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Title: Propagation of surface initiated rolling contact fatigue cracks in bearing steel
Author: Rycerz, Pawel
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 459X
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2015
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The useful life of mechanical components which experience highly stressed rolling/sliding contacts, such as rolling element bearings or gears, is limited by rolling contact fatigue (RCF). Surface initiated pitting is a mode of RCF which has in recent years received particular attention from industry due to its frequent occurrence in service. This work focuses on the growth behaviour of RCF cracks before they develop into surface pits. A three-contact disc machine was used to perform pitting experiments on bearing steel samples. Preliminary tests showed that surface initiated cracks could be reproduced under high contact pressure and mixed lubrication regime. However, it was not possible to detect them using the vibration monitoring system installed on the test rig. This led to the development of a high sensitivity crack detection system which employs the principle of magnetic flux leakage (MFL). The existing test rig was modified to accommodate an inductive sensor and required signal acquisition electronics. In addition, a signal processing procedure was developed to enable analysis in real time. It was shown that the MFL technique is significantly more sensitive than commonly used alternatives. The system is capable of automatically finding cracks down to about 100 μm in length. In addition, results have shown a linear relationship between defect size and signal amplitude which enables in-situ sizing of cracks. Using the crack detector, a procedure to generate cracks and extract their growth rates was established. Crack growth was first studied under high contact pressure. It was found that initiation occurred very early in total life, which was attributed to high asperity stresses due to mixed lubrication regime. Total life to pitting was dominated by crack propagation, the speed of which was shown to depend on crack size. Small cracks grew at a steady and slightly decreasing rate until a critical size is reached at which propagation speed rapidly increases, shortly followed by pitting. Further study at lower loads confirmed that contact pressure is the main parameter controlling propagation speed. In order to identify a suitable crack propagation law, the measured crack growth rates were plotted against a stress intensity parameter expressed in terms of maximum contact pressure and crack size. The results suggest that after reaching certain length, rolling contact fatigue cracks grow according to a Paris-type power law, where the exponent of stress intensity parameter, and therefore contact pressure, was found to be approximately 7.5.
Supervisor: Kadiric, Amir ; Olver, Andrew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral