Effect of Alloy Selection and Part Design on Stress-Corrosion Cracking of Formed Silicon Bronze in Marine-Air Atmosphere
Electrical contact-finger retainers blanked and formed from annealed copper alloy C65500 (high-silicon bronze A) failed prematurely by cracking while in service in switchgear aboard seagoing vessels. In this service they were sheltered from the weather but subject to indirect exposure to the sea air. About 50% of the contact-finger retainers failed after five to eight months of service aboard ship. Investigation (visual inspection, 250x images etched with equal parts NH4OH and H2O2, emission spectrographic analysis, and stereoscopic views) supported the conclusion that the cracking was produced by stress corrosion as the combined result of: residual forming and service stresses; the concentration of tensile stress at outer square corners of the pierced slots; and preferential corrosive attack along the grain boundaries as a result of high humidity and occasional condensation of moisture containing a fairly high concentration of chlorides (seawater typically contains about 19,000 ppm of dissolved chlorides) and traces of ammonia. Recommendations included redesign of the slots, shot-blasting the formed retainers, and changing the material to a different type of silicon bronze-copper alloy C64700.