Fatigue Fracture of a Plunger Shaft That Initiated at a Sharp Fillet
Plunger shafts machined from 4150 steel bar stock were involved in a series of fatigue failures. The fractures consistently occurred at two locations on the shafts: the shaft fillet and either side of a machined notch. The material specification for the shafts required 41xx series steel with a carbon content of 0.38 to 0.53%, a hardness of 35 to 40 HRC for the shaft, and a hardness of 50 to 55 HRC for the notch (which was case hardened). Analysis (visual inspection, chemical analysis, hardness testing, and magnetic particle inspection) supported the conclusions that all the fractures were fatigue-induced failures due to sharp radii in the fillets. The stress-concentrating effects of the fillets caused fatigue cracks to initiate and grow under cyclic loading until the crack depth was critical, causing the shaft to fail and rendering the assembly inoperative. Recommendations included increasing the radii of the notch and shaft fillets. If fatigue cracking had continued to be a problem with this component, shot peening of the subject radii would be appropriate. This process produces residual compressive stresses in the surface of the part, thereby retarding initiation of fatigue cracks.