Fatigue Fracture of a Music-Wire Spring Caused by Poor Electroplating Practice
A cadmium-plated music-wire return spring that operated in a pneumatic cylinder designed for infinite life at a maximum stress level of 620 MPa failed after 240,000 cycles. An extremely hard and small kernel, which looked like a weld deposit, was observed at the center of the fractured surface. The kernel was assumed to have resulted from extreme localized overheating. These springs were reported to have been barrel electroplated after fabrication. The intermittent contact with the dangler (suspended cathode contact) as the barrel rotated allowed high local currents when the last contact was broken was revealed to have resulted in an arc that caused local melting of the metal being plated. The molten metal was interpreted to have been quenched instantly by the plating solution and by the mass of the cold metal of the spring. The hard spot caused by arcing during plating was concluded to be the reason of the fatigue failure. Rack plating or barrels with fixed button contacts at many points instead of dangler-type contacts were recommended to avoid hard spots.