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The Use of Retardation Models in Crack Propagation Simulation

Luiz Carlos H. Ricardo
Materials Technology Department, IPEN, University of Sao Paulo
Arnaldo Homobono P. Andrade
Materials Technology Department, IPEN, University of Sao Paulo

Tim H. Topper
Civil Engineering Department, Waterloo University
Copyright 2006 SAE International
The objective of this paper is to provide a review of
retardation models for constant and variable amplitude
spectrum loading in 2D constrained small scale yielding.
The models considered use a numerical 2D finite
element method to determine crack opening and closing
stress intensity factors. The correlation of the predictions
of the models with experimental data is examined.
Procedures used to edit variable amplitude spectrum
loading are also presented and the effects of this editing
on fatigue life predictions for structural components are


The most common technique for predicting the
fatigue life of automotive and aircraft structures is
Miners law [1]. Despite the known deviations,
inaccuracies and proven conservatism of Miners
cumulative damage law, it is at present being used in the
design of many advanced structures. Fracture
mechanics techniques for fatigue life predictions remain
as a back up in design procedures. Perhaps the most
important and difficult problem in using fracture
mechanics concepts in design is the use of crack growth
data in predicting fatigue life. This experimentally
obtained data is used to derive a relationship between
stress intensity range (K) and crack growth per cycle

For components containing a flaw under constant
stress amplitude fatigue the crack growth can be
obtained by simply integrating the relation between
da/dN and K. However, for complex spectrum loadings,
a simple addition of the crack growth occurring in each
portion of the loading sequence produces results that
very often are more in error than the results obtained
using Miners law. In fact, a simple addition of the growth
during each portion of a load sequence is the fracture
mechanics equivalent of Miners law.

In 1960 Schijve [2] observed that experimentally
derived crack growth equations were independent of the
loading sequence and depended only on the stress
intensity range and number of cycles for a given portion
of loading sequence. The central problem in the
successful utilization of fracture mechanics techniques
as applied to spectrum fatigue is to obtain a clear
understanding of the influence of loading sequences on
fatigue crack growth. Of particular interest in the study of
crack growth under variable-amplitude loading is the
decrease in growth rate called crack growth retardation
that usually follows a high overload.

Stoufffler & Willians [3] and other researchers
characterized the retardation phenomenon through
manipulation of the constants and stress intensity factors
in the equation of Paris-Erdogan [4]. Most of the
reported theoretical descriptions of retardation are based
on data fitting techniques, which tend to hide the
behavior of the phenomenon. If the retarding effect of a
peak overload on the crack growth is neglected, the
prediction of the material lifetime is usually very
conservative [5].

This paper will review some of these crack
closure models. The small scale yield model employs
the Dugdale [6] theory of crack tip plasticity, modified to
leave a wedge of plastically stretched material on the
fatigue crack surfaces. Fatigue crack growth was
simulated by Skorupa and Skorupa [7] using the strip
model over a distance corresponding to the fatigue crack
growth increment as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 - Schematic Small Scale Yield Model [7]

In order to satisfy the compatibility between the
elastic plate and the plastically deformed strip material,
tractions must be applied on the fictitious crack surfaces
Tractions are also needed over some distance in the
crack wake ( a x a <
), where the plastic
elongations of the strip L(x) exceed the fictitious crack
opening displacements V(x). in the plastic zone
a x a < ), as in the original Dugdale model. The
simple Paris crack propagation equation [4] with the
crack propagation driving parameters, C, K and m are

Murthy et al. [8] discuss crack growth models for
variable amplitude loading and the mechanisms
contributing to overload retardation. Newman [9]
presented a review of crack propagation theory and
gave the list of popular yield-zone models [10-15] and
empirical crack-closure models [16-21] shown in Table

Table 1 Fatigue Crack Growth Models [19]

Yield Zone Concept

Crack Closure

Wheeler [10]

Bell and Wolfman [ 16]
Willenborg, Engle, Wood [11]

Schijve [17]

Chang and Hudson [12] de Koning [18]

Gallagher [13] Bauldin et al. [19]

Chang et al. [14] Aliaga et al. [20]

Johnson [15] Newman ( Finite
Element Method ) [21]

The Wheeler [10] and Willenborg et al. [11]
models were the first models proposed to explain crack-
growth retardation after overloads. These models
assume that retardation exists as long as the current
crack-tip plastic zone is enclosed within the overload
plastic zone. The physical basis for these models,
however, is weak because they do not account for crack-
growth acceleration due to underloads either alone or
immediately following an overload. Chang and Hudson
[12] clearly demonstrated that both retardation and
acceleration are must be included to have a reliable

Later models by Gallagher [13], Chang [14] and
Johnson [15] included functions to account for both
retardation and acceleration.

A new generation of models that were based on
the crack-closure concept were introduced by Bell and
Wolfman [16], Schijve [17], de Koning [18], Baudin et al.
[19] and Aliaga et al. [20]. Newman [21] presented the
first finite element model based on the crack closure
concept. The simplest model is the one proposed by
Schijve [2], who assumed that the crack-opening stress
remains constant during each flight in a flight-by-flight
sequence. The other models developed empirical
equations to account for retardation and acceleration,
similar to the yield-zone models.

Corbly & Packman describe [22] some aspects of
the retardation phenomenon. Despite the recent large
increase in research into retardation effects in crack
propagation there are many aspects of load interaction
phenomena that lack adequate explanations. Aspects of
the retardation phenomena that are generally agreed
upon are presented below.

1. Retardation increases with an increase in the values
of the peak load
for given values of lower stress
levels [23,24].
2. The number of cycles at the lower stress level
required to return to the non-retarded crack growth rate
is a function of K
, K
, R
,, R
and number
of peak cycles [25].
3. If the ratio of the peak stress to lower stress intensity
factors is greater than l.5 complete arrest at the lower
stress intensity range is observed. Tests were not
continued long enough to see if the crack ever
propagated again [25].
10. Negative peak loads can cause an up to 50 per cent
increase in fatigue crack propagation with R = - 1 [28].
11.Low-high sequences do not affect in crack
propagation at the higher load level [30].
12. Low-high sequences cause an initial acceleration of
crack propagation at the higher stress level which rapidly
stabilizes [31].

The major links between fatigue and fracture
mechanics were pointed out by Christensen [32] and
Elber [33]. The crack closure concept put crack
propagation theories on a firm foundation and allowed
the development of practical life prediction methods for
constant and variable amplitude loading, such as that
experienced by modern commercial aircraft.

Numerical analysis using finite elements has
played a major role in the stress analysis of crack
problems. Swedlow [34] was one of the first to use the
finite element method to study the elastic-plastic stress
field around a crack. The discovery of crack closure
mechanisms, such as plasticity, roughness, oxide,
corrosion, and fretting product debris, and the use of the
effective stress intensity factor range, has provided an
engineering tool to predict small and large crack growth
rate behavior under service loading conditions.

Ricardo et al. [35] presented an example of
small scale yielding under constant amplitude loading. A
compact tension specimen was modeled using a
commercial finite element code, ANSYS, version 6.0
[36]. Half of the specimen was modeled and symmetry
conditions applied. Figure 4 shows the compact tension
specimen from ASTM 647-E95a [37], and
Figure 2 shows the model used in this work.
4. For a given ratio of peak stress intensity to secondary
stress, intensity the number of cycles required to return
to non-retarded growth rates decreases with an
increased time at zero load before cycling at the lower
level [25].
5. The percentage delay due to a given a percent
overload increase with an increase in the baseline
stress intensity factor [26].
6. Significant second order effects have been noticed in
decreasing staircase sequences. In a decreasing three
step sequence, the delay increases with an increase in
the value of initial stress in the sequence [26].
7. For a three step decreasing sequence, the delay
increases with an increased intermediate step stress
(the initial step remains constant) [27].
8. Delay is decreased if compression is applied
immediately after a tensile overload [28].
9 Underloads do not substantially influence crack growth
rates at secondary stress levels if R > 0 for the lower
stress [29].

Figure 2 - FEM Model of the CT

Their analysis showed that it was possible to simulate
crack propagation and obtain values such as opening
and closure stress intensity factors by the finite element
method. The correlation of their analysis with
experimental results was good until a value of
a/W = 0.40 was reached, after which point the
experimental plastic zone increased more rapidly than
the calculated plastic zone, and the trends diverged.

Skorupa [38] found that for simple load histories
containing combinations of overload and underload
cycles, an underload applied immediately after an
overload reduced the post-overload retardation more
significantly than an underload that immediately
preceded the overload.

Suresh [39] provided an extensive review of small
cracks. A small crack has little length behind its tip, so
that the interference between the crack faces that
constitutes closure is lessened. One effect of this
reduced closure is that crack growth rates are increased,
in the low-growth-rate, threshold region. However, a
review of the extensive literature on this topic is beyond
the scope of the present review.

Fatigue crack closure and growth behavior under
random loading have been investigated by Youb and
Song [40] using a side-grooved CCT specimen of 2024-
T351 aluminum alloy. They discuss the effects of load
spectrum and history length on crack closure and crack
growth behavior in detail. Random loading tests were
performed using narrow and wide band random load
histories of various history lengths ranging from 500
cycles to 2000 cycles. The conclusions they came to are
summarized as follows:

1. The crack opening load is nearly constant during a
random loading block histories of lengths ranging from
500 cycles to 2000 cycles, and is predominantly a
function of the largest load cycle in the random load
history, irrespective of random load spectrum and history

2. The crack opening load under random loading is
different from that under constant amplitude loading.
This implies that the crack closure behavior under
random loading cannot be estimated from constant
amplitude tests

3. Fatigue crack growth under random loading can be
successfully described by the crack closure concept.
Consistent effects of random load spectrum and history
length on crack closure and growth behavior were not
observed within the range of load levels examined in this

4. The maximum crack opening loads observed in single
overload and periodic single overload tests agree well
with the crack opening loads under random loading. This
means that the crack closure behavior under random
loading can be estimated from single overloading or
periodic single overloading tests.

Many models [41-45] for predicting fatigue crack
growth under random loading have been developed.
Kikukawa et al. [46-49] made extensive measurements
of crack opening loads under various random load

They reported that the crack opening point is
controlled by the maximum range-pair load cycle (which
we call hereafter the largest load cycle) in a random
load history. Furthermore, this crack opening level is
identical with that for constant amplitude loading
corresponding to the largest load cycle. Based on this
crack opening behavior, they proposed a simple
predictive procedure for crack growth under random

Zheng [50] provided a criterion for omitting small
loads. In the past, an underload (or subload) was
defined as a nominal stress amplitude lower than or
equal to the endurance limit, and the effect of
underloads on fatigue life was investigated
experimentally by using smooth specimens. Test results
showed that underload cycles applied to smooth
specimens increased the fatigue life or the endurance
limit of low-carbon steel [51] and cast iron [52], which
was called coaxing. However, past research on the
underload effect was not associated with the omission of
small load cycles in making life predictions [53-54].

The omission of small load cycles is necessary
and important in the compilation of a load spectrum [55],
in the prediction of the fatigue life and in the assessment
of the fatigue reliability of structures [56-57], and is cost
effective in fatigue tests of components and structures
under long-term variable-amplitude or random loading

The paper provides a review of the retardation
models that have been used for constant and variable
amplitude loading. Small scale yield models used to
determine crack closure levels are discussed and an
example is given of the use of the finite element method
to estimate crack closure levels. Editing to shorten
variable amplitude load histories is also discussed a
general procedure to generate, edition and utilization of
the variable amplitude loadings in the automotive and
aircraft structures.

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Peak Stress Level
Peak Stress Intensity Factor Range
Lower Stress Intensity Factor Range
Peak Load Ratio
Lower Load Ratio

Crack Propagation Rate

Fatigue Crack Growth Coefficient

Stress Intensity Factor Range


Fatigue Crack Growth Exponent

Minimum Stress Intensity Factor
Maximum Stress Intensity Factor
Critical Stress Intensity Factor
Effective Stress Intensity Factor Range
Opening Stress Intensity Factor
Sop Opening Stress

Threshold Stress Intensity Factor
K Stress Intensity Factor
B Specimen Thickness
W Width of Specimen


Dr. Luiz Carlos H. Ricardo

Prof. Dr. Analdo H.P.Andrade

Prof . Dr. Tim . H. Topper