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A cylindrical spiral gear, part of a locomotive axle assembly, cracked ten days after it had been press-fit onto a shaft, after which it sat in place as other repairs were made. Workers at the locomotive shop reported hearing a sound, and upon inspecting the gear, found a crack extending radially from the bore to the surface of one of the tooth flanks. The crack runs the entire width of the bore, passing through an oil hole in the hub, across the spoke plate and out to the tip of one of the teeth. Design requirements call for the gear teeth to be carburized, while the remaining surfaces, protected by an anti-carburizing coating, stay unchanged. Based on extensive testing, including metallographic examination, microstructural analysis, microhardness testing, and spectroscopy, the oil hole was not protected as required, evidenced by the presence of a case layer. This oversight combined with the observation of intergranular fracture surfaces and the presence of secondary microcracks in the case layer point to hydrogen embrittlement as the primary cause of failure. It is likely that hydrogen absorption occurred during the gas carburizing process.

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