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International Journal of Fatigue 64 (2014) 54–66

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International Journal of Fatigue

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Investigation of distortion-induced fatigue cracked welded details using

3D crack propagation analysis
Mustafa Aygül a,⇑, Mohammad Al-Emrani a, Zuheir Barsoum b,c, John Leander b
CTH, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden
KTH, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
Khalifa University of Science Research and Technology, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: The behaviour of distortion-induced fatigue cracks in welded details in an existing bridge was studied
Received 16 October 2013 analytically by performing crack propagation analysis based on linear elastic fracture mechanics. The real
Received in revised form 8 February 2014 load history of the bridge was obtained from strain measurements. These loads were utilised to examine
Accepted 17 February 2014
the crack growth rate and the residual service life of the cracked detail. Moreover, the effectiveness, accu-
Available online 28 February 2014
racy and applicability of the crack propagation analysis on bridge structures were investigated by simu-
lating a complex case of fatigue cracking using several crack propagation analyses.
The results of the analyses revealed that the fatigue crack in the studied details had significantly dif-
Distortion-induced fatigue cracking
Out-of-plane distortion
ferent crack growth characteristics in different directions. In the thickness direction, for instance, the
Crack propagation analysis crack was seen to propagate at a certain rate, which increased with the propagated crack from the begin-
Crack growth rate ning and, as expected, the crack propagation rate decreased when the crack grew longer. The crack was
Mixed mode conditions subsequently arrested half way through the thickness of the plate. In the longitudinal direction, the crack
was not, however, arrested in the same way as in the thickness direction and it continued to propagate at
a reduced yet constant crack growth rate. The results also revealed that, even though distortion-induced
fatigue cracking was usually caused by a mixed-mode condition (i.e. a combination of modes I, II and III),
the governing propagation mode is still mode I. Furthermore, it was also observed that the contribution of
modes II and III to crack propagation was very little and dependent on the location of the propagated
crack front, as well as the geometrical configuration of the cross-beam.
Ó 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction deformations, such as distortion-induced fatigue cracks, which

are not easy to identify using a global method.
Large welded structures, such as steel and composite bridges, When a fatigue crack is detected in a fatigue-loaded structure,
often have a number of details with complex geometries and load- the residual (safe) service life of the structure needs to be esti-
ing conditions, which have been shown in many cases to be prone mated. This requires a knowledge of the crack growth rate under
to fatigue cracking. In conventional engineering design, idealisa- service loads. Furthermore, to be able to make a decision, either
tions and simplifications are usually adopted to facilitate the calcu- the crack propagates with some acceleration so that the time for
lations that might lead to the effects that determine the any retrofitting or replacement is short or the crack propagation
performance of these details being overlooked. The fatigue life is slow and a significant period of time is available before retrofit-
assessment of large bridge structures is usually performed using ting. This information is also needed in order to set up a plan for
the nominal stress method, which has the advantages of being rel- inspection and suitable repair measures before the crack develops
atively simple and well known. The interaction of the structural to a critical level. In such a situation – i.e. in the presence of a crack
components with different stiffness is, however, difficult or impos- – a fracture mechanics-based analysis is the only means by which
sible to anticipate using this method, which in many cases might the problem can be tackled.
result in serious consequences due to the above-mentioned Fatigue cracks detected in steel and composite bridges are
simplicity and assumptions. Another reason might be insufficient mostly distortion induced, i.e. caused by secondary stresses gener-
local analyses, as fatigue cracks can initiate from the localised ated by partially restrained deformation. This type of cracking is far
more common than fatigue cracking due to primary load effects
⇑ Corresponding author. Tel.: +46 31 772 22 49. [1–8]. Distortion-induced fatigue cracks generally display different
E-mail address: (M. Aygül). behaviour than load-induced fatigue cracks. This type of cracks
0142-1123/Ó 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
M. Aygül et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 64 (2014) 54–66 55

does not imply that the structure is not safe and will collapse. In complex geometry, loading conditions and varying stiffness in a
fact, in some redundant structures – the static model is usually small region.
more conservative than needed – a fatigue crack may stop propa- The out-of-plane deformation in the web plate may result in
gating without any retrofitting, due to the redistribution of stresses bending stresses within the gap, as shown in Fig. 1. They represent
[9]. the highest stressed locations due to the reversed curvature bend-
In this study, the behaviour of distortion-induced fatigue cracks ing (curves I and II in Fig. 1) that occurs in the web gap. When the
detected in a steel girder bridge, the Söderström Bridge, located in web plate in the gap region bends perpendicularly and the ends of
Stockholm, was studied using 3D crack propagation analysis based the web gap have rotation capacity, the bending moment will be
on linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM), considering both mode smaller and this will lead to a reduced risk of fatigue cracking.
I and mixed-mode conditions. The main purpose of this study is to The web plate of the cross-beam or connection plate welded per-
examine the crack behaviour and estimate the residual fatigue life pendicular to the main girder web plate provides a constraint
of the damaged details, as well as obtaining more reliable inspec- end on the one side. The main girder flanges, which usually have
tion periods for the bridge structure. Another aim of this study is high stiffness in order to be able to carry the traffic loads on the
to show how distortion-induced fatigue cracking can be analysed bridges, provide a constraint end on the other side. Fatigue cracks
and evaluated by crack propagation analysis with different can initiate from the weld toe of the vertical stiffener to the web
parameters. plate of the main girder and propagate first along the weld toe line.
However, cracking at the weld roots has also been reported [3].
Distortion-induced fatigue cracking at welded details was first
2. Distortion-induced fatigue cracking of bridge girders
investigated by Fisher [5,12] and subsequently by other research-
ers [4,8]. According to these investigations, the distortion-induced
Distortion-induced fatigue cracking is without question a com-
fatigue cracking in a web gap is the result of mixed-mode condi-
mon problem in steel and composite girder bridges. Distortion-in-
tions; a combination of mode I (opening mode) and mode III (tear-
duced fatigue cracks are mainly generated by out-of-plane
ing mode). In practical engineering cases, fatigue crack initiation
distortion in a web gap region in which transverse cross-beams
and growth are usually the result of mixed-mode conditions gener-
are connected to the web of the longitudinal main girders. The
ated by complex load conditions, geometry or a combination of
out-of-plane distortion can induce very high stresses, even though
both, which is usually the case in details with distortion-induced
the deformation is relatively small in comparison to the deforma-
fatigue cracking. Fatigue tests performed by Fisher and Keating
tion of the entire structure. In many reported cases [3,4,7,10,11],
[6] and Stallings et al. [10] confirmed that the secondary stress in
small magnitudes of measured local displacements in critical de-
the web gap due to out-of-plane distortion was much higher than
tails have been sufficient to initiate and grow fatigue cracks. An
the primary fatigue stress caused by the design load.
illustration of the typical out-of-plane distortion resulting at a
As mentioned earlier, distortion-induced fatigue cracks at the
web gap location is shown in Fig. 1.
connections in girder bridges with cross-beams which are sub-
In steel girder bridges, transverse cross-beams are usually con-
jected to end rotation of the cross-beam are one of the most fre-
nected to the longitudinal main girder using transverse connection
quently reported types of fatigue damage to bridges. It is worth
stiffeners welded to the web plate of the main girder. Cut-out holes
remembering that secondary stresses due to distortion and out-
between these stiffeners and the web plate were commonly used
of-plane bending were not addressed in early bridge design codes.
in old bridges to avoid intersecting the welds in these connections.
Cracks of this type are usually retrofitted by softening, stiffening
Furthermore, the stiffeners are usually not welded to the main gir-
and hole drilling, which can be very costly, in terms of both direct
der flanges to avoid transverse welded details in the regions with
repair costs and indirect costs due to the disruption of traffic. Since
high tensile stresses. In old bridges, it was common practice to
the effect of distortion-induced fatigue on bridges can be both
leave a gap between the ends of cross-beams or the stiffener over
costly and detrimental, AASHTO LRPD [13] includes a section on
the cross-beam and main girder flanges in order to facilitate fabri-
the evaluation of distortion-induced fatigue in steel bridges.
cation, i.e. increasing the tolerance for manufacturing the bridge
members. This web gap in the cross-beam or stiffener to the longi-
tudinal main girder connections can cause a concentrated defor- 3. Case study
mation in the web gap region, due to the end rotation at the end
of cross beams. This concentrated deformation localised in this The Söderström Bridge is a welded railway girder bridge with a
small web gap region induces secondary stresses which are not length of 190 m built in the 1950s and located in Stockholm in
easy to determine without using finite element models, due to Sweden. The bridge has two rail tracks and six continuous spans.

Fig. 1. Diagram of out-of-plane distortion in a web gap and bending moments.

56 M. Aygül et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 64 (2014) 54–66

The bridge superstructure consists of two main girders connected 3.1. Global bridge model and verification
by cross-beams which are skewed at an angle of 80°. Four longitu-
dinal stringers run between the cross-beams and carry the timber A global model of the Söderström Bridge using second-order shell
ties that form the track on the bridge. Steel quality st44 (yield elements was created over four spans, approximately 135 m, in or-
strength of 260 N/mm2) was used for the built-up profiles, includ- der to simulate the actual loads on the studied details as accurately
ing the main girders, cross-beams and stringers, while, for the as possible, see Fig. 3. As shown in this figure, a ‘‘local’’ sub-model
diagonal bracing members, steel quality st37 (yield strength of including the studied region has been modelled using second-order
220 N/mm2) was used. The bridge was designed according to the solid elements and this sub-model has been finely meshed. . The ele-
Swedish standard for bridges with a traffic load model consisting ment size in the sub-model around the studied detail was kept at
of a 12  25-tonne axial load and an 8 tonne/m uniform load over approximately 1  1  1 mm, and increased gradually away from
a span [14]. Nowadays, the Söderström Bridge has very heavy train the studied detail in order to obtain smooth element transitions be-
traffic; more than 500 trains – both commuter and freight trains – tween the elements. On the other hand, the element size in the glo-
pass over the bridge every day. bal FE model was varied depending on the complexity of the bridge
Distortion-induced fatigue cracks were observed in the welded details. The largest element size in the global model however was
connections in the web plate of the longitudinal main girder, approximately 60 mm. The global model was used not only to verify
where the cross-beams are connected to the main girder via trans- the accuracy of the global model but also used to define the bound-
verse stiffeners [15]. The transverse stiffeners are welded to the ary conditions for the sub-model which was actually defined as a
main girder web on both sides of the web, but they were not global model in the crack propagation analyses, which will be ex-
welded to the upper flange, while the lower flange of the cross- plained in the next section. As stated earlier, the transverse stiffeners
beams at the bottom flange are connected to the edge of the main at the location of the cross-beams were not welded to the upper
girder flange. Two types of surface crack were detected during the flanges and fitting pieces were used between the flanges and stiffen-
inspection of the bridge in 2002 [16]. The first type of crack was lo- ers. The contact surfaces between the fitting pieces and flanges were
cated at the weld toe and propagated into the web plate in the defined in both the static analysis and the crack propagation analy-
thickness direction and longitudinally in the web plate of the main ses in order to take account of the effect of the deformation in the
girder. When these cracks completed their propagation along the cracked regions. The contact regions were defined in such a way that
weld toe line in the web plate of the main girder, the cracks contin- no penetration was allowed between the bridge components, while
ued growing with a change in direction in the web plate, as shown separation after contact was allowed.
in Fig. 2. The second type of crack was detected in the weld at the A verification of the analytical results of the finite element anal-
ends of the stiffeners. Some of these cracks propagated completely ysis through the field measurements has been performed. The field
across the weld and then continued to propagate down to the web measurements were used to calibrate and verify the accuracy of
plate, following the same pattern as in the first type of cracking. In the global finite element model of the bridge structure in order
all, 90 fatigue cracks were detected in various inspections of these accurately to capture the behaviour of the bridge at global and lo-
bridges between 2002 and 2008 and most of them were repaired cal level. The global model has therefore been modified during the
by increasing the weld thickness by additional welding around analysis work by including the contact surfaces all over the model,
the cracked region and grinding the increased weld in order to ob- not only over the studied region, excluding the tie constraints to
tain a smooth transition between components. connect the structural members, which is usually preferred in
As mentioned earlier, the major purpose of this study is to bridge modelling due to easy applicability and using a more ‘‘fi-
examine the behaviour of these cracks and obtain more reliable nely’’ meshed global model than the usual one.
inspection periods for the bridge structure. Finite element analyses The verification measurements were obtained using one Swed-
using real traffic loads from the strain measurements were first ish Rc6 locomotive with the known axle loads and distances [15].
performed to verify the accuracy of the FE model. At a later stage, The axle loads were 195 kN with the distance of 2.7 m + 5 m +
crack propagation analyses were performed to study the crack 2.7 m and only one track was used for the measurement. The
behaviour using the real traffic volume and loads, by considering accuracy verification of the finite element model of the Söderström
quasi-static loading and constant amplitude fatigue loading. Bridge is shown in Fig. 4. The response from the global finite

Fig. 2. Out-of-plane distortion in the web of the main girder and crack location.
M. Aygül et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 64 (2014) 54–66 57

Fig. 3. Global model of shell elements and local model with solid elements.

element model is in good agreement with the measured response. the thickness direction (out-of-plane distortion), 1.45 mm in the
As there is a good agreement between the measurements and the vertical direction (deflection) and 0.48 mm in the longitudinal
results from the global model, it was assumed that the effect of the main girder direction. The out-of-plane distortion was significantly
dynamic amplification was insignificant to consider in the FE higher in comparison with the global deflection at the centre of the
analyses. bridge, which was read as 2.8 mm. The result of the finite element
As mentioned before, the localised deformations and thereby analysis also showed that, due to the end rotation of the cross-
the secondary stresses causing distortion-induced fatigue cracks beam at the end of the stiffener and the restrained flange of the
are difficult to quantify without a local analysis. In order to deter- main girder due to a passing piece in the upper part of the web
mine the magnitude of the deformation in different directions at gap, this led to the double curvature of the web gap (curves I and
the crack location, the recorded strain data were used as reference II shown in Fig. 1). The relative out-of-plane distortion range
parameters in the finite element model. From this FE model, the between the end of the stiffener and the flange was mainly
deformation at the crack location was obtained as 0.94 mm in 0.13 mm.

Fig. 4. Verification of the finite element global model with the field measurements; (a) location of the strain gauges, (b) response from strain gauge 17 in y-direction and (c)
response from strain gauge 13 in y-direction.
58 M. Aygül et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 64 (2014) 54–66

3.2. Crack propagation analysis semi-elliptical shape and in its extension, the stress state along the
crack front is considered more accurately. Another reason to
It is well known that fatigue failure is a process that involves choose semi-circular crack shape is that the crack was chosen as
two phases of damage, crack initiation and crack propagation. In a planar crack but allowed to evolve into a non-planar crack depen-
welded details, the crack initiation phase is generally neglected, dent on the state of stress and following the non-planar crack
as these details usually already contain small crack-like defects, extension criterion. As the location of the initial crack for the stud-
such as under-cuts, inclusions, lack of fusion and so on. The fati- ied detail was unknown, the position of the initial crack was as-
gue life of a welded detail is therefore assumed to be a function sumed to be located in the middle of the stiffener. This was
of the crack propagation life [17]. Knowing (or assuming) an initial considered to be a reasonable assumption, as in other similar de-
defect (crack) size and location, the number of cycles needed to tails where short cracks were detected, the location of the observed
propagate this crack to failure (or to a critical length) can be cal- cracks was generally same [16].
culated using fracture mechanics. In this study, linear elastic frac- An additional important parameter for crack propagation anal-
ture mechanics was used in conjunction with finite element ysis was determining the final crack length, which was chosen
analysis to study the behaviour of detected fatigue cracks in the depending on the behaviour of the crack at the region in the
studied detail. The sub-model marked in Figs. 4 and 5 was used Söderström Bridge. During routine inspections of the Söderström
as a global model in the crack propagation analyses. The size of Bridge between 2002 and 2008, it was found that some cracks
this model was selected so that local effects (a change in stiffness, had not continued to grow, without any retrofitting [16]. In order
for instance) generated by the propagation of cracks in the studied to confirm this behaviour, the final crack length in the crack prop-
region would have very small effects on the boundaries of the agation analyses was set as longer than the longest crack length,
model. In other words, the boundary conditions obtained from which was12 mm in the thickness direction and approximately
the global bridge model as input to the sub-model would still be 54 mm in in the plane of the web (including both left and right
valid and are not affected by local changes in stiffness due to crack sides, see Fig. 7), detected in the bridge.
A local model containing an initial crack was then introduced 3.2.1. Loading in the analysis
and used in the crack growth analysis, see Fig. 6. In the crack Loading is an uncertain factor in the design of bridge structures
growth simulation, Abaqus v6.11 software was used as a solver and is usually difficult to anticipate with real accuracy, as it relates
in order to calculate the displacements in the updated model, to live loads, i.e. variable amplitude loading. As mentioned earlier,
while Franc3D v6.0 was used to calculate the new crack front, the load defined in the crack propagation analyses was the actual
based on the computed displacements in the results file obtained service load obtained from the field-recorded data. In this study,
from Abaqus v6.11, and to re-mesh the local model for the ex- two types of load have been used in the crack propagation
tended crack. analyses.
In crack propagation analysis, an initial crack or crack-like flow The first was the load from the X60 train type, which produced
needs to be introduced. The size, shape and location of the initial the maximum distortion in the cracked region compared with the
crack are all important parameters and will affect the outcome of other types of train (X2, X10 and X40). In Fig. 8, the measurement
the analysis to some degree [18]. British Standard, BS7608:1193 from this strain gauge in terms of stress range spectra calculated
[19], recommends using a semi-elliptical initial flaw with a size ra- by the rain-flow stress counting method during a week of train
tio of a/2c = 0.1 at the ends of longitudinal welds, but the code also passages is shown. As shown in this figure, the maximum stress
notes that this value should not be underestimated due to its range rises to 40 N/mm2. The reason for not using the loads from
importance in the residual life estimation of existing structures. freight trains, which generated higher stress at the cracked region
Since the shape of the welds in the Söderström Bridge was not very than the X60 train type, was that the maximum stress level mea-
good condition, the initial flaw was defined as a semi-circular crack sured in the cracked region consisted of only a few stress cycles
shape with an initial crack depth of a0 = 0.5 mm and an aspect ratio during a week of train passages, see Fig. 8. The stress ranges,
of a/2c = 0.5, as recommended by Radaj et al. [20,21]. The shape of varying from 32 N/mm2 to 40 N/mm2 in the studied detail shown
the initial crack may have less effect on the fatigue life calculation in this figure, were produced by freight trains. However, the num-
compared with the initial crack size, due to the fact that, in the ber of these stress cycles is insignificant in comparison with the
crack propagation analysis, the crack front is divided into many number of stress cycles produced by the train type of X60. On
points in which a stress intensity factor for each point is calculated. the other hand, this small number of large stress ranges produced
This procedure allows a crack front to evolve from semi-circular to by freight trains and the large number of small stress ranges

Fig. 5. Global model used in the crack growth analyses.

M. Aygül et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 64 (2014) 54–66 59

Fig. 6. Local model and initial crack used in all the crack growth analyses.

Fig. 7. Definition of the directions used for stress intensity factor calculations (a) simulated crack growth and (b) crack front lines.

Fig. 8. Computed stress range spectra for the cracked welded detail in one week.

produced by the other train types are considered in the crack derived from the measured stress histories (see Fig. 8). It is worth
propagation analysis with variable amplitude fatigue loading mentioning here that, in the equivalent stress range calculations,
which is presented in [22]. the stresses below the cut-off level of the corresponding S–N
The second applied load was the equivalent stress range. In strength curve were not included. Only the stresses within the
bridge engineering, a common and simple method for estimating region of the S–N curve were included. The equivalent stress range
the fatigue life of bridge details is to use an equivalent stress range value considering two curves (slope of 3 and 5) was calculated as
which is generally assumed to cause the same damage to the stud- 19.0 N/mm2 for the studied detail, which was defined as the equiv-
ied joint as the actual stress range history. In the crack propagation alent constant amplitude fatigue load in the crack propagation
analyses, the equivalent stress range for the cracked region was analysis.
60 M. Aygül et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 64 (2014) 54–66

The loads applied in the crack propagation analyses were de- increment in the crack growth analysis when specifying a median
fined as the boundary conditions in the models. In order accurately crack front extension was calculated using the following formula,
to capture the effects of the extended crack over the out-of-plane Eq. (2) [23]:
distortion, the boundary conditions and load must be defined as da
ðDK i ; Ri ; . . .Þ
correctly as possible. Fig. 9 shows the axles loads and distances Dai ¼ Damedian ð2Þ
for the train type of X60 used for the crack propagation analysis. dN median
ðDK median ; Rmedian ; . . .Þ
In the FE model, the stress value at the measured point in the stud-
The increment for the crack extension at crack front points
ied detail was defined as the reference stress. In the crack propaga-
based on a specified number of cycles was calculated using the for-
tion analyses, the correct stress range depending on the applied
mula shown in Eq. (3):
loads, i.e. the stress range obtained from X60 and the equivalent
stress range at the studied detail, was scaled down or up by multi- da
plying the reference stress with a load multiplier.
Dai ¼ N  ðDK i ; Ri ; . . .Þ ð3Þ
As stated earlier, one of the aims of this investigation is to
where Dai is the crack extension in the crack front point, Damedian is
examine the effectiveness, correctness and applicability of the
the crack extension specified for the crack front point with the med-
crack propagation analysis for estimating the fatigue life of bridge
ian stress intensity factor range, da/dNi is the crack growth rate
details. For this purpose, several types of crack propagation analy-
computed at point i, da/dNmedian is the crack growth rate computed
sis have been performed and are described in the following
at the crack front point with a median stress intensity value and N is
the specified number of cycles.
Due to the complexity of loading and geometry in the studied
3.2.2. Quasi-static crack propagation analysis
detail, the fatigue-damaged region is subjected to mixed-mode
The first analysis was performed using the quasi-static crack
fracture. Distortion-induced fatigue cracking is ‘‘generally’’ a result
growth model, which uses an exponential function to determine
of mixed-mode loading effects; mode I (opening) and mode III
the crack extension along the crack front points, as shown in Eq.
(tearing) [8]. The fatigue crack propagation analyses have been
(1) [23]. In this type of analysis, an important crack growth factor
performed once, considering mode I conditions with DKI as the
is the crack increment value, Da. In order to compare the results
governing mode, and a second time, accounting for mode mix, with
from the other analyses, the same crack increment value has been
DKeff as the governing fracture mode. The effective stress intensity
used in all the analyses. The chosen crack increment value chosen
factor is generally computed using a combination of two or all
for the first 20 crack propagation steps was 0.1 mm and, for the
three modes. In this analysis, the DKeff was calculated following
next 20 steps, it was increased to 0.2 mm, followed 0.4 mm,
the recommendation given by BS7608:1999, as shown in Eq. (4).
0.8 mm and 1.0 mm. The final (and largest) crack increment value
used in the crack propagation analyses was 1.0 mm. The relative
crack extension at each point along the crack front was computed DK eff ¼ DK 2I þ DK 2II þ ðm ¼ 0:3Þ ð4Þ
on the basis of this user-specified median extension, as shown in 1m
Eq. (1).
 n 3.2.4. Crack propagation direction – kink angle
Dai ¼ Damedian ð1Þ It is well known that the crack growth direction has a great
K median
influence on the computed stress intensity factors and is directly
where Dai is the crack extension in the crack front point, Damedian is dependent on the loading conditions. In the event of mode I condi-
the crack extension for the crack front point with the median K va- tions, the crack will grow in its original crack plane. However, in
lue, Kmedian is the median K value and Ki is the stress intensity factor complex cases, such as the studied detail in the Söderström Bridge
at crack front value i and, finally, n is a user-supplied parameter where the crack is subjected to complex stress conditions, the
which was chosen as 2, as recommended in [23]. crack growth direction is not obvious and not easy to predict. In or-
The load applied in the crack propagation analysis is the first der to compare the crack size and direction in the FE analysis with
type of load, as mentioned in the previous section. In the quasi-sta- the real cracks detected in the Söderström Bridge, three common
tic crack propagation analysis, the stress ratio, R, does not need to crack growth direction criteria were applied to determine the kink
be defined. angle of the crack surface. These criteria were the maximum ten-
sile stress criterion (MTS), the maximum generalised stress crite-
3.2.3. Constant amplitude fatigue loading rion (GEN) and the maximum strain energy release rate criterion
In addition to quasi-static analysis, a second type of analysis, (SERR). All three criteria were available in Franc3D v6 [23].
constant amplitude fatigue crack growth analysis, considering both The maximum tensile stress criterion proposed by Erdogan and
mode I and mixed-mode loading conditions has been performed. Sih [24] formulates that a crack extends in the direction in which
The stress ratio for all analyses is chosen as 0 (R = 0). In the fatigue the tangential stress at the crack tip is maximum. The second cri-
loading analysis, despite the quasi-static analysis, the crack incre- terion, maximum generalised stress, considers both the maximum
ment value (Da) can be chosen as the median crack front extension tensile stress (MTS) and the maximum shear stress (MSS) criteria
or the number of cycles, both of which were used. The crack at the crack tip. According to this criterion, the crack growth

Fig. 9. The axle loads and distances for the train type of X60 used in the analyses.
M. Aygül et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 64 (2014) 54–66 61

Table 1
Various types of crack propagation analysis investigated.

Crack growth model Kink angle Type of crack Crack growth governing
criterion propagation mode
Quasi-static (load: the train load that produces the maximum distortion at the joint) MTS Specified Da KI
Constant amplitude fatigue loading (load: the train load that produces the maximum MTS Specified Da KI
distortion at the joint) Keff (mixed mode)
GEN Specified Da KI
Keff (mixed mode)
SERR Specified Da KI
Keff (mixed mode)
Equivalent constant amplitude fatigue load (the equivalent measured load) MTS Specified Da KI
Keff (mixed mode)
MTS Specified cycles KI
Keff (mixed mode)

direction corresponds to the direction obtained from the stress though the crack increment for all types of analysis has been kept
intensity factors from MTS and MSS. The third and final criterion the same, the number of steps has varied from 70 steps to 120
proposed by Sih [25] is the maximum strain energy release rate. steps, which will be explained in a later part of this section. How-
This criterion predicts that the crack will grow in the direction that ever, when calculating the fatigue life of the cracked region, a spec-
maximises the strain energy release rate, which is mainly based on ified crack length was defined for all types of analysis in order to be
the principle of minimum potential energy in elasticity. able to have comparable results.
The crack growth obtained from the quasi-static analysis of the
3.2.5. Calculation of fatigue life studied cracked region in the Söderström Bridge is shown in
The fatigue life of the studied detail based on the crack growth Fig. 10. In this analysis, only MTS was defined as the crack direction
analyses was determined by using a crack growth relationship pro- criterion. As shown in this figure, the crack formation is consistent
posed by Paris and Erdogan, known as the Paris law [26], given in with the real crack. Since the cross-beam is skewed in relation to
Eq. (5): the main beams, the crack formation on the left-hand side (narrow
angle side) is diagonal, while the crack formation on the right-hand
¼ C  DK m ð5Þ side is almost horizontal in the longitudinal direction. Fig. 11(b)
dN shows the propagated crack inside the web plate of the main gir-
The Paris law parameters C and m in this study were defined by der. As shown in this figure, the crack formation inside the web
following the recommendations given by BS7608:1993, which plate is non-planar and propagates downwards.
were C = 5.21  1013 N/mm3/2 and m = 3. For mixed-mode condi- The computed stress intensity factors in the thickness (SIFt)
tions when using the effective stress intensity factor range consid- and longitudinal directions (SIFLeft and SIFRight) from the quasi-
ering modes I, II and III, a modified Paris law shown in Eq. (6) was static analysis are shown in Fig. 11(a). It can be observed from
used. The threshold stress intensity factor (DKth) for assessing this figure that the crack growth rate in the thickness direction
welded joints recommended by BS7910:1999 [19] and IIW [27] decreases gradually and the stress intensity factor starts to drop
was applied in this study. The threshold value given by these codes when the crack front reaches around a quarter of the web plate
was 63 N/mm3/2. thickness. In the longitudinal direction, the crack growth behav-
iour is identical, even though the crack direction and develop-
da m
¼ C  ðDkeff Þ ð6Þ ment are somewhat different on the left and right sides of the
crack. The main difference which can be observed in Fig. 11(a)
The various types of crack propagation analysis based on the is that the crack growth rate on the left-hand side is slightly fas-
crack growth model and crack direction criteria performed in this ter. This figure also shows that the crack growth in the longitudi-
study are summarised in Table 1. nal direction will continue, even though the crack growth rate
decreases (crack retardation) as the crack extends. The crack
4. Results and discussion growth rate stabilised and became constant when the crack prop-
agated and reached the ‘‘open’’ region (right- and left-hand sides
The results of the crack propagation analyses for the different of the stiffness).
types of load condition and crack direction criteria are presented The fatigue life of the studied detail with a certain crack length
in this section. The closure effects that might reduce the crack based on this analysis was calculated using the Paris law and is
propagation rate have not been taken into account in the per- presented in Table 2 at the end of this section, together with the
formed crack propagation analyses performed in this study. Even other types of analysis.

Fig. 10. Crack growth from the quasi-static analysis and the detected crack in the bridge.
62 M. Aygül et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 64 (2014) 54–66

Fig. 11. (a) The stress intensity factors in the thickness (SIFt) and longitudinal directions on the left (SIFLeft) and right (SIFRight) sides of the crack, (b) crack shape inside the web
plate and (c) crack front lines.

The crack growth obtained from the crack propagation analysis the effect of mixed-mode conditions when considering the crack
with fatigue loading by considering MTS is shown in Fig. 12. As growth rate is unsubstantial.
shown in this figure, the crack formation is consistent with the real The different crack growth criteria studied here yielded almost
crack formation, like the crack development obtained from the identical crack direction and development, as shown in Fig. 14.
quasi-static analysis. Since the governing mode, especially over the weld toe line, is
The computed stress intensity factors both for mode I and for the opening mode (mode I) and the effect of shear and twisting
mixed-mode conditions are shown in Fig. 13(a). As in the previous is limited, the different crack direction criteria yield almost the
analysis, although the crack formation and development are differ- same results, which can be seen in Fig. 14. In incremental crack
ent on the left- and right-hand sides in the longitudinal direction, propagation analyses when considering LEFM, the studied interac-
the crack growth rate is identical. As seen in this figure and in the tion criteria generally produce the same results [21,28]. It is known
previous analysis, the crack growth rate stabilised and became that in most cases opening mode is the governing mode for metal
constant when the crack propagated to the ‘‘open’’ region (right- fractures. This effect in the studied case is not questionable when
and left-hand sides of the stiffness). It can be seen in Fig. 13 that examining the stress values in the cracked region in the three
there are no significant differences between the results from the directions. For the applied load, the stress at the weld toe in the
mode I and mixed-mode loading conditions. This basically demon- vertical direction was 166 N/mm2, while the stress at the weld
strates the dominant behaviour of the opening mode. As men- toe in the longitudinal direction was 70 N/mm2 and, in the thick-
tioned earlier, distortion-induced fatigue cracking is a ness direction, the stress was read as 43.4 N/mm2 from the FE
combination of the mixed-mode loading condition of which the ef- model. It is worth mentioning here that these stresses are only gi-
fect is far more apparent on the direction of crack path. However, ven for the purposes of comparison and these are the stresses at

Table 2
Total fatigue life of the studied detail according to various crack propagation analyses.

Crack growth model Kink angle criterion Crack propagation Failure mode Fatigue life for crack length of direction of
x = 17 mm (thickness)
z = 30 mm (left)
z = 36 mm (right)
Quasi-static MTS Specified Da KI 14 586 544 (26.2 years)
10 902 322 (19.7 year) 10 583 393 (19.1 year)
Constant amplitude fatigue loading MTS Specified Da KI 11 912 892 (21.6 years)
11 586 866 (21.0 years) 12 159 603 (22.0 years)
Keff 11 072 915 (20.1 years)
11 236 737 (20.4 years) 11 855 109 (22.5 years)
GEN Specified Da KI 12 881 269 (23.4 years)
10 722 390 (19.4 years) 11 292 411 (20.5 years)
Keff 13 115 512 (23.8 years)
10 595 558 (19.2 years) 10 582 571 (19.2 years)
SERR Specified Da KI 12 872 835 (23.3 years)
10 996 842 (19.9 years) 11 479 986 (20.8 years)
Keff 12 199 272 (22.1 years)
11 456 387 (20.8 years) 11 894 579 (21.6 years)
Equivalent constant amplitude fatigue loading MTS Specified Da KI 21 008 161 (39.1 years)
18 356 618 (34.2 years) 18 088 835 (33.7 years)
Keff 21 181 820 (39.5 years)
15 864 546 (29.6 years) 16 454 468 (30.7 years)
MTS Specified cycles KI 34 450 245 (64.2 years)
11 996 790 (22.4 years) 10 049 239 (18.7 years)
Keff 34 043 931 (63.5 years)
10 760 388 (20.1 years) 10 573 760 (19.7 years)
M. Aygül et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 64 (2014) 54–66 63

Fig. 12. Simulated crack growth from the constant amplitude fatigue loading analysis and a detected crack in the bridge.

Fig. 13. (a) The stress intensity factors in the thickness and longitudinal directions (left and right sides of the crack), (b) crack shape in the web plate and (c) crack front lines.

Fig. 14. Comparison of various crack direction criteria when considering KI.

the weld toe in the different directions (not hot-spot or effective front points. The results of the crack growth analysis with applied
notch stress). cycles for the crack extension are shown in Fig. 16. The crack
The results of the crack propagation analyses with the GEN and growth behaviour differs from that presented earlier. The crack
SERR criteria show almost the same crack growth rate, see propagated more rapidly with lower SIF values in the thickness
Fig. 15(a) and (b). The stress intensity factors in different directions direction, reaching the threshold region when the crack depth is
from these analyses confirm the accuracy of the results of the anal- about 17 mm, which means that the crack in this direction will
yses presented above. stop growing at this crack length. It is worth mentioning here that,
As stated earlier, the direction of crack extension plays a very as shown in Fig. 16, the number of steps used in this analysis is
important part in the computation of crack growth rates and is much larger than the number used in the previous analyses, due
not easy to predict, especially in complex cases like the one treated to the fact that it is not easy to define a number of stress cycles that
here. The crack extension criteria presented so far are based on a will produce an optimum crack extension. In this analysis, the total
specified crack increment, which means that the stress intensity number of crack extension steps is 120, while almost 80 steps were
factors are computed for the crack front points with a specified used for the other types of analysis. For the cycling analysis with
crack increment. As fatigue cracks are caused by cyclic loading Keff, the number of steps decreased to 60 steps and the results
and grow with the number of cycles, it might be interesting to de- are surprisingly consistent with the results of the analysis with
fine the number of cycles to be used for defining the crack incre- KI, as shown in Fig. 16. It is known that the crack growth increment
ment instead of using a specified crack extension at the crack (Da) influences the computed stress intensity factors significantly
64 M. Aygül et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 64 (2014) 54–66

Fig. 15. The stress intensity factors in the thickness and longitudinal directions (left and right sides of the crack) for (a) the analysis with GEN and (b) the analysis with SERR.

Fig. 16. (a) The stress intensity factors in the thickness and longitudinal directions (left and right sides of the crack), (b) crack formation inside the web plate and (c) crack
front lines for 120 steps.

and thereby the predicted crack growth behaviour [29]. However, load position even though the effects of KII and KIII are nonessen-
the effect of the crack increment on the prediction of fatigue life tial. The small effects of KII and KIII were also changing depen-
is obvious, as shown in Table 2. dently on the propagated crack (see Fig. 17).
As stated earlier, the results from the all analyses showed that The results of the crack propagation analysis with the equiva-
the effect of mixed-mode conditions on the crack growth rate is lent fatigue load are presented in terms of the fatigue life of the
insignificant. However, the train load defined in these crack prop- welded detail, as there is only one difference between this analysis
agation analyses was the load position that produced the maxi- and the crack propagation analysis with MTS (the second pre-
mum opening stress (see Section 3.1)). In order to confirm this sented analysis). To estimate the fatigue life of the detail, the stress
insignificant effect of mode mixity, the stress intensity factors, intensity factors obtained in the previous analysis were multiplied
KII and KIII for different load positions were also studied. For this by a load factor corresponding to the equivalent stress range. The
purpose, the train passage of X60 on one track over the bridge con- reason for this analysis is to compare the total fatigue life of the
sisting of 110 load positions was simulated in the global FE model. studied detail computed using the stress intensity factors and the
Totally four load positions were selected after studying the re- total fatigue life computed on the basis of the equivalent stress
sponse in the welded region in a complete stress cycle as shown range. The results of this analysis and all other analyses are pre-
in Fig. 16(a). The chosen load positions were those producing max- sented in Table 2.
imum and minimum shear and opening stresses at the point of The fatigue life of the studied welded detail computed using the
crack initiation in the studied detail. The results from these analy- crack propagation analyses given in Table 2 is the estimated fatigue
ses confirmed the insignificant effect of mixed-mode conditions on life with a certain length. The crack length in the thickness direction
the crack growth rate – Mode I is clearly the governing mode for all is, for example, chosen as 17 mm, while the crack length in the lon-
load positions, see Fig. 16(b). The results showed also that the load gitudinal direction is chosen as 30 mm for the left side and 36 mm
position used in all the crack propagation analyses (LP58 = Load for the right side. According to these results, it would take almost
Position 58) is the load position that produces the worst effect at 20–25 years for this crack to develop for the given crack lengths.
the studied details. The estimated fatigue life will be therefore con- However, the first crack in the bridge was detected 50 years after
servative. It is worth mentioning here that distortion-induced fati- the bridge was built. This can be explained by the actual loads ap-
gue cracking in this welded detail is not mixed-mode conditions of plied in the analyses, which are higher than the ‘‘older’’ loads, and
KI and KII, but mixed-mode conditions of all three modes for this the traffic volumes have increased substantially over the years.
M. Aygül et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 64 (2014) 54–66 65

Fig. 17. (a) Definition of load positions and (b) stress intensity factors for the four load positions.

Fig. 18. Distortion-induced fatigue crack behaviour in the studied welded detail.

The fatigue life of the studied welded detail when considering the stiffener in which the strain gauges were placed. In other
the equivalent stress range computed from the measured field data words, the recorded data show that the crack will not grow over
is estimated as a service life of 166 years, which corresponds to an the stiffener, which is also confirmed by the crack propagation
infinite fatigue life when using the damage cumulative method. analyses. According to the crack propagation analysis, the crack
This result is valid for the fatigue life of the welded region over growth in this section will be arrested, but, on the left and right
sides of the stiffener, the crack will continue to propagate at a re-
duced crack growth rate, as shown in Fig. 18.
According to the results obtained in this study, an inspection
strategy, as shown in Fig. 19, can be recommended for the unre-
paired distortion-induced fatigue cracks detected in the
Söderström Bridge. In this recommendation, the first inspection
interval corresponds to a crack length of 7 mm, while, for the sec-
ond inspection interval, a shorter crack length of 5 mm is expected,
according to the analyses performed in this study. In the event of
increasing traffic volumes in the future, shorter inspection periods
should be considered. This can easily be confirmed by detecting
longer crack lengths in the second inspection interval.

5. Conclusions

Deformation-induced fatigue cracking in older steel bridges has

been a common source of fatigue damage due to unforeseen local
component behaviour, unintended or otherwise overlooked inter-
action between the bridge components. Based on the analysis re-
Fig. 19. Recommended inspection strategy for the cracked details for the sults and discussion presented in the previous section, the
Söderström Bridge. following conclusions can be drawn.
66 M. Aygül et al. / International Journal of Fatigue 64 (2014) 54–66

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