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Recurring, premature failures occurred in TiN-coated M2 gear hobs used to produce carbon steel ring gears. Fractographic and metallographic examination, microhardness testing, and chemical analysis by means of EDS revealed that the primary cause of failure was a coarse cellular carbide network, which created a brittle path for fracture to occur longitudinally. As the cellular carbide network must be dispersed and refined during hot working of the original bar of material, the hobs were not salvageable. Minor factors contributing to the hob failures were premature wear resulting from lower matrix hardness and high sulfur content of the material, which contributed to lower ductility through increased nucleation sites. It was recommended that the hob manufacturer specify a minimum amount of required reduction for the original bar of tool steel material, to provide for sufficient homogenization of the carbides in the resultant hob, and lower sulfur content.

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