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Fatigue & Fatigue Life

By Peter Moore
Minton, Treharne and Davies Ltd.

Lillehammer 2012


What is Fatigue?
The Science behind Fatigue
Designing for Fatigue/Fatigue Life
Case Studies
Concluding Comments

What is Fatigue?
• The decreased capacity or complete
inability of an organism, an organ, or a part
to function normally because of excessive
stimulation or prolonged exertion.
• The weakening or failure of a material,
such as metal, resulting from prolonged

A relatively smooth area where the crack initiates Fatigue Striations indicating progressive crack growth Rough area of final failure .co.What is Fatigue? • Fatigue is the progressive and localised structural damage that occurs when a material is subjected to Cyclic Loading.minton.

minton. www.What is Fatigue? • The maximum stress is less than the ultimate tensile stress and may be below the yield stress of the material. • We need to understand fatigue so that we can: – Predict the engineering life of components. • As such a component can fail at loads below its calculated . – Design structures and materials which maximise economic life.

uk .What is Fatigue? Infamous Fatigue Failures • Alexander Kielland Capsize -1980 • the rig collapsed owing to a fatigue crack in one of the bracings which connected the collapsed D-leg to the rest of the rig. the poor weld profile. • This flange plate held a sonar device used during drilling operations. • This was traced to a 6mm fillet weld which joined a small flange plate to this bracing. • The resultant enquiry found that cold cracks in the welds.minton. increased stress concentrations due to the weakened flange plate. and cyclical stresses collectively played a role in the rig's collapse. www.

co.What is Fatigue? Infamous Non Energy Fatigue Failures • De Havilland Comet -1954 – Cracking from square windows • Eschede Train Disaster -1998 – Fatigue in wheel rim • Hatfield Rail Crash -2000 – Rolling contact fatigue in rails • China Airlines Flight 611 -2002 – Fatigue failure 22 years after first damage .

minton.What is Fatigue? Examples of Fatigue Fracture Faces Multi-strand Wire Rope Engine Shaft .co.

He identified the keyway as the crack origin and was the first person to recognise the significance of fatigue striations “For about ½ inch in depth all round there was a perfectly smooth cleft of blue and purple colour. and it broke on being exposed to a sudden strain. the central crystallised part being gradually reduced in diameter.The Science Behind Fatigue • William Rankine reported on fatigue of an axle on a locomotive tender in . until it was barely able to sustain the this annular part appeared to have been produced by a constant process.” www.minton.

• Cyclic loads caused by thermal expansion due to periodic heating and cooling in a . www. most of them are not the classic sinusoidal form but can be very Science Behind Fatigue What do we mean by a Cyclic Load? • Cyclic Loads occur in a wide variety of service environments. for example: • High frequency mechanical loading in a crankshaft. • Low frequency erratic marine pounding of a North Sea oil rig.

however such sites are not innately Fatigue cracks can appear from apparently smooth surfaces when cracks initiate on small or even microscopic flaws. Stress raisers include features such as sharp notches and angles.The Science Behind Fatigue How do cracks form and grow? • • • In general fatigue cracks originate from some sort of stress raiser on the surface of a component. .

co. Stable propagation of a dominant crack. • Atomic level changes lead to an accumulation of stress II.minton. • One of the microscopic cracks grows out of this initiation area and propagates across the component IV. • Several microscopic cracks form in the damaged area III.The Science Behind Fatigue How do cracks form and grow? • The appearance and growth of a fatigue crack can be broken down into four distinct phases: I. Nucleation of . Failure. • The component breaks www. Microstructural changes leading to permanent damage.

• These changes are permanent but nearly impossible to Changes • Microstructural Changes are due to the Cyclic Loading causing flexing of the metal crystals at an atomic scale.minton. • These changes in microstructure typically resulting in either local softening (of hard materials) or hardening (of soft materials).uk . www.The Science Behind Fatigue Phase I .

• In particular it can cause the submicroscopic extrusion or intrusion of material.The Science Behind Fatigue Phase II – Nucleation of Micro-Cracks • The damage caused in Phase I results in deformation and shape change of the underlying microstructure. • These areas act as sites for crack Crack . • The crack propagation rate in this phase is generally very low: of the order of nm/cycle giving a featureless www.

• Such striations are produced by the successive position of an advancing crack .The Science Behind Fatigue Phase III – Crack Propagation • The fracture surface of Phase III crack propagation frequently shows a characteristic pattern of ripples or fatigue 10µ µm www.

co.minton.The Science Behind Fatigue Phase IV – Final Failure • When the remaining intact material is unable to bear the applied loads the component . www.

• Designing structures for a long fatigue life involves two main approaches:  Theoretical Calculations  Component Design for Fatigue Fatigue Life • Number of cycles that a material will sustain before failure occurs. the stresses involved and the shape of the components in question. Number of Cycles. • These curves can be calculated based on known material properties. • Variations in material and design can give radically different .Designing for Fatigue Theoretical Calculations • The most common tool for avoidance of fatigue fractures involves the calculation of a Stress vs. or SN Curve. • An S-N diagram is a plot of the fatigue life at various levels of stress. do not have an endurance limit www.Designing for Fatigue SN Curve Steel (and other ferrous alloys) have an endurance limit. a stress level below which fatigue does not occur.minton. . Non-ferrous alloys (aluminium. .Designing for Fatigue Component/Material Testing • Fatigue Testing can be performed on individual components or representative material specimens • Tests are typically performed both on as-manufactured and pre-cracked specimens • Whilst time consuming proper tests can identify problems not identified in modelling www.minton.

passive surface oxides.Designing for Fatigue Corrosion Fatigue • • • • Corrosion-Fatigue is the combined action of a cyclic load and a corrosive there is no fatigue limit load in corrosion-assisted fatigue www. causing accelerated corrosion In a corrosive environment the stress level at which a material has infinite life is lowered or removed completely.minton. Contrary to a pure mechanical fatigue. Fatigue causes rupture of .

co. Fail Safe Design: The fatigue cracks will be detected and repaired before it actually causes . 3. Infinite Life Design: Keeping the stress at some low fraction of the fatigue limit of the material. If cracks do appear then use… Damage Tolerant Design: Use fracture mechanics to determine whether the existing crack will grow large enough to cause failure. Aircraft industry. A safety factor is used to compensate for environmental/manufacturing variability.Designing for Fatigue The Different Fatigue Life Philosophies 1. 2. www. Safe Life Design: Based on the assumption that the material has flaws and a finite life.

uk . • Waveform – the variation in applied stress. • Temperature – the service temperature. • Frequency – how often the component is loaded and • Stress Amplitude – the variation between the minimum and maximum stresses experienced in service.minton.Designing for Fatigue Factors Affecting Fatigue Life – 1 Factors affecting fatigue life include: • Mean Stress – the average stress to which a component is subjected. perhaps a gentle rising and lowering or sudden shock changes. www.

• Environment – corrosion and oxidation. both environmental and innate to the components.Designing for Fatigue Factors Affecting Fatigue Life – 2 • Temperature Variation – the in service variation. reducing the ability for surface damage/corrosion to act as initiation points for cracking. • Surface Finish – the smoother and flatter the surface the greater the fatigue • Microstructure – a combination of material choice and heat treatment to reduce the risk of crack formation. . • Coatings – to protect the surface from damage. .co. • Once you have a crack it will grow! www.Designing for Fatigue Conclusion • All these design factors are centred around preventing the appearance of fatigue cracks. .Case Studies • Failure of a Subsea Cable • Failure of Flexible Flowline Pressure Sheath • Fatigue Striations as “Event Limit Markers” www.minton. . www. out of a twenty year projected Study 1 Fatigue Failure of Subsea Cable • An electronic control and communication cable was found to be giving a degraded service after only three years in use. • The cable was therefore recovered for examination. .Case Study 1 Fatigue Failure of Subsea Cable • Whilst the cable was found to show some fretting and abrasion damage there was no obvious puncture damage to the external sheath • If not contaminated with water how had the cable degraded? www.minton.

damages or internal corners to act as initiators. • Microstructural examination and testing of exemplar samples discovered that all cracks initiated in welds in the sheath www.minton.Case Study 1 Fatigue Failure of Subsea Cable • When the cable was dissected fatigue cracks were found in the external metallic sheath. • The metallic sheath had no .co.

Case Study 1 Fatigue Failure of Subsea Cable • Welds in the copper sheath were found to possess . • Fatigue cracks had initiated inside the welds at these inclusions.minton. • The welding process was altered and approved by fatigue testing of exemplars www. hard inclusions.

Ceramics and particularly polymers are subject to fatigue.minton.Case Study 2 Failure of a Flexible Flowline Pressure Sheath • It is not just metals that can fail by fatigue. • In this case a polymeric pressure sheath suffered extensive circumferential fatigue cracking .co.

Case Study 2 Failure of a Flexible Flowline Pressure Sheath • The cracks were found to have initiated on the inside of the flowline and propagated outwards .

• However the flowline was partially embedded in the seafloor and therefore apparently unable to move. • How had the fatigue cracks initiated and propagated in a stationary environment? www. not the top and • The cracks therefore indicated that the flowline had flexed from side to side.Case Study 2 Failure of a Flexible Flowline Pressure Sheath • The cracks were predominantly on the sides of the .minton.

www.Case Study 2 Conclusion • Study of the high strength tapes that bound the outer armour wires together revealed signs of advanced • The degraded tapes were not able to restrain the outer armour of the flowline causing it to relax slightly. crack growth and final failure.minton. and allowing the pressure sheath within to . • This flexing had resulted in crack initiation.

Case Study 3 Fatigue Striations as “Event Limit Markers” • It can be possible to correlate the number of fatigue striations with the service history of the component. www. • This is particularly prevalent in the failure assessment of turbine although this method of counting striations is used in many failure .minton.

• The boundaries between each cycle tend to be 3 cycles 2 cycles 1 cycle Final failure . The more heating cycles the more oxidised and darker a surface is.Case Study 3 Fatigue Striations as “Event Limit Markers” • The high running temperatures of jet turbines oxidise the fracture face as the crack grows. • This results in a visual colour difference between striations that have been exposed to a different number of heating www.

minton. . Determining the number of striations can help determine which was the cause of failure. • For example.Case Study 3 Fatigue Striations as “Event Limit Markers” • Fatigue Striations are counted in various industries to help determine which process is important in a fatigue failure. a fatigue failure in a drilling tower might be due to the forces from drilling (daily) or the sway of the tower in bad weather (monthly).co.

co. especially as the variables can change during the lifetime of the .minton.Concluding Comments • There are a huge number of variables in fatigue – far too many to construct S/N curves for all combinations. • The challenge is to understand how the damage produced by fatigue varies with these parameters and adds together over a complex life cycle. • Once you have a crack it will grow! www. • Designing for fatigue is primarily concerned with avoiding crack initiation.