Fatigue Fracture of a Chromium-Molybdenum Steel Integral Coupling and Gear
An integral coupling and gear (Cr-Mo steel), used on a turbine-driven main boiler-feed pump, was removed from service after one year of operation because of excessive vibration. Spectrographic analysis and metallographic examination revealed the fact that gritty material in the gear teeth (found at visual inspection) was composed of the same material as the metal in the coupling. Beach marks and evidence of cold work, typical of fatigue failure, were found on the fracture surface. Chips remaining in the analysis cut were difficult to remove, indicating a strong magnetic field in the part. Evidence found supports the conclusions that failure of the coupling was by fatigue and that incomplete demagnetization of the coupling following magnetic-particle inspection caused retention of metal chips in the roots of the teeth. Improper lubrication caused gear teeth to overheat and spall, producing chips that eventually overstressed the gear, causing failure. Because the oil circulation system was not operating properly, metal chips were not removed from the coupling. Recommendations included checking the replacement coupling for residual magnetism and changing or filtering the pump oil to remove any debris.