Electron Fractography Pinpoints Cause of Fatigue Fracture
After completing a fatigue test of an aluminum alloy component machined from a 7079-T6 forging, technicians noted a 5 in. crack which ran longitudinally above and through the flange. When the fracture face was examined by light microscopy, observers could not ascertain the exact mode of fracture. Electron fractography revealed that five different modes of crack growth were operative as the part failed. Region 1 was a shallow zone (about 0.002 in. at its deepest) of dimpled structure typical of an overload failure. Region 2 was a zone that grew by a stress corrosion mechanism. Through a fatigue mechanism was operative in Region 3, it was not the cause of the large crack. Region 4, which covered 50% of the fracture area, developed mainly by stress corrosion. This zone gradually changed into the combination of intergranular and transgranular overload in Region 5, which covered approximately the remaining 50% of the fracture. Apparently, after stress corrosion moved halfway through, the part failed by overload. This failure analysis proved that a crack, originally thought to be a fatigue failure, was actually a stress corrosion crack.