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Hydraulic cylinder housings were being fabricated from 4140 grade seamless steel tubing. During production, magnetic-particle inspection indicated the presence of circumferential and longitudinal cracks in a large number of cylinders. Analysis (visual inspection, dye penetrant inspection, 50x/90x/400x SEM micrographs, and metallographic analysis) supports the conclusion that the cracking problem in these components was identified as quench cracks due to their brittle, intergranular nature and the characteristic temper oxide on the fracture surfaces. Although the steel met the compositional requirements of SAE 4140, the sulfur level was 0.022% and would account for the formation of the sulfide stringers observed. Apparently, the combination of the clustered, stringer-type inclusions and the quenching conditions were too severe for this component geometry. The result was a high incidence of quench cracks that rendered the parts useless. Recommendations included changing the specification, requiring the steel to have lower sulfur concentrations. Magnetic-particle cleanliness standards should be imposed that will exclude material with harmful clusters of sulfide stringers, for example, modified AMS 2301.

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Failure of Seamless Tubing Due to a Quench Crack, ASM Failure Analysis Case Histories: Design Flaws, ASM International, 2019,

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