Failure of Brittle Lawn Mower Blades
Mower blades manufactured from grade 1566 high-manganese carbon steel failed a standard 90 deg test. The blades had been austempered and reportedly fractured in a brittle manner during testing. The austempering treatment was intended to produce a bainitic microstructure, but investigation (visual inspection, 2% nital etched 8.9x/196x images) showed that the typical core microstructure contained alternating bands of martensite and bainite. The conclusion was that the nonuniform microstructure was likely responsible for the atypical brittle behavior of the blades, and the observed structure suggests that the austempering heat treatment was performed too close to the nominal martensite start temperature. Recommendations included raising the austempering salt-bath temperature 56 deg C (100 deg F) to account for localized compositional variation.