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Engineering Failure Analysis 78 (2017) 41–54

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Engineering Failure Analysis


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/engfailanal

A comparison of bending fatigue strength of carburized and


nitrided gears for industrial applications
Edoardo Conrado* , Carlo Gorla, Piermaria Davoli, Marco Boniardi
Politecnico di Milano, Dipartimento di Meccanica, via La Masa 1, Milano 20156, Italy

A R T I C L E I N F O A B S T R A C T

Article history: An experimental campaign aimed at the assessment and the comparison of the bending
Received 2 September 2016 fatigue resistance of two case hardened and three nitrited gear steels was performed. Five
Received in revised form 16 February 2017 batches of test gear specimens were produced according to the current industrial practice.
Accepted 7 March 2017 Besides standard inspections of gear specimens, accurate X-ray measurements were carried
Available online 9 March 2017
out in order to determine the variations of residual stresses caused by different combinations
of steels and thermo-chemical treatments. Single Tooth Bending Fatigue (STBF) tests were
Keywords: conducted to estimate the fatigue limits of the five gear materials, as well as to determine
Gears
their S-N diagrams. The sensitivity to overload of nitrided steels was investigated by means
Fatigue
of additional tests determining the so-called damage line for these materials. The experimen-
Nitriding
Carburizing tal results allowed a comparison of the bending fatigue performances of case carburized and
Residual stress nitrited gears, showing the high competitiveness of the latter.
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Case hardened and nitrided gears represent the two most common alternative options in those cases where the power
density of the transmission is a design requirement. Both surface treatments provide improved contact and bending fatigue
performances with respect to through hardened gears.
The main differences between the two treatments, from the point of view of their application, are a consequence of the man-
ufacturing cycle and of the distortions caused by the thermo-chemical process. The high temperature of carburizing processes
induces larger gear distortions that entail subsequent machining (typically grinding) and the consequent reduction of the case
hardened layer. The lower temperature of the nitriding treatments allows the finishing process (typically grinding) to be com-
pleted before the heat treatment, thanks to lower distortions. However, nitriding generally requires higher treatment times and
produces lower case depths. Therefore, case hardening represents the standard solution for high performance applications in
aerospace, automotive, power generation and industrial gears. On the contrary, the use of nitriding is generally restricted to
those cases where the distortions caused by surface hardening treatments need to be reduced. This fact is determined by the
reasons previously mentioned, but also by the common idea that the load carrying capacity of nitrited gears is lower than that
of carburized ones (see e.g. [1]).

* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: edoardo.conrado@polimi.it (E. Conrado).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.engfailanal.2017.03.006
1350-6307/© 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
42 E. Conrado et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 78 (2017) 41–54

The ISO Standard [2] shows little differences among the fatigue limits of the two classes of gear steels and heat treatments,
with lower values for nitriding (e.g., for the MQ quality, the nominal stress number for bending is 0 to 15% lower and the
allowable stress number for contact is 17% lower). In the finite life region, the differences, according to the ISO Standard [3], are
more pronounced and are taken into account by means of the life factor that penalizes nitrided gears; for example, considering
the bending strength at a number of load cycles to failure equal to 105 , the life factor has the following values: nitrided YNT =
1, 22 and case hardened YNT = 1, 46.
The data given by the ISO standard for the bending fatigue behaviour of carburized gears were derived from laboratory tests
and are consistent with results of several experimental campaigns on case hardened gears investigating the influence of different
factors, such as presence of defects [4], case depths [5], residual stresses and shot-peening treatments [6–10] as well as finite life
strengths [11]. On the contrary, test data publicly available about gas nitrided gears for industrial applications are less and less
recent. An experimental study performed at FZG [12], where also test results obtained by other researchers are reported, shows
that both bending and contact stress capabilities of nitrided gears are comparable to that of carburized ones, and differences,
if any, are small. However, concerning the bending fatigue strength, the material tested, a modified 39CrMoV13.9 suitable for
large gears thanks to its high hardenability, showed a high sensitivity to overloads.
On the basis of previous experiences of the Authors, who in the past performed several tests concerning the bending fatigue
behaviour of case hardened [13] and nitrided [14] aerospace gears, as well as of surface hardened steels for large gears [15], the
properties of gears are influenced not only by materials and heat treatments, but also by other factors (tooth root geometry,
gear size, finishing operations, with consequent surface roughnesses and residual stresses, etc.). For this reason, even if the
rating methods provided by gear standards represent a way to exclude other factors, a precise comparison between different
combinations of materials and heat treatments can be performed effectively only if all the other parameters are kept constant
and the results are obtained on specimens which differ only in the investigated aspect.
In order to obtain relevant data that allow a more conscious selection of the proper combination of materials and heat
treatments, a research program that covers the experimental evaluation of the load carrying capacities of five case hardened and
nitrided steels has been started. The research program consists of two parts: the first part concerns the experimental evaluation
of the bending fatigue characteristics, while the second, which is in course of execution, the comparison of contact fatigue
resistances. In both parts, five different combinations of steels and heat treatments have been investigated. The test variants
include four typical solutions, represented by two nitriding steels nitrided and two carburizing steels case carburized, along
with a particular one, that is nitriding of a case hardening steel, which represents a solution that is presently considered by
companies.
This paper presents the results of the first part of this research program. In this part of the program, five families of gear
specimens, specifically designed for Single Tooth Bending Fatigue (STBF) tests [16], were manufactured according to the current
industrial practice and fatigue tested. The tests were performed in order to determine both fatigue limits and fatigue strengths
in the region of finite life, to appreciate S-N curves, which are relevant for the comparison under discussion. Moreover, in order
to evaluate the behaviour of nitrided gears with respect to exercise overloads in the region of finite life, the so-called damage
line was taken into consideration.

2. Experimental

2.1. Materials and heat treatments

Test gears were manufactured from four different base materials: two carburizing, one nitriding and one through-hardening
steel grades, commonly used as materials for surface hardened gears. The five test variants obtained from these four base
materials, along with their main mechanical characteristics, are listed in Table 1.
Two test families, C1 and C2, were manufactured from the two carburizing steel grades: a low alloy steel, the 20MnCr5,
and an alloy steel, the 18NiCrMo5. The gear specimens of these two families were gas carburized and case hardened to reach
a surface hardness of 59–60 HRC, a core hardness of 400 HV and an effective case depth of 1 mm. The two families N1 and N2
were obtained from two Cr-Mo steels: a direct-hardening steel grade that is often nitrided, the 42CrMoS4, and a nitriding steel
grade, the 31CrMo12. These two steels were nitrided by means of a Nitreg gas nitriding process to obtain a minimum surface
hardness of 680 HV and an effective case depth in the range between 0.35 and 0.45 mm. The last nitrided family, named N3, was
obtained gas nitriding a carburizing steel grade, the 20MnCr5.

Table 1
Main data of the test gear specimen families (tensile test data: after tempering).

Family Base steel Rm Rs A Heat treatment Hsurf Hcore Eht/Nht


(Code) (Grade) (MPa) (MPa) (%) (Type) (HV) (HV) (mm)

C1 18NiCrMo5 1467 1178 11 4,5 h gas carburizing 680–740 400 1.0–1.2


C2 20MnCr5 1412 1118 11 4,5 h gas carburizing 680–740 400 1.0–1.2
N1 42CrMoS4 1160 1080 15 34 h gas nitriding > 680 350 0.35–0.45
N2 31CrMo12 987 834 17 34 h gas nitriding > 680 350 0.35–0.45
N3 20MnCr5 1412 1118 11 34 h gas nitriding > 680 200 0.35–0.45
E. Conrado et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 78 (2017) 41–54 43

Table 2
Main geometric characteristics of test gear specimens.

Description Symbol Unit Value

Number of teeth z (−) 28


Module m (mm) 4
Pressure angle a (◦ ) 20
Helix angle b (◦ ) 0
Profile shift coefficient x (−) 0
Reference diameter d (mm) 112.00
Base diameter db (mm) 105.25
Tip diameter da (mm) 120.00
Root diameter df (mm) 101.91
Face width b (mm) 30.00
Span measure over 5 teeth W5 (mm) 54.71

2.2. Gear specimens

The main geometric characteristics of gear specimens are listed in Table 2. The test gear geometry was chosen specifically for
this research program in order to be representative of gears for industrial applications and to fulfil the geometric requirements
of reference test gears defined in the standard ISO 6336-5:2003 [2]. The test gears, designed with a full-body gear blank in order
to avoid any effect eventually induced by small rim thickness, had 28 teeth, a 4 mm module and a face width of 30 mm. All the
gear specimens were manufactured according to these geometric specifications with the aim of quantifying the influence on the
bending fatigue strength of different base materials and thermo-chemical surface treatments.
The manufacturing cycles selected were the typical ones used for case carburized and nitrided industrial gears. All the
gear blanks, obtained from bars of base materials, were hobbed using a generation process with a protuberance tool. This
pre-finishing process left a very small undercut of the tooth profile to avoid the formation of a grinding notch since the follow-
ing finishing process of tooth flanks left the tooth root fillet unground. The main difference between the two manufacturing
cycles selected for case carburized and nitrided gear specimens, apart from the type of the thermo-chemical treatment, was
the sequence of final machining and heat treatment operations. This sequence was selected to be consistent with the industrial
practice. In the case of carburized gears, the final machining process was performed after the heat treatment. On the contrary,
in the case of nitrided gears, the nitriding process was the last manufacturing step being the finishing operations performed
before the thermo-chemical treatment.
At the end of the manufacturing cycle, gear specimens were inspected by means of measurements of their macro and micro
geometry, surface roughness, material hardness and surface residual stresses. The geometric measurements ascertained that an
ISO accuracy grade equal to 5 was obtained and hardness and micro-hardness profiles measurements confirmed the conformity
to the design specifications previously mentioned. Fig. 1 shows the measured micro-hardness profiles for the five test families.
The surface roughness was measured in the profile direction at the tooth root fillet on several test gear teeth. Table 3 lists,
for each material family, the results of the measurements in terms of the mean values over eight measurements on different
teeth randomly selected. The results showed that similar surface roughness parameters were obtained for the different families
of test gears, apart for the C1 family for which slightly lower values were measured.

Fig. 1. Micro-hardness profiles for the five test families.


44 E. Conrado et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 78 (2017) 41–54

Table 3
Surface roughness parameters of the tooth root fillet profile.

Description Symbol Unit C1 C2 N1 N2 N3

Arithmetic mean roughness Ra (lm) 0.79 1.21 1.18 1.05 1.08


Mean peak-to-valley roughness Rz (lm) 2.98 5.51 4.71 3.59 3.87
Total peak-to-valley roughness Rt (lm) 4.78 8.91 7.76 6.19 6.65

Table 4
Residual stresses measured at the tooth root fillet surface (average values).

Description Unit C1 C2 N1 N2 N3

Axial residual stress (MPa) −818 −578 −745 −1179 −1227


Tangential residual stress (MPa) −472 −397 −390 −606 −71

The surface residual stresses induced by the manufacturing process of the gear teeth and, in particular, by the surface thermo-
chemical processes, were measured by means of the X-ray diffraction method. The measurements were performed at the tooth
root fillet, close to the critical section for bending, in three locations along the tooth face width: close to the two ends and in
the middle of the face width. Due to the presence of the white layer on the surface of nitrited gears, for this type of gears, the
measurements were carried out after proper removal of this layer. Table 4 synthesizes the results of the measurements of the
residual stresses acting in the axial and tangential directions, i.e., respectively, parallel to the gear axis and tangential to the
tooth profile. The data were drawn, per each location along the tooth face width, from the average of four measurements on
different teeth. A quite uniform residual stress pattern was obtained along the tooth face width. The averaged results shown
in Table 4 confirmed that, with different values depending on the kind of heat treatment, both case hardening and nitriding
induced high compressive, and consequently beneficial, residual stresses at the tooth root fillet of the test gears.

2.3. Test apparatus and procedures

The experimental tests were carried out at the laboratories of the Department of Mechanical Engineering of Politecnico
di Milano using a Schenck resonance pulsator with a load capacity of 60 kN. The two contact anvils shown in Fig. 2, specifi-
cally designed to perform tests on gear specimens, substituted the standard test fixture of this test rig originally developed for
tension/compression fatigue tests on cylindrical specimens.
An ad-hoc device was designed to correctly position the gear specimen before testing it according to the following procedure.
The gear specimen was first positioned over two rollers simply supported by a planar surface perpendicular to the contact
surface of the anvils (see Fig. 3 (a)). Then, the moveable anvil was moved until the two anvils came in contact with two teeth
and a small-static preload was applied. After this operation, the two rollers and the supporting base were removed leaving the
gear in the desired position supported by the frictional forces between the teeth and the anvils (see Fig. 3 (b)). Finally, a test was
started. In this configuration, the two anvils spanned five teeth and loaded two teeth at the same time in such a way that the
load direction was tangential to the base circle, as shown in Fig. 2. Thanks to the preliminary positioning of gear specimens, two
teeth were loaded at the same height by opposite forces of equal magnitude.
In the tests performed, a sinusoidally variable force loaded the two teeth under test at a frequency of about 37 Hz. These
load controlled fatigue tests were conducted with a constant load ratio R = 0.1 (i.e. the ratio of minimum to maximum applied
load) that is classically used in this type of tests [16]. The tests ended at tooth failure or, if a tooth did not fail before, at 3106

Fig. 2. Gear specimen mounted in the clamping system.


E. Conrado et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 78 (2017) 41–54 45

Fig. 3. Gear specimen mounted on the test rig.

load cycles (run-out). The two teeth adjacent to a tested tooth were left untested in order to avoid any possible difference in the
stress distribution caused by a missed tooth. Thus, since the two anvils spanned five teeth, each gear specimen, which had 28
teeth, provided the possibility to perform 6 tests.

3. Results and discussion

A set of about 30 tests was conducted for each test family following the previously described procedure. The tests were
performed in both finite life and endurance ranges of fatigue life in order to determine the bending fatigue limit of the gear
materials, as well as their S-N diagrams in the limited life region.

3.1. Fatigue limits

A series of 15 fatigue tests were performed for each gear family following an up-and-down sequence in order to obtain, by
means of the staircase method [17], an estimate of the median fatigue limit for the gear material. The obtained test sequences,
along with the estimated median values of the fatigue limit, m, its standard error, se, and the standard deviation, sd, are given in
Tables 5–9 for the five families tested. The fatigue limits are here expressed both in terms of maximum applied test loads and
corresponding tooth root stresses, s FD50% . The proportionality factor s F /Fn = 34.79MPa/kN that relates the applied test load,
Fn , and the corresponding tooth root bending stress, s F , was calculated applying method B of the standard ISO 6336-3:2006 (E),
as explained in the Appendix.
The data given in Tables 5–9 are dependent on size, surface roughness, notch severity and notch sensitivity of the gear
specimens utilized and therefore can be considered as fatigue limits for the specimens, but not for the gear material itself. If data
directly usable by gear designers and comparable with that given in the ISO standard have to be determined, the value of the
tooth root stress corresponding to the median fatigue limit, s FD50% , should be converted in the nominal stress number for bending
of the gear material corresponding to a 50% failure probability, s Flim50% , using the following relation:

sFlim50% = fp sFD50% / (YST YdrelT YRrelT YX ) (1)

Table 5
Staircase sequence and median fatigue limit estimate – Material C1.

Load Staircase sequence Fatigue limit

(kN) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 estimate

36 x m = 34.07kN
35 x x o x sd = 1.37kN
34 o x o x o x se = 0.51kN
33 x o o
32 o s FD50% = 1185MPa

x = failure, o = runout
46 E. Conrado et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 78 (2017) 41–54

Table 6
Staircase sequence and median fatigue limit estimate – Material C2.

Load Staircase sequence Fatigue limit

(kN) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 estimate

34 x m = 31.17kN
33 x x sd = 0.95kN
32 x o x x se = 0.38kN
31 x o x x o
30 o o o s FD50% = 1084MPa

x = failure, o = runout

Table 7
Staircase sequence and median fatigue limit estimate – Material N1.

Load Staircase sequence Fatigue limit

(kN) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 estimate

32 m = 29.07kN
31 sd = 0.44kN
30 x x x x x se = 0.16kN
29 o o o o x x x
28 o o o s FD50% = 1011MPa

x = failure, o = runout

The factors YST , YdrelT , YRrelT and YX , which take into account, respectively, notch severity, notch sensitivity, surface roughness
and size of test gears with respect to reference test gears, were calculated according to [3]. The factor fp , which takes into account
for the differences between pulsator tests and tests with meshing gears (see e.g. [18]), was assumed equal to 0.9 according
to [19]. In Fig. 4, the estimated fatigue limit of the gear materials with their 95% confidence interval is shown and compared with
the ranges of values given by the ISO standard for carburizing steels carburized (Eh), nitriding (NT) and through-hardening (NV)
steels nitrided having different ISO quality grades. In order to make the comparison possible, the reliability factor for bending
f1%F = 0.86 was used to obtain values valid for 50% failure probability from values valid for 1% failure probability [20]:

ISO ISO
sFlim50% = sFlim1% /f1%F (2)

The two case hardened gear families showed the highest values of the fatigue limit in the range of the ISO quality grade
MQ for this class of materials. The fatigue limits for the two nitriding steels were lower corresponding to the ISO quality grade

Table 8
Staircase sequence and median fatigue limit estimate – Material N2.

Load Staircase sequence Fatigue limit

(kN) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 estimate

32 m = 29.79kN
31 x x x sd = 0.84kN
30 o x x o x o se = 0.31kN
29 o x o o o
28 o s FD50% = 1036MPa

x = failure, o = runout

Table 9
Staircase sequence and median fatigue limit estimate – Material N3.

Load Staircase sequence Fatigue limit

(kN) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 estimate

29 x m = 26.93kN
28 o x x x sd = 1.37kN
27 o o x x x se = 0.51kN
26 o o x o
25 o s FD50% = 937MPa

x = failure, o = runout
E. Conrado et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 78 (2017) 41–54 47

Fig. 4. Median fatigue limits of carburized and nitrided gears tested compared with ISO ranges for 50% failure probability (carburizing steels carburized (Eh),
nitriding (NT) and through-hardening (NV) steels nitrided).

MQ for nitrided steels, but the differences with respect to case hardened were not large, within the 10%. The carburizing steel
nitrided showed the worst performance with a reduction of about the 11% with respect to the carburized variant.
It is worth noting that the result showed a correlation between the fatigue performances and the surface residual stresses
acting in the direction of the tooth profile induced at the tooth root by the thermo-chemical processes. In both case hardened
and nitrided materials, the highest value of the compressive residual stresses corresponded with the best performing material,
while the lowest with the worst. In particular, the N3 material, which has shown the worst performance, had a very low level
of residual stresses acting in the profile direction.

3.2. Finite life range

After the initial up-and-down sequence, the tests, which included also some retested runout, were conducted in the finite
life range in order to estimate the S-N diagrams in this region. For each material family, three load levels, above the load interval
utilized to determine the fatigue limit, were used.
The raw data obtained are shown in Figs. 5 and 6 in terms of tooth root stresses s F (corresponding to the maximum test load
applied Fn ) against number of cycles to failure N. These test results were interpolated by means of the method of linear least
squares assuming, according to gear standards and to the relevant literature on the topic, a linear relationship in a log-log scale
between the tooth root stress and the number of cycles to failure.
The median S-N diagrams obtained for the five families, together with the S-N curves for 10% and 90% failure probability, are
shown in Figs. 5 and 6, while in Fig. 7 the median S-N curves of the five families are compared on the same diagram. It is worth

Fig. 5. Results of test on carburized gears and corresponding S-N curves for different failure probabilities (10%, 50% and 90%).
48 E. Conrado et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 78 (2017) 41–54

Fig. 6. Results of tests on nitrided gears and corresponding S-N curves for different failure probabilities (10%, 50% and 90%).

to notice that, contrary to what is generally expected and assumed by gear standards, the slopes of the S-N diagram obtained
for the nitriding steels are not lower than those of case carburized steels. This aspect was further investigated performing some
additional tests.

Fig. 7. Comparison of median S-N curves of carburized and nitrided gears.


E. Conrado et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 78 (2017) 41–54 49

3.3. Damage line of nitrided gears

In order to ascertain the overload carrying capacity of the three nitrided steels N1, N2 and N3, some tests with a constant load
ratio, but variable load amplitude, were performed with the aim of determining the so-called damage line for these material
families. The damage line (see e.g. [12]) can be obtained in such a manner: a tooth is loaded first at a high load for a given
number of cycles, and then at the 10% fatigue limit until breakage or run-out. The line that divides the broken specimens and
the runouts is the damage line. The results of these tests are shown in Fig. 8 superimposed to the 50% S-N curve. The damage
line of the two nitriding steels N1 and N2 was quite high, not far from the S-N curve, implying a good overload capacity for these
two nitriding steels. On the contrary, the damage line of the steel N3 was lower and not well defined: a sign of a higher overload
sensibility of this material.

3.4. Fractographic Analysis

A visual inspection was carried out systematically on broken teeth, in order to identify any anomalies on the fracture surfaces,
i.e. atypical fatigue propagation due to misalignment of applied load. Following, a scanning electron microscope (SEM) analysis
was performed on the fracture surfaces to observe the morphology of the fatigue propagation and the final fracture areas.
No anomalies were observed on the samples coming from the case carburized teeth: in all cases, the fatigue propagation front
was perpendicular to the applied load. At higher magnification the fatigue propagation area showed a prevailing intergranular
morphology of the fracture surface which is quite typical for case carburized steels: it proves the natural brittle behaviour of case
carburized gears. A difference can be highlighted between C1 and C2 teeth. The C1 fatigue fracture shows some intergranular
fracture surfaces, together with typical transgranular crack paths, thus indicating a slower fatigue crack propagation than C2
teeth; this different morphology helps to explain the higher fatigue resistance of C1 teeth with respect to C2 teeth (Figs. 9–10).
Also in the case of nitrided teeth, no anomalies were observed on the fatigue fracture surfaces. At first the fatigue nucle-
ation and propagation affected the nitrided upper layers along all tooth flanks, and then the crack propagates inside the teeth

Fig. 8. Damage line and median S-N diagram for nitrided gears.
50 E. Conrado et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 78 (2017) 41–54

Fig. 9. C1 fracture surface at low (a) and high (b) magnifications showing either intergranular and transgranular fatigue crack propagation morphologies.

Fig. 10. C2 fracture surface at low (a) and high (b) magnifications showing only intergranular fatigue crack propagation morphology.

core showing complete transgranular fracture surfaces for all N1, N2 teeth (Figs. 11–12); the nitrided teeth showed a distinc-
tively smoother fracture surface than carburized one. These two characteristics, i.e. transgranular crack propagation and smooth
fracture surfaces, identify a tougher behaviour of nitrided teeth with respect to carburized ones.
Also for the N3 teeth failed, fatigue cracks nucleated at tooth flank surfaces, propagated in the nitrided case affecting the
entire tooth face width, and showed a transgranular propagation morphology (Fig. 13). A difference between the nitriding and
the carburizing steels nitrided is the area of final breakage: in the last case the morphology of the final fracture surface appeared
brittle and intergranular, as typical of carburizing steels carburized.

Fig. 11. N1 fracture surface at low (a) and high (b) magnifications showing complete transgranular fatigue crack propagation morphology.
E. Conrado et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 78 (2017) 41–54 51

Fig. 12. N2 fracture surface at low (a) and high (b) magnifications showing transgranular fatigue crack propagation morphology.

4. Conclusions

In the present work, the bending fatigue strength of two case hardened and three nitrided gear steels was characterized by
means of STBF tests. These tests were conducted with the aim of determining the influence on bending fatigue strength of the
combination of steels and thermo-chemical treatments only. Therefore, all gear specimens were manufactured according to the
same geometric design and using the same machining operations.
The test results allowed for a direct comparison between the fatigue strengths of case carburized and nitrided gear steels in
both finite life and endurance ranges of fatigue life.
The fatigue limits of the best performing case carburized and the lowest performing nitriding and through hardening steels
nitrited were within 10% with each other. These results are consistent with literature data and with results obtained by other
researchers. The carburizing steel grade nitrided showed the worst fatigue performance, but the difference with the fatigue limit
of the same steel carburized was not too high, i.e. within 11%.
The correlation between test results and residual stresses demonstrated the significant influence on the bending fatigue
strength of the favourable residual stress pattern induced by both carburizing and nitriding.
In contrast to what is generally assumed for nitrided gears, the S-N curves for the nitriding and through hardening steels
nitrided were similar to those of carburized steels. This fact was confirmed by the evaluation of the damage lines of these steels
that were quite high, not far from their S-N curves, implying a good overload capacity for these two nitriding steels.
In conclusion, the good bending load carrying capacity of properly nitrided steels was confirmed not only in terms of fatigue
limits, but also when overloads or operation in the finite life range have to be taken into account.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank ASSIOT, the Italian Association of Gears and Transmission Elements Manufacturers, who
coordinated this research program in cooperation with the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the Politecnico di Milano,
along with the companies Cattini Figlio SrL, Colmegna SpA, OMSI SpA, Rossi Motoriduttori SpA for the financial support given to
this research activity.

Fig. 13. N3 fracture surface at low (a) and high (b) magnifications showing transgranular fatigue crack propagation morphology.
52 E. Conrado et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 78 (2017) 41–54

Appendix A. Tooth root bending stress calculation

The tooth root bending stress, as defined by the standard ISO 6336-3:2006 (E), can be determined by means of experimental
measurements or numerical analyses (method A) or using an approximate analytical method (method B). The method B is
appropriate for the calculation of the tooth root stress in cylindrical gear pairs, but also, according to this standard, in pulsator
tests with a given load application point.
In the case of STBF tests, the application of method B, as is, requires the definition of a virtual gear mating with the test
gear specimen. The virtual mating gear should be designed so that the highest point of single tooth contact (HPSTC) of the gear
specimen in the meshing with the virtual gear is coincident with the given load application point for the pulsator test considered.
Nevertheless, the calculation of the tooth root stress using method B is also possible without the need to define a virtual mating
gear, just slightly modifying the equations presented in the standard ISO on the basis of a basic geometric analysis. Here, a brief
synthesis of the calculation procedure adapted for symmetrical pulsator tests is given for reader’s convenience.
The tooth root bending stress, s F , is equal to the nominal tooth root stress, s F0 , multiplied by the overload factors, KA , KV ,
KFa and KFb :

sF = sF0 KA KV KFa KFb (A.1)

In pulsator tests, the test load is controlled, the meshing is not reproduced and any misalignment is kept to a minimum, so
that overload factors are equal to unity. Thus, the actual tooth root bending stress, s F , is, in this case, coincident with the nominal
tooth root bending stress, s F0 that is calculated, as a basic stress multiplied by a series of stress correction factors, as follows:

Fn cos a
sF ≡ sF0 = YF YS Yb YB YDT (A.2)
bm

The basic stress is equal to the ratio of the tangential load, that is force acting normal to the tooth profile Fn (i.e. the test
load for pulsator tests) multiplied by the cosine of the pressure angle a, divided by the product of the face width b and the
gear modulus m. Being the specimens under test, spur gears with a full-body structure, the helix angle factor, Yb , and the rim
thickness factor, YB , are equal to unity along with the deep tooth factor, YDT , since meshing is not reproduced. The tooth form
factor, YF , and the stress concentration factor, YS , have to be calculated taking into account the root fillet geometry and the load
application point according to the ISO standard:

(6hFp /m) cos aFp


YF = (A.3)
(sF /m)2 cos a

[1/(1.21+2.3/L)]
YS = (1.2 + 0.13L)qs (A.4)

with

sF sF
L= and qs = (A.5)
hFp 2qF

Thus, the quantities to be determined are the thickness of the critical section, sF , the radius of curvature of the profile of the
tooth root fillet at the critical section, qF , the bending arm of the applied load, hFp , and the angle between the applied load and
the tooth axis, a Fp . These quantities can be calculated following the procedure of the standard ISO considering that the two last
quantities, hFp and a Fp , have to be determined for the load application point of the pulsator test. The calculation procedure of
the ISO requires the determination of some auxiliary geometric quantities starting from the dimensions of the basic rack profile
of the finished tooth defined according to [3]:

p spr qfP
E= m − hfP tan a + − (1 − sin a) (A.6)
4 cos a cos a

qfP hfP
G= − +x (A.7)
m m
 
2 p E p
H= − + (A.8)
z 2 m 3

2G
h= tan h − H (A.9)
z

The angle h is determined solving iteratively the transcendental equation previously given starting with an initial value of
p/6. The thickness of the critical section and the radius of curvature of the tooth root fillet profile at the critical section can
E. Conrado et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 78 (2017) 41–54 53

Fig. A.1. Generating rack profile on producing the 30◦ tangent point at the tooth root fillet.

be determined with the equations given by the standard ISO since the critical cross-section does not depend upon the load
application point
  √  
sF p G qfP
= z sin −h + 3 − (A.10)
m 3 cos h m

qF qfP 2G2
= +   (A.11)
m m cos h zcos2 h − 2G

The angle a Fp , i.e. the angle between the action line of the applied force and a line perpendicular to the loaded tooth axis, can
be determined as follows indicating with n the number of teeth spanned by the two anvils:

pb p
a f P = (n − 1 ) = (n − 1 ) (A.12)
db z

The bending lever arm, hFp , can be determined as the difference between the distances of the point of intersection of the
load direction and of the critical cross section from the gear axis. The calculation can be performed using the following equation
derived from Fig. A.1 on the base of basic geometric relations:
        
hFp z cos a z p G qfP p
= − cos −h + − sin (A.13)
m 2 cos aFp 2 3 cos h m 6

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