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Understanding Fatigue Failures

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naperlou
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Re: fatigue failure
naperlou   4/10/2012 9:57:05 AM
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Many systems are over designed.  It is just difficult to predict what aspects will be critical in actual applications.  It is amazing the products and systems that last well beyond their design life (while others don't make it).

ChasChas
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Re: fatigue failure
ChasChas   4/10/2012 11:02:06 AM
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Over-design is a good thing if cost and weight is not a deciding factor. Things that are impossible to inspect after being built must be "over-designed" or designed for no post inspection.

Great article by Dave.

 

Dave Palmer
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Re: fatigue failure
Dave Palmer   4/10/2012 12:15:20 PM
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@vimalkumarp: Thanks for the reference to McDonough and Braungart's Cradle to Cradle.  It looks like an interesting book.  I will try to find it.

Just to illustrate the point about how the lack of information affects design, right now I'm working on a die cast aluminum part which has an electroless nickel coating and operates at high temperatures (400 - 500°F).

We know something about how the die cast aluminum alloy behaves in fatigue at room temperature, but we don't know much about how it behaves at elevated temperatures.  We know the fatigue strength will be lower, but by how much? We also don't know much about how the electroless nickel coating affects the fatigue strength.  Again, we expect that the coating will reduce the fatigue strength, but we're not sure by how much.

Because we don't have the capability to do high temperature fatigue testing in-house, we might not fully answer these questions in the course of this project.  Instead, we will have to make educated, conservative assumptions which will probably result in the component being somewhat overdesigned.  As resources (hopefully!) become available in the future, we will try to do further testing to fill in the gaps in our knowlege.

By the way, it's very important to consider the effect of coatings on the mechanical properties of a material.  In general, coatings which are more brittle than the substrate tend to reduce ductility, impact strength, and fatigue life.  This is particularly true if the coatings apply tensile residual stresses to the substrate.  These principles apply not only to plating of metals, but also painting of plastics. (For plastics, solvent attack on the substrate is another concern; in metals, the parallel to this is hydrogen embrittlement).  You should never assume that you can apply a coating to a material without affecting its mechanical behavior.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Mastering the art of designing for fatigue
Ann R. Thryft   4/10/2012 1:20:32 PM
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Dave, I understood what you meant about wanting to have your own internal database and why. What I was trying to find out was, at a broader view, isn't it more or less redundant with everyone else's internal database, and why can't all of this data be maintained in (one or more) centralized repositories, which might be accessible to the software tools? Perhaps the answer is there's too much data, or perhaps the answer is it's too product-specific to a manufacturer's/service provider's own products/services. Is it one of these or something else?


kenish
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Re: Mastering the art of designing for fatigue
kenish   4/10/2012 3:45:28 PM
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Dave, great article.  I'm a EE and this helped me visualize fatigue in a different way.  Even I understood it!  You mention design, manufacturing, and materials as sources of fatigue cracks.  Aren't they also important to prevent minor damage in-service from turning into a fatigue site (along with periodic inspection of critical areas...I'm thinking about aircraft skins)?

William K.
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Understanding fatigue failure.
William K.   4/10/2012 3:52:32 PM
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If "overdesign" is the term for a design that includes only just barely enough to last until the warranty expires, possibly, then it is a very good attribute. The reality is that many products are sometimes used beyond the "typical" levels, and so they do need to be stronger than only enough to handle "typical". Designing only to the lower boundry of typical is why such a large portion of consumer goods are trash at the very instant that they are made. 

Fatigue failure is indeed a whole lot more subtle than the other kinds, such as yield and wear failure, but it is avery important consideration in a lot of places. The article was both useful and needed.

Shelly
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Re: Mastering the art of designing for fatigue
Shelly   4/10/2012 4:50:37 PM
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Ncode/Somat has a good fatigue calculator, designed by Daryll Socie from the University of Illinois, Champaign.  He also offers seminars/short courses for engineers who need to know more about designing for fatigue.

Using the NCode/Somat software to perform the calculations works fine, but you still have to know all of the properties of the materials in each situation to plug into the software in order to get accurate results.

Dave Palmer
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Re: Mastering the art of designing for fatigue
Dave Palmer   4/10/2012 6:03:25 PM
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@Ann: I think it would be great if there were more cooperation between companies with this type of data.  There are already some industry efforts in this direction.  The American Iron and Steel Institute's Bar Steel Fatigue Database, which I linked to before, is a good example.  The American Foundry Society has a database of fatigue properties for cast irons.  USCAR and the Department of Energy have developed, or are developing, a similar but much larger database for light metals (aluminum, magnesium, etc.) -- I don't know much about this database, but I'd like to.  Ultimately, assembling these databases is just one part of an much more ambitious project called integrated computational materials engineering.

However, in order for this to work, companies have to shed their old mentality of holding this kind of information closely.  Industry associations and government can help to facilitate this.

Dave Palmer
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Re: Mastering the art of designing for fatigue
Dave Palmer   4/10/2012 6:08:12 PM
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@kenish: You are absolutely right; any interruption to the surface is a potential site for initiation of a fatigue crack.  This might mean nicks or dings which occur either during manufacturing or during use.

Fatigue testing is usually done on highly polished samples.  Broadly speaking, the rougher the surface, the lower the effective fatigue strength.  Surface finish is a very important parameter, which unfortunately is very difficult to incorporate into a FEA model.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Understanding fatigue failure.
Beth Stackpole   4/11/2012 6:58:09 AM
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If the Made for Monkeys column is any indication, there are a ton of folks out there that are well willing to juryrig products or trouble shoot issues just to get a longer product life span. Interesting, often those older products have failure points that don't necessary have to do with fatigue of parts, but rather quirky design choices that lead to issues.

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