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A tri-lobe cylindrical roller bearing was submitted for investigation to determine the cause of uniformly spaced axial fluting damages on its rollers and outer raceway surfaces. The rollers and raceways were made from premium-melted M50 and M50NiL, aircraft quality steels often used in bearings to minimize the effects of orbital slippage and rolling-contact fatigue. The damaged areas were examined under a scanning electron microscope, which revealed a high density of microcraters, characteristic of local melting and material removal associated with bearing currents. Investigators also examined the effect of electrical discharge on crater dimensions and density and the role that thermoelectric voltage potentials may have played.

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