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Splined rotor shafts (constructed from 1151 steel) used on small electric motors were found to miss one spline each from several shafts before the motors were put into service. Apparent peeling of splines on the induction-hardened end of each rotor shaft was revealed by visual and stereo-microscopic examination. One tooth on each shaft was found to be broken off. It was revealed by metallographic examination of an unetched section through the fractured tooth that the fracture surface was concave and had an appearance characteristic of a seam. Partial decarburization of the surface was revealed after etching with 1% nital. The presence of a crack, with typical oxides found in seams at its root, was disclosed by an unetched section through the shaft in an area unaffected by induction heating. The etched samples revealed similar decarburization as was noted on the fracture surface of the tooth. It was concluded that the seam had been present before the shaft was heat treated and these seams acted as stress raisers during induction hardening to cause the shaft failure. It was recommended that the specifications should specify that the shaft material should be free of seams and other surface imperfections.

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Brittle Fracture of Splines on Induction-Hardened 1151 Steel Rotor Shafts Caused by a Seam in the Material, ASM Failure Analysis Case Histories: Mechanical and Machine Components, ASM International, 2019,

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