Vibrations reduce stress levels
Reprinted from European Surface Treatment Winter 1992/93
2001 by VSR(Africa)cc August

Roger Claxton, The Vibratory Stress Relieving Co.

substantial savings. The process does not significantly distort or discolour components as the furnace would. Environmental factors are also Various vibratory methods have been significant; VSR uses only a small employed, in the last 60 years, to amount of electricity per component, modify the stress patterns of there are no flue gases, no cleaning engineering components beneficially. and Portable equipment developed in the of course, no transport involved. Noise was once a problem with some UK, has established Vibratory Stress components but as international Relieving (VSR) as a viable research has refined the process, alternative to Thermal Stress noise has been dramatically reduced Relieving (TSR) for the reduction and to redistribution of such stress, ensuring acceptable dB levels. the stability of the component during both machining and service. In the case of surface coated components where TSR is precluded, VSR is invaluable. These stresses are responsible for many common problems, from instability during machining and inability to achieve tight tolerances, to change in size or shape between the manufactures and customers inspections, either in transit or during installation. VSR can, in the main, eliminate such occurrences, even in finish-machined components. Components ranging from less than 1kg to over 100t are treated, in minutes rather than hours. Castings, welded fabrications, bars rolls and shafts are all treated, and in a wide variety of metals. On accurate components, the process is generally applied after rough machining. VSR is even applied to some finished machined components. This combined with VSR’s option of treating mixed metal fabrications, gives the potential user many advantages

requirements, this can occasionally preclude VSR. Conversely, the fact that VSR does not alter metallurgy can allow greater freedom of design; the process is suitable for mixed metal fabrications where there is surface hard facing, and even rubber coating. It is often said that TSR is required initially to improve the machinability of steel. This only applies where thick, flame cut items have edges to be machined, and even then good practise dictates such items should have been normalised prior to fabricating to ensure good weldability. The cost of

VSR versus TSR
As an alternative to TSR, VSR has many advantages and some disadvantages, and both must be taken into account. Time and cost savings with VSR are considerable. Floor to floor treatment time is often as little as 15 minutes. Cost always compares favourably with that of TSR, and often offers

Shaft EG with strain gauges being VSR’d by RAE
Unlike TSR, the process does not confer any metallurgical benefits. Depending on


stability compared to TSR. However VSR is generally applied once, either before or after rough machining. Components are placed on rubber TSR of these small items and supports and the exciter is attached. VSR of the finished components operator then scans the frequency The is less than the cost of thermal range of the equipment (0-220Hz), treatment of the finished item. noting instrumental feedback on the Occasionally steel plate contains components resonant responses. abnormal impurities, such as These are then dwelt at, on the subchrome inclusions, which make resonant base point and mid point on machining difficult. As this flank of each response. The peak the condition would be unknown in each response is then traversed of advance of machining, TSR at before progressing to the next. A test approximately 625ºC would not certificate is produced for each improve machinability. component either graphically or by Obviously a high temperature data logging. TSR is one solution. With VSR, an initial, low-cost stress relief charge is the only expense. TSR would involve treatment, and transport, twice. In addition, two thermal treatments can have a detrimental effect on a component. As well as being quicker, cheaper and cleaner, VSR has another major advantage; if greater accuracy than can be achieved with TSR is required, VSR can be reapplied near to or, with consultation, after final machining. Effectively treating machining stresses and improving accuracy. A leading military instrument builder also applies VSR to semi-finished assemblies to give better joint stiffness and stability, re-torquing the joint after VSR. Finally, it should be noted that VSR is unsuitable for stabilising severely cold-worked materials, or those with exceptionally high yields, and it is only suitable for hardened components where special measures are taken.

interspersed, individual elements of the structure. The superimposition of the cyclic strains of VSR on the material strains, the full assessing and maintaining between fixed strain limits of the material’s cyclic properties, and the consequent lowering and redistribution of stresses, render the component stable. The potential VSR user should remember that some VSR systems, particularly older ones, have a much more limited frequency range than the most up-to date models, and would be unsuitable for some components, not least some of the examples given later in this article.

Repaired pump

Considerations and Procedure
VSR is now widely accepted and endorsed in many company standards. However, in order to use VSR and conform to the requirements of BS5750, the process should be specified by the design authority or a written consent sought. (The author’s company has 25 years experience of VSR and offers a free advice service recognised by the The Welding Institute in the UK.) The differences between VSR and TSR must be considered when choosing the appropriate process: remember, VSR does not change the metallurgical condition of components and this can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances. VSR does not degrade material properties. Where necessary, VSR can be reapplied prior to final machining. This accounts for its success in achieving improved accuracy and

Hewson & Turrel fan on dynamic balancing machine after VSR
Those with no experience of VSR often ask how complex fabrications or castings can be adequately stabilised. Each resonant response of the component has an associated loading pattern (mode). Different modes affect different areas of a component. The higher the order of the resonant frequency, the more complex the loading pattern, exciting

EXAMPLES Precision pump bodies
VSR is invaluable in the treatment of materials whose properties would be impaired by a full thermal stress


relieving treatment. Westinghouse have found this with their precision-machined pump bodies, manufactured from precipitation-hardened aluminium alloy castings (LM25TF). Over a number of years, the pump bodies, measuring approximately 375 x 300 x 150mm, had been subjected to highly skilled machining and extensive inspection, but were frequently rejected following delivery to the customer, because of distortion up to 0.15mm across the machined surface. This was unacceptable for the intended use. The delicate metallurgical balance of quenching and ageing required to achieve the desired mechanical properties does not allow any further TSR treatment. A finished machined and inspected casting was subjected to VSR, and a distortion during treatment of between 0.10 and 0.15mm was observed over the machined surfaces. Following a series of trials, a satisfactory solution was found; VSR was applied to each casting just prior to the finish machining operation. At this stage, there was still 0.5mm machining allowance on all faces. Since the introduction of this cycle of operations, the rejection rate for the pump bodies has been reduced to zero with over 500 treated, and no subsequent problems with dimensional stability have been encountered. Now several associated castings are also treated, with the effect that the pump life has been considerably extended, and quieter, smoother running conditions are achieved,

using thermal stress relief 98% of beds were reworked in-house after final machining due to movement during handling. Subsequently, only one of 533 beds was reworked – 0.2%. Dean Smith & Grace’s subcontract machine shop also finishes mild steel fabricated beds up to 10m long and 1m x 900mm section, basically in 12mm plate, but with sideway sections up to 100 x 300mm and weight up to 12 tons. A 10m bed has a welding time of approximately 50 hours. The fabrication is solely VSR treated. Operation procedure is to fabricate, apply VSR, inspect, rough machine removing up to 35mm to produce slideway profile, ship to Dean Smith & Grace, apply VSR and finish machine to five microns in 6m by grinding. No machinability problems are encountered at any stage, despite extensive machining of flame cut edges up to 100mm thick. For QA purposes, a graphic record is produced. This is also used by the end customer as valuable design feedback data with regard to the vibration characteristics of the beds. Following comparison trials in 1990 between thermal stress relieving and VSR, Bradford University recommended VSR for stabilising the famous Butler Elgamill machine beds. These are of similar size and require similar accuracy, but are cast iron and have slideways on two adjacent slides.

Another type of repaired pump HSG
80Hz and 170Hz, were found to change shape up to 0.8mm TIR. On Finish machining and in service, components have been stable with no leaks. Similar advantages are reported from Turkey’s leading metallurgy laboratory, Zumre Metallurgi, but here marine valve stems and bodies 350mm diameter with 4140 steel base metal are first preheated to 250-350ºC, then deposited with Stellite gr6 while the part is vibrating at an undisclosed high frequency. This technique has resulted in an approximate 20% reduction in pinholes and flaws generally, improved dilution and given an easier surface to machine as the bead profile is reduced by approximately 50%. (If the damage is more than 6mm deep, the crater is first built up with SS GR316L by TIG and then Stellite deposit overlaid.) New and reconditioned, Stellite deposited plastic moulding machine screws and barrels are similarly treated at many companies worldwide, both to stabilise and to make straightening easier. The other main use of VSR at Hewson & Turrel is to stabilise fans and impellors ranging in size from 800mm diameter x 100mm to 2m diameter x 900mm in fabricated mild steel and stainless steel. Sometimes these are repaired

Repaired pumps and fans
Hewson & Turrel have found VSR indispensable for two vastly different product groups: fans/impellers and pump housing repairs. Aluminium, stainless steel, cast steel and chrome molybdenum steels, steel pump housings passing corrosive or abrasive media wear badly in service, and are built up by MMA and MIG welding then machined back to correct dimensions. Prior to the introduction of VSR, service leaks occurred. Housings treated after rough machining, at frequencies between

Machining tools supreme accuracy


Some eight years ago, Dean Smith & Grace became disillusioned with thermal stress relieving when cast iron saddles, consistently in tolerance on final inspection in the UK, were20% out on arrival in the USA, necessitating rework. VSR solved the problem and today, rely on it solely to stabilise saddles, beds, etc. Before that time QA records showed that,


components, and sometimes replacements. After fabricating, but prior to dynamic balancing, the components are subjected to VSR. Since introducing this treatment, no fans or impellors have gone out of

resonant vibrations are frequently occur either because stress traditionally used for solid relieving is thought unnecessary, or components. More flexible because it is omitted by mistake. components are treated by the During the machining of pads on 10 normal resonant method. fabricated RHS beams, 150mm x Coopers Payen Ltd found that 150mm x 6mm x 7m for a mechanical complex surface stress analysis machine, unacceptable patterns resulting from bowing occurred. As the components induced stress relieving had a powder enamel finish, TSR, during grinding, made it was out of the question. All the impossible to obtain the beams were subjected to VSR, there required P20 die and mould was no cracking of the coating, and components (typically 300 x the components were subsequently 100 x 250 x 8mm). Treating completely stable. the components on a vibrating Similar problems were overcome table has proved very with a 1m x 5m x 9m enlarging effective. Components are camera slideway, this time with a required flat and parallel to spray hammer finish, which was within a few microns, even at unstable during final tests. high temperatures Cast steel ‘pipes’ not called upon to be stress relieved, were lined with an abrasive and corrosive resistant, Minesweeping multiplanes rubber surface coating. In service the flatness of 5mm to 500mm flanges distorted; after uncoupling for Multiplanes for minesweeping were routine maintenance work, they subject to severe vibration and stress would not reseal. They were during operation, and suffered from dismantled, VSR’d re-skimmed and cracking which leads to premature gave no further trouble. All failure. The cracking was of a subsequent parts have been VSR’d corrosion fatigue type. The prior to matching and components were fabricated from 13mm thick 316 and 347 stainless steel, and varied from approximately 1.15m to 1.65m square by about 250mm deep. The root runs were TIG capped with five runs of manual metal arc, using 19/12 Oerlikon filler material. balance in service, even under Initially, thermal treatment was used hot conditions – hitherto a to increased service life. This troublesome area. Installations consisted of heating to a temperature are now much quieter and last between 1,000 and 1,050ºC, followed longer between overhauls. rapid air cooling. In addition, the by Novenco Aerex, the UK’s weld toes were ground to a radius of largest fan and impellor about 12mm. Replacement of TSR by manufacturer, have had their VSR resulted in a doubling of service own VSR unit for many years life. Shot peening the weld toes to and endorse the benefits stated induce compressive stresses into the above. Their Canadian plant surface was used after VSR, in an also uses VSR. In both cases attempt to obtain further increases. the system paid for itself in 4 VSR became standard procedure on – 5 months. Rubber coated, these components after sea trials. steel fan blades have been Rolls and Shafts treated to overcome Figure 1 shows one of eight unstable instability. alloy steel, forged drive shafts, 24mm x 2m in A1, ‘T’ condition being VSR treated and monitored using surface The periodic application of strain gauges. The results showed that VSR to moulds and dies to VSR reduced surface stress to safe reduce the build up of in limits, stabilising the component service surface stresses has while not reducing fatigue life or received much publicity altering material properties. Also, recently especially in the VSR and strain measurements clearly USA. This application is identified the shafts which had been neither new nor demanding, correctly TRS’d and those which had and most VSR can be used. not. For over 20 years’ components, typically 1m x Hard power enamelling to soft 200-300mm have been rough rubber lining machined and VSR’d by Knowing about VSR has saved many many leading companies. Sub an engineer’s skin. Problems

Moulds and dies

Cooper-Payen dies/moulds
there have been no further problems. Extremely precise instruments need to be surface finished using the chemical blacking process. In case where the components are required to be stable and accurate to within a few microns, problems occur. This is due to prolonged soak, in a caustic medium at 290ºC,


which is necessary to produce the FE304 surface coat. VSR, applied just before final grinding and blacking, has completely overcome instability. In the plastics, paper, chemical and powder industries, there have been many cases where mirror finishes have been required, often introducing high surface stress. Whenever instability occurs on a component, VSR comes to the rescue and is subsequently written into the manufacturing specification for future production.

With the machine producing the surface.

Galvanised beams
Following an enquiry from a hot dip galvanising company some years ago, VSR is now regularly used by structural steel joist manufacturers when the end product is to be galvanised. Stresses and stress relieving induced during dipping influence the welding and straightening stresses, often causing columns and roof beams to drift out of acceptable limits. The process is most effective in beams and mesh baskets, but appears to have little effect on sheet metal components. The procedure has largely eradicated the problem of components, particularly asymmetric ones, bowing. All for as little as £20 per beam! Paper Reprinted by VSR(Africa)cc August 2001 For more information Tel 27 135 6500702 27 135 6500287 Fax27 135 6501308 E-mail

Surface hardened components
Today there is a greater variety of surface hardening techniques than ever. VSR can solve many of the associated problems. With weld depositing or surface transformation using lasers, induction, carbonisation, Arc lamps, etc, surface stressing due to volumetric changes can cause problems with long term stability. As milling introduces approximately 10 times more stress than planning, VSR is also commonly applied to overcome machining instability. VSR is applied either before or after rough machining as appropriate, and gives stability and flatness commensurate