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High-horsepower electric motors were utilized to drive large compressors (made of 4340 steel shafts and gear-type couplings) required in a manufacturing process. The load was transmitted by two keys 180 deg apart. Six of the eight compressor shafts were found cracked in a keyway and one of them fractured after a few months of operation. Visual examination of fractured shaft revealed that the cracks originated from one of the keyways and propagated circumferentially around the shaft. The shaft and coupling slippage was indicated by the upset keys and this type of fracture. The shaft surface both near and in the keyways indicated fretting which greatly reduced the fatigue limit of the shaft metal and initiated fatigue cracks. Fatigue marks were observed on the fractured key. Repetitive impact loading was responsible for propagation of the cracks. The high cyclic bending stresses were caused by misalignment between the electric motor and compressor and were transmitted to the shaft through the geared coupling. Flexible-disk couplings capable of transmitting the required horsepower were installed on the shafts as a corrective measure.

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