Fatigue Fracture of a Forged 4150 Steel Drive Axle in an Overhead Crane
A stepped drive axle (hardened and tempered resulfurized 4150 steel forging) used in a high-speed electric overhead crane (rated at 6800 kg, or 7 tons, and handling about 220 lifts/day with each lift averaging 3625 to 5440 kg, or 4 to 6 tons) broke after 15 months of service. Visual examination of the fracture surface revealed three fracture regions. The primary fracture occurred approximately 50 mm (2 in.) from the driven end of the large-diam keywayed section on the stepped axle and approximately 38 mm (1 in.) from one end of the keyway where the crane wheel was keyed to the axle. Macroscopic, microscopic, and chemical examination revealed composition that was basically within the normal range for 4150 steel. This evidence supports the conclusion that cracking initiated at a location approximately opposite the keyway, and final fracture was due to mixed ductile and brittle fracture. Axial shift of the crane wheel during operation, because of insufficient interference fit, was the major cause of fatigue cracking. Recommendations included redesigning the axle to increase the critical diameter from 140 to 150 mm (5.5 to 6 in.) and to add a narrow shoulder to keep the drive wheel from shifting during operation.