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Fatigue Strength

A fatigue failure occurs in a metal component by the initiation and propagation of a crack under cyclic loading
conditions. Fatigue failures play a significant role in machine design and materials selection for the following
Fatigue is probably the primary cause of 80% of the service failures occurring in machines.
Fatigue failures can occur at stress amplitudes considerably below the yield strength.
Stress concentrations such as material flaws or abrupt changes in component cross-section are much

more harmful to material performance under fatigue conditions than under monotonic tensile loading.
Fatigue cracks can grow slowly and without an easily detectable change in component dimension or

performance. Upon reaching a critical size, catastrophic failure occurs.

Design stresses based on fatigue criteria will be lower than those determined using monotonic tensile

design values and will be reduced further by stress concentrations caused by material flaws or
component design.
The fatigue behaviour of a material is defined by its Fatigue Life - the number of stress or strain cycles at which
failure occurs. The fatigue data for a material are normally plotted on a semi-logarithmic graph of stress
amplitude versus the log of the number of cycles to failure. The resultant S-N curve defines the relationship
between the stress amplitude (S) and the number of cycles to failure (N) when the mean stress is zero. Fatigue
data are also plotted on Goodman Diagrams to define fatigue behaviour for non-zero mean stresses.
Fatigue Limit
The fatigue strength of a material is normally defined by quoting its fatigue limit, also called the endurance limit.
The fatigue limit is the magnitude of the cyclic stress at which the fatigue life exceeds a specified number of
cycles, usually 106 or 107. The fatigue strength of a material is related to its tensile strength by the endurance
ratio - the ratio of fatigue limit to tensile strength. The effect of stress-raisers on the fatigue limit is defined by the
notch sensitivity ratio, also known as the fatigue strength reduction factor. The notch sensitivity ratio is the ratio
of unnotched fatigue limit to notched fatigue limit. The fatigue limit of a Ductile Iron component is influenced by
the following factors: tensile strength, the size, shape and distribution of graphite nodules, the volume fractions
of inclusions, carbides and dross, the quantity and location of porosity, the presence of stress-raisers, and the
condition of the component surface.
Figure 3.25 illustrates S-N curves for notched and unnotched annealed ferritic Ductile Iron with a tensile
strength of 65.8 ksi (454 MPa). With notched and unnotched fatigue limits of 17 ksi (117 MPa) and 28 ksi (193
MPa) respectively, this material has notch sensitivity factor of 1.65 and an endurance ratio of .43. The
endurance ratio of Ductile Iron depends upon the tensile strength and matrix. Figure 3.26 shows that the
endurance ratios of ferritic and pearlitic grades are similar, decreasing from 0. 5 to 0. 4 with increasing strength
within each grade. For tempered martensite matrices, the endurance ratio decreases from 0. 5 at a tensile
strength of 60 ksi (415 MPa) to 0.3 at a UTS of 150 ksi (1035 MPa).

Fig 3.25

Fig 3.26

Effect of Nodule Shape and Size

Figure 3.27 shows the influence of nodularity on the notched and unnotched fatigue limits of pearlitic Ductile
Iron. The notched fatigue limit varies very little over a wide range of nodularity, while the unnotched fatigue limit
increases rapidly with nodularity, especially at very high nodularities. These results indicate that non-spherical
graphite initiates fatigue failure in unnotched Ductile Iron, while in v-notched specimens, the crack initiates
prematurely in the notch, over-riding any effect of nodularity.
The net result of the different effects of modularity on notched and unnotched specimens is the variation of
fatigue strength reduction factor (notch sensitivity ratio) with nodularity shown in Figure 3.28, in which notch
sensitivity increases with increasing nodularity. Figure 3.29 illustrates the effect of nodule size on the fatigue
limits of Ductile Irons with different matrix hardness. At all levels of hardness, fatigue strength increases as
nodule size decreases, but the effect of nodule size is most pronounced as hardness increases.
Fig 3.27

Fig 3.28

Fig 3.29

Effect of Metal Cleanliness

Under bending and torsional fatigue conditions in which the cyclic stresses reach a maximum at the component
surface, fatigue strength is reduced by the presence of inclusions, dross, and other surface defects which act as
crack initiation sites. Figure 3.30 shows that increasing the volume fraction of non-metallic inclusions
significantly decreases fatigue strength. The influence of non-metallic inclusions on fatigue strength increases
as matrix hardness increases. The increasing use of Ductile Iron components with as-cast surfaces places an
increased importance on the elimination of surface defects for applications requiring optimum fatigue strength.
The reduction of dross-related surface defects through the use of filters in the mold filling system can result in a
25 per cent increase in fatigue life, as shown in Figure 3.31. The use of good foundry practices, including
minimizing residual Mg content, careful deslagging of ladles, good gating and pouring practices, the use of
filters in the gating system and the reduction of the effects of flake-forming elements in both the metal and
molding materials, can result in fatigue strengths for ascast surfaces that are within 5 per cent of those obtained
on components with machined surfaces.