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Crack Initiation in Nodular Cast Iron

Marie Mörtsell
Department of Materials and Manufacturing Technology
Chalmers University of Technology

The automotive industry today is confronted with fatigue problems for many vehicle
components. Lifetimes of cast components are often controlled by the existence of defects.
Defects are well known to be the initiator and origin site of cracks. Natural defects such as
micro shrinkages and gas pores are always present in nodular irons since they are developed
during the casting and cooling process of the component. Despite the existing knowledge that
all mechanical properties have local variations in a casting depending on variations in wall
thickness, defects and other processing parameters in the foundry, the mechanical properties
are mostly treated as they were constant in the whole component. Subsequently the designer
always calculates the designs with safety margins and an under estimation of the strength.
This calls for a more detailed material model of ductile iron and a deeper understanding of
how ductile iron responds to external loads, especially fatigue loads and how the
microstructure affects both initiation and propagation of small fatigue cracks.

Methods for fatigue life calculations today is mostly based on fracture mechanics or so-called
Wöhler curves. Lifetime expectation test procedures on real components and fracture
mechanic test specimens for obtaining standard fatigue crack propagation data, are used in
order to provide material growth data as well as threshold values into the designers computing
tool. For the designer reliable material data and material behavior knowledge are needed in
order to estimate the real fatigue life and not the ideal component life. Since the time for a
vehicle to hit the market is decreasing for a newly designed component, it is more common to
assume a crack propagation model instead of using time consuming physical testing methods.

Today, micro mechanical modeling of a simulated cast iron microstructure in fatigue has been
found rather successful. Such modeling is, however, based on very ideal microstructure
parameters. Cast iron is a material of substantial micro structural variations and the models try
to analyze how the micro mechanical structure influences the average properties of the
material. It is very important to be able to identify the mechanisms that are significant in the
microstructure during the initiation and propagation phase of a fatigue crack. The aim of this
thesis is to create a more detailed material model of the microstructure parameters that affect
initiation and propagation of fatigue cracks. It includes a deeper understanding of how
nodular iron responds to different external loads.

Keywords: nodular cast iron, defects, initiation, propagation, microstructure.