Technical Tips

Sharing knowledge gained from investigating the fundamental causes of failure.

Section Thickness Temperature effects and Residual Stress

JULY 2019

As an organisation that often deals with engineering component failures, we have come across a number of situations where section thickness changes and temperature variation effects have led to premature failures caused by differential cooling. The phenomenon is related to differential expansion and contraction during cooling for components of varying thicknesses.

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Fatigue Life Estimation

MAY 2019

The failure of engineering components as a result of cyclic loading induced fatigue is widespread and probably one of the major causes of component failure. Some estimates indicate that close to 80% of all engineering failures are primarily due to fatigue. The fracture mechanics approach to quantifying fatigue, presented in our August 2017 and July 2018 technical tips, shows how fatigue crack growth rate can be characterized by the well-known Paris equation.

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Journal Bearings: Lubrication Modes

APRIL 2019

Bearings are devices used to transmit a load from one surface to another when a relative motion exists between the surfaces. This is most easily achieved by either some form of sliding action or rolling motion. Based on this fundamental difference, bearings are typically divided into two classes, nominally rolling element bearings or sliding surface bearings.

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A hard nut to crack

MARCH 2019

One of the most ubiquitous measurements in mechanical engineering is that of hardness, nominally a convenient method of estimating the strength of a metal component. Hardness measurements are quick and easy to undertake and indeed do give a measure of the strength of the metal, but in the light of the previous ‘Tech Tip' on Work Hardening it is worth putting this in context. In addition, this Tech Tip also explores the terms ‘work hardening’ and ‘hardness’, in an effort to clarify the matter.

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Work Hardening


The tensile test of material strength is probably one of the most common means of characterising a material’s strength, although similar tests in compression are also ubiquitous. The stress strain curve of a typical tensile stress strain test for a ductile metal is well known, initially exhibiting a conventional linear elastic section, then as strain is increased, there is increased non linearity and a rising curve, leading ultimately to a maximum, consistent with necking in the material’ and then a fairly rapid drop off in stress followed by rupture or fracture. It is useful, especially for engineering design purposes, to record the limit of non-linearity as the ‘yield point’ (or if there is no distinct transition) the ‘proof stress’ (at a specific strain, typically 0.2%). Beyond this yield point, as the strain increases the stress also increases, but generally more slowly, and this behaviour is known as work hardening.

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Tensile versus Bending Strength


In engineering stress analysis, the question is often asked ‘What is the component’s strength?’, and in particular, ’What is the value of the material strength’? For the case of steels and most metals, the stress-strain behaviour is well known and the concepts of ‘Yield’ and ‘Ultimate Tensile Strength’ (UTS) are well understood and widely utilised. However, a topic still attracting attention is that of the value of ‘strength’ and its dependence on the method of measurement: in particular, whether the value is determined from direct tensile testing or from bending tests, often referred to as ‘modulus of rupture’ (or MOR) tests. This is the kernel of this month’s Technical Tip.

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Ambient temperature creep


This Tech Tip concerns failures that can arise from creep, but at ‘normal’ (ambient) temperature conditions. The well-known condition for any manifestation of creep deformation leading to premature cracking, or ultimate failure, is that temperatures need to exceed about 40% of the material yield strength, for a sustained length of time. These conditions are seldom encountered in normal applications. However, when the material is polymeric, there is a very definite and common case of seemingly low temperature creep.

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Additive manufacturing - a design-driven manufacturing process


The last decade has seen drastic improvements into the capabilities of the freeform fabrication machines used for additive manufacturing (AM) with particular emphasis in the mechanical properties and density of AM produced metallic components, enabling AM to become an established manufacturing methodology.

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Failure Theories


The successful application of materials in engineering structures and mechanical systems depends on good design and the efficient use of materials properties in relation to their strength and yield properties. The common approach is to use results from a standard tensile test, and design to values of measured yield stress and yield strain, but this effectively assumes that there is a single principal stress and does not accurately account for complex stress fields or shear stresses.

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Fracture dependence on modes of loading - Modes I, II and III


In some engineering failures, the detail of collapse frequently is related to cracking, through overload, stress corrosion cracking (SCC) or fatigue, for example. The mode of fracture can reveal a great deal about the stress state at the time of loading and fracture, and there are characteristic features that can be recognised which assist in the determination of how the cracking developed and failure took place. This Technical Tip discusses these and their characteristics, and how useful this can be to the failure analysis investigator.

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Fatigue Threshold Re-Visited

JULY 2018

Fatigue is one of the most common contributors to engineering and plant failures, particularly in engineering systems that experience some form of repetitive or cyclic loading. This fatigue phenomenon has been known for over a hundred years, and now, with the discipline of Fracture Mechanics, it is generally fairly well understood. However fatigue still accounts for over 80% of unexpected engineering failures, and despite efforts to understand fatigue and mitigate against it, its occurrence is frequent and ubiquitous. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is the general misunderstanding of fatigue threshold and its effect on fatigue life. To an extent, this was discussed in our August 2017 Tech Tip (available on our website), but this present article extends this and addresses a different issue referring to threshold dependence itself.

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Complementary shear stress failures

JUNE 2018

So often in engineering we express concerns about whether a component is ‘strong enough’ to do the task for which it has been designed. But ‘strength’ is not always the critical parameter that needs to be considered, as our recent Tech Tips have highlighted failures are exacerbated by, for example, corrosion, cyclic loading (fatigue), temperature and/or material microstructure. There is also the question of whether ‘strength’ is the appropriate parameter to consider when toughness or resistance to fatigue crack initiation may be more appropriate, or when loading direction should specifically be taken into account. Frequently our perception of strength in materials refers to tensile strength, and indeed this is vital, but may not always be the limiting factor in a failure and in some cases both compressive strength and resistance to shear should be assessed. Although often discounted, components can and indeed do fail in shear.

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