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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Fracture
Analysis Job Aid
Fracture Analysis
Procedure
Identify Fractures
Brittle Fractures
Ductile Fractures
Fatigue Fractures
Initiation Sites
Stress Raisers
Load Types

These pages are intended to


be a job aid for persons who
must analyze fractures as part of
their daily activities.
These pages are structured
to help anyone learn to look at
broken parts and be able to
determine what type of fracture
took place, where the fracture
started and why it started.
It also contains some brief
knowledge checks and a glossary of
important terms.

Check Your Knowledge


Glossary
Analyzing Fracture Training
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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Fracture Analysis

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Fracture Analysis Procedure


Obtain all the fractured parts
Identify all the fracture types and separate the brittle and ductile
fractures from the fatigue fractures
Locate the initiation site of any fatigue fractures present
Determine what stress raiser initiated the fatigue fracture and
whether it is normal or abnormal.
If crack initiated inside the part, look for abnormal stress raisers
such as material or manufacturing problems
If it started on the parts surface, look first for abnormal stress
raisers such as
Wear
Corrosion
Handling
Assembly
Manufacturing
If only normal stress raisers are present, investigate the job
site for application, operation and maintenance practices

Fracture Analysis

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Identify Fractures
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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Parts break three different ways: brittle fracture, ductile fracture,


and fatigue fracture.
Brittle and ductile fractures usually are the resulting fractures after
some other part has broken.
Fatigue fractures are the most interesting because they are often
closely connected to the root cause of the failure.
Each fracture has distinct characteristics that help identify which
type it is.
One main reason for identifying fracture type is to find the starting
point of the crack called the intiation site.
Initiation sites can be very important and sometimes reveal why the
crack started especially with fatigue fractures.
Initiation sites can also point to the investigation path that must be
followed to arrive at the root cause of the fracture.
Both the fracture type and initiation site location can reveal the kind
of load that caused it.
To learn more about identifying each type of fracture and
obtaining facts about it's cause, click on one of the links at left.

Fracture Analysis

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Brittle Fractures

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Brittle fractures can be recognized by their rough surfaces, chevrons, gray


color, sparkles and little or no permanent change in shape called plastic
deformation (see Glossary for definition or go to Ductile Fractures for
examples). If the two parts of the fracture are held close to each other the
part looks almost like it did before breaking.
Brittle fractures are fractures that occur very rapidly with the entire part,
component or structure breaking in two in a fraction of a second to a few
seconds at most. Cracks run in the material at very high speeds of
hundreds of feet or meters per second.
Brittle fractures are usually caused by very sudden excessive loads called
shock or impact loads (see Load Types).
Most brittle fractures are results. This means they are not the cause of a
failure but are actually a result of another part or component failure.
Therefore parts having brittle fractures can be set aside in most
cases as they are not of primary interest.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Fracture Analysis

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Ductile Fractures

Ductile fractures can be recognized by their rough surfaces, dark gray or


black color, shear lips and permanent change in shape called plastic
deformation.
Ductile fractures are fractures that occur very rapidly with the entire part,
component or structure breaking in two in a relatively short period of time.
Cracks run in the material at high speeds of several feet or meters per
second. The cracks travel slower than in brittle fractures which allows the
part to distort, twist, bend or deflect to try and carry the excessive load.
Cracking usually starts after the part has been distorted to the limit the
material can withstand and small internal cracks form leaving the outer
circumference to tear apart last.
Most ductile fractures are results. This means they are not the cause of a
failure but are actually a result of another part or component failure.
Therefore parts having ductile fractures can be set aside in most
cases as they are not of primary interest.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Fracture Analysis

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Fatigue Fractures

Fatigue fractures can be recognized by their smooth surfaces, light gray or


silvery color, beach marks, ratchet marks and final fracture.
Fatigue fractures are fractures that occur very slowly over a period of
hours, weeks or months and usually go undetected until the part finally
breaks completely in two. This event is called final fracture and is either
ductile, brittle or both.
The most interesting fact about fatigue fractures is that cracks will start at
areas of high stress. These areas are stress raisers and can be
something as simple as a dimensional change or as complex as heat
treatment residual stress.
Fatigue fractures, when found, are usually closely connected to the
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Fracture Analysis Procedure

root cause of failure making them the most interesting and useful
fracture.

Fracture Analysis

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Initiation Sites
The initiation site is one of the most important sites on any fracture
as it is the location where cracks first started.
The initiation site of a brittle fracture can be just about anywhere on
the surface.
The initiation site of a ductile fracture usually occurs at the part's
smallest cross section and is of little importance.
Initiation sites of fatigue fractures are stress raisers and are very
important to helping identify why the fatigue crack started.
Once a stress raiser has been identified, the next step is to
determine whether it is a normal stress raiser or abnormal stress
raiser.

Fracture Analysis

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Stress Raisers
Stress raisers are physical changes in a part that results in an increase of
internal stress in the part at the location of the physical change. This
change can be a simple dimensional change such as a reduction in
diameter of a rod, it can be a design feature such as a keyway or it can be
something more subtle such as residual tensile stress due to heat
treatment.
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Stress raisers that are part of the design and manufacturing of the
component are considered normal stress raisers while stress raisers due to
wear, corrosion, excessive residual stress, dents, cracks or material
problems are abnormal stress raisers.
When analyzing fatigue fractures, once the initiation site is located, the
stress raiser starting the fatigue should be identified and investigated to
see if it is normal or abnormal.
Abnormal Stress Raisers
Normal Stress Raisers

Fracture Analysis

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Load Types

Fracture Analysis

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Knowledge Checks
Analyzing Fractures

Fracture Analysis

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Glossary of Terms
A
B
Brittle fractures are fractures that occur very rapidly with the entire part,
component or structure breaking in two in a fraction of a second to a few
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seconds at most. Cracks run in the material at very high speeds of


hundreds of feet or meters per second.
C
Chevrons are ridges on brittle fractures that usually get closer together as
they approach the initiation site of a brittle fracture.
D
Ductile fractures are fractures that occur very rapidly with the entire part,
component or structure breaking in two in a relatively short period of time.
Cracks run in the material at high speeds of several feet or meters per
second. The cracks travel slower than in brittle fractures which allows the
part to distort, twist, bend or deflect to try and carry the excessive load.
Cracking usually starts after the part has been distorted to the limit the
material can withstand and small internal cracks form leaving the outer
circumference to tear apart last.
E
F
Fatigue
G
H
I
The initiation site is the location where cracks start.
J
K
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L
Load
M
N
O
P
Plastic deformation occurs when parts are loaded beyond their normal
strength and are forced to bend, twist, distort or stretch changing the shape
of the part noticeably and permanently.
Q
R
S
Shear lips are jagged rough edges extending part or all of the way around
the circumference of ductile fractures. The shear lip is formed when the last
material to fracture finally tears apart on about a 45 degree angle.
Sparkles means a fracture surface glitters when it is moved in the light. It
appears to have tiny diamonds embedded in the surface. It is typical of
fractures of steel and cast aluminum and indicates a brittle fracture
occurred. Sparkles are caused by crystals of the metal fracturing along flat
crystalline surfaces. It is also referred to as crystalline fracture.
Stress is the internal force that exists on each small cross sectional area of
material in a part and is caused by the external applied load.
Stress raisers are physical changes in a part that results in an increase of
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Fracture Analysis Procedure

internal stress in a part at the location of the physical change. This change
can be a simple dimensional change such as a reduction in diameter of a
rod, it can be a design feature such as a keyway or it can be something
more subtle such as residual tensile stress due to heat treatment. Wear,
corrosion or other surface damage can also be stress raisers.
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z

Fracture Analysis

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Analyzing Fractures Training - To Proceed with the Training Click


Here!

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

In this module we will learn the basics of identifying the three different
types of fractures that occur in metals. Then will will learn how to use these
fractures to locate the starting point of the crack. Once we have this
information we can usually find the reason why cracking started.
Most product failures are a result of improper operation, application or
maintenance and the fractures can identify this. Less frequently, product
problems can cause fractures and we can discover this also by knowing
how to analyze the fracture surfaces. The final purpose is to help arrive at
the events that can be used to build a time line to arrive at the root cause
of failure.
Eight Steps of Applied Failure Analysis
In This Presentation
Basic Terminology
Different Rates of Loading

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Brittle Fracture Characteristics


Fractured Component
Track Tensioner Spring Fracture
Fractured Piston Skirt
Fractured Gear Tooth
Fractured Gear
Brittle Crack Growth
Brittle Fracture Explained
Brittle Fracture
Ductile Fracture Characteristics

Fracture Analysis

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Brittle Fractures
Chevrons
Chevrons are ridges on brittle fractures that usually get closer together as
they approach the initiation site of a brittle fracture.

Chevrons on this fracture point to the upper right.


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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Chevrons on this piston fracture point to the lower center.

Chevrons point to the left in this fractured gear.

Fracture Analysis

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Brittle Fractures
Sparkles
sparklesmeans means a fracture surface glitters when it is moved in the
light. It appears to have tiny diamonds embedded in the surface. It is
typical of fractures of steel and cast aluminum and indicates a brittle
fracture occurred. Sparkles are caused by crystals of the metal fracturing
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Fracture Analysis Procedure

along flat crystalline surfaces. It is also referred to as crystalline fracture.

This fractured steel shows a sparkly condition and no shape change

This valve head also shows sparkles and no shape change.

Fracture Analysis

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Ductile Fractures

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Shear Lips
Shear lips are jagged rough edges extending part or all of the way around
the circumference of ductile fractures. The shear lip is formed when the last
material to fracture finally tears apart on about a 45 degree angle.

A shear lip on this connecting rod bolt can be seen sticking out at the lower
edge of the bolt.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

A closer look at the bolt shows a shear lip extends all the way around the
bolt.
The shear lip is largest at the bottom and also at the more difficult to see
top area of the bolt where it is still down in the bolt hole.

Fracture Analysis

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Ductile Fractures
Plastic Deformation
Plastic deformation occurs when parts are loaded beyond their normal
strength and are forced to bend, twist, distort or stretch changing the shape
of the part noticeably and permanently.

This connecting rod bolt has stretched very noticeably

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

This connecting rod has been twisted and distorted.

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Fatigue Fractures
Beach Marks

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Beach marks are similar to growth rings in a tree and usually expand out
and away from the initiation site. They focus on the starting point of the
fracture. The beach marks on this fracture point to the lower edge as the
initiation site.

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Fatigue Fractures
Ratchet Marks

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

The two bright radial features on this fracture at the initiation site are
ratchet marks. Ratchet marks form when two fatigue fractures are growing
at the same time at approximately the same location with one being just a
little above or below the other. At some point in time the material
separating the two fractures breaks vertically between them producing a
vertical wall or ratchet mark.

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Fatigue Fractures
Final Fracture

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

The large area on this fracture above the beach marks is the final fracture.
This portion of the fracture occurred in just a fraction of a second when the
part could no longer carry the repeated cyclic loading. Final fracture size
can tell a lot about the applied load. A large final fracture indicates a very
high applied load.

Fracture Analysis

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Stress Raisers
Abnormal Stress Raisers
Abnormal stress raisers generally are of five kinds
Material problems

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Pre-cracks in parts
Surface damage such as corrosive pitting, unusual wear,
dents, nicks, or scratches
Improper manufacturing processes
The first two will produce fatigue cracks starting subsurface.
The others will start fatigue cracks on the surface.

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Abnormal Stress Raisers


Material Problems

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

This large crankshaft has fractured at a main journal fillet. A closeup of the
initiation site located by the arrow is to the right.

A typical material problem produced the abnormal stress raiser that started
a subsurface fatigue crack in the crankshaft. This type of fatigue fracture is
sometimes called a bull's eye since it produces a target like appearance
with the impurity at the center.

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This piston pin contains a material impurity which started a fatigue fracture
which eventually produced a major engine failure. The picture to the right is
a closeup view of the material problem.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

The straight line running from left to right near the center of the picture is
the material impurity. Beach marks can be seen growing upward and
downward fromt this area.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

This steel casting shows another material problem that sometimes occurs
in castings. The closeup at the right is of the problem area.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

The closeup shows a cavity or large hole in the casting caused by improper
pouring practices. It is called a shrinkage cavity. This hole was so large
that it failed abruptly very early in its life.

Fracture Analysis

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Abnormal Stress Raisers


Pre-Cracks

Sometimes parts are cracked due to manufacturing processes. These


cracked parts produce another type of abnormal stress raiser. This is
usually referred to as a pre-crack. The precrack in this connecting rod is
the dark area at the center. Ratchet marks can be seen starting along the
lower edge. This indicates fatigue started inside the part, not at the surface.
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This picture has the various areas mentioned in the previous picture
identified to help locate the pre-crack and the other features of the fracture.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

The arrow points to another example of a pre-crack.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

This marked up image shows the location of the pre-crack and the ratchet
marks and beach marks starting inside the part at the bottom edge of the
pre-crack.

Fracture Analysis

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Abnormal Stress Raisers


Surface Damage

This shaft has surface damage on a bearing seat caused by improper


disassembly practice. A cutting torch was used to remove the bearing and
during the removal, the shaft was nicked by the torch. The resulting
abnormal stress raiser started a fatigue fracture.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

This closer view shows the abnormal stress raiser and the initiation site of
the fatigue crack.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

This bolt has not fractured yet but has a high risk of a fatigue crack starting
at the reddish stained area of fretting corrosion. This type of surface
damage produces surface pitting which can be a severe stress raiser
resulting in fatigue fracture. The source of the vibration that caused the
fretting should be identified and corrected

Fracture Analysis

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Abnormal Stress Raisers


Improper Manufacturing

This ground engaging tool had a fatigue fracture start from a dent. In this
case the dent was intentional. It is the letter "T" in the word CAT. The
trademark location had to be moved as it created an abnormal stress raiser
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Fracture Analysis Procedure

resulting in fatigue fractures.

The fillet radius on this cylinder rod was machined much too small creating
a very abnormal stress raiser

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Stress Raisers
Normal Stress Raisers

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Splines on shafts are normal stress raisers by design

Keyways are also normal stress raisers if machined to print

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Dimensional changes of many types are normal stress raisers

Threads are normal stress raisers existing on most fasteners

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Radii such as at the root of gear teeth are normal stress raisers

Residual stress due to heat treatment is a normal stress raiser.


One of the most difficult jobs is to determine if normal stress raisers are
really produced to specification or have been machined wrong making
them abnormal stress raisers.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Fracture Analysis

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Tests

Analyzing Fractures
For each question below, click on the circle next to the correct answer.
When you are finished with the test, push the 'Score my test' button at the
bottom of the page. Good luck!

Question #1
Which of the following answers best describes the various types of
fracture?
A. Brittle and ductile
B. Fatigue and brittle
C. Fatigue and ductile
D. Brittle, ductile and fatigue
E. All of the above

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Question #2
Which type of fracture is usually a result and not the root cause of a
failure?
A. Brittle
B. Ductile
C. Both brittle and ductile
D. Fatigue
E. All of the above

Question #3
Which of the following are characteristics of brittle fracture?
A. Rough
B. Little or no permanent change in shape
C. Chevrons
D. Crystalline fracture
E. All of the above

Question #4
Ductile fractures will usually have:
A. Beach marks
B. Ratchet marks
C. Chevrons
D. Little or no plastic deformation
E. Shear lips

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Question #5
Beach marks show the:
A. Origin of a fatigue fracture
B. Location where the part finally failed
C. Location of least interest
D. Fracture was due to a sudden overload
E. None of the above

Question #6
Fatigue fracture origins can be of special interest because:
A. Fatigue starts at a stress raiser
B. They always indicate the root cause of failure
C. They indicate the part has been in service far too long
D. They indicate the part was used in an abusive manner
E. All of the above

Question #7
Once a stress raiser has been identified on a fatigue fracture, the next
thing to do is:
A. Examine all other failed parts
B. Determine if abuse caused the failure
C. Decide if wear played a role in failure
D. Determine if it is abnormal
E. Look for evidence of corrosion

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Question #8
Fatigue starting inside the part at a well defined and localized area
indicates:
A. The part was used far too long
B. The part was subjected to a corrosive environment
C. The part may have been abused during service
D. The part is fine
E. None of the above

Question #9
Beach marks and ratchet marks that do not extend all the way to a part's
surface indicate:
A. The part was cracked before going into service
B. The part was not the cause of the problem
C. The part was subjected to a corrosive environment
D. The failure was related to excessive part wear
E. None of the above

Question #10
Fatigue that starts at a normal stress raiser indicates:
A. The application should be investigated
B. The part is the root cause
C. The part was used far too long
D. A material flaw caused the failure
E. The manufacturing process produced a cracked part

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

This test was made with free online software from Merex Corporation.

Analyzing Fractures

Fracture Analysis

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Analyzing Fractures
Eight Steps of Applied Failure Analysis

State the problem clearly


Get organized
Observe and record facts
Think logically with the facts
Determine most probable root cause
Communicate
Correct the problem
Follow up
Fracture identification and analysis is fundamental to Step 3, Observing
and Recording facts. A digital camera is a great tool to use for this step.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Fracture Analysis

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Analyzing Fractures
In This Presentation

Brittle fracture characteristics


Ductile fracture characteristics
Fatigue fracture characteristics
Stress raisers
Metal strength
Loads on parts
Now we will learn to identify the three fracture types and look for stress
raisers at the starting point of the cracking. We will learn the role stress
raisers play in causing fracture.

Fracture Analysis

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Analyzing Fractures
Basic Terminology
There are three basic fracture types, brittle, ductile and fatigue.
Both brittle and ductile fractures occur rapidly, traveling thousands of
meters per second through metal in some instances. They produce rough
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Fracture Analysis Procedure

fracture surfaces.
Fatigue usually occurs over a much longer period of time, maybe days,
weeks, months or years. It usually leaves a smooth fracture surface.
We might already guess that as we build time lines in Step 4, we would
expect fatigue fractures to be involved with events that occur early on the
time line and brittle and ductile fractures will be associated with events that
occur very close or at the end of the time line. For this reason we will say
that fatigue fractures are usually closely related to root causes, while
brittle and ductile fractures are usually related to results.
Initiation sites are the locations where fatigue cracking starts and this is
where we will find the stress raiser that started it.
Stress raisers are areas of physical differences contained by all parts that
cause the applied loads to be concentrated more heavily at certain
locations. We will give some examples later.
After a crack grows a certain distance through a part, the remaining cross
sectional area can no longer carry the loads and the remaining material
fractures. This area is called final fracture.

Fracture Analysis

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Analyzing Fractures
Different Rates of Loading

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Just a reminder that there are three basic loading rates which have an
effect in producing the three fracture types. Both impact and overloads are
single load applications. Cyclic loads are repeated. Remember to
distinguish between a single overload which usually causes ductile fracture
and cyclic overload which causes fatigue fracture

Fracture Analysis

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Analyzing Fractures
Brittle Fracture Characteristics

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Now lets learn to identify brittle fractures. They have four characteristics.
They are rough.
They do not deform much at the edges during fracture, bend, twist,
shear called plastic deformation. This means you can put the two
halves of the fracture back together and the part looks very similar to
the way it looked before breaking.
Brittle fractures either sparkle like diamonds are embedded on the
fracture surface or ...
they have ridges forming chevrons or v-shaped structures on the
surface. Harder steels form sparkles while softer steels form chevrons.
This gives us a hint about the parts hardness. These characteristics
hold true for steel, aluminum and most other crystalline materials but
does not hold true for cast iron. Cast iron fracture is extremely difficult
to analyze, even by expert metallurgists.
The most important thing to remember about brittle fractures is they are
usually results.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Fracture Analysis

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Analyzing Fractures
Fractured Component

What do you see on this fracture? No deformation at the edges, sparkly


surface and rough texture. What kind of fracture is it?
Brittle.
Is it most likely a cause of a failure?
No, it is usually a result.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Fracture Analysis

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Analyzing Fractures
Track Tensioner Spring Fracture

What do you see on this fractured track tensioner spring?


Little deformation, rough surfaces and a distinct pattern of chevrons.
What kind of fracture is it?
Brittle of course meaning this part fractured as a result of something else
occurring previously.

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Fracture Analysis

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Analyzing Fractures
Fractured Piston Skirt

What do you see on the skirt of this broken piston?


A rough surface, no deformation and a distinct set of chevrons.
What kind of fracture is it?
Brittle.
What caused it?
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Fracture Analysis Procedure

A sudden impact load.


Is this fracture a cause or a result?
A result.

Fracture Analysis

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Analyzing Fractures
Fractured Gear Tooth

What do you see on the skirt of this broken piston?

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

A rough surface, no deformation and a distinct set of chevrons.


What kind of fracture is it?
Brittle.
What caused it?
A sudden impact load.
Is this fracture a cause or a result?
A result.

Fracture Analysis

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Analyzing Fractures
Fractured Gear

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

What do you see here?


Rough fracture, no deformation and chevrons.
This is a brittle fracture that is a result of a shock load. The shock load
occurred in the area of the gear teeth at the left.
What is the lighter gray area?
This is the harder metal around the surface of the gear called the case.
This was produced by heat treating the gear during manufacturing.

Fracture Analysis

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Analyzing Fractures

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Brittle Crack Growth

Brittle cracks are most frequently caused by impact or shock loads. The
individual grains of steel making up the part have no time to deform and try
to carry this sudden extra load.
In most instances the grains fracture along the layers of unit cells. This is
known as cleavage.
If the metal is very hard and fractures almost entirely by cleavage, the
cleaved grains reflect light creating the sparkle on certain fractures.

Fracture Analysis

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Analyzing Fractures
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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Brittle Fracture Explained

A deck of playing cards illustrates brittle fracture very well.


Imagine the deck represents a single grain of steel and each card within
the deck represents a layer of unit cells.

Fracture Analysis

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Analyzing Fractures
Brittle Fracture

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Brittle fracture along the layers of unit cells is equivalent to cutting the
deck or separating it as pictured. Notice the grain or deck has not changed
its original shape meaning no plastic deformation occurred during the
fracture.

Fracture Analysis

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Ductile Fracture Characteristics

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Fracture Analysis Procedure

Ductile fractures are similar to brittle fractures in that they are usually
results of a single excessive load being applied. But in this case the load is
not applied fast enough to prevent the part from bending and deforming to
carry the load. This kind of fracture might occur in a connecting rod bolt if
the other bolt in the pair should come loose and fall out of the rod. The
remaining tight bolt is now overloaded and stretches, bends and breaks
due to the overload.
Ductile fractures are rough with dark surfaces, show lots of deformation
usually with a shear lip at the edges, occur rapidly and may have a woody
texture if the fracture runs in the direction of grain flow.

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