Propellers and Rotor Blades
Proper stress analysis during component design is imperative for accurate life and performance prediction. The total stress on a part is comprised of the applied design stress and any residual stress that may exist due to forming or machining operations. Stress-corrosion cracking may be defined as the spontaneous failure of a metal resulting from the combined effects of a corrosive environment and the effective component of tensile stress acting on the structure. However, because of the orientation dependence in aluminum, it is the residual stress occurring in the most susceptible direction that must be considered of primary importance in material selection for design configuration. A Navy UH-1N helicopter main rotor blade grip manufactured from a 2014-T6 aluminum alloy forging failed because of a design flaw that left a high residual tensile stress along the short transverse plane; this in turn provided the necessary condition for stress corrosion to initiate. A complete failure investigation to ascertain the exact cause of the failure was conducted utilizing stereomicroscopic examination, scanning electron microscopy, metallographic inspection and interpretation, energy-dispersive chemical analysis, physical and mechanical evaluation. Stereomicroscopic examination of the opened crack fracture surface revealed one large fan-shaped region that had propagated radially through the thickness of the material from two distinct origin areas on the internal diam of the grip. Higher magnification inspection near the origin area revealed a flat, wood-like appearance. Scanning electron microscopy divulged the presence of substantial mud cracking and intergranular separation on the fracture surface. Metallographic examination revealed intergranular cracking and substantial leaf separation along the elongated grains parallel to the fracture surface. Chemical composition and hardness requirements were found to be as specified. The blade grip failed due to a stress corrosion crack which initiated on the inner diam and propagated in the short transverse direction through the thickness of the component. The high residual tensile stress in the part resulting from the forging and exposed after machining of the inner diam, combined with the presence of moisture, provided the necessary conditions to facilitate crack initiation and propagation.