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Engineering FailureAnalysis, Vol 2, No. 4 pp.

233-246, i995
Pergamon Elsevier Science Ltd
Printed in Great Britain

1350-6307(95)00027-5

A N A L Y S I S O F F A I L U R E O F A X L E H O U S I N G O F CRANE
TRUCK WITH FRACTURE MECHANICS

STEVEN W. BRADLEY* and WALTER L. BRADLEY t


*Analytical and Metallurgical Services, Inc., 1501 FM 2818, Suite 208, College Station, T X 77840,
U . S . A . ; tTexas A & M University, College Station, T X 77843, U . S . A .

(Received 7 August 1995)

A b s t r a c t - - T h e failure of an axle housing in a crane truck has been successfully analyzed with
the aid of fracture mechanics. The cause of failure was the field addition of stop blocks
welded to the axle housing. The time from crack penetration of the axle housing to final
failure was too short for the presence of such a crack to have been detected by routine
maintenance.

1. INTRODUCTION

In January 1992, the failure of a rear axle housing on a crane truck resulted in the
wheel and tire rolling free from the truck and subsequently striking a pedestrian,
resulting in her death. Several questions were raised in subsequent litigation which
were to be answered, if possible, by the failure analysis. First, why did the axle
housing fail? Second, was the failure related to modifications of the basic truck at the
time it was adapted to be a crane truck? Third, could the failure have been avoided
by more careful maintenance, which might have permitted detection of damage prior
t~ catastrophic failure?

1.1. Background
The crane truck with the broken rear axle housing is seen in Fig. 1. The crane truck
had four rear wheels, two on each side. The lead wheel on the right side separated

Fig. 1. Location of crane truck axle housing failure on lead rear wheel.
234 STEVEN W. BRADLEY and WALTER L. BRADLEY
from the truck when its rear axle housing failed. The crane truck had been modified
by welding a large, square "'stop block" to the top of the axle housing to minimize
axle deflections by "bottoming out" when driving over rough terrain, as seen in
Fig. 2. The excessive axle deflections were causing damage to some of the compo-
nents in the brake system. This stop block would strike the frame of the truck,
limiting the axle deflections that can occur. It should also be noted that a saddle to
which the suspension system is attached is welded to the b o t t o m portion of the axle
housing at approximately the same position as the stop block (again seen in Fig. 2).

1.2. Probable cause of failure


The presence of a stop block welded to the axle housing will cause an abrupt
impulse m o m e n t to be applied to the axle housing when the stop block contacts the
truck frame. The excessive bending m o m e n t will produce a large tensile stress on the
bottom of the axle housing adjacent to the saddle, potentially causing fatigue cracking
to initiate. The fatigue crack could then grow progressively until it reaches a critical
size, at which time catastrophic failure occurs.

1.3. Failure analysis" methodology


The use of fracture mechanics in failure analysis to answer important questions
regarding the time over which a fatigue failure occurred will be demonstrated in this
failure analysis.

2. E X P E R I M E N T A L A N D A N A L Y T I C A L I N V E S T I G A T I O N A N D R E S U L T S
2.1. Experimental aspects of failure analysis and results
The experimental aspects of the failure analysis consisted of the following steps.
First, the failed axle housing was given a thorough macrofractographic examination to
determine the type of failure and the location of the crack origin (if the failure was

Fig. 2. Stop block used to minimize axle deflection and protect brake components on rough
terrain. The saddle located on the opposite side is attached to the suspension system.
Failure of axle housing of crane truck 235
progressive). The fracture surface is seen in Figs 3 and 4. It is clear that the failure
was by fatigue, as evidenced by the beach (or clam-shell) markings on the fracture
surface that corresponded to the bottom portion of the box beam, which is the
bottom of the failed axle housing. The top portion of the axle housing is not seen
to have beach marks, but is highly burnished. This implies fatigue under tension/
compression conditions on the top portion of the box beam, whereas the presence of
beach marks (and the absence of burnishing) is indicative of tension/tension fatigue
on the bottom portion of the box beam. The final failure portion of the fracture
surface is seen to be relatively small and is located near the neutral axis of the axle
housing, as seen in Fig. 3.
Second, a small piece was cut from the axle housing to determine its chemistry and
microstructure so that the alloy designation and heat treatment for the axle housing
could be determined. The alloy chemistry is presented in Table 1. The chemistry
corresponds closely to ASTM-A588 steel [1], which is a common structural steel. The
small piece cut from the axle housing was mounted and prepared for metallographic
examination using standard metallographic techniques and etched using a nital etch.
The microstructure, as seen in Fig. 5, consists of a mixture of ferrite and pearlite.
Hardness tests were also made on the metallographic specimen to estimate the tensile
properties, with an average value of 82 on the Rockwell B scale determined. This
corresponds to an ultimate tensile strength (UTS) of 518 MPa, which is similar to
literature values of 440-485 MPa for the UTS of ASTM-A588 steel.
Strain measurements were made on the axle housing with the truck in motion to
determine the dynamic loading that occurs as the truck travels down a smooth street,
over a rough dirt road, and over a railroad track. Strain gauges were placed on the
rear axle housing of a crane truck which was identical to the one which failed in
service. Strain gauge rosettes (0/45/90 °) were placed on the top and bottom of the
axle housing to measure strain in both the transverse and the longitudinal direction.
One strain gauge was located at the top of the axle housing in the center just outside
the "stop block". The other strain gauge was located on the bottom of the axle
housing centered in the transverse direction and just outside the saddle in the
longitudinal direction. The saddle provides some amount of local stiffening to the axle

Fig. 3. Fracture surface of the truck axle housing. Note the beach markings on the lower half
and the burnished appearance on the upper portion of the box (0.4x magnification).
236 STEVEN W. BRADLEY and WALTER L. BRADLEY

Fig. 4. Higher-magnification photograph of fracture surface (0.8× magnification).

Table 1. Chemical analysis results of the truck axle housing metal (these
values are similar to those for an ASTM-A588 steel)

Weight percent Weight percent

Carbon 0.20 Vanadium 0.002


Manganese 1.07 Titanium 0.002
Phosphorus 0.008 Aluminum 0.023
Sulfur 0.026 Niobium 0.003
Silicon 0.18 Cobalt 0.010
Nickel 0.15 Tungsten < 0.01
Chromium 0.18 Boron < 0.0005
Molybdenum 0.03 Iron Balance
Copper 0.21
Failure of axle housing of crane truck 237

Fig. 5. Micrographic structure of the axle housing (nital etch, 400x magnification).

housing, so that the measured strains adjacent to the saddle should be the maximum
strains along the axle housing (due to the relative proximity of the stop block and the
saddle), and is the location where fatigue cracks began. Accelerometers were also
placed on the axle housing to integrate the movement of the housing along with the
strain placed on it by that movement.
The crane was tested for three typical service conditions that might be experienced
during the life of the crane truck. Each 10-s test run consisted of approximately 2725
data points taken at 0.00367-s intervals. Experimental results were taken from 120-f2
gages sent to a 16-channel A/D converter. This data was then placed on a 3.5"
computer disk in Lotus format which could be displayed on a computer and/or
printed on hard copy. The test conditions are summarized in Table 2. Typical data for
strain as a function of time are presented in Fig. 6. The strain measurements from the
strain rosettes on the top and bottom of the axle housing were used to calculate
principal stress as a function of time using Hooke's laws, with typical results

Table 2. Test conditions for strain gauge data sets collected

Data set number Road condition

14140327 Eastbound; low speed; three rail tracks; right lane


14211227 Eastbound; low speed; three rail tracks; left lane
14262027 Eastbound; low speed; three rail tracks; left lane
14275927 Backing up over tracks
14501727 Backing up over tracks
14524727 Same tracks in middle
14540727 Same tracks
14553427 Same tracks
15063327 Travel over rough dirt road
15181627 Travel over rough dirt road
15182627 Travel over rough dirt road
15183627 Travel over rough dirt road
15302127 Travel over rough dirt road
15374427 Travel over smooth city street
15375427 Travel over smooth city street
15380427 Travel over smooth city street
238 S T E V E N W. B R A D L E Y and W A L T E R L. B R A D L E Y

800

,oo -
Bottom 45

600 "

= , ~ , = ~ A~ - T o p hoop

300

~ ~ - ~ : ' ~ - . . ~ ' ~ - ' ~ - - ~ ~..~"~,~,7::~.~:.4~-.-.~.--F-~_~-_.~-~ - Bottom hoop


100 -

0. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ~ ~ .... ~. . . .

~ TO p long
! /
i 200

300 -
0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000

Fig. 6. T y p i c a l strain d a t a o u t p u t for tests r u n o v e r v a r i o u s surfaces.

presented in Fig. 7 and atypical results presented in Fig. 8. What makes Fig. 8
atypical is that the stop block which had been welded to the axle housing apparently
impacted the truck frame twice during the movement of the crane truck o ,er several
railroad tracks. The two spikes which take the stress up to 170 and 205 MPa,
respectively, represent stress impulses well above the usual maximum stress of
62 MPa seen in the absence of this bottoming out. The root-mean-squared stress
range for each of the tests indicated in Table 2 is presented in Table 3, along with the
maximum, minimum and total number of fluctuations used in each calculation for a
10-s interval. The spikes were not used in the calculation of the root-mean-squared
stress range and only fluctuations of 20 MPa or greater were utilized in the calculation
of the root-mean-squared stress range and counted as stress cycles.

2.2. Fracture mechanics analysis of fatigue crack growth


The fracture mechanics analysis combines the experimental data from the literature
[2] for ASTM-A588 steel presented in Fig. 9 with the calculation of stress intensities
using standard references from the literature [3], as embodied in a computer program
for calculating crack growth during fatigue. The computer program PREFIS [4] was
originally developed for the Materials Properties Council for use by the chemical
industry, where the growth of surface cracks through walls is a common problem. The

6O
50 Principal Stress vs. Time

a.
°
40
l
20

3 4
Time, sec
Fig. 7. T y p i c a l principal stress p e a k s a f t e r c o n v e r t i n g strain g a u g e d a t a using H o o k e ' s law.
Failure of axle housing of crane truck 239
200 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
~_:: _ Prfnci~aKStressv~Time:--i ~--~_ : i -i~-

a.

d 100-

50-

0 _ .".'~ " IT. (YI' ': _ . r - ~ : : ~ F_~, .-~,-L~.~-'t::'r" - ~


1 ---~ 3 4 5 6 7 8 -- 9 "

Time, sec
Fig. 8. Atypical principal stress amplitude plot after conversion from strain gauge output.
Note the two "spikes" at 170 and 205 MPa occurred as the stop block was impacted during a
run over a railroad track.

Table 3. Root-mean-square average stress ranges

Data set Number of stress Stress range Stress range Root-mean-square


number amplitudes minimum MPa maximum MPa average MPa
14140327 8 16.6 35.9 25.5
14211227 10 20.7 41.4 26.2
14262027 10 17.9 48.3 35.2
14275927 18 17.9 48.3 30.4
14501727 14 20.7 67.6 41.9
14524727 18 22.1 48.3 32.4
14540727 14 19.3 52.4 31.7
14553427 8 26.2 49.7 34.5
15063327 11 22.1 51.1 34.2
15181627 22 22.1 48.3 34.5
15182627 12 22.1 45.5 31.4
15183627 14 20.7 51.1 36.4
15302127 6 24.8 38.6 30.6
15374427 No significant peaks over 20.7 psi
15375427 7 20.7 30.3 26.2
15380427 No significant peaks over 20.7 psi

basic relationships used by the p r o g r a m in doing the calculations are s u m m a r i z e d in


Table 4.
T h e crack growth as a function o f applied fatigue cycles is calculated in P R E F I S
using the Paris relationship [5]:
da
- A(AK) n, (1)
dN
where a is the crack length, N is the n u m b e r of cycles, A K is the alternating stress
intensity, and A and n are properties of the material which must be d e t e r m i n e d
experimentally. T h e Paris relationship has generally b e e n applied to fatigue with a
constant stress range ( A o ) . H o w e v e r , it has b e e n shown that the b e h a v i o r described
by the Paris relationship [ E q n (1)] is also f o u n d to be applicable for a m o r e r a n d o m
stress range (Act) if the r o o t - m e a n - s q u a r e d stress intensity is used, as seen in Fig. 9
for A S T M - A 5 8 8 steel [2]. Thus, we have used: (1) the Paris relationship in the
P R E F I S c o m p u t e r code, with (2) the r o o t - m e a n - s q u a r e d m e a s u r e m e n t s o f stress
range calculated f r o m the strain gage m e a s u r e m e n t s on the axle housing (Table 3),
(3) the a p p r o p r i a t e relationships to calculate stress intensity as s u m m a r i z e d in Table 4
(implicit in the c o m p u t e r code), and (4) the fatigue-crack-growth rate data for
A S T M - A 5 8 8 steel, as seen in Fig. 9.
Since this p r o b l e m involves the b e n d i n g of a box b e a m , the stresses at the o u t e r
240 STEVEN W. B R A D L E Y and W A L T E R L. B R A D L E Y

10.4

z~

F- j /
A 5 8 8 GRADE A
STEEL

//
10 5

a • RANDOM
A RANDOM
V RANDOM
O CONSTANT
• CONSTANT

1.099 MNIm ~'2=1 ksi,inch

10-6 / 210 410 8() 1100


AKrrns MPa~I

Fig. 9. Crack-growth rate as a function of the root-mean-square stress intensity factor for
A588 grade A steel [2].

wall of the bottom portion of the box beam where the strain gage was placed and at
the inner wall at the same transverse and longitudinal location will be slightly
different, but are easily calculated. Knowing the beam geometry and the stress on the
outside wall (which we calculated from the strain gage measurements), the applied
moment and the stress distribution at any location in the beam can be calculated,
including the stresses through the box beam wall at the location of the crack (and
approximately the location of the strain gage). One can easily separate these into a
uniform tensile component (the so-called membrane stress) and a bending compo-
nent, allowing the use of the standard fracture mechanics formulas indicated in Table
4. Both a finite-thickness and a finite-width correction are incorporated in PREFIS,
which also utilizes a failure assessment diagram approach [6]. An initial crack size
must be assumed in this analysis even though macrofractography gave no indication of
an incipient flaw. The occasional bottoming out apparently gives stress levels
sufficient to nucleate fatigue cracks.
Results of the analysis are presented in Fig. 10. Figure 10(a) estimates a total crack
growth life of 16,384,533 cycles from an initial depth of 0.16cm. The input
parameters are summarized in Table 5 along with the crack growth as a function of
the number of cycles. At least 91% of the lifetime of the part is in the growth of the
crack before it penetrates through the wall (not including time to initiate and grow a
fatigue crack of 0.16 cm depth, which would make the percentage of the lifetime for
penetration even higher). The fracture toughness (Kit) was then varied to determine
the sensitivity to changes. Kit is typically between 109 and 218 MPa ~/m for a more
ductile metal, so 164 MPa ~/m was used as first estimate, and a Kit of 109 MPa ~/m
was also considered. The estimated life for the part at 109 MPa ~/m was 16,383,460,
as shown in Fig. 10(b), which is within 100 cycles of the values calculated for an
assumed K[~ of 164 MPa ~/m. This demonstrates that the actual value of K~c is not
critical in estimating the number of cycles to failure, since crack growth is quite rapid
just prior to failure. In Fig. 10(c), the initial crack size was changed from 0.16 cm
(one-eighth of wall thickness) to 0.64 cm (half wall thickness). The estimated life for
this crack is 2,632,303 cycles. The number of cycles to failure is obviously a very
Failure of axle housing of crane truck 241

Table 4. Stress intensity solution for a semi-elliptical surface flaw in a flat plate

gi = (Om + nob)\/Tr-~aaF( a a c )
~t'c' W 'dp'
where
/ a ~1.65
Q = 1 + 1.464~c ) ,
F= [M1 + M2(~) 2 + a 4

009(a)
0.89
ME = - - 0 . 5 4 + - -
a
0.2 + --
C

M3 = 0 . 5 - 1.0 a + 1 4 ( 1 ' 0 - @ ) 24,


0.65 + - -
C
a 2
f'~ = [(T-)cos2 cJb + sin2 qb]1/4'

[sec{ ~c ,/a/] 1/~


fw= t ~,TffVtll '
[
g = 1 + 0.1 + 0.35 (q (1- sinq~)2,

t'lm = membrane (tensile) stress H = H1 + (H2 - H1)(sin0)V,


~b = bending stress
0.2 + a + 0.6( t
C
=--
Mc
21 HI = 1 - 0 . 3 4 a- 0.11~-(t ),
Where
Wt 3
[ = - -

6
H2 = 1 + G1
(t) + G2 7 '

G1 = - 1 . 2 2 - 0 . 1 2 ( ~ - ) ,

i~ili~ii.:i~ii'iiii~iiiii~iiiiiiiii.~i~i~:~:~i~iiiii~::::i::!iiiiiiiiii!~iii~iii!i?i:`..iii~i1i::.:ii.~::i::...ig.~
i
i::~.~.".ii.~"~:!:.~
.- ?:-'~?:.il?..~i:'~.~i.~~:'
':~i:illli~ili~!iii !i!!i!iiiiiiiiiii!!i!ii!i!~illli!~i:':':..i:'
:'..i~?:~
.'..:':i 7
~ { i ~ i ~ i ~ ! i !. i. .! .~. #. .!. ". .' .i : " ' ! ~:::::i:!!iiiiiiiii~ii~!iiii~?~i!iii!ili!i:
:i::::':'" ~.?...~

I
= --2c ~1

sensitive function of the initial flaw size assumed in the analysis. Next, in Fig. 10(d),
the root-mean-square amplitude stress was varied to test a broader range. A value of
46 MPa was considered for the stress range, though the actual upper bound was only
42 MPa for measured data. For this estimated root-mean-square stress range, a
lifetime of 11,629,649 cycles was calculated. This again indicates that the number of
cycles is sensitive to the stress range applied. Finally, in Fig. 10(e), the upper bound
for tensile and yield stresses for the A588 steel was used (345 MPa instead of 297 MPa
for yield and 483 MPa instead of 414 MPa for tensile). The yield and tensile strength
are used in the failure assessment diagram to calculate when net section yield and
fracture occur, which is an alternative failure mode to unstable crack growth when
KI > K~c. The yield strength is also used to calculate the plastic zone correction
factor. This provided an estimated life of 16,386,785 cycles. Therefore, the lifetime is
not very sensitive to ultimate yield and tensile strength values used in the fracture
mechanics calculation.
It is clear from these results that the lifetime of the growing crack is the time it
takes to grow through the wall thickness of the axle housing. Given that the rate of
242 STEVEN W. B R A D L E Y and W A L T E R L. B R A D L E Y

(a)

450 ~ i
4o0 .......... i
3.5o q - .......

I i
200 Length
iI
mo,h i
100 j
J

0.50 ~ .

000
0 O0 100130000. O0 20000000.O0 30000000.O0
[ L-YI3LE$ ;

Estimated life = 1 6 3 8 4 5 3 3 . 3 1 cycles

Limiting crack length = 4.1 in

Limiting crack depth = 0 . 5 1 5 i n (Through-wall)

(b)

4.50

4.00

3.50 ............... i
3.00 I
"/ 250
i
!-
I
200 • Length j
IDepth
1 50

1 00 -~

O.50 -T

000 i . . . . . . .
O,O0 10000000O0 20000000O0 30000000O0

Estimated life = 1 6 3 8 3 4 6 0 . 7 cycles

Limiting crack length = 4 . 0 7 4 in

Limiting crack depth = 0.515 in (Through-wall)


Fig. 10(a) and (b). Uaption on p. 244.
Failure of axle housing of crane truck 243

(c)

4.50 -

4.00 -- •
350 --

3.00 -
q
2.50-
2.00- • Length
~Del~h
1.50-
1.00--
, m !
elm
050 I i

V I
0.00 . . . .

0.00 100oo000.00 20000000.00 3OOooO00.O0

Estimated life = 2 6 3 2 3 0 3 . 7 3 cycles

Limiting crack length = 4.1 in

Limiting crack depth = 0.51 5 in (Through-wall)

(d)

'°°i1
3.50

3.00il
2.50

2.00
• Length
1.50 iDepth

100

050

ooo ~ I
ooo 5o0o0oo0o 1oo00000.00 15000000.00

Estimated life = 11,629,649.9 cycles

Limiting crack length = 4.042 in

Limiting crack depth = 0.515 in (Through-wall)


Fig. 10(c) and (d). Caption overleaf.
244 STEVEN W. BRADLEY and WALTER L. BRADLEY

(e)

4.50

400 1
4
350 ~ - "

3.00 -~

i
2.50 ~ - . . . . . . . . . . .

200 ~ -* • Length
4 IDeplh
1.50 -P- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jr

100

050

000
000 10000000. O0 20000000. O0

CYCLES[

Estimated life = 1 6 , 3 8 6 , 7 8 5 . 4 7 cycles

Limiting crack length = 4 . 1 6 6 in

Limiting crack depth = 0.51 5 in (Through-wall)


Fig. 10. (a) Fatigue simulation of a 0.16 cm deep crack propagating through an alloy steel. (b)
Variation of K~c from 164 to 100 ksi ¥;]~. on fatigue simulation of a 0.16 cm initial crack
propagating through an alloy steel. (c) Variation of initial crack depth to 0.64 cm on the
fatigue simulation of an alloy steel. Note the large drop in fatigue life of the part due to the
a 3 dependence. (d) Variation of root-mean-square amplitude stress to 46 MPa on fatigue
simulation of an alloy steel. (e) Variation of yield (297-345 MPa) and tensile stress
(414-483 MPa) on the fatigue simulation of an alloy steel.

growth is m u c h m o r e rapid as the crack gets larger, as seen in Fig. 1 0 ( a ) - ( e ) , it is


easy to see why almost the entire lifetime of crack growth is c o n s u m e d in the
p e n e t r a t i o n of the box b e a m wall, with a very short further time required to grow this
t h r o u g h crack a r o u n d the box b e a m to final failure.
It is w o r t h emphasizing that the total lifetime of the housing includes the time to
initiate the crack and grow it to some e m b r y o n i c size (assumed to be 0.16 cm, or
one-eighth t h r o u g h the wall thickness), at which point the fracture mechanics analysis
begins. T h e absence of any crack on the o t h e r half of the truck axle housing box
b e a m (which did not fail in service) indicates that the majority of the lifetime is
p r o b a b l y in this initiation step, which cannot be a c c o u n t e d for in the fracture
mechanics analysis. Thus, the fraction of the total lifetime left after the crack
penetrates the axle housing is in fact m u c h smaller than that suggested by the fracture
mechanics analysis.

3. D I S C U S S I O N

In this section, the three questions which precipitated the failure analysis will be
addressed and the utility of using fracture mechanics in failure analysis will be
addressed.
Failure of axle housing of crane truck 245

Table 5. Crack growth for a representative root-mean-square alternating stress and an assumed initial
surface flaw of depth 0.16 cm

da
- A(AK) n Dimension
dN

Flaw type Surface


A 3.5E - 10 Initial flaw depth (a) 0.16 cm
n 3.25 Initial flaw length (2c) 3.0 cm
Temperature 21 °C Wall thickness 1.3 cm
Distance to free edge ( W ) 5.9 cm
Stress Material property

Primary membrane stress 37.3 MPa Parent metal yield stress 290 MPa
Primary bend stress 4.1 MPa Parent metal tensile stress 435 MPa
Cyclic membrane stress 37.3 MPa Weld metal yield stress 290 MPa
Cyclic bend stress 4.1 MPa Weld metal tensile stress 435 MPa
Fracture toughness (Kc) 164 MPa ~/'m
Cycle Length (2c) (era) Depth (a) (era) Type of flaw

0.00E + 00 3.00 0.160 Surface


5.50E + 06 3.01 0.268 Surface
1.01E + 07 3.09 0.488 Surface
1.31E + 07 3.41 0.820 Surface
1.50E + 07 4.31) 1.27 Surface
1.59E + 07 6.24 1.28 Through-wall
1.62E + 07 7.77 1.29 Through-wall
1.63E + 07 8.86 1.29 Through-wall
16382295.73 10.12 1.29 Through-wall
16383460.7 10.17 1.29 Through-wall
16384533.31 10.25 1.29 Through-wall
16236368.42 10.47 1.29 Through-wall

3.1. Answers to questions posed prior to the failure analysis


Why did the axle housing fail? It is clear that the axle housing failed due to the
initiation and propagation of fatigue cracks until the load carrying cross-section was
reduced to a size that permitted failure to occur by net section overload.
Was the axle housing failure related to the modifications of the basic truck at the time
it was adapted to be a crane truck? It is clear from Fig. 8 that the stop block welded
to the axle had the effect of giving a large impulse stress when the stop block
bottomed out on the frame of the crane truck. Based on the chemistry and the
hardness tests, the ultimate tensile strength of the axle housing steel (ASTM-A588)
should be approximately 500 MPa; thus, the endurance limit for this steel should be
approximately 200 MPa (or 40% of the UTS for a ferritic-pearlitic steel). While the
usually alternating stresses seen in Figs 7 and 8 have a range of approximately 40 MPa
or less, the impulse stress due to the bottoming out of the stop block on the truck
frame exceeds 200 MPa, and actual service excursions may be much greater as one
drives over a rough construction site, for example. A Goodman diagram analysis [6]
using an endurance limit for zero mean stress of 200 MPa and a UTS of 500 MPa
would suggest an allowable alternating stress of 160 MPa for a mean stress of
100 MPa. Thus, the observed stress cycle seen in Fig. 8 of 100 MPa alternating stress
and 100 MPa mean stress would appear to be below the endurance limit. However,
actual service stress impulses in combination with the local residual stresses associated
with the welding of the saddle onto the axle housing apparently give a total
alternating stress/mean stress combination that gives fatigue crack initiation. Since the
opposite axle housing on the same crane truck did not have any fatigue cracks when it
was examined both with dye penetrant and by sectioning, it is apparent that the
service stresses, even with the impulse stresses associated with bottoming out of the
stop block on the truck housing and the residual stresses associated with the welding
of the saddle, are barely sufficient to initiate a fatigue crack. Thus, the stress range
246 STEVEN W. BRADLEY and WALTER L. BRADLEY
that would be experienced in the absence of the stop blocks bottoming out on the
truck frame would be much too low to initiate fatigue cracks. Could the failure have
been avoided by more careful maintenance, which might have permitted detection o f the
damage prior to catastrophic failure? The fracture mechanics analysis in combination
with the records of typical service for this truck allow one to estimate that the time
from the penetration of the axle housing wall by the fatigue crack until the
catastrophic failure would have been approximately 30 days. Furthermore, the fluid
level in the rear-end gear is slightly below the elevation of the axle housing, indicating
that oil might be introduced into the axle housing only occasionally during turns.
Without a continuous pool of oil in the axle housing at the location of the fatigue
crack, there would have been no oil leakage through the fatigue crack to suggest a
problem. Certainly, the usual road film that is found on the underside of trucks would
have made the detection of the fatigue crack by visual inspection impossible in the
absence of oil leakage. Thus, it appears that the short time from penetration of the
axle housing by the fatigue crack to the final failure, in combination with the lack of
an oil leak to suggest a problem, indicates that this failure was not the consequence of
poor maintenance.

3.2. Comments on the utility of fracture mechanics in failure analysis


This case illustrates the practical value of fracture mechanics analysis in failure
analysis. It allows one to estimate the various times during which a fatigue crack
might have grown to a critical size. Alternatively, the use of scanning electron
microscopy to determine striations spacing might have been used in conjunction with
fracture mechanics to determine the service alternating stresses. It is clear that
fracture mechanics can be a very useful tool in the quest to reconstruct as carefully as
possible the scenario which led to a failure and the principal factors which were
responsible for the failure.

4. S U M M A R Y

The failure of an axle housing in a crane truck has been successfully analyzed with
the aid of fracture mechanics. The cause of failure was the field addition of stop
blocks welded to the axle housing. The time from crack penetration of the axle
housing to final failure was too short for the presence of such a crack to have been
detected by routine maintenance.

REFERENCES

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Mechanics, p. 283, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ (1977).
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Hampton, VA (1984).
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