Brittle Fracture of a Clamp-Strap Assembly
During installation, a clamp-strap assembly, specified to be type 410 stainless steel-austenitized at 955 to 1010 deg C (1750 to 1850 deg F), oil quenched, and tempered at 565 deg C (1050 deg F) for 2 h to achieve a hardness of 30 to 35 HRC, and used for securing the caging mechanism on a star-tracking telescope, fractured transversely across two rivet holes closest to one edge of the pin retainer in a completely brittle manner. Comparison with a non-failed strap using microscopic examination, spectrographic analysis, and slow-bend tests showed that both fit the 410 stainless steel specs, but hardness and grain size were different. Reheat treatment of full-width specimens showed that coarse grain size (ASTM 2 to 3) was responsible for the brittle fracture, and excessively high temperature during austenitizing caused the large grain size in the failed strap. The fact that the hardness of the strap that failed was lower than the specified hardness of 30 to 35 HRC had no effect on the failure because that of the non-failed strap was even lower. Recommendation was that the strap should be heat treated as specified to maintain the required ductility and grain size.