Brittle Fracture of a Rephosphorized, Resulfurized Steel Check-Valve Poppet
After two weeks of operation, a poppet used in a check valve to control fluid flow and with a maximum operating pressure of 24 MPa (3.5 ksi) failed during operation. Specifications required that the part be made of 1213 or 1215 rephosphorized and resulfurized steel. The poppet was specified to be case hardened to 55 to 60 HRC, with a case depth of 0.6 to 0.9 mm (0.025 to 0.035 in.); the hardness of the mating valve seat was 40 HRC. Analysis showed that the fracture occurred through two 8 mm (0.313 in.) diam holes at the narrowest section of the poppet. The valve continued to operate after it broke, which resulted in extensive loss of metal between the holes. 80x micrograph and 4x macrograph of a 5% nital etched longitudinal section, and chemical analyses showed the poppet did fit 1213 or 1215 specs. However, hardness measurements showed surface hardness was excessive-61 to 65 HRC instead of the specified 55 to 60 HRC. Thus, the poppet failed by brittle fracture, and cracking occurred across nonmetallic inclusions. Recommendation was to redesign the valve with the poppet material changed to 4140 steel, hardened, and tempered to 50 to 55 HRC.