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Several large-diameter type 304L stainless steel impeller/propeller blades in a circulating water pump failed after approximately 8 months of operation. The impeller was a single casting that had been modified with a fillet weld buildup at the blade root. Visual examination indicated that the fracture originated near the blade-to-hub attachment in the area of the weld buildup. Specimens from four failed castings and from an impeller that had developed cracks prior to design modification were subjected to a complete analysis. A number of finite-element-method computer models were also constructed. It was determined that the blades failed by fatigue that had been accelerated by stress-corrosion cracking. The mechanism of failure was flow-induced vibration, in which the vortex-shedding frequencies of the blades were attuned to the natural frequency of the blade/hub configuration. A number of solutions involving material selection and impeller redesign were recommended.

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