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J Fail. Anal. and Preven.

(2014) 14:707–714
DOI 10.1007/s11668-014-9885-4


Ribbon Fatigue Spalling of a Forged Work Roll Used at a Cold

Rolling Mill
Soma Ghosh • Pankhuri Sinha • Shivanandan Indimath •

Goutam Mukhopadhyay • Sandip Bhattacharya

Submitted: 29 May 2014 / in revised form: 13 September 2014 / Published online: 31 October 2014
Ó ASM International 2014

Abstract Catastrophic failure of a forged work roll used Keywords Fatigue  Ultrasonic  Metallography
in a cold rolling mill was investigated. The spalled roll
showed fatigue arrest marks in a smooth continuous path
along the circumferential direction. Characteristic features Introduction
of the fracture surface were similar to that of surface ini-
tiated spalling which is known as ribbon fatigue spalling. The work rolls used for cold rolling applications require
The investigation consisted of visual observation, profiling excellent resistance to wear and plastic deformation as it
of crack using ultrasonic testing, microstructural charac- performs under stern conditions thereby being exposed to
terization by optical and scanning electron microscopy, severe thermal and mechanical shock [1]. The quality of
XRD analysis, and hardness measurements. Ultrasonic work roll directly influences the overall production of the
evaluation confirmed the initiation of root crack on the roll mill. In-service failure of roll causes huge loss of capital as
surface followed by an extensive sub-surface propagation well as adversely affects production increasing the down-
(*815 mm length) of fatigue crack. Microstructural ana- time. Improvements in roll qualities have therefore been a
lysis revealed the presence of dendritic columnar structure challenging task for roll manufacturers over years. Now-a-
and coarse irregular carbides indicating improper manu- days, forged and induction-hardened alloy steel (3–5%
facturing process. Retained austenite content (*12%) as chromium) is being used as a superior material for work
measured using XRD was higher than the usual desirable rolls of cold rolling mills [2]. Forged and hardened work
limit for such application. These microstructural abnor- roll grades offer improved fatigue resistance properties.
malities deteriorated the fatigue resistance of the roll. Since Manufacturing of forged rolls involves series of steps prior
the roll failed within few hours of the running campaign to forging. This includes electric arc furnace melting, ladle
and there was no operational abnormality reported in the refining, ingot casting, and electro slag remelting (ESR)
campaign, it can be inferred that the initiation of the fatigue process. Induction hardening of forged rolls helps in
crack was conceived prior to the running campaign. It was achieving high surface hardness. Additionally, the addition
an inspection deficiency that the crack was not detected of chromium improves the hardenability and enhances the
prior to the start of the campaign. Initiation of fatigue crack wear resistance.
which could not be detected during inspection led to the Despite careful attention from roll manufacturer and
premature failure of roll in the early stage of campaign. user, roll failures do occur in service which lead to partial
or total loss of the rolls and even result in subsequent
damage to the rolling equipment apart from the huge pro-
duction loss.
S. Ghosh (&)  P. Sinha  S. Indimath  G. Mukhopadhyay  Spalling is one of the prime causes of failure of forged
S. Bhattacharya and hardened work rolls. Spalling is of two types
R&D and Scientific Services, Tata Steel Ltd.,
depending on its origin, viz.: surface and sub-surface.
Jamshedpur 831001, Jharkhand, India
e-mail:; Surface-initiated spalling is mostly related to operational factors (strip breakage, thermal gradient, severe bruising,

708 J Fail. Anal. and Preven. (2014) 14:707–714

and improper grinding), whereas sub-surface-initiated of spalled zone *500 mm. At both the sides of the track,
spalling is mostly an outcome of poor material quality chevron marks projecting outward were observed as shown
(improper grade, casting defects, non-metallic inclusions, in Fig. 1b, c. The chevron marks indicated final failure of
and improper heat treatment) [1–3]. roll under brittle mode. Visual observation did not reveal
In the present study, failure analysis of a forged steel any kind of surface abnormality or tool mark on the barrel
work roll, used in the skin pass unit of a cold rolling mill, portion of the failed roll. Data on the roll force which is an
of an integrated steel plant has been presented. The skin important operational parameter to identify any kind of
pass rolling as the last stage in the process chain of cold deviation from the regular operating condition of the mill
rolling has gained importance due to the increased was examined at the mill. The data confirmed the fact that
demands of cold-rolled strips in terms of mechanical no abnormal fluctuation of load or overload encountered in
properties and surface quality. The bottom work roll of service prior to the catastrophic failure.
single stand 4-Hi skin pass mill at the referred Cold Rolling In ribbon fatigue spalling, root crack for fatigue wreck
Mill failed catastrophically in service resulting in several path initiates somewhere on the roll surface. Ultrasonic
hours of production loss. The primary aim of this investi- evaluation of the failed roll was performed to validate the
gation is to establish the root cause of failure and to suggest fact. A portion from the spalled region was collected for
suitable measures so as to avert the reoccurrences of sim- material analysis (Fig. 1d). The sample was representative
ilar failure in the future. of typical features of surface-initiated spalling observed in
the failed roll. Region of fast fracture as well as fatigue
path was observed in the sample as marked in Fig. 1d–f.
Visual Inspection and the Details of Roll Detailed characterization comprising of chemical analysis,
optical and scanning electron microscopy, XRD analysis,
The new roll was supplied in the forged and induction- and hardness measurement were carried out on the repre-
hardened condition as per the requirements of the mill. The sentative sample.
surface hardness of the new roll was measured to be 93–95
Shore D (*825–862 HV). The initial size of roll was
U555 mm 9 1420 mm. The diameter of the failed roll was Ultrasonic Inspection
measured to be 525 mm. The scrap diameter was 500 mm;
therefore, the roll consumed about 64% of the total A conventional portable ultrasonic testing machine was
working depth. The concerned mill demanded almost used for the purpose. A 2-D raster scan was performed over
constant surface hardness of roll up to the scrap diameter the surface of the un-spalled region of the roll with a
for stable rolling operation. The minimum required surface 4 MHz normal beam probe in the pulse-echo mode. Details
hardness at the scrap diameter is 89–90 Shore D (*761– of ultrasonic inspection parameters are given in Table 1.
774 HV) below which the roll is rejected at the mill. The data obtained from A-Scan peaks (time of flight and
A general view of the spalled roll is shown in Fig. 1a. amplitude) were used to develop the crack profile in the
The total extent of the spalled region was measured to be sub-surface region of roll.
around 970 mm in the circumferential direction and Due to the inherent dead zone of a normal beam probe,
500 mm in longitudinal direction. The spalled region was profiling of the crack is not possible for depths less than
located at the edge of the drive side of the roll. A closer 6 mm. Therefore, a 4 MHz TR probe was used once the
view of the spalled region revealed a central narrow track echoes for the crack were detected at depths less than
with fatigue arrest marks or beach marks as shown in 6 mm. A generic profile (Fig. 2) of the crack propagation
Fig. 1b, c. The observed features were similar to that of in the sub-surface region of roll was obtained using the data
surface-initiated spalling of a roll where fatigue arrest of ultrasonic evaluation.
marks and fan-shaped fracture flow lines were observed on The crack profile as shown in Fig. 2 suggested the root
fatigue fracture face [4]. Spalling with these characteristics crack to be present on the surface of the roll. This crack
has been termed as ‘‘Ribbon Fatigue Spalling’’ in some (primary surface crack as marked in Fig. 2a) was then
literature [5]. In such spalling, surface-initiated crack visually identified at a distance of approx. 270 mm from
propagates in a non-radial direction and opposite to the the edge of the barrel of roll at the drive side. It can be
direction of rotation of roll. The fracture band more so ever inferred from the above analysis that the primary surface
propagates progressively in a circumferential direction crack initiated on the surface and gradually propagated
running more or less parallel to the barrel of the roll [6]. In toward the skin–core interface. The crack then extended in
the present case, a track of beach marks propagated in the the visible spalled region on reaching the skin–core inter-
circumferential direction, opposite to the rotation of roll as face (Fig. 2b). The extent of the crack in the sub-surface
shown in Fig. 1c. Fatigue wreck path covered entire width region was found to be of approx. 315 mm in length along

J Fail. Anal. and Preven. (2014) 14:707–714 709

Fig. 1 (a) Overall view of failed roll, (b, c) View of spalled region, (d–f) View of representative sample used for analysis

the barrel circumference and then continued in the visible using combustion infrared technique (LECO, TC600) as
spalled region. The total crack length was approx. 815 mm per standard IS 228 Part 20. The obtained results of the
(combining both visible crack and sub-surface crack). chemical analysis are compiled in Table 2. The chemical
composition of the roll was found to be typical of any 5%
chrome-forged grade.
Chemical Analysis

Chemical analysis of a sample from the spalled region of Macro- and Microstructural Analysis
failed roll was carried out using inductively coupled
plasma (ICP) spectrometer (Germany, model: ARCOS); Small specimens were cut from the roll sample for macro-
carbon (C) and (S) contents of the sample were determined and microstructural examinations. The specimens were

710 J Fail. Anal. and Preven. (2014) 14:707–714

mounted with resin, ground, and polished using standard specimen was further confirmed using XRD. Fine carbides
metallographic technique. The polished sample was etched were observed to be more or less well distributed in the
with Vilella’s solution (4 g picric acid, 100 mL ethanol, matrix. Elongated carbides in the form of chains as well as
5 mL hydrochloric acid) to reveal the microstructure. Both coarse angular carbide particles were observed at few
macro- and microstructural analyses were done using an locations as shown in Fig. 3c, d. Coarse angular and
optical microscope (LEICA DMRX). The optical macro- elongated morphologies of carbides are an outcome of
graph of roll is shown in Fig. 3a. Figure 3a reveals improper manufacturing process [9, 10] and undesirable for
columnar dendritic appearance indicating unbroken cast prolonged roll life [2]. However, phase fraction (%) of
structure. Improper forging or low forging ratio during elongated and coarse carbides was very less (\1%) and
manufacturing stage promotes this type of cast structure [7, could not be considered sufficient enough to assist in the
8]. Cast structure is not desirable for present application as initiation and propagation of fatigue crack.
it decreases the fatigue resistance of roll drastically. Opti-
cal micrographs of the roll are shown in Fig. 3b–d.
Figure 3b reveals martensitic matrix appearing dark along Scanning Electron Microscopy and EDS Analysis
with some white regions. The white region seemed to be
retained austenite; the presence of which in the spalled The Vilella-etched roll specimen was analyzed using a
scanning electron microscope (Oxford Instrument) equip-
ped with EDS facility. Two fields were selected under SEM
Table 1 Details of ultrasonic inspection parameters
for analysis as shown in Fig. 4a, b. EDS spectrum of
Inspection parameter Details elongated carbide (as marked in Fig. 4a) and its composi-
tion are shown in Fig. 5. All the carbides (elongated
Flaw detector model & make USM/DMS Go, GE Sensing &
Inspection Technologies carbides, coarse angular carbides, and fine carbide precip-
Probe type Normal beam L-wave itates) were observed to have similar compositions; a
Probe size & frequency Ø10, 4 MHz typical of complex iron carbides.
Cable type LEMO-00 RT ANG/LEMO-00
Basic calibration block IIW V1
Couplant used Oil
XRD Analysis
Scanning technique Pulse-echo raster scan
X-ray diffraction measurements were carried out on inner
Range 0–100 mm
and outer surfaces of spalled sample. The sample was
Gain 64 dB
scanned from 35° to 90° with a step size of 0.02° in a

Fig. 2 (a) 2-D representation of overall spalled region on the work face of roll, (b) Schematic representation of crack propagation at the
subsurface zone in unspalled region

J Fail. Anal. and Preven. (2014) 14:707–714 711

Table 2 Chemical analysis of the roll sample (wt.%)

Sample C Mn S P Si V Al Cr Mo Cu Ni Fe

Roll 0.90 0.30 0.005 0.020 0.67 0.16 0.015 4.90 0.24 0.06 0.37 Bal.

Fig. 3 (a) Optical macrograph of roll specimen, (b–d) Optical micrographs of roll specimen

Fig. 4 (a, b) SEM images of roll sample

712 J Fail. Anal. and Preven. (2014) 14:707–714

Fig. 7 Microhardness profile of roll

Fig. 5 EDS spectrum of location 1(carbide) as marked in Fig. 4a

Fig. 8 Bulk hardness profile of roll

of 100 gf was used for microhardness testing. Bulk hard-

ness values were measured in a Vickers hardness testing
machine using 30-kg weight. Five indents were taken to get
the average hardness value for a particular zone. Micro- and
macrohardness profiles are shown in Figs. 7 and 8,
respectively. Both profiles (Figs. 7, 8) show gradual drop of
hardness from surface (skin) toward the inner region. As per
user’s requirements, the referred roll, if not failed, could
have consumed additional 25-mm diameter before being
scrapped. The surface hardness at the scrap diameter should
not be less than 761 HV (*89 Shore D) according to the
Fig. 6 XRD pattern at inner surface of spalled roll specimen requirement of mill mentioned earlier. However, the hard-
ness profiles (Figs. 7, 8) indicate that the hardness at the
Panalytical XRD-MPD system using Cu Ka radiation. scrap diameter is lower than the specified limit. Addition-
Quantification was done with the help of Xpert Highscore ally, rapid decrease of hardness representing a sharp
plus software. XRD pattern at the inner surface of spalled gradient in hardness was present from the roll surface up to
specimen as shown in Fig. 6 reveals peaks of austenite and the scrap diameter. In a typical induction-hardened roll with
martensite. Volume fractions of retained austenite using X- an almost constant surface hardness within the working
ray diffraction were calculated to be approximately 12% at diameter, the hardness starts dropping below the working
both the surfaces which is higher than the desirable limit zone/depth [12]. A sharp gradient in hardness is present in
for induction-hardened roll. The usual acceptable limit for the interfacial region between the hardened skin and the soft
retained austenite in the induction-hardened grade is core in the typical roll. However, the sharp drop of hardness
between 5 and 10% as reported by Patt et al. [11]. present within the usable diameter or thickness in the failed
roll indicates improper manufacturing of the roll which was
unfavorable for the performance.
Hardness Measurements

Microhardness as well as bulk hardness profile in the radial Discussion

direction of the spalled sample was plotted. The microh-
ardness was measured in a pneumatically controlled Analysis of in-service catastrophic failure of a work roll in a
automatic microhardness tester (Leco-LM247AT). A load cold rolling mill of an integrated steel plant has been

J Fail. Anal. and Preven. (2014) 14:707–714 713

presented. The roll failed prematurely after giving 64% of either the crack initiated due to operational overload
its service life. Visual observation of the failed roll revealed (excessive radial contact roll pressure) or roll mark or the
a huge spalled region of about 970 mm 9 500 mm. Frac- crack was not completely removed during the last dressing.
ture surface consisted of a narrow track with fatigue arrest Possibility of surface crack initiation due to roll mark was
marks or beach marks which propagated in the direction ruled out as no roll mark was observed on the roll surface.
opposite to the rotation of roll. Chevron marks were Additionally, no abnormality in the operation was reported
observed projecting outward on both sides of the fatigue during the running campaign. The fact that roll failed under
track indicating final fracture in brittle mode. Overall fea- extensive propagation of fatigue crack (&815 mm-length)
tures observed on the fracture surface were typical to that of within few hours of operation during the running campaign
ribbon fatigue spalling [5] wherein root crack initiated on indicated that the root crack was present even after the last
the surface. dressing due to some inspection deficiencies.
Ultrasonic testing (UT) confirmed the presence of root
crack on the surface, from where the fatigue crack propa-
gated. The root crack was found to originate from shell Conclusion
surface and then propagated gradually inside causing vis-
ible spall after certain length. Observation indicated that Analysis of the above roll resulted in following
fatigue crack propagated both radially and circumferen- conclusions:
tially. This was in agreement with the findings of
1. The roll spalled due to initiation of fatigue crack from
Pantazopoulos et al. [13]. Qiong et al. [4] have reported
the surface because of mill abnormality.
about the possible mechanisms of surface initiation of
2. The propagation of fatigue crack which was not
spalling in their work. Operational overload or localized
detected during inspection ultimately led to cata-
region of stress concentration due to the presence of defect
strophic failure of the roll.
like roll mark can lead to the initiation of crack. Once the
3. Inadequate forging and improper heat treatment of the
crack initiates, it grows at a low angle to the working
roll resulted in poor material quality which aggravated
surface under the tangential force. The crack readily
the spalling.
propagates at higher angle with increase in its depth under
the shear stress. After a certain depth along the crack when
the maximum shear stress reaches, the final failure takes
place. Recommendation
Detailed metallurgical analysis was carried out using a
small portion from the spalled sample. Chemical analysis Ribbon fatigue spalling being a fault from user of roll
revealed the material composition to be typical of any 5% rather than the manufacturer’s side can be prevented by
chrome-forged roll. However, macrostructure revealed regular inspection. Practice of NDT techniques, e.g., Eddy
columnar dendritic region, a signature of inadequate current or Ultrasonic inspection after every grinding
deformation imparted during forging in the manufacturing operation can detect any surface damage thereby prevent-
stage. Optical microstructure of the roll sample revealed ing such premature failure.
tempered martensitic matrix with fine globular carbide
precipitates. Elongated as well as coarse angular carbides
were observed at few locations which indicated improper
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