Brittle Fracture of a Cadmium-Plated 4140 Steel Retaining Ring at a Hard Spot Caused by an Arc Strike
After less than 30 days in service, several cadmium-plated retaining rings, made of 4140 steel tubing and heat treated to 36 to 40 HRC, broke during operation that included holding components of a segmented fitting in place under a constant load. Photographic and 100x nital-etched micrographic examination showed a microstructure of tempered martensite with low inclusion content as well as a pit or burned spot on the outer area of the ring. The defect was approximately 0.18 mm (0.007 in.) deep and 0.5 mm (0.020 in.) in diam and had a hardness of 58 to 60 HRC. The base metal adjacent to the defect had a hardness of 36 to 40 HRC. Small cracks or fissures were also evident within the defect. Thus, the rings failed in brittle fracture as the result of an arc strike (or burn) on the surface of the ring. At the site of the arc strike, a small region of hard, brittle untempered martensite was formed as the result of an arc strike during the cadmium-plating operation. Fracture occurred readily when the ring was stressed. No recommendations were made.