Intergranular Fatigue Cracking of a Stainless Steel Expansion Joint
A type 321 stainless steel bellows expansion joint on a 17-cm (6 in.) OD inlet line (347 stainless) in a gas-turbine test facility cracked during operation. The line carried high-purity nitrogen gas at 1034 kPa (150 psi) with a flow rate of 5.4 to 8.2 kg/s (12 to 18 lb/s). Cracking occurred in welded joints and in unwelded portions of the bellows. The bellows were made by forming the convolution halves from stainless steel sheet, then welding the convolutions together. Evidence from visual examination, liquid penetrant inspection chemical analysis, hardness tests, and metallographic examination of sections etched with Vilella's reagent supports the conclusions that failure of the bellows occurred by intergranular fatigue cracking. Secondary degrading effects on the piping existed as well. Recommendations included the acceptability of Type 321 stainless steel (provided open-cycle testing does not result in surface oxidation and crevices) Although type 347 stainless steel would be better, and Inconel 600 would be an even better choice. Welds would also need modified processing for reheating and annealing. Prevention of oil leakage into the system would minimize carburization of the piping and bellows.