. A rough surface resulting from hot trimming or snag grinding of the forging flash was the point of initiation of fatigue cracks in crankshaft .

Corrective measures: Before being machined, the forgings were normalized, hardened and tempered to 28 to 32 HRC to increase fatigue strength. The quenching procedure was changed to produce a more complete martensite transformation and to increase the ratio of yield strength to tensile strength. The surfaces were inspected by the magnetic-particle method, and shallow folds, notches, or extremely rough surfaces were removed by careful grinding.

Identification Marks: Excessive stresses may be introduced in shafts by stamped identification marks that indicate manufacturing date or lot number, steel heat number, size, or part number. The location of such a mark and the method by which it is made can be important. Identification marks should not be placed in areas of high bending or torsional stresses. For shafts, this often requires that they be located either on the end face or on an adjoining collar, but surface-finish requirements on the end of the shaft cannot be ignored if thrust loads are taken at that location. Stamping of marks with straight-line portions is the most likely to cause cracks, although characters with rounded contours also can cause cracking (Fig. 5). Stamping of metal shaft surfaces should be avoided because it is impossible to predict on which surface stamp marks will cause cracking in service.

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Fig. 5 Forged 4140 steel textile-machine crankshaft that fractured in fatigue originating at machining marks and forging defects. (a) Configuration and dimensions (given in inches). (b) Fracture surface. (c) Hot trim marks. (d) Snag grinding marks. (e) Hot folds. (f) Section through a hot fold.


The fatigue properties of a material depend primarily on microstructure, inclusion content, hardness, tensile strength, distribution of residual stresses, and severity of the stress concentrators that are present. Internal discontinuities, such as porosity, large inclusions, laminations, forging bursts, flakes, and centreline pipe, will act as stress concentrators under certain conditions and may originate fatigue fracture. To understand the effect of discontinuities, it is necessary to realize that fracture can originate at any locationsurface or interiorwhere the stress first exceeds material strength. The stress gradient must be considered in torsion and bending because the stress is maximum at the surface, but is zero at the center or neutral axis. In tension, however, the stress is essentially uniform across the section. If discontinuities such as those noted above occur in a region highly stressed in tension by bending or torsional loading, fatigue cracking may be initiated. However, if the discontinuities are in a low-stress region, such as near a neutral axis, they will be less harmful. Similarly, a shaft stressed by repeated high tensile loading must be free from serious

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FAILURES OF SHAFTS imperfections, for there is no neutral axis; any imperfection can be a stress concentrator and can be the origin of fatigue cracking if the stress is high with respect to the strength. Example: Fatigue Cracking of a Forged 4337 Steel Master Connecting Rod Because Of Non-metallic Inclusions: Routine inspection of a reciprocating aircraft engine revealed cracks in the master connecting rod. Cracks were observed in the channel-shaped section consisting of the knuckle-pin flanges and the bearing-bore wall. The rods were forged from 4337 (AMS 6412) steel and heat treated to a specified hardness of 36 to 40 HRC.
Investigation: Visual examination revealed H-shaped cracks in the wall between the

knuckle-pin flanges (Fig. 6a). The cracks originated as circumferential cracks, then propagated transversely into the bearing-bore wall. Magnetic-particle and x-ray inspection before sectioning did not detect any inclusions in the master rod.

Fig. 6 Forged 4337 steel master connecting rod for a reciprocating aircraft engine that failed by fatigue cracking in the bore section between the flanges. (a) Configuration and dimensions (given in inches). (b) Fractograph showing inclusions (arrows) and fatigue beach marks

Macroscopic examination of one of the fracture surfaces revealed three large inclusions lying approximately parallel to the grain direction and fatigue beach marks around two of the inclusions. The inclusions and beach marks are shown in Fig.6 (b). Microscopic examination of a section through the fracture origin showed large non-metallic inclusions that consisted of heavy concentrations of aluminium oxide (Al2O3). These inclusions were of the type generally associated with ingot segregation patterns. The hardness of the rods, 36 to 40 HRC, and the microstructure of the heat-treated alloy steel were satisfactory for the application. A preliminary stress analysis indicated that the stresses in the area of cracking, under normal operating conditions, were relatively low compared with other areas of the rod, such as in the shank and the knuckle-pin straps.

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Conclusions: The rod failed in fatigue in the bore wall between the knuckle-pin flanges. Fatigue was initiated by the stress-raising effect of large non-metallic inclusions. The non-metallic inclusions were not detected by routine magnetic particle or x-ray inspection because of their orientation.

Recommendations: The forging vendors were notified that non-metallic inclusions of a size in excess of that expected in aircraft-quality steel were found in the master connecting rods. Forging techniques that provided increased working of the material between the knuckle-pin flanges to break up the large non-metallic inclusions were not successful. A

non-destructive-testing procedure for detection of large non-metallic inclusions was established.

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