Failure mechanisms of mechanically and thermally produced holes in high-strength low-alloy steel plates subjected to fatigue loading
High-strength low-alloy steels (HSLA) are gaining popularity in structural applications in which weight reduction is of interest, such as heavy duty machinery, bridges, and offshore structures. Since the fatigue behavior of welds appears to be almost independent of the base material and displays little improvement when more resistant steel grades are employed, the use of bolted joints is an alternative joining technique which can lead to an increased fatigue performance of HSLA connections. Manufacturing a hole to allocate the fastener elements is an unavoidable step in bolted elements and it might induce defects and tensile residual stresses that could affect its fatigue behavior. This paper studies and compares several mechanical (punching, drilling, and waterjet-cut) and thermal (plasma and laser-cut) hole-making procedures in HSLA structural plates. A series of 63 uniaxial fatigue tests was completed, covering three HSLA grades produced by thermomechanically controlled process (TMCP) with yield strength ranging from 500 to 960 MPa. Samples were tested at single load level, which was considered representative in HSLA typical applications, according to the input received from end users. The manufactured holes were examined by means of optical and electron microscopy, 3D point measurement, micro hardness tests, X-ray diffraction, and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD). The results give insight on cutting processes in HSLA and indicate how the fatigue failure is dominated by macro defects rather than by the steel grade. It was shown that the higher yield strength of the HSLA grades did not lead to a higher fatigue life. Best fatigue results were achieved with laser-cut specimens while punched samples withstood the lowest amount of cycles.
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Delft University of Technology, Delt The Netherlands; Rotterdam Fieldlab Additive Manufacturing (RAMLAB), Rotterdam, The Netherlands