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A steel spring used in an automotive application suddenly began to fail in the field, although “nothing had changed” in the fabrication process. Fatigue tests using springs fabricated prior to field failures lasted 500,000 cycles to failure, whereas fatigue tests performed on springs fabricated after field failures lasted only 50,000 cycles to failure. It was discovered that the percent coverage of shot peening prior and subsequent to the increase in failure incidence was much less than 100%, with a shot peening time of 12 min. The residual-stress state of “as fabricated” springs in three conditions were evaluated using XRD: springs manufactured prior to failure incidence increase, 12 min peen; springs manufactured following failure incidence increase, 12 min peen; and 60 min peen. The conclusion was that the failure occurred because low peening time significantly decreased the compressive residual-stress levels in the springs. Recommendation was made to increase the time the spring was shot peened from 12 to 60 min.

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