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The failure of a high-speed pinion shaft from a marine diesel engine was investigated. The shaft, which had been in service for more than 30 years, failed shortly after the bearings were replaced. Examination of the shaft revealed cyclic fatigue, with a substantial distribution of nonmetallic inclusions near the fracture initiation site. Fracture mechanics analysis indicated that, if stresses acting on the shaft were induced only by normal service loads, there was little likelihood that the inclusions served as failure initiation sites. Further examination of the bearing elements revealed an abnormal wear pattern, consistent with the application of elevated bending loads. The root cause of failure was determined to be an increase in service stresses after bearing replacement along with the presence of nonmetallic inclusions in the shaft.

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