Use of EPMA to Identify Microconstituents in a Failed Extrusion Press
A 230 mm (9 in.) thick casing, fabricated from ASTM 235-55 low-carbon steel, of a 450 Mg (500 ton) extrusion press failed after 27 years of service. Initial visual examination revealed an area that exhibited multiple origins and classic beach marks radiating out approximately 75 mm (3 in.) from the origin along the wall of a hydraulic-oil bleed hole. Investigation with a SEM showed corrosion pits along the bleed hole wall, but oxidation and corrosion prevented review of microfractographic details. Vacuum epoxy encapsulation, sectioning of the bleed hole, and metallographic examination revealed a basic microstructure of pearlite and ferrite with bands of slightly finer pearlite, with a large concentration of inclusion stringers in the area of the fracture origin. Further investigation using an energy-dispersive x-ray analyzer showed high concentrations of sulfur and manganese. Thus, the failure appeared to have resulted from corrosion-assisted fatigue, and the inclusion concentration in the fracture-initiated area indicated that the chemical-composition limits for sulfur and manganese would have greatly exceeded material specifications. A higher quality steel was recommended for the replacement unit to lessen the possibility of such gross inclusion segregation and to improve the fracture toughness of the cylinder.