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A bolt breaks along a change in cross section well below its rated capacity. An anchoring screw spins freely in place, having snapped at its first supporting thread. A motor unexpectedly disengages its load, its driveshaft having fractured near a keyway. Such failures – involving axles, leaf springs, engine rods, wing struts, bearings, gears, and more – can occur, seemingly without cause, due to vibrational fracture. Vibrational fractures begin as cracks that form under cyclic loading at nominal stresses which may be considerably lower than the yield point of the material. The fracture is proceeded by local gliding and the development of cracks along lattice planes favorably orientated with respect to the principal stress. This non-reversible process is often misleadingly called “fatigue” and presents significant challenges to engineering teams that ill-advisedly take to searching for material faults. Several examples of notch-induced vibrational fractures are presented along with guidelines for investigating their cause.

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